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Nusa Tenggara
Labuan Bajo (Indonesia) to Dili (Timor Leste), Apr-27-09 / May-19-09

The small town of Labuan Bajo is our first destination on the Indonesian island of Flores. The town itself is not a very inspiring place, but it is still the main starting point for organising trips to the world famous Komodo National Park, the group of islands where it is still possible to see the gigantic flesh eating Komodo Dragons in the wild. And indeed, seeing these dragons is also for us the main reason to travel all the way to this dusty town on the far western tip of Flores. As soon as we arrive, we see that Labuan Bajo is still on the beaten tourist path. There are many hotels and restaurants and a lot of tourists wear typical ‘holiday’ cloths. Some of the many tourists that visit Indonesia mainly for a visit to Bali, have the guts to travel all the way to Flores to see the dragons. Most of them come on organised tours, which mean that they travel from Bali to Flores on a ‘party’ boat and travel back by airplane. We decide to spend also a night on Rinca Island, while most travellers visit the island on a day trip from Labuan Bajo. But if you decide to spend also at least a night on one of the islands of Komodo NP, you have the chance to do some longer trekkings in the park. Our visit to the park is eventually a great experience (see also the photo impression about the Komodo NP).

On the island Rinca we met two other travellers that advice us to spend at least one day diving in the Komodo National Park. After weighing some arguments, we decide to do it. We are a little bit reluctant to do it because our first plan was to go diving on the island of Alor, in the far eastern part of Nusa Tenggara. But if this is really such a special place, we want to see it for ourselves. And indeed, after one day of diving we are convinced. It is really a beautiful place and we decide to spend three days more on diving. But after eight dives, it is time again to move on, because diving is a great but also an expensive hobby. Our next destination is the small hill town of Ruteng, on more than four hours driving by bus from Labuan Bajo. Ruteng is a busy market town that attracts a lot of hill people from the surrounding villages to sell their crops. For this reason it is a great place to experience some of the traditional way of life most people in Flores are still living. We are very lucky to meet the young student Ari, who studies tourism on a school in Ruteng. He wants to practise English and offers us to join us for a day. He suggests that we bring a visit to the remote village where he is born and where his parents are still living. But he warns us, it is a poor village and some of the villagers never saw white people before. We decide to do it and it became one of the most special days we had so far in Indonesia (see also the article: as traditional as traditional can be).

Edwin and Ivonne on the top op the Kelimutu volcano on Flores
After this impressive visit to the village we travel further east to the town of Ende. This is a major harbour town where we find out when the next boat is leaving to the island of Sumba. Sumba is also one of the islands of Nusa Tenggara that we want to visit because it is famous for the traditional life that is going on in many its villages. But after some experiences with ‘traditional’ villages, we became suspicious (see also the column: Gula-Gula! (candy!)). Many of these villages, especially when they are mentioned in travel books, are not so traditional anymore in the sense that their traditions are mainly still in place because of the tourists. It is all about the money, by asking significant donations for entry to the villages and taking you to the souvenirs stalls where they sell all kind of tourist crap. Presently, there seems to be only one ferry a week from Ende to Sumba and it is leaving the day after tomorrow. If we want to take this ferry, which takes more than eleven hours, it means that we have to skip our planned visit to the Kelimutu Volcano. It is not so difficult for us to decide to skip the traditional villages of Sumba in favour for the rest and peace of the Kelimutu Volcano in the national park with the same name. The next day, we take the one hour bus ride to the small village of Moni on the foot of the volcano. We check in, in a very small guesthouse (losmen) of a local family. It has only two rooms and the rooms are really shabby. But the price is only 50,000 Rupiahs a night (€ 3.50) and the family is very friendly, so we decide to do it. It is just for a couple of days is what we think …..
Edwin 'skypes' home from Kupang on the Indonesian part of Timor

Soon after, the owner of the guesthouse tells us that it is bad weather already for weeks. And that is unusual, because normally this is the dry season with clear views. But the German couple that occupies the other room of the guesthouse, tell us that it is indeed bad weather for at least the last couple of days. Despite that, they went up the volcano this morning and they regretted it. It was raining and cold, and because of the fog they didn’t see the lakes. And the three lakes on top of the volcano are the main attraction of the Kelimutu. They have different colours (green, black and turquoise) because of the different minerals in the lakes. We decide to set the alarm clock for five o’clock in the morning to take a look outside to see if the sky is clear. If it is, we can wake the owner of the guesthouse and he will call two of his friends to bring us with motorcycles (ojeks), for a non-negotiable rip off price of 35,000 Rp each, to the top of the mountain. And we are lucky because when we look at the still black sky at five in the morning, we see a lot of stars. And if there are stars, there are no clouds. And when there are no clouds, it is perfect weather to go to the top. Twenty minutes later, we zoom with the motorcycles to the top of the Kelimutu. We arrive at sunrise and the view is really great. Most other visitors leave the summit as soon as the sun raised and that is a pity. You can see the beautiful colours of the lakes at best from around ten o’clock onwards, when the sun stands high enough. We wait till around eleven; enjoy the great views and beautiful colours of the lakes and walk back satisfied to the village of Moni.

Our good feeling disappears again the next day, because our little photo camera is stolen during the bus ride back to Ende. We had to put the backpacks on the roof of the bus, because the bus was already packed with people and luggage. Some of the bus boys were also travelling on the roof of the bus, and one of them took the camera from our backpack. We do not use the camera a lot because it is a spare one, but it didn’t make our feeling less miserable. It is the second time since we left in June 2007 that something is stolen from us. It happened for the first time in Dhaka (Bangladesh), when room boys took a mobile phone from our room. When we are back in Ende, we book two tickets for the flight to the town of Kupang, on the Indonesian part of Timor. We spend a couple of days in West Timor before we leave to East Timor, officially called Timor-Leste and only independent since May 2002. We really like to see some of this rarely visited country, but we also plan to go there to renew our Indonesian visa. We crossed the border yesterday (see also the article: destination Timor-Leste) and are now settled down in the capital city of Dili. Today we went as first action of the day to the Indonesian Embassy to apply for a 60-days visa. All we can do not is to wait and see if they give us another 60 days.


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