Rote Series: Rainbow-winged ship and flying fish

Kristia Davina Sianipar 24 Agustus 2012


“What is it called?” I asked. I stood by the railing on the top deck of the ship and looked attentively at the surface of the sea. I think I just saw something flying out of the water.

“Flying fish”, a passenger answered.

Flying fish! The typical Indosiar fish! This is the first time I saw a flying fish! It jumped off the water, skirted the surface of the sea, and was gone into the water again. I was so excited I kept looking at the sea surface to catch this delightful sight. Flying fish! For real!

“What is its local name?” I asked that passenger again. He mentioned something about “kelemak” or “kelamak”. This fish can be found aplenty in Rote seas. I would soon eat one, he said.

I was on a fast ferry from Kupang to Rote island. It was a three-hour sail. Our seats were inside, below. But how could I miss the fantastic view of the sea, on my first journey to Rote? I went to the upper deck and sat there for the rest of the journey.

The hot morning light played with the spurts of sea water on the sides of the ship and produced little rainbows. This was no ordinary ship. What ordinary ship would have rainbows as wings and flying fish as guards? This was the ship that carried within it nine mad people. Mad enough to go out of the big cities to Rote.

To go to Rote, we flew from Jakarta to Kupang, with a transit at Surabaya. Then we took the fast ship to Rote. To reach Rote, we have to pass Pukuafu, it is where the current from Indian Ocean meet the current from Sabu Sea. It’s considered to be a very dangerous spot. If the winds are strong and the waves were rough, the currents could take down ships. In 2006 or 2009, a ship has sunk on this spot. When we passed Pukuafu that day, the seas did seem to be a bit rough.

“Those are Termanu rocks,” the passenger I chatted with pointed to two big rocks just off the shore of Rote island. Those rocks, he said, are male and female and were believed to have flown from Ambon in ancient times.

“And that’s Ba’a”, he again pointed to a row of buildings far away.

Ba’a. That’s the regency town, kota kabupaten. This is the town of the island where I would live the next one year of my life in. Rote island, the island that looked so flat, and dry, and hot. How did I end up here? It’s the story that took me two years, much heartache and considerations, large doses of idealism, and plenty of reality strike.

This is the day I shall remember. The day of rainbow-winged ship, flying fish, male and female rocks, and the little town called Ba’a.


Kupang, 23 August 2012 -me-

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