After our time on Lombok we flew to the island of Flores to see the komodo dragons, the three crater lakes of Kelimutu Volcano, and to take in the island’s natural and cultural beauty. Flores really captivated us in so many ways and offered more than we expected. And it will always serve as a reminder as to why we don’t like to ride motorbikes in Asia.
We landed in Labuan Bajo and even though the airport was barely open (they are reconstructing it) we were able to land there anyways. Airport security is sketchy here though, we saw a guy come walking out from a group of houses beside the runway. He just casually sauntered across the runway and then walked right beside the plane and carried on his way (I sure hope security will be better once the airport is completed), now that’s something you don’t see happen at an airport every day!
Our first impression of Labuan Bajo was of a small dusty port town sprinkled with dive shops and little tour shops offering boat trips to the outlying islands and Komodo National Park. After a day or two, Labuan Bajo became much more. It kind of grew on us because of the beautiful scenery, the kind gentle nature of the local people, and it had a cool little vibe to it.
We stayed in a hotel which is built on the side of a hill overlooking the town and the harbor. We had a huge private terrace with incredible views across some of the islands in the bay. Every day we would write on a blackboard what we wanted for breakfast along with the time we wanted it served, and the next morning they would bring it to us on our terrace. Our room was clean and comfy, not luxurious by any stretch but it had everything a person needed including a stocked fridge.
The walk to the town below didn’t take long at all and at first it felt a bit odd to walk down what looked like a cement walkway, but is really considered an alley, right through people’s living area. It was weird but the more we did it the more normal it became and the locals didn’t mind at all, they just said hello as we went by.
We walked around the first day getting our bearings and checking out a few tour and dive shops to see if we could arrange our boat trips to go to Rinca Island and Komodo Island (both of these islands are in Komodo National Park). We also walked down to the boat dock to see if we could hire a boat directly from a boatman but most of them wanted to sell us a 2 day excursion and we didn’t want to overnight on a boat.
After we completed our day trips to Komodo National Park, we had a free day to explore the surrounding area so we rented a motorbike. The Trans-Flores Highway is a narrow and very curvy road with a lot of switchbacks but the views of the mountains and valleys are spectacular. All was going well on the motorbike until we came to an area of road construction (which there is a lot of), there was no pavement and just a little bit of gravel with some big ruts. We got caught in one of the ruts and couldn’t get out of it; we almost ended up right in the ditch. It freaked us out a little (me more than Gordon) so I made him stop for a few minutes so that I could take a deep breath and recompose. As we drove further the road improved somewhat but there were still areas of construction and often times loose rocks on the road which are hazardous on a bike.
During our ride we were keeping our eye out for a sign that said Cunca Rami, the waterfall we wanted to visit. Finally after a long motorbike ride of switchbacks and steep hills we found the turn off. We continued driving for another half hour down a narrow track through some beautiful jungle scenery and it felt like we were in a fairly remote area which left me thinking “what have we gotten ourselves into now”. On our way, we passed kids on the road that would yell “hello mister” and then want us to give them a high five on the way by (I don’t think I have ever heard so many “hello misters” before). We reached a little village and parked the motorbike near a handwritten sign that pointed the way to Cunca Rami and we hiked the rest of the way.
As we were walking along the trail we stopped by one of the local houses and asked a lady working outside if we were going the right way for Cunca Rami. She pointed in the direction we were going which was a good sign, but there was a lot of conversation between us involving hand movements. She must have thought we felt a bit lost because she sent her husband running after us who then took us all the way to the waterfall (we didn’t mind and expected that he would want guiding fees and we are all for people making a living). We enjoyed our time at the waterfall and stayed for a little while just hanging out. The fellow that walked us there hung around and waited for us so that he could walk us back. Once we reached his house we asked if we could take his photo and as it turned out he didn’t want any guiding fees from us. We gave him a tip for taking us to the waterfall anyways and you could tell that he really didn’t expect anything from us. So in return his wife came running out with a big bunch of bananas for us to take home. This scenic outing down a narrow track of road to the waterfall and meeting this family was a highlight for us!
The not so fun part of the motorbike excursion started on our way back to town. We had to drive a section of the highway on uneven pavement. One side of the road had new pavement and the side we were on did not, so there was a ledge. As we were going around a curve and coming down a very steep hill, a huge truck decided to pass us and he had us sandwiched between him and the ledge of uneven pavement. At this point we were teetering and struggling to keep our balance on the bike because we were so close to that ledge of uneven pavement and the truck was right beside us on the other side. Gordon knew he couldn’t try to go up on the ledge or we would wipe out the bike and end up underneath the wheels of the truck beside us. The whole time this was happening, I was on the back doing my best not to move and just hanging on like crazy (I also may have cursed a few times). This is why we do not like to drive motorbikes in Asia (and they never have helmets that fit my small head)! We made it back to town in one piece and settled in on our beautiful terrace with an ice cold Bintang to sooth our rattled nerves.
We really enjoyed Labuan Bajo and the surrounding area, not only was the scenery beautiful but so were the people.
Where we stayed: Bayview Gardens Hotel
Komodo National Park and our snorkeling adventures will be on a separate post.
Written by: Tammy Hermann…Live~Lovve~Travel