A Travellerspoint blog

Destination Flores 1971 (part 1)

By freighter ship


As a physics teacher at Satya Wacana University in Salatiga I had taken in five students boarding at my house. One of them was from Ende, Flores. He had accompanied me to Bali in December 1970, on condition that I would go with him to see his family the next year.

So Ende was the destination where the two of us were headed in December 1971. Unlike Bali, I could drive my car only as far as Surabaya. From there we travelled by ship. At the time there were just two ships commuting between Surabaya and Ende which charged an affordable price for students. My companion had learned from a relative in Surabaya that the Stella Maris was to depart early in December. Of course there was no mobile phone yet, they communicated by telegram! And we were lucky to get tickets at all, because December was the holiday season. Many students from Sumba and Flores wanted to pass the festive days at home.

The following photo’s give an idea what Pelabuhan Tanjung Perak, the port of Surabaya, looked like in 1971.

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The motor vessel “Stella Maris” was a 100 ton freigther built in Germany. It had been ordered by the catholic order SVD (Societas Verbi Divini or ‘Society of the Divine Word’) to support their activities in Flores. It has been in operation for about 25 years, starting in 1959. The BW photo I took at sea. The colour picture shows the Stella Maris anchored off Waingapu (Sumba).

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Being a freighter the ship had no accommodation for passengers, except one cabin reserved for members of the SVD. Ordinary passengers like us, had to make do lying on deck. The VIP passenger had another privilege. Live chickens on board were destined for his (and the captain’s) meals. Whereas ours’ consisted of rice with sambal.
Here are two photos of students who travelled with us. The one with the batik shirt is my companion, Herman.
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On our three-day-two-nights journey we anchored at Waikelo and at Waingapu on Sumba, before we reached Ende on Flores. I have tried to draw that route on my Travel Map, but found that it was impossible. It seems the Map will only show routes of regular passenger ships. It wants us to have travelled via Makasar and even overland through Sumbawa. Actually we took the shortest route to Waikelo. And from Waikelo to Waingapu we did not stop at Sape on Sumbawa and Labuan Bajo on Flores as the Map shows, but just made a short journey east.

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I think we left Surabaya past midday. After heading south for a while along the coast of East Java, we turned due east.

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Then night fell and we saw nothing of the other islands we passed, Bali, Lombok, and Sumbawa.
Early on the second day we passed through Sangeang Strait between Sumbawa and Sangeang Island, then we turned south towards Waikelo on Sumba. Sangeang Island is vaguely visible in next photo.

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At Waikelo there was no harbour with piers as there is today. The Stella Maris just anchored as close to the beach as the captain dared to go. A couple of Sumbanese welcomed us in their dugout canoe, but we passengers were rowed ashore by the sloop of the ship. The Stella Maris was to stay anchored for several hours for unloading cargo, so we had some time to spend on land.

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On the beach a crowd had already gathered for bringing the cargo ashore. Trucks stood ready to transport it inland. But the only means to bring it ashore were the dugout canoes of the locals. There was a small brick building, probably the harbour master’s office. Otherwise there were only a few thatch-roofed houses at a short distance. [ The developer of my film did a bad job. Hence the white ghost smears of the pictures. ]

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We did not await the unloading, but were advised to walk inland where there was a compound of the SVD. It was about an hour’s walk. When we arrived we were first of all directed to the bathrooms where we took a shower (Indonesian style with a gayong). That was truly welcome after almost 24 hours on deck.

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Being refreshed we had lunch in the office of the priest in charge. The SVD ran a carpentry training workshop. After we had been shown around it, we had another drink with one of the sisters.

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When we had walked back in the sun to the beach we could have done with another shower. I looked for some shade and found it under a limestone cliff. There I could replace the film in my camera.
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We might well have returned later, because the unloading was still ongoing. I heard the captain was irritated because the men worked too slowly. I do not know what the cargo was. It was brought ashore in big sacks using the canoes of the locals.

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So we had some more time on our hands to explore the coast. The soil of Sumba is not fertile, it consists mostly of limestone. The exception are the river valleys, that form green oases. The dug-out canoe builder below was happy to pose for me.

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It was already late in the afternoon before we sailed for the next stop, Waingapu. That was only a short distance away, but I think we had to wait for daylight before the Stella Maris could enter Waingapu harbour.

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Among the unloaded cargo was corrugated iron roofing. Some passengers left us in Waingapu, but we had new companions too: a family that moved to another island together with its belongings.

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From Waingapu we sailed north-east. Here is our first sight of Flores. The conical mountain on the left is Inerie volcano (2227 masl). On the right is visible Ebulobo volcano (2124 masl). Inerie, near Bajawa, is a popular volcano to climb by travellers doing Flores.

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Ende had and has two harbours: Bung Karno harbour on the west side of the Ende peninsula, and Ipi harbour on the east side. The captain headed the Stella Maris to Ipi harbour, but that turned out to be a mistake. Depending on the seasonal wind direction one or the other harbour was in use. It seems that just the day before the authorities had decided to make the switch. As it was already too late in the day to sail around the peninsula to Bung Karno harbour, we stayed an unplanned third night off Ipi beach.

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So, on the morning of the fourth night we disembarked at Bung Karno harbour. It was only a short walk from the harbour to my student’s home. Ende town lies at the neck of Ende peninsula, which is only 2,5 kilometres wide at its narrowest. Which goes to say that one can easily get around walking. Half an hour’s walk brought us to Ipi beach, a popular beach for the youth of Ende. Everyone walked, there was hardly any traffic. See the photo of a hole in the road. Why bother to repair the road when everyone knows the hole and walks around it?
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I conclude this part of my blog with some views of Ende and its environment. In part 2 I will relate what we did during our stay in Ende.

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The peninsula south of Ende is about six kilometres long. There are two mountains on the peninsula. Bordering the town is Gunung Meja (Table Mountain), an extinct volcano shaped like an almost perfect truncated cone. The southern half of the peninsula is formed an old and a new crater of Iya volcano Gunung Iya. Its last eruption occurred on 27 january 1969 after a quiet period of 87 years. The irregular hilly terrain between Gunung Meja and Gunung Iya likely is what remains from prehistoric volcanic activity.

Next two photo’s show the peninsula. The first I took at Nuabosi, a high viewpoint north of town. The second I took from the shore east of Ipi beach. Table Mountain is on the right. The small island on the left is called Pulau Koa. Local lore says that Table Mountain and Iya Volcano had a fight. Iya cut off the head of Table Mountain. The head fell in the sea, and remains there as Pulau Koa. Then Iya hurled away his sword. It ended up in Ende Bay, about ten kilometres from town. That's Pulau Ende.

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Table Mountain was and is a popular destination for getting out of town. From its top one has a fine view of Ende town and its surroundings. Compare the next two photo’s, the first from 1971, the second from 2011. In 1971 the town was still small and surrounded by countless coconut trees, copra being the main produce of Ende. In 2011 the town has grown considerably, encroaching on the coconut plantations.

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On the right a view Table Mountain to the north (more coconut trees), and below a view to the east (overlooking IPI beach). The boy Leonard had joned us to the summit of Table Mountain. He tried to throw a stone into the sea at Ipi, but that was not as close as it looks.

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Continued in 'Destination Flores 1971 (part 2)'.

Posted by theo1006 10:51 Archived in Indonesia

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