Traditionally Australian tourists when travelling to Indonesia only visit the islands of Bali and Java, but why not try something different? In January, this year my girlfriend and I set off to Flores to visit a part of Indonesia rarely frequented by Aussies. Here’s our Flores story. What will yours be?
Getting to Flores is easy. Firstly, we took a plane to Denpasar from Perth. We then began our Flores journey by taking a short one hour plane ride from Denpasar to Labuan Bajo. From there we caught a plane directly to Ende in East Flores, but if you wish to see the Komodo Islands straightaway, you’re best to hop off in Labuan Bajo. In getting around the island I suggest either using bemo or bus, particularly when visiting cities such as Ruteng or Bajawa.
Our first stop was Ende, the capital city of Flores. Like so many parts of Flores, the city is nestled amongst some of the most stunning scenery that you will see. The city itself interested us because, unlike other parts of Flores, it consisted of a much larger proportion of Muslim and Chinese Indonesians (or at least, as far as we could see anyway!). People, of course, aren’t the only visible inhabitants of Ende. We became quite accustomed to seeing goats and cats strolling the streets in the early afternoon. We would have liked more time to explore the city and its surroundings, but before long we began our much awaited trip to Moni, to see the world-famous Kelimutu craters.
And Kelimutu did not disappoint! After staying the night at Moni, we enjoyed a late and leisurely breakfast before making the journey up to Mt Kelimutu via ojek. The journey to the summit was scenic and we passed through many small villages and rice fields, enjoying the nice cool breeze on our backs (we were not given helmets, you may like to ask for these!). I was amazed by the sheer beauty of this mountain. But, if I thought the trip to the top was special we were about to have a pleasent surprise. Once we arrived at Kelimutu itself, the amazing colours of the lakes coupled with the lack of tourists made the experience magical. There was a silent and beautiful mystique to the summit that could have kept us there for hours. When we went, the colours of the three lakes were turqoise, green and dark green. It is believed that the colours of the lakes change due to some sort of chemical reactions between the minerals in the lake. For locals however, each of the three lakes holds significant spiritual meaning. Whatever the cause, the view from the top was spectacular and perhaps the highlight of our trip!
We eventually left Moni and headed via plane from Ende to Labuan Bajo. From there, we took a three-hour trip to Pagal, a small village located about 1 hour from Ruteng. We stayed with a friend of Rachel’s, who had previously lived in Perth with her family, as an exchange teacher. Richard now teaches English at a small high school near his home-town.
On the second day of our visit Richard took us to meet his students. Despite the school only being several kilometres from Richard’s house, the journey took over half an hour as the road was completely ruined from rain and mudslides. On several occasions we were forced to dismout from our motorbikes and walk. On arrival at the school, we were greeted by around 100 students. Despite the remoteness of the school, the students were extrememly enthusiastic to learn and had many questions about our lives in Australia- we even found out later that the students had come to school on their holiday, especially to see us! We felt very lucky, but also a bit guilty!
In total we spent three days and two nights living in the village of Pagal and experiencing life amongst the people of Manggarai. Richard and his family were extremely hospitable and welcomed us like we were part of the family. At the end of our journey Richard’s grandmother presented us with special ikat, made in their village. We feel truly privileged to have received such a special and unique experience.
Our Flores journey ended in Labuan Bajo. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to see Komodo island, but see this as a good excuse to come back again! Flores is an amazing island full of astonishing natural beauty and some amazing people. So, next time you’re thinking of heading to Bali or Java, why don’t you also give Flores a try?
(Text & Photos: Tim Flicker)