We last left off having just arrived in Flores. We flew from Jogjakarta to Denpasar and then onto Labuanbajo in Flores. We had no accommodation booked so asked to be dropped off at a restaurant in the town. Jim walked up and down the street first, trying to find a room, but had no luck. I then went the other way with no luck. We eventually settled on a small guesthouse which we ended up hating and moved to a great guesthouse which we absolutely loved which had superb views over Flores. Since we decided to travel to Indonesia, Jim has been continually talking about seeing the Komodo Dragons and diving in Komodo National Park, so it was for these reasons that we found ourselves in Flores
. Labuanbajo was not what we were expecting. It was a ramshackle little water font town with a few decent restaurants. There were no footpaths, open sewers and it was hot. The trips out to the islands were however, well worth the effort.DIVING KOMODO -
Jim is a keen diver and he booked a dive trip out to the Komodo Islands. I went along to snorkel. He loved the diving. I watched him emerge from his first dive and he came to the surface without a ripple. He was as smooth as a seal and smiling. It was so lovely. My snorkeling experience was one of the most exquisite moments I have experienced. The currents were strong and they just pushed you along a passage between two islands. The sights that were in front of my eyes were too much to take in. I did not know where to look. The colors of the coral and fish were magnificent. I saw turtles, sting rays, manter rays and tuna. I felt like I was in an aquarium!! THE BRILLIANT GERMANS -
One of the great things about going on dive trips is the people you meet. On the way out to the islands we had to stop to pick up two Germans from their yacht. They got on board and we were both immediately intrigued. The yacht was quite small and we wondered how long they had been on board and where they were traveling to
. You could immediately see that these were two people that you wanted to have a conversation with. They both looked to be in their late thirties/early forties and looked happy, at ease and relaxed. We needed to know more! Fortunately, we got our chance to spend quite a bit of time with these amazing people. This is their story.
Christine and Christian have been traveling for three and a half years on their yacht!! They started their trip from Germany and went to the Caribbean, then through the Panama Canal, onto Hawaii, Tonga, New Zealand, Fiji, Micronesia, Indonesia and were then going onto Mauritius, South Africa and eventually back home to Germany!
How can people stop their lives and travel around the world on a small yacht you are wondering? We were too, so we asked them. This had been a dream of Christian's since he was a child. Did their friends and family support their decision? Absolutely not! Their parents and friends said that they were mad and that they simply could not do this. They were constantly asked questions like, What about money? How will you find jobs when you finally come home? What about pirates? How will you deal with boredom? What will you do if you get sick? To all of these questions they just said that, 'It will all be fine'
. I was so curious as to what they did prior to this massive life change. Well, he was a Doctor and she was a Business Executive. They were earning good money and had a nice life but wanted an adventure. They said that they did not want to live the same monotonous, conventional and stable life like most people they knew. They wanted to live their dreams!! So they did!! They saved and planned for the trip, told their families they were going for three years but secretly planned for five years. Unfortunately the world is more expensive now, and they will have been away for 4 and a half years when they eventually return home to Germany. They plan to work in the same fields again and will start worrying about that a couple of months before they reach Germany. They have never been bored, love each others company, have sundowners every night on their deck watching the sun set and have not been sick! So there you have it, you can live your dreams and do whatever your want to do. You just have to do it. We found the Germans to be completely inspirational!! As we said to them 'Das is sehr, sehr gut'!!!!!LIVING YOUR DREAMS
- In the span of two days we met a number of fascinating people who have said the words "I am living my dreams". We met an American dive instructor who lives in Fiji and was diving Komodo. She told us that 'It was her lifes dream to dive the Komodo Islands'. We met a Spanish guy with extremely long dreadlocks who was traveling the world for 8 months
. He was recounting some of his fabulous adventures and then said 'What to do, this is my dream'. So it seems that Komodo was all about 'LIVING THE DREAM' and the great news is that plenty of people are!!THE KOMODO DRAGONS
- We took another boat trip out to Komodo National Park to see the Komodo Dragons. The boats are old wooden dhows complete with uncomfortable plastic chairs. The motors are extremely loud and they move slowly! They also break down often, as our boat did! Seeing the Komodo Dragons is the big drawcard to Flores as the National Park was recently declared as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. The Komodo Dragon is the largest lizard in the world and the national park is your opportunity to hike and see the Komodo dragons. This is all taken rather seriously and you need to take a park ranger and guide with you, both armed with large scary sticks, to ensure you are protected from the Komodo dragons. We saw the Komodo Dragons but they were far from scary. In fact the word 'slothful' comes to mind. The dragons barely moved an eye lid, yet the rangers were screaming out 'get back, get back, not too close' We were laughing about it later, as those Komodo Dragons were not moving for anyone or anything on that day!!! A HOMESTAY IN MONI
- After 5 days in Labuanbajo we had a desire to see more of Flores so we took a flight to Ende which is 2 hours from Moni, our next destination
. We were sitting at the airport in Labuanbajo, which resembled an old bus terminal, and finally our small plane landed. We watched as chickens were off loaded and a king size bed was carried across the tarmac by 3 men. We landed in Ende, later than expected, and missed the bus to Moni. There were a crowd of men chasing us, telling us that there was no bus and that they would drive us to Moni. I did not believe that there was no bus so was walking away saying no, no. We did not want to spend the night in Ende, so eventually, we took a lift (at a good price due to my initial disinterest). The drive to Moni was beautiful. We climbed mountain passes and the air was cold and fresh. We had not been cool for so long. We arrived in Moni and stayed with a family on a farm. They had 4 adjacent rooms to their house. The local who lived there with his family was named Brian. The town in Moni is tiny. There is one main road with ramshackle houses and cafes. There is no Internet, supermarket or post office but it is beautiful and green. Moni is a picturesque village sprinkled with rice fields and surrounded by volcanic peaks. The highlight in Moni is Mt Kelimutu. Brian organised for his cousins to take us to Mt Kelimutu which is a mountain comprised of three, deep volcanic lakes of varying colors. We set off and had a wonderful day. We were on the back of two motorbikes with the wind in our faces. We visited and hiked up to Mt Kelimutu, spent time at some local villages, met a Village Chief and found hot springs in the middle of rice fields
. We had a perfect day that day. You do however realize just how lucky you are when you hear other peoples stories. Later that night whilst chatting to Brian on our porch, he told us that he had three children. We had only seen one of his daughters up till then. He also had twins but unfortunately they were born with too much fluid in their brains and cannot sit upright. He said that all they can do is just lie there. He has no access to medical help so is just hoping that things will get better. You could feel the pain in his voice as he hoped against hope that his situation would improve. THE MAD BUS FROM MONI TO MAUMERE
- There was no bus station either in Moni, so you just had to wave down the bus roadside. Our backpacks were thrown onto the roof and we jumped onto a small mini bus that had a stereo system that could have been used for a night club. This music pumped so loud the whole way to Maumere that Jim had to use ear plugs as it was hurting his ears. The locals smoked on the bus and they kept repeating the same songs over and over. We do not want to hear the Titanic theme song for at least 12 months! Even the reggae sounded bad as it was so loud that the sound was completely distorted!! Finally, we hit Maumere and they dropped us off somewhere outside the town. We did not know where we were of course. This time it was 6 motorbike riders who were all vying for our business
. Once again, I said no and walked away with my pack. They of course immediately dropped their price. Before I knew what was happening, Jim had agreed to the new price and they were grabbing my back pack. They put our large packs between their legs, we sat on the back of the bikes and off we charged. We were quite a way from our accommodation unbeknown to us, so with the wind in our faces, no idea where we were and if they were taking us where we wanted to go, we zoomed off. It was all good. We got there! Maumere was another ramshackle town, the only transport was on the back of motorbikes. We would walk out of the hotel and stand on the side of the road and motorbikes would stop. You would tell them where you wanted to go and they would take you. This was the only way to get around in Maumere. We got quite used to this by the end. Maumere was sea side so it was a chance to relax, unwind and plan the next stage of the journey.TIMOR & THE BEMO INCIDENT
- We decided that it would be good to see some of West Timor so we took a flight from Maumere to West Timor. Kupang in West Timor was extremely poor and was very much the quintessential scruffy water front town. Having said that, we liked it. It had a charm about it that intrigued you beyond the chaos of the public transport system! A little bit about the transport in Kupang. The only means of transport was by bemo and bemos in Kupang are unique
. They are brightly colored bass thumping hip hop vehicles and you wave them down. You are jammed on a small seat (around 7 each side of the bemo so you are staring at the people across from you with no real leg room) and they move quickly. You need to hold on or you hit your head on the roof of the bemo. Just ask Jim!! Getting to the central market was no problem as their were some friendly locals on the bus who told the driver where we wanted to go and then told us where to get off. Getting back to the hotel was another matter.
We were in the main street and we were waving down bemo after bemo. They would stop and when we would show them the name of our hotel they would say 'no no' and drive off. A group of locals were watching our failed attempts at getting onto a bemo and they called us over. They offered to take us on their motorbikes but we were a long way from our hotel, the roads were busy, rough and it was dark. They decided to help us wave down the right bemo. At one stage there were 10 locals standing with us at the edge of the road trying to help us get a bemo. After about 20 minutes the right bemo came and we got on. It was all going well, another adventure in a day of traveling when the bemo broke down. It was totally full and without the breeze from movement, Jim began perspiring profusely. We were also stuck in a major traffic jam due to road works. They tried to push the bemo but it would not start. We found ourselves off the bus and walking along the road works with limited transport options
. We walked for about 20 minutes and another bemo suddenly appeared. We showed them the hotel card and they said 'yes'. How lucky are we we said to each other!!. It was not before too long when Jim noticed that we were going in a very different direction. He said,' they are not taking us to our hotel, they are going to dump us somewhere'. 'Surely not', I said. Jim was right. They tried to drop us at a motorbike stand in the middle of nowhere. I just looked at them and said 'No, we are not getting off. You said you would drop us at our hotel and you need to, we are not moving'. They could not speak English well, so it was all a bit messy. They took off and we did not know where we were going. They went to a petrol station and then we finally felt like we were going in the right direction. We were the only ones left on the bus now, apart from one laughing lady and the bus men. We saw our hotel. They tried to increase the price of the fare. Once again I just looked at them and said 'no'. We did give them a little bit more in the end as they did deliver us to our destination, but that was it. Just a little bit of bemo madness!!! FINALLY SOME RED WINE AND ANOTHER BRILLIANT GERMAN
- We stayed in a Mexican themed hotel called La Hacienda and were fortunate enough to meet the German owner and engage in some very interesting conversations. He invited us to a roof top party at the hotel
. When we arrived we found out that it was his 50th birthday and we were the only hotel guests there, along side his friends and family. Since we left Australia we have had no red wine. It has been available from time to time, but always overpriced, poor quality wine and usually sitting ice cold in a fridge. I have been desperate enough at times to suggest 'trying one out just to see'. Jim refuses point blank to go anywhere near any of it. So 6 weeks in and no wine. When we arrived at the roof top party there was a bottle of red on the table but it was empty. We sat down and bottles of red were put on the table. My face lit up. I had to hold myself back to exhibit some degree of decorum and not appear to be the wine monster that I really am!! It was Jacobs Creek - to be avoided usually - but not on this occasion. We drank it and enjoyed it and felt so lucky to finally have some red wine on our starving and betrayed palates. It was a 2009 which helped the situation. This roof top party was a wonderful opportunity to meet expats who are living in Timor. It seems that Timor is a relaxed expat lifestyle but not decadent in any way. Little things like chocolate cake, access to good wine and even cappuccinos are all in short supply. Parties & Dinner parties are rare and casual drop ins and a beer are more the state of play. Not very Abu Dhabi like at all!! It was great to see another side to expat life. Later in the evening, we were talking to Michael and he told us that he used to work in a factory in Germany
. He was tired of that life and traveled around the world for two years. He said it was the most amazing time of his life and changed him forever. He met his wife on this trip, she was the same age as him and was singing in a bar in Bali to earn money to put herself through law school. She was amazing - one of those really competent women but incredibly warm with a great sense of humour. You could see that they adored each other. After Michael got back from his two years abroad he never went back to his old job. He started working overseas and now owns and runs a superb Mexican themed hotel in Timor. Once again dreams really can come true!! The party was great and ended with a group of us singing 'Hotel California' and substituting it with the words 'Hotel Hacienda' You have to love Timor - we did!
Well that is the fifth update - next time around will be from Borneo. That really is the end of our time in Indonesia. We spent 7 weeks in total and we have barely touched the surface. It is absolutely huge and there are so many beautiful islands that warrant exploration.
Thank you so much for reading and we look forward to hearing from you. Please drop us a line so that we know what is happening with you too! We miss you (almost as much as our red wine!!)
Sending you lots of hugs
Sharon and Jim xxxx
Greetings once again from Semporna in Borneo. Thank you so much for your responses, we really enjoy reading them. They are very funny, creative and are certainly 'keeping the blog alive' Please keep them coming as will we!!