Temkessi

Temkessi

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Accessible through a keyhole between jutting limestone cliffs, 50km northeast of Kefa, is one of West Timor’s most isolated and best-preserved villages. The raja’s house overlooks the village. That’s your first stop, where you’ll offer gifts of betel nut, make a donation and pay your respects. After that you can shoot pictures of the low-slung beehive huts built into the bedrock and connected by red clay paths that ramble to the edge of a precipice. If you drop something, don’t pick it up. Let local villagers do it, lest you bring bad vibes into your life. Oh, and about that vertical rock on the left. At least once every seven years, young warriors climb its face, sans rope, with a red goat strapped to their back. They slaughter the animal on top and can’t come down until they roast and eat it in full. This Natamamausa ritual is performed to give thanks for a good harvest or to stop or start the rain. Very little Bahasa Indonesia is spoken here, so a guide is essential.

Regular buses run from Kefa to Manufui, about 8km from Temkessi. On market day in Manufui (Saturday), trucks or buses should run through to Temkessi. Otherwise, charter an ojek in Manufui or hike over limestone ridges with Oecussi sea views.

Maubesi is home to the Kefa regency’s best textile market. You’ll find it 19km from Kefa on the road to Temkessi. Market day is Thursday, when goods are spread beneath riverside shade trees. Sometimes cockfights break out. Maubesi Art Shop has a terrific selection of local ikat, antique masks, statues, and carved beams, reliefs and doors from old Timorese homes. Prices are quite low. Look for the plain yellow-and-black ‘Textile’ sign. It can also organise traditional war dances (1,000,000Rp) with advance notice.

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