“I have a guesthouse in Moni, why don’t you stay with me?!” smiled the woman sitting next to me. Awaiting a bus to trade the coastal town of Ende for volcano vistas in Moni on the island of Flores Indonesia I had struck up a conversation with Amina Moi. I filled in my travel companions and we all agreed to check out Amina Moi’s guesthouse.
Visiting Flores Indonesia involved a few bemos, two boat rides, and several buses from Bali. Plenty of people have heard of Bali. Not so many know of Flores. I relied on my Lonely Planet guide Southeast Asia on a Shoestring during my first solo journey around Southeast Asia and I thought visiting Flores would be an interesting adventure.
Kelimutu is a volcano near the town of Moni. Some tourists wake up at 4 AM to take a bus to the volcano and watch the sunrise over the three colored lakes. This tourist woke up at 4 AM to take a bus to the volcano only to view clouds and fog. Some tourists are luckier than others. At least I saw a sunrise…sort of.
Bajawa is a village in central Flores known for Ikat weaving with intricate patterns. I remember staying at the Sunflower guesthouse in Bajawa. The higher elevation means cooler nights. The Sunflower guesthouse had a mandi, the traditional Indonesian bath. One scoops room temperature water from a small tub and pours it over oneself to bath. After six months in Southeast Asia I became acclimated to tropical weather and using a mandi for bathing. In Bajawa the cooler temps caused me to seek out a hair salon to have my hair washed with warm water. My hair was shampooed, then my shoulders, neck, and scalp massaged. A luxury that only cost me around a dollar, including a nice tip for my stylist.
Mangeruda Hot Springs is a short bus ride from Bajawa. I visited with a guy from The Netherlands. Walking back to the road to catch the bus he sang John Denver’s Take Me Home Country Roads. Whenever I hear that song I remember the Mangeruda Hot Springs. Soaking in the heated waters, laying on the smooth rock, staring up to the sky and daydreaming the afternoon away. We had the place to ourselves.
In December 1992 there was an earthquake on Flores island. Six months later Amina Moi rode a bus for four hours from Moni to Ende to use the telephone. The phone in Moni was still not working she explained to me.
There weren’t enough regular seats for everyone that wanted to take the bus from Ende to Moni. I sat upon three coconuts on the floor, just behind the driver. It was surprisingly comfortable! The road was single lane much of the route due to the destructive behavior of the earthquake six months earlier.
A baby slumbering in her mother’s arms shrieked at the sight of my face when she woke up, viewing pale skin and blue eyes for the first time. Her mother laughed and covered the child’s eyes momentarily, then released her hand to expose the little one to my face once again. The baby cried. The mother laughed and pointed at my eyes. I put on m sunglasses to hide my eyes. She hugged her child and smiled at me. The little one went back to sleep.
These memories of visiting Flores Indonesia make me smile, like Amina Moi, the woman always wore a smile. In the photo Amina is cooking breakfast for me and my travel companions. Her guesthouse was very basic but the hospitality was grand.