Flores. A place most people have probably never heard of. 1,000km east of Bali, a thin and incredibly long island which stretches 600km from west to east along the eastern part of the vast Indonesian archipelago.
Looking back, several months later, I smile at our time there. We saw some pretty spectacular things, from the volcanic lakes of Kelimutu, to the beaches of Riung, to the animal sacrifices of Bajawa, to the greatest sunsets I have ever seen, in Labuan Bajo, to the windiest roads I have ever travelled on!
Flores was a delight. It’s far from undiscovered, yet it remains almost completely undeveloped for tourism (with the exception of Labuan), and off the mainstream beaten path. The island is lush, green, mountainous, volcanic and remote. A steady stream of backpackers / flashpackers such as ourselves hopped between towns, travelling east-to-west, or vice-versa. Nobody it seemed, really fancied riding the trans-Flores highway more than once.
We spent our first couple of days in the small village of Moni, where we encountered miserable and cold weather, before heading up to the summit of Kelimutu to check out its multi-coloured volcanic lakes.
We then had a bit of a mare in our route-planning, and headed to Bajawa. Bajawa was a stunning little place, one of our favourite places in Indonesia. It had unique culture, volcanoes, hot springs, ancient villages and a super relaxed, friendly, and at times, stoner vibe.
This was a place where I even dared to eat the local meat, in the town’s designated tourist restaurant. The grilled pork steak I had our first two nights, was fantastic. The third night, the pork steak had sold out – and as I hadn’t gotten ill from meat here, I thought I’d have a bit of chicken. It’s always a bit of a risk in remote, third-word places eating a bit of meat, but I was craving it, so gave into temptation and abandoned my no-chicken rule for a night. I will never be doing that again.
The next day was pretty much spent on the toilet, stomach cramps, the works. I don’t think I’ve ever been to the toilet so much in one day. It was awful. I fell ill about two hours before we had a three-hour journey to Riung, a beach-town north on another joke of a road. I managed to take a couple of anti-diarrhea tablets to keep me sealed for the journey, and just about managed to hold it in for a few more hours of misery until we got to Riung.
Arriving in Riung, my first thought was, “Oh dear god, why did I come here feeling like this?”, there was just nothing there, apart from one or two guesthouses. At least in Bajawa there would have been some kind of doctor / hospital. Not here.
Fortunately, my initial panic was unnecessary and verging on melodramatic (Amelia describes me as being the world’s most pathetic ill person), as I had a surprisingly good nights sleep, and woke up not needing the toilet the next morning. We got up early, feeling drained, yet alive, and walked down to the “sea front”, to rent a boat and visit the 17 Island National Marine Park. I’m not going to say anymore about that, I don’t need to. Just look at these pictures:
Needless to say, I soon perked up and even managed to eat a bit of bread in the afternoon. What’s more, we had the entire island to ourselves. So, what do you when you find paradise?
Well, after the previous days misery, we bathed in the crystal-clear turquoise waters, awe-struck at how lucky we considered ourselves, thinking “Life is pretty good right now”.
Our day in Riung certainly ended up becoming a bit of a trip highlight, as we flick through the photographs now.
After Riung, it was back to Bajawa and onwards to Ruteng, another small town west on the trans-Flores. Unfortunately, by this time, Amelia had come down with a fever, and was feeling appropriately miserable. We stayed a night in a convent, which was actually the best room we’d had in Flores by far, and one of the more bizarre places we’ve slept during our travels, before taking a bus onto Labuan Bajo, the gateway to Komodo Island.
Having lived off little more than fried-rice and dried cereal bars for well over a week, it was nice to arrive in Labuan, and stay in a ‘proper’ hotel, where we could eat ‘proper’ food of substance, and be reasonably confident we wouldn’t get food poisoning.
The next day we visited Rinca Island, home of the Komodo Dragons. I have to say, after the orangutans in Sumatra and our time in Borneo, this was a real disappointment. Poorly run, poorly organised and ridiculously underwhelming, I ended up writing a scathing review on Trip Advisor – which I had never done before, I thought it was that bad.
It turned out we’d also just missed Tony Blair, for he had been to see the Komodo Dragons two days before for a family holiday. So whilst Israel was bombing Gaza back to the stone age, and ISIS was starting to wreak absolute havoc in the Middle East, the Middle East Peace Envoy, Tony Blair, was here with us, on holiday in Flores.
Anyway, as luck would have it, I then caught Amelia’s fever, and proceeded to be quite ill for a couple of days. Luckily, we had a nice hotel with these views to help us relax and get better for our final day or two.
And that folks, was twelve days in Flores.