The road to Ruteng

Trip Start Mar 19, 2008
Trip End Jun 05, 2008

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Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Monday, May 26, 2008

The drive to Bajawa was wonderful. First we passed over cloud touching mountains stopping at a local fruit and veg market. After that we wound through fantastic countryside, huge valleys steeped with rice paddies and curious locals looking at us through the car windows. We stopped at a shop to pick up water and the local kids nearly exploded with excitement. They gaped at Lisa, blonde hair and blue eyes are a bit of a rarity around here. Plus, they were fascinated to see the woman who finally tamed Paul McSherry....
We stopped in Ende for lunch and got served with by the most enthusiastic waitress, very eager to try out her English. Meanwhile, Franco, our married guide, was heavily flirting with the girls in the hairdressers next door. Lisa reckons he's got a girl in every port.
The scenery from Ende to Bajawa, our next stop, was nothing short of amazing. Huge volcano's shot out of the landscape and wide valleys covered in farms and jungle lined the road. Local kids chased the car and waved, all calling "Tourist!" and "Hello Mister" and "Bule!" - which Franco told us meant "white skinned" - racists!
You could see the kids go through stages of realisation. First they'd look at the jeep. Then they'd spot the bules, then their jaws would drop, then they'd grab their friends/family and point at us screaming "bule!" before waving and shouting Hello Mister, Hello Missus! We felt like royalty. Whenever we stopped, people would gather just to say hello or shake hands. When I took their picture there was great excitement when we showed them the pictures.
The road snaked down to the coast and we got to play on the black sand volcanic beaches. These ones in particular are famous for the peculiar blue stone that washes up on the shore. Locals have patches of beach that they collect stones from and sell so that you and I can decorate our bathrooms and back gardens with nice blue pebbles. It has to come from somewhere I suppose.
Just before we hit Bajawa, we came across a rather random motor-cross event. A bunch of locals were zipping around an open field on dirt bikes. A large crowd was watching and seemed to be willing on a crash. Once we arrived, we kind of attracted their attention and you could see girls giggling and guys staring at us. Hello Mister!
We got to Bajawa and had a look around the three hotels. We settled for a Rough Guides recommended place that was very basic, if well meaning. We did get a good view over Bajawa a fairly drab town surrounded by some dramatic volcano's.
Running hot water is non-existent in this part of the world so we enjoyed a bucket of hot water to freshen up. We got a lovely dinner in across the road where we bumped into the only other 2 tourist couples going the same direction as us. There's not really a lot of culinary choice around here.
The next morning we were brought to a Ngada tribe village. These guys still have limestone altar where human sacrifices used to take place. Thankfully they just sacrifice chickens and cattle these days. The village was lodged on the side of a lush valley, tucked beneath a volcano and when we arrived it was lashing rain. We got plenty of curious looks from the kids and old folks in their wooden huts (very well designed wooden huts, mind you) and lots of red stained smiles from the local women who chew bettle nuts. It stains their lips and teeth red making for some dazzling smiles.
The Ngada have plenty of contact with the outside world, a lot of the men work in local towns, but they still stick to their old tribal traditions. Very interesting, if very wet.
So the rest of the day we spent driving across Flores to Ruteng. We were pushing on a bit quicker then first planned as Pukey McPuke, aka Lisa McSherry, was feeling fairly carsick. The roads were very windy and we were spending 7 hours a day in the car, it would take a fairly strong constitution not to barf. Yay me!
Ruteng didn't have a huge amount going for it, just a dusty town with nothing but locals eager to practice their English. Thankfully we had a large bottle of locally brewed Arak that we picked up en route in some guys front garden (they all seem to sell home brew here) so we were able to numb ourselves against Ruteng.
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