The magical world of Flores Island, buffalo races on Sumbawa Island, evil dwarfs and tri-color lakes

prodavachki

There are not so many people on the ferry and almost no foreigners. Actually there is a group of strange looking motor-bikers with checkered shirts, tyrants and cloths on their heads. Later we find out they are Dutch. In two hours we reach the port Poto Tano and head to the capital of the province Sumbawa Besar in the truck we hitchhiked to enter the ferry.

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Where we went during the time of this post

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Hitchhiking in the truck

Sumbawa Island looks totally different. It is really dry, there are many low hills with thin trees and bushes on them, dry rice fields and fences made of rods that grew in trees. The villages are small with stilt houses, which look well, freshly painted, with decorations and small gardens. People are mainly Muslims. Everyone looks clean and welcoming. Maybe they will not try to rob us as on Lombok 🙂

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Sumbawa Island

After two hours of crazy driving we arrive at the capital Sumbawa Besar, which means the big Sumbawa. Actually they should’ve named it the “small” one as it is a little town with an airport in the middle of it. To our disappointment Tori’s brother had turned off his phone. We try to contact him and it starts getting dark. We are exhausted by the sun, the ferry and the traveling. We start walking a little bit desperate in the streets of the town. There aren’t any parks and the river is full of litter. It is unclear to us whether it is safe to sleep outside.

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The Catholic Church in Sumbawa Besar

Suddenly it’s a miracle! There is a huge Catholic Church in front of us that is still partly under construction. We enter the dusky yard but don’t find anyone. After some time we find a few people who are being shy because they don’t speak English. They call Magdalina as the priest is still praying. She approaches us with a wide smile on her face and tells us to sleep at the hostel of the church “Santo Ignasius”. When we tell them we travel on a tight budget she allows us to pitch our tent. Then takes out a mattress and at the end says we can sleep for free in one of the rooms. All is new and clean.

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Our room at the hostel

More people from the congregation appear. Most are from Flores and have similar to Papua people traits. All are joyous. Our minds start to block.  Because of so many things happening today, the many adventures we had and the many changes that happened we are overwhelmed. A young man who speaks perfect English offers us his help about anything we could need. People then invite us to sing with them in the church. They are practicing for the upcoming wedding on Saturday.

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So we end the day with psalms in hand, sitting in front of the statue of Christ, singing accompanied by an electric organ.

01.09

After gathering our luggage we walk on foot to the end of the town and stop at the local market. Hundreds of vendors offer vegetables, fruits, fish… In the morning is the busiest time. We buy egg-plants, bitter cucumbers, tofu, fermented tapioca roots and some strange fruit, which resembles small wooden balls and we have never seen so far.

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The market in Sumbawa Besar

A small truck takes us at the circumference and then with two more hitchhikes we reach the eastern part of the island – Dompu Town. On the road we witness traditional buffalo race.

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The race with buffaloes in the mud

The scenery is still dry and desert-like, though locals still manage to grow coco-nut trees, corn, jack-fruit and mango. There are not any landmarks here so only surfers visit the island, famous for its beaches and giant waves. The road is in good condition and we travel fast, slowed down only by the many curves.  Dompu is reached in the afternoon. We crossed 200 km for a whole day of traveling. Now it is time to search for a place to sleep.

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Mr Shushtari trying to eat whole jackfruit at once 🙂

While we are walking two boys come and in good English offer us to sleep at their organization where they study English. The attack we had on Lombok is still fresh in our minds so we decide to stay with them. They take us on their motor-bikes and after a few kilometers arrive at the foundation “We save” created by young enthusiasts.

The project is revolutionary for Indonesia and is voluntary. Students pay their taxes with garbage: for every lesson they need to pay hundred plastic pieces of litter. The teachers teach for free and all other expenses are covered by selling the trash for recycling. Their idea is to have their environment clean (as Indonesia is covered everywhere in litter) and at the same time to learn English. We think this is an awesome idea. To our surprise everyone speaks quite good English. The environment is friendly, all the time someone comes with a new project and all are enthusiastic and creative. The foundation even adopted some kids. Their next idea is to open a center for drug addicts where the tax will be payed by planting trees. Sadly no one outside the foundation helps them with finances or anything.

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The office of the foundation

There is a bamboo hut on poles in the back yard and we pitch our tent inside. Students and teachers come to chat happy they have someone to practice their English with.

02.09

The east region of Sumbawa is mainly Muslim. As on Java we wake up at 4 a.m. from the calls for prayer. All women wear veils. Men are in long robes and wear fezes on their heads. At noon the organization’s headquarters get empty as boys head for the Friday prayer and we start hitchhiking towards the main town of the east – Bima. Same as yesterday only trucks take us and we ride in their body at the back.

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Classic taxi

Bima is not interesting. We walk through all of it. When we near the end of the town a nice man stops by, buys us crackers and cola and takes us out of it. Then a ride with a family from Sumba island who are going back home follows. Sumba island is 8-9 hours with a ferry from here.

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Resting while hitchhiking

Soon we reach the port, which is surrounded by fishermen’s houses and muddy bays. There are many people going to Sumba. The place is littered and there are many strange, dodgy guys walking around. To summarize: the atmosphere is like in a cowboy town in the Wild West. There is no place where we can sleep. Our ferry leaves tomorrow morning so we have to stay somewhere around here. I sit on the luggage in front of a supermarket and Mr. Shushtari goes to see if he can find a place. A group of karate students from Sumba come and start taking selfies with me.

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Sape’s port

Mr. Shushtari comes back with good news. Some rich people agreed for us to stay at their yard. We set up our tent among piles of earth and metal litter. All smells of fish because the family is in the seafood business. They are quite reserved and don’t ask us if we need water or a shower which is not typical for Indonesian people at all. When asked for the toilet they point us to their fish warehouse, which doesn’t have a door and running water. Anyway we are thankful we have a safe place to sleep.

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Luxury bivouac

03.09

The mosque is opposite of us and yet again we are woken by the “Azana” (the call for prayer) at 4 a.m. We are filled with content when we imagine that this is our last night like this for now, because our next destination is Flores which is mostly Catholic. While preparing our breakfast the owner of the house, a rich Haj with a white fez on his head watches us from his terrace. We pack our bags, thank him and head back to the port.

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Map of our traveling on Sumbawa

There are only three trucks on the ferry and after asking all the drivers to take us, one of them agrees. I don’t need to pay for my ticket but they ask one for Mr. Shushtari so we buy one for 55 000 Rp. (around 3.5 Euro). The ferry travels to Flores once a day and it takes six to eight hours to reach the island. We are on board now, find some secluded place with soft arm-chairs and prepare for the sailing.

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In the ferry

The group of Dutch motor-bikers are here again (the ones we met on the ferry from Lombok to Sumbawa). At some point we start chatting with their leader and a nice Italian couple. Sailing is smooth, there are no big waves and the boat is not crowded. On our way the ferry passes by the beautiful Komodo Islands, which are mainly deserts and are uninhabited.

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The Komodo Islands through the toilet hatch

Biological note: The Komodo Dragon is the biggest lizard on the planet. It could reach 3 m. of length. It lives only on the two big islands – Komodo and Rinja. There are also a few of them in three isolated places on Flores. It eats big mammals and its saliva is highly toxic, it can kill a person in several hours.

Komodo

Komodo Islands

We reach the lively port Labuan Bajo in the late afternoon. There are many yachts and tourist ships in the bay. The town is small but full of life. There are many restaurants and hotels on the main street and wee see foreigners everywhere, most of whom have arrived by plane.

The biggest attraction here is the tour to the Komodo Islands. It is too expensive for us and in addition we aren’t sure we want to be inside a crowd of tourists taking millions of photos with the big lizards. Maybe if we had more time and longer visas we would have tried to reach the isolated places on Flores and maybe manage to see some dragons. Only biologist visit these places for now.

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Flores’s coast

Information for the tours:

  • Entrance for the national Park 245 000 Rp. (16 Euro). There you also need to take obligatory ranger-guide
  • Getting there – with a boat (going and coming back the same day, with lunch, a snorkel and a swimming mask included). 350 000 Rp. (23 Euro)

The cheapest way to do this is for 40 Euro per person, going to the closest island Rinja. The islands are not inhabited so there is no public transport or boats going there regularly. As a biologist I am a little sad and frustrated that I will not see the Komodo Dragon, but these are the consequences of mass tourism – high prices and exploitation of places. Most tourists never even think that people here make around 75 Euro per month, there are no schools and hospitals and the money they give for their stupid tours goes only to a handful of mafia guys who own all the tourist agencies.

You will never see a westerner eating in a local restaurant or shopping from the local market. They are always in luxury restaurants eating Mexican food or Italian gelato and shopping at the big malls. We noticed there are many people from other islands of Indonesia who came here to make money from the tourists.The mosques are more than the churches. Locals work only as waiters or guides for 40-50 Euro per month. Maybe what I am saying is a little bit boring for the reader, but I just want to express my disgust towards mass tourism and its consumer approach.

We walk 2-3 km out of the town and soon encounter a big gas station with grass, palms and tables. The boys on shift agree for us to set up our tent. Soon we are surrounded by curious kids, all children of immigrants from Timur, bare footed and with shabby clothes. They are sweet and nice but we are vigilant for our belongings. Since we left Bali the more we go east, the poorer the people become.  Anyway Flores is greener and more fertile than Lombok and Sumbawa so at least people here have food. We are tired of people constantly coming to talk to us and looking at what we do and having no privacy so we take a shower and go to bed. Soon we understand that the night will not be so calm.

The gas station turns out to be a gathering place for local youngsters and truck drivers. Everyone starts drinking the local alcohol “sapi”. They bring speakers and the party begins. We notice that locals often communicate with animal-like sounds and boos. From time to time someone shouts at our tent “orang buleeeeee” (foreigners) and all start laughing loudly. Although people are very nice and friendly we still need time to get accustomed to this prehistoric way of communication.

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Camping at the gas station

04.09

The party ends very late at night and after the sun rises it is time for the kids to come to our tent. We wake up in a pretty fierce mood but after a shower we feel a little better.

Traffic is slow but soon a truck take us to the next village. Then a nice family in a luxury SUV stops and we are somewhat shocked they don’t us the prehistoric ways of communicating with mooing. We are lucky as they travel to the town where we want to stay for the night – Ruteng. The distance to there is just 120 km, but there are millions of curves because of the mountain terrain so it will take at least 3 hours. I fall asleep because otherwise I could throw up because of the many curves. They leave us in the center in front of the old cathedral.

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Ruteng’s cathedral

Interesting to know…

Flores, as well as Timur and Sumba, has been a Portuguese colony. As a result 80 % of the population is still Catholic.

Ruteng is the main town of the Mangarai region, inhabited by the ethnic group Mangarai. The town is also a religious center with tens of churches. Regardless of this locals have still kept many of their animistic customs. Often the roofs of their houses have totems on top. They also have rituals where they kill peacocks and predict the future by looking at the animals intestines. There is also a strong cult towards the spirits of their ancestors.

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Traditional house of Mangarai for gatherings

There is a preserved traditional village of Mangarai people close to Ruteng with their specific straw huts. One has to hire a SUV in order to get there and then walk for four hours. The Dutch motor-bikers told us that locals have become greedy and ask for a lot of money, once you reach Wae Rebo, so we decided to not go there.

We stop at a little bakery where we eat the local bread called “kompiang”, then we go to see the cathedral. There we meet a German lady who told us she had spent years looking for traces of her grand aunt who had lived long years in Ruteng.

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The German lady inside the cathedral

Locals still greet us joyfully and sometimes come to speak to us. The atmosphere and the houses give an impression of a sleepy, pastoral town.

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Street in Ruteng

We decide to try to find and address of some relatives of Herbert, a guy from the church in Sumbawa Besar. He told us we can maybe stay with them. After asking people they point us to a church with Catholic Girls hostel. Then a group of boys help us find the house of John Plea. The family we are looking for lives in a small house, but all speak good English. Herbert has already told them about us and they accept us immediately. We chat with them. The girls show us photos of rice fields made in the shape of spider net and other interesting places in the region.

They also explain to us what it is to live in such a remote place. In the evening they share their food with us – rice, vegetable soup and dried fish. This night we sleep well, at last.

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Together with John Plea’s family

05.09

Next destination is Bajava, which is 150 km away or 4-5 hours of traveling through the mountains. A nice public bus driver takes us out of town for free. Afterwards a truck loaded with sand moves us ten kilometers further.

Then we sit on the road wondering how will we cross such a big distance when there are not many vehicles passing by, when a bus with tour guides stops. It turns out they are going to the other end of the island to take some customers. They hesitate for a second but then decide to take us to Bajawa. We get on and I fall asleep to avoid vomiting.

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Hitchhiking

We arrive at the fork to the traditional village Bena in the late afternoon where we part ways with the guides. From here we have 15-20 km to the village. My knees are shaking from the crazy drive and the many bends, so we sit next to the road to rest and eat. Soon a bunch of kids see us. Then they come closer and closer and finally ask for money: “Money, money, mister?!” In the minds of locals white people are all millionaires and pour gold whenever they go. Soon they are bored with us and go to shoot birds with one of the kid’s dad rifle.

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We continue on foot to Bena. A water cistern saves us some walking taking us to the nearby village where children play with horses next to a round wooden church. We see so many kids here. Six-seven go out of every house.

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The round church

Soon a small village with houses with traditional straw roofs, totems and graves in the center of the main square appears. We sit to speak with an elderly person. The fact that we speak a few words in Indonesian makes us closer.

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Traditional village

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The elderly

All chew betel and look at us with glaring eyes and red lips. The ethnicity here, Ngada, is different than the Mangarai. Flores has many mountains so here one can find many different and strange ethnic groups who have preserved their cultures. There are tens of dogs on the streets, obviously people here love to breed them.

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Traditional Ngada house

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A gate of a house

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Bamboo trees

We continue our journey through bamboo forests. A truck loaded with dozen of locals and some sacks takes us to Bena Village.

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Hitchhiking

We learn that a week ago the village was the arena of some not so nice happenings. Some psychically challenged kid attacked a tourist with his knife, locals tried to stop him and three of them were stabbed in the process. A Muslim dressed in white shirt asks us an entrance fee of 25 000 Rp. at the entrance. There are also information signs telling details about the local culture.

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Bena Village

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Drying macadamia nuts

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Male totem

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Weaving

We decide that only one of us will enter as we see quite a lot from the entrance and the houses are the same as in the village we were before. The architecture is authentic. Before entering every visitor puts a piece of cloth on the neck. Locals dry macadamia nuts, women weave sarongs on hand-made weaving looms, dogs run everywhere, graves and totems rise in front of every house.

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A figure symbolizing the founder of the family clan

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Ngada women

The highest part of the village is a pavilion where one can see the whole village. It belongs to the oldest man in Bena, Jacobus, who is now 56 (quite and advanced age for this region) and plays the flute.

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Jacobus

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Woman totem and graves

We ask people where we can pitch our tent and they send us to a place 2-3 km. away with glades and nice views. It gets dark while we walk on the deserted road. We reach “Malu Lalu view point” in 40 minutes. We set the tent under the viewing terrace. There is a toilet and a bathroom. This is our first night at a secluded place after the incident we had on Lombok.  Even though there is a hotel in the vicinity we don’t sleep well, listening all the time for suspicious noises.

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Camping at “Malu Lalu view point”

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Bena Village from a bird-view perspective

06.09

A rattled pick-up driven by a colored young punk music fan takes us to the main road and from there we continue to the main city Ende, as it is the custom we are mainly in the body of the trucks that take us. The road is winding around small villages with totems in their yards. The last hitchhike is with a nice guy who delivers vegetables. After we reach the town the driver, Julius, and his wife Maria invite us to stay at their traditional bamboo house. In the evening we go out for a walk. Julius shows us the house of the first president of Indonesia Sukarno. We stop for a minute in front of it in order to charge with the positive energy that comes from it according to the locals. We pass by the cathedral and the city park.

Maria has prepared rice, fish with vegetable sauce and salad. Next to the house there is a mosque (Ende is a port city and there are many Muslims immigrants coming from the other islands). We go to bed accompanied by the people from the mosque calling for prayer and the great a capella singing coming from the church.

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With Julius and Maria in front of their house

I will share some observations on the economy and the “downshifting” here. After we spent the whole day with Julius delivering tomatoes to the local shops many things became clear, as for example why in a tropical country with nice climate and enough water resources 200 grams of tomato cost 0,50 Euro with a medium salary of 75 Euro per month. The reason is the mentality of the locals – gazing in empty space sitting in the hut, maximum relax, no thoughts for the future and no stress at all – all this that we call “downshifting”. People here always choose the easiest way to do, or better said to not do, things

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Tomatoes, tobacco and other essentials 🙂

The old ladies at the market don’t plant anything and depend on delivery buying vegetables at 0.30 Euro per kilo and selling them with triple high prices. People in general don’t plant vegetables in their huge gardens, the prices at the market are high, so their solution is to simplify their cuisine to white rice with a piece of chicken or fish with some sauce. They also don’t milk their cows and give babies dried, chemical milk.

In general “downshifting” is everywhere. You just sit in the shadow and wait for a a mango or something to fall down and that is enough. This poverty in Indonesia, a country with stable political environment and enough resources is explainable only with the low education and the laziness. We have always critiqued the consumerism, but the economics of being all the time in vegetative state is something that is maybe as bad as consumerism in our eyes.

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At the market

07.09

In the morning neighbors start whispering agitated. One of the neighbors, a forty years old woman, has died during the night of cyst. This is another case we see in Indonesia when someone dies from an illness that is considered not dangerous at all in the West, but here is deadly. In almost every family we meet, there is someone not so old died of diabetes or infections… many women also have problems having babies or they have spontaneous abortions.

All this is because of the horrible health services, lack of medical staff and hospitals. Also Indonesian are very superstitious and believe that a magician could help them better than a doctor. Many consider all the illnesses are a result of black magic. Julius told us that he was hypnotized on the street when he was in Java and he gave some robbers all his money and his phone after the magician thieves just tapped him on the back. We have heard this story from other people too but we still cannot fathom how one can enter a state of trance with just a tap on the back.

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Woman from Flores

In the morning we head to Moni where Julius delivers vegetables and from there we plan to continue to Kelimutu National Park and its volcanic lakes. On the way we leave Maria at the school where she teaches.

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The market

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Women from the Lio Tribe

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There is a market at the village where women from the Lio Tribe, dressed in thick, weaved sarongs and beautiful wide shirts, sell their stuff. Old women chew betel. People here sell some strange things as magical bracelets made of special wood that protect people from a snake bite.

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Magical bracelets against snake bite

Julius leaves us at the fork to the lakes, which are popular tourist destinations. In an hour a jeep full of workers takes us.

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Rice fields

Four kilometers before the lakes there is a ticket counter. The price for locals is 5 000 Rp. (0.35 Euro) but for foreigners is 150 000 Rp. (10 Euro). We are disappointed and decide to stop and eat under a bamboo shelter before we make a plan to enter for free. A sweet 5-year old girl joins us and makes funny things all the time. Later his mother treats us to strawberries and bananas.

momichenceto-na-kelimutuLunch next to the park entrance

Around 4 p.m. for everyone disappears. We decide to act and go around the counter on path winding up. This is supposed to be protected park but there are houses and fields. Small boys with slings watch for birds. There aren’t any thick trees either.

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In the National Park 🙂

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Huge ferns in the forest make us feel like we are in some prehistoric times. When we reach the base, there is no one there already. A wide path takes us to the edge of the caldera from where we see some unreal phosphoric green lakes, each with a different color. The water of the lakes changes its colors depending on the time of the year. Some months it could be blood red, blue or sparkling green, depending on the chemical reactions taking place inside.

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Tree-like ferns

Interesting to know… The Lio Tribe considers these lakes sacred. They believe that the souls of the people who died come here. If the person was good their soul would go to live in the upper lake, called the “Lake of the Ancestors”. If they were bad, their soul would suffer in the “Lake of the evil ghosts”, which often turns dark red.

The steep slopes of the crater, the steaming water with its unreal colors can make anyone feel the super-natural atmosphere of the place. It starts getting dark so we hurry to find a place to sleep and encounter one behind some bushes. The thing is a few meters from here there is a pile of rocks, obviously put there for some ritual, so the place is not so good for camping. It is dark and the visit to the upper lake is left for tomorrow. The night is cool and we wake up many times during the night, so we don’t get enough sleep.

08.09

Still half asleep we hear the first tourists coming to see the sun rise. Soon the sun comes up and two rangers find us. They say it is forbidden to camp here and one of them asks if we have tickets. We gather our tent and tell them we won’t go to the lakes. Indonesians are nice so they didn’t ask us for money but want to escort us to the main entrance 4 km. away.

On the road they ask the people from the huts if we were there earlier and they told them we stayed there all day. Then one of the rangers asks for our camera and looks at the photos. They see the photos of the lakes and insist that we erase them all. Now it becomes a scandal. All this provokes us to tell them our opinion and tell them bluntly that the park is only for business, that the lakes are here for millions of years and the rangers didn’t create them and haven’t done anything to contribute to their existence, that there are rangers everywhere but they don’t care about the forest and that hunters kill whatever animal or bird they want. Then we add that it is not fair at all to ask hundred times higher ticket price for foreigners.

One of the rangers gets a nervous teak on one of his eyes when he hears all this. Indonesians are calm people and if one raises their voice it is something really not typical and unacceptable. He angrily replies that we are white and our country is rich so we have to pay.

We turn our backs to them and head to the main road in a low mood. Anyway it all went not so bad, the only thing is we lost the photos After a breakfast a truck takes us to the road. Hitchhiking in Flores goes really well and soon we fly to the near-by town with no one else than the poachers who have just finished their hunting in National Park Kelimutu. Without noticing we have leaned on the bag full of the bodies of protected bird species.

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An old lady

After buying food from the supermarket it is time to go to the beautiful beach east. A nice country music lover driving like crazy takes us. Our hairs stand on end while we lean dangerously on the sharp bends. We get off on the fork to Koka Beach and head on foot through cocoa and coco-nut tree gardens. In fifteen minutes we appear on a picturesque bay with two-three warungs (restaurants) and no tourists.

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Koka Beach

It is time to rest for a while as we have been traveling constantly for the last two weeks. We ask about safety and it seems it is OK. Just in case in the evening we set up our tent next to one of the huts inhabited by a nice Flores family. The night is calm though we are still somewhat tense.

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Morning view from the hotel 🙂

09. – 11.09

We spent the next three days on the amazing and very beautiful secluded beach Koka. All is fabulous: the crystal water, the big rock splitting the beach in two, the white sand, the close-by island, the palms, the cliffs… The place is heavenly.

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In the morning Blasisus, the owner of the bamboo warung, brings us water, coffee and bananas. Later we become friends with him. After seeing that the beach is safe we move under a shadow in its far end.

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A fisherman fixing his boat

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The bivouac

In the next few days we communicate with some really racy personalities: a local guide dressed as cowboy-hippie; a German lady, owner of a funeral agency and the Swedish Caroline, who came to Flores as a regular tourist, then received a cultural shock and decided to participate in all kinds of ideas and projects helping and empowering the locals.

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Termites

On Sunday the beach is filled with hundreds of local tourists. Families come to have a picnic, nuns and pupils go around, kids scream, make somersaults and bathe… Most locals can’t swim and there are big waves so we watch them a little worried as they enter some dangerous places in the water.

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Children swimming in the rough sea

Magy goes to the warung of Belasius to speak to Caroline and I stay at the bivouac to drink tea and watch children learning to fly and make somersaults.

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Flying kids

At some point I notice there is a crowd on the shore looking at something. Inside the sea there are two people and one has his head strangely tilted at one side. One of the children tells me that this is a real problem and I go inside. At the same time another guy enters the water with a life belt. We put the drowning man inside and take him out.

Luckily there is a couple, an Irish guy and a German girl who is a nurse. The man doesn’t breathe, hasn’t any pulse and his eyes are empty. We put him head down and he vomits. Soon he starts breathing lightly. We continue helping him for 2-3 more hours until he is totally fine. We are all happy and relieved that we brought this 18-year old boy back to life. The crowd leaves and we make a small celebration, drinking some beer, with the girl and the cowboy. One of the leaving families gives us a bunch of bananas.

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Our kitchen

Later on we meet Radu, an Indonesian backpacker, who travels hitchhiking and sleeps in a tent. In the evening he teaches us how to set fire with dry grass and empty coco-nut shells. This is quite good a technique to know especially as Dieselito (our kerosene stove) betrayed us once again. Our gas stove also disappeared, probably got stolen by someone.

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Radu’s and our tents

12.09

We head to Maumere. Before leaving we go to Blasisus to say good-bye and he treats us to coco-nut water. A few youngsters from a religious school play guitars and sing: future priests partying hard.

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With Belasius and Caroline in front of his warung

A truck, loaded with colorful crowd of locals, came to the beach for the holidays, takes us.

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Hitchhiking to the main road

Soon a car going to Maumere takes us. We get off 12 km before the town, at Nita Village, where Trisno expects us – he is a friend whose contacts were given to us by the people in the church on Sumbawa. We hop on his motor-bike and he takes us to the opening celebration of some center for weaving “Ikat” (fabric). There we watch the elaborate procedure of coloring the cloth with natural dye and then sewing it.

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Weaving of ikat

Then we go to visit his parents. His mother is a weaver and his father is a retired English teacher. They welcome us with tea and wide smiles. After a delicious dinner the best friend of Trisno, Wilfridus (or Willy) comes and we decide to move to sleep at his house. We hop on the motor bikes and head to the town. It impresses us that all the houses here have graveyards in their yards. Opposite to the fear many western people have of the dead, here people prefer to stay close to their relatives even after death.

We arrive at a long, brick house in the outskirts. The rooms are one next to the other and many are taken by tenants. Willy gives us his room and he moves with his mother in the neighboring one. Trisno and his wife Sari also live in one of the rooms. People come out of their rooms excited by the appearance of the new foreign guests. An hour later we fall asleep on the sleeping mats on the floor surrounded by thousands of mosquito, which feast of our blood.

13. – 16.09

The life at Maumere starts early with hens running on the tin roof noisily, pigs squeaking and people talking. We wake up with pulsating heads and weak knees. Willy’s mother has already prepared coffee and tea. It is nine but the weather is already very hot. We take a few buckets of water out of the 20 meters deep will in order to take a bath. Here in Indonesia there are no showers, and at this place there is even no running water, so if one needs to go to the toilet, cook or wash the dishes, one needs to exercise with the bucket.

kladeneca-v-maumere

Morning exercise at the well 🙂

Time for another round with the bureaucracy here – we need to extend our visas. Willy takes us to the immigration office where everything happens on slow motion. It turns out the procedure here is easier and it will take only three days (on Bali it took us two weeks). We exhale with relief because this means we will be able to catch the ferry to Makassar, Sulawesi, which leaves in three days also. It is an amazing coincidence as the ferry sails once every two weeks.

We finish with the documents application and pop to the office of the ship company Pelni, which is kind of a monopolist and its ferries connect the bigger islands. There are no cars or trucks traveling the distance thus we can’t hitchhike so we buy tickets. The cheapest ticket is 175 000 Rp. (10 Euro), the distance is 1000 km. and the ferry sails for 18-19 hours.

We ran all our errands so we can now immerse in the calm life of Maumere. While we are waiting for our visas the days pass filled with unforgettable moments. Here is how our days went by here: waking from the noise produced by the hens and pigs, drinking a lot of coffee, being in a vegetative state during the very hot day, eating lunch (mostly rice, tapioca roots and vegetable curry), walking around in the afternoon or meeting people from the art community, whose founder is Willy, chatting and drinking “moke” (local alcohol) till late at night. We feel more and more connected to people here and don’t want to leave. It feels like being in a company of friends, free and unburdened, the times when one is young and actually has their own “gang”. All of the guys here are very enthusiastic, some are painters, others photographers. Willy is the soul of the company.

willy

Willy

Even though they don’t have much money life is joyous and easy. Willy’s mother, an old lady with a nice character, takes care of everyone. She got us so spoiled that one day when she went to Nita Village for a day we almost forgot to cook and eat.

s-radu-i-willy-v-kuhnqta

Radu, Willy and Mr. Shushtari cook

Some evenings we spent at the cafe on the shore, others at the house’s yard and sometimes in the weaving ethnic center in Nita. Talking to Flores people we dive deeper and deeper into their magical world filled with ghosts. As a whole Indonesian people are very inclined towards magic and shamanism, but people on Flores are so immersed into the astral world that physical and magical become one. Legends and stories follow one after the other and every time the story-teller is 100% believing the truthfulness of their story.

We sit under the weak light of the lamps, the wind making noise with the bamboo leaves, the squeaking of the geckos and wonder if it is really true that there is an evil dwarf hobbit in Koka who disturbs the people sleeping on the beach by scratching on their tents and pulling their feet, or is it true that in a magical village on Alor Island people who are descendants of bats can fly, or if there are really unheard of spells on Timur…

orizishta-po-putq

Scenery from Flores

Maumere is a small, sleepy port town, even though it is considered the biggest and most important town in east Flores. There is nothing much to see here and most people don’t even stop. Regardless of this Maumere took roots in our hearts. The places to which we got deeply connected during this journey are less than half a dozen, but Flores and Maumere are on the top.

We don’t know if this happened because of Willy and the boys, or because of the mystical “sikka” culture of the locals or was it something else, but Flores totally won us. Later we remembered nostalgically from time to time: “Oh, the times in Maumere…” How we want to go back again, to laugh wholeheartedly with Willy and Radu (the guy from Koka beach who came with us and was all the time with us) who woke us with boiled beans with sugar and coco-nut milk for breakfast (the dish is called “bubur kajang”), to discuss projects with Caroline (the Swedish university teacher), to take out water from the well, to breathe heavily in the burning hot air while hitchhiking.

map flores

Map of our travels on Flores

There are many places we couldn’t visit: Larantuka, the catholic bastion of Flores; Lembata Island, where people still survive by hunting whales with bamboo spears; Alor Island, which is really small but people there speak ten languages and wield magic; Timur, that is filled with many traditional communities; Sumba Island where they have a sport that is fighting while riding horses, sometimes very brutal; and a few dozen of small islands with interesting cultures and beautiful white beaches. Well, hopefully next time we will see all this. Now it is time to head to Sulawesi.

obshtata-snimka-v-maumere

With the gang

The ship will sail at 11 p.m. Everyone came to send us. They buy us mineral water bottles and Radu even comes on the ship, passing by all the check-points. We enter the belly of the eight floor ferry, which is filled with people and say goodbye to our friends and the island.

Then we have a not so easy task: to find place to sleep. All the seats are occupied so we decide to sleep outside on the deck. Then we see many people lying everywhere on pieces of cardboard. We go up the floors and finally find an empty space. We pitch our tent and get ready for sailing. The ship moves slowly away from the quay then picks up speed and heads to open sea. There are no waves and the ship is very big so we don’t feel any movement.

pod-vulkana

On the road 🙂

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