Lacy: This awe inspiring island, Flores, became my favorite in a matter of hours. It was never a contest of where we enjoyed most as we travel through this country the past 2 months, but Flores makes my jaw drop and has me saying “Oh my gosh” as we round every new bend in the road. Easily one of my top 3 places to have ever visited, this was the first time I had even a fleeting thought of moving to Indonesia after this trip. Flores has the most intense jungle scenery with exploding flora, an abundance of flowers, huge mountains, magnificent bright green rice terraces, volcanoes with lakes, the friendliest people & a variety of untouched beaches. I love it here. I want to explore every nook and cranny of this island. Our week long motorcycle tour is coming to a close as we angle our way back to Labuhan Bajo where we turn the keys back over tomorrow to Chris from the motorcycle shop. We had one minor scrape up with the bike that injured Rob’s foot (more in the next blog), but we still have had an unforgettable and cherished journey that we would repeat all over again. Rob wrote most of the blog and I will interject a few places here and there, but somehow it will never be possible to capture through this blog how much splendor there is in Flores and the constant smiles we have both worn.
Ear to ear smiles after our first day experiencing just how beautiful this island is – rain & all
Rob: Flores has not disappointed in our first days on the island. It is the lushest, richest green jungle we have yet seen and that is saying a lot. Farms and rice fields continue to amaze us in the way they are carved into the hills and are geometrically divided in the valleys. We pass through giant bamboo stands where each tree has a 15-20” radius at the bottom of their trunks and are 50-75 feet tall. Sometimes they stand in clusters of 20-30 and sometimes they take over both sides of the road and completely block out the sun. At one overlook, we discussed how many different varieties of trees we could see in just that view and lost count trying. Banana trees grow wild and huge here. Palm trees laden with coconuts compete for the sun with trees weighed down with papayas ripe for picking.
As we cross the island and the road runs from beach through mountain gaps and then winds up and over other mountains, we can see the effects of the rain patterns in the landscape. Closer to the coastal areas and ocean, flowering trees, plants and vines are more abundant. The air is drier with warm breezes constantly. When you climb up into the foothills, you also climb up into mist. Everything begins the get thicker and greener. Much, much larger trees layered with even more tropical plants stretch out over the roads. 20-30 foot tall palm ferns fill in any gap between the larger trees and spread out to catch the sun. Banana trees, wild coffee and other big leafy plants layer in next. The canyons created by the volcanic origins of the island and ensuing erosion are severe in their sharp angles and grass covered slopes. It is like the jungle soaked up all the mist and it didn’t make it into these other areas. So in stark contrast, dried grasses and sparse older looking trees live in these vertical crevasses alone. The further up the road climbs, the mist becomes clouds and rain forms often. The rain in the last few days traveling has been the price we have paid for the amazing and picturesque landscape. Sometimes it is just enough to get wet clothes that dry again in an open sunny area later. Often that scenario repeats itself. So far we have endured only one major downpour that soaked us through to the core and filled my hiking boots with a liter of water. We soldiered on through it for over an hour and were cold drowned rats by the time we drove out of it. One of Lacy’s highlights of that moment was seeing the locals so casually using the massive banana leaves as a temporary umbrella as they walked down the side of the road.
Yesterday we took a rest, gas and Bintang break at a black sand beach created by the breakdown of the volcanic flow that ran into the ocean there many years ago. The beach was dotted with big yellow flowers, the size of your hand, that float down from the tips of the trees that line the beach. Someone told me that black, red or green sand beaches here were “younger” because they form much faster by the volcanic rock breaking down to the beach versus white coral breaking up and rising out of the ocean to form a beach. True or not, when you are in lands like this, you do consider the history and evolution of the islands as you travel. The volcanic action took a long time to develop them just the way they are today and that action remains constant into tomorrow.
We have traveled 3-5 hours a day of on-the-road time while on Flores bouncing between the key regions surrounding Labuan Bajo, Ruteng, Bajawa, Moni and Riung. All along the way, we see the most beautiful and striking scenery. We stop at Warungs along the way for great lunches or just a Sprite while we rub the body parts back to life that a buzzing and vibrating motorcycle being overworked on bumpy roads tend to put to sleep.
Liang Bua Cave was a very interesting stop we made near Ruteng. Do you remember the Hobbit Lady named Flo who’s fossilized bones were discovered in a cave about 15 years or so ago? Not a real Hobbit, of course, but just a very short (<4 ft tall) person along a separate evolutionary path than modern Humans or Neanderthal people. According to the science side of things, this represents a third branch of the tree yet still unconnected to the other 2. It is an anomaly amongst plants and animals in Flores that otherwise seem to be gigantism to their peers in other parts of the world be they giant bats that look like foxes with wings, limes bigger than soft balls, beetles that could carry a mouse away, ferns as big as palm trees and lizards that outweigh me twice over that we have seen along our travels. It was great to be able to speak with one of the Archeologists currently working at the site who has been there 2 months of every year for the last 10 years.