Twisting Our Way to Ruteng
Trip Start Sep 17, 2011
20Trip End Oct 07, 2011
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Our driver, whose name is Gabriel (we think)) picked us up at the Bayview Gardens hotel in Bajo at 7:45 sharp, and after loading our suitcases in a 2-wheel drive SUV, we headed out on our overland tour. It was a pleasant morning, lots of sunshine, passing through small villages consisting of ramshackle huts. Soon enough we were climbing into the mountains via a narrow paved roadway that twisted and turned with stomach churning regularity. There were very short stretches of level, straight road followed by dozens of hairpin turns. Once we finished climbing the first mountain, we were immediately twisting our way down the other side and on to the next mountain.
We stopped for a cold drink about 2 hours into the day--a dark and cavernous hole in the wall, passing itself off as a cafe. I had to go to the bathroom and was waved in the general direction of the back of the shop, I followed the direction, out through a back door into what looked like a garage (there was a car parked in there). I spotted the "bathroom" almost immediately. I'm going to have Bill post a picture of it so you can see what it looked like, rather than try to describe its quaintness. I did get startled, while in the stall, when a COW mooed really loudly right behind my back, on the other side of the wall. Other than that excitement, here are a few other observations on this first road trip day: Women sitting in dooryards picking nits out of each other's hair. A guy walking down the road carrying a dead chicken. A man walking his cow down the street by its nose. Heck, we saw a live chicken hanging by its feet from someone's motorcycle handlebars. We also followed a local bemo (which is a short bus usually loaded with seated local passengers and frequently having half a dozen men sitting on the roof too) for several miles, looking at a full grown ( pig which had been trussed up on the end of the vehicle. Gabriel said it was alive, but we hoped not because it was lying on its side, completely tied on, and it looked awfully miserable
We reached Ruteng in the early afternoon, stopping for lunch at about the only place that looked safe to eat. Bill ordered fried chicken and what he got was a tiny joint of meat, about 3 bites' worth, and 4 cucumber slices. I'd ordered the chicken satay and we both had side dishes of rice, so we were able to fill up somewhat on that. Ruteng itself is pretty grim and dirty, with piles of garbage on street corners, lots of broken-down buildings with tin roofs; just basically an air of dereliction wherever one looked. Gabriel wanted to know where we were hoping to spend the night, and we indicated that we'd like to stay at a place called Kongregasi Santa Maria Berdukacita, which is a convent,. We'd read about it in Lonely Planet. There weren't many other options in town, and this place was apparently clean as a whistle and had hot water. So yes, we stayed the night in a convent, with nuns padding around and keeping an eye on us. Our room was large and must have originally been used as nun barracks, because we had our choice of two bathroom stalls (side by side) and three shower stalls (on the opposite wall, side by side) plus the size of the bedroom dwarfed the king size bed, which was basically the only piece of furniture in the room (other than 2 armoires with broken handles and a tiny desk and hard chair)
We walked into town for dinner and had some great Chinese food. Of course, it was dark out by the time we were finished, so we had to walk home on streets with street lamps that were not turned on. It wasn't so bad, not nearly like Labuan Baj, but still walking in the dark can be less than fun. Back in our room, we immediately went to sleep (it was 8 p.m.) because there wasn't anything else to do. It was not the best rest I've ever gotten, although Bill appeared to sleep better than me. There were mosquitoes buzzing around our faces, my nose was completely stuffed shut, and there was lots of activity going on outside, on the other side of the convent gates--things like loud disco music, nonstop motorcycle traffic, barking dogs, and 4 roosters who took turns crowing over and over again directly beneath our windows. It was with a sense of relief when the sky began to lighten. Bill woke pretty refreshed, but that's probably because he'd sprayed himself with insecticide at the first sign of mosquito activity. I'll write all about our lovely convent breakfast in the next entry. For now, it's time to get some shut eye. I somehow caught Bill's cold and am a little under the weather (but it'll pass).
In the next entry I'll describe our trip from Ruteng to Bajawa, a distance of 130 kilometers. Stay tuned!