The people of Flores are the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Every single person you see, or drive by smiles at you and says hello every single time. You naturally smile back so you spend the whole day smiling. It’s great.
About 17 times a day someone will stop you with a “Hello Mister” and ask any combination of Where you going? Where you from? What your name? We’ve started asking them where they’re going just to throw them off.
Our first couple of weeks here were very chilled and exactly what we needed after the bit of a misfire in Bali. For some background Flores is predominantly Christian. Tourists come here, but not so many (At least not yet). Depending on where you are it’s options for travellers range from pretty rough to pretty good. The first half of our time here was spent chilling in Maumere and the east of the island. Here’s the highlights.
Tourism is difficult. It gets tiring constantly making decisions, planning and negotiating prices. At Lena House we found a spot we liked and we just stayed there. The place is on the bay 30km outside of the main “city” of Maumere. There are two sites separated by a short walk along the beach when the tide is out or a short boat ride (with Captain Saïd) when the tide is in. We liked it so much we spent 9 nights there.
The owners are Didacus and his wife. They have no children but the entire team is made up of their extended family with kids everywhere. Only a couple of them speak good English, but they’re all so willing to help that we felt part of the family in no time.
We took most of our meals there and tried everything on the menu. The food was some of the best we’ve had in Flores and they don’t rip you off even though you’re a bit stuck there. They even helped us set up a barbecue on three nights, cleaning the fish we bought at the market and setting up the fire with us. There’s nothing like buying a whole fresh Tuna for a couple of euro and cooking it over some embers from burning dried coconuts.
Pretty much all the guests we met were European with a strong French speaking 25 – 30 year old demographic. You eat all your meals at a shared table so there was a nice little community vibe after a couple of days.
Flores is full of Volcanoes. We climbed the closest one, Mt. Egon with Fabien one of the French lads from Lena House. At 1,700m it’s a decent size, as we arrived at the crater the clouds had covered everything and the wind hit us like a ton of bricks dropping the temperature 10 degrees. In fact I didn’t even realise we’d arrived at the crater since we couldn’t see anything. Determined not to be disappointed, we hid behind a big rock and ate chocolate biscuits waiting for everything to blow over. Within about 10 minutes the we started to see glimpses of the crater and 10 minutes later the sun was beaming and we had the full view complete with massive gas vents pumping out sulphury steam.
Lena House organised a boat trip which with took with a Dutch couple (Gijs and Julisca) we had befriended on our visa extension odessey. The boat took us to an amazing reef where I finally learned how to snorkel. There’s lot of biodiversity in the waters of Flores and the Dutch were great at spotting it. We saw every colour fish you could imagine and moray eels, shrimp and cuttlefish. We ate lunch on a white sand beach in the middle of the bay before heading back to Lena House for more snorkeling close to home.
Dutch Road Trip
Before crossing the rest of the island we took a detour eastwards with our new Dutch pals. Their plan was to rent a scooter and drive to the city furthest east on the island, Larantuka. We had a good buzz with Gijs and Julisca so we decided to go with the flow and follow them east.
The drive to Larantuka was stunning, amazing sea views and unspoilt forests all around. Larantuka itself is alright. It’s not a big stop on Flores tourist path. (we spotted only two other tourists there the while time). It’s a bit grim and not the most prepared for travellers. We struggled with a few basic things. Finding a clean and cheap place to stay proved to be a mammoth task, and finding a restaurant that sold beer was impossible (thankfully there was one shop open). We took it with a smile and enjoyed snorkeling and games of Monopoly Deal.
On the Sunday morning the plan was to take the ferry to Lewoleba. Unfortunately for us Sunday was the end of Ramadan and the whole Muslim population of the city were in the port that morning for the celebration. We arrived for the 8AM boat, only to find we had to wait until the celebration was over before being allowed into the port. No one knew if there even was a boat that day. There wasn’t. Only the slow 4 hour option was available which just didn’t make sense giving our timing.
The good news was that everyone leaving the Ramadan celebration wanted to take a photo with the four westerners waiting outside the port. Kids were being thrust into our hands, and boys and girls of all ages were lining up for their photo opportunity. It was amazing.
We drove back to Lena House for one more night in our Flores home, and three more amazing meals before hitting the road to explore the trans-flores highway.
- Thanks to Julisca and Gijs for sharing their photos with us. Some of the underwater photos in this article are theirs and they are unreal.
- The local tipple is Arak, a palm wine that’s about 40 percent. If you’re boozing on a budget this works out at €0.40 – €0.70 a glass.
- The local beer is Bintang. It’s surprisingly expensive, especially compared to food prices. A bigsie is usually almost twice the price of a meal.
- Flores Christians bury their family members in big shiny graves beside their houses.
- While strolling on the beach we were invited to a first communion party celebration and given a plate of food and some Arak to drink.
- The local buses are called Bemos. They are little vans that look like they’ve been on Pimp My Ride. Most of them have names with random things like “Linkin Park”, “British Class”, “Lota Lovers” or “Qatar Airways”
- These buses have plastic bags on hand because the passengers regularly vomit while flying through the winding roads of Flores.
- There’s a smoking brand here that has an advertising slogan that says “Never Quit”.
- The immigration officer who processed our visa extension asked for a selfie with Julie and Julisca.
- We met many people who speak decent English because they studied or are going to study at the Seminary in Manila. Strange to meet so many young people pursuing a vocation.