On our way to Lombok we decided for a stopover at the Gili islands which are located between Bali and Lombok. Over here we enjoyed a couple of days of sun and fun. The snorkeling was great over there and in the evenings there was plenty of beer and arak so it turned out to be a very relaxing time.
After a couple of days we continued our trip to Lombok. We found a nice hotel south of Sengiggi beach and started our tours from there. Lombok is pretty much influenced by the Balinese though it breathes it’s own typical atmosphere. We visited several temples and in one of them, Batu Bulong, we even were able to witness a small ceremony.
Another temple though, Pura Meru, which is Lomboks biggest temple in “Bali style” was pretty desolate. One of the highlights was the visit of traditional Sasak villages in the south of Lombok. In one of the villages we got a good opportunity to look at the lifestyle of the Islamic people who lived here. It was also our first introduction with ikat, a fantastic weaving technique which is special for the area.
We continued our trip through Lombok in a crowded bemo and before we arrived at Sade we switched over to a cimodo, a traditional horse wagon. In Sade we found traditional Lombok ricebarns in their typical shape. Beautiful! In spite of the heat we walked to several other villages to enjoy a bit more of them.
On the last day in Lombok we rented two motorbikes in order to explore the north. The landscape in the north was totally different. Dry and desolate. It became clear to us that Lombok lies east of the Wallace line and is the beginning of a much dryer region. We drove our bikes to the beginning of the trail which led to the summit of Gunung Rinjani. After a short break we returned.
On the way back we discovered Segenter, a traditional village where we arrived after 5 kilometers of dirt tracking. The locals welcomed very warmly and we were offered a tour through the village. It was very well taken care of and the people were proud of that. What a beautiful spot!
After Lombok we traveled to Bima in the east of Sumbawa. It was a 19hour long journey and the roads were not in a good condition. After a good night sleep we tried to catch a plane to Labuhan Bajo, in the west of Flores, but the flights of the coming days were fully booked. On the spot we changed our plans and boarded a plane to Maumere in the east of Flores.
Far below us we spotted a rough and volcanic landscape. Christoph wanted to go diving and had read about the fantastic coral reef in front of Maumere. I didn’t feel much for it but he convinced me and so we started a mini course scuba diving. Half a day of theory, some practical exercises in the pool and finally 2 days of diving. We had an enthusiastic instructor and soon I forgot my doubts. My first dive ever was absolutely amazing. Surrounded by thousands of colorful fish I did not know where to start looking. It was awesome. I enjoyed the feeling of being weightless in spite of the fact that my buoyancy was absolutely lousy. The coral was beautiful. Strange forms, beautiful colors, I had never seen anything like this before. What a shame it all ended to soon, after 38 minutes we had to surface already. Luckily there were three more dives to come. Every dive of them was a jump into a strange different world. I enjoyed the lionfish, triggerfish and all the other animals we saw. Our instructor showed us a lot of details we normally would never have seen. Our “easy scuba entry” had become an absolute success.
Besides the diving we were still able to do a cultural tour. The people of Flores are mainly Catholic so our first stop was a museum at the mission school. Over there we saw an interesting collection of ikat, tools from the stone age, old Dutch coins and other objects. We also visited some churches in the area and finally went to Wureng, an Islamic fishermen village where the houses were built on wooden pillars in the sea. It had been an interesting day.
We left Maumere in the middle of the night in order to witness sunrise at the Keli Mutu, a sleeping volcano with three craterlakes. The road was in horrible condition but fortunately we had a very skilled driver so we survived the 110 km to the foot of the Keli Muto. We managed to arrive in time at the summit which was covered in flakes of mist. The sun was now rising and burned away the clouds rapidly. Slowly the three lakes below us became visible and it was clear to see they had three different colors! One was turquoise, one green and the third was black! We were told the lakes were extremely toxic and solution of minerals in the water caused the different colors of the lakes. It was a landscape of almost bizarre beauty. It was pretty cold up there and it was only after a decent breakfast we continued our journey to Ende.
From Ende it was still a 3 1/2 day journey to Labuhan Bajo and we didn’t feel like that with the bad state of roads in mind. We tried to get plane tickets but unfortunately the planes were booked the next couple of days. So it was time to be flexible again and change our plans on the spot. One of the destinations which was very high on my “much wanted” list was Sumba. It turned out to be possible to fly over there via a little detour to Timor. We would take a “flying bemo” to Kupang in the west of Timor and continue the trip the day after to Waingapu in East Sumba. As usual flights were heavily overbooked but we managed to get on board of both flights anyway.
Sumba is a relative unknown island in Indonesia. It’s famous because of the special architecture of it’s houses and the big structures where dead are buried. Because of the remoteness of the area, the hostile environment (hardly nothing grows over there) and fighting clans the Sumbanese have not suffered from much influence from outside. The first village we visited was Prailliu. Over here we were welcomed by the villagers and introduced to the raja, the chief of the village. He showed us photo books with pictures of old rituals and ceremonies.
Like in Sulawesi a funeral is extremely expensive in Sumba. Giant stones are cut out of hills which are miles away and carried to the cemetery. Buffaloes, horses and pigs were offered for the death. Because of the cost for a ceremony there can be years between the death of a person and his funeral.
We happened to be in the area while preparing ceremonies took place that evening for a funeral and got an invitation to join. In a house a strange event took place. In front of the house stood a decorated horse and people played a gamalan. Inside men were singing themselves in a trance beside the coffin, surrounded by the family members of a woman who died already six years ago. One of them was holding a hen. Suddenly the men started to cry and shake in an uncontrolled way. The hen and horse reacted straight away and seemed to panic. It was a bizarre thing and I didn’t feel comfortable at all so I went out. Just as sudden as things started they stopped. The ceremony had finished and people left like nothing had happened. Still very much impressed we thanked the village chief that we were allowed to be here and left back to the hotel.
The next day we visited several other villages in the area and were able to see the making of ikat, it takes months to finish a high quality piece of cloth but they were extremely beautiful. Also we saw how rice was prepared in the traditional way for consumption. Every village had it’s own impressive graveyard. Meters high stones and sculptures in all shapes and forms decorated the graves. We were informed about the rules of building them which made our visit very interesting. Unfortunately I started to develop a fever so I missed the rest of the tour and went to bed.
After 17 hours of non-stop sleeping I still felt miserable but I was able to travel so we decided to go to Waikabubak in West Sumba. If things really became worse I would be close to the airport from where I could return to Bali. Of course I did not enjoy the 6 hour trip a lot and as soon as we arrived in Waikabubak I had something to eat and went straight to bed again. By this time I was a bit afraid I had malaria but people told me there’s absolutely no malaria in east Nussa Tenggara so it was just a case of a bad flu. After a long sleep I woke up bathing in my own sweat but felt a lot better. Luckily I seemed to recover again.
In the afternoon we went to see traditional horse racing. It was great to see how excited people were by the game and betting was going on. After the race we visited some villages in the area and it was over here where we found the most impressive houses we’d seen so far. The villages were built on the slope of a hill and consisted out of 2 rows of traditional houses. In the middle of the “street” gravestones were all over. On top of the graves dogs were sunbathing and rice was being dried. Life and death seem to go hand in hand over here. Every year ceremonies were held by high priests to honour the spirit of the dead. The whole place breathed a fantastic atmosphere and was enough food for imagination. It was like we were years back in time, far away from the so called civilization.
The houses over here were built totally different then in the east of Sumba, the roofs were much higher. We were explained that the treasures of the people were stored under the rooftops. The last day on Sumba we visited some more villages which were located high on top of the hills. I was able to keep a simple conversation with the people and we were invited for tea more then once. What a wonderful time.
Time was passing by quickly and for us it was time to say goodbye again to Sumba. We flew back to Bima on Sumbawa and were able to finally fly to Labuhan Bajo the day after. Quite some time had passed since our first attempt to go there but this time we finally managed! Once arrived we chartered a fishing boat to bring us to the island of Komodo the day after. The next day we left in the middle of the night for an exciting trip to see the Komodo dragons which were nowhere else to be seen in the world.. We boarded a fragile looking canoe which brought us to our boat.
The trip to Komodo lasted 6 hours. The most exciting part was when dolphins joined us for a ride. It was great seeing them playing in the waves our boat created. Finally we arrived in Komodo where we reported to the guards.
They took us to a feeding place of the dragons. On the way up there we spotted already the first ones. Komodo dragons seemed to be very slow animals but this was just an illusion. As soon as the goat that the guides had brought with them was slaughtered the dragons smelled blood and became restless. Luckily we were guarded by a fence. After the goat was thrown over the fence an aggressive meal took place. It was a matter of minutes before nothing of the goat could be traced, it was eaten with skin and bones. We left the site impressed and carefully looking around whether there were no more hungry dragons waiting for us. We arrived back at the boat with the same number of people so we could start our journey back.
Komodo had been the last place we wanted to visit in Nusa Tengarra so now we could return to Bali with a lot of memories in mind and happy that everything had worked out so well. As usual we had some problems boarding the several planes but in the end it all worked out fine. Once back in Bali we took a taxi straight back to Guci Guesthouse. Over here Ulli and Nyoman were already waiting for our arrival and our stories. The last couple of days in Bali we relaxed a bit and spent most of our time with Ulli & Nyoman. Then it was time for our last stop before we went home so we took the plane to Yogyakarta in central Java.
Continue the trip in Yogyakarta