Wakatobi is made up of a number of islands the main one being Wangi-Wangi where, unknown to us, several activities had been organised for the rally. After the hectic schedule in Buru, we decided that instead of heading straight to Wangi-Wangi we would spend a few days relaxing at Hoga island where there is little more than a dive resort (of sorts) lovely beaches and lots of superb snorkeling. Several other boats had the same idea so we had plenty of company. Lynne from Sunchaser and I were dropped off with our paddle boards upwind and up current of a stilt village in the Kapedulpa lagoon, across the water from our anchorage. We had a great time paddling through the stilt village, home of the Bajo people, who are a marine tribe living their very simple lives almost entirely on the water using small canoes called soppe as their means of transport. We certainly caused quite a stir as everyone came out to watch and wave - they obviously have rarely seen anything like it before!
After a few days relaxing, and Chris getting over a nasty cough and cold, we headed up to the town of Wanci on the island of Wangi Wangi for more insight into the way of life and traditions of this part of Indonesia. We arrived just after lunch and straight away Sara jumped ship to go across to a neighbouring island where we were invited to attend a Kariya ceremony. Not knowing quite what this was, she went along and was soon told that young adolescent boys and girls would be purified and paraded around the village with much ritual and celebration. All the locals were dressed up in brightly coloured traditional clothes and the youngsters who were coming of age wore elaborate headdresses and lots of makeup. We (again!) had speeches welcoming us to their Kariya festival followed by a feast with all manner of (but not particularly appetising) food. The girls were presented to one of the village elders who daubed their feet and ankles with ginger dipped in a white powder with lots of whooping and shouting and dancing from their mothers. Then the girls were hoisted at shoulder height on bamboo litters and paraded around the village with the boys leading and the rest of the village (including us) following. The boys and girls seemed to be rather quiet and anxious and we initially assumed that their headdresses were getting very heavy - but with the help of local guides who have reasonable english we realised that this ritual was the lead up to them all being circumcised - both boys and girls - a ritual I thought had been outlawed, but clearly not in this moslem area of Indonesia. I would have liked to have probed further, but with limited language and not wanting to convey my feelings on the practice it was difficult - let’s put it this way - it is their custom and the families were celebrating so we were not in a position to judge, but felt privileged to be invited to share in their festival whether we approved or not. However, it did prey on my mind afterwards.
The next day was far more light-hearted. We were taken to the village of Waehumu where, after the obligatory speeches, prayers and feasting, we watched the game of Separaga a game similar to volleyball but played with the feet and a rattan ball. The referee was hilarious - one of the elders dressed in full ceremonial robes carrying a handbag - see his photo in the gallery. Following that we were invited to join in various other traditional games using large fruit seeds and coconut shells - much to the amusement of the local villagers. Again Wakatobi, like its neighbours, looked after us very generously and took us to see the local forts, beaches and they even showed us their new airport terminal building of which they are obviously very proud.