The ferry arrived in Aimeure, Flores (mid south coast) a couple of hours late at 11am with a series of jolts and bumps as it ground its way along the jetty, throwing people and provisions (and me loaded up with my luggage) around like ragdolls. By the lack of commotion I assumed this was normal practice and wondered if the ferry (and jetty) would live to see next Christmas.
I was eventually off and on my way by 11:45 after the expected chaotic mass exodus, with everyone trying to squeeze through the ferry exit ramp at the same time before it had even touched solid ground. I waited until most were off before exiting somewhere between the trucks and the chickens.
The road layout on the island was a bit of a mystery to me because I couldn’t find any detailed maps on the internet, and the only two I had found were very basic and contradicted each other showing different roads. Useful.
Basically, Flores is about 650km long and has one main road running east-west, snaking tightly up and down mountains and volcanoes as it goes. Like West Timor the road was generally in great condition, and it was great to have them practically all to myself.
The population & population density of Flores is similar to that of Indonesian West Timor – around 2 million, and is one of the so called Indonesian ‘Lesser Sunda Islands’. Like all Indonesian Islands, it is located on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ and liable to regular seismic activity. The last big earthquake (measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale) occurred on 12 December 1992, killing 2,500 people in and around the largest city Maumere.
The first thing I will say about Flores is that it appears much more scenic and green than Timor – as its Portuguese name ‘Flores’ (‘Flowers’ in English) would suggest – and it is indeed beautiful with steep, towering volcanoes shooting up from sea level and beautiful views of coastline, jungle and paddy fields.
The second thing I will say is that it takes much longer to get anywhere than expected due to endless tight switchbacks going up and down steep terrain and occasional road-works, where it is not uncommon to sit and wait 30 minutes for a bull-dozer to finish clearing away a landslide or lay down the foundation to a new road.
I didn’t know much about what to see and do in Flores, but I was told by Donovan not to miss Kelimutu Volcano with its three famously different coloured crater lakes, created by varying mineral content. On the ‘toy’ map I had it didn’t it look that far (2 fingers), so I decided to take a look.
I arrived 5 hours later.
I just made it before the man in the security hut at the park entrance closed for the day (at 5pm). After paying him a ‘few extra’ (I’m sure), he let me in and I rode the last 12km to the car park at the start of the hike to Kelimutu’s three crater lake view point, which was certainly worth the effort.
I had originally thought I would carry on and make it to Maumere further east by the first night (another 100km), and would have done had the ferry docked on time, but seeing as it was now dark and I was knackered after 220km & 5 hours of twisting up and down mountains, I instead decided to stay in the pleasant, small tourist village of Moni at the base of the Kelimutu National Park (a favourite holiday spot for Billy Idol I imagine).
When I arrived at the village everything looked pretty dead in the dark. I came to the end of the village before I’d really noticed I’d entered it, and so turned around and headed back, slowly. As I passed one promising contender, Hotel Bintang (promising because it had a light on and 2 obvious tourists sitting in the restaurant, as well as being called ‘Bintang’ – an Indonesian beer), a man ran out from inside and greeted me. His name was Billy and, as luck would have it, he had a room for the night with my name on it. I asked him how much, although I was so tired & hungry I didn’t really care, and he said “$15”, and I said “Deal!”
Later at dinner, charismatic Billy, the owner’s son, told me he liked British people, and I instantly guessed there must be a girl involved somewhere. Indeed there was, and she had invited him over to sunny Leeds, to enjoy the weather no doubt. I later found out he also liked most other nationalities – and why not! I was happy to settle for the Bintang, which incidentally tasted like heaven (if it were a beer).
Moni to Maumere
When I woke up in the morning I had no clue what day it was; a true sign I was completely in holiday mode; or that the Bintang wasn’t really a gift from heaven. Billy told me Maumere was only 98km away, or around 2.5 hours, so that would be a relaxing day’s ride compared to yesterday’s twisty marathon. But first I needed more fuel and the only fuel I had seen in Flores so far was sold in dirty looking 1.5 litre bottles at wooden shacks by the side of the road.
Luckily I was prepared for this eventuality and deployed my paper coffee filters inside a funnel to catch any nasties as the nice man filled me up.
In the end the journey only took 1.5 hours through more stunning scenery as the roads were not as twisty as yesterday.
One great little detour was down a very rocky, sandy track leading to ‘Koko Beach’. As soon as I’d left the road I regretted the risk taking my dodgy clutch down another steep, rocky path. Fortunately it didn’t turn out to be that bad, and led to two adjoining beautifully secluded bays.
I didn’t like Maumere – it was too crowded with people and traffic and the beach was filthy, covered with litter. As soon as I arrived I felt like leaving again. Litter is a big problem in Indonesia, and most people are so used to just throwing it on the floor, it’s sad when otherwise beautiful places are polluted in this way. I feel the Indonesian Government needs to spearhead a massive education programme to clean up the country, and provide ways & means for the litter to be recycled.
I needed more fuel again after my 1.5 litre top-up and I passed 3 fuel stations – the first I’d seen in Flores that were open (I’d passed several earlier but they were always chained off and closed). However, each one had a mass of scooters lined up at the pumps (more than 10 in each queue) and I didn’t feel like waiting for ages in the sun. I thought instead I’d ride along the coast for a bit towards Larantuka at the far east of the island and see if I could find any of the nice beaches that Maumere is supposed to have.
It wasn’t long (15 km or so) before I found the Sea World Beach Club, and wow! What a difference! This ‘exclusive’ dive resort is a far cry from the manic congestion of Maumere town, and the perfect place to hang up my helmet for a day to relax on my own private balcony on the beach. Amazing what happens to a place when all the litter is cleared up!