Flores: Country Life

Not keen to leave the hills just yet (or suffer an 8+ hour bus ride to Labuan Bajo) I decided to stop off in Ruteng after leaving Bajawa. My guesthouse was able to arrange a bus though it involved being picked up at 6.30am to then sit on a stationery bus for an hour and a half outside town – welcome to Flores! Although the bus wasn’t too crowded, this was my least favourite journey so far. It was less scenic (though this is Flores so it still wasn’t bad) and more nauseating. The driver had an annoying habit of constantly stopping for no apparent reason too. About 4 and a half hours later, I arrived in Ruteng.

My accommodation, Hobbit Hill, was located just out of town but nobody I asked seemed to have heard of it and I was struggling to even find any ojek drivers in this sleepy town. As a result, I located Hotel Sindha, had a tasty lunch and used their Wi-Fi to locate my accommodation so I could at least start heading in the right direction. I managed to walk the whole 3km without anyone offering me a ride which might be a travelling first! It was worth the walk though, Hobbit Hill is situated on a quiet road overlooking rolling hills on one side and lush rice terraces on the other. It’s absolutely gorgeous. A simple double room is about 250,000 IDR a night, more if you want the slightly more upmarket rooms at the front. It’s really a beautiful place to escape. Udis who runs it cooks delicious food and there’s unlimited tea and coffee to glug down whilst appreciating the view.

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Sunrise over the rice terraces.

When I arrived in the afternoon, it was very overcast and cloudy so the views were slightly obstructed. In the hilly towns (Ruteng, Bajawa, Moni), it pays to be an early riser as the days usually start off with clear blue skies and cloud over by the afternoon. As a result, I rose unusually early the next day to catch sunrise over the rice terraces – there are viewpoints either side of Udis’ place, just a 5 minute walk either side. It was definitely worth the early start (plus I just went to bed afterwards) – the view was absolutely spectacular.

Later on, Udis informed me of another, even better, viewpoint a half hour walk away. You can find it on Google Maps here. You can either walk up or bike it up to the top and the morning view was stunning. A lot of people seem to bypass Ruteng during their Flores crossing but with views like this literally just outside of town, I can’t think why.

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Panorama at the viewpoint

Further out, on the way to Labuan Bajo, is a more famous Ruteng attraction – the ‘spider web’ fields. The spider web refers to the quirky design of the fields and they’re quite something to look at, particularly with the lush hills in the background. I had to walk right into the centre of Ruteng to locate an ojek, with a friendly local assisting me in explaining where I wanted to go (the local name for the fields is ‘Lodok’). It cost only 50,000 IDR for the return journey, about half an hour each way.

At the spot, they’ve of course monetised it and turned it into a viewing point. It was 20,000 IDR to get in and then a 5 minute climb up some steps to a hill which not only gives you a great view of the fields but of the rest of the countryside as well. It’s well worth the trip.

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Spider web fields.

Perhaps it was because the weather was better or because I was staying out of town but I preferred Ruteng so much more than Bajawa. It’s likely you’re going to have to stay in Bajawa at least for a night but don’t bypass Ruteng as a result. It’s a place to truly immerse yourself in Flores’ gorgeous scenery, rather than whizzing past it on a bus.

Speaking of which, it was time for the last leg of my Flores overland adventure. However this time I’d be doing it in style with Udis at Hobbit Hill arranging a shared car for me. It cost 100,000 IDR for the 4.5 hour journey which was only slightly more expensive than the not-so-comfortable bus. To be fair, the car wasn’t that comfortable either because it was crammed full of people, but I’m certain it was better than the bus. The last leg is, of course, scenic but the road is in a bad condition – a lot of it is not tarmacked, which means apart from being very windy, it’s also very bumpy. I made it though and, with that, I’d survived my overland journey across Flores! I didn’t have to endure those stunning but nauseating roads again!

Labuan Bajo is a weird splice between Bali and Flores, clearly still coming to terms with its rise to stardom due to Komodo next door. The whole place is a construction site which makes it quite unpleasant but set against that are some quirky and grandiose restaurants, a stunning harbour and a vibrancy that few other places in Flores have. You can see why – most people I spoke to had flown here from Bali or Lombok purely to see Komodo National Park. LBJ has had to separate itself from the rest of Flores in its approach as a result of this.

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Labuan Bajo sunset

This was great for me, coming to the end of my Flores trip, since it meant I got amenities I had rarely found anywhere else in Flores – a hot shower, good Wi-Fi, some comfort food, proper supermarkets, other people. It was nice. As a result, other than the obvious (detailed in another post), I didn’t really do much in Labuan Bajo. I soaked up the sunsets at the terrace bars, ate some good non-local food (La Cucina for Italian and Taco Bajo for Mexican would be my top picks) and drank many beers. My hostel, Bajo Nature, was very good, cheap and kept me relaxed. I did venture out of town for a brief walk but without a scooter you’re a bit limited and I was instead happy to sit back, relax and look back on a truly fantastic trip in Flores.

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