Flores – what a contrast

Sape to Labuan Bajo ferry: 6.5 hours

Labuan Bajo to Bejewa: 264 km, 8:30

Bejawa to Moni: 195 km, 5:45

Moni to Maumere 110 km, 3:30

Maumere to Larantuka: 139 km, 3:45

The Sape ferry is scheduled for 9:00 and 4:00 pm departures, but these times are at best a rough guide. There was no morning ferry on our departure day, although there were hundreds of people already waiting when we arrived at 7:00 am.

It didn’t leave at 4:00 pm either – more like 7:00 pm.

It was around 2 am by the time we cleared the ferry terminal at Labuan Bajo. I got a good price online for the luxury Silvia resort, which is about 5 km out of town. What a silly strategy! The last 2 km is through heavy roadworks – to the extent that it’s not clear where the road goes, or if it is still a road versus a quarry. And the hotel has no signage, despite being 400 m down a steep driveway, off the roadworks. And nobody answered the phone.

Happily we met a lone local rider and asked for directions, otherwise we would not have found it. Lesson: don’t book accommodation in advance. The ferry is too unreliable. If you arrive late at night, you need a hotel near the ferry terminal.

We stayed in town the next night and pretended we were part of the happening scene, which is certainly a thing in LB. It is the latest “undiscovered” destination. In fairness, it has a lot going for it – the town and harbour are stunning, plus there’s a constant buzz of tours heading out to Komodo and snorkelling reefs.

From Labuan Bajo to Bejewa was just a transport run, mostly through heavy rain. There’s lots of roadworks, which leaves a slimy film of mud over the hairpin bends. The trusty Yamaha Scorpio saw us through safely – I was really impressed.

We arrived soaking wet just on dusk and took the first hotel, which was the Edelweiss. It’s a bucket shower type establishment and the tap could not be turned off. Combined with the wet clothes, that caused a fog in the room that would have stopped us from watching television, if it had one. Our clothes were still soaking the next day. I complained that it was not a “VIP” room and received a partial refund. The halls and stairs are remarkable – I think Escher may have taken inspiration from them. Eating plain rice for breakfast in soaking clothes became even more memorable when another guest loudly cleared his nasal passages every minute. I began providing running commentary and expressing my admiration, which seemed to confuse him, although his wife got the message and translated it via a dig in the ribs. Funny how chewing your own snot at the table is not considered offensive in some cultures.

Happy days when we arrived at Moni and stayed in a sparkling new guest house, then sat at the nearby bar veranda surveying the small village and surrounding rice paddies. Moni is the “base camp” for pre-dawn trips to Mt Kelemutu. There were a lot of foreign tourists, considering that it’s a long way from anywhere. We seemed to be the only ones who arrived by motorcycle, although our innkeeper said a group of Australians had passed through the previous week riding “huge KTM” bikes.

We did the Mt Kelemutu run – it takes maybe 40 minutes to ride to the car park, then another 30 minutes walk to the summit. Back to the lodge for breakfast then headed off the Maumere. At just over 100 km, it was one of our easiest days. We headed out of town and stayed at a beach resort (see the sunset dinner photo). At $60 per night it was a little pricey by Indonesian standards  but for huts right one the water, with a hot shower, who’s complaining? The resort has a dive shop and various all-day snorkelling trips, but we weren’t there long enough to investigate.

Note: the ferry terminal at Maumere has no roll-on / roll-off vehicle ferries (according to staff there, and the schedules).

Maumere to Larantuka is … WOW! What a ride! Huge coastal vistas with turquoise sea, volcanic cones with cloud halos, all the while sweeping through banana trees, palms and rice paddies. We did not see another Western tourist after Maumere, and not many there either.

And finally into Larantuka, the final stop for Flores. Except for a day trip to the island of Adonara, which is only 500 m across the straight. That straight has the most savage tidal current – some of the chug-chug fishing boats could only make headway by zig-zagging (see the attached video).

We stayed at small resort of Beachfront Padi Dive Resort, operated by Chris and Maria Foster. Chris is a commercial diver but takes guest snorkelling when he’s not off diving around the world. There are spectacular coral reefs almost on their doorstep.

We took a ferry to Adonara island and did almost one complete lap (but cut through the middle and mapped a road that is not on Open Street Maps or Google). After getting “backroaded” by a street celebration, we got lost and took several bad turns. Open Street Maps did not have some of the roads, so it was dead reckoning and asking a  lot of questions. We got the last private ferry off the island just on dusk, which is a good thing because I didn’t see any hotels on the island.

lb harbour

Labuan Bajo, view from the hotel veranda in the back from the main street (there are many similar hotels). Motorcycle access is via a completely different road at the back, quite a long ride.

komodo

Dragon porn. It’s shagging season at Komodo (June-July).

 

Sunset near Labuan Bajo

Sunset near Labuan Bajo. It is a very big day trip to visit the dragons and take in some snorkelling on the way back.

mount kelemutu

Mount Kelemutu, just after dawn. Most people set off from the town of Moni around 4 am to get the summit in time (it’s about a 1.5 hour trip, with riding and hiking)

dinner at maumere

Seafood dinner on the beach at Maumere – $20 each. Not too shabby?

You wish you were here. Maumere to to Larantuka.

on the way to adonara

One of several ferry routes from Larantuka to Adonara. This crossing is about 20 minutes but some smaller boats are more direct.

last ferry back from Adonara

Lucky last boat back from Adonara to Larantuka. Turnoff from the main road to the boat jetty is obscure  – blink and you miss it.

ferry harbour near larantuka

Ferry terminal at Larantuka is about 5 km out of town, back towards Maumere. The boarding is quite civil compared to Sumbawa.

vip class to larantuka

This is VIP class on the ferry. The trip is about 12 hours. It’s tolerable until the toilet starts overflowing after about 3 hours. One enterprising young man unplugged the air conditioner so he could recharge his phone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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