And we trot off of Bali …… Eastward bound
Our first wander off the lush lands of Bali, and we find ourselves in Labuan Bajo, on Pulau Flores (Flores Island). This quaint fishing town has only begun to erupt with the explosion of development that the impending tourist industry brings. Quiet as it is now, with its barely paved roads and relatively few hotels, there is already a mad rush of luxury hotels being built just outside of town on every square inch of beach front property.
The thing that stands out the most to me here was the people! They’re all so kind hearted, and REAL. There isn’t the same discreet alternative motive that some (not all) folks on Bali have. An island where, we’ll learn later on, that there can even be two different religions (Islam and Christianity) in the same family without animosity or even distaste.
Above all, my heart stops for the seemingly infinite amount of wild beauty here. A change of local flora & fauna has caught my eye every step we traverse. Our first days in Labuan Bajo, we decided to play it safe and take heed to Lonely Planet Indo’s advice on hotels, simply because it doesn’t exactly look like a town with very many affordable hotels. So the Gardena it was! A simple hotel with private bungalows, in a decent price range (the prices had gone up since the L.P.’s writers/travelers had visited) There were “budget” and “standard” rooms, with the only difference being with a fantastic view, or without. We settled on the climb up the hill to the rooms with a view. And oh was it ever spectacular! Through sweeping leaves, rustling in the wind, and an abundance of papaya we could take in the whole town, bay, and the wandering bounty of boats.
After dropping our bags and settling in, we took off to explore the town itself. A few dive shops, the occasional tour guide desk, and predominantly local shops for the local people.
After hearing from a man, we later could not find, about making a trip to a nearby village to see ikat (traditionally woven cotton fabric for sarongs, hats, and other clothing articles) we undertook the task of finding it ourselves. Which we did! Rather easily in fact. So a B-mo (local mini buses, typically decked out with absurd stacks of speakers, LED’s, non-sensical decals, and hilarious looking spoilers) ride later and we were in front of a house where 6 women were toiling away at the endeavor of weaving these fabrics with the oldest, and quite possibly most obsolete method of producing fabric. They were pretty ecstatic to have visitors and we were more than happy to support women in the arts by purchasing a hat. =)
Our second morning on Flores, just as we finished our breakfast (banana pancakes! YUuuuummmmmm!!), we connected with another couple traveling the island; Candi, a half German, half Thai, American raised goddess, and Jay her Dutch counterpart. Russ and I had been discussing what we were interested in doing on Flores the night before, and decided that Komodo and Rinca Island were pretty expensive ($70 minimum per person for a half day trip, the price only goes up substantially from there), and despite being interested in the archipelago’s diving/snorkeling and komodo dragons, that it might be best another time. So when Candi offered that we travel across Flores to Kelimutu with them by hired car, we were totally excited! Russ and I accepted the offer and less than an hour later, begun our 3 Day tour across the breath-takingly magical Island of Flores!
Oh my good goddess!
The roads here are the windiest, up and down, roller coaster like paved way I have ever encountered. If you ever want to take this trip make sure you find yourself a phenomenal driver, with at least 10 years driving experience, and preferably local driving knowledge and expertise! Don’t forget to bring some gravol, ginger, or even just a barf bag. It would be a fantastic roller coaster, but its not, it’s a road. Pardon me, a trans-island highway in fact.
If you’re willing to feel a little queasy along the way, it’s absolutely worth it! This overland ride is by far one of the most magical I’ve ever set my eyes on! Terraced rice paddies surrounded by lush, wild jungle covered mountains as far as the eye can see, roaring waterfalls around what feels like every corner, food forests of banana, cocoa, coffee, cassava, mango, coconut and endless more, jagged mountain and volcano tops shrouded in a creeping veil of warm mist, highland lakes sitting like hidden jeweled mirrors reflecting the sky and surrounding scenery. Every split second of the voyage was a delectable feast for my eyes.