Today we leave Timor and head over to the island of Flores. We had our breakfast and were on the road at 8 for the 11 km ride over to the ferry dock.
We arrived at 830 am and were directed to the right to a covered lane filled with bikes.
There were 2 other ferries going this morning. We were told the Larantuka tickets go on sale at 11! Well that is good news that the ferry is actually going today.
We had fun during the wait chatting to the other riders. Promptly at 11 the ticket man called to Daniel and told him to come buy his tickets.
At 1130 we were told to board. This meant ride thru the gate to the next gate where they check your ticket and your destination.
You ride up the metal gangway to the “fully loaded” boat. They had to push Dan back as there was no room to the left and he was sent right.
The space between the big trucks and the cargo on the deck was just wide enough to get thru. Dan and I got a spot with the stairway nearby so there was a bit of room. Orvar was at the back parked sideways behind a truck.
The trucks are all lashed down. We had our tie downs and set to work fixing the bikes to the 1 deck point we had for the 2 bikes. An unorthodox set up, but it worked and passed inspection of the crew who came to check.
Sara had gone up on deck to try and get some seats as dozens of people had loaded after us. She did find a table and seats on the top deck, which is open to the air, but not comfortable and would be cold after dark. The boat left at 1220 and the ride was to take 12 hours. The deck crew said we could climb the ladder beside the bikes to a small utility deck. This was very clean and quiet and we set up our chairs. We could lie down for a nap on a huge coil of rope.
The only issue was at dinner time when the people throwing garbage and half drunk coffee off the upper decks flew in at us. So we moved down as it was cold anyway to the car deck itself. We had purchased some ramen noodles for dinner to add to our fruit and cookies. Sara managed to sleep most of the way!
We made good time and actually docked about 2330 an hour early. They let the foot passengers off with the bikes so it was a bit of mayhem. We got stuck behind some dork not at his bike, but the crew was great and got one of the trucks moving so we could get past. We met the Swede just a few minutes later and then rode east towards the town.
We had looked up a few hotels online in Kupang and stopped at the first place we saw. It was clean and with partially working aircon, but cold water showers. We did not expect much after midnight, but this place was not too bad for 300,000R. They also had secure parking under the hotel. We actually gad a pretty good night sleep, except the call to prayer at 430 am. We were also surprised the rate included breakfast!
The plan is to ride the supposedly wildly curved roads to the western end of the island for the diving, snorkeling, and the dragons! How long could 665 km take anyway…..4 days!
We set out quite late at 930 for the ride 133 km to Maumare.
The road is pretty curvy and hilly, but there is very little traffic. The surface is perfectly smooth.
It was very hot and humid by the time we reached the town and we stopped for a huge fish lunch. This was probably a mistake in the heat as we were all now drowsy. Notice the guys lifting the power line up with a stick so we could pass!
We had planned a short day anyway and backtracked 10 km to a “resort” on the beach with very nice cabins. We arrived at 130 VERY hot and had to rest in the air con and fan after a cold shower. We surfaced after 430 when it cooled off and went for a swim. The ocean was warmer than the pool and that was warm. The sun set was truly spectacular.
We decided to start out earlier today and were on the road by 830. We have 265 km today and google says it will take 7 hours.
The road surface is very good, but it is just that curvy. You head south west and end up across the island again at about the half way point in Ende. It was basically 7 hours of curves today with only a brief stop for lunch in Ende.
The traffic is very light an it is almost all scooters. We had to ride around the town a fair bit to try to find a place to eat, but we eventually got lucky and found a spot with flame grilled chicken that was amazing. From Ende you cruise along the ocean before heading up into the much cooler hills.
We stopped in the town of Bajawa, which has a number of hotels and restaurants. This is a tourist destination for the volcano and the coloured lakes near by. We checked into the Edelweiss 2 guest house, which was very clean and run by a very nice family. We have hiked up enough volcanoes for one lifetime so we will skip the 4 am wake up for that.
We had a walk about town and to the large mosque with a catholic church directly across the street. On the way back this nice lady Selena called out to us “where are you from?” from her small kiosk shop. We had a nice chat with her and the family that live on that corner. She also recommended a place for dinner. You can tell this town has tourists because of the number of hotels and real restaurants. We went to her suggestion and had a very good meal with a bunch of locals.
Our hotel was very quiet and we did not hear the call to prayer or the roosters. But it is just next to what looks like a high security prison and they Bugled the call to the post at sunset and sunrise.
We planned to set off at 0830 for Laban Bajo in 266 km. This is supposed to take over 7 hours on Google and the first section of road looks like a cork screw on google maps.
We had heard from some other guests about the Bene traditional village just 15 km away and decided to make the trip, which is about 30 min. The road is up into the hills past the volcano and though 1 lane is paved!
The “village” is a tourist reenactment and not a real village, but showcases the local houses and way of life from times past.
Then we had to back track to the main road.
By the time we got back to the main road it was 0930 and we set off west and north.
The road is mostly well surfaced and there is literally almost no other vehicles outside the towns. It is CURVY! We had a few sprinkles intermittently.
Stopping in Kampoeng Mborong the only thing we could find to eat was the usual cookies and chips!
We were very hot and very tired by 130 when we got to Ruteng and decided to stay here after 159 km since there is no reason to push on the 132 km (3 hours plus) to Lauban Bajo today.
We had had a recommendation from friend to stay in the convent here, but they we’re unfortunately fully booked. We checked out a few home stays (NO way per Orvar) and finally settled on the MJR Ticketing Guest house. This is run by a nice Japanese family.
Today we will make it the final 132 km and we set out just after 0830.
There is a fair amount of traffic leaving town, but most of it is scooters. There is much more agriculture here and though the roads are windy it is more sweeping curves. The road condition is not as pristine either.
There are a few sections with very tight steep of camber hairpins, and combine this with disrupted payment and meeting an oncoming vehicle it can be a bit hairy. We decided to go straight the whole 3 hours just to get it done.
It is pretty hot today and we were soaked when we arrived to the town. There is traffic, but it moves at least and they have a one way road thru the centre.
We arrived to the ferry dock to see if we could find a schedule. It is a bit confusing where the boats go, but they have dates and times. There is no open office as no boats leave today. There is a PALNI ferry to Makassar tomorrow. We left the yard and out on the street stopped at a travel agent to ask where the ferry office is. It is just 1.8 km farther down the road and we had passed it on the way in.
The staff came out to greet us when we parked the bikes out front and spoke some English. Well enough to tell us this ferry line is to Makassar, but passenger only. The ADSP line we had used to Larantuka takes the vehicles, but to Bira on the south east of the island of Sulawesi. Conveniently their office is just across the road. We walked in to find the staff lying on the couch with no shit on and half eaten food all over. He ran out to get dressed.
He did speak some English as well and we determined that the ferry goes every Tuesday at noon and it is a 24-25 hour trip. He did also tell us that next week when we want to leave it will be 3 days before the holiday to end the fasting month of Ramadan the eid fitri. and so will be crowded. ( Orvar was at the dock today to see and they crammed the last vehicle into the boat. So we will be at the dock very early for sure). We also found out that they boat does not leave from the usual docks where we had just been (we had seen a temporary cardboard sign yesterday pointing to a dirt track off the main road about 100 m before the passenger dock). This is the vehicle entrance and I imagine it might be mayhem!
We have checked into resorts on the beach and 4.5 km out of the town.
The town itself is very grubby and either under construction or falling down or both. The main street is full of tourist amenities like hotels, restaurants, dive shops, and tour companies. This was convenient as we could plan a day trip to the Komodo island and get the laundry and suits cleaned (12$ all our clothes and 2 suits). We decided on the “fast” boat for the day and this cuts the trip to Komodo from 3-4 hours to 90 min. We had to be on the pier at sunrise for pickup.
Part one of our day was hiking and we are glad we did this early as it was too hot even then.
We saw 3 large dragons on the beach, one big guy in the jungle and one baby. They hatched about 2 months ago and live in the trees for 3 years as the adults eat them. The deer on the island are dragon food!
Our day also included a few snorkel stops and a visit to a pink sand atoll.
The rest of our week here was taken up with relaxing, snorkeling, and kayaking. Outside of the resorts the island are covered with plastic bottles thrown from boats or from the outer islands. They must buy all their drinking water and then they toss the bottles. Its horrible to see this when we were out kayaking from the resort. The next tiny island is just off shore and has a lot of monkeys and the shore is littered with garbage!
The snorkeling off the resort pier is pretty good with lots of fish and some live coral. We have had enough relaxing, but we still have a few days left to wait for the ferry. Dan was asked to do a photo shoot for the hotel for the promotion material for the spa.
This is the last night we will see the Swede as he will get the ferry tomorrow towards Bali and Java, while we will go to Sulawesi. This is goodbye for now after riding with him on 6 continents!