I left Lombok with a connecting flight to Maumere Flores that afternoon. The flight from Lombok was four hours delayed. It was a fine line but I went through domestic customs and back through for my flight to Flores with ½ hour to spare. I made a mental note never to book interconnecting domestic indo flights again.
The flight to Maumere was on Lion Air. No problems. At Maumere airport my driver Mathus was there to meet me and off we went for an hour or so to Ankermi Guesthouse. We were pretty close to the guesthouse when the road was blocked by bamboo being cut. This is was something that occurred a few times with the loppers asking for money - 2 000 rupiah - to move the bamboo to let you pass. Once we passed the bamboo was placed across the road again. Mathus explained they do this to get money to buy arak. Very enterprising!
Ankermi's was great! Six rooms close to the water with nice gardens and restaurant. The views over the bay were very pretty with a small jetty to walk along to get clearer views. The room was nice. It had a comfortable bed, fan, mozzie net and an outside shower. NICE!
The rooms were 254 000 rupiah per night with breakfast. The meals were tasty and you could order from the menu and sometimes they had a small smorgasbord.
The place gave of the ambience of tranquillity and calmness.
Kermis was an Indonesian born in Java and he moved to Bali and later Flores. He is a nice pleasant guy. His wife Claudia is from Austria. She came a few days later with her mum and son. She was very pleasant.
While in Flores I had a number of local walks and snorkels, caught boats out to the islands, had a day trip around the area, checked out Maumere and talked with heaps of locals and tourists.
Well, this is the background and my plan was to stay a few nights at Ankermi, then Moni for volcano climbing then on to Ende for a flight to Sumba. Sometimes, plans just don’t happen. Usually, there is a good reason that comes out after time.
Mathus was a good driver so I hired him for the whole of the following day to take me on a day trip around Maumere and Sikka. ‘What do you want to see?’ he asked. ‘Surprise me!’
It cost 600 000 rupiah and was worth every cent. His English was okay and he was heaps of fun and he went out of his way to show me what he thought was worthwhile seeing.
We drove along the main highway with Mathus tooting his horn to get people’s attention which made for good videoing. Our first stop was arak making. He went on ahead to check it was okay to watch. We got the okay and I watched the older guy drink six glasses before he declared the brew drinkable to perfection. I was feeling woozy smelling it. He was obviously an experienced brewer and drinker.
Next stop was a school where the camera caused a mini riot.
After that, the next stop was the seminary, which was calm and very quiet.
We stopped along the beaches on the south coast on the way to Sikka. The surf was wild with onshore winds. There were also a number of friendly people around ready for a chat and a photo.
Sikka was at the end of the road. The car was park at the bottom of the steps leading up to the church courtyard. I walked up the steps and eventually someone came to open the church for a donation and a promise to look at their weaving later. The church was old with huge timber supports. Nice!
Outside the church I was greeted by the friendly ‘you promised to buy lady’. She led me down the quiet stairs that were lined with about 40 women holding their weaving in silence. I looked at them and they looked at me. I took a deep breath and walked down the stairs. I saw the weaving and bought a nice piece of ikat. I handed her the money and she handed me the ikat and then all hell broke loose. The walls were echoing with the catch cries – you buy from me, you buy from her you buy from me, that ikat no good, my ikat good, buy, buy, buy!!!!! Ah! I put the blinkers on and made a bee line for the car. Ah!!! Where’s the car? It was now at the end of the street and the road was lined with more ikat sellers. The crowd that was following me was now three to four deep with sellers.
Suddenly, one leans over all the rest, and with a ‘sexy’ look, meaning glance and wink says in a voice not unlike ginger from Gillian’s Island‘s ‘hi, you must buy from me’. This was a different sales pitch and I was stunned and so was everyone else. But only for a moment then they all charged at me with an even greater ferocity. I got to the car, closed the door, then saw a very pretty ikat that my daughter would like. I leaned over and got it but before I could pay the lady, she was swept aside by the crowd. I cried ‘’who do I owe the 50 000 rupiah to?’ A lady lunged over the top of the crowd and said ‘me’ and took the money. I wound up the window and told Mathus to hit the speed.
Once we were a safe distance and the world became calm, I asked Mathus ‘why did you move the car way down the road?’ He told me that a group of the women surrounded him and in a threatening manner ordered him to move the car. Mathus was afraid! I understood.
About ½ hour along the road, we were stopped by the ‘bamboo across the road for arak extortion scam’. This time they were swinging around machetes and were totally pissed. Mathus paid 2 000 rupiah and some guy on a motorbike who didn’t want to pay was persuaded to when two of them started dancing in front of him swinging their machetes in a friendly not manner. Good move bro!
The next part was amazing, we went up and up a number of small narrow roads and eventually came to small car park which was the beginning of the’ stations of the cross’. A small path leads across the ridge to an amazing statue of Mary that changed colours in the light and as one changed position. Not unlike RIO. The view from the mountain edge was inspiring.
On return to carpark, we met the caretaker who was a lovely lady who emanated serenity and oneness with the universe. She collected parking fees and sold trinkets from a small shop. She lived up there all year on her own in one of the small boxed rooms reading books. She had no family but was very content with her life. I don’t know why but I felt I had met someone that was unique and a friend. On speaking to Mathus he said he felt awed by her.
The second last stop was the waterfront at Maumere. It was now raining but the guys in the boats were friendly and put on a bit of a show for the camera.
The last stop was a late but delicious lunch at a small restaurant owed by one of Mathus’s relatives.
Back at Ankermis, and I asked Mathus if he wanted me to pay him now or add up all the drives and pay in one lot. He said pay in one lot. ‘Good I said ‘as I haven’t the money on me now as it was in the hotel safe’. Mathus went white… ‘you have no money’…’yes I have money but it is in the safe’…’oh’. 10 minutes later and back in my room and there at the door is Mathus with Kermi. Mathus wanted to be paid. Obviously, 'oh' is indo for - you have no money so I’ll get someone to sort this out.
An excellent day!!!
On the following day, all started well, I hired a boat to the islands for a snorkel trip (450 000 rupiah). The boat motored over the calm waters to the distant islands. Once there, I had some reasonable snorkelling and wandered around the deserted island. All pretty cool. We then motored to another snorkel spot. The current looked strong but the captain said it was fine, I said ‘ if I raise my hand you come and get me’... ‘Mengerti? ‘… 'Ya, mengerti'.
Well, in I jumped and within a short time, I was a long way from the boat and I could make no headway back. I drifted very quickly further and further aay. I raised my hand and he waved back. The boat didn’t move. I waved again and he waved back gesturing to me to return to the boat. I waved more frantically as I was now off the reef and floating over the abyss. Finally, the boat started to move in my direction. I wasn’t very happy when I boarded but his cheery words ‘good snorkel?’ and my answer that ‘ya, good snorkel ‘ made me feel better.
This is when plans changed… I was walking just a short distant from the hotel, took a small jump onto the sand and bam!!! I hurt my foot and I hurt it badly. This is a long story so I’ll write in short form.
Ring insurance… need medical advice… need to get x-ray and see doctor… arrange car and drive to Maumere hospital… road nearly washed away due to river flooding… just got the car through..three hours later in hospital have had x-ray, saw doctor and it would be okay in a few days… stop at supermarket for chocolates,/chips… road back only wide enough for motorbike…Mathus arranges a bike to take me across… back in hotel… indo pain killers and two bottles of red wine...life is good
The bone was bruised above the heel and it took three weeks before I could walk on it without pain.
My plans had to change. I was booked to fly from Ende to Kupang West Timor and the following day to Waingapu in Sumba. No way I could do that as Sumba is a rough but beautiful journey and not to be attempted with injuries. As it was Merpati, had cancelled the flight from Ende to Kupang so if I hadn’t of hurt my foot, I would have driven 5 hours to Moni, said goodbye to the driver, have no flight, would have needed to get back to Maumere to get a flight to Kupang.
There guesthouse had a number of interesting and very different people staying. I met a Swiss couple on the first night and shared the table with them for dinner. They were very nice and we had a pleasant night chatting. This was their second visit to Ankermi and they had stayed for quite number of weeks just reading, relaxing and unwinding from the stresses of euro life.
On the second night, another fellow arrived and joined us at our table. He wasn’t very happy and was rather grumpy. We ignored his grumpiness but after awhile he began to relaxed. As he became relaxed he grew quieter and seemed to be withdrawing into himself and thinking. At one stage he slowly raised his head and said ‘ I’m an empty shell. I feel nothing. Why am I here. I planned to do this trip with my young daughter. I am always so busy working. This was to be our time together. My wife and I had split. She changed her mind and would not allow me to take her. So I went anyway. And now I am here, where I don’t want to be without my reason for being here. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to do anything except stay in my room till I need to go home. I am an empty shell.
To say the least, we were all stunned! What to do! What to say! Was there anything to say? We said nothing and he talked for a long time until he had no more to say. I felt compelled to help, this was a sad, sad story and I didn’t want the ending to get any sadder.
I felt this was probably the reason I had hurt my foot so for the next week. We talked heaps, we snorkelled, we walked and eventually, he smiled and started to talk about the positive things he was now going to do to set things right. That smile made my foot saga worthwhile.
I went to Flores last year and loved it. This year I loved it again. There is no much to see and do - people to meet, experiences to have and adventures.