Trip Start Feb 07, 2004
Trip End Dec 15, 2005

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Saturday, June 4, 2005

Arriving at Ende airport, Flores, John & I managed to negotiate a deal amongst the bombardment of taxi drivers, to deliver us to the "bus station". We were the 18th & 19th passengers crammed in amongst luggage and livestock in the 12 seater 'bemo' for the 2 hour drive to Moni. The countryside was beautiful up the narrow winding road and I didn't really mind the little wooden stool which supported me between the fixed seating sliding around a little, nor the old lady falling asleep on my shoulder, but I did become a little concerned about catching tuberculosis or some other respiratory disease from all phlegm spouting from the gentlemen behind me.

Moni is a tiny little hillside village scoping about 500 metres alongside the main road. Not much seems to happen here, and any news is big news, including where two blow-in tourists choose to take their accommodation. Actually, this choice seemed to be made for us when the Bemo stopped outside a particular guest-house and our bags automatically became unloaded. So I used the 3 Indonesian words I've so far mastered (Beer, Toilet, & How much?) to explain that we would tell them where in the village we wanted to stay. Our bags were reluctantly returned to the bus. A 100m further on I left John to fend off the barrage of people wanting our sleeping rupiah and crossed the road to investigate the 'luxury' guesthouse in which we wanted to stay. As it turned out, this was full, so naturally I asked the (Dutch) local where the next best place was and returned to assist John, who by now was reaching for his umbrella (yes, he really does carry one!) in order to defend himself from the onslaught. The owners of the guesthouse opposite to where we wanted to stay became increasingly vocal as we headed away from them, a few "tourist advisers" in tow.

We'd barely placed our bags in the rooms when a nice woman approached us and asked that I return to speak to her husband, the Dutch man from the 'luxury' guesthouse. Walking back up the road I hoped that the crowd gathering ahead were simply waiting for a bus, sadly, no. Peter, the Dutch man, explained that the guesthouse owners across the road were accusing him of deterring tourists from them and that the crowd was here to watch his execution, could I please explain the truth to them? Well the crowd seemed content enough with my explanation of wanting to stay in a peaceful, non-confronting place, as opposed to being dragged in through the doors of the place opposite, but those owners weren't interested. It was only after accepting a Bintang from Peter that he asked if I'd seen the machete beneath the jacket of male guesthouse owner, I hadn't.

Peter explained that tourism had fallen to about a third that of pre 9/11, and though he'd been married to a local Indonesian woman for 7 years, he & his euros were still often viewed with contempt and jealousy.

As the sunset, John & I set out down the road to explore the rest of the town. Returning 10 minutes later, task completed, I settled in for a delicious meal of Gado-gado and an early night before our 4am start to Kelimutu to see the coloured volcanic lakes - the reason Moni exists.

Well, by 5am the bemo taking us up to Kelimutu still hadn't arrived, so we returned to bed. Following breakfast, we were able to move into the 'luxury' guesthouse as well as negotiate a truck ride up to the volcanoes for a little over 3 times the regular fare (A$8), it was worth it though, the volcanic crater-lakes are beautiful (even better than Rotorua NZ).

We walked the 10kms back down to Moni, stopping for a hot-spring bath amongst the rice fields and to show some children their photos on my digital camera. Back at the guesthouse we started planning our escape. The following morning, however, we received a request to attend the local police station to give evidence on the previous day's arguments! Not impressed, and not wanting to miss our bus out, we took our time to pack first, and thankfully the arguments were resolved before we made it to the police station. I was glad to be crammed in amongst the chickens and bags of rice, bussing out of this too small village.
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