Stamping festival in Kupang

Obelix has landed in Terra Indonesia. Here are some first impressions on East Nusa Tenggara’s (one of Indonesia’s 34 provinces) capital:

Moon resisting in the sky despite the sun’s appearance behind electrical polls and other man-made metallic structures which mark out the island’s low skyline which remind us we’ve arrived in an urban settlement, contrary to the deserted aboriginal islands we passed north of Arnhem land in the Arafura sea.

Three fishing boats in a single file motoring their way up the strait like a silhouette spectacle against the sunrise backdrop.

Calm water littered with junk floating past us, plastic bags, bottles, cans, logs, and flocks of small birds snacking on it like water pigeons.

Cargo ships waiting for their turn or making a move towards the shipping harbour budging at the last minute to deviate from the collision course.

Quarantine officer apprentices, all girls, discovering the perks of their future job, eating lollies on Obelix, giggling wen they start feeling dizzy while focusing to fill in form after form sweating in their long pants and long-sleeve golden-yellow uniform jackets, sometimes a head-covering, in a crowded cockpit with no less than six officer, Thomas and I.

Quarantine officers crammed in Obelix cockpit

Custom officers in navy-blue full-length uniforms making me open my offshore medical kit and inspecting it carefully, reading the NZ prescription, diligently taking pictures of everything.

Derelict concrete buildings reclaiming the waterfront next to brand new design cast iron and wood globes and benches to admire the view.

Dwellings over dwellings, over dwellings dotting the coastline, even more impressive at night, creating an impressionist picture of lights.

Small “beach” preserved among the urban jungle, where dinghy landing equates stepping into a liquid garbage bin where bare chest locals who’ve been sheltering in the shade of dilapidated concrete piles greet us, help us land and take care of our RIB in exchange for a few (thousands of) rupees. The equivalent of car window washers at traffic lights, I guess. How do we call being asked to pay for services we didn’t request?

Obelix anchored in front of Teddy’s beach

Local agents lining up on arrival to offer their services.

Colourful mini vans (bemo, pronounced bee-mow) driving with open windows and doors and calling out for tourists when empty.

Little stalls hidden away under the shade of tall buildings, selling rows of mangoes of all shapes and colours and other small quantities of fruits and veggies.

Neat and tidy bar and restaurant 999 with drumkit and other instruments set up on a stage, and its black upcycled tyre armchairs.

999 restaurant upcycled tyre armchairs

Drawn into the drama of the country from day one, feeling obliged to make half promises to visit such or such location because locals we meet are from there and swear they’re must-sees. Labuan Bajo, for example, the Bali of 30 years ago, before it became infested with occidental tourists who transfigured the once culturally diverse and so traditional island, Pink Beach, or Panta Island.

Monotonous chanting voice coming out from a loudspeaker nearby, our agent declaring “karaoke time, we call it karaoke time”, further explaining that 80% of the island population is of Catholic or Protestant confession, his sarcastic comment betraying that he feels at odds with the call for prayer coming from the light-house which doubles as a menara next door.


Thomas coming back victorious after a 9-hour marathon across town to complete the clearance formalities with the help of our last-minute agent Frenky Charles. He tried to rationalise it all, writing down all the steps it took to complete the process, but to me it felt like like madness, with five locations to report to (Quarantine, Customs, Immigration, Bank for the Visa on Arrival, Harbour Master) each visited at least twice if not thrice, and no less than twenty documents (sometimes multiple copies of the same) all stamped by both the said office and Obelix official stamp. Apparently it was quite a feat to achieve it all in one day, so, short of energy to go ashore to a local restaurant, we celebrated with 2-min noodles!

9-step clearance procedure

It’s hard to believe we’re in Indonesia already, but a quick listen or glance out the cockpit and we can’t be mistaken, we’re in Indonesia proper.

2 thoughts on “Stamping festival in Kupang

  1. Your Kupang Post was brilliant and refreshingly honest. Having fought on the same battlefield three years ago, and now queueing up to do it again. Your reflection leaves me gobsmacked. Do I really have the stamina to repeat this agin?

    Last year I moored in front of Teddys and contracted a staph infection that sent me to Bumrudgrad to be plugged into an IV for three days.

    Ho ho, the life of a sailor can be quite a delight or be rather full of woes left and right. Round and round the bottle of fate spins, who will prosper and who will fail, only the pale moon can say for sure.


    1. Thanks Bill for your kind note. Yes it looks like there are as many experiences and perspectives as there are sailors out there and it is hard to discriminate what part good fortune or our own attitude play… Fair winds to you!


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