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Ambon, Timor and Flores

A lot has happened since Tony’s last update in Ternate, north Maluku. He headed to Ambon, a small island in the central Maluku group famous for the wars over spices. Tony was hosted by a lovely large family, and also met two nice local girls, together they visited Amsterdam Fort on a hill a two hour bus ride from town. It rained as seems to be the story of this trip and the group were nearly stranded as all the buses and minibuses had apparently returned to the capital town, it being Easter weekend. Finally a bus arrived and all was well.

Ambon is a mostly Christian island so Easter was a quiet affair with many young people going to the churches to sing. I mainly relaxed with Eky, my host, and then flew to Kupang, capital of Timor, Indonesia. This should not be confused with Timor Leste, which is a separate country on the eastern part of Timor Island. Flying around in Indonesia is a relatively inexpensive affair for foreigners, especially if one books in advance, but it can often be a little confusing with passengers often going in the opposite direction of their final destination before flying to the city/town in question. Tony met another traveller from France who was couch surfing with the same host. Therefore on arrival in Kupang airport they met up and shared a taxi to the host’s house. This was slightly complicated as the taxi driver didn’t speak any English and houses in Kupang often don’t have any numbers. We were slightly overcharged but arrived safely, which was the main thing. 

Melsi, Tony’s host is a lovely lady and her mum continuously attempted to feed both him and the French guy. A couple of days were spent exploring. The first day coincided with the Easter parade, a lively affair with many trucks dressed with live performers aboard. Kupang is also largely Christian. Many speeches were conducted citing the Christian religious story. All in Indonesian, of course. On Tony’s second day, Melsi’s parents took him to Crystal cave where he climbed many rough rocks to reach the entrance. Later they visited a delightful waterfall several kilometres from town.

Next came travels across Flores, a large and interesting island to the west of Kupang. Tony stayed with a kind small family for three nights and was taken to a small hill with a large cross on top. They also travelled to Mount Kelimutu to visit the three crater lakes, that change colour due to atmospheric changes. Tony’s first stop in Flores was Maumere, before visiting Kelimutu, Moni Hot Springs and a nearby waterfall. The last stop was at the ‘Blue Stone’ beach, half way between the towns of Ende and Bajawa.

Tony’s next stop was in the largely Christian town of Bajawa where he stayed two nights at a family run homestay. This area has several volcanoes to climb plus traditional villages such as Bena and Luba. Tony visited these villages on a motorbike tour and learnt that each house required a buffalo horn to give it protection and other such items. Houses are made from bamboo with thatched roofs. Bena village is constructed from megalithic stones, some of them quite large. On Tony’s final morning in Bajawa, he accompanied a local guide and climbed Mount Wawo Muda. It took around two hours to descend to the crater lake and another hour and a half to return to Bajawa.

In Flores, people can travel by public bus but also take shared cars. Tony took one of these and stayed one night in the small town of Ruteng. He visited the Spider Rice Fields and also the Hobbit Cave, where remains of small people have been discovered. Next and final stop in Flores was Labuan Bajo in the far west to visit the Komodo National Park, home of the fascinating Komodo Dragon, the world’s largest lizard. Tony was met by his local host, Abdur and taken to Fisherman Island, about an hour’s motorboat ride from the mainland. Tony spent three interesting nights in local hospitality. Fisherman (or Misa) Island is unusual in that it is mostly flat, yet most inhabitants live inland and not just by the shore like on other islands in the area.  Abdur makes a living from taking tourists to places in and around Flores and also fishing and other odd jobs. He has five children who he is trying to get educated. Therefore all his money is spent on the kids. His roof was damaged in a storm roughly three years ago and he hasn’t been able to get it fixed. The house is on stilts with a rough concrete floor. The family sleep upstairs in one room on the floor. When it rains, everyone and everything gets wet!

The island’s main income and livelihood is fishing. They dry much of the fish which produces hundreds of thousands of flies. Sitting outside in the sun all day relaxing, Tony was beset by flies constantly, like fleas to a dog. The locals are used to it, so Tony also adopted a similar attitude. On his second day Abdur accompanied Tony to Rinca Island, one of the islands in Komodo National Park. Here Tony was taken on a short tour to inspect some of the dragons sleeping in the sun. These large lizards, which can grow up to three metres and weigh 70 kilograms, can be dangerous, especially if hungry. They have a ferocious bite containing a poisonous saliva. If bitten, medical attention is required immediately. One tourist was killed in 1987 after becoming separated from his group. And a ranger was attacked in the office, but luckily survived after being flown to a hospital. Baby Komodos climb into the trees to escape being eaten by their parents and return to the ground after five years. Many people visit the national park to snorkel and dive in the vast area of marine life that is abundant in this area.  From Flores, Tony flew to Bali and the adventure continued. 

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