Komodo and Flores

Trip Start Apr 24, 2009
Trip End Aug 29, 2009

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Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Friday, August 21, 2009

As we didn't want to spend more than 40 hours on a bus, ferry, bus, ferry ride to get from Lombok to Flores via Sumbawa we went on a 3 day bus/boat "cruise". The first day was getting across Lombok by bus where we got to see some more of the village life on Lombok, like the coffee and tobacco plantations, instead of just places that mainly accommodate tourists.  Then we boarded a small vessel with about 20 other people. The next days we spent on the boat with a couple of stops along the way for some good snorkeling. But the main stop was Komodo Island home of the famous Komodo Dragons, the largest lizard in the world. We did a short walk on the island following a trail of tourists. On the way we didn’t get to see the dragons but “luckily” there were 3 dragons near the ranger’s huts. These 3 are sort of residents there waiting to be fed, although officially this is not allowed anymore as it is a national park. I must admit they are quite impressive and it was a thrill to be so close to these dragons but we both felt that it was sort of a zoo kind of feeling chasing these dragons with your camera. But then again our tour was called hunting komodo dragons with your camera! All in all it was a good and relaxing way to get to Flores but the Komodo dragons were a bit disappointing. But hey you can’t have it all. Arriving on Flores in the fishing port Labuan Bajo was like getting back to Indonesia. The locals are in the majority again unlike some places in Bali and Lombok. But still too many tourists and too little places to stay so we ended up in a shabby losmen (sort of hotel) but it had a spectacular view of the harbor and a great sunset view. On our bus ride along a long and winding, but paved(!), road across the green mountains and  the typical cone like volcanoes you realize that Flores is definitely less populated compared to the other islands with less traffic on the roads but it is also a lot poorer than other parts of Indonesia. The scenery is quite impressive with literally volcanoes around every bend in the road. After 10 hours we arrived in Bajawa. The area around Bajawa is known for the Ngada people who still live in traditional villages on the slopes of the Inerie volcano. With a local guide we went on a three day hike to visit and stay overnight in some of the villages and learn some more of the local customs which is a mix of their old animistic beliefs and Christianity (Catholic). The villages are all laid out in a typical pattern. In the middle of a village pairs of male (ngadhu) and female (bhaga) buildings are erected.  The male has the form of a parasol and the female has the form of a house. The amount of these pairs represents the amount of clans living in the village. All the houses are built in a similar way and depending on the number of clans living in a village a number of houses are designated male and female and have a statue on top of the house. (Either a small house if female and a male figure if it is a male house) They used to have a cast system but according to our guide this is not as strict anymore as it used to be. For certain occasions like weddings, funerals or when a new house or edifice is being initiated they will have ceremonies with animal sacrifices. But apart from this old animistic custom every village has its own cave with a shrine of Mary where they will pray on Sundays. Again the people here are really friendly and make you feel very welcome and the children just love to have their picture taken instead of asking for money or candy.  It was a very interesting hike with spectacular views of the Inerie Volcano that we sort of walked around this time instead of climbing it. Another winding 7 hour bus ride brought us to the village of Moni, the start off point for the Kelimutu volcano and its three multicolored lakes. The lakes get their colors from the minerals that are in the lakes and the colors change throughout time. The colors can vary from blue, turquoise, blue to black, brown or even white. This time one was black, one was dark green and one was turquoise. So early morning we went up on the back of a motorcycle in the dark for the sunrise. There is a paved road nearly all the way up so no long walk uphill this time. There were about 40 other people to watch the sunrise and to have a look at the colored lakes. What surprised us the most is that majority of them left straight after the sunrise when the colors are not at their best as you need direct sunlight into the lakes to bring out the bright colors. Then at around 7am the clouds came rolling in just as the sun was starting to light the lakes. Then the rest of the people left as well and we were the only ones left. We decided to wait a little longer and we got some sneak previews of the lakes and their true colors. Then all of a sudden all the clouds disappeared and we were there all alone enjoying the beautiful changes of color on the lakes.  It was a truly amazing sight. We really cannot understand why people make an effort to come all the way over here and then leave before the colors are at their best.  But we had a great time with the two of us which made it even more special. When walking back we realized that this was our last real adventure but a very good one.  The next day we went to Maumere to get our flight back to Bali. Here we’ll spend a couple of days in Ubud again for some relaxing in our little bungalow near the river and for some nice food. Then off to Hong Kong but more on that in our last blog.
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