If Labuanbajo looks like a port town it acts like one to. Accommodation is in relatively short supply so it was time to embrace huge marks up on prices much to my dissatisfaction. The town is small with nothing particularly of any merit. In the evening there was a ‘party’ on board the boat which consisted of another corking meal and then horribly loud music that would struggle to grace the worst pub in England. I didn’t hang around for long choosing instead to go internet café hopping in the hope of getting a good enough feed to watch Bristol Rovers first game of the season. It wasn’t hugely successful managing only the most jumpy of connections but the result was well worth the effort!
Labuanbajo does not have a bus station which means that travel agents and hotels have all gathered together to fix stupid prices. With this in mind I decided to take a one man stand and was up on the main street at five in the morning hoping to find a bus myself. After a while I got talking to a couple of locals who seemed to admire my determination and suggested I tried to catch one out of the port. Fine advice it was to, there were a number of mini busses. After initial confusion (mostly due to me not caring where I ended up) I found myself onto one going to Ruteng.
It took another four hours until we finally got going. In that time I watched as conductors and drivers wrestled people off motorbikes to get them onto their bus before the competition snapped them up. It was all rather feisty. Eventually when we had enough people to go we spent another hour or so trawling slowly through villages in case there was someone else who they might have missed.
The journey was incredibly beautiful. I will struggle to hear of a finer piece of road in the world. Going up and down mountains , through banana plantations, past rice paddies and weaving around volcanoes it was unbeatable in terms of scenery. An occasional settlement of wooden houses lined the road but mostly it was just rugged natural beauty that I have come to associate Indonesia with.
On arriving in Ruteng the journey all went a little Sri lankan when another mini bus carved ours up and three men piled on. They firstly started an argument with a woman and then proceeded to demand five thousand rupee from certain people. I was not impressed in their methods and forgot how to speak English. They eventually gave up and allowed the bus to continue. I asked no questions.
Ruteng is an unattractive town. True. But the countryside around it was lush. I walked out of town, through small villages and up a hill for a lovely view of the surrounding area. There I met a couple of kids and kicked a football around a bit. They should have been in school. The younger one, maybe seven years old took great pride in the lighter he had. I considered confiscating it for the greater good but realised it he wasn’t far off smoking age by Indonesian standards so let him be. On this trip I have become so used to the amount of respect shown to religion. It was hence strange to be in the world of Catholicism with my two little friends holding the lighter a high and pulling faces alongside a statue of the Virgin Mary.
The following day I took a ten hour bus to Ende another grubby town situated in extraordinary beauty. It is on the coast with a dirtied black sand beach but alas it didn’t matter. Look past the buildings and litter and the jaw hit the floor. It really is impossible to explain how naturally stunning Flores is.
Ende was an overnight stop. Early the next morning I took a heaving bemo to the bus station. It was full of old ladies on their way to the market. These quiet, reserved ladies you rarely see can sure talk when there are enough of them. I heard way too many mentions of ‘orang’ in their conversations to leave me in no doubt as to the main subject of their talk.
From the bus station I arrived in Moni; a small village set within, yes you guessed it, amazing scenery. If I had been knocked unconscious and woken up disorientated I would have been forgiven for suffering a heart attack on account of seeing everyone walking around with machetes and huge smiles dripping with blood. A zombie invasion? Possibly although for most I am sure the machetes are to do with farming and the bloody smiles? Oh that is the old mystery that is chewing paan.
Moni has some wonderful walks into the rice fields but the main reason to come is to see Kelimutu; a natural wonder quite like any other.
I was up at four in the morning and took a bemo up to the top, some thirteen kilometers away. From there it was a short walk to a place called inspiration point from which you can look down on the three crater lakes a novelty in natural creation. It is still a mystery as to why each lake is a different colour. The general consensus is that it is to do with the minerals but why these lakes change colours over the years is more controversial.
At first only two were visible. The other was shrouded in cloud. A number of people left just after the sun came up. A huge mistake. It was not until a couple of hours later that Kelimutu dazzled. With the full force of the sunlight the dense colours became visible. It feels not so much as a lake but rather a huge pool of paint. One was a bright turquoise. The second one was supposed to be a rusty brown but is seemingly in a change of colour at the moment and its colour undecided.
When the clouds finally cleared the third one was the best, solid black! It really is quite a sight looking over beautiful Flores with these three natural phenomenons. It had been quite a trek to get there but was well worth it. The rest of the day I spent searching out hot springs that I could not find. It didn’t matter, Kelimutu was always going to overshadow everything else.