Saturday, 19 July 2008

12 - 14 July 2008: Flores, part 1 – the journey

We embarked on a four-day journey across the island along the trans-Flores highway. You could travel it in a day, but it would mean sitting in a cramped bus for 20 hours.

'Trans-Flores highway' is a rather funny name for the road, as it's in a pretty bad shape in parts due to floods, earthquakes and landslides. The road is also incredibly winding and climbs up and down from the coast to the seaside along steep mountainsides. We spent the whole trip being doped up on travel sickness pills and sitting next to kids and adults vomiting into plastic bags.
The first day we travelled to Ruteng which is a market town high up in the hills. We were expecting to catch a public bus from Labuanbajo, but at 8am, a private people carrier turned up. A confused one hour later, we were back outside our hotel again, albeit with 11 people now in the seven-seater car. On the way to Ruteng (four hours) we listened to local songs, some of which reminded Jen of Finnish tango iskelma! Ruteng wasn't that interesting a town, although we did visit the local market selling vegetables, fish and meat (covered in flies).

Day two from Ruteng to Bajawa (five hours) was spent in a people carrier, again hurtling from the mountains to the coast. Our driver didn't secure the luggage to the roof rack. When we hit the first bend in the road, some luggage came flying off the roof rack and skidded across the road. Lucky no one was in the way - and it wasn't our rucksacks! Bajawa is a lovely hill town at an altitude of 1,100m. It certainly merited more time than the half-day we had. Near the town, there's hot springs, traditional villages and Gunung Inerie, a volcano of 2,245m.

On day three from Bajawa to Moni (seven hours), we thought we were booked onto another people carrier, but to our surprise, a public bus came to pick us up. The journey was comfortable, as we had more space on the bus than in the people carrier. However, the local lady sitting next to us was not feeling well, so we gave her a travel sickness pill – partly because we were trying to avoid being spewed on!

In Moni, we bumped into Frank, an accident prone German traveller. During the time we knew him, he'd had to kick in his hotel door (lost the key), broken two chairs and was blamed for a puncture on a motorbike. Frank introduced us to Taavi, a half-Australian half-Finn, who lives in Australia.

Taavi and Frank had also travelled on another Komodo programme that we'd considered. Nine out of 15 people on the cruise had abandoned ship after the first night's sailing. The vessel was almost swamped in the rough seas. We were really glad we had decided to pay more for the Perama trip.

Continue to part 2.