Ende, Indonesia: Change of Plans

Trip Start Jul 28, 2013
Trip End Feb 06, 2014

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Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Saturday, January 25, 2014

Despite being afforded extra time to sleep we were up just gone 0600 due to dogs fighting and causing a ruckus. Leo had disappeared so we packed bags and waited until bang on 0900 when a big bus pulled up with Leo yelling "Come. I have your bus. Direct to Ende". What a legend! Maybe, just maybe, this will be our first drama free travel day.

But no, then I wouldn't have anything to complain about and this here entry would be 2 paras instead of 20. First off we stopped at the nearby town of Mbay for five minutes which turned into one and a half hours in the stinking heat. You couldn't sit on the bus because everyone was smoking. You couldn't stand outside because it was too hot. We marvelled at a heap of birds tied up and laying on the ground. Some looked as if they were playing dead in the hope of being set free. A few pigs squealed and thrashed about with the their legs tied together, breathing heavy knowing the end was near. Two goats balanced on the roof of a van as it bounced along the dirt road. Dogs yapped and yelped.

We then watched as the bird seller packed away his produce which involved him standing on the roof of a truck whilst another person threw bunches of the birds up to him. They were then tied down with rope all over the roof and along the sides. By the time he was finished the truck was covered in chickens, ducks and geese.

Returning to our bus we were greeted with bunches of chickens hung upside down outside the windows and along the back door. Getting on and off all you could think was 'bird flu, bird flu, bird flu'.

When we finally left Mbay the rest of the journey to Ende passed in a blur of green hills and sparkling ocean. It was when we arrived into Ende that the problems started. Despite the bus dropping everyone off outside their respective homes he did not want to drop us off at the terminal so instead pulled up on the side of the road and told us to get in a bemo which was parked just up ahead.

Getting in said bemo we were greeted with the usual heart thumping, ear pulverising bass. You can't hear any of the words or other instruments just an earth shattering doof doof doof that must surely defy sound wave limitations. From that bemo we were dropped outside a terminal and told to get in another car to Moni, which was two hours away. Two hours to travel 15km I might add. Plus he wanted us to pay IDR 100,000. Telling him to jog on Sam walked across to the terminal where he was greeted by a pack of wolves sticking together and refusing to budge - they wanted IDR 200,000. So it was back to guy number one who I had taken an instant dislike to.

The problem with travelling in the low season is (a) none of the locals can be bothered working (b) they charge high rates to make up for the fewer travellers; and (c) it takes three times as long to fill transport and you don't go anywhere until the car/bus is full. Pain in zee arse, especially as we had already been travelling for 6 1/2 hours and still had another 2 hours to go plus however long we needed to wait on the side of the road to fill the car.

It was for that reason (and because I'm an absolute delight to be around when pissed off) that we made the decision to ditch the rest of the islands and head back to Bali or rather Nusa Lembongan, an island located just off the coast of Bali. Marc and Maaike had raved about it, conjuring up images of exactly what we were looking for - cheap beach huts, white sand, good snorkelling, diving and some night life. Perfecto.

Yes it would have been lovely to see the rest of the islands but we'd already had so many problems due to weather it seemed silly to continue on and spend more money when we weren't going to be able to do half the things we wanted to, especially when conditions were only going to get worse. We couldn't trek volcano's due to cloud and landslides. Island hopping was out due to high seas and rain. Ferries were cancelled. Dirt roads were flooded. Visibility for snorkelling and diving was pretty crap. Waterfalls were inaccessible. The list went on and on.

I think if we weren't going to live in Australia then we would have persisted but knowing they were only a few hours flight away made the decision easier. At least for me. Much better to come back in the dry season when we can see and do everything we want to.

And so, it was with that decision made, that we ran across the road and flagged down a bemo to take us to the airport. That's the part I do love about travel - one minute you're heading to the mountains, the next you're at the airport booking a flight to somewhere else.

The last flight to Bali had already left for the day so we booked on one the following day and jumped in a bemo to a hotel. Turns out it was driven by a bunch of punk kids that should have been in school rather than driving around a beatbox pretending to work. They didn't have a clue where they were going so we ended up being dumped on the side of the road. With Sam's keen sense of direction we managed to walk the right way and eventually stumbled across the hotel we had originally been looking for.

Fed up, hungry and thirsty we checked in and went in search of a restaurant. Confused as to why everything was closed on a Thursday it made a little more sense discovering it was in fact a Saturday. All shops shut with not a restaurant in sight. "Go down to the beach" we were told. Spotting a glimmer at the end of an alley we emerged on a litter filled beach that would have rivalled some of the most polluted I've seen in India and Africa. The only thing missing were piles of human poo abuzz with flies. Trust me, it's a favourite past time for some people in certain countries. We've seen it.

Treading lightly through debris we made our way up through a market place smelling of rotting fish carcasses next to which a small stream lay stagnant, filled with rubbish. From first impressions I don't think Ende is a town you'll be seeing in the Lonely Planet's Top 10 Destinations list any time soon.

On our drive into town we passed a church. Not one of the faith this would not usually be something to generate excitement but in a Muslim rich country a town full of mosques indicates an early wake up, no beer and respectable clothing i.e. covered shoulders and knees. Whereas a town with a church means there's beer to be had and you can strip down to your shorts and a vest top. Brilliant, thank you Jesus.

True to form we rounded a corner and there, like a glowing beacon, stood a Chinese restaurant that was open and serving beer that was kept hidden at the back of the fridge. Turns out it wasn't such an awful day after all.
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