Prehistoric cave paintings in Indonesia are as old as ancient art in Europe, a new study found. The images found in caves on Sulawesi Island show humans were drawing in different parts of the world some 40,000 years ago.
Book 2 in my Trilogy Kalimantan – Book 2 explores how this mysterious culture lived having survived the catacylsm of the world’s largest recent extinction event at Lake Toba.
Well the festival season has certainly kicked off early for me this year.
Back in the UK at this time of the year, I would be sitting close to my log stove looking forward to Bearded Theory in May, the first major festival of the season.
When I arrived in Bali 2 weeks ago I was immediately involved in Sarawasti Day.
Next month (date yet to be confirmed by the Sasak priests) is Bau Nyale, Festival of the Seaworms in neighbouring Lombok. Each year thousands of seaworms come to the surface at selected beaches in East Lombok. The locals believe, that the Nyale are not just regular seaworms, but are considered as sacred creatures that bring prosperity to those who honor them, or misfortune to those who ignore them. This belief was based on a legend of princess Mandalika.
We are also planning a motorbike expedition over to the remote island of Sumba, two islands away in time for the Annual Pasola Horse Festival on March 8th. The island is famous for its Sumba ponies descended from ancient Mongolian stock.
Sumba and Sumbawa ponies are today used for pack, riding, and light draft work. They are incredibly strong, and many are ridden by men in games of lance throwing despite never reaching 13 hands high. Young boys also ride the ponies bareback in traditional dance competitions, maneuvering them in patterns as instructed. The knee of the ponies are decorated with bells, that chime in rhythm to the drumming. All of the local cowboys gather annually for day of jousting and racing.
Pasola, roughly translated, means spear game. And the event does, indeed revolve around a game that involves spears, as well as throwing them at people while on horseback.
The origins of this festival are unknown for the most part, with many legendary tales to explain its beginnings. Others believe it evolved from some sort of peaceful dispute resolution. Either way, it has now become integral to the celebration of harvest time on the island. Its popularity has grown such that it brings in huge crowds from not only the local islands, but from all over the world.
Two groups get together, generally divided by clan or region. They ride horses, bareback, and carry several blunted wooden spears with them. Two pairs of these horsemen take their place on each side of a large field then proceed to charge toward each other, the way one might in a western-styled jousting tournament. When they get within range of their opponents, the spears fly. After a time the field is filled with people, all hurling spears and trying to either unseat their enemies or to wound them or their horses.
As is to be expected, even blunt spears can cause damage. Injury is a given when it comes to the Pasola War Festival. Most just sustain bruises or get knocked from their horses, but there have been cases of people losing an eye or even dying in pursuit of this tradition.
The spilling of blood is not considered a bad thing, however. The blood lost during this tournament is believed to fertilize the Earth and lead to a fruitful harvest in the future.
It sounds spectacular and an event I have been meaning to catch for years.
Then of course we get into the big Balinese Festval season. Nyepi (Balinese New Year) falls on March 12th this year, Galungan on March 27th and then Kuningan on April 8th – but I’ll be posting on them later.
It looks like I’ll be popping back to the UK in May so will as usual get to meet friends old and new at Bearded Theory to swap winter stories, and bond with my tribe again. And with any luck the Levellers will be there this year so it won’t matter if I miss Beautiful Days !!
Arrived at my daughter’s property Tuesday armed with mozzie repellant and nagging doubts about the pack of wild dingos she explained were roaming the area attacking the animals. They had completely decimated her chicken coop over the last few weeks, attacked the horses and dogs and savaged her latest pet, Piggy the wild boar. The goat fence around the van where my daughter has lived for the past 2 years was no deterrent apparently.
Piggy and Honey
Tach had mentioned a few times that she had built me a “little shack” at the top of the hill and tried to assure me that I would be perfectly safe up there as “you’ll see the dingos coming for miles…”. Imagine my surprise when she showed me the “shack”
Tach’s new mansion
She has built a 3 bed fully fly-screened mansion, totally solar powered with 270 degree views over the Barron River Valley and beyond.
At last one of the family has forsaken their hippy past !
Access is problematic, however, in the wet season. There are 8 (yes EIGHT!) creeks to cross to get to the property.
During the big wet even 4WDs can’t get through so vehicles are left on the bitumen some 3km away and Tach and Dennis use a canoe to get to work. Sometimes even this gets too dangerous so they have to take a 8 km detour, walking over the railway bridge (built circa 1920).
This year the water rose to within 1 meter of the bottom of the bridge…..
Yesterday we went for a tour of the property boundaries to inspect the fencing on the Quad bikes and it took over 2 hours.
Anyway, the ideal writer’s retreat. Lots of toys and animals to keep me amused during those writer’s block moments.
Looking forward to spending the next month here, focusing on Book 2 “Kalimantan”.
An amazing 3 days in Kota Kinabalu, making lots of new friends and contacts in preparation for the expedition into the interior of Borneo later in the year.The local seafood speciality known as the elephant trunk clam is probably the most phallic delicacy I have ever encountered – delicious with a soy and durian sauce !
Big thanks to Fez for showing us the real KK with all it’s colour, excitement and Lady Boys, to lao tsiu for the Tai Chi lessons and Buddhist Wasan Day blessings, and a special thanks to Nick and Beth from the local hospital for introducing me to the wonders of tropical medicine. I never realised before that there are 9 different types of malaria, one of which is only found in Northern Borneo and is transmitted from macaques.
On Saturday night we found ourselves at the spectacle known as Sabah Fest, where all of the local dance groups meet to celebrate the fascinating history of the area, and Beth and I were dragged on stage to join in the fun.
Of the original indigenous coastal dwellers there still exists the Ida’an and the Orang Sungei on Sabah’s east coast and on the south west coast the Bisayan and Brunei people. North of Kudat is the large undeveloped island of Banggi, here the indigenous and peaceful tribe of the Banggi still live, their language is completely unrelated to any of the other four linguistic groups found in Sabah.
The largest indigenous tribes are the hill tribes, the Kadazan and Dusun tribes and their sub-tribes, often referred to the Kadazandusun, and the Murut. The Kadazandusun live mostly in the interior of Sabah, they are mountain people who believe the mountain is a resting place for the spirits of their departed, and thus it is sacred to them. The Rungus are arguably the most traditional of the indigenous tribes, a sub-tribe of the Kadazandusun the Rungus live mostly in the north near Kudat, many still live in longhouses. The Murut a group of several related tribes once lived in the longhouses like the Rungus, now they have mostly moved into single-family houses in the Tenom area and make a subsistence living from small-scale agriculture.
The Bajau have become the second largest group of Sabahan’s with two distinct communities each with their separate languages. One group live on the east coast in houses on stilts and depend entirely upon the sea, much like the nomadic Bajau found through Southeast Asia. The other group live in Kota Belud and have settled to become very successful agriculturalists famed for their skill on horseback.
The whole adventure culminated in Beth, Anna and I finding ourselves locked out of Nick’s house at midnight with no cash between us – only one thing for it but to scale the security fence, risking my crown jewels along the way before making a dash for the door before the security alarm went off.
It was then time to get downtown to Razzamatazz and wait for my 4am flight in the company of assorted crazy American divers, German tattooists, French submariners and Australian sea cucumber farmers, while ignoring the FA Cup final and the constant advances of the local ladies of the night. It was all getting a bit messy until all the girls ran out screaming as the religious police raided the place at 3am and then kindly proceeded to organise my cab to the airport !