2 Wheel Vagabond

2 Wheel Vagabond

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Monday, 29 December 2014

Flores, Moni to Labuan Bajo


With the East of Flores behind me I slowly made my to the West coast of the island, from Moni I rode to the town of Ende, I was lucky to be passing through the harbour city during market day, the markets were full of colour and people lining the street in a hive of activity. Negotiating what seemed to be a maze of one way streets was quite the challenge however it gave me the chance to explore the market place and meet some of the locals, the city seems to be surrounded by volcanoes and the ride out of town along the beach offered some spectacular views. I was becoming quite peckish and I stumbled along a small street café as I climbed into the mountains, the views from their outside eating area took me totally by surprise, it was a 180 degree panorama of the bay and its islands. I continued on through the hills until I reached the beachside town of Riung, which boasted 17 islands and promised some world class snorkelling.

I was lucky to bump into a tour operator that told me about the Tamri guesthouse, which was run by the nicest local guy and his family and only charged Rupiah 90,000 per night with food included, this was 3 times less than the other hotels in town and the accommodation was just as good. I arrived in Riung feeling a little under the weather and had planned to snorkel the next day, unfortunately I got progressively sicker until the whole night was spent either running to the toilet or moaning in pain in my bed. With zero sleep from the night before I cancelled the island cruise and spent the day recovering in bed, I declined the offers from my host to see a doctor deciding to rely on a handful of gastrostop and some stomacheze. It’s generally the case that you miss home the most when your ill and this was no exception, it was 2 days until Christmas and all I wanted from Santa was a solid bowel movement …… perhaps even a hot shower and some Banana Boat 50+ sunscreen, as sunblock was hard to find in Indonesia and often cost more than a night’s accommodation. After a day of misery I felt well enough to rebook my island cruise and spent the day soaking up some sun on white beaches and snorkelling amongst some magnificent coral reef, the gastrostop was working well although a few emergency pit stops were still required.

One thing I noticed on the beaches of Riung’s islands was the sheer amount of rubbish that is lying around everywhere, it’s not only limited to Riung, it seems to be the same at most tourist attractions I’ve visited so far. The sad thing is that it seems to be the locals that are the ones doing all the littering, I’ve watched tour guides finish a bottle of water and simply throw it on the path as they’ve kept on walking. I was relaxing on the beach while my tour guide cooked a freshly caught fish for lunch when 2 families arrived on a different boat. It was great that they had made the trip from Jakarta to Flores to see the natural beauty that this island has to offer, I was shocked that when they left they simply threw their water bottles and a used nappy on the beach with absolutely no regard for preserving the area for the future.

I’d spent 3 days recovering in Riung and was getting itchy feet so I got back on the bike and headed for Bajawa, I was still feeling a little worse for wear and road condition was some of the worst I had seen Flores, I was a bit wobbly on the bike but it was great to be moving again. I was quite motivated to get to Bajawa as it was Christmas eve and I hadn’t had WIFI for a while so I was keen to call my family for Chrissy. I managed to make all the calls and send all the messages that I needed to so I went and explored the traditional village of Bena and its surrounding hot springs. The little village showcased some of the locals doing traditional ikat weaving but for some reason it kept reminding me of the Gaul village from the Astrix and Obelix comics, I half expected the chief to be arguing with a fish monger over the quality of his fish, like in the comic books.

Bajawa is predominantly Roman Catholic so it was a nice atmosphere on Christmas morning, I wasn’t getting any presents though so I decided to spend the day riding and tackled the hilly stretch of road to Labuan Bajo. I was warned that the stretch of road would be wet but I wasn’t expecting the downpour that I was in for. The road between Bajawa and Ruteng had more switchbacks than I had ever seen, combined with the steep downhills and pouring rain meant that the road soon became dangerously slippery. More than once the bike lost traction around a corner forcing me to straighten up, only managing to stop the bike a few centimeters from a sheer cliff and wondering if anyone would even realise if I had gone over the edge. The Beemer has Automatic Stability Control which usually works fantastically, the problem was that the water rushing along the road from uphill was covering the road with dirt and debris forcing me to turn it off at times. With no end to the rain in sight I decided to push on, albeit very conservatively and kept riding to Ruteng. Ruteng is famous for being the home of “the Flores Hobbit”, 7 remains of adult skeletons the size of a 3 y/o child were found in a cave in 2003 and date back to only 12,000 years ago. Apparently there isn’t much to see in the cave and the weather was only getting worse so I decided to push on, checking out the very impressive terraced rice fields in the Ruteng area on the way.

A few Km of flat road along with a break in the rain just outside of Ruteng was a welcome sight, I gave the throttle a twist and picked up a little speed, unfortunately it was short lived and the winding roads and rain soon reappeared. These are usually the type of roads that you would go out of your way to ride but in the huge downpour of rain they were turned into a wet and slippery twisting mess that was both mentally and physically draining to ride. I was very relieved when I finally reached Labuan Bajo with no incident, the afternoon was late and I grabbed the first hotel I could find for a very solid night’s sleep.

Labuan Bajo is the gate way to Komodo national park so I spent 5 days exploring the city and its surrounds. The area offers some of the worlds best diving, the currents were crazy but it meant that I got to do some really good drift dives and see a few Manta Rays along the way, some of the wall dives were exceptional too, they were like diving in an aquarium with all the best sea life thrown in. I was very excited about seeing the famous Komodo Dragons so a trip to Rinca island was also on the cards, once again I was totally blown away, we hiked the island and saw plenty of the HUGE lizards, along with some monkeys and buffalo, both of with are apparently a food source for the Dragons. Labuan Bajo is nestled in a beautiful harbour, filled with wooden boats and ships used for dive charters and liveaboards, it reminded me of something out of Pirates of the Caribbean, It wouldn’t of surprised me if the Black Pearl sailed around one of the many islands. I also spent a day checking out some of the waterfalls and caves that are dotted in the hills around the city. The limestone cave called Batu Cremin was my favourite, not only was it spectacular but they let me go without a guide, lucky I had a good torch because I soon found myself alone crawling through one tight cave after another until it opened into a large chamber filled with bats. I spent plenty of time alone there feeling like quite the adventurer but I was pretty happy to hear the voices and lights of a tour group eventually crawling their way into the cave.

Flores delivered everything I expected and much, much more, this has to be one of the world’s most beautiful islands and no doubt will eventually be overrun with tourists. I couldn’t think of a nicer surrounding to travel through on motorbike and the people have been exceptionally friendly, now it’s time to catch a ferry and see what the island of Sumbawa has to offer.









 

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