I must admit I didn’t know much about Indonesia before I came. In fact, about all I knew was that it is the world’s most populous Muslim country.

The whole country is off of our radar, which is one of the many things I love about it.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country because the islands of Java, Borneo, and Sumatra are Gigantic. Borneo, which is split between three countries, is the world’s third-largest island. These big islands are Muslim.

But Indonesia has a lot of other islands. More than 7,000 of them. And they do not share the same religion or ethnicity. Bali is Hindu. Flores is primarily Catholic. The people of Flores look different too, with curly hair.

Flores was so different from the Western Islands, it was like being in a different country!

A church in the forest.
A church in the forest.

Leaving The Highway

After my two-day boat trip to Komodo National Park, it was time to get back on my trusty little scooter. My new Indonesian friends from the boat would be joining me for the first leg, to a waterfall.

Traveling in Flores is easy, as long as you stick to the “Trans-Flores Highway,” which sounds more impressive than the narrow, winding little road it is. But it’s well-paved, and impossible to get lost on.

We passed through small villages with big churches. The road was full of people wearing their Sunday best as they walked home from Easter mass.

Our goal was a waterfall, located far off the highway. Google Maps does not work in Indonesia, so we would be on our own.

We had to stop and ask for directions many times. First to find the turnoff, which was unmarked. Then we drove far down the side road, which was in bad repair. We drove for so long we were sure we must have passed it.

Eventually a lady came over and offered to guide us to the waterfall. We were finally here.

The road out of Labuan Bajo goes up, up, up.
The road out of Labuan Bajo goes up, up, up.

Always Be Prepared In Indonesia!

After being on our scooters for a couple hours, we eagerly set off, leaving our lunches, water, rain gear, and everything else behind. That turned out to be foolish.

In Indonesia you never know for sure where you will be going, even when you’re with Indonesians! The hike was surprisingly long and strenuous, up and down steep hills through the jungle. We didn’t have water and got thirsty.

One the way back it rained. Hard. None of us had rain gear, and it was a long miserable walk. Our guides used banana leaves as umbrellas.

Our guides let us take shelter in their house while it poured down rain. Their house was basic, with a concrete floor.

Every time I stopped, kids would "attack."
Every time I stopped, kids would “attack.”

Onward To Ruteng

Once the rain stopped, we set out. My friends would be heading back to Labuan Bajo, and I would be going onward to the town of Ruteng.

Once back on the highway, I had about three hours to go to Ruteng. Flores is unbelievably lush and green, so it was a beautiful drive.

But it’s so lush because it rains so much, which it did again. A good poncho is a must in Flores!

Arriving in Ruteng after dark, Google Maps directed me to a field with crickets chirping instead of a hotel. A nice guy game me directions in Indonesian. When I didn’t understand, he got on his motorbike and led me to my hotel. People are friendly here!

There’s not really anything to see in Ruteng. I would be pressing on the next morning.

The sun goes down.
The sun goes down.
A settlement by the highway.
A settlement by the highway.
Terraces before the rain.
Terraces before the rain.
Driving the Trans-Flores Highway.
Driving the Trans-Flores Highway.
Driving in Flores is incredibly scenic.
Driving in Flores is incredibly scenic.
Terry
I'm Terry, former cubicle-dweller, and now traveler, photographer, writer, and entrepreneur. I quit my job in 2014 to travel to US national parks, then to South East Asia. I write about independent, flexible, long-term, budget travel. Sign up to my newsletter to get the latest news on what I'm up to. I hope you join me on my trek around the world.

2 comments

  1. I like this post a lot! I just rode the same route on a scooter with my Indonesian mate. Gorgeous! Your pics capture it perfectly!

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