Dragons, volcanoes and a wedding

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.

Komodowarane ermitteln ihre Rangordnung im Kampf / © Foto: Georg Berg
Komodo dragons determine their ranking in a fight / © Photo: Georg Berg

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.

Komodowaran auf der Jagd / © Foto: Georg Berg
Komodo dragon on the hunt / © Photo: Georg Berg

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.

Komodowarane gehören zu den gefährdeten Tierarten. An den Ständen der Komodo-Inseln sind sie oft in Gruppen anzutreffen / © Foto: Georg Berg
Komodo dragons belong to the endangered species. On the beaches of the Komodo Islands they are often found in groups / © Photo: Georg Berg

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

Sogar im Helikopter ist der Schwefelgeruch des aktiven Vulkans Batu Tara auf der Insel Komba wahrzunehmen. Klein am linken Bildrand ist die True North zu sehen / © Foto: Georg Berg
Even in the helicopter the sulfur smell of the active volcano Batu Tara on the island Komba can be perceived. Small at the left edge of the picture the True North is to be seen / © Photo: Georg Berg

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.

Der Batu Tara Vulkan auf der Insel Komba stößt regelmäßig Lavaschlacken aus, durch die in der Vegetation kleine Feuer entstehen / © Foto: Georg Berg
The Batu Tara volcano on Komba Island regularly emits lava cinders that cause small fires in the vegetation. / © Photo: Georg Berg

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

Seekarten aus Papier haben auf der True North nicht ausgedient, denn alle sicherheitsrelevanten Systeme sind mehrfach vorhanden. Der Kurs wird dennoch traditionell mit Bleistift und Lineal eingetragen / © Foto: Georg Berg
Paper charts are not obsolete on the True North, as all safety-related systems are multiple. Nevertheless, the course is traditionally plotted with pencil and ruler / © Photo: Georg Berg

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.

Über dem Gunung Sirung riecht es nach Schwefel und neben einem grauen Kratersee stößt der Vulkan regelmäßig Dampffontänen aus / © Foto: Georg Berg
Above Gunung Sirung it smells of sulfur and next to a gray crater lake the volcano regularly emits steam fountains / © Photo: Georg Berg

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.

Auf dem Weg in den Ort Takpala stellt sich ein Krieger quer. Tatsächlich drückt er mit der traditionellen Bewaffnung heute seinen Respekt vor Besuchern aus / © Foto: Georg Berg
On the way to the village of Takpala, a warrior stands in the way. In fact, with the traditional armament today he expresses his respect for visitors / © Photo: Georg Berg

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.

Im Inneren eines typischen Hauses auf Alor. Statt Treppen gibt es in diesen Lumbung genannten Scheunen steile Leitern, die beiseite geräumt werden können / © Foto: Georg Berg
Inside a typical house on Alor. Instead of stairs, these barns, called lumbung, have steep ladders that can be moved aside to protect against intruders / © Photo: Georg Berg.

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.

Betelhappen bestehen aus Betelnüssen, Betelpfeffer gelöschtem Kalk und verschiedenen Gewürzen / © Foto: Georg Berg
Betelhappen consist of betel nuts, betel pepper slaked lime and various spices / © Photo: Georg Berg

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.

Musik und Tanz spielt eine wichtige Rollen im Zusammenleben. Der eigene Betel-Behälter ist immer dabei / © Foto: Georg Berg
Music and dance play an important role in the community life. The own betel container is always with you / © Photo: Georg Berg

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.

No Moko - No Marry, so lautet die Zauberformel. Ohne Bronzetrommeln kann ein Brautpaar nie zusammenkommen / © Foto: Georg Berg
No Moko – No Marry, that is the magic formula. Without bronze drums, a bride and groom can never get together / © Photo: Georg Berg

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.

Mit Fußringen geben die Einheimischen den Rhythmus vor. Dadurch lernen auch ihre Gäste die richtige Schrittfolge / © Foto: Georg Berg
The locals set the rhythm with foot rings. In this way, their guests also learn the correct sequence of steps / © Photo: Georg Berg

The foreign guests of True North also mingle with the dancers during the course of the celebration.

Travel advice: Australia for European tourists

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The cost of the boat trip was not calculated

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