Natural Wonders of Flores

Trip Start Nov 07, 2009
Trip End Jun 17, 2010

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Where I stayed
Green Hill Inn

Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Saturday, February 20, 2010

After James left Gili Air it just wasn't the same anymore and we decided to leave Gili two days after James to go further East in Indonesia, to Flores. We knew the trip will take us roughly 36h by bus and 2 ferries (completely crossing Sumbawa, an island bigger than Bali and Lombok combined) , so we weren't exactly looking forward to it. In the end we figured though that having a ferry trip in between the bus journeys is a nice break, with fresh air and enough space to stretch out the legs and meeting fellow travellers.

The bonding power of this long journey was pretty strong so by the time we arrived in Labuhanbajo, a charming little harbour town on the west tip of the island, we had a  group of 15 people of ages 22-65 of various nationalities who all checked into the same couple of hotels. 
The following day, after enough sleep, we all chartered a boat for a day to go to Rinca Island, one of the two islands of the Komodo National Park where you can see the Komodo dragons. Another Unesco World Heritage we could tick off our list... Komodo dragons are the worlds largest lizards and can reach more than three meters in length and weigh as much as 90kg. Once on the island we felt like we've been dropped into a scene of Jurassic Park. Flesh-eating giant dragons just seem to be coming out of a land long before our time. Although the dragons look docile and slow they can move quickly when they want to kill one of its prey - everything from deer, boar and buffalo to snakes, monkeys, wild horses and rarely, humans (depending on availability and stupidity of tourists). 
Already on Gili we were told that Flores is one of the best dive destinations on the planet. And we were not disappointed! We've seen fish in sizes we didn't know existed! Huge Sweetlip fishs and Napoleon fishs swam next to us, the Napoleon can grow up to 2m, and this isn't a fisherman's tale! But the best of all were two dives we did with 5m Manta rays, the third biggest creature in the ocean next to whales and sharks. As the Indian ocean meets the Pacific ocean around Flores there are plenty of strong currents, where Mantas like to "hang out" - we spotted over 15 in two dives.
Manta rays are so majestic and graceful; the most impressive moment was probably when we positioned ourselves close by one and it started coming slowly, slowly towards us and eventually it hovered over us less than a metre away and then flew over us and away. Truly amazing! (Check-out our video below!)
As we spent more time in Ubud and Gili than originally anticipated, we took the decision to charter a car with a driver (nah - car hire only doesn't exist here) for three days to get to the West of the island. Luckily, Leslie and Greg, a nice Canadian couple, were looking to do the very same, so we shared not only the costs but also many Mentos and Sugus on the way!
Flores is one out of 17,000 islands of Indonesia. On our trip over this island we've seen how diverse this one island is and it made us wonder what all the other islands have to offer. At the coast we've seen white sandy beaches, blue pebbled beaches and black volcanic sand beaches. The rugged mountains are mainly volcanos, many of them still active but dormant. Further we've been "rice paddied-up" to the fullest: field rice paddies, terraced rice paddies and spiderweb rice paddies - literally any kind of rice paddies you can imagine. We've also seen hundreds of tree species including mango and grapefruit, which was nice to see that they actually grow on trees. (And I always thought they grown in Tesco's or Migros...)
The people of Flores are really friendly and they generally try to communicate with the tourists. Matt heard a lot of "Hello Mister" and "Hello Tourist", mainly from children, who ran after our car or came to us as soon as we got out of the car. Sweets were always a hit, but since we ate a lot ourselves during the drive we soon swapped over to pens. Augustino, our brilliant driver, helped us a lot with translation and understanding of the Flores culture as well as ordering food in the local warungs (food stalls)
On our wacky 700km race from East to West up and down the windy roads we stopped in Bena, which is traditional village, where people have buffalos skulls and jaws on their houses to show the families prosperity (Matt better start hunting now, so we have at least a calf skull before we retire...). The women are weaving traditional sarongs which are much thicker and warmer then what you can buy usually at every beach, due to high altitude. After a successful purchase I have to say, that Matt looks really pretty in a dress. 
The main reason why we started heading West was Kelimutu, a volcano with three summit crater lakes varying in colours. Local people believe that spirits come to Kelimut when people die. Which lake the spirit would enter depends on its age and character when alive. Science still can't explain why the water's colour changes without any prior natural clues. The mineral contained in the water causes the water to change into unpredictable colour, that much is known. as well as the situation in Kelimutu changes not only due to the lakes' colour but also to the climate. It is therefore no wonder that this truly mystical place has become a legend since the old days and has kept its magic spell up until now as Matt and I were absolutely enchanted by it.
After Kelimutu we headed for Maumere, where we intended to take a plane back to Bali. We heard a lot of backpacker stories about flying (or rather more not flying) out of Maumere: flights been overbooked and tourists been kicked out, flights been cancelled, rerouted and more. We called the Merpati Airline office and made a booking five days before our flight. We were never quite sure if we really talked to Merpati or an agent and if we actually did have a booking or not. So when we finally arrived in Maumere and went first to the airport and then to the town office in Merpati we were pleasantly surprised, that they did have indeed a booking in our name for the wished date. Now the question was only if they will fly on the day. And yes they did! Once on board we became a bit suspicious, why there was "Merpati Training Centre" written on the head rest of every seat but to our relief it all went smooth and even the luggage arrived safely with us in Bali.
Can't believe our time in Asia is already coming to an end! Next update from Down Under.
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Traute Cordes on

Liebe Gaby, lieber Matt,

es ist so fantastisch, was ihr alles erleben dürft - man könnte neidisch werden - aber ich gönne es Euch und bewundere Euren Mut.
Weiterhin eine tolle Reise und wunderschöne Erlebnisse.

Liebe Grüsse aus Bonstetten - hier liegt immer noch Schnee !!! 13. März

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