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From One End of Flores: The Journey Begins

Through the Sea Breeze

Flores. I think it was the name and how gently is rolls of the tongue, plus the imagery of tropical flowers it conjures up. I was drawn to Flores (map here) and I knew it would be a perfect last trip before leaving Indonesia. I was going to be traveling solo and since I had limited time before visa fees kicked in, I decided to drain my Indonesian back account (had to be closed anyways) and book a cross-island tour so I could get a guide, a car and a driver (a wise choice after I saw the roads and public transportation options). The whole thing was pretty last minute and I was nervous about it because I had found this company on the Internet, there were no independent reviews, and to be honest I had dark thoughts about no one showing up at the airport to collect me. Of course none of this happened and I had a wonderful experience, but living in Asia has ways of making you question everything.

Flores is a perfect example of diversity in Indonesia. The Portuguese colonized Flores and Catholicism ended up having staying power. In addition, the small island has several unique tribal groups. So for the first time in 14 months, as we drove along the Trans-Flores highway, I was on an island dominated by churches instead of mosques. When I saw the small plane that would take me to Maumere, on the eastern side of Flores, I said a few prayers and knew there was no turning back at this point:

Gulp

Views from the 40-seat propeller plane:

Low Flying

When I landed at the airport in Maumere, I met my guide Pak Ardi. When he saw me a puzzled look crossed his face. In the blunt Indonesian style of honesty, he told me he was expecting a fat, middle-age American woman. When he learned I had lived and worked in Jakarta and can get by a bit in Indonesian, our trip went swimmingly with him introducing me everywhere we went as his friend, a journalist from Jakarta and speaking a mixture of English and Indonesian. Pak Ardi had lived in Jakarta decades ago, so he was amused to hear about some of the changes I described. He told me he could never live there again because there were too many beautiful people and he would fall in love every day when he boarded a bus.

A Church in Indonesia

From Maumere we drove to Sikka, a small village with a beautiful wooden church dating to 1899. The church was constructed so instead of windows lining the upper parts, there is open space so you can hear the sound of waves crashing from the nearby beach.

Jesus Kneels

Wooden Church

Graveyard

Down the steps past the graveyard, a group of women have set up an ikat weaving center. Oh temptation, it struck again. The women were all incredibly sweet and they showed me the process of making ikat on Flores — different from what I saw and learned about on Sulawesi.

From the Plant to the Loom

At the Loom

The process requires hours of labor and uses natural ingredients found nearby and across Flores.

Setting Up

Making Dye

Design

Needless to say, I walked away with a beautiful $10 table runner. The colors in it strayed from the traditional red and blacks, but it caught my eye.

Hard at Work

Dream Local

G'Day Flores

Wooden Boats

Then we hit the road heading to Kelimutu. On the way, we stopped for coffee at Paga beach. This was the first of many of Pak Ardi’s coffee stops at some of the most beautiful places in Indonesia, and probably the whole world. Sitting on the beach, watching the sun set and drinking sugary rich coffee, well someone has to do it.

Goodnight, Sun

Getting There: Daily flights from Bali to Flores.

Tour Company: I went with Flores Exotic Tours. I settled on the Flores-Komodo adventure tour. They were very professional. Leonardus quickly responds to emails and helps you shape your itinerary. My guide Pak Ardi and driver Patris were both very kind and I felt like I had older brothers watching over me the whole trip.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Flores! Oh how I long to go back there already. Unbelievably beautiful and a very different feel from all the other places that I’ve visited thus far here in Indonesia. I found it very laid back and a breath of fresh air compared to Bali but like you, did a bit of a gulp when I saw the plane that we were to fly in. I hope we hear more of your Florian adventures soon. Lottie

    February 5, 2013
    • More to come. I spent six days traveling Flores and Komodo and could have spent double or triple that time there! And I agree with you, I didn’t get the same vibe/atmosphere anywhere else I traveled in Indonesia, it really is a special place.

      February 5, 2013
  2. Thank you for a very nice read. We haven’t made it to Flores yet (too much going down in Bali) but it’s on the bucket list – and so close. We do know some Flores people who live here and, yes, they are a nice crowd. Good luck with your further travels. And keep scribbling!

    February 5, 2013
    • Thanks for reading, several more posts on Flores to come. I do hope you make it there soon, it truly was a beautiful place.

      February 6, 2013
  3. Whoaaaaaa!!!! Amazingggg! One of the best part of my country that i’ve never visited. So saddd!

    February 5, 2013
    • I hope you get to visit some day. There are just too many places to visit in Indonesia with over 17,000 islands!

      February 6, 2013

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