A beach haven and a wreck dive

Trip Start Jun 04, 2005
Trip End Apr 05, 2006

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Where I stayed
Rejeki Hotel

Flag of Indonesia  ,
Friday, September 23, 2005

Having stayed an extra night in Lamalera, we said goodbye to this fascinating village and its friendly inhabitants before dawn on Tuesday 20 September as we boarded the public truck back to Lewoleba at 5am. As usual, the vehicle carried not only people, but produce for market - a couple of live chickens, some smelly dried fish. We rattled along the winding, rutted road at a fair speed, and made good progress... by 8am, as the day started heating up, we were back in Lewoleba.

Our ferry back to Flores was scheduled to leave at noon, so we killed a few hours in town - had a brief chat with Sandhi back at Hotel Rejeki, sat down for a plate of nasi rendang, shopped around for a dictionary for Thomy in Lamalera, and walked the dusty streets in search of a 'warung telkom' to phone our friend Stefanus in Ruteng. He was delighted and relieved to hear from us, as he was still expecting us to drop by Ruteng sometime before the 22nd. When he heard where we had been, being the well-travelled man that he is, he responded with an "Ah, Lamalera, I was there at the beginning of the month! Yes, Abel, he's a friend of mine." He really does seem to know everyone this side of Labuanbajo!

Having departed an hour or so late (which is well within reason by local standards), our ferry docked in Larantuka at 5-ish in the afternoon. We piled aboard what seemed to be the only bus leaving for Maumere... and my God, it was the most crowded ride we'd experienced! By the time the bus had done its rounds of Larantuka, picking up passengers, we counted 27 people inside the bus (officially an 18 seater!) and 7 young men on the roof-rack. At one point, all the guys on the roof quickly clambered through doors and windows down into the bus, shouting 'Polis, Polis!' A few minutes later a police car passed us in the opposite direction. Moments after the police vehicle was out of sight, they zipped back out through the windows and back onto the roof!

We arrived at Ankermi Cottages, about 28km east of Maumere, at 9ish that evening. Our plan was to chill out there, do some snorkeling (and maybe a dive) until our flight from Maumere to Denpasar on Thursday afternoon 22 Sept. We had heard good things about Ankermi, and rightly so... what a haven for weary travellers! The cute bamboo bungalows and fabulous bar/restaurant nestle among palm trees beside a quiet bay lined with green. The place is run by Claudia, a tall, blonde Swiss and her husband Kermi, an Indonesian (he was not home, though). As it happened, all but one of the six other guests at Ankermi were Swiss too (the sixth being a Frenchman), so it sounded like little Europe.

Claudia told us a little about the local dive spots, and it sounded good. However, she pointed out that, due to a staff and boat shortage, she could not offer us a dive at the best spot, a reef on the other side of a small island, so we opted for a shore dive at the local wreck, a Japanese WWII freighter. So on Wednesday morning we donned the gear and went out with Ivan, our guide. It turned out to be a fascinating dive, with simply stacks of lionfish hovering around the contours of the boat. What a pity we did not have our camera! Our brand new Sony Cybershot (with marine housing) had stopped working in Lamalera.

We were disappointed to hear the unmistakeable boom of dynamite fishing twice during our dive. The northern coast of Flores has lost most of its prime reefs to this appalling fishing practice, which still continues despite being officially banned. (We'd also heard bombing while underwater off the coast of Semporna in Sabah).

In the afternoon, we took a walk along the beach and went for a lovely long snorkel, to the easterly side of the bay. That evening, we cast our customary restraint aside and had a good few beers with the Swiss guys and our hostess. The following morning, we took another long snorkel to the west side of the bay - stayed in the water for about 3 hours! Then, sadly, it was time to pack up and get ourselves to the airport for our 3pm flight to Bali. Coincidently, the three Swiss guys and one Frenchman, Eric, were also booked on the same flight, so we chartered a bemo together and sat around chatting while we waited for the plane (which ended up leaving an hour late). Goodbye, Flores and Lembata! We'd been absolutely enchanted by the friendly people and dramatic scenery of this far eastern corner of Indonesia.
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