Posts Tagged ‘Bajawa’


I closed the hotel door and collapsed on the bed. Today was intense. The ‘hello mister’ density was staggering. I felt the poverty of the people. I gasped in awe at the beauty of the landscape. I passed 35000km, and my saddle broke in front of a hotel.

35000km

35000km

Everyone says ‘hello mister’, mostly followed with ‘ke mana?’ or ‘where you go?’ Cars pass, roll down with windows and ask this, they cry it from busses, from the crowd of people packed into trailers or from motorbikes. They usually honk to reinforce the greeting.
They cry ‘hello mister’ from the side of the road – kids, fathers, mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers. When playing kids spot me, someone screams out ‘BULE!’ (foreigner), or ‘TOURIST!’, and then there is a chorus of hysterical screaming ‘MISTER! MISTER! MISTER!’. Then I hear the frantic patter of feet behind me as the kids rush to catch me. If I’m on a downhill I just whoosh away, but on the uphill I have them follow me, asking me where I am going or crying ‘My name is! My name is!’
Sometimes I hear a slow motorbike following me at my speed just behind me, or next to me. Several times they followed me for minutes – in silence after all the standard questions have been exhausted. Stopping does not deter them – they stop too. Taking a piss in front of them doesn’t deter them. They wait patiently.

Some interested kids

Some interested kids

Lots of kids cry out ‘Money! Money!’ I thought – just mischievous kids. Sometimes I stopped and asked them for money – saying I thought they said they had money for me. When I pulled in to a collection of houses at the beach, I was taking in the scenery and taking some photos with the kids buzzing around the bike, when the father came up and asked for money to fix his electric saw. My spur of the moment reaction was to say I didn’t have any. Later they daughter was telling me in Indonesian how Flores is much poorer than the rest of Indonesia. There is no industry here, and no way to make money. ‘Life is not good,’ she said. The family live in what looks like paradise to western eyes – on a beautiful beach lined with coconut trees, with turquoise blue water lapping the shore. They live in a ramshackle lean-to which may also look idyllic to a westerner – if one doesn’t have to live in it. It left me thinking as I pulled away on my Rolls Royce of bicycles, with the GoPro mounted and all the accessories exuding wealth. I wish I had given the father some money to fix his saw. It probably would have only cost a few dollars, and it would have made him very happy.

The beach

The beach

The road was amazing, descending down to the beach with mountains everywhere. The coastal road was to die for – hugging the coast, and then rising and falling 50m at a time – around each crag and over each headland.

Mountain view

Mountain view

View of the sea

View of the sea

The beach before Ende

The beach before Ende

The beach road

The beach road

In the beachside village

In the beachside village

The ‘hello misters’ rose to a crescendo as I approached the town of Ende. I just needed to get away. I wanted to avoid a hotel today, but I just needed out. I pulled up to the first hotel – down a small alley. Surrounded by a crowd of kids, I tried to turn the bike 180 degrees by lifting on the saddle and the handlebars when I found the road was a dead-end. CRACK! The saddle snapped. ‘Where you from, mister!’ ‘Where you go mister!’ ‘MISTER!’

I’ll fix the bike tomorrow. Tonight the door is locked and I’m inside – alone. Sometimes the hermit in me wins out – and that is OK.


‘Ini mandi atau keringat?’ (Have you had a shower or is that sweat?)
It was sweat. The ascent was long and I was wet. An ascent along a road that wound around and around and up and up, passing through forests, overlooking a massive volcano, and past another naked guy walking along minding his own business.

The volcano

The volcano

I left from the paddies at sea-level, climbed to 500m, and then dropped to sea-level for a swim.

The rice paddy out the front door

The rice paddy out the front door

Midday swim

Midday swim

And then it was a climb to 1300m, up and up and up. Motivated by a conversation with Will, and a recommended hotel in Bajawa, I felt the peaceful bed beckoning. An evening alone is nice for the hermit Matthew. ☺

On the way up again

On the way up again