Flores is probably the best place to go visit the Komodos orRincaIsland. We checked out quite a few of the places that booked tours and found one that seemed willing to negotiate the price a bit better. We were told that during the time we went (June/July) it was better to go to Rinca. I think the other deal with the going to the actual Komodos is that it’s a little longer of a trip and they say the sea can be rough since you have to cross through a narrow area of sea. The trip was totally worth it! We started in the morning by sailing out to Rinca and visiting the creepy Komodo Dragons. The boat they took us out on was actually seaworthy and pretty fun. A guide is supposed to accompany you on these trips but we had a high school kid. He told us he was a guide-in-training and this was his first trip out! The first time he saw an actual Komodo dragon was a priceless moment…the look on his face and the way he stopped in his tracks made me really nervous for him. As we trekked around the island I kept on looking behind to make sure our baby guide was still behind us and hadn’t been dragged off by some animal. After Rinca we had lunch on the boat of rice, curry, fish and fruit (included in the trip cost). We got in a couple hours of amazing snorkeling! The boat docked near an isolated island with white sand beach and coral just a foot from the beach. It only took me 15 minutes to get comfy and then I just could not take myself out of the water. Luckily we remembered to bring our GoPro and the waterproof casing so we were able to take video and pics underwater! We had so much fun…literally swimming like fish, it has to be one of the highlights of our trip so far! It was an awesome, awesome day. After almost 3 hours of being underwater, we headed back to the port and tipped our baby guide, he was so sweet and he did great on his first day. We had great wifi and we were enjoying Labuhanbajo so much that we had to really pull ourselves outta there. We managed to get to Ruteng and it was a surprisingly chilly town. We ended up staying in a Swiss looking house that reminded us of our EBC trek probably because it was so damn cold!
The next dilemma we were facing was the lack of reliable information about the ferry. We knew that this last ferry was going to be the biggest b*tch of all ferries! There are 3 possible places to catch a ferry for Kupang (in Indonesian Timor): Aimere, Ende, and Larantuka. We rolled up to the Aimere port which looked completely deserted. After asking around, people couldn’t really give us much information but it seemed like people were trying to tell us that the ferry for Kupang goes from Larantuka mostly. We thought we’d put the ferry junk on hold for a couple of days. We headed up to another hill town, Bajawa, which was also pretty damn cold! We found a place to stay and there was a really sweet Dutch family staying there on vacation. They had rented a van and had a driver and travelled as one big family…we missed ours! They offered us coffea, tea, pisang goreng (fried bananas) any time they saw us and were genuinely great people. It was rainy that day and the next was the same! We tried to go to one of the tribal villages but we got completely rained out! We pulled over into another village where a family let us stand under their roof while it poured. Thing aboutIndonesiais that every island is different. There’s a different vibe, a little or a lot of change in culture and religion. Floresis very Christian and that does give it a different vibe. Almost Carribean or South American in a way. I don’t know if it’s the Portugese touch? Unfortunately we did start to feel like there was a lot more shouting or calling out at us…especially the whole “Aacha aacha nahi nahi” bullshit. From Bajawa we set off for Riung or the jump off point for the 17Islands. We were in fact moving a bit fast…we wanted to move on. Like I said, Asia’d out and we also wanted to get toAustraliain time to meet Nick’s childhood friends inSydney. Riung ended up being a bust…the boat guys were asking for waaay too much money for what they were offering and they didn’t even have the diving or snorkelling equipment so we were a little bummed. In the morning we did end up riding through some amazing landscape and some beautiful beaches that offered all kinds of deep-sea treasures on the shore. I found all kinds of shells, coral, and even a mini sanddollar! (I’m kinda a nerd when it comes to this stuff!)
Since Riung was a bust we headed down to Ende. It was Sunday night and the ferry at Ende was supposed to head out the next day. We headed up to the port before finding a place to stay and everyone at the port first told us that there was no ferry. We knew otherwise. One big boat was loading up with scooters, supplies and people but looked nothing like the vehicle ferries we had been taking. Nick talked to the guy who was collecting tickets and money, apparently they were taking advantage of the fact that the ferry to Kupang had been cancelled for the past 3 weeks so they were taking supplies and people on a smaller, rickety ship. How the hell they would get our bike up, we don’t know. The bike is like a tank…way too heavy to take up on a wooden plank. We found a guesthouse and linked up with the guy who owns the place because he had some contacts to talk to about the ferry. In the morning we found out that the ferry was cancelled yet again. We decided maybe we’d go to Moni to see the crazy colored volcanic crater lakes of Kelimutu.
Before heading out of Ende, we stopped for gas and noticed a dude geared up on a BMW 650. He was finished filling up and was going to head out when we got his attention. Turned out this was Andy! Andy is travelling from theUKand has been all around Africa andAsia. He was also looking for the ferry to Kupang as well. Since Larantuka was kinda our last option we all decided to head to Moni and then get to Larantuka by Tuesday since we were thinking the ferry might either leave Wed or Fri. The drive up to Moni was pretty nice, it felt like we were in Sumatera again as we passed through rainforest-type jungle, waterfalls, and rice paddies…very different from the other side ofFlores. It was another rainy day and after catching a cup of coffee at a warung, a local guy named Sylvester came up to us and offered his guest house. We thought he seemed decent, so we went to check it out. The actualvillageofMoniis made up of small wooden houses and it seems like it always rains there. We were greeted by Sylvester’s kids and his wife. Sylvester had told us that the cost was around 100,000 some but when we got there his wife said 80,000…a husband and wife can’t always be on the same page:)
The next morning we got up to Kelimutu before the clouds started to settle in. As we started to walk up to the lakes, we could smell the sulfurous fumes. It was pretty damn strong because it was making all three of us cough and have the sniffles. But man it was worth it to get up there. The first lake is absolutely turquoise and sparkling when the sun hits it. The second lake is also turquoise and the third one or smallest one, is a dark brown. We walked to the thin ledge that separates the two lakes, of course you’re not supposed to but yeah…since my near panic attack it was a bit freaky getting up there and looking down into two huge, deep craters with turquoise sulfurous water on either side of you. You really just have to see the pictures to understand the beauty and scale of the craters! The lakes change color depending on the minerals etc that are deposited. In one of the lakes you can see streaks of yellow…next time we come, I wonder what color the lakes will be?
The ride to Larantuka took us past villages of traditional houses made of wood and palm fronds as well as more majestic volcanos and views…Indonesia was really going to spoil us! It was Tuesday evening when we got there. We found a great guest house to stay and hunker down for the next few days. We had some leads that the ferry might leave the next morning but when Nick and Andy got there, there was a ferry leaving for another island and they said it was complete mayhem! There were hundreds of people coming out of the ferry and going in at the same time! We went to another dock and talked with the one guy at the ferry office and he confirmed that Friday would be our day to catch the ferry…hopefully! Our visas were running short and so were Andy’s so that added to our anxiousness to head out of Indonesia. In the meantime we exchanged ideas and information, Nick and Andy worked a lot on techie stuff and we had a good time just talking and chilling with each other. At the guest house, we met Abdul. He had been taking care of the cleaning etc at the guest house. He had an accident while travelling on an ojek (motorcycle taxi) and broke his arm. He had an x-ray done 5 months back but there was no sign of the bones healing. People he knew fed him all kinds of horror stories about surgery. We tried and tried to convince him to get a surgery but he wouldn’t budge, he was just too freaked out. Finally on Thursday we took him to get another x-ray done and to ask the doctor about possible surgery. Abdul got the x-ray done and it showed no sign of healing. We got a doctor to talk to him and he also got the referral to get the surgery done in Maumere as well as all the information about how it will be performed, the recovery time etc. We hope he gets it done, it’ll make his life easier. If there’s any traveler reading this, if you happen to go to the Hotel Rulies, please check up on Abdul! The next day, the ferry was scheduled for departure at 1pm, so we thought getting there by 12pm would be sufficient…yeah…the ferry was already jam packed! It was a bit of a struggle to park the bike and strap all of our stuff together. It seemed like the scooter parking was in the middle of the sea of people! People were trying to get by and would grab on to all kinds of parts of the bikes, that really irked me out since some were putting all their weight on a fog light or the side view mirrors. We decided that the bikes were safe enough and hopefully wouldn’t fall on anybody (*hopefully*). Every inch of the ship was full of people. They had spread tarps, mats, sheets on to the floors and were sitting, laying, eating all around. This was going to be one long ride! Instead of sitting with the bike, we decided we’d be better off in the air con cabin. We found some seats next to a family that was making the trip all the way from Bali to visit their family in Kupang and a couple of nuns. The air con cabin ended up being worse. We didn’t start for an hour, we had to pay extra to stay in there and for 2 hours the air con was not turned on. I couldn’t handle it anymore…13 more hours of this…???!!! I got up and walked into the crew quarters as there was no one to talk to outside. I spotted the guy who had come in to take tickets and vividly exclaimed “Panas!!! Panas!!! No air con!!!” (Panas means hot). He understood and ran downstairs and turned them on. It got a bit better but it was still just uncomfortable. In other Asian countries it’s like India, anybody with a uniform intimidates people. Everyone would rather suffer than challenge or approach one of these guys. I mean even if they did, the crew would probably do bare minimum anyways. Nick and Andy went upstairs and scoped out a spot on the top deck of the ship past the crew’s quarters. They said if we spread our sleeping bags we’ll be perfect. And really, that was the best idea. Andy had a tarp that he uses as a bike cover, so we spread that then all 3 of us inflated our mattresses and snuggled into our sleeping bags and looked up…ohh my…the stars! It was amazing…I had never seen a sky like this before….millions of stars, even galaxies like the Milky Way…! Included in the ticket for the ferry was a meal of rice and curry. That’s the thing about Indonesia…every guest house we stayed at had breakfast at your door as soon as you flicked on your light switch. It was simple but it worked…coffee or tea and jam/butter and toast. Sometimes you even got a couple of eggs! Some places even let you choose out of 4 options including banana, coconut, and chocolate pancakes. And the places we stayed ranged from $7-$15. Our budget for each day for BOTH of us including petrol was $20-$25. Amazing!