The Timorese Spirit

Throughout West Timor, but especially on the way to Oelolok from Kefamenanu, you'll notice cloudy water bottles on rickety wooden shelves on the side of the road. Introducing sopi, the local alcohol made from palm juice. Every family distills theirs a little differently, using various herbs and plants like red wood, wild black pepper and types of mangroves. It takes about five hours to fill eight small water bottles. Many families use the income to send their kids to school, so it would be a shame not to support the cause: it's 25,000Rp or double for the good stuff. If you want to see the process, simply ask – the family will be surprised but delighted, so long as you buy a bottle or two on the way out.

The Boy and the Crocodile

Long ago there was a small crocodile who dreamed of becoming fearsome and strong. He left his home in search of food, but found himself on dry land growing increasingly weak. A young boy stumbled upon the poor reptile and took pity on him, bringing him water in a cone made from taro leaves. The crocodile recovered and told the boy that he was forever indebted to him.

The two became friends, and their friendship was known across the land. But as the crocodile grew stronger, he considered eating the boy. In turn, he told other animals on the island about his appetite. This angered the animals, who knew the boy had saved the crocodile's life. Each of them attacked him for his foolishness, and became his eternal enemy. At the very least, the crocodile changed his mind about eating the boy.

One day the boy went to the crocodile and told him he wanted to see the world. Still indebted to the boy, the crocodile told him to climb on his back, and began to swim. After a long journey, the boy fell asleep. But the crocodile kept swimming, day and night, until he became old. When the boy awoke, what lay beneath him was not his friend the crocodile, but fertile land.

If you look closely at the island of Timor, you can see the crocodile's head in Kupang and tail in Lospalos, Timor-Leste. Timorese consider crocodiles sacred. You'll spot crocs everywhere, from carved tombstones to traditional ikat cloth. Known as lafaek to Tenum, the word also translates to grandmother in some local languages.