In 1959 families from the Manggarai villages of Polok and Latung were suffering from a lack of water, resulting in the relocation to Liang Keling, eventually leading to the establishment of a new village. The calls of the many parrots in the area, 'keling-keling, keling-keling', inspired the name of the cave and the new village, Keling.
In 2015 the government installed a water tap over a small concrete slab, no more than one meter square. Before this, the villagers trekked 5km, twice a day, over mountainous jungle terrain, along a rugged path to collect water.
My visit to Keling at the end of 2018 coincided with the beginning of the monsoonal rainy season and water was flowing from the tap on Keling. However, once this season ends the tap will run dry and the villagers will be forced to make that arduous, twice daily trek for water again.
While the tap is flowing over its neat little concrete slab in Keling, this will be where women do their families’ laundry, where everyone bathes, and where water is collected and carried home for drinking, cooking and other household uses (This water must be boiled to purify it and make it safe for drinking and cooking).
Communal use of the tap at Keling is orderly and a joyful experience. Apart from the essential service in providing water, the tap is a place to meet, talk and laugh with each other while getting the laundry done or bathing.
I can't speak for the men but for the women and small children using this very small space for personal bathing - dignity, respect and regard for each other is endearingly offered. No-one is made to feel immodest or exposed, not even a foreign guest like myself.
There are 120 - 150 people currently living in Keling. At the time of my visit people from Sondo, a village 1km away were also coming to this tap to collect water.
I noticed a small, young girl no more than 10 years old walking to the tap with six, empty, five litre plastic bottles strung on a stick which she carried balanced on a cloth ring on her head. I was told she was from Sondo.
To help me understand this water story my host and friend, Marselinus Didi (Marsel) together with other family members, took me to a fresh water spring near Sondo.
The slippery, sticky, red mud path to the spring is very steep and narrow, single file only, hedged in on either side by encroaching jungle. There are thorny plants where ever you thrust out a hand to balance yourself, hungry mosquitoes and minuscule biting ants. Our shoes quickly became enveloped in thick mud and speared by hundreds of tiny, prickly grass seeds.
Water from this spring trickles down the hillside over granite rocks. Via a gravity fed poly pipe, the spring water flows into an uncovered concrete tank which is about 1.5m square and 1m deep.
The springs overflow pools up in a natural, shallow pond - the water there is mostly stagnant in the still pond.
There are large granite rocks dotted around the pond and I climbed up onto one to take photos. At the same time my nose was filled with the stench of a putrefying carcass I heard my friends yelling out, "Don't go there", and "There's something bad there." I quickly got down and away to fresh air!
Through Marsel's drive and passion to improve living conditions, safe water supply, improved roads and sanitation for his home in Keling - he has obtained some sponsorship, though a lot more is needed in order to help Keling and other surrounding villages suffering the same hardships.
Through this initial sponsorship it will be possible to start construction mid 2019 of a very basic, gravity fed, water pipe and a water tub for Keling. Hopefully this will provide a year-round supply of water directly in the village.
All the sponsorship will be spent on the materials, and the villagers themselves will be responsible for the construction and the ongoing maintenance. The materials will be purchased from around Labuan Bajo and transported as far as the road to Keling is serviceable for vehicles. The people will then carry everything over the last several kilometres to the village. (At the moment access is limited to motorbikes or by foot)
This project is something the people of Keling will feel very proud of. Hopefully more sponsors can be found to deliver safe water year-round to other nearby villages.
If you would like to help please contact us and we’ll connect you with Marsel and his village
Written by Donna Ellice