Lacy: Twenty two days riding through the islands of Indonesia felt like two months. We experienced so much diversity as each island in this country has a different feel and vibe to it. Bali to Lombok to Sumbawa to Flores, Rob and I continued to share laughs on the bike as we saw homemade motorcycles and farm equipment pass us, add new inside jokes and references to our ever growing repertoire of Indonesian humor and discover more beauty than I could ever share through photos on this blog. In fact, going through the photos from Flores it seems they don’t even scrape the surface of how incredibly special this island is. It marries my love of massive mountains and beach, flora and savannah and defines raw beauty. If I were to compare Flores to Bali, Flores would be a woman who never wears make up and exudes a glowing natural beauty about her while Bali is a woman, while still beautiful, takes the time to fuss over herself with makeup and hair. Natural raw beauty has always been more appealing to me. This was my longest motorcycle ride yet, outlasting the trips I have taken for 10+ years with my dad through NE USA. I love being on the bike and would welcome another opportunity to travel a country like this. Perhaps even more of Indonesia now that we successfully extended our visas for another 30 days.
Enjoying the sunset last night on the beach in front of our little beach house…
For now, though, we are laying low on Waecicu beach in Labuan Bajo where we rented a beautiful open air tropical home with a huge kitchen and beach in front. I woke at 5:30 this morning and caught the end of the moon glittering on the water before enjoying an hour long swim and seeing a a baby mantaray. We really scored on this place and it’s perfect as we need somewhere for Rob to rest his battered and bruised foot after the motorcycle landed on it. Morning kayaking, reading on the beach in the hammock or lounge chair, watching the sunset over the water or frying fresh squid, as we did last night, will be the medicine he needs for the next few days…or maybe even a week. We continue to take life as it comes and be thankful for the moments we are sharing together.
Our new place for a bit:
Sunset just a little farther down the island in the hotel we stayed Tuesday night when we arrived to Labuan Bajo to return the bike.
Rob: Outside of Bajawa, Lacy aimed us to a Warung she found on the map that specialized in Babi Sate, Soto & Nasi. *Grilled pig with soup and rice. For less than $2, I ate my second breakfast, (Hobbit reference) with “tears of spice and joy”. Lacy has since put Babi Guling to a tune that she sings each time we spy a little pig along our treks. In Bajawa we broke well away from the main streets at night seeking some local street food and we sure found it. Sape sate dan pedas. *beef skewers of spicy meatballs were a great appetizer to more Babi later. And yes, the word Babi, pronounced like “Bobby”, has probably replaced pig in my normal vocabulary for good. It’s just more fun to say!
Between Bajawa and Kelimutu / Moni we stopped at several beautiful beaches. All of the ones along this particular stretch of coastline were Blue Stone Beaches. The first has a mix of baseball sized white and aqua blue colored stones that were the foundation of the beach. The second was all pebble to baseball sized aqua blue stones on top of a black sand base. Bizarre and beautiful. Also great that a Warung there sold Dragonfruit smoothies and had cold Bintang! Lacy asks for dragonfruit almost everywhere we go and lucky for her she wins most of the time.
The little mountain town of Moni sits at the entrance to Kelimutu National Park and its 3 volcanic lakes. We checked into the aptly named Bintang Lodge and Cafe, ordered up some of their finest Arak to mix with some Sprite and chatted with some other travelers to make our plans for the following day. This region’s Arak was a slightly higher grade of jet fuel than we have had previously and another couple had already scheduled a car to take them to the upper part of the Volcano at 4:30 in the morning. Perfect!
4:30 came quickly and we were pleased that you drove up 90% of this volcano to have just a 45 minute steep hike at the top. There is a viewpoint that we reached at sunrise where you can see all three lakes at the top of this triple caldera Volcano. Each has a different set of minerals or gasses that influence the chemistry and color of the water so each lake has a different hue. It was pretty cloudy once again at the top, but we got our peek-a-boo views in of all three lakes. Maybe we didn’t take the perfect postcard picture but it was still a impressive sight by Mother Nature. Or, Father Time. Wait. Who is in charge of Volcanos? Either way, the 2 1/2 hour walk back down the mountain to Moni was a nice walk in the jungle where we could continue to marvel at the fauna along the way. We even saw a few Babi! We were glad to have had our little view at the top as it began to rain and rain hard for a long time later that afternoon. We were nice and dry this time, sitting on the covered patio with a Bintang and playing cards. Our cards that we brought with us which we purchased on our Amtrak travel last when we took a break from the PCT to travel to Seattle were destroyed by the rain recently. Luckily, the cafe has another deck.
We chose to just enjoy the view and leave the camera alone so I cheated and got these photos from a website to give you an idea of the view
Riung’s 17 islands was our next stop on the Northern Loop portion of our map of Flores. After a 5 hour long and bruising (see below) ride we arrived in Riung late in the day.
All shot off the back of the bike on the road to Riung right before we got to the worst part. This part was hardly a road, but was stunning
It is a very small village on the North coast of Flores. It’s little port is the front door to the 17 Islands National Park. We chartered an inexpensive private boat for a day trip around 4 of the 17 islands. Our fist stop was a mangrove ringed island which was home to thousands of the regions giant bats or flying foxes as they are better known here. I just wasn’t prepared for the size or the numbers of them so I was a bit shocked when we arrived.
They are the size of a small black Fox in body but with about a 3 foot wingspan to go with it. They screeched and flew above us in circles by the hundreds as the sound of the boat’s engine woke them up from their upside down perches in the mangrove trees. A few thousand at least in total around the bay. Our next stop was a small island with a coral ring reef that made for good snorkeling. Parrot fish chased each other below us. The third island had a beautiful beach where our captain pulled our brightly painted wooden boat right up onto the sand. While Lacy and I went for a little walk down the beach, he started a fire and began to grill 2 Grouper for lunch. Lacy had thought to also have them bring along several ice cold Bintangs for us. Tomato salad, grilled fish, cold beer on a private beach. It didn’t suck. Not at all. One more secluded beach and snorkeling spot later, we were on our way back to port that afternoon. Boat therapy for my bruises was successful.
WKST *White Knuckle Sphincter Tightness update: On Flores, the roads and riding continues to be thrilling, challenging and, well … bruising. Truck sized potholes abound. Sometimes you get an attention grabbing Hati-Hati sign on the side of the road, but often you don’t see them until you are swerving around them. The scary part about these types of potholes is that it can cause a car or truck from the opposite side of the road to abruptly swerve into your lane so you have to watch ahead for them on your and the other side of the road. We have spent hour long stretches between 1st and 3rd gear on the curviest and hilliest jungle roads on Flores. Several curly hairpins have made me think I was in a carnival stunt show because if I stopped or slowed too much on any part of the corkscrew up or down, we would simply flop over. Keeping momentum going is a priority or there just isn’t enough road apex to make the whole turn. The sharpest hairpin turns seem to continue to always show me the front “smile” of truck coming around the other way, too. I am happy that as big and heavy as the bike is, that it is also reasonably nimble and had very stable control on wet roads and during our recent downpour. After about 45 minutes on these types of roads, we definitely keep a lookout for any flat spot to take a quick break. We get lucky when the flat rest area comes with coffee and a view. Sometimes the the road is fully 2 lanes wide. Maybe it even had a shoulder. But if we get off the main East West Island road, on many smaller jungle roads, it becomes to too narrow to pass a truck or bus on the opposite side without pulling off to the side. Lacy continues to earn her weight as a Navigator adding in views as well as directions. “Wow. View of the peak to the left.” “View across the canyon to the right ahead.” “Two dogs fuckin’ on the right.” The bike and the 2 Bule riding it still get lots of wows and whoas from school kids as we pass by. I return thumbs up and wave when I have hands free & Lacy waves like a Beauty Queen on a Parade Float. I think I lost my damage deposit on the motorcycle yesterday though. We were in a coastal area where the road had been completely washed out from the rainy season. It was rebuilt so far with very rough dirt and gravel laid down as the first step of rebuilding the road back to normal. The flat parts just rattled your bones but a steep ravine bit me. Lacy hopped off and I killed the motor. I was straddling the bike and half rolling slow / half braking and balancing everything down a very steep and rutted rock slide area. The next thing I knew, I was sliding and then pinned under the bike. Lacy played Supergirl and literally picked the bike up off of where it had my leg squished against the rocks. Thankfully just a sprained and bruised foot and ribs was the worst of it unless you count scratches on the side cases of the bike now.