Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wild Racers

Amid hoots and whoops the motor bounces down the stony track at full speed: intent on collision. Panting eagerly after it is the bare-footed boy who propels it.
At the moment of impact he banks suddenly left, rising with the gradient, bruising the wooden sticks of someone's boundary fence. He wheels back to the path in an arc of triumph, halting in the dust ahead; the headlamps of his face full beam and bright.

"Motor, tourist!" he toots.
Motor is the Indonesian word for car. Here, on the banks of lake Sano Nggoang, deep in West Manggarai, Flores (an island in Eastern Indonesia near Komodo), the motor is also a children's toy. Here, wild riders race the village pathways.

The coachwork is a length of green bamboo. A short, sturdy stick is knocked perpendicular through the main shaft to form handlebars. The far end of the bamboo is cleft in two and supports a wooden axel which spins through the heart of a wooden wheel.
Suburban kids have slicker wheels. The heads of two sticks are jammed into a plastic cup creating a V. The cup runs the hamster-wheel of the inside track of the tyre, lubricated with oil. This racer, spotted alongside the main road to Ruteng, Flores, was a solo runner.
And on the subject of horsepower....

In the arable countryside around Ruteng, jockeys rein up their stick steeds at the starting line, the raised bump of a sleeping policeman.

String reins, held in the left hand, keep the horse's head high. The right hand works the whip.
And at a cracking pace they're off.

The race track is the road around the village, the finishing point the same bump as the start. And when Henry (the near jockey above) came in an all-out first, he whipped off his t-shirt and made helicopter blades of it around his head.

Sportingly, no also-rans in this three horse race....

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