Deutsch | German

Menu

Travel reports

Flores, we did not expect to see you so soon

On the way to Kupang we quickly realise that the streets are in no better condition than those in Timor-Leste. We make our way up the hills and cannot find any signpost on the way. But in such situation Google Maps on our Smartphone is a good source for finding out whether we drive in the right direction.
Driving along windy and narrow roads, we make our way via Atambua, Kefamenanu and Soe. People who already have seen Indonesians driving know that they seem to drive with the motto 'If Allah wants us to die, we die!'. The police is not present on the roads at all and even in towns you see motor cycles and ‘Bemos’ (small busses used as taxis) overtaking other cars with 80 km/h – in town right in front of the police station of course. Drivers use their horns more often than their brakes. This actually infects yourself – because it simply works.

In the early evening we arrive in Kupang, after we have been caught up in a traffic jam for more than one hour. In the moment when nothing want forwards or backwards anymore and people got out of their cars we quickly got spotted by them. It did not take long till the first asked for our attention. Soon more followed. Whether one likes it or not, you find yourself with the locals at an endless small talk – based on each’s foreign language skills. One can quickly gather sympathy from the locals when if one welcomes them with a few words in Indonesian. Just a few words are more than good and it's fun.

After we arrived in Kupang we were looking forward to a shower and fan. Well rested, on this Sunday morning, we first went to a hostel operator to get information about the ferries to Flores We learned that a ferry would go this afternoon or we would have to wait till Thursday. With this knowledge, we now went to a petrol station. I did not keep the attendant of his ambition from refueling the car really full to the brim - at a price of 6500 Indonesian Rupiah per liter of regular gasoline. That converts to about 0.56 $US / l. This really warms your heart.

After an unsuccessful search for someone who could refill our gas bottle, we now headed for the neighboring town of Bolok, from where the car ferries leave. In the knowledge that the ferry was supposed to leave at 2.00pm, just after buying the tickets the port employees suddenly pushed us to drive the car on the pier, as it already will have to be moved on the ship very shortly. It was 9.45am, our bags still at the hostel and we got a bit confused. After we had received conflicting answers to the question of the actual departure time of the ferry, Nadine stayed with the car and I went back to Kupang in a taxi to catch up to the luggage. Although I really appreciated the driver’s courage to get me and the luggage quickly back to the harbor, I was a bit uncomfortable: all seat belts were missing in the car.
After I arrived at the hostel I set a record in packing both backpacks and laptop bag and other bags from the car with about five minutes. In the moment I brought all of this stuff to the car at the same time, I must have looked like a resident of Pripyat on April 27, 1986.
After arriving back at the pier Nadine has already moved the car on the densely loaded ferry.
It was now about 11.00am and the ferry got filled more and more with countless people, scooters, goods of all kinds, donkeys and goats.
Even before the scheduled departure time our car was completely surrounded by people and all sorts of things. The people huddled close together along the car and they even put things underneath our car. Eventually with the time we could not even open the doors. No power on earth could have get the car back out.

Around 2.30pm the ferry departed and so we left the island of Timor behind us and were on the way to Flores. Kupang was so quickly done for us, as it had actually started.

Road towards Atambua
Ferry towards Larantuka
Ferry towards Larantuka

Although the ferry was quite open, drafts did not reach us and so it got very stuffy and hot in the car.
As we observed other people you could quickly find the different ways of looking at things such as "caution in dealing with property, especially other people's property": there is not something like this at all. People leaned against our car, small children played in the presence of their parents with the headlights, old women supported themselves on the side mirrors and the hood was used as a storage area.
Although our car only has a small value (thankfully) anyway with scratches and a few small dents and the paint is very faded on roof and bonnet, I became a German choleric: using the horn, loud calls, abysmally evil eye and flailing hand gestures, I made clear to the people to be more considerate. Nadine did not entirely agree.
Even the sense of privacy or tact is different in this part of the world. While many people on board – doubtless mostly out of curiosity - constantly stared at us or into the car, we were pretty annoyed at first. The curiosity of the Indonesians was there rather undesirable. But nevertheless: for examples there was no other choice than to talk with the three to five men who hung on the front doors as they wanted to impress one with a kiss.

While the other often slept crowded on the hard floor of the ship, we were in our soft, albeit stuffy bed with plenty of space. Thinking of this made us clear again, how much better our situation is, even in such a situation.

Unlike an expected 15 hours drive after a stop at the island of Lembata we arrived in Larantuka, Flores at 7.00am - after 17 hours in the ferry. Once unloading started, of course everyone wanted to be the first and the crew failed to show any system or coordination. When viewing the taken photographs afterwards we realized that from starting the engine and moving the car for the first meter till finally leaving the not even 200 meters long jetty took almost half an hour.

Ferry towards Larantuka
Lewotobi
Lewotobi

The car has survived the ferry ride fortunately without visible damage. His two drivers escaped sweating and stinking and having a poor night sleep.
We now followed the road towards Maumere and quickly spotted the first volcano: Lewotobi consisting of two craters, fringed our horizons. Between lush green vegetation and occasional rice fields we make our way west. The road again is very windy and you rarely come over the third gear. Advance notice for the next tour of that kind: purchase a vehicle with automatic transmission. Noted.

While cruising along the southern and northern coast, we note how calm the sea is. Numerous bays and lush green mountains and the first volcanoes (including Lewotobi and Egon) put us in awe. Not yet long on Flores, the island immediately shows its splendid scenic.

After we made our way to Maumere and enjoy a shower, air conditioning and Internet access, we now look forward eagerly to the ascent of our first volcano and visit traditional villages.