Today we visited the rugged volcanic island of Alor, the largest island in the Alor Archipelago among the eastern Lesser Sunda Islands.
Just before breakfast, the National Geographic Orion came alongside in Kalabahi, a vibrant town with busy streets and markets. The local people made us feel welcome, performing a greeting dance as we disembarked for our morning excursion. We made stops at a local market and also the museum that displays the ancient Vietnamese bronze Dongson drums, which date back to bronze-age cultures from about 1000 BC.
Leaving town in the rearview mirror, we followed the coastline and climbed a steep road to Takpala Village. Here, we were met by indigenous Melanesian people wearing traditional clothing and led to the village site where we were treated to a lego-lego dance. Once a head-hunting culture, the warriors are the real deal, chewing betel nut and giving us “the look.” It was an amazing scene of earth toned colors, as the entire village turned out, from the elders to the children. Against a backdrop of thatched-roof houses, there were photographic opportunities in every direction.
Traveling and meeting indigenous people living on remote islands is a humbling experience. It’s human nature, I think, to compare one’s own life and experiences with the people we meet. Even today, these people still practice traditional ceremonies and are famous for their handcrafts and ikat tapestries. The sites, sounds, and smells transported us back to a different time that will stay with us as we continue our voyage to the east toward Australia.