Day11 – Diving and Komodos in Rinca

Today’s program was two more dives, plus a stop off at Rinca (another 250000Rp). It was good, because chartering a separate boat would cost more, and this way i’d get two more dives. We decided to dive first, so that I can get at least some time (24 hours no flight rule). Today’s group was Nicklas and Inggar, an father & son team whose names I didn’t get, plus a lost french guy Francois. He was supposed to be on some other boat I think. 
Missed my breakfast again, those guys at Gardena really take forever to prepare breakfast, and I wasn’t willing to wake up an hour earlier. 
Today was at Tatawa Besar, an island with steep drop offs of up to 70m. It was a good drift dive, mostly soft corals, lots of micro life. Dominique was the master of spotting nudibranches and small stuff like monkey crabs. I saw what I thought was an octopus, but the photo came out bad. It was in a hole, with big eyes and changed to from grey to black when it sensed I was threatening. 
Second dive was on Tengah Island, which was a multi-level wall dive on the blindside of the strong currents. Here was moray eels, more nudibranches. The dives were long too. I had my buoyancy sorted and my air lasted much longer than before. 


After lunch on the boat, proceeded to make a stopover at Rinca. Since we already had the 3 day pass to Komodo National Park, we didn’t have to pay extra. The 1hr guided track was included. A 2hr trek will be 50,000 Rp more. We (me and the Swedish couple) took the 1hr trek, while the rest went on the small boat to dive. Around the office area, especially under the stilt-housed kitchen, were 4 komodos, strutting around, attracted to the food. The largest was lazing right underneath, they called him Big Boss. Haha. Guide Dacosta says that we will go on the trail, but he cannot promise us we will see the komodos along the way, in their natural surroundings. The afternoon walk itself (2pm) was a hot sweaty trudge through dry grassy terrain and muddy streams. We saw 11 komodos in total, 6 at the campsite, and 5 in the while. Including one close up of a little komodo going for a drink by the stream. Other sights were a water buffalo, deer carcass where a komodo had just finished lunch. Basically the komodo dragon is king here, everything else (water buffalos, deers, wild horses, monkeys) is komodo food. There was some news about a local guy who was bitten by a komodo on Komodo Island while picking fruit and died. I heard a similar tale while in Bajawa where someone mentioned two weeks ago some other guy got bitten. Don’t know how true these stories are, could be the same 1 dragon which has developed a taste for human meat. :-o  

Going back, there was an incident where the boat ran into a coral atoll. They stopped when they saw it, but the momentum meant the boat landed smack in the middle of a shallow <5m spot. Stuck, because moving would mean the propellers getting damaged. Attempts to start the boat resulted in lots of silt being thrown up. Luckily, the small boat they took out for those other guys to dive while we visited Rinca came in handy. They used in as a tugboat, pulling the Rajawali sideways till it was out of the corals. Luckily it was mostly dead hard corals there. “Celaka” goes Dominique, at the misfortune. Haha.

Day 10 – Dive Komodo

Today we set off at 8am, Martin cancelled his dive so it was just me, Lisa, a swedish couple and the DiveKomodo guys. Greg’s an Australian who owns the place with his partner Stephanie, who’s Swiss.
Two dives today, first was at Takat Makasar, and the second was at Batu Bolong. Komodo National Park is a protected area (US$15 for a 3 day pass) which means the underwater life is allowed to grow. And there’s like only 4 or so dive companies operating out of Labuanbajo. The Rajawali (translated it means kingfisher) is a fine boat operated by local guys. The DM is an experience Dominique, with his assistant Franz. It was a two hour or so ride out to the dive sites. First dive was a reef dive, visibility was great, saw a white-tip reef shark, an eagle ray, turtle, morays amongst other things. The Swedes had an eagle ray circling them round and round! Second dive was a wall dive, considered one of the top 3 dive sites in Komodo NP. Schools of fusiliers, a giant trevally, lots of lionfish. I think this dive ranks somewhere around Shark Point or better. Lunch was on board, rice and fish. It’s a pretty professional outfit, they have guys who help to rig up your gear etc. 


In the evening, had somemore internet time, dinner. Didn’t feel like joining them for drinks, having a bit of a headache. Decided to go for 2 more dives tomorrow, including a stop at Rinca or Komodo.

Day 9 – Bajawa to Ruteng to Labuanbajo

I spent most of today in the 4WD, trying not to puke my guts out. The road winds round and round the valleys, hills and coasts. The idea was to cover Bajawa → Ruteng → Labuanbajo, which in most itineraries, would take 2 days. This way I’d save one extra day to base myself in Labuanbajo. However by doing this, I miss the Soa hot springs and Wawo Muda, a series of yellow mini-lakes over the landscape, creating around 2000-ish when some volcano exploded. 
Set off at around 7.30am, along the way to Ruteng, passed by more highland area, cool morning and more flowers. Stopped for a short while to catch a bird’s eye view of Lake Ranamese, which is 20m down below, just off the main road. Somehow, the landmark on the road is a brick wall. Look behind the wall and you see the lake. Weird. 
Stopped for lunch in Ruteng, another town set in the hills. This is in the Manggarai region, the ikat worn is not so fanciful. The architecture is interesting, bamboo criss-crossed a la ketupat make up the walls, covered by zinc thatched roofs, seen on all the houses by the road. Nasi Padang again for lunch. 
After lunch, made the long way down from Ruteng to Labuanbajo. The road here is pretty bad, with potholes and gravel. On the way, stopped at Cancar Village (10,000 Rp donation fee), which is basically a point up a slope overlooking the padi fields below. The interesting bit is that the padi fields take the shape of a giant spider web, all pointing towards a center point. Took some shots, then off we go again. 

Reached Labuanbajo at around 4pm. This place looked fantastic from afar, the bay itself with views of the nearby islands and boats docked at the pier. I booked a place at Gardena Hotel, on the main beach road parallel to the sea, cheap rooms were full so I took a 125000 Rp room. It’s a bit of a culture shock, for the last 9 or so days, there were hardly any tourists, and now everywhere you turn are tourists who had just got off two boats from Lombok. Dumped my stuff, went downstairs, again some fellow tried to talk me into a two day package to Komodo and Rinca, waved it off and decided to look for myself around town. 
There were a bunch of dive shops here, some things to get done. First I confirmed my flight with TransNusa on the 25th, there were two angmohs, Martin and Alisa who had got off the Lombok boat and booked a dive trip out tomorrow with Dive Komodo. I decided to join up as well. It was 800000Rp for 2 dives, plus a 225000Rp entrance fee for Komodo National Park. Next I had to get some cash from the ATM, a 1km walk down the road. Spending quite a bit now, there’s still 2 days and 2 nights out in Bali to consider. :(  
Came back, sat around for a bit with Martin, who’s english and has a bar in mallorca, and lisa, who works to set up programs with some NGO. Had dinner with them, some hot plate, but I still prefered Padang, ;) , then went off to get my first Internet fix in 9 days. It was near the BNI ATM, up above the Pagi department store, on the third floor. The speed is atrocious, after an hour (5000Rp, I got to read some emails, it’s too slow for the reply email to load, so I gave up. Went back to room bought a Martabak special tried to sleep early.

Day 8 – Kelimutu Lakes to Ende to Bajawa


The dates are there to remind myself when we are, I am losing track. Early at 4.30am, we set off to the base of the Kelimutu lake, a 13.5 km drive uphill. Once we reached the base, up I went in the dark, till we reached a signpost. It said Danger, so I went to see what was behind it. I scampered up the hill, and came up on the lip of the first lake Ata Polo. I didn’t realise how dangerous it was to be there till the sun came up much later. Ata Polo is dirty green, legend has it that it’s the lake where the souls of wicked people end up. Over in the background I could see the turquoise lake of Nua Muri Koo Fai, the place where young people go to. This one looked like the water off the movie The Beach, and was by far the most impressive. I carried on up, following the proper path this time round, till I reached the viewing point at the top. It was a 360 degree view, the two lakes on one side, and the third when I turned around. This is the Ata Mbupu lake, which is black or brown, I can’t really tell from far; and it’s supposed to be where the wise and old end up. After a few hundred shots from up there, I made my way down. It’s probably the main highlight of Flores, a natural wonder not seen anywhere in the world.

(20000Rp per foreigner, 2500 Rp per local, 6000 Rp for vehicle fee).

From Moni, off we went to Ende for lunch, there was something wrong with the left wheel and Leo had to go to some Toko Fernando to get it fixed (450,000Rp!!). Ende is Lio country, about 2 hours away from Moni. 
We stopped at Pengajawa  Beach on the way,  one with many multi-hued pebbles of different shapes and sizes. They are picked and sold as decorative stones. 

Late in the afternoon, at around 4pm, we reached Bena, a traditional Ngada village with two rows of huts. After the customary donation (5000Rp), I proceeded to walk around the village. Pairs of umbrella shaped mini structures and small square thatched huts were found in the middle of the village, representing the mail and the female respectively. It’s a bit of a showpiece village, sitting under the shadow on Mount Inerie (2200m), but the villagers left me alone.
 Reached Bajawa, 1100m above see level. It is cool and I stayed at hotel Korina (150000Rp for a room with spring mattress and 10 channels on the tv. Walked around town, its a very nice place which is actually good to base yourself for a few days and explore the surrounding area. The locals themselves are very Melanesian looking, with brown curly hair. The women walk around with their ikats covering them from top to toe, to keep themselves warm from the cold.

Day 7 – Maumere to Moni

Today was pretty packed. Since I had my own 4WD and driver, we managed to cover a lot more ground in one day. I got up early morning at 6am. Rented snorkels and went down into the water. It’s just sea grass all around until I went deeper, or at the dead trees. Saw schools of wrasse, a starfish, a sea snake. It was a nice enough place to snorkel around. Plus it was a good chance to re-familiarise myself with underwater breathing. I get panic attacks on the first dive after not diving for too long, especially if the waters are rough. 

Bugis village

Next, set off at around 8am and headed towards the nearby Muslim Bugis village. Village on stilts, overlooking the sea on both sides. Hiro said the Bugis people are gypsies who move from place to place. Lame, because the village looks like it hadn’t move for the last 50 years. Haha. Took nice shots, spent like 20 minutes at one home, chatting with the homeowners, about malaysians who stayed over in their village and went out fishing into the sea with them. Also of 6 Koreans who fell into the water after the bamboo stilts to the houses broke. Epic shot is of the home’s little kid wearing a tudung just for the photo. Sweet. Walked around the entire village, they actually have a couple of “ladyboys” in sarongs here. Wow. Also, I realised I have many almost perfect shots, spoilt because my finger happened to be part of the photo. =/ 
Next we went down to the big market, 3000 Rp for a pile of small fish, 10000 for a manta (or a giant stingray, who knows) or 25000 for a whole tuna. The tunas get shipped to Bali where they go on sale. Drying cocoa beans, tomatos, ginger and lots of other stuff, though most of it can be found in singapore. Think this side trip is for Hiro to buy bananas =P. 
Dropped off Hiro and headed off with the driver, Leodera I think. I can’t get his name till now still. We went down to Ledalero, where St. Paulus is a Roman Catholic seminary to train young priests. There is a fantastic museum here with ancient pots, fossils, maps, photos from Nusa Tenggara and more. The museum guide was pretty helpful too. I’m going to list down the interesting exhibits here, otherwise I will have forgotten what the pics I took were about. First you have Stegadon bones found in Olabula, then there is a layout of a Portugese fort in Solor. The next pic is of the language. In west Flores, the languages speak as such: Kepala Kuda, which means horse’s head. In east Flores however, its the other way round, their language says head horse instead. Next is a map of Flores with a snake coiled around it. Previously, Flores was called Nusa Nipa, which is snake island. The other words are various languages used in Flores to say snake island. This next one is the last king of Maumere (1954), presumably the Sikka region. Next one is nice, it basically shows all the regions of Flores, Timor and Sumba and the different patterns and styles of ikat that they use. The next one is of one incident in the 1600s involving some pretty portugese woman who everyone wanted. I can’t recall what happened, but the locals ended up wiping out all the portugese in Fort Joao Dos Santos in the end. Then there is also the drawings of human sacrifices that used to take place to ask for a good harvest. Now, they switched it with sacrifice of animals. Next shot is of Papua penis sticks. Walked around the seminary a bit before heading for Paga Beach for lunch. 


It’s a quiet stop at the beach, simple lunch of rice and fish. I walked down the beach, no one else there except some an  old guy with maybe his grandchildren who stays by the beach. Talked to them a bit, then tried to pick up some pebbles. The waves were really big, fella said they could go up to 2m further down the coast. The current could easily drag me into the water. I tried to be smart and stand on a big rock when the water came it, except the wave was so big that the entire rock flipped and landed on my foot. It started bleeding and now, late at night, its swollen. I hope it gets better, I can’t wear my sandals properly with the swelling. I got two stupid pebbles for that. 


Next headed straight into Moni, stayed at the centre of the village, Watugana Bungalows. (75000Rp). It’s nice with a big room, except they have yellow lights which make the room darker than it should be. I dumped my stuff and went to look around Moni. Moni is a lovely village, sent inside a valley. The Maumere road leading to it cuts through the padi fields with mountain ranges on either side. It is probably off season, I seem to be the only tourist there. Asked around for the waterfall, went there, maybe it was the afternoon mist, but it looked like a scene out of some fairy tale, didn’t feel like getting wet again though. I couldn’t find the mata air panas, the hot springs where the villages mandi, and there was a trail head so I just followed that hoping to find it. I looped around the valley, went south, east then north before coming out on the Maumere-Moni road.  I had a pleasant time through this entire hike along the trails, stopping to talk with the locals, including an auntie from the kampung down the road, an Aminah Moe whose surname came about cos her dad’s chinese, and a lady who worked as a maid in KL and later went to Ipoh to visit her friend. Learnt the 1992 earthquake knocked down all the bamboo houses here from her too. This last one took too long and it was dark when I reached the same waterfall and tried to look for the darn hot springs. Took out the torch, tried bashing upriver, thought that it wasn’t such a good idea, turned back. Tomorrow morning i’ll just get driver guy to stop me there on the way. Apparently theres a nicer hot springs 3km away from Moni village that the  villagers kept offering to take me to. Had dinner next at some random stall with Bakso sign. It seemed to be the only eatery where there were people. It serves the locals, only Bakso and Gado-gado were available. I opted for the Gado Gado, which was way too much vege for a carnivore like me. Bean sprouts and some dark green leaf thingy (5000 Rp) left me neither very full nor satisfied. And the locals speak to themselves in the Ende/Lio dialect so I couldn’t understand squat. Reached back to room and found my triumph card, a pack of kueh I bought from the market earlier today had gone bad, cos of the coconut. So now here I am, typing this last bit, feeling hungry. I got lousy local chips but those make my throat dry. I’ll just sleep it off, tomorrow’s wake up call is at 4am, for the morning sunrise at Moni. Looking forward to it. 
Useful piece of gear – Alcohol swabs and antiseptic cream, cos I was dumb enough to let a giant rock roll over my foot. Underwater camera casing =)

Day 6 – Waingapu to Maumere

The day started with me confirming my flight at the Merpati counter, before a breakfast of sate. Then it’s off to Maumere (pronounced mao-may-ray), bought some souvenirs from the airport counter. 
On reaching Maumere, this guide guy came up to me and recommended Gading Beach Resort. Maumere and Flores are a definite change from Sumba. It’s mountainous and seems cooler. Much less remote. Was driven down to Gading, which opened in Aug’08, and is a very nice quiet place (90,000 Rp, with western toilets and showers. They even have a TV, though there is only one Indo channel. There’s still some building going on, the main reception building etc hasn’t been completed.. It should probably be listed in the next version of LP. A Danish couple, a German lady were the only other inhabitants on the resort. 
I sold out today – Guide guy (Hironimus Manek) based in Gardena Hotel manages to sell me a package thats like 400 SGD. That includes driver, petrol over 3 days, covering travel from one end to the other, stopping by at all of the major attractions along the way. Took me like an hour to decide, I got the price down from 7,500,000 Rp (!!) to 3,250,000 (still!!) cutting down to all the basics (no guide, settle my own accommodation and food). It sucks, and could have been much cheaper if I was traveling with more people to split the cost with. But I figured, rather than trying to squeeze everything into 3 days, only seeing Kelimutu Lake, and maybe even not making that time, I’ll just plonk down the cash, travel in comfort, and catch all the sights. No waiting for buses, no squeezy bemos, plus I can stop anywhere, detour wherever I wish with the 4WD.  This way too i’ll reach Labuanbajo with at least 2 full days. On the downside, I will lose out on roughing it out amongst the noisy bemos and buses. Seems like i’m still trying to convince myself that it’s money well spent. Let’s just see how it goes. =/


Notice how these posts only come up when I’m running off somewhere.  This time round I got 14th to 27th planned out for Nusa Tenggara in Indonesia, specifically the Flores and Sumba islands. (I had Cambodia too last month, Jan’09 but will talk more about that another time).indonesianusatenggara
So that bright green bit at the bottom is Nusa Tenggara. From the western end it starts off at Bali, then Lombok and then Sumbawa, that’s the rabbit-shaped one. These islands make up West Nusa Tenggara. Me I’ll be gallivanting off to East Nusa Tenggara, which comprises Flores, then Alor/Solor archipelagos,  Sumba (the blob that dropped off below the main chain of islands) and West Timor (half the big chunk on the bottom right, the other half’’s Timor Leste).
Specifically, I’ll be visiting Sumba and Flores. After much reading, time constraints, flight path evaluation, current events, time zones differences and allocating extra time for screw-ups (my screw-ups), these two seem the best and most sensible to visit with the measly 2 weeks I have. The Sumba Strait, btw for those Lost tv series afficionados, is the waters off Sumba where the Oceanic 815 reported sunk.
Highlights of this backpacking getaway will be the Pasola rituals in Sumba. This happens once a year in Feb and Mar and coincides with the full moon, and arrival of nyale worms on the shore. Timing is just nice for me. Next is LakeKelimutu on Flores, triple crater lakes each with varying colours. Crossing overland will end up in Labuanbajo where its the base to launch into giant lizard land in Rinca and Komodo islands . Probably slot in some diving if the water’s good here or back in Maumere too.
Here’s the rough itenerary.  I’m sleepy and I can’t figure out this frigging formatting…so here’s how it goes. The number’s the date, the first word is the location i start off from on that day, and the second word’s the location i should end the day. (should being the all important keyword here). Barring cancelled flights, missed once-a-day buses, and the occasional natural disaster, the itenerary should be a fairly relaxed one. No point booking lodging till I get to each town, and 3 out of 5 flights have been booked.  Stay tuned. =)
 Date  Start  End 14   Singapore  Denpasar 15  Denpasar  Waikabubak 16 Waikabubak  Wakanoka 17  Wakanoka  Waikabubak 18  Waikabubak Wangaipu 19  Wangaipu   Maumere 20  Maumere   Moni 21  Moni (KM)  Ende 22  Ende  Ruteng 23  Ruteng  Labuanbajo 24  Labuanbajo  Komodo 25  Komodo Labuanbajo 26  Labuanbajo  Denpasar 27  Denpasar  Singapore