Komodo dragon power test
Big-Papa is an authority on Rinca. In the national park of the small Sunda island east of Bali, he is the largest Komodo dragon and has been the undisputed alpha for years. He approaches a younger rival, around which several females have gathered, snarling. No fence separates us from the two meter long lizards. We guests of the Australian True North witness a trial of strength in which the protagonists provocatively slowly move into position. But then, in a split second, the fight is decided. Big-Papa has been hit in the eye by the whip-like tail blow of the younger one and leaves the arena beaten.
With the True North to the pristine nature
The cruise on the mega-yacht True North takes us to a part of Indonesia that is not regularly visited by ferries or large cruise ships. On the small island of Rinca, because of the Komodo dragons, which are also dangerous to humans, you are only allowed to go in the company of a local guide.
The giant lizards have developed an energy-saving hunting method. They do not fight with their prey, but only the bite of a single monitor is enough to bring down buffalo, wild boar or deer. In the process, poison penetrates the prey animal, inhibiting blood clotting and causing it to die from its injuries days later. After that, it can be eaten by the monitor group together.
On the road in the Pacific Ring of Fire
The fact that the earth’s crust is particularly active in this part of Indonesia is brought home to us not only when we climb the Kelimutu volcano and its colored crater lakes. During the trip we receive the news via satellite that there has been a severe earthquake with volcanic eruption and tsunami on the neighboring island of Sulawesi.
Cone of fire in the middle of the ocean
The cone of Batu Tara volcano rises more than 700 meters high, its steep flanks forming the uninhabited island of Komba. Because the volcano rises from the deep ocean, the True North’s 200-meter anchor chain does not reach the bottom. And so, during our stay, the captain has to use engine power to hold the ship in position against the ocean current.
After sunset you can see fireworks of a special kind. While we circle the island in a small dinghy for fishing, the darkness gives us a view of small fires that have been created on the uninhabited island by ejected lava cinders.
Navigation even at night
During the night, the True North sails on and drops anchor at Alor Island. A helicopter flight the next morning over the archipelago with the islands of Pantar and Alor opens the view into the enormous caldera of Gunung Sirung, where powerful steam eruptions can be seen next to a gray lake.
The warriors of the South Seas
The land area of Indonesia is made up of more than 17,000 islands on which 500 ethnic groups live and where 250 other languages are spoken in addition to the national language Bahasa Indonesia. The Sunda Islands are predominantly Christian in the majority Muslim state. The people have a friendly, tolerant aura. For them, we as the strangers are at least as interesting as they are for us visitors.
After the wet landing on the beach of Kalabahi, the capital of Alor, a minibus takes us near the small village of Takpala, where martially armed warriors welcome us. Their pointed arrows and bows indicate that just a few generations ago they had to defend themselves against enemy headhunters. Today, the welcoming ritual expresses above all the mutual respect that our captain and the chief of the village have for each other on behalf of both groups. True North already paid a visit to the community last year and was pleasantly remembered for its generous donation to the school children.
We are invited to enter the typical tapering pile dwellings covered with grasses. They are used for living on four floors, especially during the rainy season, and for storing food all year round. The most valuable foodstuffs are stored on the top level, which is the most difficult to access.
The first thing you notice about most people’s unnaturally red lips is that they incessantly put a betel bite under their tongue. There, the flour of the otherwise only lightly colored nut dissolves and takes on the typical red color that stains gums but also the floor of the village. This is because the drug, which is both stimulating and soothing at the same time, primarily stimulates the flow of saliva.
Peculiar wedding custom
Finally, we witness the traditional wedding dance. But the dance is not the most important thing. It is the mokos that everyone dances around. These are hourglass-shaped bronze drums that the groom has to pay to the bride’s father. They cannot even be replaced by money and are constantly visible as the central element around which the whole celebration develops.
Mokos are valuable family possessions. They are inherited and can be bought. But you can’t get a bride for any money in the world. Her value is determined by the number of mokos that had to be paid for her mother at the time. If the mother was triggered for two mokos, her daughter is already due for three mokos.
The foreign guests of True North also mingle with the dancers during the course of the celebration.
Travel advice: Australia for European tourists
The cost of the boat trip was not calculated