Month 8: Travel Summary and Statistics
Planet Earth, you amaze us. From amazing scenery and geological marvels to underwater wonders, this last month has been all about experiencing the natural world.
After completing our Advanced Adventurer Diving qualification that allows us to go deeper in the ocean, we reluctantly left languid island life on Gili Air. But we weren’t too disappointed as we were heading to Flores, an untamed, less touristy island of the Indonesian peninsula.
Just 50 metres from the shore was a coral reef bed perfect for snorkelling and down the road was a little dive school where we went on our first muck dive at Bemo Corner to see lots of little critters on the sea bed. Bemo are little mini buses that transport passengers all over Flores while subjecting them to techno music and deafening volumes. The remains of some are now home to sea creatures after they landed on the sea bed following the earthquake of 1992.
A little minibus (thankfully not a bemo) took us to Moni where we planned to visit Mount Kelimutu, famed for its three multi-coloured volcanic lakes. Sunrise is supposed to be the time to go but the weather forecast was not in our favour, so we enjoyed a few extra hours in bed before visiting mid-morning. Our walk up was shrouded in mist and our hopes of seeing the three lakes diminished by the moment, but shortly after our arrival, the fog clearer to reveal this amazing sight.
Our next stop was Ende. There’s not a great deal to do or see here but it’s a good break in the journey and we found the most fantastic local cafe run by Ali-Martin and Elisabet. They make their noodles from scratch, only serve organic, free-range chicken and keep their menu simple, with just three dishes cooked to perfection.
After a short overnight stay in a convent in Ruteng (don’t consider staying anywhere else), we hired a scooter and made our way to Wae Rebo, a traditional village of the Manggarai people, surrounded by mountains and hidden by clouds, where they maintain their traditions and lifestyle as they have done so for eighteen generations.
We finished our time in beautiful Flores, in Komodo National Park at Scuba Junkie, a diving resort on the nearest island to the park.
The seas are said to rival Sipadan in Borneo and we look forward to comparing them in a month or two. We saw circling reef sharks around a shoal of jackfish, watched manta rays as they soared through the ocean. We glided on currents as green turtles fed on coral and perved on a pair of mating octopi. The marine live was so abundant and so colourful and so large, it appeared to be on steroids.
Komodo National Park is the home of the Komodo dragon – sorry, they don’t breathe fire. It’s mating season and we managed to interrupt another intimate moment when we came across these too in the undergrowth.
All too quickly our time in Flores was up. On a whim, we booked a flight to Java, hoping to visit Mount Bromo at sunrise and the Ijen crater where if you visit at night you can witness the phenomenon known as blue fire. But it turned out we’d chosen to arrive the week the clouds rolled in so we decided to postpone. Big mistake! We hadn’t considered the end of Ramadan where practically every one journeys home to celebrate with their family. With transport booked up and our chances of getting a ferry back to Bali in time for our flight to Kuala Lumpur diminishing, we opted to visit Yogyakarta. We ended the month with a relaxing stay at Yabbie Kayu, a gorgeous eco-homestay where we got wrapped up in impromptu science experiments and learnt about permaculture and bamboo building techniques.
On to stats for the month…
Stats of the month
Countries Visited: Indonesia
Places visited: 11
Gili Air, Lombok, Flores (Maumere, Moni, Ende, Bajawa, Ruteng, Labuan Bajo, Komodo National Park) Java (Surabaya, Yogyakarta)
Money spent: £29.43 / $42.42 per person per day
Advanced Adventurer Diving course: £200 each (we’ve kept this separate from our daily costs as we’d set aside savings specially to do it).
Distance travelled: 1708km / 1057m
Meal of the month:
Ali-Martin and Elisabet’s Ayam Goreng Kampung (fried chicken) with toasted coconut and fiery sambal. Ok, only Eliza got to enjoy this one, but Chris loved their homemade noodles and the effort they went to create a vegetarian-friendly meal for him.
Highlight of the month:
Diving in Komodo National Park. The corals were incredibly brightly coloured and teaming with fish of every size and colour. There were so many it would be impossible to list them all here.
Lowlight of the month:
Realising we weren’t going to make it to Bromo and Ijen. It’ll just have to be another time!
We’re flying to Kuala Lumpur for a week before being joined by Chris’s sister Sue for a Bornean odyssey. We’re planning mass consumption of laksa, hoping to spot orang-utans, proboscis monkeys, Irrawaddy dolphins and the rafflesia flower in bloom, learning to build and pilot a bamboo raft and will be visiting Mulu National Park where we’ll attempt the Pinnacles trek. We expect to be eaten alive by leeches, sweat out every toxin in our bodies and cause incalculable pain to our muscles, fingers and toes. If you don’t hear from us again, we didn’t make it!