Arriving in Labuan Bajo after a whirlwind trip through Komodo national park, I had no idea what would happen in the coming days. The plan stopped here, from now on, we wing it.
We stopped for a couple of nights in Bajo to make the most of the good food and allow the worst of the seasickness to pass, along with waving off some friends heading back home from here.
We decided to bus across to Ruteng with the aim to end up in Kelimutu national park. Flores is massive. This is probably the first island in Indonesia where the traffic hasn’t been mad, but it’s just vast. The drive to Ruteng took about 5 hours, through wicked mountain scenery and weird plateaus. Ruteng itself is a small town with some guesthouses and a few places to eat on the cheap. We arrived, dumped our stuff then rented a motorbike. We wanted to stop by ‘The Hobbit cave’, or Liang Bua, to see Homo Floriesis, the smallest hominid species.
The cave itself is more like a huge entrance, without much more to explore. Personally, I enjoyed the small museum down the road, which housed the small skeleton of our distant cousin. I had expected that the skeleton would not be there, claimed by some wealthy western museum, but to my pleasure H. Floriesis was still where he belonged.
The next day we were up early for the big journey. 10 hours on a bus to the small village of Moni. The journey through Flores was amazing; we went from rainforest hills, to dry desert, past impressive volcanoes, to coastal cliffs all the way to Ende. However, the last stretch of the journey from Ende to Moni was spectacular. Some of the most beautiful mountain and valley scenery, with some of the most green rice terraces, huge towering ridges and deep ravines with white water rapids along the bottom.
When we hit Moni we were above the clouds and the sun was about to set. We had a look around and were offered rooms for 200,000-300,000Rp. We decided to take a nicer one for 350,000Rp with hot water, because it was significantly colder here! We also found some great food here, I particularly enjoyed a bean burrito, which is not a common find across most of Indonesia!
We organised a ride up to Kelimutu National Park at about 4am the next morning so we could catch the sunrise over the three lake volcano the national park is named after. The walk from the drop off was incredibly easy; paved, not particularly steep and not many people!
Post-sunrise we explored the area. We went in search of some hot springs on a signpost, with no luck, but ended up going through a botanical nursery, with information on all the different types of trees in the national park.
We had decided to hike back to Moni from Kelimutu, however about a third of the way back a truck pulled over and gestured for us to jump in the back, so we ended up accidentally hitchhiking! (This is pretty common in Flores particularly, but across Indonesia in general as well).
Later that day we wandered through Moni to some waterfalls, with lots of little bridges to cross and a couple of spots to swim. Usually falls with swimming spots are full of people, but this one we had to ourselves!
We had also spotted some more hot springs along the way, so we decided to head back towards them. One was a small spring in the middle of a valley, surrounded by beautiful rice paddies. This spot would have been great, but it seemed to be the place everyone gathers in the evening to bathe and wash clothes; we felt like we were intruding a little so tried the other, which we paid 5000Rp to enter and was more typical of Indonesian hot springs, with two pools on the side of a valley. These were hot! Probably the hottest springs I’ve ever been in!
We were due to fly back to Bali two days later so had to make the trek back to Labuan Bajo the following day, which was extremely eventful. The route back is not well organised. We had to take a local bus and then share a car (there seems to be a lot of hitchhiking in Flores!) Back to Ruteng. However, this car share worked out well (despite a break down!) As we ended up getting a lift all the way back to LB the following day!
- Flores is pretty vast and takes a long time to travel around! Take note of journey times if you have prebooked flights!
- Accommodation can be a bit more expensive here and there didn’t seem to be as much available as in other parts of Indonesia (100,000-150,000Rp per person)
- Food was surprisingly good in Flores! I’d expected to be eating mie and nasi the entire time, but there were even loads of vegetarian options (with the absolute best veggie burger I have ever had found in Labuan Bajo)
- The traffic is less crazy and the main road through Flores in good condition, I would probably hire vehicles and drive next time! I think it would be very possible to do a long distance bike trip here no problem