The entire time Ichal and I sat on the boat bringing us to Raja Ampat we kept pinching ourselves to check that we weren’t dreaming.
This is a dream come true for us both. Neither of us can believe we are actually here. To share our delight, Ichal constantly rang friends enjoying their envy and I posted several times to Facebook. We just couldn’t help ourselves!
We are currently on the island of Waigeo in the town of Waisai. Ichal’s brother (adik angkat) met us at the dock and took us to a home stay he had found. As the Raja Ampat Cultural Festival
was to begin that night, finding accommodation in Waisai was tricky. Ega found for us a family who was happy to rent out 2 of their bedrooms to us! The family who we are staying with are lovely. They have 2 children although only one lives at home at the moment. They have an enormous house. It is one story with 3 bedrooms, a formal sitting room, a tv room, a large dining area, a large bathroom and a newly built cooking area out the back. Ibu explained that this new kitchen area which has a concreted floor and wooden planks for walls & a tin roof was built to keep cooking smells outside! The bathroom is my favourite place. The weather here is so incredibly hot that as soon as I have had one mandi, I want another! Even the locals are complaining about the heat, so I know it isn’t just me feeling it. October is known to be the hottest month of the year in the lead up to the rains which as a Territorian, sounds very familiar! I had to ask if the mango season has started yet because in the NT, October is associated with the very beginning of the mango season, however the mango season here won’t start till January. Here, it seems, October is the only month of the year where nothing fruits! Double whammy!
On our first day here, we headed over to the festival to see what was happening. The festival is being held in an enormous park by the beach. It is a riot of colour at the moment. All the trees have been painted and Chinese lanterns have been hung through the main areas.
We were then drawn to the major entrance where we could hear music. There we found many school groups and music groups lining the road practicing their welcome for the VIP guests due to arrive for the official opening ceremony. It was stinking hot and yet the musicians and dancers practiced their routine repeatedly with only a few rests in the shade to rest and rehydrate.
After about an hour and a half, the dignitaries finally appeared. After several false alarms, the crowd were a little skeptical, but then we heard a police siren and suddenly a police motorbike arrived with a convoy following behind it of about 12 cars. They drove in and parked in the car park and as the dignitaries were walking over, an official asked all the musicians & dancers to move to the edge of the road so that the VIP’s could walk down the middle. So after hours and hours of practice, their entire routine was at the last minute hobbled. None the less, the women did as they were asked and did the best they could.
Here is the ‘minister’ who arrived specially from Jakarta for the opening ceremony representing the Department of Tourism and Creative Economics. He was treated like royalty and his attendance was greatly appreciated.
Another visitor to the opening ceremony, entirely unexpected and yet much more popular than the minister, was a film crew from a very popular Indonesian tv show called My Trip, My Adventure. They travel Indonesia looking for unusual and wacky events to participate in and promote. The 2 hosts were young men, one of whom had short bleached hair largely hidden under a cap. They behaved like true film stars, turning their charm off and on and were particularly over the top in front of the cameras, hamming it up ridiculously. Soon after arriving, the blond headed man picked a/stick up off the ground and pretended to play an imaginary drum! He looked so silly yet the crowd just loved it! He then grabbed one of the drums from a musician and bashed it very unmusically with no rhythm or skill at all. Needless to say, he returned the drum quickly and moved along. The owner of the drum was incredibly proud and grinned delightedly for ages afterwards with his jealous friends.
Once the minister was seated, the official opening ceremony began with speech after speech. The minister and his entourage were given large comfortable lounge chairs right up the front facing the stage and I felt sorry for the people in the plastic chairs behind him as I doubt they saw anything.
After dinner, we returned to see what the evening entertainment was like and it was a shame I was so tired because it was very good. A local group were singing reggae songs which are very popular in this part of Indonesia. The 2 lead singers had fantastic voices and I particularly enjoyed the way they got the young children involved. In one song he made a congo line and in another he got them all together to sing the chorus!