What have we got ourselves into?

Trip Start Sep 24, 2009
Trip End Apr 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
Gardena Hotel

Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Sunday, October 25, 2009

The flight from Bali (delayed by an hour) first stopped in Sumbawa (the island between Lombok and Flores) before landing in Flores. After having a gorgeous views of Java and Bali when I flew in from Singapore, I was looking forward to some more fabulous views on this flight, but the cloud cover took care of that idea.

We landed in Maumere around 4pm, and knowing that we would be leaving early the next day, we decided to stay in the town area rather than going to the nicer beaches further out.

They say that Pittsburgh is the armpit of the nation in the US;  well, Maumere is the equivalent of that here in Flores!  The town was pretty much a dump.  Rubbish everywhere (and believe me, we've seen some pretty bad rubbish in our travels so far!), stagnant and smelly open drains, a surprising amount of graffiti around the place – and Alan lost count of the number of rats he saw.

Our room was just tolerable (although I think Alan will debate that point!) – and funnily enough, it was rated by the Lonely Planet guide and another blog that I had read as the best place in town.  But it was cheap at 90,000rp for the 2 of us = NZD$14.  And it included breakfast, which consisted of coffee and green bread (green from the pandan leaf), butter and jam.  I asked for mine to be toasted – and they ended up making a toastie out of it:  butter on the outside, and jam on the inside.  But it wasn’t actually toasted – just warmed up.

Maumere was a disappointing start to Flores, but we knew it was only for the night. 

Apparently, Maumere suffered a massive tsunami back in 1992 which killed 20,000 people and destroyed the coral reef that was supposed to be quite spectacular.  And of course, it destroyed many homes and buildings.  The government (local and otherwise) have done little to help re-establish the town, hence it’s ramshackle appearance.  We saw an abandoned, concrete block building that had massive sections missing from the wall, and we did wonder whether it was leftover from that period - there was no inclination to at least tear it down.

I also found that my ability to speak Indonesian wasn’t appreciated here in Maumere. No one could understand me, and no one spoke much English (aside from the guys at the hotel).  Dinner was ordered by pointing to pictures in a book. In Maumere, it seemed many spoke Sikkanese (sp?), a local dialect.

Our first priority was to establish how we were going to get to Moni, our next destination on Flores.  We spoke to someone at the hotel who tried to convince us to hire him as our personal driver for the days that we would be spending in Flores.  He had a 6-day program outlined, for a mere 650,000rp per day (about NZD$100 per day).  This was just for a driver, with very limited (if any) English.   We could also hire the guy that we were talking to, to provide the English commentary – but this would be significantly more.  We didn’t bother asking how much, and told him that both options were out of our backpacking budget.

So back to the original plan:  to catch a public bus for the 3 hour ride.   A couple of locals tried to talk us out of it, saying that they buses were often very crowded, that they often didn’t’ leave until they filled it up with people which meant we could be driving around for awhile trying to recruit additional passengers.  They suggested that for just a few dollars more, we could hire a 'shared taxi’ instead.

The shared taxis are actually quite nice, comfortable vehicles.  The idea (we thought) is that they hold 6 people.  Our ‘friend’ called his ‘friend’ and it turns out they had 2 seats available, and could pick us up at the hotel at 9am.  This seemed a much better option making our way to the bus terminal, then muck around for another hour or so while they tried to fill the bus.

So we agreed that this was the plan.  We figured we would leave at 9am, and be checked in at Moni by 11.30 (seeing that a shared taxi would be much quicker that a large old bus) giving us the afternoon to explore.

How wrong could we have been?!

(I didn't take many photos here, and the few that I did, were pretty shoddy, and we haven't loaded Alan's on to the PC yet.  

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