‘Sup eh?

Thursday 5 Jan, 2017.

Another 6.30am alarm, a banana pancake and black coffee prepared by Cornelious, and a trip to the docks. Today though, to island number three, Sumbawa.  This trip a pretty painless 6 hours which I spent dozing in the shade on the top deck. The main passenger deck was a mini version of the previous ferry.  People sprawled out everywhere, rubbish being thrown on the floor or overboard, loud TVs, and chain smoking men. Didn’t see any chickens though. 

I was quite happy to sit on the floor next to the cockpit, away from people and listen to more adventures of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salader. I’m now up to book two, The Girl Who Played With Fire. And doesn’t she just. 

We dock just after four, and I roll off the car deck and look for a hotel. Lots of differences are immediately apparent. There is much more roadside rubbish. The majority of the women are in head scarves, a predominantly Islamic island with Flores and Timor being predominantly Catholic. And there are horses and carts being used as taxis and to move goods.

I find a hotel in Sape and it’s grotty. And it’s not sealed so I’m disturbed throughout the night by visiting mosquitos. I don’t sleep well. 

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Labuhanbajo

​Tuesday 3 Jan, 2017. Lembor to Labuhanbajo. 16th cycling day. 5 hours 56 minutes. 63.7 km. Average 10.7 km/h. 1410 metres up, 1510 meters down. 

Monday night’s dinner with Rofenah and here family was lovely. She was the only one who could converse in English but I spent time while the meal was being prepared doing a bit of call and response with the kids, colours, counting, heads/shoulders, that sort of thing.

Rofenah trained in Kupang and spent 2007 working as a nurse in Taiwan. She returned to Indonesia and worked for MSF for a number of years before starting a family.

A nice ride into Labuhanbajo with one main hill climb. I’m conscious it’s my last in Flores and fittingly it poured with rain as I neared the top.

I passed my first accident, a bule (tourist) had come off her motorbike in the wet. I slowed to ask if everything was ok and got a pretty curt reply suggesting all was fine from another member in her group. Hati hati, I said and rode off – take care!!

Petrol sold in 1.5 litre water bottles, for Justin and the (motor)bikers.

Labuhanbajo was initially overwhelming. I tend to find that returning to cities and tourist spots after cycling through smaller towns and less frequented places disorientating.  I stayed at the first place I investigated, a nice simple bungalow you reach via the one way road system before the main drag. I suspect he misses out on customers arriving by boat but does well with bikers, motor or pedal. Run by Cornelius, 200 for couples, 150 for singles. 

I walked into town to ask about Komodo and snorkeling trips but there were too many options for me. Instead,  I returned to my bungalow for a rest and accepted my host’s suggestion, Rinca island and snorkeling day trip for 350.
I couldn’t resist having an explore at dusk and taking in the sunset, which of course can never be captured by ordinary cameras.

Wednesday 4 Jan, 2017. 
Komodo National Park was spectacular. Well, the Komodos were. Big beasts, wild, hunting monkeys, deer, water buffalo and each other for food. A guide earlier in the year didn’t give one enough space and respect and it bit his leg. Tourists screamed and ran. Came back with help. Man was rushed, back to the mainland and then to Denpasar hospital and had to have his leg amputated.

There were half a dozen hanging around the kitchen, never fed but can’t resist the smell, and we saw a couple more roaming on our short 3 kilometre walk past nesting areas and through jungle.  

Trick photography here, I’m about 4 metres back.

Snorkeling was disappointing. If I had time, I’d stay longer and spend oodles of money on a liveaboard diving boat for a couple of nights and do some scuba, it’s supposed to be great here. But I don’t. And that’s ok. Tomorrow I’m off to Sape, Sumbawa, and back on my bike, doing what I really like.

The Ruteng clan ain’t nuthing ta..

​Sunday 1 Jan, 2017. Borong to Ruteng. 14th cycling day. 5 hours 45 minutes. 64.3 km. Average 11.2 km/h. 1655 metres up,  540 meters down. 

No breakfast! 150k for a simple room and no breakfast?

We prefer you to buy breakfast. 

I bet you do, but no thanks. Down the road I found various cakes, rice cakes and donuts (yes Morgan, donuts for breakfast! How good is that? But only allowed when on a cycling holiday in Indonesia. Come with me next time and we’ll eat donuts for breakfast and large mangos for afternoon tea.)

I must have said no to at least half a dozen offers for coffee over the last couple of days.  I feel a bit mean each time I say no thanks and keep peddling, but I can’t say yes to everyone that expresses an interest or I’ll never make Denpasar by Jan 20.

Today’s ride included about 30 kilometres climbing 1200 metres. Here is the elevation profile:

I stopped about half way up to catch my breath and hand out stickers when another man appeared in his Sunday best having just been to church and offered coffee. On this occasion I said yes. Rudy turned out to be a high school teacher whose father-in-law, and two sisters-in-law were also teachers. Seemed a very nice family and we exchanged emails. 

Further up the hill was a crater lake, Rana Mese, 7,500 for Indonesians and 100,000 for foreigners. I kept going. After seeing the lakes of Mt Kelimutu I’m sure I would have been disappointed.  Rana Mese advertised paddle boats for hire. 

In Ruteng I was aiming for my second Flores homestay. I wouldn’t call it another traditional village but there was a rock alter and two very large thatched huts.

This one didn’t work out with three different adults saying they know nothing of a tourist homestay and one little girl running away. A bit of backtracking to the Rima hotel which was just fine (100k, and gave me rice and egg for breakfast the following morning.)

The town was quite, lots of businesses closed for the holiday. I was able to scoot around on my bike and find a restaurant easy enough though for another meal of chicken and rice. The currys are lovely but they are an accompaniment to the rice, rather than a dish by themselves. A piece of deep fried chicken seems standard practice. 

​Monday 2 Jan, 2017. Ruteng to Lembor. 15th cycling day. 7 hours 6 minutes. 67.7 km. Average 9.5 km/h. 827 metres up, 1751 meters down. 

My initial plan was to do Labuhanbajo in one go but that would mean a very early start and late finish to cover the 130 kilometres. It would be ok if it was flat but with these hills…..  Instead I decided to use my second Flores spare day wild card and break it in two.  

I was close to the cave where the Flores Hobbits were found but decided against a visit.  A tourist report I read said the cave was bare and lacking in interpretation. However, the pedestrian signs in Ruteng seem to be playing along, with short stature people seemingly being portrayed.*

I pressed on to the Cancar rice fields (which were also lacking in any sort of information on the picturesque paddies. Just pay your 20,000, have a look, and get going was the message – I think what people normally do is with both Hobbit cave and rice fields is to get a motorcycle guide to take you and show you around.)  Have a look at the photos below and have a guess what the rice fields’ nickname is. 

1000 points to anyone who guessed spider web rice fields. The link takes you to the good folk at the UK’s Daily Mail who will explain more. 
Scenes of daily life as I make my mountain climb for the day, the hills hoist hadn’t cracked the Indo market,  who needs wire and pegs when you have hedges?

Coming into Lembor I stop for lunch and see a bloke with a hat Morgan would like, if only his name was spelt correctly.

Lembor is small, and I could find no mention of hotels via the usual Google searches.  Actually,  I did find one,  another Flores homestay which promised to be near Lembor. No one at the restaurant had heard of the village, neither had the couple of people I tried talking to on the street.  I tried the contact phone number on the site but the number was disconnected. I asked around for a losmen and was directed down the main road. Go that way. That way. No, back that way. Eventually a lady who introduced herself as Rofenah spoke English and was able to do more than just point up and down the road. Neither hotel sign says hotel or losmen. Here is a photo though.  Again, I think this could be a good tip for somewhere else as Lembor seems to be a natural spot to stay between Labuhanbajo and Ruteng. I’m at the perfectly reasonable Damai for 100k a night.  The Joyo Pangetsu (green sign across the road looks nicer but is in the process of being built.  There is currently no office and I could find no one to help.

Rofenah invited me to her place for coffee, which I accepted, after a rest. And then after coffee she invited me to dinner.  I’m now resting some more before joining her and her family again shortly.

*Actually, I’ve seen pedestrian signs with people shaped like this all over Flores.

New Years Eve in Borong

​Saturday 31 Dec, 2016. Gurusina to Borong. 13th cycling day. 8 hours 39 minutes. 99.55 kilometres. Average 11.5 km/h. 1634 metres up, 1958 down.

So my Garmin 510 is my main navigation device. It’s designed for bike riding, and while doesn’t have a map as such, you can send a file (think Google maps when you select a destination) to the device and a little line tells you the way to go. Before I left Australia I did all my route planning using gpsies. It’s neat. What it can mean though is I trust it more than I should (think Google maps sending people through fields and into lakes). I’m not quite that bad but if I’d spent a bit of time last night looking at a possible alternative to climbing that mega steep hill I came down yesterday I would have seen that there was a road heading south, that would have taken me to the coast and flat roads that I could have followed, that met up with my initial route planned on gpsies. I think the road to the village was too small to register and so it couldn’t find the coast road.

Still, not unhappy about what resulted. I was able to test myself on a serious climb. I made it without pushing, but only because it was a) overcast and cool, b) the road surface was good and c) it was early in the day.

I enjoyed it. And, it meant a nice long downhill to the coast. A short sharp uphill and a long windy downhill. Good riding all around! 

Pretty knackered when I reached Borong after 100kms though. In bed by 8pm as normal but awake at midnight with the fireworks. There are fireworks every night on the streets here but there were more than normal tonight. I got dressed and went to the street to check it out. Big party atmosphere. Not for me though. Back to my silk sleeping bag and ear plugs please.

Happy new year! 

Thanks for reading and special thanks for taking the time to comment. 

It’s uplifting reading messages from you. Despite being somewhat isolated it makes me feel connected.

I appreciate it greatly.

 

Gurusina traditional village

​Friday 30 Dec, 2016. Boawae to Gurusina. 12th day of cycling. 5 hours 43 minutes. 50.22 kilometres. Average 8.8 km/h. 1124 metres up and 1144 metres down.

Breakfast overlooking Mt Ebulobo, whose last lava stream was in 1941. I daydreamed it would erupt again, then, as I was drinking my coffee, but it didn’t. It looked pretty at peace with the world and I decided I wouldn’t hang around waiting for it to happen. From the plains of one volcano to the foot of another, I was headed for the inactive Mt Inerie, the highest on Flores.

On the way I passed a very grand religious building. I entered the gates and was greeted at the end of the driveway by a priest who spoke English and apologised he couldn’t show me around and had to dash. He had time to tell me the building was built in the 1920s by Dutch missionaries before jumping in the waiting car. Another younger man took over and offered to show me around.  His English wasn’t quite as good but I gathered that it functioned as a seminary and he was a priest in training.

Before Bajawa I turned off the Jalan Trans Flores “highway” towards the traditional village of Bena. It becomes a white knuckle hold the breaks no time to respond to hi mister ride down to Bena. Bena is set up as a marketplace and many tourists visit to see the traditional houses as well as shop for trinkets. I skipped this and headed for another traditional village, Gurusina that has a different approach to tourism. They offer homestay accommodation. This means the village doesn’t really change for tourists. Whether or not people are staying the townsfolk just go about their business. Seeing a traditional dance in Bali is one thing but it’s another thing to be in a place where nothing is staged.

I really enjoyed my stay.  The place is a real mix of old and new.  The structure of the houses hadn’t changed in a number of years. How many? Not sure, but the village is described as megalithic, and has many stone monuments. You won’t be surprised to here they are very simple, with basically an inner room which includesa wood srove, and a veranda. The mandi, squat toilet and water for bathing is shared. Everyone has electricity and the village gets good phone signal but houses that all face inward together are passed down through clans, and they still practice traditional customs.

One house has been transformed into a tourist information centre with posters explaining more about the village. I took a photo of everything and have included a few in this post.

I spent the afternoon relaxing drinking coffee with the adults and making faces with the children. I also felt extremely fortunate to sit in on a church service. It was completely by accident. I was making very basic conversation with a man who had a bunch of people sitting on his veranda. I left to get my photo album and on returning went to talk through the photos when he told me to hush. I sat down where I was and for the next hour was part of the church service (In Indonesian? In local dialect? Not sure.) Lots of hymns, chants and repetitions led me to a slightly hypnotic state. The only one I knew was Silent Night, so I sung along in English to that but otherwise tried my best to sing of hum the tune or in the case of the repetitive chants sing one or two words. I was able to give them a bit of “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” and afterwards shook everybody’s hands saying “peace be with you”, which didn’t seem to be part of their version of mass. Afterwards we shared a meal and some local liquor and I was able to try chewing betel/areca nut. The brick of nut is wrapped in the leaf and sprinkled with lime powder. You chew it up and store it in the gum, ala chewing tobacco, moving to mouth to chew some more when you feel like it. It didn’t do much for me other than dry the mouth and make me screw up my face from the bitterness. Maybe a very small head spin. Certainly nothing like smoking your first cigarette, or trying chewing tobacco. Man, I remember trying that in Flagstaff. Instant nicotine hit.

I then watched and listened to the village, looked like just about all the 15-45 year olds, practise for a ceremony they are performing January 2nd.

Dinner, and a shot or two more palm liquor and then bed, on a new mattress with mosquito netting on the veranda of of a traditional house in Gurusina village. 

In the holiday zone

Thursday 29 Dec, 2016. Ende to Boawae. Stats for the eleventh cycling day of the trip. 8 hours 30 minutes travel time. 85.67 kilometres. Average 10.1 km/h. 1326 metres up. 857 metres down.

Yesterday was probably the best day of the trip so far. Everything (except perhaps the cycling) was effortless. It takes a while to get into any holiday, and then normally it’s time to go home.  I’m fortunate that I’ve still got a bit to go, around two thirds. I’m having a great time.

Today went swimmingly as well, and included a swim in the Savu sea. The initial ride west from Ende is along the coast, and while there are a few small hills there is also a nice amount of time riding on flat roads. The beaches consist of very fine volcanic black sand, and one beach is covered entirely of blue pebbles. For some inexplicable reason I didn’t take any photos. I think I was in a holiday zone. Relaxed. In the flow. Living the moment. I saw the blue pebbled beach. Thought far out man, that’s cool as…. And cycled on. The day was a bit like that. A little later on I wanted a swim, so I pulled over, leaned my bike against a coconut palm, undressed to my shorts and jumped in.  Beautiful temperature. Even waves. Black sand in my pants for the remainder of the day -that I didn’t notice until bathing that night, at Sao Asih guesthouse in a remote town called Boawae. They even fed me so I didn’t have to brave the evening shower to find dinner. 

Another great day. Plenty of food options. A manageable Flores hill climb with a couple of coconuts for snacks half-way up.  Beautiful riding at the top, twisting roads through farmland with women sitting roadside selling the world’s biggest mangos.

Content. 

The case of the missing spray cover

Wednesday 28 Dec, 2016. Moni to Mt Kelimutu to Ende. 75 kilometres in 8 hours at 9.4 km/h. 1517 metres up, 2163 metres down.

When I was living in Brisbane I played basketball for the Suppos, with some current or ex pharmacists. Suppos was short for suppository. Suppose it was some sort of pharmacy joke. I remember waking up one morning and not being able to find my wallet. The last time I had it was the night before paying for the game, so before work that day I drove to the Auchenflower stadium to investigate. I didn’t even have to go inside. It was on the ground in the car park. It must have fallen out of my bag as I got into the car. Nobody had seen it. Cash and cards were still there.

Yesterday I lost a pannier spray cover. It slipped off some time between buying fruit and having a water stop, part way up the hill to Moni. I kept an eye out today on my way back to Ende, the only time in the trip I backtrack, and there it was by the side of the road. A little bit worse for wear but possibly fixable.

Back to the start of the day. Banana pancake for breakfast, ordered for 6:30 am to get a good start on the day. Got to the dining room 6.45 am, pancake arrived half an hour later. 

Testing climb out of Moni to the Mt Kelimutu car park, and a 150,000 (almost AUD $20) entry fee but the tri – coloured lakes (that change colour regularly) and views make it worthwhile. Incredible colours. Special experience. The locals reckon souls go here. The old folk go to the top lake, currently black, the young folk end up in the middle lake, currently a lightish blue, and if you are bad your soul will go to the bottom lake, currently a vivid aqua.

Pretty flowers on the ride up/down the mountain. This red one was on a poster about Mt Kelimutu I’ve just seen in my hotel. Rhododendron renschianum.

I also practiced with my gopro and tripod. In the video version (updated once back in Australia perhaps?) the cow turns her head to follow me, which I found amusing.

And saw a clever way to get water from a waterfall without getting wet.

I got absolutely drenched on the way into Ende, and then just like that, the road was bone dry and looked like it hadn’t rained for a long time. Talk about localised showers.

And finally, I got my bike repaired. I noticed a wobble yesterday. I bumped into a tour group and waved down the supporting car to have a chat. Nice chap. Told me the 8 riders that passed me going down the hill were from Poland. I told him about my cone problem and he recommend I drop into a motorcycle mechanic. Say what now? Bit different aren’t they, bicycles and motorbikes. What about spares? 

Nevertheless, I gave it a go. From previous experience I know this is a problem with me cones. Fixing a loose cone seems complicated. It’s happened before. My local bike shop in Oz wanted me to leave the bike with him, he had to order in a part, and he charged me $50. One reason I love Asia is the cheap services. This guy nodded. Told me to take a seat,  and had it fixed within 15 minutes for 20,000. $2.50!!!! I paid the cashier and gave him another 20,000 directly. I was the least I could do. I was ecstatic.

And finally, finally I had my first nasi goreng, words which every Australian associates with this. The man taught me how to say I’m an English teacher. Goo roo Bahasa English.

And finally, finally, finally I found a great hotel in Ende, Hotel Ikhlas. I don’t know why it’s got bad reviews. It’s awesome. A variety of room choices with prices on a board, clean rooms, staff that laugh, and a water well out the back to wash filthy bike clothes.

My zen moment of the day.

Because every day is a nice day for a ride