Tanjung Gedong

We arrived at Tanjung Gedong on the northeast end of Flores Island yesterday after a motor/sail in light winds from Kroko Islets. It is a very pretty and protected small bay. Coming from the east, there is nothing but steep cliffs dropping into the sea until Tanjung Gedong. Even here, the small village is on a fairly steep cliff and the water depth increases quickly away from the beach. We are anchored on a rock shelf just ahead of a 50 meter precipice.

On arriving, we were visited first by local children in wooden canoes (sampans), to whom we offer lollipops, and then by Niko, a poor fisherman with two beautiful helmet shells that Laura loves. We traded a new Chinese digital watch, some children’s clothes, and some fish hooks for the shells. When we took our kayak to shore, there was a man waiting for us. He is Josef, a man in his forties, who had accidentally hacked his big toe with his machete while working in his garden. He asked if we had medicine to treat him. So we went back to the boat, put together some first aid supplies, and returned to the beach. As numerous locals looked on, I cleaned the wound, applied antiseptic spray and antibiotic ointment, and bandaged the toe. I also supplied Josef with antibiotic ointment and told him to reapply ointment and a fresh bandage in a day.

Laura and I then walked up the steep hill to the village, with Josef hobbling after us. He invited us into his family compound where he lived with his father and mother, wife and children, and siblings and their children. They served us delicious Flores coffee and we took a couple of family portraits, and we said our goodbyes. Back on the boat later that evening, we decided to stay one more day and have a good look at the village. Early in the morning Josef, and his son Josef, paddled over to Sabbatical III with some gifts of tubers (ubi kayu) and plantains, and stayed for coffee. When we came back to the village, he showed us the ceremonial pavilion (rumah adat), the large but simple Catholic church, the water system, and the long broken power generator. Everyone was returning from church in their Sunday best. The people in the far eastern end of Flores island are of the Lamaholot ethnicity. They are more Melanesian (as in Fiji) in appearance then people in most of the rest of Indonesia (such as Java and Bali), who are considered “Malay.” They are also Catholic from way back. The remaining ship of Magellan passed these shores around 1500, soon followed by Dominican missions. This end of Flores island became a center of Portuguese trade and mission work in the East Nusa Tenggara region. The nearby town of Larantuka has a cathedral, which Josef and his family pray at once or twice a year, and a seminary that supplies the priest that visits this village regularly. The Portuguese did not leave Larantuka and the surrounding area until 1850, when they sold it to the Dutch. (The Portuguese kept East Timor until late in the twentieth century, but that is another story).

We visited Josefs family compound again and exchanged gifts, had coffee and fried plantains, and returned to the boat. It was a very nice day (and Josef’s toe is much improved). Tomorrow we will sail on to Waimalung, about 25 miles further west on the northern coast of Flores. The island is over 200 miles long, and we will be day sailing along this coast of Flores for a about 3 more weeks.


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