In the afternoon of our 3rd day in Indonesia, we landed in the small town of Maumere, in the northeast of Flores. Flores is one of the least developed islands and one of the least touristy (with the exception of Labuanbajo, on the opposite end). It is my favorite, for it has an authenticity that is lost in most places by now.
Our idea was to hire a local driver to cross the island over 3 days/2 nights, stopping at several points of interest, which we believe is the best way to explore it. It was harder than we had anticipated, and after rejecting one driver for high price and one for sketchy manners, we found ourselves negotiating with our last option, with the sun setting and no real alternative. Luckily, the driver ended up accepting our conditions and being a great guy. His name was Stefano, and after a quick stop at his home to pick up a bag and sharing some candy with his 3 kids, we were on our way.
We drove for a few hours to the town of Moni, at the bottom of the Kelimutu volcano, and found a humble hotel. The next day, we woke up at 5am, drove the final kms, and hiked to the volcano viewpoint before dusk. As the sun rose, we began to appreciate the absolutely beautiful color lakes inside the craters, one turquoise blue, one emerald green (there is a third one, but we couldn’t see it). We were tired and cold, but it was definitely worth the effort. In a few minutes, the fog came in and hid the lakes, disappointing the travelers that were just climbing up.
Back in the car, we woke Stefano up to continue the route… and passed out ourselves. When I opened my eyes, we were passing by a cute market (I believe right before Ende), where we stopped to stretch our legs and take some pics. Our next stop was at a local black sand beach, known for its blue stones. It was a unique landscape, and I hope they stop exploiting it, as it has already lost thousands of stones.
We did a couple more short stops at some rice terraces, a hanging bridge, a volcano, for lunch, and finally at the Ngada villages. These tribes seem to be living stuck in time. It was an awesome experience to walk around, observe them doing handicrafts, drying areca nuts, their huts, their animals… and play soccer with their kids!
After that, we were planning on stopping in Bajawa to sleep, but Stefano wanted to push during the night and make it to Ruteng. We agreed because there was nothing much to see in between and the traffic was really much better than during the day. That way he could also drop us off a bit earlier in Labuanbajo, and make his trip back a day earlier.
The next morning, we saw one of the most stunning landscapes of the trip: the spider-web rice fields of Ruteng. Stefano drove us up a hill, where we had to pay the neighbors for parking, and we hiked up the last meters to a lookout. Apart from the views, we’ll always remember this stop for the fun kids that chased us and couldn’t stop laughing when I sang “A seu te pego” with them 🙂
Couple more stops for lunch, kids walking to school… And finally, we arrived at Labuanbajo in the afternoon, and found a simple hotel with great views of the bay.