After a fantastic breakfast at Hotel La Hasienda courtesy of Michael’s bacon, fresh French bread and baked beans (I think he bought these especially for his British guests!) I set out to Pantai Laut bar to meet my guide for the day, Charles.
First stop on our Grand Tour of Kupang was Monkey Forest on the coastal road west of Kupang. When we arrived there was just one man and his family sitting outside a warung (the ‘Monkey Tender’), and as soon as he blew on his Monkey Whistle, monkeys started appearing from the trees and bushes.
I bought a bag of peanuts and started handing them out until one cheeky monkey decided he’d take the whole bag from me when I wasn’t paying attention. Clever these monkeys…
Next stop just passed Bolok harbour was Crystal Cave, an underground freshwater cave system you can swim, snorkel and dive in. Unfortunately I had no dive gear and so settled for a refreshing swim instead.
Entering the cave you are immediately aware of dozens of bats flying around, and a dark, slippery climb (in flip flops) down to the warm, crystal clear water below. I’m not sure how much this cave system has been explored, but I’d have loved to have had a dive down there.
If you are visiting this cave be aware it is not marked, and nothing or nobody was around, but friendly locals will surely point you in the right direction. Nearby there is a large Police HQ where I left my bike in safe hands. One of the policemen was so interested in where we were going that he joined Charles and me on our cave visit.
On the way back from the cave we pulled into Bolok Harbour to check the ferry time tomorrow. The lady in the ticket office said 10am, but I’m going to be there by 8am, just in case!
Then it was lunchtime and Charles took me to a local restaurant famous for its roast pork, and indeed it was mouth-watering!
After lunch I said my farewells to Charles and arranged to meet him at 7am in the morning to go to the port where he said he was going to sort me out a cabin. To be honest I would have been happy just getting on the ferry and sleeping on deck, but as the passage was 16 hours, I thought a cabin would be a welcome addition, if on offer.
On the way back to the hotel I stopped by a roadside motorcycle repair shop to see if they could fix one of my broken pannier supports. One of the bolts holding the support to the frame had sheared off and needed to be drilled out. Keen to help, one of the lads fetched the generator and hooked up the drill.
We were there 30 minutes or so with a blunt drill bit until at last he managed to drill enough of the bolt out to secure another one, although I’m not sure how long it will last. They did a good job with the tools they had though.
Ferry from Kupang, West Timor to Aimere, Flores
The next morning I was keen to get my bike on a ferry out of Timor and made sure I was at the port by 8am. Because I was an ‘Indonesian ferry virgin’, I was happy to sit back and let Charles sort out the tickets and bartering to find me a cabin, which appeared to be a mad bundle to me. As there were (officially) no passenger cabins on this ferry, it meant that Charles was basically trying to pay one of the crew a ‘gift’ to let me have their cabin.
Anyway, the whole thing turned out alright with me planted in quite a cosy crew cabin enjoying watching the crazy ‘organised chaos’ that ensued as the ferry loaded up and prepared to sail.
As the ferry finally departed an hour late (how had the other one managed to sail one hour early?!) I breathed a sigh of relief and started to enjoy my ‘celebrity’ status onboard as a strange Brit with a big motorbike sleeping in a crew cabin.
As it turned out the crew were exceptionally welcoming and accommodating, particularly the poor old soul whose cabin I’d pinched, Hodi, who’d been relegated to the ship’s office (but was a bit richer, so happy). They fed me and looked after me as though I was royalty, and the Captain even invited me onto the bridge.
Although erring on the old side, the ferry was actually quite comfortable and surprisingly clean (I’ve been on some filthy ships in my previous life as a sailor/seaman), and the food was also OK. I knew I’d made ‘honouree crew status’ when I received an invite from the Chief Engineer down to the crew Karaoke Room to belt out some Elvis and Roy Orbison classics. Walking into that room was like walking into another world – an immaculate VIP lounge clad in white leather in the middle of a greasy rust bucket of an Indonesian ferry; it was clear where their priorities laid! But as long as the ferry didn’t sink, I didn’t care, and actually enjoyed a good sing-song.
After a good night’s sleep in Hodi’s bed I woke up to see Flores on the horizon, and was excited to see what wondrous new lands and dragons awaited me.
Note: If anyone else would like help with anything in Kupang, I can recommend Charles – email@example.com mobile: +62 (0)85 337 385 009