Sunday, May 05, 2013

Adventures in Flores, Indonesia - Land based blog

You guys must be wondering - What? Another vacation? Does she ever work? The answer is - Yes, another vacation, and yes I do work! But you work hard, you play hard! And because I just quit my last job, I had 2 weeks free time, and being me, I can't just sit still and stay at home for 2 weeks! That's fucking 14 days! So I ran through my head, packed my bags and headed off for another adventure and finding the meaning of life before I start my new job!  That's life :)
So then you may ask - Flores? Huh? Where's that or why there?  Haha, the answer is simple yet interesting.  It traces back to a dive master's suggestion back when I was travelling in Philippines in Feb this year.  He started talking about working in Labuan as a DM for a bit and how the diving there is fantastic, and the name kinda stuck in my head for a bit.  So when I knew I had 2 weeks free time to plan, i ran through my head for ideas - usual suspect like Vietnam, Thailand crossed my mind too but Flores kinda stuck cos of the diving!  How can you measure Manta Ray against the mountains of Vietnam? So then roughly 2 weeks before I start my 2weeks break, I decided to plan my Flores trip, with the main highlight of diving in Komodo.  The ease of solo travelling - everything can be done last minute!   So basically, if I had not gone to Philippines in Feb, I wouldn't have thought of going to Flores.  That's how life works :)  Yes, I'm easily influenced.  Just hit me with the idea of paradise, fantastic diving and adventure and I'm up for it!
With what little information I got from the Internet, I decided on travelling East to West Flores, stopping for a long break in Labuan Bajo to end my vacation on a high.  Sights along the way are - Ende, Moni, Kelimutu, Bajawa and finally Labuan Bajo.  It was easy enough, just that the travelling sucks.
Bracing myself for potential flight delays, I was pleasantly surprised that my flight from Bali to Ende was only delayed by 20minutes! Yeah! Interestingly, the domestic flight from Bali to Flores is not exactly cheap considering it's less than 3H and an international flight from Singapore to Bali is not much more expensive.  I got my ticket till the very last minute and cost me more than S$150 to fly Bali to Ende (2.5H), which sucks.
Flight was smooth, no remininsce of the disaster that happened a few days before I flew (when LionAir crash landed in Bali airport).  Once I arrived in Ende, I zoomed in on my ultimate destination Moni.  Of cos I had to pay a premium to get a car to drive me to Moni since buses stop mid-day.  So I paid IDR250K for the 2H comfortable ride to Moni, arriving at around 7pm.  Immediately checked into Bintan Bungalow for a discounted price of IDR100K (include breakfast) since I was a single person (discounted from IDR150K).  After a so-so dinner, pop to sleep for an early morning to Kelimutu.  May I just add that it is COLD in Moni because we are at an altitude.  So pack for the cold!
To see the sunrise, I left at 430am with a motorbike (IDR70K return) that took 45mins to reach.  The journey there was freezing cold (luckily I had jacket) but the star-filled skies brightened up my day!  It was really amazing!  Once there, had to pay for entrance and camera fee, then followed by a 30min hike up to the top.  Reached just in time for the amazing sunrise behind the crater lake and saw the lake changed to turqoise.  So beautiful.  Stayed for a fair bit just absorbing the beauty of the place before heading back to Moni and preparing for another journey to Bajawa.
It was cold up there at 6am in the morning.  The lake is changing colour!
Two lakes, two different colours
Luckily, a driver was heading the same way so 2 other tourists took the ride to Bajawa, paying IDR100K (about the same as the public bus), enjoying a more comfortable ride (6H), stopping along the way at Black sand beach, blue stone beach.  Seriously, these are just names, and the beaches really aren't anything to shout about.  Plus, there was a terrible smell to them.
Black sand beach in Ende

Blue Ston beach in Ende.  Apparently people sell these stones in Labuan and Bali!
Bajawa is really a small, sleepy town.  We reached around 2pm, and there wasn't much going on in town.  Checked into Korina hotel for IDR120K (includes breakfast and WIFI Yea finally internet!).  It is a very basic budget hotel, but I got a comfy enough room with double bed.  However my sink was leaking so I got a shocked in the morning to find all my bags soaked.  THe breakfast is nothing to shout about and rather looked unappetising.

Went for a walk around the local market which only operates during the day and that was about it to do in Bajawa town.  Met up with my guide for the next day and talked about our itinerary for the next day.  I was too tired to venture out (having woken up at 4am), so decided to take a nap.  Interesting story about my guide. I had contacted Marcelino (recommended by travellers from Lonely Planet), but he got sick and sent his brother Arnold instead.  Then the night before, Arnold told me he couldn't make it the next day as he had to attend to something, so sent his best friend Malkiol instead. So that was how I ended up with funny Malkiol the next day.  Bajawa is still a little chilly at night, and bathing in freezing cold water made me cuss and swear each time I pour a bucket of water over me.
Sleepy town of Bajawa
Next day started at 730am, and off we went biking to Wawumudha crater lake.  Took us 45minutes then a 1H hike up to view the craters.  Not as impressive as Kelimutu but still great views up top!  Then it was off to visit 2 villages - Lupa and Bena villages.  They were both nestled in the mountains with amazing backdrop.  In the village, women are the king and property owners.  Men get married and move into live with the women.  These women are tough! and they love to chew beetlenut, those things that make your mouth and teeth look all reddish.

The ride up the mountains along the way will show you the beauty of Flores, with mountains, volcanoes and greenery greeting your eyes.  Interesting fact - NO rice fields in Bajawa cos the soil and conditions are not suitable.  People in Bajawa consider corn to be their staple food but of course now gradually becoming RICE.
Hiking up Wawumudha with my guide Malkiol

Yellowish crater lakes

Mount Ineri
Lupa village

View at Bena village

I couldn't resist NOT doing this.  Missed it the last time I was in Philippines

After the villages, we went for hot spring!  We soaked in the stream where freezing cold water meets boiling hot water and the warmth was soothing! You get occassional blasts of freezing cold, then the warmth hits back at you.  A refreshing depart from the cold showers I've been having.  By the time we got back to the hotel, it was late afternoon and I was beat.  Bade farewell to Malkiol and went for a nappy.  Malkiol was a cool and funny guy and also very knowledgeable!  Good grasp of english too!  I would highly recommend him.  And in his 3 years of guiding, I"m only 1 of 2 Singaporean he has ever met!  How Cool! If not for the next morning early ride to Labuan, I would have accepted his offer of an arak night, but alas 630am awaits me...

The next day started at 6am, waited and waited till 7am before the bus came.  We all operate on Indonesian time here! Then 15mins into the ride, we stopped at the edge of Bajawa town for god knows what, until 8am before we moved off.  Maybe the driver decided to have his breakfast? No idea! 3H into the ride, stopped for the only break of the entire 10H journey (IDR120K).  Then it was all go and no break, except for passengers to board and alight.  10H on a bumpy mountainous windy road on hard, rim-rod straight seats is not exactly comfortable.  Sleep came and went, dozing off here and there before being awaken by a bump on the head.  The scenery along the way was amazing though!  And finally, when night falls, Labuan Bajo was in sight!  Off at Gardena Hotel and checked in for IDR120K (discounted for single).  The room was amazing though!  1 double bed and 1 single bed, good enough for 3! But that was all me baby for 9 nights!  Breakfast included, but no WIFI and cold shower.
My nice hotel room in Labuan Bajo with Mozzie Net!

Met 2 Dutch boys who provided me with the entertainment for the night (together with 2 other girls from the same hotel) and also the night after.  Of cos, the 1st thing I did was check out the dive shops and booked myself for my dive adventure with DiversParadiseKomodo, just beside the hotel!  More on the dive adventure in a separate blog dudes! I'm keeping this blog DRY! Which kinda means not much going on in Labuan to do with DRYNESS.
(from Left) Hugo (Instructor), Gregor (OW diver), Alex (works at dive shop) and Theo (my dive master) at Local fish market

Pre-birthday party @ Paradise where I was challenged to arm wrestling. I won by the way
Anyways, praise myself for my great timing, but my visit coincided with my favourite dive master's birthday so that means PARTY!!! And I love a great party!  We had a pre-party the night before, and an actual day party on the night itself!  And can we say WASTED!!  Literally everyone got wasted, especially our birthday boy who was so inebriated not long after arriving at Paradise!  Face flushed red, and started dancing and kissing everyone and anyone.  But it was a fun fun night with my dearest friends in Labuan Bajo.  Of course, you pay for the drunkness the next day, waking up feeling like you're on the boat when you are not!
Party has begun, alcohol kept flowing!

Next day, finally after a few days of diving, I embarked on land activity in Labuan Bajo.  Thanks to my personal bike driver, Theo (who also happens to be my dive master Hah), I was able to visit Cunca Wulang.  Wouldn't be able to do so as I don't know how to bike and yeah you need to bike to visit that place.  1H bike through not so great road which kinda deteriorates even further.  Bring a cushion for your butt if you are not used to bumpy roads.  Then it was a roughly 30min hike to the waterfalls.  The waterfall was amazing!  And yes, I finally did cliff jumping, albeit after a few hesitating minutes.  Look, I don't have a fear of heights, but I just don't like to jump from heights.  It was not that high from where I jumped but still it was jumping from a height of more than 5M.  But I did it.  Attempted to swim to the bottom of the falls but the rapids were abit too strong for me to swim through.  And I still regret not being able to do it to this day!!!

Cunca Wulang!!!

On our bike back, got offered some coconuts from the local boys and chatted abit.  Well I didn't cos I don't speak Bahasa, but I listened in to Theo and their conversation and kinda figured my understanding through observation and intuition.  I must say I'm pretty good with that!  Had a good dinner at MadeInItaly, great food!  Then of cos, it was all back to diving again!

Finally on my last day in Labuan, I visited Rinca Island for the Komodo dragons.  I can't leave Labuan without seeing these creatures with my own eyes!  Went with the diving boat (did 2 dives + Rinca), so only had to pay for the Rinca Island fee of IDR50K + camera.  We went as a group of 4 so were charged for 2 cameras which we shared amongst us (IDR50K for each camera).  And IDR80K for guide to share.  Funnily, it was IDR50K before 1 May, and we went on 1 May when we were told 'Change in regulations, now IDR80K').  Great, just great!  Anyway we split amongst ourselves.  Saw a few dragons, happy happy.  They are big, but apparently those on Komodo island are 2x bigger!  Once they draw blood and their saliva mixed into your blood, you can die in 2 weeks unless you get the proper treatment.  We hiked up the mountain to view the sunset and the view was amazing!  Then it was off back to Labuan for a night cap to mark the end of my 2 weeks adventure.  I would say 1H is more than enough time to visit the dragons, cos they are just dragons laying on the ground. 

Komodo dragons sleeping...

The view was so amazing that I was jumping with joy!

What more do you want then to just see them and done that? For those tours selling more than 1H hike, there is really nothing much more to do than they taking you hiking up mountains and walking a bit longer. Also, since I'm a diver, the snorkelling trip that comes with the tour packages doesn't really entice me much. When I can get down and close to the marine life, snorkelling on the surface is for babies...

And that's all for land-based activity.  It was sad leaving the place after I have spent 8 days with those people and really enjoying myself there.  Days gone by without me realizing what day or date it was and that feeling was really what I've always looked forward to.  And I couldn't believe that 8 days just flew past and it was time for me to say GOOD BYE. 

My trip back home was smooth sailing, no flight delays and no mishaps.  Arrived 45mins @ Labuan Bajo airport for my flight (IDR10K for the passenger service fee) and the flight departed right on schedule.  Smooth sailing at Bali, paying IDR150K for passenger service fee again, and it was home sweet home! Back to hot showers which was the only thing I missed and craved for during my vacation. 

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