In search of adventure this spring holiday, what
place better to fly to but Flores, Indonesia; the islands of fire mountains and
We started with a quiet day
of acclimatising, and exploring the environs of Labuan Bajo, in
western Flores. We did as the locals do,
and rented motorcycles. Many a family was squeezed on one bike, mama and
dad, a baby wedged between, and additional children in front and back, but we opted
for two scooters instead. Touring with the wind in your hair and the sun
in your back, between gorgeous hills and turquoise bays, rice fields and
villages, is such a more intimate experience than looking out from the window
of a car, and much more exciting and enjoyable. We visited remote beaches,
muddy caves, crossed rivers and many, many bumps and holes in the
road. Scootering might look easy, but I have the scrapes and
scratches to prove that finding your balance is not that
easy. Without children's helmets, it can be a tad unnerving, and
honesty forces me to admit that the reason I toppled over was because I went
|Girls on bike |
|On the road|
|Labuan Bajo peninsula|
The next morning we sat on our ship in the
harbour waiting for the crew to sort out the promised yet absent
children’s life jackets, so we could start the next chapter of our
adventure; a three day tour of the Komodo National Park. The air got darker
and darker, and when the sky broke, the rain did not take long to soak us
to our underwear in our smallish boat, regardless of its roof and plastic
blinds. The wind pushed the tranquil sea into ominous waves, and as the storm swell,
the captain spoke the redeeming words: we could not sail today.
An hour later, still moist, we sat in a bleak
hotel lobby hotel playing cards, when we received the message that the forecast
was bad: tomorrow there would not be a tour either. Tijm rejoiced in the
idea of two days of games, I less so, so when Roel suggested we head out to
the mountains today instead of later in the week, I jumped at it.
After arguing with the hotel about payment (or not) of the room that
we had occupied for just an hour, we checked out again, and took off
to downtown Labuan Bajo to find ourselves a car. A friendly driver took us
up in the mountains of West Manggarai, the crater lake of Sano Nggoang being
our evening's destination. We had figured this would be about 2 hours away, but
we had not taken into account the status of the road, and the wet weather – quite
obviously it was raining in the mountains too. To say they were
potholes in the road would be a broad understatement, in many places
heavy rains had pummelled away large chunks of the road, and we had to
cross many a waterslide, mud pool or pile of rocks. Thankfully,
our trusty driver navigated them calmly and securely, safely yet
slowly. After a few hours, we realised that at this pace, it would take us at
least three to four hours to make it to the crater. But the scenery was
amazing, the cloudy forest full of lush ferns and trees, and the views
that occasionally shone through the mist was so gorgeous that time
crawled by as fast as our car. The experience beat the hotel lobby by far.
|Flores overland roads|
|Pit stop at main road|
By the time we reached the lake, it was late
afternoon and even though we had read there were some homestays here, we had no
clue whether they would have room for us. Mobile network ceases to exist in
central Flores quickly outside of the touristy town of Labuan Bajo, and there are no landlines either, so there had
been no way to call ahead. We had figured, no tourists, apart from us, would be
crazy enough to trek to in the mountains in weather like this. When we had
asked our friendly driver if he could help sort out accommodation,
his English being worse than my Bahasa Indonesia (which covers menus and
food fine, but not too much else), his smiling nods about a 'villa'
by the lake were not much of a comfort.
|Sano Nggoang Crater Lake|
When we got to the lake, it shimmered gorgeously
in the foggy twilight, and we drove around it to reach Nunang, the village on
the other side. The driver looked worryingly at a rocky road down to the
lake, uttering the single word 'wow.' As he had been unfazed by the
hugest potholes so far, this was slightly worrying. But after some
encouragement by friendly villagers, he turned the car down, with only a
tiny frown, and drove all the way down to a large, newly constructed
two-story house at the end of the road, on the shore of the lake. There safely
arrived, he pointed and smiled: 'villa.'
|Flores bamboo house|
|The villa by the lake|
Most of the houses in the villages we had
passed were made of bamboo matting, or concrete bricks at best, so the
term seemed justified. A man opened the gate for us, and beckoned us in
with a wide smile. His name was Petrus, as he introduced himself with a
firm handshake. In good English, he explained he had built this villa
together with his brother in law, to receive guests by the lake. Then, he
looked apologetically. The house was fully booked, with guests arriving
from Jakarta that evening, to stay for a week, on business. It seemed this was a
most rare occurrence, and ultimate bad luck I our timing. His English was
not sufficient to relate what their business was in this remote area,
but after some questioning, he did manage to explain that they had made
the reservation by sending a message to his friend in town, who had
delivered it on his motorcycle. As we were hours from any town
with hotels, over a badly potholed road, and it was fast getting
dark, I was now getting slightly nervous. The kids were tired and hungry,
and our stores consisted of water and peanuts. But I need not worry, Petrus
said, we could stay at his house.
It turned out Petrus had two nice bedrooms
with double beds in his own house, for guests; one for us, one for the kids.
Stuffy from a long day in the car, we decided to take advantage of the dry
spell, and headed to the Crater Lake for a dip. The lake is over 500 meter
deep, and fresh, with a slight sulphuric tinge - no fish can live here. When we
hit the water, the sky cleared, and the last rays of the setting sun cautiously
bathed the mountains surrounding the lake.
|Petrus and Sisilia|
|Swimming in the Crater Lake at dusk|
After we'd dried and dressed, Sisilia, Petrus'
wife, turned one of the hens roaming the garden into
tasty fried chicken served with rice and vegetables. Dinner was
served with stories from Petrus, who liked every opportunity to
further improve his English. The beds were comfortable, and
a generator provided light at night. The guests from Jakarta
turned out to be here to install a more sustainable source of energy than Petrus’
noisy generator: the village was to be a test site for a geothermal energy station.
The next morning a meeting would be held with the town to decide
on the best location.
|Dinner, left in yellow our driver|
After a good night sleep, broken only by
roosters and rain battering the metal roof, and a breakfast of nasi goreng
and homemade sambal, we decided to warm up in the village hot springs by
the lake. Bamboo poles guided the hot water in little showers, and when
the cold rain started again, we had to fight, as there were four of them, and
five of us.
|On our way to the hot springs|
We had hoped to further explore the area after breakfast, but the on-going
downpour left us little choice but to move on. Luckily, by the time we had
reached Wenang village, the rain had stopped, and a watery sun peaked through
the clouds. Friendly Fiona from the village agreed to guide us through fields
of rice, coffee, vegetables, cacao and candle nut trees to see Cunca Rami, a
waterfall where we could swim, according to the guide books, in lovely shallow
pools below the cascade.
Fiona stopped in her tracks when we reached the river.
Normally, it was ankle deep, but now it was frothy deep, and she shrugged we
should turn back. Unfazed, and wanting to make most of the dry weather, we
decided to cross, the girls on Roel and Fiona’s backs.
When we got near the
waterfall, it was just like a storm had started again, the spray of the falling
water blowing far and wide, making us wet again. Even Fiona was impressed by
the bulk of the waterfall, doubled by the rains, but swimming was out of the
question because its roaring size made foaming whirlpools in the shallow pools.
Back in the village, Fiona treated us to local coffee, while she taught kids a
game with unshelled candlenuts.
When we arrived back in the mobile network
sphere of Labuan Bajo, we were happy to learn that the weather had cleared
enough to resume our next highlight: the Komodo Adventure Boast trip.
What a memorable venture.. all the nature pouring out at you and living with the natives of Flores and their cozy hosting is so whelming. Now that I know pretty much about it I can plan a well prepared trip. Hooray..ReplyDelete