05 September 2009 | Sea World, Gelitung, Flores 08 38 02S 122 18 57E
On 5th August, my 68th birthday, we set off from Hot Springs for Lebaleba a bay on the western side of the island of Alor, a town with a market. Well that was the plan but on our first day out we experienced adverse currents of 1.5+ knot and little wind making headway rather slow. The possibility of a late afternoon arrival made us change our destination to the island of Adunara where there was an idyllic anchorage on the north east corner behind some reefs. This was a beautiful spot surrounded by many volcanoes, some venting, but sadly there was an uncomfortable roll and we stayed just 2 nights. We managed to dinghy across the bay to a small Muslim fishing village where we appeared to be greeted by the entire population. The children were wildly excited by our arrival and we were introduced to the head man who took us on a tour of the village. The laughter and squealing from these children was deafening but they were all so happy with huge great smiles.
From the island of Adunara we set off for the island of Flores having planned stops on the way but with northeasterlies the anchorages on the north coast were not comfortable. We continued to what we thought would be protected at Wolu Dama but in fact it turned out to be very uncomfortable so after cooking our evening meal and just before the light diminished we set off out to sea to spend the night hove to. It was the most glorious night with a flat glassy sea, moonlight, no wind and a handful of fishing boats in the distance. We kept watch on our regular nightly shifts and then continued on our way the next morning to Sea World Resort at Geliting a short distance from the port of Maumere.
What fun we had here. Sea World Resort is owned by a Catholic Mission and all profits are used to help the community. Every night seemed to be a party night with wonderful local food and dancers entertaining us and their guests.
A couple of days after arrival friends on Neptune II, Gary, Venessa and their two children Elliott and Marina took off early one morning to go on an inland tour up to Mount Kelimutu (1640m) for a couple of days. Once ashore they found their transport to be a very smart people carrier with air conditioning so they called me on the VHF and asked how quickly I could get a bag together and get ashore. At the time I was in the process of making pineapple fritters for breakfast. I just left everything as it was got my rucksack and literally stuffed a few things in and left. What a wonderful two days I had visiting many different villages, talking to locals, stopping along the roadside to buy spices from villagers who were drying them on sheets of plasti. It appears that every woman learns to weave their traditional 'ikats' a tubular piece of cloth made on a backstrap loom which is then worn as their traditional skirt bandaged round with the top rolled in to hold it firm. This 'ikat' is their night attire and bedtime blanket. An extremely versatile piece of clothing. Everywhere we went women were desperate to sell to us which makes it extremely hard when there are 20 or 30 ladies in one place all pleading with you. Eventually I was tempted up in the mountains when we were invited to a house to view some pieces. There was one I liked the colours of but the price they demand is far in excess of what they are worth so I bargained and eventually acquired the piece. Shortly after leaving the lady came rushing after me to tell me not to tell anyone how much I had paid - strange - so I asked if I had paid her too much. She told me in reasonably good English how she had competition in the village and I was to tell, if asked, a lower figure. Not long after this we went into a small café/restaurant for a meal and I was wearing the scarf when a lady came rushing over to me saying it was hers and asking where I had bought it. She was quite agitated and needed to know from whom I had bought and how much I had paid. I did as I had been told and she went away happy thankfully.
Eating out in Indonesia takes a great deal of patience as we found on this trip. Our lunch took a while but we put that down to the place being reasonably well patronised but the eatery at Moni beat the record. We arrived feeling not too hungry after a good lunch but by the time the meal arrived we were all starving. From ordering to the food being put on the table was over one and a half hours. The food was wonderful and extremely reasonable. With our bellies full we retired to our beds at Sao Ria Bungalows ready for a very early start next morning.
The accommodation was not good. Gary and Venessa had booked at the best hotel in the area but it was a building site and extremely grotty so we got the driver to take us to Sao Ria which looked very pretty from the roadside. Perched on the hillside these traditionally built chalets with steps of around 18 inches deep were not easy to access. My room at $7.50US a night complete with a 'bathroom' full of slugs was an experience. The bed which was twisted felt as if it had been made of concrete with a very thin layer of so called mattress on top. There was no washbasin in the 'bathroom', the only water being in a large square tiled bin where one used a plastic style saucepan to ladle water to flush the loo. It was typically Indonesian style. However, the staff were very friendly and knocked us up early next morning greeting us in reception with hot coffee and banana pancakes all included in the price.
It is best to do long hikes very early morning when the sun is just kissing the surrounding mountains, before the clouds surround them and the sun's heat is manageable. So off we set in our taxi to Kelimutu hoping to catch up during the day on the sleep we did not manage to get in the hard beds.
At Kelimutu car park we were met by a local guy who immediately took us under his wing accompanying us to the top where we viewed the three different coloured lakes. At the time two lakes were turquoise and the third black. With the exception of one of the green lakes the others fluctuate to yellow, orange and red. It was an amazing sight which reminded me a great deal of the quarries in the Malverns although of course a lot higher. Our guide had carried a huge backpack which tested my inquisitiveness but once at the top we soon learned what the contents were. He had a flask of boiling hot water, a bag of Flores floral tea leaves and a jar of local sugar. It was nectar. This guy walked 5kms from where he lived each day then climbed the 1km mountain path many times each day before returning to his village by foot each night. He did not wear any footwear as is the case with most people here.
After a good walk we were in need of breakfast. Moni is just 13 kms away so it was back to the restaurant we had eaten the previous night for toast and tea. Thankfully it did not take so long but the toast was the end crusts from a few loaves. Nothing wasted here.
From here we continued on our journey stopping at the paddy fields built on the sides of the mountains to take a look at their construction. It was just as they were in China. The people here are so industrious, particularly out in the villages and on the land. Rice is their staple diet so tonnes and tonnes of it are eaten each day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, often plain with nothing added.
We watched children swim in water courses on the roadside where everything from laundry, bathing, cleaning building materials etc. etc. is done. It is amazing how resourceful everyone is. One boy made a very good job of swimming uphill in the narrow channel, we were very impressed. Not long after we saw him and his brother cleaning their teeth in the same water. There is an endless supply of water flowing from the mountains but few homes have a tap, with many having to collect water from the communal pipe or from a river.
Later we visited an Animist village and met the chief who invited us into the 500 year old traditional meeting house. His daughter, Maria, who spoke excellent English told us of the history and politics of the area explaining in great details how each chief was chosen. At the end of the visit we sat on the cane verandah, under the rush roof that almost touched the ground, eating wonderful fruit she produced. These people need so much it is impossible to know where to start to help. Thankfully Venessa came prepared with children's clothes to give away.
Everyone appears to grow plenty of vegetables and there are animals which presumably are slaughtered to eat but their diet does appear to be mainly rice and vegetables. At this last village Maria told us they ate dog as well as wild boar, buffalo and the occasional chicken. We will certainly be keeping to a vegetarian or fish meal in future!
In spite of all the eating we had been doing we were feeling peckish again and we made our way down the mountains to return to the restaurant we had lunch in yesterday. Marina had fish soup the previous day which was simply delicious so Venessa and I decided to have it today. Everything is made fresh so we stood in the kitchen to watch it being prepared and cooked. Two large fish complete with head and innards were cut into steaks and put into the pot with onion, garlic, ginger and tamarind. It was all fried, water added and hey presto half an hour later we were served the best fish soup we had ever tasted followed by fried noodles and freshly cooked veggies.
On our way once more we came across guys barbecuing fresh fish on thin sticks on the side of the road. The smell was simply wonderful. We had just eaten so no need to buy, just a good place to stop and take photos.
At every village we passed a stand with half filled water bottled stood. It looks like cold tea but it was in fact the local filling station. Each bottle contained 1 litre of petrol which is bought by the thousands of motor cyclists here on the islands. If you want a taxi you just hop on the back of a bike. No, we have not yet done that. The roads are just too bumpy to feel safe.
As we headed back towards Maumere traffic built up into tremendous jams as children practiced marching for the forthcoming competitions and Independence Day parades. Marching is taken seriously here with all ages and sexes taking part. Everyone is extremely smart. The majority of people here are so poor but their kids are turned out beautifully in the spotless outfits. There are no road safety rules here. These kids march whilst the thousands of motorcyclists, trucks and buses move closely past them.
These processions were happening everywhere we went and once back in Maumere we were greeted by an even bigger jam with thousands of people lining the streets to watch and enjoy the atmosphere.
Eventually we arrived back at Sea World Resort tired, dirty and extremely full after what had been the most wonderful trip to a remote area of Flores up in the mountains.
Now back on board I have to catch up with my chores
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