A DAY IN LIFE AT VILLA
TUNGGAOEN, WEST ROTE
Not all days are the same and
they vary depending on the interests of the guest. Here
is a typical day of the author at Villa Tunggaoen, with a few
variations also described.
Daylight in Rote starts
early and so does my day. After crawling out from under
the sheet (that's all the cover that's needed with the
generally stable warm temperature), I have a quick look at
email and over-night markets, before going out onto the
balcony for yoga overlooking the beach. That's after
I've checked out the waves through the twilight.
If I'm going for an early
morning surf I do a quick yoga session to limber up before
grabbing surf gear and heading out on the scooter to the boat
in Sedeoen harbour. Jeff, the boat captain will have been
forwarned by Sani, the villa manager, the night before.
Jeff, unlike some of the boat captains I've used elsewhere, is
very punctual. It's not fun to be standing on the beach
at dawn waiting for the boat to get you out to the waves.
If I'm not surfing early, then
its a longer yoga session before a hot shower.
It's then off downstairs to
read the newspaper (downloaded to an iPad), while waiting for
is served at 7.00 am unless instructions are given for a
different time. The kitchen team brings breakfast from their kitchen about 20 metres from the
varies daily. My favourite is probably pancakes with
fruit, although I did very much enjoy the pancakes with
chocolate filling; very filling! If there are special
requests for breakfasts
or other meals, then its best to tell Sony, the cook, ahead of market day on
Tuesday. (Going on a trip to the weekly market is a fun, colurful experience.) Breakfast also
includes a variety of juices.
Sony will also prepare coffee
or tea but I prefer to prepare my own coffee. There is a
kettle and benchtop gas cooker in the villa dining room and a
fridge in which milk can be kept. Indonesia produces
some excellent coffee and I normally have coffee from Flores,
which is another island in East Nusa Tenggara province.
After breakfast the
housekeeping team move in, first cleaning upstairs, making
beds and collecting any washing and then downstairs.
When they come down I go up and typically finish reading the
paper on the sun lounge on the upstairs veranda.
After reading papers, I'll usually settle down at my desk for some work. The desk has a great view out to the reef, so I can keep an eye on the surf. If the wind, tide and swell are right, there is a surf break pretty well in front of the villa that I can keep an eye on from my desk - very distracting! It also offers a good gauge of how the surf will be at T-Land or Boa.
Internet connectivity used to
be an issue in the villa. This was fixed by errecting a
very large antenna mast with two MIMO antennas pointing at the
Nemberala cell phone tower about 5km away. The antenna
is at the back of the property, and the signal is amplified
into the villa by range extenders. More recently, 4G has
been added to the Boa tower, which is line of sight from the
villa and provides good internet without an antenna.
Since the Indonesian Government
now requires registration of pre-paid SIM cards, if you want
to use an Indonesian SIM in your mobile device, it is best to
get it in Bali or the Telkomsel shop in the capital of Rote,
Ba'a. It is also possible to rent a SIM in
Nemberala. A SIM from the carrier Telkomsel is
needed in West Rote.
Now, with multiple ways of
acessing the internet from the villa, I can hold international
videoconferences with Skype, Zoom, etc., generally without
time during the day, unless there are no waves, or, very
infrequently in the dry-season, unless the wind is wrong, I'll
Sani provides a motor scooter
with surf carrier for guests who want one. I grab my board
from the rack, downstairs in the villa, go out the back to the
parking area, hop on the scooter and head off, generally to
T-Land, although occasionally to Boa. I enjoy the ride
through the villages of Tunggaoen, Oenggaut, Nemberala and
Sedeoen. It's only a ten minute ride but I normally pass
a variety of animals roaming freely and locals going about
their business. The Rotenese are generally very friendly
people and I usually get a few smiles or waves along the
way. Depending on the time of day, there can be large
numbers of children walking or riding to school - no parents'
school run here! I read a travel article on Rote in an
Australian paper in which the journalist said that the
children hold out their hands for money. Talk about
misundestanding. The children often play the game of
seeing if they can high-five with the Bule (white person) on a
motor bike. Childish fun, not begging!
At the end of my ride, I turn
onto a little jalan (walk way) that leads down to Sedeoen
Harbour. At the end of the jalan, the villa has a
concrete parking area for motor scooters and a shelter for
sitting and watching the sunset or the boats. Captain
Jeff will have seen my arrival and brings the boat close to
the shore. A short walk across one of the whitest
beaches and a bit of a wade out to the boat and we are on our
way out to the reef.
I enjoy the ride out to the
reef. I can check out the distant waves getting closer and
just enjoy the beautiful environment, sitting in my deck chair
on the front deck of the boat.
On the way out to the reef we
pass "Squealers", a good beginners break named, it seems,
after the squeals of delight as people catch their first
wave. You can paddle to Squealers from the shore.
After Squealers we pass the
Bommie, which breaks right and left in the right
conditions. I've only surfed it once and found it
difficult to be in position as its quite out in the middle of
nowhere. The wave though often looks beautiful.
We then reach the T-Land reef and
pass through the boat mooring area. If I'm lucky, there aren't
too many other boats (=surfers) out there. There are
essentially three breaks on the reef, the Mountain, the
Pyramid and the Peak, in order away from the boat
channel. I normally surf the Mountain or the
Pyramid. The Peak is way down the reef and while it can
offer enormously long runs along the reef, on a big day, if I
come off early, I can end up being swept along the reef with
multiple hold-downs until I get to the boat channel, hundreds
of metres later. For a similar reason, on a really big
day, I will usually end up at the Mountain. On a big day
with the swell direction and wind right, the Mountain can
offer up magnificient waves that are easy to slide onto and
can offer 200+ metre rides.
While I'm surfing, Jeff will
moor Mane Tua Sane with the other boats. I'm not sure
how he spends his time, although on a good day he'll catch a
mackerel or similar for the villa kitchen. Whatever he's
up to, he remains very observant of when I'm ready to leave
and, with a bit of arm waving from me, he'll let go of the
mooring and head in my direction. Common sense dicates
that I have to paddle out of the region where the waves break
to meet up with the boat. Sani has told me of boat
captains who have not been so cautious and have been swamped.
I enjoy the ride back to shore
even more than the ride out. It gives me time to contemplate
the surf session, wind down a bit and admire the approaching
On the way back to the villa I
might stop at Indika for one of their excellent
smoothies or just a fresh coconut to rehydrate and get some
Back at the villa I'll use the
outside shower to freshen up. The water in this shower
is not heated but is reasonably warm anyway.
Lunch is normally at
12.30 pm. It can be any of a variety of dishes and a
fresh juice. The serves are plenty big enough for a
hungry surfer. One of my favourite lunches is pizza,
cooked in the traditional, wood fired pizza oven. Best
to order pizza the day before, as Jonas, the gardener and
handyman, will light the fire when he does his rounds in the
morning. That way the hot coals are ready for lunchtime
haven't been surfing in the morning, I'll go in the afternoon,
conditions permitting, or maybe just have a swim in front of
the villa. At mid- to high-tide, there is great swimming
in the warm protected waters of the lagoon. At low tide,
the water isn't very deep close to the shore and it's ideal
for children playing or learning to swim.
The best time to surf depends
alot on the tide. I've heard various opinions about when
it's best to surf at T-Land but for me, after a number of
years of experimentation, it is around low tide and probably
best on the in-run, although wind and swell direction play a
role. I used to worry about being swept up on the reef,
which stands out quite distincly at low tide, but after many
surfs, the worst I've done is grazed my foot in shallow water
in the channel. There is a strong push-back of water
from the reef when waves hit it. The low tide reef also
provides a platform for surf photographer, Danny Balelang,to take great surf photos (such
as the one above). Danny's shop, where he also repairs
boards, is right next to Indika. It's worth dropping
in to check if there are any photos of your surfing feats.
the most atmospheric times to go surfing, when conditions permit, is
sunset. Seeing the waves coming in from the direction
of the setting sun is magical. As sunset surfing will
generally clash with dinner time, so dinner needs
re-scheduling, or I use it as an opportunity to eat at one
of West Rote's other excellent restaurants.
course, you don't need to surf to enjoy the sunset from the
boat. Sani will organise for Jeff to take you on a
sunset cruise to watch the sun setting and the surfers
having fun while you enjoy a few drinks.
few days of surfing and yoga, I look forward to a
therapeutic massage. There are a number of places to
go for a massage, including having one at the villa. The
nearest place with proper massage rooms and tables is Narrow
Restaurant, about 5 minutes scooter ride away. Narrow
also has good food and drink, including home-made
gelato. I can definitely recommend a massage followed
by a gelato.
are no waves, or if you are not into surfing, there is great
snorkling in a number of locations, including down one end
of Tunggaoen Beach. I also enjoy just strolling along
the jalan in front of the villa, taking in the sites and
then walking back along the beach, or vice versa.
is all too energetic, then I'll just lie out on the balcony
or patio of the villa and read, maybe sipping a fresh
coconut water, which Jonas keeps a supply of in the villa
fridge. I also enjoy a beer and
peanuts, while watching the sunset from the balcony or down
on the beach. Beer is readily available and
cheap. Wine can also be purchased but is pretty
expensive in Indonesia generally and Rote in particular.
Dinner is normally served at 6.00 pm and
consists of a main course and desert. I especially
like some of Sony's deserts, made with fresh local
worthwhile trying some of the restaurants for dinner.
A particular dinner attraction is New and Full Moon
gatherings at Utopia: Beautiful location, great food
and a perfect place to sit under a full moon or watch the
stars on a dark new moon night. The sunset photo
opposite was taken on the way up the hill to Utopia.
After dinner, I'll read or
watch some internet television. Streaming programs from
your home subscription service can take some technical jiggery
pokery, which Sani can assist with.
the time dinner is finished, it's dark and I go to bed
early. While dinner is being served the housekeeping
team arrange the mosquito net on the bed, deliver any
laundry and make sure there is drinking water in the
bathroom. I have seen very few mosquitoes in my time
in Rote during the dry season but use the mosquito net to
keep out anything else that might be flying around! I
took malaria tablets on my first visit to Rote but haven't
subsequently, although people need to get their own advice
on such matters.
of the waves on the reef helps me get to sleep quickly and I
sleep soundly ready for the next day at Villa Tunggaoen.