Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The 2013 Trans Flores Trip

After the Komodo tour, my friends and I went on a Trans Flores trip that started from Ende then on to Bajawa and Ruteng before ended in Labuan Bajo again. We flew to Ende and rented a car. It's a road trip in the spice island :).

Flores, which means flower in Portuguese, is like a living and breathing laboratory waiting for people to discover its beauty. It's not the first time I go to Flores. I went to Ende in 2010 (you can read the experience here, here and here). Yet I was once again mesmerized by the beautiful landscape. 

Instead of boring you with the minutiae of the trip, I'll just post the highlight.

My cousin and friends said the trip had changed their preconceived perceptions about Flores island: (1) They thought the whole Flores island was as hot as Labuan Bajo, but Bajawa and Ruteng were cool as they were located in the mountainous area, (2) They thought Flores people were rude and brash due to the rough facial features (dark skin and big eyes that result in intense gaze) as well as the fact that many thugs in Jakarta come from Flores, but actually Flores people are kind and friendly (this post here is proof). 

Nevertheless Pak Kanis, our tour guide for Komodo-Rinca islands who is a native Flores people, jokingly said,"Javanese people are born smiling, but Flores people have to learn to smile. It takes millions of Rupiah to make them smile. We still have a lot to learn about tourism and hospitality."

 Candlenuts under the sun

Allow me to tell you about Filosofi Kemiri (Candlenut Philosophy). When I came to Ende in December 2010, the people were drying candlenuts in front of their homes. The candlenuts were dark-colored and hard-shelled, so hard that we can not crack them open. But once the candlenuts dry, we can crack them by tapping them with palm leaf stalks. 

A Flores people told me,"The candlenuts are perhaps the best metaphor to describe Flores people. We are dark-skinned and look rough on the outside, but if you know how to treat us, we are so easy to crack open. And our hearts are as white as the candlenuts inside the shell."

For me and Cousin Dina, the trip felt like a homecoming journey to our late Grandma's home in Kebumen, Central Java. The road is winding, hugging the hills and mountains. When we flew over Flores (flying from Labuan Bajo to Ende), we saw the massif crawling all over the island. It looks like the roots of a huge plant and has a soul.

Not only that Flores is beautiful in nature, it also has rich culture. Each regencies, or perhaps each village, has its own vocabulary and language. For example, in Labuan Bajo, a young man is called Nana, while in Ende, it's Eja. They can tell which part of Flores a person comes from just to hear the words he/she is using. Now, this is where my ability to mimic local dialect comes handy:). 

With my darkened skin tone (after all those trekking and snorkeling) and the adopted dialect, sometimes they think I come from Flores. As a result, I got a good price for a bag of coffee in Bajawa and a Rp50,000 discount in a hotel in Labuan Bajo when I told the hotel receptionist I just came from Ruteng (well, it's not totally a lie, I did go to Ruteng).    

We took a journey to the darkness of Gua Batu Cermin (Mirror Stone Cave). Courtesy of travel buddy Mbak Polina.

 Pine trees along the road to Mt. Kelimutu. Yeah, I came there for the second time. I wouldn't mind going there again for the third, fourth, fifth and so on:).

Begonia kelimutuensis, a type of begonia that only grows in Mt. Kelimutu. You can find them in the arboretum. Besides learning about the plants, the arboretum makes a great place to listen to the chirping of the birds. Courtesy of travel buddy Mbak Polina

 A candid photo of me on the way to Mt. Kelimutu by travel buddy Faradilla. The sky was so blue!

 We passed Wologai traditional village, which had just been burned down due to a short circuit. Legend has it that the village has a drum made of human skin. The fire destroyed everything and only these musical instruments survived. They are in the process of rebuilding and plan to finish everything by February 2014.

 Menhirs in Bena village

A Flores woman and the hand-made weaving products that she made in Bena village

Maria Krisanti, 3 years old, one of the youngest residents in Bena village. She calls herself Ican. Her mother works as a kindergarten teacher in a neighboring village, and so she lives with her doting grandparents. Isn't she adorable? :)

A Catholic parochial church in Ngada

This building is right across the church.

 A church and a mosque stand side by side in Bajawa. Catholic and Christian dominate this island. If you are a Muslim and want to take a road trip in Flores, hire a Muslim driver so he can point you to halal restaurants. If you can't find a Muslim driver, then you should resort to Padang cuisines.

The mystery of Mt. Inerie

 The paddy fields in Flores follow the land contour

 The farmers in Flores utilise their tractor as a means of transportation. They connect the machine to a carriage and use it to take people and other tools


Instead of using ounces/grams, vendors sell the coffee powder by glasses. I asked this vendor in Bajawa market with local dialect and she offered a glass for Rp 5000 and three glasses for Rp 10,000. After we asked around, she happened to be the only vendor who offered such cheap prices. We bought all of her supply and she had to borrow coffee from the other vendors in order to fulfill our demands. The vendors roast and grind their own coffee, so each vendor has different product quality. It's custom-made coffee :). Courtesy of travel buddy Mbak Polina

My holiday face was grinning cheek to cheek at Soa hot spring. Courtesy of Cousin Dina.

My feet in Soa hot spring, Bajawa.

Another view of my feet at Pantai Batu Hijau. Oh look, my T-shirt matched the pebbles.

 The spider web rice field in Cancar, Ruteng. It looks as if the aliens came and made it. Courtesy of Cousin Dina

 My travel buddies and the Catholic nuns in Susteran Maria Berduka Cita (the Grieving Mary Nunnery) in Ruteng. They stayed for one night in the nunnery. I was not in the picture because I had left for Labuan Bajo. Rather than the nunnery, I'd prefer to stay in a monastery (just kidding!). Courtesy of Mbak Polina

Due to the limited days of leave, I have to skip Ruteng and head straight to Labuan Bajo-Denpasar-Jakarta. There are many other sites I'd like to visit in Flores island, such as Wae Rebo village and Liang Bua cave (where the hobbit fossil was found). I will definitely come again to Flores. Well, perhaps two or three years from now, because the trip to eastern Indonesia really makes holes in my wallet :P.

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