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Sumba to Flores


Despite an outrageously belated 0245hrs departure time, I didnt have to endure too much of a marathon with the ferry trip, slumbering little but redeemed by my first sighting of Flores unexpectedly early at around 7. With the light brought an appreciation of flying fish darting away from the boat, an unexpected delight in a pod of very long short finned dolphins and even a rare charcoal coloured seabird resembling an albatross which I presumed to be a Sooty Tern. Even more remarkable was Flores itself however, immediately appreciable as the lofty dramatic land of which I had heard promise but would not have otherwise expected. It was a stunning arrival to witness Gunung Inerie, a perfect volcanic pyramid whose sides slope seemlessly down into symmetrical curves, an intimidating presence heightened by a downturn in the weather mustering moody cloud and a strong sea, perhaps a belated betrayal of the storm which had compromised my schedule. I was little short of elated to have finally reached diminutive port town Aimere only a little later than what I had hitherto anticipated, and though there was a surprising dearth of transport awaiting our arrival it was another real bonus to discover that the 2 attendant buses were both unexpectedly headed for Ruteng where I had finally elected to make for. My initial intention to settle for nearby Bajawa had been forsaken at the last moment in a determination to make swift onward progress with the weather and fatigue rendering my intended motorbike tour from Bajawa a non-starter. Such was Flores's tortuous topography that the road materialised narrower than ever before, with white lines perhaps serving as nmore of a guide in the dark than a method of traffic separation, only a bike would have been able to stay within its lanes. The rollercoaster ride had te drivers arms twirling constantly as he negotiated what on a map must have resembled a plate of spaghetti, with occasional bonejarring disrupted sections more than compensated for by fantastic surrounding domes clad in very thick lush forest. It was a throwback to the vistas of Sumatra as we bumped along the bottom of the cloud layer, such a different hue from the rest of Nusa Tenggara and not one I would have anticipated. Local architecture was underwhelming in the main, with the mainstay of dwellings proving to be squarish bamboo latticed affairs with conventional tin roofs, though the odd squat thatched longhouse perhaps relegated to animal husbandry exuded a certain charm. My involuntary slumber was punctured by exactly that,ma discernible hiss which betrayed a tyre blow out, but the bus crew whoo outnumbered we handful of passengers dealt with it like it happened very day. Maybe it did, because the wheel which came off resembled a racing car slick with not a hint of tread. I even noted that the nut threads on our Mitsubishi Colt bus contradicted common convention but they knew which way to pull them. There was not a single settlement of note along the southern route to Ruteng, the topography took all of the prizes and even had me suspecting a stitch up when we pulled into an incongruous deserted terminal slapped onto the side of a soaring mound, the reputed 5 hour jaint to Ruteng had taken only 3 hours 20 however. Thoroughly disorientetd by the wild rural setting, it was only the few Ojek and Bemo dudes who betrayed any sense of civilisation, and so I instinctively followed the locals into a Bemo with questionable promise of a "Kota" (Town centre). I latched on quick though in realising that I wopuld surely pass by my intended hotel on the road in and so managed a doorstep drop off wheras normaly poor appreciation of the situation didnt allowed it. The rural highland vibe was matched by my sweety little Swiss chalet style crashpad, where experience had taught me to invest in tea and not beer in view of my compunction to now make every day count. Upon consideration, Ruteng's outward diversions did not merit any complication of my itinerary and I settled for a tour of the town to mappreciate first a very new and evidently uninhabited Raja's house, also a gargantuan cathedral further qualifuied by its mountain backdrop and the general air of Ruteng's atypical persuasion in either colourfully painted 2 story timber shophouses or more robust corrugated metal ones. The whole highland demeanour had me struggling to recall Belangkejeren in northern upland Sumatra. Even the "Hello misters" were tangibly of a different ilk, with an appreciably genuine interest in meaningful engagement rather than a mindlessm kneejerk holler. The propensity of churches was the main giveaway as to the regions character, with the streetlined market place revealing more poverty than tradition, and it was a surprise then to trace a couple of cafes of clear tourist orientation. Not one to kick a gift horse up the arse, I availed myself ofa rare chicken and chips as well as a brace of conventional supermarkets, then hooked up with a German couple and French duo who were the first white folk I had seen since leaving Andrea in Mataram almost 2 weeks before. Ruteng was the centre for the Manggarai people, a linguistically distinct people of Western Flores, and the hotel owners admission that he preferred English to bahasa Indonesia perhaps demonstrated a certain inherent distancing from far off Jakarta ............Anniversary?

Posted by andyhay2 16:07 Archived in Indonesia

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