Monday, 8 September 2008

Day 462 - Luanbajo, Flores

(Written and posted from Maumere)

Gosh it's been a long time since a post, so at this stage I am not sure if that means that I am going to write a lot, or just say "Oh sod it, I can't be bothered!"

Ok, let's see what I can remember. Well I set out from Sumbawa Besar straight into a climb, a bit of a shock as it was the first one encountered on Sumbawa after a flat day the previous day, but thankfully it didn't last too long. By mid morning though, things were getting tougher, the road had deteriorated to badly broken tarmac which resulted in vehicles weaving around the road looking for the smallest holes to drive through, and the wind had got up, so no surprise there anyway! Progress was slow and I rather feared that this was how it was going to be from now on, my backside wasn't appreciating it one little bit. I stopped for a well earned rest at a decent looking cafe but the only staff about were teenage girls who just laughed when I spoke, ran off to the kitchen giggling, repeating my order as they went, but never actually doing anything about it. I really didn't need this right now but when I eventually chased up the order an older man came out and normal service was resumed. When I came to pay there were more problems, they didn't have change for my 50,000 Rupiah note so went off in search of change but came back with the same note which was then screwed up and thrown between them until they just left it and nobody even looked at it. I picked it up, put it in my wallet and started to walk off, that got a reaction at last and the man once again put in an appearance and came back with the change without leaving the building. Thankfully soon after I was back on normal road surfaces again. I arrived at a place called Empang ready to call it a day but knowing I would have to find somewhere to camp, but I stopped and asked a group of people if there was a losmen (hotelly type thing) nearby, they all pointed very positively and said it was in 2km. 1km later I arrived at the hotel, a group of bamboo huts, perfectly suitable for a nights kip.

The next day had some great scenery, mountains to one side, sea to the other, just as I like it, the wind head on, just as I hate it. The roads were now very quiet, no traffic, no villages, no houses, nothing. The kilometers stones told me it was 38km to BTS, my map wasn't going to help me out with that one, but on arrival I went straight past it thinking there had to be more around the corner, there wasn't, so I back tracked. All that was there was a cafe and a mosque, I made use of the cafe and just looked at the mosque wondering who on earth used it. The road wound its way up and down around the bays, delightful stuff, then climbed away from the coast. I stopped at another cafe for drinks and topped up my water bottle. Then I managed to do what I have threatened so many times in the past and left a bottle behind. Now, I know it's only a small thing, but I found it so annoying, still I bought a litre of fanta which fits the holder, so now I am carrying more water, more weight, oh joy! I arrived in Dompu, a sizable town with 3 reasonable hotels, though not alot to keep one entertained.

Then I was off to Sape at the other end of Sumbawa island, the road going around a massive loop and sticking close to the mountains when it looked far shorter to have just cut straight across the flat land, but only on reaching the far side did I find the problem, a big lump of sea. Having gone around in a large loop it meant that I had the wind behind me, oh that was just wonderful for a few kilometers, especially as the road was once again right beside the sea looking across to mountains on the other side of the bay, I was in heaven. I never seem to stay long in heaven, hell is always beckoning to me and sure enough I once again turned inland up some nice steep hills before settling into a climb, only reaching the highest point I had been to on the island with just 18km of it left to cover. When I checked into a losmen there was a small classroom with an English lesson about to start. I asked how far it was to the port for tomorrow morning's crossing to Flores, "Oh, only about 3 minutes" I was told, "Oh, less than a kilometer then" I said surprised, "No, it's about 3 kilometers". So why is it that people think I can cycle at 60kph, I can't even do that going down a steep hill, let alone through a village, no vehicle can average 60kph on these roads.

Come morning I set off to try and cover the 3km in 3 minutes, it was never going to happen, the school run was on, it was 7am and the roads were overcrowded with horse and carts, motorbikes were squeezing through, lorries and buses had their horn blaring out, but at least we were moving. I reached the dock and the ticket office before it had opened so I was all but first on by 7:40, we were supposed to depart at 8am. I grabbed a coffee and found a seat, there was no shortage. I was soon surrounded by 3 undesirables, I really didn't want to be with them for the 8 hour trip, so I wasn't exactly welcoming. As soon as they moved off the next one moved in, again I wasn't welcoming to his question "Where are you going?", "Guess", "I don't know" he replied, "Well where is this ferry going?", "I don't know" came the answer. I was surprised to see foot passengers still casually walking on at 8:30, then I found out it was a 9am departure that eventually left at 9:15. I was surprised to see other foreigners on the boat, 5 of us in total. Toby from Kent had just come across Sumbawa on the overnight bus with an American, "Don't talk to the American" I was advised, "He is alright to start with but then he starts talking about his penis enlargement with a graft taken from his stomach, and also about the 350 women he has had sex with", I took his advice and when he came over I kept the subject strictly to travel, his eyes were somewhat glazed over, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt and say that was probably from the overnight bus journey. I kept hearing that same old tune being played on peoples mobile phones so I asked an Indonesian family who it was, then was given samples of all the other tunes he had on his phone. I got talking to Darius from London and later to his wife Tara, a lovely couple. What bothered me most though was the open sided lounge on the ferry, or more precisely the way that everybody seemed to want the covers down as there was too much fresh air, it soon got very hot and filled with cigarette smoke so I went of in search of an open section. That wasn't much better as it was filled with men spitting over the side, how do they produce so much plem in such a short time? Once the ferry docked I was about the first off and I was amazed to see more foreigners walking along the streets of Luanbajo, for some reason I just hadn't expected that, the place was full of us. After visiting 4 hotels and being amazed at just how expensive they were for the poor standard, I checked in with moments to spare as the heavens opens and it pelted down for about an hour, one more minute and I would have been soaked. Once the rain stopped I was off for dinner, then found Darius and Tara who were with a German caller Olivier and we had dinner together as the local hawkers tried to sell us wooden Komodo Dragons wearing necklaces, very fetching. I nice sociable evening, I even had a couple of beers, the first in a long time.

Ok, that will do for now, but don't even start to think you have got off lightly, I am far from up to date so you might well get another load tomorrow......are you keeping up?

I have given up waiting for the photograph to lod up too, I might try that again tomorrow.


Tony said...

Keeping up so far, glad there's more to come. Reading about it is easy, but doing it sounds very tough (and quite dream-like) for a lot of the time.

jac said...

Great to hear more of your news - sounds like interesting times where you are. Looking forward to the next installment. J