All’s swell on the island of Rote
I’m in a village on the Indonesian island of Rote watching a local named Milky roast a pig on a spit beside a shack he shares with his wife and three children. A few metres from the hut, a couple of live pigs drink from a makeshift trough, presumably where that pig was feeding just a few hours earlier.
Milky excitedly offers arak, a liquor that divides even the hardest drinkers. I’m unsure, eyeing the presence of some sort of sea creature stuffed inside the arak bottle. But Milky’s hospitality at his home, less than 10 minutes by scooter inland from our beach resort, speaks volumes of the local people. One of Milky’s fellow staff members, the barman Ruben, also doesn’t mind going out of his way. To celebrate the pig feast, Ruben agrees to make a trip into Baa to pick up some fireworks.
As we leave, the owner of the surf resort where we are staying, also named Ruben and Milky’s boss, arrives to inspect the roasting animal. Later, when we dine on the pig we discover it sadly failed to make the grade, lacking the tantalising combination of crackling and moist flesh found in babi guling dishes served up in Bali.
To get to rural Rote, off the coast of West Timor and almost directly north of Broome, requires two (at times nerve-racking) flights from Denpasar, including a 40minute service from Kupang to Rote (on our return, a passenger checks in a handgun at Kupang).
Aside from Baa, the capital, Rote is relatively undevel- oped. Around our surf resort, T-Land on Nemberala Beach, there’s little commercial activity. We find one restaurant and a convenience store that a rabble of older Australian surfers use as a makeshift local tavern each afternoon. On the way to a right-hand surf break known as Boa, about 15 minutes by scooter from Nemberala, we come across a basic school and church. Kids play on the side of the road outside family huts, some putting out their hands for money. There’s little sign of modernisation in the villages apart from, oddly, satellite dishes.
Unlike Bali, a scooter ride in Rote is a relatively relaxing experience, with potholes a bigger headache than traffic. This transport also opens up surf options rather than relying on a boat, providing land access not only to