The rich cultural and natural heritage of Flores Indonesia
In Labuan Bajo we take a hotel and investigate our options to explore Flores Indonesia. It is a relatively small island of 200 km long. The "Trans-Flores" highway from west to east, however, is a winding mountain road of about 700 km. It's in a bad condition, so the complete ride on a local bus doesn't seem to be a nice option. Since our companions Mats and Ulrica are on a short holiday, they decide to hire a jeep for 5 days, and ask us to join them.
RutengEarly in the morning we leave for the first part of our Floris trip to Ruteng. The road is bad, but we have seen worse (Cambodia!!). There is asphalt, but every 100 meters there are huge potholes, or a piece where the asphalt is completely gone. At these place, our driver is very careful, even a bit exaggerated. But it gives us the opportunity to enjoy the landscape.
After 5 hours we wind into Ruteng. We are dropped at a small hotel for lunch. The menu offers not much more than noodles with vegetables, but like on the komodo dragon cruise with sambal and kecap that's OK. The waiter is eager to join us that afternoon to show the sights in Ruteng. But first we check the rooms out, because it is most convenient to stay the night at this hotel.
Manggarai villageThat afternoon we are first led to Compang Ruteng. It is a small traditional village of the local Manggarai population. In the middle of the village is the "compang", a platform of rocks on which the offers to the gods are presented. The platform is surrounded by a stone wall, behind which the houses are located. Actually, there are only two traditional houses left, and we are invited in one of them to sign the guest book and make a donation. We try to chat with the village elder and some children, but there is not much more to do here.
Spider web Rice fieldsAt the other sight in Ruteng we also need to sign a guest book and make a donation. Strange, since we come here for a view over the rice fields. But these are not just ordinary rice fields. They are shaped like spider webs. From the hill above, several webs can be seen, a mighty sight. It is not completely clear why the forefathers created the rice fields in a circular form. But it has probably something to do with the sacrifices the people make in the center of the webs before planting the new rice.
BajawaThe next day we move on to Bajawa. Again, a winding route with beautiful views, including one of a volcanic lake. We also pass numerous busses in the mountains. Many are minivans, or trucks transformed into busses. They all have in common that they even have passengers on top of their roofs.
We make a stop at a Arak brewery. Arak is the local wine, that can be very strong. It is distilled in a garden, using a construction of bamboo and clay pots above a fire. We buy a bottle to be polite, but we already know we won't empty it.
Bajawa is a village in the middle of the Ngada district. Bajawa itself doesn't have much to offer, it is just the village with some tourist hotels. Because of the decline of tourism here (as in the whole of Indonesia), these hotels look a little neglected. But we will stay the night here in order to visit one of the traditional villages of the Ngada people in the surroundings.
Ngadhu and Bhaga in BenaThe road to the traditional village of Bena is long and not paved. We pass many people with a hoe, probably on their way to the fields to work. The views are great again, the area is surrounded by a few beautiful, classical volcanoes. When we finally arrive in Bena we see two rows of traditional houses. In the middle are pairs of Ngadhu and Bhaga. Ngadhus are umbrella shaped structures of 3 meter tall, representing the male ancestors. Bhagas are miniature houses, representing the female ancestors. Both are made of wood and cane, like the normal houses. The Ngadhu and Bhaga symbolise the continuous presence of the ancestors of every family in the village.
Along the village terrain are also different graves. They are marked by crosses, a sign that Christianity arrived in these regions as well. And there are a few round altar stones, marked by large upright standing stones. These are also graves, at which sacrifices are still being made.
The traditional houses have very high roofs, and they have a veranda with a porch roof of bamboo. On top of some of the houses are small miniature houses or puppets. These houses belong to the most important families in the village. Different houses also have a stack of buffalo horns. They also represent the status of a family.
We are currently the only tourists in Bena. The local population currently present consists of some elderly people, women, and children. The women are weaving, traditional carpets to be sold to tourists. There are also many betel nuts drying in the sun. They are the local drug, and most of the people are chewing one, occasionally spitting out a dark red fluid. We are strolling around the village, and the friendly people allow us to look inside and behind their houses. After an hour we say goodbye and leave this beautiful little village.
Hot SpringsWe drive back to Bajawa and on to Riung in the north of Flores. Underway we stop at some hot springs. The swimming pool there, however, contains cold water. So we decide to sit in the hot river instead. Although the weather is also hot, the natural hot Jacuzzi is very nice. We enjoy it for half an hour before we dress and move on.
RiungWe arrive in Riung at 3 PM and decide to have a meal first. But there are barely restaurants here, and a decent meal would take an hour to prepare. So we insist on having some noodles and an egg before we set out to find a place for the night. That isn't easy either, the hotels are either in decay or very expensive. We finally find a homestay at an elderly couple.
Riung is a fishing village at the north coast of Flores. The national park consisting of 17 islands off the coast is great for snorkelling, and that's what we would like to do here. Together with an English couple we charter a boat to take us out on a snorkelling tour the next morning. We stop at 4 different places to snorkel, on one of which a simple lunch is served. The coral is indeed great here, and we see lobsters and sea horses.
At noon we need to be back on land to move on to Moni. But not before we enjoy a mandi in the homestay. The drive to Moni is long and, apart from a stop at the blue stone beach where all the blue stones are already taken, without interesting stops. We also cross the harbour town of Ende at the south coast. It seems as if our driver increases the speed in urban areas. When we continue through the mountains and it gets dark, we also need to tell him to put on his lights
At 7 PM we finally enter Moni. This is a place where more tourists pay a visit, because of the three colored lakes of the nearby mountain Kelimutu. It is much easier here to find a place to stay, and when we go out for a restaurant we meet some guys from the komodo dragon cruise. We understand from them that almost everyone from that trip is currently in Moni.
3 Colored LakesThe next morning at 4 AM our driver brings us up the Kelimutu volcano. At the registration office we see the transformed truck in which the rest of the tourists arrive. And during the half an hour climb up on foot, we overtake most of our fellow passengers of the komodo dragon cruise. On top of the volcano, where everybody waits at the viewing point for the sun to arrive, we discuss our Flores experiences with everybody.
As the first rays of sunlight arrive over the mountains, there are many "ohs" and "ahs" to be heard. Beautiful colors appear above the mountains and the lakes slowly appear. The 3 differently colored lakes are the attraction of Kelimutu, and the whole of Flores. The colors can change spontaneously, and nobody knows why. At the moment we are there the colors are turquoise, coffee brown and black. But it takes a long while before the sunrays reach the lakes to see the colors at their best. Many tourists do not have the patience to wait for that. We take our time to look from another viewpoint and walk around the brown lake. All in all, it's a mighty sight.
We walk and drive back to Moni for breakfast, and the ride on to Maumere. That is where our Flores tour ends and say goodbye to our driver. Mats and Ulrica arrange a boat ticket back to Bali for the next day, and we explore information for moving on to Sulawesi. In the evening, we have dinner together for the last time, and the next morning we say goodbye to our Swedish friends. It is a strange feeling after travelling with each other for one and a half week.
Paradise in WaiterangSince the boat to Sulawesi doesn't leave for 3 days, we decide to leave boring Maumere for Waiterang, a beach 27 km north. We find homestay Ankermi there, a lovely spot with bamboo bungalows and a fine restaurant. The next days we enjoy ourselves with snorkelling, swimming, eating, drinking, and talking with Marcus and Kris and Paulien, who arrive here as well. Together we enjoy this little paradise on earth.
Flores Indonesia is a beautiful volcanic island which is too far away from Bali for most of the tourists for a visit. Those who do come here follow the route from west to east along many nice sights. The local, mainly catholic population is very friendly, although a bit pushy in the cities.
Unfortunately, we do not have more time on our visa to move further east or south, where Sumba, Timor, and the islands of the whale hunters in wooden boats are even further from the civilised world. Flores in Indonesia is therefore the most remote point of our world journey. And it was sure worth our visit.Follow our World Journey!! Next Stop: Makassar
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