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Indonesia: Reflections on Easter Sailing East

March 2016  Unity in a Good Friday Procession

On Easter Day, I cannot not help but reflect on the wonderful boat trips we did in
past years throughout Indonesia.


With the MSY Perintis, we would schedule our trips to the islands east of Bali around Easter time. The town of Larantuka on the far eastern tip of Flores holds a Good Friday procession each year, maintaining a more than 400-year tradition.  It was always very touching to observe the ritual of lighting candles throughout the town, the singing of Ave Maria, and a re-enactment of Veronica wailing at the stations of the cross.  The procession lasts throughout the night in amazing devotion.

The communities on these islands are predominantly Christian blending in their ancient animist beliefs. Many of the trading communities along the coast are Muslim. And traveling to this part of Indonesia was a true example of the Unity in Diversity. The local Muslims helped the Christian community in preparing the palm leaf candle holders along the route for the procession. And when the Muslims celebrated Idul Fitri, the Christians come to celebrate breaking fast together.

To the east of Flores is the island of Lembata.  We would visit a special village on the south coast called Lamalera-  a community which practices subsistence whaling. Perched on a dry and rocky slope of an active volcano, there is limited food source available. In dry season, villagers walk several kilometers to get fresh water. During certain times of the year, the sea hunters of Lamalera set off on their traditional boats with palm leaf sails and manage to harpoon a few whales, their main source of protein.

An actual hunt would not exactly be my cup of tea to watch, but their boats would come out to the Perintis giving us a demonstration of their skill. The community structure of this village is fascinating.

Lamalera whaling boat 2aw
Children at Lamalera, Lembata Island


The villagers of Lamalera are also known for their traditional weaving skills, producing textiles in handspun cotton and natural dyes. Coming ashore, we were always warmly welcomed by the school children having prepared welcome dances and songs along with some wonderful miniature traditional boats.

We would call into Lamalera a few days before cruising on to Larantuka for Good Friday. On my last cruise,  I remember the school teacher Pak Ben saying that some of the villagers were excited to be coming to Larantuka for Good Friday that year, and we looked forward to seeing them there.  Their plan was to hook up an outboard engine on one of their boats- something they would never do on a traditional whale hunt- but a trip to Larantuka is quite a distance.  By late evening on Good Friday, settling back on board the Perintis, we had not noticed any of our Lamalera friends amongst the crowds in town. Next early morning, while lifting anchor to sail out, we saw the Lamalera boat coming into the harbor. Their engine had broken down and they rowed all through the night- sitting upright on planks, singing Ave Maria.  This story will remain forever in my heart.

Lamalera was the first community Threads of Life began working when these boat trips came to an end. They continue to work with weavers throughout the islands promoting the art of weaving and natural dyes.   Learn more on:  Threads of Life.

One of these​ days I may get around to scanning some more ​old photos of these wonderful past trips, but below are a few including this black and white photo of a village welcome on the island of Timor:

Timor village 0004aw
Traditional dancers, Watublapi, Flores
Perintis groupin ikats

Feeling fortunate for the wonderful times with the Perintis…

More on Eastern Indonesia-  Click Here

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