Timor Overland June 2023 Travel Notes Day 1: Jakarta – Kupang – Soe
Finally, I had the opportunity to visit the province of East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), which has been on my wish list for a long time. There are several famous islands known for their beauty and popularity, such as Flores Island, Komodo Island, and Sumba Island. However, this time I had the chance to join a trip to Timor Island, NTT. Timor Island is divided into East Timor (the country of Timor-Leste) and West Timor (the province of NTT, Indonesia).
It so happened that MyTrip organized an Open Trip to Timor Overland, and when I read the itinerary, I was very interested. Some of the places mentioned in the itinerary are still relatively rare when I Google them, and that's what makes me even more intrigued. Moreover, since I enjoy road trips, the prospect of exploring Timor Island from Kupang to Atambua (around 270 km) is highly appealing to me. I imagine passing through small towns, rural landscapes along the way, and the hilly terrain because Timor Island has many hills, which undoubtedly will provide beautiful sceneries throughout the journey. In this trip, besides visiting several major cities on the island of Timor, namely Kupang, Soe, Kefamenanu, and Atambua, we will also visit several International Border Crossing Posts (PLBN).
From Jakarta, we flew to Kupang. There is a direct flight from Jakarta to Kupang, and we choose Batik Air, which departed at 2:00 AM from Jakarta and arrived at 6:05 AM in Kupang. There is a 1-hour time difference between Jakarta and Kupang, and the flight duration is approximately 3 hours. Considering the timing of the flight, which was during sleeping hours, I am grateful that I could sleep during this flight, thanks to Antimo.
When the plane landed, I felt refreshed because I managed to get some sleep, even if it was only for about 1 or 2 hours. We were picked up by Nuno and his team with three black Innova cars ready to accommodate all thirteen of us at El Tari Kupang Airport. It was still early in the morning, and they took us to a small eatery for breakfast, where we had nasi kuning (Indonesian yellow rice).
After breakfast, we were ready to visit the tourist attractions listed in the itinerary. Today, we will visit Oenesu Waterfall, Sasando House, Raknamo Dam, and then continue our journey to the city of Soe.
Quoting from the Kupang Regency tourism website, Oenesu Waterfall is located in Oenesu Village, West Kupang District, with a distance of approximately 20 kilometers from Kupang city or 56 kilometers from the capital of Kupang Regency in Oelamasi. To reach this location, you can use either a two-wheeled or four-wheeled vehicle, as the road access to the site is good.
Djitron Pah, The Entertainer
From Oenesu Waterfall, we headed to the Sasando craft house, still in Kupang. Sasando is one of the traditional musical instruments from Rote Island, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT). It is a stringed instrument played by plucking the strings with the fingers. The uniqueness of the sasando lies in its use of lontar leaves as resonators.
We were welcomed by Djitron Pah, one of the next generation members of the Pah family, a renowned artist and sasando maker from Rote Island. I was highly impressed by Djitron's entertaining abilities. Apparently, this young man has performed extensively not only in Indonesia but also internationally. He mentioned that if he only performed sasando music, the audience's reaction would not be as good.
Djitron began his performance with storytelling. Starting from the simplest form of sasando, he gradually modified it to suit modern tastes. He shared the story of how his father discovered the power of lontar leaves that could be opened and closed, which could not be found in other musical instruments. His storytelling skills were astonishing, and he interspersed them with jokes, greatly entertaining the audience.
Moreover, when he started playing current Top 40 songs with contemporary sound systems, we were all entertained and busy trying to guess the songs he played since they were in instrumental form, slightly different from the original versions. Thank you, Djitron, for your musical performance and inspiring storytelling.
Embung Kecil Oepuah and Raknamo Dam
From Djitron Pah's Sasando house, the journey continued towards Raknamo Dam. Along the way, there was something interesting, which were the roadside shops selling kue cucur (traditional Indonesian rice flour cakes). Cake lovers among us couldn't resist and shouted to make a stop, even though it was close to lunchtime. Here, they had kue cucur (famous in this area), klepon (sweet rice cake filled with palm sugar), fried bananas, and various traditional cakes. It was a pity that there wasn't any coffee available. There was a coffee shop nearby, but we didn't have the opportunity to visit.
As it was already lunchtime, we then stopped at a beautiful small lake. One thing I liked about this trip with MyTrip was that even though we were given boxed lunches, most of the stops were at places with beautiful views, making the lunch experience memorable.
We later found out that the name of the small lake was Embung Kecil Oepuah. The sky was incredibly blue when I took a photo, and coincidentally, a friend asked me to capture the blue sky of Timor Island that had amazed us along the way. There were white eucalyptus trees lining the edge of the lake. Suddenly, a herd of cattle came to drink in the lake, which excited us as visitors from Jakarta who rarely saw such a view.
After lunch, we made a stop at Raknamo Dam, which had recently been inaugurated by President Jokowi. After taking photos in various poses, we continued our journey towards the city of Soe.
From Kupang to Soe
The distance from Kupang to Soe is approximately 109 km in total. On the way, we will pass through the Noelmina Bridge, which marks the border between Kupang Regency and South Central Timor Regency (TTS). Our group made a stop and took photos at this magnificent bridge.
As the evening approached around 17:00, we stopped to have coffee at a place called Puncak Benlutu. Finally, after indulging in cakes around noon, we encountered coffee at 17:00. However, due to the late hour, most of us opted for tea instead of coffee. Aside from the coffee shops with beautiful views (strangely, their windows were closed when we arrived), behind these coffee shops, there was an Instagrammable photo spot. It was an extraordinary place to admire the sunset.
We arrived in Soe city around 18:00. It took about 30 minutes from Puncak Benlutu to reach Soe. Tonight, we will be staying at Bahagia Dua Hotel. In front of the hotel, there are several restaurants that offer a variety of menus. Before checking in, we stopped for dinner at a restaurant called Zoe Kitchen. I ordered nasi campur, which consisted of pork and papaya flower vegetables.
Soe is such an interesting city. It is the capital of South Central Timor Regency (TTS) and is often referred to as The Freezing City due to its cold climate. Upon arrival, you can immediately feel the difference. The air is very cool, which can be quite chilly for those who haven't had enough sleep the night before. Even under the scorching sun during the day, you can see people wearing jackets.
(to be continued)