Saturday, 7 January 2012

Travels to the land of flowers

I waved goodbyes to some special friends early morning in busy Dili and was off on a 12 hour bus trip to Kupung, West Timor. Tears were uncontrollably released as we drove off, feeling vulnerable to separation anxiety, I found compassion and care sitting next to me, receiving a pat on the back and an offering of chocolate by a nun, oh the kindness of strangers. I felt sad but content and i was ready for the next adventure. It really was like starting again, leaving home again.
The trip was long, but interesting, the differences between East Timor and West Timor were brutally apparent... good roads, tin roofs, clean streets, healthier looking people, big housing, more industry.
Arriving in Kupung quite late i was dropped off to the first hotel we passed and slept an awfully lonely night, in foetal position. waaaa....

The next evening after an aimless 12 hour wander around dirty Kupung, i hopped a Pelni boat to Ende, Flores Island. These boats are massive and there were A LOT of people on board, i found myself a good spot with a few women around me and settled for the 24 hour trip ahead. A few hours off Flores i was greeted by one of the most spectacular sunsets i have seen in a long time, 180 degree view from the back of the boat, complimented by Muslim call to prayer music in background, dolphins playing in distance, sky of electric purple, yellow, orange, and a darker city of clouds lining the horizon. I was lost in this view until reality became evident in the form of a boat worker emptying the days trash into the ocean from the back of the boat, i watched as the plastics trickled off into oblivion.

Ende was an uneventful city for me and after a few days it was time to move on, i had met two other solo travellers David and Andrew and we decided to team up on a north bound expedition. The roads in Flores are c c c crazyyy! winding mountains, blind corners, sheer drops, fallen trees, and the usual dog, pig, cow, chicken obstacle.
The bus trips were entertaining as always, loud blasting pop music with too much bass and treble, a non optional game of corners lasting a few hours where ones face gets squashed against windscreen and also the odd person with car sickness puking in a bag in front of you. As disgusting and uncomfortable as this sounds, i actually really enjoy these trips.

Our first destination was the sweet little town of Moni, this place is picturesque, nestled between mountains, rivers, dense forest and delicious hot springs that we bathed in till we became 3 ghostly wrinkly raisins.
We hired some motos and prayed for the rain to stop, "i can see clearly now the rain has gone" popped on the sound system and yes the next morning was clear as we ventured up before sunrise toward Kelimutu National Park. We were greeted by a brilliant orange pink skyline with trickles of silver, and clouds folding over distant mountains like waterfalls. It was a very beautiful special morning. This volcano has 3 lakes of ranging colour that have changed without explanation throughout time. Now they are turquoise, green and black glass. But in the past they have been a rusty red and thick white.

Natural Changes, eternal beliefs. Its believed that spirits come to Kelimutu when people die. The Mae (spirit) would leave its village and remain in Kelimutu forever. Before entering one of the lakes the spirit would firt meet Konde Ratu, the guard of the gate Perekonde. Which lake the spirit would enter depends on the age and charachter when alive.

Over the next week we travelled around North Flores visiting untouched beaches and traditional villages. We ate like kings in Maumere where we found an amazing Warung called 'Ruma Makan Ikan Bakar' best sursak juice (custard apple) and breakfasts at the local market were amazing and entertaining, the locals looked at us with bamboozled expressions as we ate papaya with lime and hard coconut shell.

My friend 'togetha' aka Emily Hellyeah that i met in Lospalos was also venturing around Indonesia and we decided to meet up for Chrissy, New Years. She came back to Flores (she is basically a local now) and we ventured back to Moni to visit some of her friends.... and we partied. Festa Festa Festa! We were invited to a 1 year olds birthday party, but this aint no usual 1st birthday this was an all out, dance and drink fest. 100s of photos of Em and i with the family and much bottom wiggling in the mud to crazy tranz like dance hall raggae tunes. With a hangover we headed to Ende, the boys followed us without our knowledge and persuaded us to go to another Festa the following night, this was a graduation party and yes, it got pretty out of control too.
We left early bound West and after many coffee stops with friends we made it to Bajawa. We had a beautiful night resting under a natural hot spring waterfall. Bajawa is a beautiful town surrounded my 7 Volcanoes and innumerable  Eucalyptus plantations.

Em and I then left for Laubanbadjo planning to ferry it across to Lombok for Christmas. We got stuck in this city as there are protests in Bima, Sumbawa. All ferries and busses were stopped. The protests are against an Australian Gold mine, for the peoples land rights.There is not much about it in the papers or on  the news here, and a lot of people i talk to dont even know its going on. Protesters have been killed and many injured by the Indonesan police and their brutal nature of enforcement.

Laubanbadjo was great though, we met quite a few locals and had great nights playing music and cruising around the city. Ate an amazing lunch at a fancy restaurant for Christmas, and then decided to catch a tourist boat to Lombok. For anyone thinking of heading to Indonesia, i think that Flores should be at the top of your list! The people here really reminded me of the giving , compassionate, loving people of Timor Leste, and the nature is just completely wild and indescribable!