Saturday, July 3, 2010

Indonesia - Bali and Flores

Sunset view from our room
Where to go for a 2 week break to relax and forget about work?

… how about scuba diving in Bali and Flores (near Komodo Island)? That’s what we did, combining chillaxing with diving and some overland adventure.

This update won’t include much diving news except a couple of video links from our trip to Flores and Bali.

Welcome sign at the Airport

This trip was a combo of land and water exploration.
After a short one night stopover in Bali we arrived in Labuan Bajo, the gateway to Flores and Komodo. and headed strait to our one week home base, the Golo Hilltop Guesthouse, which probably offers the best views in a 50mile radius

View from Golo Hilltop
Yummy food
After some good diving in the Komodo national park we spent 3 days on a motorbike in western Flores.
If you are a dive enthusiasts, you check out our two videos
  Diving in Flores Part I  and Diving in Flores Part II

Julane showing off the bike
A local election in the region meant hardly any traffic for the 120 km journey from Labuan Bajo to Ruteng. Now just to inform everyone, Flores is hyper-volcanic which means the landscape composed of a never-ending collection of hills, and hairpin turns! And the color is GREEN! Which implies rain and lots of it.
Patrick:  King of the road (a rare spot without potholes)

On regular roads with a regular motorbike, this could be fun. But two of us on a 125 cc bike on potholed and winding roads spells a lot of concentration. Not to mention that the monsoon was late this year. We arrived to our destination just as the downpour hit. Whew!

These shoe soles are not really working
On say two we set off to climb the tallest mountain on Flores. We later discovered that it was over 2400m high and almost 10 km each way. My Nike shoes couldn’t handle the challenge and I ended up sock-footed for the last 2 kms. I felt like a local as the only person we passed on the trail was a barefoot man dragging 4 long logs down the trail.
So I can’t really complain as I was only dragging my tired body.

Did I mention, it was also cold and we some of that rainfall again. I lost the second sole just as we loaded our tired bodies back on the bike. Rough guide did not accurately describe this hike….5km was a bit short-sighted. Anyway, on top we were surprised to discover two abandoned structures. One of which was toppled over from a really powerful storm.
This cell phone tower must not be in use any longer
We were on the highest peak of this range

We were definitely the "tourist attraction" at the cave

The way back on the third day was the exceptional part. Traffic had increased 50-fold. Which meant driving like a local and passing lorries as they smoked and struggled to ascend the steep passes. But the extra added flavor was getting to know the locals along the way. How? By having 3 flat tires. The first was on a side trip to Liang Bua gua cave.

So we ended up pushing the bike (engine assisted) up and around about 3 km of hillside until a local collage adopted us and a friendly young man took on the task to fix our tire with all the necessary tools including a heating apparatus that fused the rubber together. It took about 2 hours and we learned a lot of the language with the help of a dictionary. No one spoke English. We were treated like honored guests and given seats and coffee while he worked diligently.

 Our savior doing a test ride
Julane with the kids while our tire was being repaired

With the tire repaired and the bike test driven by our friendly helper,  we continued to about the half way point and the tire went flat again. This time on the main road. We were immediately befriended by a family who insisted on taking the bike to the nearest Tire Fixit shop. And we spent another 2 hours waiting and wondering how long it would take and where the bike went to. We were pretty exhausted by this point and it was just before dusk so we were worried about the next 60 km in darkness and also the daily rainstorm that had not yet happened. Well finally, the bike arrived back. We had been given food and local coffee and entertained once again the entire village who all wanted to visit and huddle into the mud floored hut with us. The youngest son had just returned all muddied up from catching about 6 large frogs as the protein part of a future meal. And we could hear the bellows of pigs next to us from their livestock. Most of the people on Flores are catholic (not Muslim). We even stayed in a convent in Ruteng as it is one of the cleanest places in town. Ironically it cost more than the other hotels and we had to be in by 9pm when the gates were closed. But we were always so tired that we were tucked into bed and asleep by 9pm.
Second flat tire pit stop
Typical gas station in Flores

After Flores, we returned to Bali and stayed in Ubud for a few days relaxing. Ubud is famous for rice paddies and now tourism and a bohemian artist hangout. Ubud was the perfect place to read some books, chill out and meet up with a friend that works as a dive shop manager in Bali
Creative scarecrow in Ubud
Babi Guling at the famous Warung Ibu Oka a must try when in Ubud