Flores

Indonesia | Ende - Bajawa - Ruteng - Labuan Bajo | 16th April ’15 to 25th April ’15 | 7064km

We’d be told that the lakes at Mt Kelimutu were a must see and were happy to take it easy post ferry. We met Ruby, from Amsterdam, over an early breakfast coffee and impossibly small bread-cake-thing and liked her straight away. We hailed a bus and chugged up into the steep sided misty hills, hopping off at Moni to find a place to wait out the rain. The locals are very proud of their coffee and rightly so, it’s dark, strong and delicious. The trick is though, getting it black with no sugar. Failing to specify as such means that any space not being used by grains is filled with the sweet white stuff, and just enough hot water to dissolve the contents.

Our guide Tobias, gave us the go ahead and whisked us further into the mountains to an empty car park. Having issued us some jazzy umbrellas and making a bit much of some fairly easy ‘hiking’ terrain, we were beginning to question his worth. He changed our minds however by whistling to ask the spirits to clear the clouds and they duly obliged, parting just enough for us to glimpse the Lakes. They were indeed quite special, two being a dark reddish brown and the other, only metres apart, a bright turquoise. Locals believe that their spirits come to Kelimutu when they die. Which lake they enter depends on their age and how they were when they were alive. Tobias is heading for the bright blue one apparently. On the way back to Ende we waited 3 hours for a huge landslide to be worked on. Luckily, another passenger had recently bought 3kg (3 sacks!) of fresh popcorn and was happy to let us dig in, Flora and Ruby feeding plenty to the chicken in a box by their feet.

At it’s widest point, Flores measures around 300km. The main road that runs as directly as possible from one end to the other wiggles and winds its way to over twice that, an indication of the sort of terrain we were about to negotiate! It wasn’t any cooler either and after two sweaty days, we’d made it up to Bajawa where we met up with Ruby again for a beer and street side nasi goreng (the national dish of fried rice, some veggies and an egg on top). She’d passed us in a bus the previous day and we watched her miming to them enthusiastically what we were doing, which we rather enjoyed. The route for the following morning looked like it might actually have been a fault on google maps. If it wasn’t, we were praying it was down hill. It was indeed a lazy swirling decent with another perfect volcano for company, arguably the easiest 35km of the tour. Compared to Timor, there’s more of a tourism influence here, but Flores still feels largely wild and unspoilt with mostly subsistence living. The cycling isn’t easy but it’s rewarding and rarely dulI.

Two days later we were up high again in Ruteng, enjoying the much cooler weather at altitude. The night before we’d found a place to stay a way off the road, run by an old Nun called Cinthia (do you get retired Nuns?!). Her ‘servant’ showed us to the ‘lodge’, which wasn’t the nicest, but did over look the tropical garden, with the church spire and volcano in the distance. We ordered mie goreng (fried noodles) and gado gado (veggies with peanut sauce) at a place nearby and watched people scurry into the garden to grab the relevant bits. We sat in the dark, as we often do, as the electricity was off most of the night, but the singing from the church was rather beautiful. It felt like being in a European city at Christmas time. Unfortunately Flo got ill, despite eating the same thing, and was up most of the night.

The kids further West are just as enthusiastic although probably used to seeing a few more westerners. We've established that shift work is the best way to respond to the barrage of ‘HELLO MISTERS!' and ‘whereareyougoings’ yelled from all angles. On the whole they are smiley and adorable - a couple even pushed Luke up a hill. But sadly we did get asked for money quite a bit and even got a couple of 'fuck you’s’ (although said with a smile!) and Flo got hit by a stone.

Our favourite pisang goreng is still about, as are a variety of deep fried stodgy white things which we’re growing a bit sick of. Really craving fresh fruit and vegetables, which is often surprising hard to find. When they are for sale on the road side, you can get rambutans, durian, lychees, oranges, avocados and sometimes watermelon pretty cheaply. We’re used to the Mandi style bathrooms now and washing with cold water isn’t really a problem as we’re usually so hot. They do get a bit stinky though and some are kept pretty nastily - the only room we could find in Lembor was a bit of shocker, picture attached.

We’d been warned our last day into Labuan Bajo was pretty severe and even quoted as ‘impassable' on a push bike. It was our 6th day of riding in a row was indeed horrendously steep in parts, but we eventually conquered it and rolled into town ready to crash for a day or two. It’s a mad costal town with provisions for tourists, mostly divers and backpackers. We drank fruit smoothies (after persuading the lady not to add condensed milk) and sat in an air conned bakery enjoying the comforts. You can set your watch by the times the Mosque starts calling. It’s often quite a nice sound, but the 4am call is a bit unsociable.