Blog: Trip to Indonesia

Burt Ross

My bride, two grown children and I just returned from a glorious vacation on the island of Sumba in Indonesia. There is a song that proclaims, “It’s a long way to Tipperary.” Well, I don’t know where Tipperary is, but I will wager it can’t be much farther than Sumba. 

Getting to Sumba was not easy. First we took a plane from LAX to Taiwan, where we switched to a plane headed for Bali. There we took another plane to Sumba, where we then were driven an hour-and-a-half to Nihiwatu, as fine a resort as I have ever been to. By this time, we needed to be put on life support and hoped to be resuscitated before our trip back home.

The long and short of it is we left Malibu late on a Tuesday and arrived Thursday on Sumba. I have no idea what happened to Wednesday. It got lost somewhere over the Pacific Ocean because of something called the International Date Line–another one of those strange things which, no matter how hard I try, I can’t begin to get my arms around.

I looked it up on Google and got the following: “The International Date Line, established in 1884, passes through the mid-Pacific Ocean and roughly follows a 180 degrees longitude north-south line on the Earth. It is located halfway round the world from the prime meridian–the zero degrees longitude established in Greenwich, England, in 1852.”

This definition clarified nothing for me, and I can only conclude somebody established this date line for the sole purpose of confusing me. 

As if the outgoing trip were not baffling enough, on the return trip we enjoyed two Fridays. I learned even before entering elementary school that the day after today was called “tomorrow,” but this date line thing completely destroyed that definition. Going west, the day after today morphed into the day after tomorrow, and returning east, the day after today remained today. You international travelers are already familiar with these calendar manipulations, but for me, I spent most of my vacation trying to figure out what day of the week it was back in Malibu. 

Now you might be curious as to why we went to Sumba in the first place, and there are really two reasons–the first is I just like the sound of “Sumba.” When I say it, I feel like beating my chest and imitating a silver back gorilla. Someday I would like to visit Tonga for the very same reason. 

The second reason I went to Sumba is that I don’t know anybody who has ever been there. I am so tired of meeting people in Malibu who have just returned from a trip to a place I never heard of, so I thought it would be fun to turn the tables. 

We stayed at a resort called Nihiwatu, ranked by some travel magazines as the finest in the world. I am not a fan of these kind of rankings, but it sure is a special place. When I first made the reservation, the hotel sent me a questionnaire inquiring whether I might be interested in surfing and, if so, would I be bringing a surf board and what size would it be. The hotel was apparently confusing me with Skylar Peak or Zuma Jay. I responded with the following email:

“Dear Hotel Person Inquiring About the Possibility of My Surfing, I am slowly reaching the three-quarters-of-a-century mark. I have never surfed up to now and have no intention of surfing any time in this life or my next. I am of the Hebrew persuasion and religiously observe God’s Eleventh Commandment, ‘Thou Shall Not Get Your Hair Wet.’

“In keeping with this commandment, God made sure Charlton Heston parted the Red Sea so his people would not get wet hair. By the way, I am curious what size hammocks you provide.”

Space limits me to just a couple of observations about Sumba. For one thing, I learned that a family of four can somehow fit on a scooter–quite remarkable, to say nothing of dangerous. I also noticed the waiters at Nihiwatu all wore short swords. At first, I thought this was a clever way to assure significant gratuities, but then realized all Sumba’s males wore swords. I have no idea why they carry swords, but was delighted they kept them sheathed at all times.

It is always good to be back home in Malibu, but I am having difficulty adjusting to the time change. I think it might be today in Malibu, but am not quite sure.