Our Silversea Expedition Wraps up in West Sumba, Indonesia
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
Today is our last full day aboard Silversea’s Silver Discoverer, which is rather incredible when you stop to consider that we’ve explored so much in just 12 short days. We’ve come from one of the most remote and beautiful locations in Australia – the Kimberley – to the heavily-populated islands of Indonesia. It’s a contrast that hasn’t escaped anyone onboard Silversea’s newest expedition vessel in the past few days.
Today, Silver Discoverer anchored off West Sumba Island just after 5:00a.m, with the first Zodiac groups heading ashore at 7:00a.m. But large rolling swells rocked the ship about, making loading the Zodiacs something of an exercise in good timing. The guests might have thought twice about getting into a little floating raft that was rising and falling beneath the stern of the ship, but to the Expedition Team onboard, this morning’s weather was nothing compared to what the Antarctic can throw at them.
My group – Group 2 – was called first, and I jumped down (literally) into one of the first Zodiacs to head ashore, battling heavy swells as we went along that left many of us wet. Not that anyone really cares: the temperature this morning was already a blistering 34°C by the time we’d finished breakfast.
Speaking of breakfast, you can get room service breakfast brought to you by your butler each and every morning if you’d like, or you can head to the Discoverer Lounge on Deck 5 for your morning sustenance. I’ve done a mix of both, but I have to admit favoring the butler-driven room service. It’s personable, prompt (never more than two or three minutes outside of the requested delivery time), and most importantly, hot. On early mornings, it’s also nice to know that you can relax in your suite and linger over that last cup of coffee right until the 10-minute warning announcement to prepare for the Zodiac disembarkation.
Back in the wind-swept Zodiac, my hat has become the subject of discussion today, as it hasn’t fallen off my head once, regardless of how strong the wind is, or how much we’re getting tossed around in the Zodiac. For €10, it was a bargain when I purchased it in Cinque Terre, Italy last summer. Today, however, I’d part ways with my hat.
We began our morning by coming ashore in a small cove sheltered from the wind and the amazingly-high surf that pounds the rest of the coastline here. We were greeted by what seemed like an entire town of locals as we headed up the embankment and boarded our waiting transportation: twelve 8-passenger vans that would take us on a 30-minute journey to Waikelo.
Once there, we were greeted by all of the local people (or so it seemed), and we were treated to an hour’s worth of traditional cultural dances, including the Dance of the Betel Nut. The betel nut is a sacred food that is revered in local culture, and betel nut chewing is widespread. It’s a carcinogen, however, and leaves users with red gums and teeth, along with increased risks of cancer.
It is, however, sacred. Betel nut chewing is as old as time itself in West Sumba. Not everyone does it, but the traditional dances made in its honor are decidedly sexy. It’s though that the Betel Nut is an aphrodisiac, and the hours’ worth of performances we were treated to – accompanied by shouts and cheers from the audience – seemed to hammer home that point.
After that, we walked through the village to view the ancient megalithic burial grounds. Sumba is one of the few places in the world to still inter the deceased in megalithic structures, though the tradition was popular during the Bronze Age.
As if to drive home the uniqueness of this place, Expedition Team member Juan asked a local boy what was inside an elaborately carved wooden sheath he was carrying. He proudly withdrew a very long, and very sharp, sword and showed it to him proudly. Almost makes you wonder why we bother rounding the corners off toys in North America and Europe…
The local tour guide I had for the ride into the local village – Anggi – was fascinated by me. Being a remote island, I suspect she just hasn’t seen many tall, Caucasian men wearing funny hats pass through before. At 20, she is studying tourism & hospitality at the local university and has only been learning English for three months. Once again, my Indonesian doesn’t match up, so she spent about 15 minutes helping me learn Indonesian as we walked through the village on our way to see the Pasola – a traditional and sometimes lethal game featuring riders on horseback who fling giant spears of bamboo at each other.
As for the Pasola – I’m not sure what to make of it. It seemed a little disjointed, with people flinging bamboo spears at each other with reckless abandon. Perhaps that’s the point. At any rate, who am I to comment on a traditional West Sumba tradition? I heard some grumblings from my fellow guests about animal cruelty and on and on, but you have to remember: this isn’t North America, with its myriad of rules and regulations. This is West Sumba, Indonesia, where traditions still reign supreme. Plus, the riders looked like they were getting hurt, not the horses.
When it was time to go back to the vans for our hour-long drive back to Silver Discoverer’s new anchorage on the other side of the island, Anggi handed me the hand-made bracelet she’d been wearing on her wrist. I thought that was enormously nice of her, but I found myself without anything to give her in return. So, I gave her my hat, which she seemed thrilled to receive. It was a nice display of two different people from two different cultures leaving something of them behind with one another.
Now, I have two thoughts about the fate of Mr. Hat. One, she could still have it, sitting in her house somewhere. Which would be nice. But I can’t help but wondering if maybe there’s a rather smart looking potbellied pig waltzing around West Sumba with a straw trilby hat on. You just never know.
Either way, I feel good about the gesture. But it’s a good reminder when you travel to bring some little things from your country with you. I did this in Vietnam and Cambodia, and it was always appreciated by the locals.
Back onboard Silver Discoverer, I took the opportunity to visit the Onboard Gift Shop to replace my hat. It’s not a trilby, but I think it looks pretty good.
When I arrived back at my suite, my luggage had been cleaned for me and placed on the bed in preparation for packing. My butler, Heri, offered to pack for me, but I opted to do the dirty work myself, particularly as I hadn’t really decided on the best outfit to wear on my 22-hour journey home tomorrow. Silversea cleans and sanitizes your luggage for you, ties a silver ribbon on the handle, and places your disembarkation information and luggage tags in your suite. It couldn’t be easier to enjoy the final day of your cruise with them – particularly if you opt for the luggage-packing service.
Tonight, our onboard photographer/ videographer Ray Stranagan presented his DVD of our voyage, which can be purchased for $150 per copy. It’s a two-disc affair that contains a 48-minute long day-by-day compilation of our cruise, along with a second DVD featuring still images arranged in date-specific folders. It was standing-room only in the Explorer Lounge for his presentation, and a large queue formed at the Reception Desk to sign up to purchase copies.
Afterwards, guests lingered over cocktails before heading down for one last meal in The Restaurant on Deck 3. I’ve felt the food on this trip has been consistently above-par, and well beyond what I would have expected for an expedition cruise (even a Silversea one) sailing from such a remote part of the world. Wines served each night are all Australian, and while the reds are a little young, the whites have been consistently excellent.
Tomorrow, we arrive in Bali, Indonesia at 8:00a.m, and our expedition cruise will draw to a close. I don’t know about anyone else onboard, but I am exhausted – these expedition cruises are hard work! But they’re the fun kind of hard work, and in my opinion, one of the best kinds of cruises you can take.
It has certainly been an inspiring 12 days!
Silver Discoverer, The Kimberley Coast, Australia to Indonesia
|May 9, 2014||Day 1 - Arrival Down Under|
|May 10||Day 2 - Sydney and the Shangri-La|
|May 11||Day 3 - Perth|
|May 12||Day 4 - Embarking Silver Discoverer in Broome|
|May 13||Day 5 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 1|
|May 14||Day 6 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 2|
|May 15||Day 7 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 3|
|May 16||Day 8 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 4|
|May 17||Day 9 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 5|
|May 18||Day 10 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 6|
|May 19||Day 11 - Wyndham, Australia|
|May 20||Day 12 - At Sea|
|May 21||Day 13 - Savu, Indonesia|
|May 22||Day 14 - Komodo & Pink Beach, Indonesia|
|May 23||Day 15 - Waikelo, Indonesia|
|May 24||Benoa, Bali, Indonesia|