Flores is an island of Indonesia, a country most Australians only know as Bali. But Indonesia is a staggeringly diverse place with 300 different ethnic groups, 700 different languages and 17,000 islands.

I previously completed a ride in East Java and I had an idea to ride back to Yogyakarta from Bali one way. Then a blogger I follow Aki posted about riding Flores.

Prelude
From Tokyo I flew first to Manila. I was going to pay a visit to my mate living in Philippines but a typhoon had left him cut off so I had nothing to do except hang out in the mall.

This from an artist at the mall, a drawing of me which he put together after looking at my Instagram account. Even with typo and incorrect kanji I thought it was great. Not something I would usually buy but cheap here and something different to do.

I find Philippines the low point in Asia for food except pizza where they do a decent American style peperoni, so finding that and some Chilean wine is my win for today.

Breakfast in McDonald’s where there is a heavily armed door man. Because Philippines. McDonald’s here sells fried chicken with rice or soft spaghetti like you get from a tin – which everyone in store is eating.

To pass some time another day I go to a hair salon and say do something creative. Below is the result.

Soon enough it’s time to be moving on. In the airport lounge I spotted the same sandwiches as when I last flew out of this terminal in 2012. Not the ingredients, I mean the very same ones still uneaten.

Crappy experience arriving Denpasar. One hour and 20 minutes before my bag was on the belt. I was imagining them being unloaded one at a time by a single guy using a wheelbarrow back and forth.

1000’s of Aussies in Bali. The taxi driver asked me why. I pondered perhaps it’s a place people feel not too removed from Australia. The Aussies all clump together in bars that sell meat pies and chicken parmigiana, watch Australian sports, make stupid ocker/bogan type comments. Frankly I can’t wait to leave.

I take a taxi to visit the bike shop I am renting through, Motor Adventure Bali. It took 40 minutes in gridlock traffic to get clear of the sprawl of Aussie bars, knock off clothing stores and tourist trap cafes. I got some good advice from the German owner and a terrific old school paper map of the island.

Flores

I flew on to Labuan Bajo with NAM air. Plane was 4 hours late and the most worn out interior I have seen since flying in a Aeroflot IIyushin to Moscow in 1990.

Labuan Bajo is still a dusty road of tin shacks but this is about to change. The new airport allows large jets and there are signs of development everywhere (update – after just a few years starbucks and big resorts are there)

Get your SIM card in Jakarta or Denpasar before landing on Flores as very little wifi and they cannot do sim registration needed here. And get Telkomsel SIM not XL Axiata like I did in Bali as they have poor coverage here.

I picked up the bike and went for look around. Just out of town some luxury resorts are being built but I could still enjoy dirt roads to views like this.

Beer o’clock at the bar above the bakery.


The ride

Super keen to start today, no idea how people can sit around a hotel pool day after day. (they in turn have no idea what idiot would want to ride a motorcycle).

Packing up I see this! A guy is riding same route as me with his wife and young daughter on another scooter…

*update 2021, seemed foolhardy to me then but now covid has killed travel for who knows how many years into future I think he was right to seize whatever chance he had.

The roads are nice right from the word go. After leaving the town the corners begin and don’t let up. From the oppressive heat in Labuan Bajo you climb and soon are in the mountains.

At first stop I become a celebrity. Having two pretty girls want to take a selfie is sure fire way to lift the spirits.

I rode a KLX150 in Borneo. This newer one has a fuel gauge but it showed empty after 70km. I figure the gauge cannot be relied on and there is no fuel light or trip meter! (come on Kawasaki), seeing one of the few government regulated petrol stations I decide to fill up. Fuel is only 65c a litre.

It flows fast, most guys are splash and dash a dollar.

Nowhere sells chain lube and the one on the bike is bone dry. A bike shop in Ruteng donates some sump oil which quietens it down a bit and bonus I get lunch next door.

These shops with the bowls in the window are the only eateries I have seen in towns but the food is good so no problems. A locals tip was get fresh ground green chilli.

Out of town people everywhere yell out hello and wave. Young kids go wild waving their arms and running along. Guy on bikes toot their horn or wave to stop and chat. Girls sitting around with their phones smile and say hello sir. Guys riding in back of trucks almost fall off waving.

I stop for a iced coffee about 3.30pm at a small rural shop and again become an instant celebrity. People are very poor here but all laugh and smile. I cannot help but think back to many countries I have travelled where people have everything but possess such a bad attitude.

It was nearly 4.30pm and I still had 50km to go but I felt in great spirits so stopped for a walk on the beach to take in this view. Then its non stop twisty road around that volcano to my hotel which I just make by dusk.

d1.png

I am in Bajawa. It’s higher than I imagined and the temperature is a surprise, 15 degrees! The owner studied and worked in Australia and sounded like a Melbournite when he turned on the accent. Setting off with two t-shirts on usually cuts the chill when in Thailand but not today. Fortunately the road descended to the coast back to warm sunny riding.

The road across island is excellent. Built by Australia in 2016 with familiar surveying I felt like back home in Northern NSW.

Just imagine a island with very few cars with an amazing hotmix road of endless curves that runs for about 750km. Welcome to Flores.

I stop at a place called the Blue Stone beach which has lots of, you guessed it, blue stones. They look great on the black volcanic sand.

A small storm is brewing but I make it into Endes for a late lunch at another Makasan Pandang shop with the bowls in the window. Nasi means rice, Ayam chicken and Goreng fried, that does me.

Pleasant ride from Endes up into mountains to Moni where I am staying tonight.

Moni is a one street tourist village but it has beer on the left and fuel on the right and that will suffix.

A New Zealand girl at the bar looking for a beer, I shout her one and ask her story. Says she quit her job to see the world. Great! where are you planning to travel? This is the beginning but she is angry being charged $2 for fried rice, insisting locals pay $1. Ok… And she is a vegan conservationist and upset about the rubbish everywhere so may cut her travel short and go home. Aha…

I was going to recommend the book Factfulness by Hans Rosling and sharing a pizza but then decided the conversation had already peaked and let her wander off to haggle over fried rice.

d2.png

Thanks for reading, my ride continues tomorrow.

PART TWO

5 Comments

  1. Looks and sounds fantastic…

  2. Really enjoyed the read. Your observations are spot on.

  3. Serge Landry

    Hi Warren,

    I enjoyed the photos…not been to Flores for a while but I agree that it is a great place with great panorama, people and traditions.
    Wanted to highlight a mistake in your indonesian lesson: ‘Makasan Pandang’ should insted be ‘masakan padang’, whihc means padang food. Padang is the second city of Sumatra, home to Minangkabau people, whose food is very famous throughout Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
    Serge

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *