Monday, 19 September 2011

Lombok - Gili Islands

"Hey Rasta, you smoke weed?" was the sentence we heard most in Lombok and on the Gili Islands. We seemed to have stumbled upon a little island nation of Bob Marley devotees and well, stoners.
We headed out to the Gili's with a plan to stay 3 nights. We were unsure about the safety of our bikes so always had that in the back of our minds hence the reason for not staying any longer, we did manage to get in contact with the guys looking after our bikes and after quite a discussion we found they were still safe so decided to stay on the island a further night. By this stage we were quite getting into Island life. Swimming and snorkeling all day in between sitting in the many little huts by the beach eating and drinking freshly squeezed pineapple juice. At night sitting in the Corner Cafe with our new friends having a Bintang or two. Even had one guy there (Uncle Bob) who fixed my dreads up for me. He didn't even want any money for his time but gave him a little cash for his work. We spent a night at Gili Air and wanted to see some more of the islands so off to Gili Meno the following day. We had been told it was quieter there so we were all up for that until we got there. The island is not too different in looks but is more expensive and you see a different type of tourist there. More a package holiday destination than anything else. We decided it was too quiet so headed back to Gili Air the following day for a couple of nights in our cheap little bungalow just a short walk in from the beach. We have been told many good thing's about Kuta in Lombok so that is now our next destination from here.

On our way to Gili Air
Lombok Ferrari, as the pony-and-carts are called here

The local beach

Our bungalow - $10 a night was all we paid

 Turtle sanctuary at Gili Meno

Chillin with yet another pineapple juice

Uncle Bob from the Corner Cafe

A sweet little puss who decided to join us for lunch

Leaving the island...they like to cram people in like sardines


 We had to leave early to catch the ferry to Sumbawa, all packed ready to go and running early for a change and then Sanne's bike decided it didn't want to start. After a bit of cursing from me, tried running through a few things to start it. It wasn't until a guy at the hotel came over to see what was happening and opened the throttle wide open and hit the start button,  after a few goes she spluttered back into life. With a quick thankyou we were off to the port. Our ferry looked a little better from our last one but we only just got there in time before there was no space left at all. The journey was uneventful, apart from a local guy showing me porn on his phone, and took just 7 1/2 hours on a calm ocean. We arrived in the afternoon into the port town of Sape and after talking to a few guys on the ferry we had a place organised to stay that night. Our host was very helpful even digging up a map for us as we had nothing, not knowing where we were going except that we needed to head west. 
We hit the road early the next morning aiming for the city of Dompu about a couple of hundred km's away. The roads are reasonable here and happy to find not so many mountain passes winding tightly up and down. The scenery here is not all that different to the other islands but nothing really stood out here for us except the people who have been nothing but welcoming and helpful to us all along the way. We even got another police escort to show us to a hotel, and our cheapest yet at 55000Rp (about $6) per night! The following day we wanted to go get to the city of Sumbawa Besar, this proved a little more challenging with the roads in a poor state and getting stuck in a traffic jam didn't help either. No order here, just go for it when you can see a gap. We arrived early with a plan to leave early the following morning to the port town of Porto Tano as we did not know the timetable of the ferries to Lombok. We could not have timed it better as we hit the port at 10.30am and our ferry was leaving at 11.00! Onto island number four and our shortest crossing to date.

The ferry from Flores - Sumbawa

With not much space on the boat you gotta be creative when taking a nap

Menacing clouds greeted us in Sumbawa

A traffic jam we got caught in - it was every man for himself in order to get through

All over Sumbawa you see these little ponies pulling carts around, some are nothing more than skin and bones but still forced to pull heavy bricks and whole families around

Lots of monkeys by the road side, some not so friendly 
as Mark found out when one chased him down the road!

Komodo National Park

We decided to take a day trip to Rinca Island, part of the Komodo National Park to see if we could get a chance of seeing some Dragons. After our 2hr boat ride we got ourselves a ranger to take us around for a 2 hour hike. Within minutes of heading off and still at the rangers station we came across about 13 of them of varying sizes. They look like a long lost cousin to the Perenti in Australia but growing up to 3 metres in length and up to a weight of 80kgs. We then headed off in to a sweat busting walk in the middle of the day. The humidity being very high here at the moment to see if we could find any in there natural habitat. After about an hour we came across one just chillin out in the shade. It looked pretty docile but, as they can be very dangerous, our ranger had a long stick with him just in case it decided to attack. Their weapon is all in the bacteria in their mouths. Some years ago a local guy was bitten by one and a couple of weeks later he was dead. They also kill water buffalos this way.
After our very hot walk we were in much need of a cool relief and were taken to nearby Angel Island where we jumped in for a snorkel in the crystal clear water.

Komodo Dragon

Angel Island

Thursday, 8 September 2011


After a long ferry trip we finally arrived in Flores and the fun started straight off by riding the bikes off the boat. The swell was bringing the boat up and down and the ramp didn't align because the tide was too low. We then had to time it just right for our get off, so as the ferry rised with the swell you had to gas it and hopefully by the time you were at the top the swell had dropped enough so you could ride straight off the ferry with now only a 1 foot drop onto to some ropes and onto an over crowded wharf. At first sight Ende was not as bad as we had heard about it. After riding around aimlessly for a while we found our way to a hotel and rested after out ferry crossing. By now my ankle was killing me from an accident in Darwin. Finally decided it was time to visit a doctor, so off to the hospital for a check up. After hearing some locals majorly distressed we had noticed why when a few moments a family was carrying a young dead man out of a room, my little sore seemed so in significant. I think the nurse felt the same and proceeded to clean my nicely infected wound with no sense of the idea of being gentle. After almost kicking him he returned with the doctor to inform me he was now going to cut out some dead flesh, with the look of horror on my face they Doc said it would be done after a shot of anaesthetic. I can't believe how much of a pussy I am, all the time trying to put on a brave face for a little kid watching on who was next in line. All this cost me 4 bucks plus another $15 for gloves, pain killers, antibiotics bandages and cream etc. 
Next day we hit the road for Kelimutu which is a volcano about 2 hours ride away which consists of 3 lakes at the top, meant to be 3 different colours, we saw 2! It was a beautiful ride up to a height of around 5000 feet. It was a Sunday and seemed all the locals head there also for the day. I think we were almost the main attraction for them being stopped constantly for photos, now we know what it almost feels like to be a celebrity. The worst of it is the bikes just draw so much attention so always worried that when we leave them something may go missing. So far so good as we have had no problems. We decided so stay the night in the area and found a great little bungalow at a great price of 75000rp (about $8) a night. The owner was a champ and looked after us well with the best ginger tea we have had. If you are ever here look up Palm Bungalows! 
Time to head west and for the town of Labuhan Bajo firstly heading north to Reo. We were never going to make it in a day so decided to break it over a few days. First stop was at Mborong, a dirty town on the south coast with not much going for it but a hotel named Hotel Primadonna! Cheap and cheerful and the guy in charge allowed us to park the bikes in reception. 
From here north to Reo where we intended to stay but again were not too fussed with hanging around so after riding around in circles we were escorted out of town now hoping to be heading in the right direction. After about 10 minutes the road had gone to hell. With every km the road some how became increasingly worse, our map shows this road as a major route to Labuhan Bajo. I think not. We were to far in to turn back so pushed on, now realising we would never make our destination today. We decided to pull off the road and set up camp. Not really having any idea where we were, we had dinner and had an early night to rejuvenate our batteries not knowing what we had coming the following day. We awoke the next day not realising we were still visible from the road, so had many visitors dropping by wondering what the hell to 2 white people were doing in the middle of the forest. All very friendly and curious and even invited to a locals home for coffee but sadly we turned him down as Sanne woke up not feeling so well and we just wanted to get to our destination. We asked a young guy if there was petrol further up the road, yes there was, he left and 10 mins later he came back with bottles full of petrol for us!
After an hour we had only covered 15km's and felt a little disheartened hoping the road would improve. Every time we showed a local our map it was if it was the first time that they had ever set the eyes on one with no one able to tell us where we were. Great! We then stopped at a larger village to get water etc and got talking to someone who told us we were heading in the right direction, sweet. Something was going right. Then more bad news, the road was not to improve and were told to expect another 60 odd km's of this and it should take about 6 HOURS!!! Every time we took a break we managed to attract a crowd, I don't think many tourists come this way. At one stage we had about 50 school kids crowding around us staring intently as they all seem to do. We finally made it in 4 hours not 6 and booked into the first hotel we saw, more than we would usually pay but I wanted something better for Sanne to feel better, really I didn't mind the idea of aircon, tv and a normal shower.     

Mark at the hospital

Misty mountain top

One of the many volcanoes on Flores

 Cheeky kids

Kelimutu volcanic lakes

The local paparazzi

Luckily most hotels let us ride our bikes into the foyer and keep them there overnight

Surrounded by curious kids!

This road was marked on our map as the main road. This is one of the better sections!

Our first bush camp in Indonesia - we were kinda lost!

 One of the many, many roadworks throughout Indonesia

They don't care much for trumpets in Flores

Ferry - Timor to Flores

After all the reports on Indonesian ferries I think we were lucky on this crossing. This crossing usually takes about 18 hours to the worst we have heard of 29 hours! We left at 2pm from Kupang with a nice calm ocean ahead of us. Lucky for us we arrived in Ende just some 17 hours later. The ferry crossing was uneventful really except for the usual stares and curiosity that our bikes seem to get wherever we go. After what we have heard and seen of the ferries here in Indo we were glad to see that our ferry was not too over loaded. Plenty of scooters, only 2 small trucks and a couple of hundred of people. Not to forget the randy goats, horses, pigs and chickens. Made for a smelly ride but was bearable all the same. Managed to get a few hours sleep and thankfully no pissed Indonesians singing Karaoke as other reports we have heard on other crossings. 1 crossing down only 6 more to go to Malaysia.

Our old and decrepit ferry

But with Jesus himself on board we were sure to have a safe crossing!

The ferry was not surprisingly over crowded
 Th precious cargo we had to share this vessel with

Sunrise over the Timor Sea

Thursday, 1 September 2011

West Timor

Crossing the border from East to West Timor was pretty straightforward and after doing the rounds to get our passports stamped and the carnets filled out (only after Mark taught the customs officer how to do so!) we were now officially in Indonesia.
Our bikes created much interest among the customs and police officers who would pose with the bikes while their colleagues took photos on their mobile phones. We were getting used to the attention by now; in Asia a big bike is 250cc, so ours at 400cc is a giant! Not so in the west.
The roads on this side of the border did not improve with large parts of the roads washed away and a pothole bonanza. We also soon noticed that the driving here was much more aggressive and fast than East Timor. We tried to find a place to camp that night but it proved most difficult as all space seemed to be taken up by either houses or rice fields. We kept on riding in the hope that something would pop up but nothing did and before we knew it we were riding in the dark on less than desirable roads with trucks and bikes flying past us. Promising each other never to ride after dark in Asia ever again we pulled into the next town we came to and got ourselves a hotel room.
The next day we arrived in Kupang where we would take the ferry to Flores. At first we got a bad feeling about the place. Whereas the people in East Timor were smiling and friendly, people here seemed cocky and aggressive. After a day spent getting supplies for our ferry crossing and finding out if the ferry was actually running we started to feel a little more at ease with the place. Not a place still that we will be in a hurry to come back to.

The ferry port with some very dodgy looking ferries

Overlooking the beach in Kupang

 One of the many buses that run east to west. We are grateful for our bikes on the twisty roads here.

 Just another field of rice paddies

East Timor

We arrived in Dili early Monday morning eagerly awaiting what was to come and how things would pan out for our first country. Tuesday morning we headed down to pick up our bikes after running around on Monday to get the paper work sorted and have the bikes cleared. Many thanks to Rui in Darwin for his contacts here as I don't think we would have done it so easy without them. Dili still looks a little worse for wear after many years of troubles but the people are the ones who make it a great place to be. Not once did we feel uncomfortable here. Could still have something to do with the large presence of the UN here, there were no shortage of them driving around here owning the roads. In total we only spent 8 days here as we knew we needed to get to Kupang in West Timor to catch our ferry to Ende on the island of Flores. In this time we did manage to make our way east to Com Beach and a village a little further east by the name of Tutuala. The ride was slow going as the roads here are far from being in good condition and most of the time you were lucky to have a road wide enough to fit 2 cars let alone trucks. Could not really say a bad thing about the place, if we were to I guess it was the surprise we had of the cost of everything here. All in all a wonderful place that if we had more time we could have explored more of what this youngest nation has to offer.

Bikes arrived safe and well in Dili just as we had hoped


War memories...

Dili Smoke House where we stayed

Waiting outside the Indonesian embassy

Filling up East Timor style

And the road

But then you just take the detour



Some cute little chicks who latched on to me

Minutes before a buffalo had been slaughtered on the beach...

Many animals here look very undernourished

Lookout out from Christo Rei, Dili

Finally trying a drink from a coconut, not that impressed

Many a road hazard here

Another poor village but the locals were so friendly

Buying some goodies from the locals