After completing my trip to Antarctica I flew to Bali for the start of another one-way ticket trip. I met Graceie in Bali and over the next month we traveled east through the islands of Lombok, Sambawa and Flores. Few people travel these islands and we were certainly off the beaten track!
All prices are in US Dollars and the local currency on Indonesia, rupiah.
We started in Ubud and were walking down the street one evening when completely out of the blue we ran into a friend of ours, Nina who we had traveled with 3 years previously in Morocco! She and her Australian boyfriend Robin were setting up a project to help save Bali’s beautiful rice terraces from development into villas and hotels. They were in the process of setting up a website with the hope of raising money and educating the Balinese people about looking after their heritage and not completely selling out to tourism. Anyone keen to help them out can make a donation HERE.
We stayed with them in Ubud for a week and helped them put the website together. I also spent many hours putting this website together and getting it ready to launch.
After 1-1/2 weeks in Ubud it was time to make a move. The natural flow of travel in Bali goes either around the island or to the west to Java. Because of this we decided to head east to Lombok and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves on the ferry from Padangbai in the east of Bali to Port on the west of Lombok Island. Lombok is much less developed that Bali. There are lots of rice terraces and it’s roughly the same size as the island of Bali.
After some negotiation we caught a taxi with 2 other German guys to Koeta Beach in the South of Lombok. It’s a quite chilled beach town that is very popular for surfers and backpackers although after being in Bali it just a small quiet village with some small hotels and lots of home stays. The home stays cost USD$8 or 100,000Rp per night and are nice.
From Koeta we rented a motor bike for a day for 30,000Rp (USD$2.30) and explored the beach’s to the west. There wasn’t much surf but we did some swimming and drank coconuts in the shade. Shade is key here! In the day the sun just cooks you and its soooo hot, sometimes up to 40 degrees.
We decided to try our luck hitchhiking out of Koeta so after a late start we managed to get a ride with the first car! People almost always picked us up, however often there’s no cars, only motor bikes. The next ride was hard to get because every Taxi stopped to ask us and sometimes it takes a lot to convince them you don’t need a ride. In saying that we still got a ride in about 15 minutes with an Australian guy living in Lombok. When we took a left at an intersection just inland from Koeta, we didn’t know it at the time but we had just left the Bali/Lombok/Gilli Islands Tourist trap and the Australian guy would be the last white person we would see for 7 days.
We continued east hitching rides for about 15-20 minutes at a time. Once we were on the back of a pick-up truck. Great with wind in our hair but when we stopped the sun was scorching. We ended up going through some very basic little towns and eventually got to the sea on the east side of Lombok and stayed in a small fishing town called Kancanta, in a small home stay for 100,000Rp ($7.60)for one night.
We continued hitchhiking from Kancanta to the north to Lombokita. By 11am it was too hot to walk to the edge of town and a small busy local bus looked easy. After some haggling we negotiated a fair price. Or I should say a fair price for a tourist. Still 2-3 times what the locals pay but you just have to get used to paying at least double for a lot of things. In some ways its fair enough, as travellers we have much more money and opportunity than the local people, but it does suck to feel that your constantly being ripped off in this part of the world no matter how hard you haggle. Anyway it cost 40,000Rp ($3) for a 1 hour bus ride. When we payed they only gave us back half the change so actually it cost us 60,000Rp ($4.50). It’s common for people to not give back the correct change and it’s sad to see them being dishonest. You learn to always count your change!
From Labuhan Lombok (port) we took the ferry over to Pringgabya on the NW tip of Sambawa Island. As we boarded the ferry all these bus drivers started trying to sell us tickets to Sumbawa the next city after the ferry crossing. After saying no about 20 times they eventually they gave up and invited us to the Bridge of the ship where we spent the 2 hour crossing hanging out with the Captain and his officers. They were all in their early 20s. Not one of the people running the ship was over 25!! We shared stories in broken English telling them of our trips on board The Spirit of Enderby in the Southern Ocean to Antarctica and showed them heaps of photos. It seems sea people from all over the globe have a mutual respect for each other and its easy form a close bond.
After our ferry ride we eventually got a bus to Sumbawa City and a small local public taxi or “bimo” as they are called driven by some kids dropped us at a hotel that had wifi and a simple room for 150,000Rp ($11.45).
After leaving the falls we walked along the road and through the town of Plumpang looking for some food. Here a lady called Nana invited us into her yard and fed us boiled bananas. They weren’t sweet so I think they were plantains but here they just call them bananas. And of course like everywhere here they give you Indonesian coffee. Very good but mostly because it has 3 spoons of sugar added!! Nana was very nice to us and we sat with her for 2 hours talking and taking photos with all the kids that came over. Nana was the only one who could speak much English but it’s easy enough to make do with hand signals and pigeon English and our small amount of Indonesian.
At 5pm we waved our new friends good bye and jumped on a “flash” bus that took us straight through to Bima. This leg took 4 ½ hours and we made the mistake of getting on with no water! Bima is a pretty rough city and at 10pm it’s quite dark. We found some Nasi Goren (fried rice) in a small stall on the street and the friendly family that did the cooking pointed us to a hotel. It cost 150,000Rp $11.40 for the night. It was one of the roughest hotels we have stayed in. The room smelled of mold, the bathroom was pretty dirty and the feeling in the hotel was quite weird. The receptionist didn’t speak one word of English and it was a bit hard to explain that he hadn’t given us all of our change by accident!
After a walk to the harbour at 10:30pm we were just about to enter the hotel when a guy started talking to us. Nothing unusual until he asked to see our hotel key and pulled it out of my pocket. Then he asked us if we were sleeping in the same bed or room. We acted stupid, pretended not to understand him and quickly went back to our room. He followed and was talking on his phone outside our door for a short while before disappearing. All this of course made us feel very uneasy. We locked the door from the inside very well and I set up a bottle that would fall over and wake us if someone should open the door. Nothing came of it and we wondered if he was calling a friend who could speak English to translate for him meaning no harm. All in all it was our first strange experience of the trip and a good reminder to be on-to-it at all times!!
We had a slow start and straight after breakfast we walked down to look for a ferry. As luck would have it there was one leaving for Flores in and hour and a half some we went back into town to buy some fruit, water and a sheet to take on board for sleeping. We hurried back to make sure we didn’t miss our ride. The 2pm departure time slowly became 3….followed by 4….and finally at 4:10 we cats the lines and off we went in to the sunset surrounded by small Indonesian fishing boats. All this time the second mate had been singing karaoke in the lounge seating area. I’ve herd some bad karaoke in my time but this was certainly up there! And it was so loud you could hardly think. We sat outside instead!
We enjoyed the island of Sumbawa very much. Walking down the streets made you feel like a rock star. Everyone would say hello and wave to you. All the kids would yell “Hello Mr” to us. If you wanted to take photos they would always want to get in the picture or take their own photos of us. The people are very poor but are so much friendlier than countries where people have everything.
We ended up hanging out with the engineers quite a lot on the ferry. They were all about 21-24 and very fun and friendly. One called Dhani spoke good English so it was easy to talk. They grilled us some fish for dinner that was very tasty and in the end they wouldn’t except any money for it.
Downstairs there was sleeping area for everyone as it was an overnight passage. No one quite knew when we would arrive in Flores, some thought mid day, others late afternoon. So it was a pleasant surprise to arrive in Reok, Flores, the next morning at 7am.
Arrived at 7am in Reok on the north side of Flores Island. It wasn’t actually the town we had wanted to go to but it was the right island! The local taxi drivers were very keen to get our busyness and so we just walked towards where the main road heads out of town towards Ruteng, the next town in the middle of the island. Eventually a taxi driver convinced us that there was no local bus and that a shared taxi was the only way to go and off we went. Taxi Transport they call it and to Ruteng from Reok cost 40,000Rp (US$3). First however the driver did a lap through town “parading” off his 2 white tourists. It must have been so rare to see white people that he wanted to show everyone his “special” passengers!
All the roads on Flores are incredibly windy, in fact they are the windiest I’ve seen in the world I think. It take forever to go what looks on the map to be not very far. The rice terraces near the town of Ruteng are spectacular but we couldn’t take photos as we were driving too fast. After coffee with a local person who invited us into his house to shelter from the rain we hitched and then got a shared taxi for 80,000 ($6) to the town of Borong, about halfway along the southern coast of the island. There was 2 hotels in Borong and we chose Primadona. We stayed at the latter for 100,000Rp ($7.60). It was pretty rough and the room was a bit stuffy but not as bad as the one in Bima. In the evening we went for a walk to the beach where the local fishing boats were returning and offloading their fish small catches. We met 3 young girls who walked along with us for 20 minutes practising their English and of course taking the usual selfies with us. A local guy organised us a public bus for the next morning to take us half way to Ende.
The bus took hours and eventually ended up in a cold mountain town. From their it was downhill on another public bus for about 4 hours to Ende. We stopped twice for food. The first time I ordered food and after lots of confusion (no one spoke English) they must have decided I didn’t need food and never served me! A hungry grumpy Chris got back on the bus for another 2 hours to the next stop. The second stop was at a family’s house, maybe the family of the driver and they cooked us rice with some green steamed vegetable similar to spinach. That was my breakfast at 2pm!
We had looked forward to the big city of Ende. We hoped to do our laundry, find some wifi for booking flights and look into getting the ferry to Timor and the route onto East Timor as our 30 days in Indonesia was almost up. We were greatly disappointed. It took us ages to even find a hotel and there’s no way it had wifi. A very nice lady at an electronics store let us use wifi for an hour in the evening and then got her friend to drop us at a hotel that DID have wifi. We discovered that there was no point going to Timor as we needed a visa to get to East Timor and just to get to Kupung it would be a 24 hour ferry. We decided to fly back to Jakata from Maumere, just one more day on a bus to the east. And from Jakarta on to Singapore. It took us 2 terrible hours of struggling to book our flights with Jetstar and Nam Air. Graceie’s card wouldn’t work so eventually we got my kiwi card to make the payments.
At this same time Graceie was starting to feel very tired and had a fever.
In the morning Graceie hadn’t got any better so we splashed out and got a shared taxi to the main bus station where we found an open air bus to Moni. It was a truck with seats and a roof on the back.. Very pleasant actually because its very nice and breezy. This road it incredibly windy and there was lots of road works. At one place we stopped for an hour while they worked on the road. This caused a huge traffic jam as they didn’t let one side go before the other, and instead it was just free-for-all. About 60 cars/buses and 100 motorbikes on each side trying to pass each other along a one lane road. Quite hilarious and after half an hour of blaring horns we escaped and continued to the mountain town of Moni. This is where the famous Kalimutu National Park is with its 3 different coloured lakes. We really wanted to see the lakes but could work out a way of seeing the lakes and making it to our flight in time. And it wasn’t cheap either. It would have cost us 900,000Rp (USD$67) for the entry and a fast taxi to the airport and this was a bit above our low budget. We got a bus and shared taxi to Maumere to a nice hotel for the night. The driver spent at least 1/3 of the time on the wrong side of the road cutting corners. Poor Graceie was car sick as was one of the other passengers. All this time Graceie’s condition had been slowly getting worse. That night her fever was 38.8 degrees and she was exhausted and not eating. Not a very fun place to be sick with a flight that you HAVE to take the next day with your visa expiring in a couple of days. We had no idea what was wrong with her but as a precaution I covered myself with mosquito repellent just encase it could get passed to me. Dengue and Malaria are common in these islands you see.
Graceie was no better in the morning but hadn’t got any worse. We got a taxi to the airport and flew to Jakarta with stops in Kupung and Surabaya on the way. Not much fun when your sick. By the time we got to our hostel/hotel on Jalan Jaksa Street in Central Jakarta Graceie was starting was exhausted and wasn’t quite making sense anymore. Her fever had dropped slightly. Here we had wifi and could do research to see what she might have.
We usually travel without travel insurance so the idea of needing to go to hospital in Indonesia wasn’t very a good one. I have savings in New Zealand that we can always use however if we do ever need medical treatment. Usually we just stay healthy and we had never been sick more than a common cold travelling before.
After some research it looked very likely that she had been bitten by a mosquito and got Dengue fever. We had already met a few people who had contracted this disease in Indonesia.
For the 3 days we spent in Jakarta she was sick and hardly left the hotel room. We did lots of research online about treating this fever and there’s really nothing to do except rest and keep up drinking and eating a little to keep your body strong. Most people go to hospital because they vomit up anything they eat and after a couple of days they need to go on a drip. Graceie was very lucky and was able to keep down a small amount of food and plenty of water and juice and that’s why we didn’t have to go to hospital thankfully. One the last day we met our mate Ricky who lives in Jakarta and he got us some Papaya leaves. You put them in a smoothie or juice them and this is meant to keep up your platelet levels in your blood to avoid the serious side affects of Dengue. By the next day she was a lot better and had escaped the fever. We will never know if it was the papaya leaves that helped or did she just get over it herself.
Our visa was finishing the next day and luckily she was well enough to get to the airplane and fly to the Philippines with an overnight stop in Singapore airport. Not ideal but we made it!
As I write this in Manila Graceie is still recovering from Dengue. It’s a nasty disease and apparently it can take months to completely get rid of it. And somehow I escaped. All it would have taken was a mosquito to bite her and then me. What a sorry state if we had both got sick!
Moral of this story in 3 simple words…………WEAR BUG REPELLENT.
Besides the dengue our time in Indonesia was a lot of fun, we were surprised how easy it was to get away from the tourist trap of Bali. The people are so friendly and besides being ripped off on every street corner we didn’t have any bad experiences and only one strange experience. It’s very cheap to travel as they are very poor islands. A good wage is around $200 a month and farmers only earn about $3 a day.
I highly recommend this route to other adventure travellers! Please feel free to ask my advice if your planning on heading that way.
A big thank you to everyone in Indonesia who looked after us and made our stay enjoyable!!