Luckily, not quite: the traffic is not so crazy over here, people still consider Westerners to be unusual attractions and they like to take pictures of us and you can be sure that when you stop in a village you’ll be surrounded by all its inhabitants within few seconds.
Happy ‘Hello Mister’ was accompanying me wherever I went and I started to high-fiv kids running towards me when I was passing along. When I stopped in a local school it was a never-ending photo session. I loved these moments. Stopping at random places to take pictures I met the curious look on people’s faces – it is not common for them to pose for a picture but they were flattered that I took their picture and showed it to them after. A lady hanging a fresh delivery of bananas in a fruit stall or teachers who were burying something important and explaining what it was to me, were one of many daily situations I captured with my Nikon. That was the real life I came to Flores for.
I drove my motorbike all the way to Moni, from where I had to go back to Labuan Bajo. I really think, someone should set up a company that would allow travellers to take motorbikes from the West to the East of Flores and leave them there, instead of driving back the same way they just came from. I wanted to avoid that, so I did a slight detour and went to up North, which was the most beautiful stretch of countryside for me – especially between Mbay and Riung. I arrived to Riung around 6pm, had fried rice for dinner and hit the road to Bajawa.
It was getting dark and the road was all holes and mud, so I had to go slowly (Pelan Pelan a Hati Hati, the locals were telling me) and it took me 4 hours to do 60 km. Now, I am not an experienced motorbike driver and this definitely was not easy, but doable and I felt it was worth it, getting to Bajawa from a different direction. Both my times, arriving to Bajawa, it was dark and the sky was full of stars and I even saw shooting stars, looking up to the sky (probably not a very good idea, because I was still driving, but I could not help myself). I even gave a lift to Maria, who was coming home in the dark with a little torch and who was the first person I ever carried on a motorbike. Naturally we all fell on the ground, when I stopped for her to get off, because I lost the balance.
Looking back on my time in Flores, I didn’t really see many ‘sights’, but I definitely experienced the life of people there. Climbing Kelimutu for the sunrise was a waste of time, the lakes were in a shade and it took good two hours until I could get a nice picture of the colours of the lakes. I rode through the tribal villages (and got a great deal on Ikat there) to Koka beach, which was one of the nicest beached I found in Indonesia. Bajawa was just an uninteresting little town, where the hotel rooms don’t have a hot shower I so desperately needed after hours spent in the rain, but the road to Bajawa is, as I’d mentioned, extraordinary.
Not all had been roses – I got stuck on the road few times due to road works or land slides, but it was also a good time to talk to locals. I even got a great accommodation deal in Moni because I was talking to locals guys who recommended it to me. Some touristy places were a scam though: the locals at Cunca Wulang Waterfall pierced our tire just because we refused to pay for a local guide an outrageous price and in Bajawa someone stole my helmet from my motorbike parked outside of the hotel. Later, locals went out of their way to help me find a helmet shop in Ende, so every coin has two sides – I enjoyed my 1700 km of travelling around Flores to its fullest.