Today was the first time we had rice for breakfast; rice, spicy vegetables and an egg to be precise. Our accommodation included breakfast but what happened was that we got a voucher and were sent into the warung next door for it. They were slightly surprised about the early customers.
In an attempt to make it a bit more breakfast-y, we ordered tea and coffee to go with it but, honestly, it didn’t improve it.
On the way out of Ende, the road lead along the coast with beautiful black beaches that we admired profoundly. The surf breaking against the black rocks and then going up the black sand would have justified a lot more pictures than we took but we were just starting the day and didn’t want to stop too often.
Soon, the road began to lead away from the coast, into the hills and then mountains. We had entered the city of Bajawa as a way-point today. On the way, a volcano appeared on the horizon, still sending small plumes of smoke out into the atmosphere. It was a majestic sight. Flores has many volcanoes and we had been to the crater lakes of Kelimutu just yesterday but an actual volcano with smoke is an amazing thing.
Getting hungry, we started to look out for a warung makan at the roadside and spotted one before we reached Bajawa. It was quite crowded but as soon as we entered, a group of school girls left and thus made space for us. Stretching the little bahasa we know now and with the help of the google translate app, we were able to order for me and Flo chose a fish dish. The food was incredibly yummy, probably the best warung food we had so far. The rice and tofu came with gado gado, a local green vegetable salad and an extra bowl with soup. The soup was a vegetable broth with chives and roasted garlic but really quite spicy. Still too spicy for me to be honest but so delicious that I kept eating it despite coughing and a runny nose. Similarly, the tofu came with a sambal olek that was just a touch too hot but way too yummy to be ignored. Even Flo struggled with the hotness of the sambal and he eats way hotter than I do. So we had our meal with occasionally blowing our nose; however, we enjoyed it immensely.
As soon as we finished eating, some of the local people eating here started asking questions: Where we come from, where we are going and then, the conversation took a different turn. Instead of shifting to motorcycle talk, Primus and another gentlemen were interested in our motives for such a journey. We ended up comparing the family life of Germans and Indonesians over Flo’s local coffee. This was probably the first in-depth conversation we had with local Indonesians as they spoke English very well and if something remained unclear, google could translate it into Bahasa for us.
This is one of the reasons why I write so much about food in my daily updates. We eat in the local places, getting off our bike and taking off the helmets, having time for interactions with people that goes beyond a wave or a smile to someone at the roadside. During meals, we actually meet locals. So far, the language barrier was a big problems but the lunch conversation was simply great.
Back on the road, we felt energized from the encounter. Also, since it was still in the middle of the day, we skipped going into Bajawa and headed straight for Ruteng. Now the road really headed for the mountains and we were reminded of NZ a lot with all those windy roads going up and down the mountainsides, crossing over into valley after valley and taking pass after pass. Flo was pretty much in motorcycle heaven and there aren’t even many villages around to disturb the driving flow. The landscape varied between mountain tops and lush green rain forest with occasional rice patties. All of it was beautiful to behold.
I, once more, had the advantage of being able to look around, greet a lot of folks in the villages and wave to all the children at the road side. There were some heart-warming moments for us including a group of schoolkids singing a song while playing and then all waving to us and a couple of kids on the road with home-made sledges that used wheels so it would go downhill on the road. I really wish I could have taken a picture of them playing but we passed them without me even having the camera on me. Stopping and going back would have ruined the scene as they would have flocked to the spacemen with the big bike then instead of playing. Oh well…you just cannot have everything. 🙂
Arriving in Ruteng, we were looking for a convent that the Lonely Planet suggested as accommodation. As always, cities are chaotic and crowded and we couldn’t find it even by going around the block. So we thought, drawing from our experience yesterday, that we try the police station again. Indeed, right after I said the words “Di mana kongregasi?”, he first pointed in a direction and then personally escorted us there on his police motorbike.
The convent turned out to be luxurious for our standards. The rooms are big, there are real showers with hot water, giving you a western standard for your $30 a night. It might be a bit pricey for us but after a long day on the bike, we took the luxus with gratitude. The guy at the reception was very surprised that we didn’t come from Bajawa or Labuanbajo but all the way from Ende and in a record time to boot.