Flores, Indonesia.

From Bajawa our first stop is a series of hot springs, some contained in man-made pools and others running freely over rocks and mingling with a fresh cold water stream which helps to cool things down a bit. We go early in the morning, it’s our bath for the day and we want to be there before it becomes too hot out.  We find the large pool first; it’s a vivid and vibrant green with a faint smell of sulphur. The steps leading down are covered with the greenish minerals and very slippery. We gingerly make our way in and paddle about for a bit.

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Finding it a bit hot we move out of the pool and into a more natural area, where we find a shady spot in the water under a tree and watch the gloriously greenish water froth down a small waterfall.

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My face slowly turns red form the heat but it is wonderfully relaxing to our muscles and we don’t really want to leave when Marcello starts herding us up. This water is so mineral rich that when later in the day, when we stop for the night, both Andy and I discover that the white parts of our bathing suits have turned a rusty colour, it takes a lot of soap and scrubbing to get them almost back to clean.

Warm and clothed and very clean we drive to the village of Bena. It’s another traditional village along the same lines as what we saw yesterday, but bigger. Again I’m not overwhelmed by the village itself but I do find lots of people willing to tolerate me photographing them and I get some of my favorite pictures so far here.

Marcello is keen to show us how Tuak is made. It’s a local drink, alcoholic in nature and made from palm which is steamed over a wood burning fire and the steam is collected until the refined essence travels down a long piece of bamboo cut in half. This process is repeated until the final product is deemed alcoholic enough and then consumed straight up by the shot. Quite frankly it’s terrible; it’s what I imagine a combination between fish paste and isopropyl alcohol would taste like. It’s not even midday yet but we are obliged to have some shots (please note the plural), Andy says she likes it, I’m impressed by that. Marcello probably has an infinite capacity for this stuff but I am quick to tell him to lay off, he has to drive. He’s only a little huffy about that.

More driving, we’re making progress, and Marcello promises a stop later to view a lake. When we do finally make it to the viewpoint it’s so cloudy we can barely see the nearby trees much less the lake. However it’s not a loss as we encounter yet another group of teenagers who I accost and convince to let me photograph them. They crowd together and start posing with gangsta signs and slouchy postures and attitude, how boring. So I decide to just hold the shoot button down and start moving the camera all around, this seems to take the photos out of the ordinary, adding a sense of movement and some more interesting framing. It’s only later as I am looking them over that I realize one kid was flipping me off, but so much the better in my opinion.

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We stop for the night in Ruteng. Marcello takes us to a strange guesthouse where it seems we are the only guests. It looks very much like a large home; there is a huge formal living area downstairs with a dining area over which a giant crystal chandelier hangs suspended from the ceiling of the second floor. It’s so large it hangs past the second levels floor by a couple feet. We go up a great curving staircase and there it becomes more obvious that this is an actual guesthouse. There are about a dozen doors leading off of a large foyer area. When we enter our room we’re surprised to find it quite normal, not overly fancy, in fact quite simple and tasteful with the small exception of the door to the bathroom having a plastic faux stained glass window in it depicting a brilliant orange fish leaping through bright blue water. None of the fancy public areas seem to be used at all, it’s all very clean and new looking but off of the grand room we notice a much more lived in looking room with a big beat up old table and a small tv blaring, you can tell that this where the actual living takes place. It makes me wonder where they are planning to serve us breakfast, will we rate family status in the small room or be alone and formal?

We find a decent restaurant for the evening and I’m thrilled for two reasons, firstly they have wifi, which has been rare on Flores so far and as it’s my nieces 4th birthday in the morning I make plans to come back so I can call home. Secondly, apparently they have really good coffee, something I haven’t had in a while so I’m pretty stoked on both accounts.

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