Archives for posts with tag: Flores

In Transit in Indonesia.

Awaking the next morning, slightly sore of head and body, we are arriving at the island of Rinca. Rinca is part of Komoda National Park and is a different island than the one we went to on the earlier trip. Not entirely convinced I should bother, having seen the dragons before and feeling the effects of the night before, I strap on my camera and head out with the group. Not surprisingly it’s pretty anticlimactic but it’s a chance to get my blood moving and to chat with some of the new people and actually listen to what the park ranger has to say while not being distracted by a crush.

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This trip is shorter than the last one, only 2 nights, and we’re covering a lot of territory so it’s a lot of time spent on the boat. We make a couple stops to snorkel and one stop on an island where we follow a trail through a small village for about 2 kms to reach a waterfall. You can jump off the top of the falls Tarzan style and it’s wonderfully cool and refreshing so we do it repeatedly.

I also continue to avidly pursue my newfound obsession of photographing people.

Andy and I have made friends with a Spanish man named Albert and we all decide to do a bit of travel together once we get back to Lombok. Ours plans include a stop in the Gilies Islands, a trip to Nusa Lembongan (where I have been before) and we’ll finish up in Ubad on Bali.

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I got really inspired by the friendliness of the local people while I was on Flores Island in Indonesia. Their sincerity, beauty and humour constantly surprised me, as well as their willingness to pose for my camera, even when I got right up in their faces. These are the results of that. Click on any picture to make it bigger.

Flores, Indonesia.

We awake in the morning refreshed and when I head downstairs for breakfast I discover that Andy has had the guys move a table and chairs outside so we don’t end up dining in the grand hall or the homey place, instead we sit with Marcello and the staff, drink some barely decent coffee and enjoy the shady coolness of the garden. We head into town for the promised coffee (it really is good) and I get to make my phone calls, happiness. We make a quick stop at a market just outside the door of the cafe before heading out of town.

Market.

Market.

Market fresh

Market fresh

It’s the final day of our road trip and we have a fair bit of road to cover so we continue along the wending highway of Flores and make a stop at a waterfall, requiring us to walk down many flights of stairs in the growing heat of the day. At the bottom the water doesn’t look too appetizing so we decide against a swim but we marvel at the sight of the mega rush of water falling inside a cave. It really makes me want to go stand underneath it, like a giant shower, but Marcello advises against it, too strong he says.

Waterfall cave.

Waterfall cave.

Back up at the top of all those stairs we encounter an adorable little child, who just won’t take his hands out of his mouth, or let go of his toy truck so (with his mother’s permission) I take his photo anyways. We also find a group of young teens just hanging out and, in exchange for getting to practice their English, they let me take their pictures as well, I’m in heaven.

Driving, driving, and more driving and then we make a stop. I don’t actually remember why we stopped here, some tourist attraction, but when we arrive Andy is not feeling well at all. We are required to hike to whatever this destination was and she just doesn’t feel up to it. I leave her to rest for a little bit in some shade and to drink some water maybe that will help. I find some more kids, more willing photography victims and snap happily away. Rejoining Andy she’s still not well and has a bit of a breakdown, I rub her back and speak soothing nonsense to her, I think she is overwhelmed with heat, too much coffee and not enough water and the terrifying prospect of getting back into the car with our sick inducing driver is all just too much for her. When she calms down a bit we talk to an older local couple and they recommend a herbal remedy. It consists of powdered ginger among other things and Andy goes for it, backing this up with some Gravol as well for good measure. While we are waiting to see if it takes effect I chat up this couple, they let me take their photos and the woman teaches me how to catch and hold a chicken without getting pecked. Not sure I would attempt this again without the professional supervision but it was neat and the chicken was surprisingly light for its size, I guess they are all feathers.

How to catch a chicken.

How to catch a chicken.

Andy starts to feel a little bit better but decides to take a pass on the hike (I’ve just remembered what it was we came to see; a series of rice paddies shaped like a spider web) and I decide not to bother either as I’m not overly entranced by the prospect. Back in the car Andy promptly passes out, which is probably the best thing for her, and I amuse myself with torturing Marcello with my musical choices and singing aloud as well. It’s mostly all driving today though we do make a brief stop for lunch where I meet a few people who become targets for my camera, knowingly or otherwise.

Finally we arrive back in Labuanbajo and find ourselves a lovely place to stay. Andy is feeling much better and we treat ourselves to a very nice dinner out, with wine and everything. A good night sleep and we have one almost full day in town before we get back on board the Perama boat for the trip back to Lombok with a whole new group of people. Andy spends the day going for a dive and I spend it at the spa, a massage, a body scrub, and a facial (which I feel asleep during, awakening with a snort). As if that wasn’t enough pampering, I went right next door afterwards and got a pedicure and for the first time in 6 months had my hair straightened. Buffed and shiny I made my way back to the hotel to wait for Andy to return from her dive. Her boat was delayed by quite a bit so I packed all her stuff up, left it at the Perama office for her and headed down to the boat for my second welcome/goodbye party. Andy made it to the boat in enough time and we had a lively evening (no Italians for me this time) that cumulated in me thinking that trying to chimpanzee across some metal bars would be a good idea and discovering about halfway across that I was, in fact, too inebriated to do what I was thinking I could do and falling heavily to the floor. Drunk logic, never good, it always leads to poor decision making but you never seem to remember that when you’ve had a few. Fortunately I only had a couple bruises to show for my stupidity. We went to bed on the deck again, ready to revisit the Komodo Dragons in the morning.

It’s been quite a while since I last wrote, firstly because I have been so caught up in the traveling that writing about it wasn’t high on my priority list and secondly because I was dreading writing this post. I was worried I couldn’t do it justice and in fact I’m not sure I did but here it is anyways, sorry for the delay.

Flores, Indonesia.

We awake very early in the morning, it’s still dark out. We hop on the back of motorbikes Crystal has provided and are driven up a narrow windy road to the parking lot for Mt. Kelimutu. Mt. Kelimutu is sacred to Indonesians, it’s a trio of multihued crater lakes whose colours change periodically and are so intense they almost appear to be the thick like paint. Minerals in the water are the explanation for its’ chameleonic colour scheme, although the turquoise lake never changes colour the other lakes can fluctuate to blue, yellow, orange, red and green. The colours don’t change often, I think it’s been about 3 years since the last change so it’s highly unlikely that it’s going to happen right under our noses but still it’s a “must see” place.

In the parking lot we pay for a quick cup of something that vaguely resembles coffee, gulp it down and then start up the path. We’re rushing as sunrise is fast approaching but the views are lovely and the birds are chirping. Up a steep path and many stairs and we arrive at the lookout, a concrete slab with a tiered statue for seating and views in all directions. We’re perched on a hilltop in between the 3 lakes. To the east we can see 2 lakes divided by a narrow wall of jagged rocks, one is a pale almost milky aqua blue with a few steaks of yellowish-green and the other is a rich dark turquoise.

Close up of the dividing wall.

Close up of the dividing wall.

To the north there are a series of seemingly uninhabited hills and mountains stretching away into the darkening blue distance.

The space between, where I scattered mom's ashes.

The space between, where I scattered mom’s ashes.

In the west is another lake, set deep into a deep hole, it is so dark a blue that it appears black.

The "black" lake.

The “black” lake.

Back to the south is the trail which we have come up to arrive here. It’s quiet up here, not crowded, there are only a few other tourists here to take in this glorious sight. Crystal takes us off the slab down onto the hillside which overlooks the 2 lakes, he’s brought blankets and spreads them out making us a cosy nest. We sit and enjoy the view, sunrise rising and slowly creeping over more and more of the surface of the lakes, exposing the colours to us. It’s a lovely spot, a serenity fills the air, spoiled only by Crystal’s inability to stay still or quiet for more than 10 seconds, did I mention the ADD?

Sunrise over kelimutu

Sunrise over Kelimutu

This feels like a right place to leave some of my mom’s ashes behind so I whisper to Andy what I am going to do and I wander off to the spot looking out over the northern stretch of mountains, between the lakes. I’ve been carrying a small baggie in my wallet which has some of her ashes in it, waiting for a moment like this. I take this bag out and empty its contents into my hand, it’s the first time I’ve ever actually done that, put them in my hand, and it feels a bit weird and uncomfortable but also like I am closer to her in some way. I squeeze my hand tight around her and tell her about where I am and how I’m going to leave some of her behind here. I think about how much she would have liked the beauty and the stillness of this place and as the tears fall down my face I throw my hand up and release her ashes. There is very little wind so I can watch as some of the heavier pieces come to the ground in front of me but the lighter bits float in the wind and gently scatter and disburse until I can see them no more. I sit on the ground and have a cry but it all feels good and right so it doesn’t last long. While my tears dry I think about her, I couldn’t tell you what exactly I thought about except that choosing this place felt like a very right thing to do. When I am ready I go back to join the others, sitting beside Andy she hugs me and we rest quietly in this very special place.

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When we are ready to go we head down to the parking lot and back onto the bikes. We’re going back to Moni to have some breakfast, (yay coffee!), and pack up our bags so we’re ready to leave later in the afternoon. We have pancakes and coffee and afterwards, as we digest, Crystal pulls out a whole bunch of my white hairs for me. I love this because I now have too many to be able to get rid of by myself and it’s a normal thing that kids do for their older relatives here. It’s also a very soothing feeling, I can see why monkeys pick fleas from each other all the time.

Our plan for the day is to visit some local sights (rice paddies, waterfalls, fruit market) see how traditional Ikat weaving is done and visit a small traditional village. In the afternoon we will meet up with Marcello (our driver) and start our journey across Flores back to Labuanbajo.

I had a moto driver take me up to Kelimutu in the morning but now that it’s light, and I have had coffee, I am itching to drive myself. I’m allowed to do so and happy as a clam when I get on the bike. We go a couple kilometers down the highway and then down a twisty and potholed dirt road, past schoolchildren yelling out “Hello Mister” and we reach our first stop, the Ikat weaving. It’s made by a few families in a neighborhood not far outside Moni. The older generation have betel-red stained mouths and teeth and a bit of a cynical attitude but not unfriendly, the younger people are shy and beautiful. I meet a child there who is so gorgeous that he inspired me to photograph him, getting in really close, starting a new photography addiction I still can’t shake.

inspiration

inspiration

Andy wants to buy Ikat so as she tries to decide between 2 different pieces I drink coffee with Crystal and ask people to let me take their photos, most folks are very accommodating. They tend to want to pose though, and I want “life” so I start to learn how to take the first photo, show them, and then keep photographing them while we laugh about something, getting some of the better shots this way, more relaxed, mouths open to reveal stained or missing teeth, smiles wide, laughing eyes, I’m hooked.

I help Andy dicker down a price for the Ikat she’s chosen and we head off again. We drive back through Moni and then further along the highway, heading to a traditional village.  Once there we have to suit up in traditional garb, it’s not flattering and hot as hell as we’re wearing it over top of our regular clothes, a necessity I assume so we do not offend.

The things I have to wear sometimes....

The things I have to wear sometimes….

The village is set in a circle around a burial mound of jagged stones, the homes are made of wood with carvings of wheat, fish, rice, fruits etc. done by each home owner so the quality varies according to each person’s artistic ability. Each front door is flanked by 2 pairs of carved breasts, quite lovely ones actually. The village itself is not that inspiring to me, quite dusty and hot, but the people are wonderful, super friendly and more than happy to accommodate my new-found joy of getting in their faces with my camera.

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We head back into Moni for a late lunch and then we meet up with Marcello to start our road trip. It turns out he likes to drive really fast and between sitting in the backseat and the curvy roads of Flores it’s recipe for motion sickness for me, Andy gives me a Gravol and I pass out promptly. I wake up when we come to a brief stop at the green-blue stone beach, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s surprisingly pretty though. The people who live along the beachfront collect these rocks and sell them for use in finishing construction, think inlaid floors, decorative walls, water fountains etc. There are piles of the stones all along the beachfront but it seems there is no shortage of rocks so the collecting continues.

Blue-green rocks.

Blue-green rocks.

We make our stop for the night in Bajawa. We sit down with Marcello to discuss our itinerary and run into problems. He tells us that what we had arranged with Crystal is not actually possible and he wants to change our plan. As we’ve agreed on a price and time-frame we’re a bit miffed about these late breaking developments but after some discussion, only a little heated, we come to an agreement. Plans made we retire for the night, it’s been a long day.

Flores, Indonesia.

Our flight is in the afternoon, we spend the day in Labuanbajo catching up on internet time and then head out to the airport to catch our flight. In the taxi on the way we meet a guy who asks our names and where we are going, we tell him, seeing no reason to hide this information, we get asked it many times a day after all. People are curious here, they are friendly and want to talk with us, practicing their English where are you from, what is your name etc, etc.

Our flight goes smoothly, very short and we arrive in Ende airport. As we walk out the exit there is a mass of people pressed up against the glass, and one of them is holding a sign with our names on it. Huh? How did that happen? Turns out our “friend” from the taxi has called ahead to his buddy to try to set us up with a ride to the town of Moni (where we are planning on heading today). This guy wants a lot of money, way too much and I’m not about to give it to him, so we walk away.

When you first start to travel with someone there is a delicate play that happens. When you start to find out who the good cop is and who the bad, what are the other persons strengths and weaknesses, their financial situation/limits and their ability to bargain and haggle? Andy and I find this out on the fly, I keep checking in with her, with glances, raised eyebrows, conversations in Spanish to make sure we are agreeing about everything and it seems we are.  So it turns out (big surprise) that I am the bad cop, the hardnose, the one willing to walk away and not put up with anything I may perceive as bullshit.

So when this same guy keeps following us and slowly bringing down his price, still a preposterous amount, I’m the one who taking charge, still walking away from him insisting that we want to find a bus. We cross the street to get away from this guy, as we stand at a corner a bemo (a shared minibus) comes along and we yell to the driver to get us to the bus station, he agrees. As we hop onto the bus the original guy roars up on his moto bike and yells to us that he will now agree to take us for the price we insisted on originally. Andy and I look at each other and instantly agree, we don’t want to give this asshole our money at all, so the bemo it is.

Once on this crazy bemo one of the drivers’ friends/assistants asks if we want to private hire the bemo to take us to Moni. We confer and decide yes, if we can get the right price. The guys agree to it so all we have to do is drop off everybody else who is on the bus and then we will go. This should be a quick process but it turns out it’s not. Once all the paying passengers are off the bus there are still 4 guys with us. These guys are barely out of their teens, if that. The bus is pounding with heavy bass music, and throbbing with coloured lights, jeez what have we agreed to?

Andy, looking none too impressed with this traveling circus.

We make several more unscheduled stops, for no obvious reasons, pick up one more guy and then, finally, we are off. A good thing too as I’ve already had to give them a piece of my mind, twice, since they are taking so freaking long.

It’s a 2 hour ride up into the mountains to Moni, we’re both starving and these boys pull out some arak (the local homemade alcohol). As soon as I see this I state loudly and clearly that no one who is going to be driving will be drinking, they agree thank goodness and we are underway. It’s a tortuous ride, we’re sitting on benches in the back that run along the side walls, the road is very curvy, we have to hang onto the overhead rails for the entire 2 hours, while these guys (who aren’t driving) first get drunk, try to have conversations from us in their very limited English, bum multiple cigarettes from us and then fall asleep, taking up most of the benches when they do so.

When we arrive in Moni we meet Crystal, the ADD tour guide, and he helps us find a room. It’s been dark for a couple hours already, it’s freezing cold here and we are both very hungry. We find some very bad food and negotiate a price for Crystal to take us up to Kelimutu for the sunrise and see a few other sights in the area through the rest of the day. It takes a lot of hard work to get a price we all agree on, Crystal is a bit flakey and it’s tricky to pin him down on what exactly it is we are going to do and at what time. But we get it agreed and then he introduces us to Marcelo, a driver who has just dropped off some people he brought from Labuanbajo and who wants to head back in that direction the next day. We negotiate, negotiate and renegotiate until finally we agree on an itinerary, a timeframe and a price. Done.

Andy and I have decided to do a bit of traveling together. Last night, before the farewell party, we booked a flight across Flores to the town of Ende, we plan to find a driver to bring us back across the island on a mini road trip. Our plane will leave tomorrow, so we have a day to hang out in Labuanbajo. We decide to visit Seraya, one of the neighboring small islands. We are joined by some other members of our Perama trip, Florian, Bianca and Carles. We hire a boat to drive us the hour trip and upon arrival it drops anchor next to a small wooden dugout canoe. We seriously think it`s a joke but the boatman is dead serious and 4 of us get into this tiny canoe for the trip over to the beach. Andy is quite literally frozen in fear, Florien and I are fine and use our snorkel fins to help paddle the boat.

The terrifying dugout canoe @ Seraya Island.

There is one warang (small beach restaurant) on the island and some cabins that can be rented for overnight accommodation, but we are just here for the day. After a leisurely lunch some of us snorkel, some laze on the beach and some go for a walk, or naps. It`s an easy, relaxed day. We negotiate a time to leave with the captain, he wants to leave at 3, we want to leave later, we agree on 4:30. It turns out to be really good timing as the sun is setting when we pull into view of Labuanbajo harbour, the golden glow is in lovely contrast to the deep grey clouds that have showed up, making for some lovely sunset photos.

Labuanbajo at sunset

Sunset

Labuanbajo Harbour

After getting cleaned up we all meet up for a very delicious dinner at a place called Mediterraneo, fantastic food, and some very mediocre wine. I`ve come to realize that Andy`s a foodie, she talks about food, a lot. Look how excited she is about her tuna carpaccio!

Tuna Carpaccio, yum!