Christmas in Flores (Bajawa and Moni)

Trip Start Jul 27, 2004
Trip End Dec 13, 2006

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

At Labuanbajo we got on a bus to Bajawa and were treated to 3 circuits of the town before leaving to make sure we picked up every last passenger possible. The 10hour ride to Bajawa was along a winding road through scenic green mountains for most of the way.. which meant lots of plastic bags were needed for the kids... In Bajawa, a scenic mountain town, we found a friendly hotel called the Edelweiss.. not sure what the Swiss connection was though. On Xmas Eve they put up the Xmas tree complete with nativity scene and flashing lights & they also played Xmas carols at full blast all day (We wish you a Merry Xmas in Indonesian...) We were staying in Bajawa with two other couples we had met.. Martin & Annie from Canada and Patrick & Sonia from Spain and we all picked a name out of the Secret Santa hat to buy a Xmas present and spent the day dodging each other in the few shps and market. I resisted the temptation to buy someone one of the many live chickens for sale!!! On Xmas Eve night we were invited to a family meal by Francisco, a friendly Indonesian we had met in Labuanbajo. The six of us and all his family (Uncles, Sisters and Cousins) sat on the floor on coconut matting and ate a huge Ikan Bakar (BBQ Fish) as well as Beef in Coconut Milk, Fish Curry, Tempe, Rice, Vegetables & Chillie Sambal. It was a delicious meal and great fun to meet all his family even if there were a few communication problems! After the meal we headed to another house for a huge party where we all drank lots of Bintang (beer), Whiskey and an assortment of local spirits. Before long the 80's music was cranked up and there was lots of dancing and the locals had some great moves which had us laughing all night. On Xmas Day Martin hired us a car and we toured around some of the local traditionl villages. All the houses had thatched roofs with the bones and skulls of pigs and buffalo hanging from them and some had little dolls on top of the thatch. There were also wooden temples and graves and the locals welcomed us to have a look around whilst they all had a good luck at us! In Bela the first village Martin and Paul played football with some of the children whilst Mandy had a group of girls queuing up to have their dirty black fingernails painted pink. The next village, Lubu, had a crazy old woman who danced around and pulled faces at us.. she was quite an entertainer. Here we gave the children 'gula' (sweets) to the cries of "satu lagi" (One more..). The last village, Bena, had the most spectacular location on a hillside under the volcano Gunung Ierie. Lots of the men wanted to shake our hands and ask us questions about where we were from.. our limited Indonesian was very useful! The old women were just as curious and they all chew 'betel nut' which is a mild stimulant, turns their (toothless) mouths bright red and produces lots of saliva so they are constantly spitting red into the dirt! It was a great day and really good to see some of the children happy even though they are all so poor... some of the villages still don't have running water and none had electricity. Xmas Day night was quiet compared to the night before and on Boxing Day we all headed off on the bus to Moni, 6hours away. Moni is a small mountain village and is again in a very beautiful location. We arrived mid-afternoon, found a quiet place to stay and then had a walk outside the village which was very peaceful until the local teenage boys started racing motorcycles past us! Back in the village we looked around the pasar (market) and tried the smoked fish and local sweet breads. The locals were all still in holiday mood and when they weren't buying and selling they were playing games and chasing each other around. We all went for a meal at night and tried the local 'moni cakes' which are like big fluffy fried potato cakes and very tasty. The next morning was a very early start (4am) as we took a bemo (minivan) up another windy road to near the top of Kelimutu, the volcano overlooking the village. Some heavy bartering by Martin & Paul managed to keep the price to about US$10 for the six of us for a 40minute journey and the National Park entrance fee was a bargain 1,000rupiah (5pence UK) !!! After the bemo ride we had a 15minute walk to the top of the volcano where we were rewarded with a clear view of all the three lakes at the top - one brown, one black and one a bright turquoise green. We watched the sunrise from the top and spent a good 90minutes enjoying the view whlst drinking coffee bought from some enterprising locals with thermos flasks. Martin & Annie hitched a lift back down the volcano with another couple we had met as they had to dash off to catch a ferry and Mandy joined them as she wasn't feeling too well. Paul, Patrick & Sonia opted to walk down the volcano through fields and villages where everyone wanted to say hello and ask where we were from. The kids everywhere shouted the obligatory "hello mister!" and we also passed a lot of pigs, goats and horses. One boy paused for a photo with his prized possession - a dead snake - before dashing off to continue chasing his screaming sister!! The path was small and split several times but we just followed the local women with pots and pans on their heads and found our way - even Pauls sandals falling apart was only a minor setback. Near the bottom we were invited into a house by Agnes, a local girl, who made us coffee and practised her English which she hopes to improve enough to get a job in the nearby tourist office. We finally arrived at a waterfall just above the village where we had a refreshing swim before heading back to our hotel for a well-deserved breakfast of bread, fresh fruits and coffee. After a good mandi (tipping a big pot of water over your head is actually more refreshing than a shower!) we caught a bus from outside the market to Maumere, a four hour drive away. Maumere is the largest town on Flores and so this is a good place to find a comfortable hotel, catch up on internet and maybe even find Paul some new sandals before we continue our journey across the Indonesian archipelago.....
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