. We were sadly wrong, in Flores like a lot of South East Asia there is no official public transport just private companies that offer the routes. However, the system in Flores is a little bit strange compared to what we are used to in the rest of the world, instead of bus stops or depots or offices where people come to be collected, it’s all a door to door service. The bus will actually come and collect you anywhere and then drop you off exactly at your destination. Sounds good right? Wrong! It means that you are basically driving all around towns for up to an hour, while the driver tries to actually find the houses/farms that the passengers are to be picked up from! We were picked up at around 7am but in the end when we had finally picked everybody up (with the driver basically driving around town beeping the horn hoping the people who were to be picked up came out otherwise it meant getting out and asking where 'so and so’ lived!... MENTAL!) it was nearly half 8 by the time we were actually on the road heading out of Labuan Bajo! Now I bet you are thinking that Flores must be a massive island considering it takes 16 hours to get from one place to the other, it’s not. Looking at the map, Labuan Bajo to Ende is only about 250-300Km away, I know I was thinking the same, there’s no way that should be any more than 6 or 7 hours. No matter what state the roads were in! Id actually seriously thought about just renting a car and driving it ourselves, but it was working out a hell of a lot more expensive to do it that way
. Needless to say with all the faffing around town trying to pick up people, I was quickly realising why this was going to take at least 12 hours.
I’ll give you a quick quote from the Lonely Planet about the road we would be spending the next 12 hours on: "The serpentine, potholed east-west Trans-Flores Highway is long and slow but never boring. It skirts waterfalls, conquers mountains leads to the incredible multi-coloured volcanic lakes of Kelimutu and connects both coasts"… the part we glossed over when we read it as well was Potholed
! It is without a doubt the most potholed stretch of land on this planet (that I’ve driven on anyway!) Don’t get me wrong at all, it is tremendously scenic in every possible way, some of the best we’d seen anywhere so far, we were seeing in reality that Flores was not some arid dusty wasteland that it had looked from the ocean but instead it was lush and green and fertile and very very beautiful, the Portuguese named it Flowers (Flores) for this beauty. As stunning as it all was, with amazing views from the top of some of the mountains we criss crossed up through endless hairpin bends. I didn’t enjoy it… at all! Between the circling of towns looking for passengers and constant stopping for toilet breaks every hour or so, I was getting a bit frustrated. The road in places was absolutely atrocious, highway my arse, the thing with only realistically having one main road on the island is that whenever theres a landslide or theres road works going on, the road doesn’t close
. Instead everyone is left to make their own way through it, over it or around it, between this and the potholes (im not even going start on about the potholes) but the end of it I felt like Id been sitting in a washing machine for the 14 hours. About 12 o clock we arrived in the town of Ruteng to pick up some more passengers. We were starving by now but there was nowhere in sight to get some food, except for a small stand selling fried sweet snacks, that was outside the toy shop next to the office of the bus company. It was all as random as it sounds trust me! Got chatting to the very camp Indo guy who worked at the toy shop - who started joking asking if I was from Westlife. They are obsessed with them out here! We sat back on the bus, eager to get going again but just then the heavens opened and we were stuck in the biggest rain storm for the next half hour that we'd seen since the Philippines. Had to stop Karen getting out in the thunder and lightening for a splash in the puddles!
Yes just like every other scheduled thing in Indo, we were late. The only slightly lucky thing was the fact we slept through large parts of it, youd be surprised how sleepy you get sitting in one position for any length of time. At one stage, I was nodding in between the land of nod, trying my best to stay awake. I couldn’t win. I woke up with a bang! Id managed to nod off and drift then my head slumped to oneside, as im sure everyone has done, and in doing so I managed to headbutt your man beside me
! Luckily he was asleep as well and when it woke him up he didn’t have a clue what had happened… so I kept my eyes closed and pretended to be asleep!!!
We arrived into Ende in the dark around 9 o clock or so, and just pulled a name out of the lonely planet to stay at. Now for the upside of the door to door service, we were dropped off outside the hotel. It wasn’t the worst looking hotel, there was no-one around though, Ende is not exactly touristy in any way. We went for the cheapest room, probably the cheapest room wed stayed in so far. It was grand like, bearable for one night anyway. It did have the smallest fan in the room that Id ever seen! It was like something youd stick on your dashboard of a car. Was like an asthmatic blowing at you! We were shattered though so it didn’t take long to fall back to sleep, even with plenty of sleep on the bus, we were still completely exhausted. Not my favourite journey by a long long way!
The journey was pretty horrendous alright but bearable, I think I fared a lot better than Tom. Ontop of all of this we hadn’t eaten all day – the first and only meal came when we stopped at a roadside padang restaurant (padang is food that has already been cooked and is served up cold) at around 5pm. We devoured our meal, although maybe with all the potholes it was for the best that we travelled on an empty stomach! The hotel room was pretty grim but we had one of the best nights sleep after a day like that. This was definitely one of those ‘character building/relationship strengthening’ type experiences!
We rose wearily not looking forward one bit to what lay ahead of us for the day, real dread is the best way to describe how you feel when you wake up when you know you have 12 hour bus journey ahead of you. Turned out it wasn't possible to go straight to Moni where you climb the mountain in one day, we had to go as far as Ende and then finish the rest of journey the next morning. We didn’t have a clue what to expect, bus wise. It could have been a relic from origins of motorised transport or it could be a nice comfortable new van… or somewhere in between. The lads at the hotel were a little sketchy on the details. Around 7am a nice looking fairly modern mini bus pulled up outside the hotel and every inch of us breathed a sigh of relief! We really didn’t expect it to be half as good as it was, it even had decent enough leg room, something that helps when you’re 6 foot plus, the little Claytons of this world don’t have to worry about things like that. There were about 4 or 5 passengers already on board and we were pointed to our designated seats, we hoped that this was it and the might even be the chance of a bit a sprawl out across a couple of seats