We’ll leave the diving for some time now… The next couple of days we’ll discover the Archipelago over land and the seasurface. From Kepa we cross the narrow sea street and go by ojek – a motorbike with driver – to Kalabahi, the capital of Alor. Our drivers know the streets well and in no time we’re where we need to be. On the bikes we enjoyed the early sun. Getting up early is at least good for one thing. We pass a bank to update our money rates…
The only difficulty in the whole Archipelago is getting sufficient amounts of money… The terminals won’t give us more than 1 500 000 up to 2 000 000 IDR at once, a small 150 a 200 EUR. Yes, counting in Indonesia feels like being millionaire. Otherwise you almost never spent less than 20 000 IDR.
Changing money isn’t an interesting option either. Once you pass Bali, you never get an interesting change rate. Probably the best option is to withdraw a lot at Bali, but then you have to travel all the way with that huge amount and the big number of billets… You never get one bigger than 100 000 IDR. And with for example 10 000 000 IDR in you pocket you get a huge pack.
Our first trip goes by boat from Kalabahi, Alor to Baranusa, Pantar… One last time we sail along the coasts of Kepa with the boat. Both of us thinking ‘had we really have to get up that early, to go all the way to Kalabahi and get a boat there, to sail again along the coast of Kepa? Couldn’t we sleep some longer and get aboard here?’ The whole trip takes 5 hours… Along beautiful beaches and the ever smoking Volcano, Gunung Sirung. Perhaps we’ll visit him this afternoon. On shore we head to the only hostel in the city and are stunned by the high prices they ask for a stay. We set up our mind, we won’t pay that much and search for another location. A friendly muslim family invites us and we get an even more beautiful hostel than we could ever have had in the local hotel. By arrival the house wife immediately changes all bedclothes. We install our mosquito net over it, every time a challenge with almost no attachments nearby…
With our local translator dictionary and many sign languages we cross the island. The volcano will have to wait for another visit… The trip takes 3 hours one way. We enjoy the local village, try to talk with the people around, as we are a local curiosity. Everyone wants to talk to us, wants to know where we come from and where we’re heading to, if we are married, where we stay,… And all kids call for us ‘Hey, Mister’, making no difference for Ilse or me. In the middle of the Ramadan we arrive in a Muslim village… So finding food in the afternoon is quite hard. But after sundown, we get a simple meal offered. Are we happy we didn’t stay at that hostel!
The next day awaits us a boat trip from Baranusa, Pantar to Wairiang, Lembata. We plan to take the early market boat at 6:00… But when we arrive at the port the boat’s already gone at 5:00. Bad luck for us.
We have only two options left, return with the local boat to Kalabahi or charter a boat at quite high rates to Wairiang. After a long discuss about the price with the locals and many ‘don’t you have money?’ or ‘can’t you pay?’ insults later, we got a charter. At high costs, but better than expected and are at sea, heading to Wairiang.
Both of us glad that we can leave Pantar, we’re done with the negotiations.
Once along the coasts in our private boat, we’ve soon forgotten about Pantar… The sea views and coasts are stunning. Mostly they seem to come from some idyllic vacation locations, only the palm trees are changed by some other trees.
In Wairiang we arrive in the middle of a huge market… Fishes, chickens, clothes, species and vegetables are sold, but in the heat we don’t feel much for a visit. A local friendly merchant couple invites us on the terrace of their shop. There we eat something, try to ask information about a bus to Lewoleba and get some refreshment in their bathroom. What a difference with Pantar!
Finding a bus isn’t that easy! There are some misunderstandings about the ways of transportation until Fatma, a teacher English arrives. She explains us that a trip to Lewoleba has to wait until tomorrow… The last bus leaves here at 12:00, while now its some time in the afternoon, and when we rent a bike, our driver has to stay overnight in Lewoleba, so prices are high and the way is in no condition for such a long bike trip. The day after we can easily take a bus and she invites us to spent the night at her home.
Once again we’re on a bike trip into the mountains… But the humpy bumpy roads on the back of a motorbike are not our favourite way of transportation. Upon arrival in the small town, we’re the local attraction. They don’t see tourists that often, Fatma explains us. The laughter and voices of children soon fills the entire room and when we take out the balloons, a little feast starts… Especially for Fatma’s own small boy. He starts hunting the orange balloon in the whole living room, mostly unable to catch it.
All night we enjoy the hospitality of Fatma’s family, get a good bed and a delicious meal… That is Indonesia on its best! We receive plenty of information about the next part of the trip, the hours of departure and so on.
In the morning we leave the small village and the friendly family to go ahead. A bus trip of nearly 4 hours on the humpy bumpy roads brings us to Lewoleba. Perfect on time we arrive at the harbour, where we wait with a dinner on our boat to Larantuka, Flores.
On the boat we sail once more along beautiful coasts, volcano’s and mangrove forests. The natural sights from sea are miraculous. And the boat is quite funny loaded with some chickens running between the passengers… A meal or on a trip… We’ll see. At the end we see them alive, bond by their paws and hung upside down on a motorbike, spoken of a fresh meal delivery.
From now we travel through Flores. We start in Larantuka, a small harbour city. There’s not that much to tell about it and in early morning we leave to Maumere, or better to the Sunset Bungalows in Waiterang. There we spend a couple of days to relax at the beachside with numerous palm trees. We make also the steep climb to the smoking crater of the Egon Volcano. We ascend and descend 700m in a couple of hours. A remarkable trip! We not only saw all kind of weather during the trip… Heavy windy, rain, smog, sun, high and low temperatures,… Our condition still has to improve next months, but we’ve got plenty of practice ahead.
After these ‘relaxing’ days we leave for Moni, to visit the crater lakes on the top of the Kelimutu Volcano. Like always the negotiations about transport are the hard part, prices vary every time. Especially because we need to visit immigration to extend our stay here in Indonesia… But we’ve got bad luck. On the last day of the month they don’t give permissions. We book a flight from Labuan Bajo, Flores to Denpasar, Bali.
To get a bus trip to Moni is quite an adventure, but we’ve got all the luck we can. After some hard negotiations we get a transport by the private buses, after a call from our hotel. With a sigh of relief we leave the bus we finally ordered and change it to a comfortable seat in the car. Only the bus driver is really unhappy and the helpful police agent around a little bit distrustful… until a little call to the hotel.
Upon arrival we’re delivered at the wrong place, but a quick reply from Ilse makes us arrive at the right place, the Arwanti Homestay! The room we get is a wonderful one, white bedclothes, a soft mattress and a fluffy blanket… Are we really in Indonesia? We enjoy the room until 4:30 before we leave for a climb – mostly by ojek drivers – to the Kelimutu crater lakes at sunset. Just in time we arrive there to see the magical sunset over the three lakes. The emerald, the brown and the black. The mysterious black one stays covered a long time in the clouds, but finally these dissolve and a beautiful black mirror appears. We enjoy the quietness on the mountaintop and for the return a friendly group Indonesian priests invites us in their jeep. After a late breakfast we take a 7 hour bus trip to Bajawa.
In Bajawa we meet our multicultural group to charter a bemo and guide to visit the local villages over there. Samantha and Pierre from Canada, Ann from Taiwan with Wolfgang from Switserland, Ondrej from the Czech Republic and us. The trip starts with a visit to the market to buy the lunch. Bananas, banana rolls, tomatoes, cookies, bread, passion fruit… and of course sufficient amounts of water. 4,5 litres only for the two of us. Each group member buys a specific item and we share all at noon. After these supplies, the trip starts.
In this area one of the only matriarchal organised tribes of Indonesia live… The other one is located on Sumatra. A local joke “The power of each tribe is dedicated to the height of the volcano inside their territory.”
The first stop is at Tololela Village. A small village with 21 houses perfectly placed around a central place. On that place the totem piles, houses of the ancestors and a couple of graves are built. All ceremonial elements the village people need. The houses themselves are decorated with totem symbols on the roof and buffalo horns and pig cheeks symbolising festivities organised. Their houses are masterfully crafted and very clean. In this city the nature cults are strongly interwoven with Christianity. In the lower parts of the city, they are building some new houses, so we can clearly see the inner structure. You have the terrace, the public part, a semi-public part and a private room.
After that visit we leave for the hot springs… An amazingly relaxing event. We bathe in a river at a point on which two rivers merge… A hot volcano stream and a cold one. The mixture is wonderful and we get the perfect ever-refreshing natural bath tub with hydro massage.
After this refreshment we make a short stop at the Bena Village, another typical one. The structure is quite equal, but everything is much bigger. There live around 300 people over there and they even have facilities to spend a night in the village.
We end the day with a delicious group meal in a warung. Quite a refreshing day.
The next day, the whole group leaves with us to Labuan Bajo – or better to the idyllic island of Kanawa after our stories… A day trip from 11 hours – ouch – on a crowded bus. More people than seats, rice bags that serve temporarily as alternative seats, some chickens, jerry cans with leaking oil, oil tracks from previous trips and a huge amount of cigarette smoke in the inner parts! Here is smoking a way of living and they don’t know any restrictions. Every place serves as a smoke location, especially buses, motorbikes and restaurants… Our backpacks, a complete sound system, some wood and more rice and other food bags on the roof.
But finally Bajo arrives and together search for a hotel.
The next day we split up, because there are no rooms or other locations available on Kanawa… Even for us the first night looks tricky. No bungalows, no bale and no tent. Luckily we can borrow the tent of Ondrej, so we can head to the isle and go diving for one more day to the northern area. Upon arrival there is still a bale free, so all ends like we hoped. Despite a week talking and organising. The rest of the days on the isle we spend with snorkelling, writing parts of the blog, reading and relaxing at the beachside.
Tuesday the 7th of august, early morning we have a flight from Labuan Bajo, Flores to Denpasar, Bali. At sunset we arrive in Bajo, like two chimney cleaners, covered in oil and dust from our early boat trip… And then we board on the plane with our handwritten boarding papers.
Here we leave the adventures of Nusa Tenggara with the idyllic isles for our last days in Indonesia. We’ll leave to Australia very soon. Both of us already look forward to that part.