Upland Flores - Ruteng

Trip Start May 19, 2006
Trip End Jun 17, 2006

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Friday, June 2, 2006

We hired a jeep and headed to the hills. Flores is very mountainous, which has created a host of linguistically and culturally distinct regions on a rather small island. The difficulty of travel across the island was quickly apparent - a narrow, windy, and often under-construction road snaked up and down steep ravines. The scenery was breath-taking, and sometimes it flattened out enough to permit rice paddies (terraced in most areas) and other agriculture (coffee, cloves, vanilla, tangerines, etc.) We passed through many villages that still had traditional elements, such as houses with walls woven of bamboo in intricate patterns, and bamboo pig and goat coops. People, especailly children, waved and hollered "hello, mister" or just shouted as we passed by.

After several hours, we arrived in Ruteng, a large town in the highlands that was blissfully cool in the evening compared to the rest of the trip. We visited the soccer stadium - in a few days home to the regional championships - with amazing views over several valleys and volcanos. We then had dinner at the home of freinds of Karrie and Michael's co-worker, Father Adam. Ruteng (and most of Flores) is primarly Catholic.

The next day we got up early to hike a volcano - Gunung Ranaka. The 9 km round trip hike was quite a workout, but with beautiful views, later above the clouds! After lunch we wandered around the market: full of fruits, vegetables, hunks of meat, mass-produced consumer goods, and traditional sarongs and cloth. We were unsuccessful in bargaining over the sarongs we liked best but bought a number of things.

Finally we piled back into the car to head back to Labuan Bajo. The car had been showing signs of distress - the horn stopped working upon arrival in Ruteng, a really worrisome thing with so many bling curves on the roads. In the afternoon the driver told us that something on the car had broken but had it fixed ... supposedly. On our drive back the car became incerasingly recalcitrant when going up hill, until about half way back it began to crawl to a halt and stall whenever we had too little momentum to stay in 2nd gear going up hill. There were numerous slow slides down preciptous curves, and eventually we would get out and push whenever this happened. A bus going to Labuan Bajo came along and offered to drive behind us all the way back to help out if necessary. It did become necessary - the 4 of us eventually transferred to the bus and the lightened car managed to do pretty well. Half an hour from our destination, the driver claimed that it was al downhill from there and we shoould get back in teh car, which we did. Of course, it was not ALL downhill, and we did have to get out and push 4 or 5 times, but we did make it ...
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