It was another scenic 2 hour drive from Moni to the city of Ende and this time I lucked out with a mostly empty bus, making the twisty-turny journey much more bearable. The ride costed 50,000 IDR. I was also lucky in that before we reached the city proper, I spotted my hostel and so was able to hop off right outside.
F Hostel is Ende’s (and I think eastern Flores’) only backpacker hostel and it’s a great taste of ‘normal’ travel among the quirky guesthouses and homestays that fill this island. It’s got all the amenities of a normal hostel, an ATM next door, beds with a curtain, socket and light and by far the fastest Wi-Fi I found in Flores. It made it a perfect place to stop and sort some life/travel admin out for a couple of days. If you sit on the left side of the bus, you will spot it after passing through a market/bus station on the outskirts of Ende. It’s really the first piece of civillisation you come to after Moni. The hostel is a big colourful building with a sign outside on the street.
Ende isn’t exactly adorned with lots of things to do but it certainly the closest thing to a city I’ve seen in Flores. It has loads of ATMs and proper supermarkets selling STUFF! I was very excited. In terms of sights, most of them lie outside of the city but due to the fact I lost my debit card and had to spend most of my time sorting out that, I didn’t get a chance to visit most of them. Close by to F Hostel however is a pretty nice black sand beach, Nanganesa, which is great for sunsets and viewing the famous flat-topped hill close to the city. The first part of the beach is littered with rubbish which is a shame but it’s a large beach and once you get closer to the shoreline it is clean.
Elsewhere in the city, the Memorial Park is a rare example of a clean, relaxing park in Indonesia, whilst further out Blue Stone Beach is apparently worth a look but you’ll need a motorbike to get there. Plenty of warungs and restaurants can be found (including a tasty one opposite the hostel) but by far the best is Sari Rasa which I visited on my last night in Ende. Opening from 6.30pm, it serves only about 6 dishes (each chicken or beef themed) but the owner speaks excellent English and will sit with you and explain each dish in detail to help you make your choice. I went for the chicken with yellow rice because I could smell the chicken cooking and it smelt divine. It tasted even better – the most tender, flavoursome chicken I have eaten in Indonesia. It was delicious. I also tried his recommended Aloe Vera drink which was slightly odd but refreshing. I was so famished I even ordered an extra chicken leg – two chicken legs, a plate of yellow rice, salad and a drink came in at under ₤4. I wish I’d found it sooner as there were other dishes I wanted to try. It’s definitely worth a visit for dinner.
Before long I was heading off to Bajawa, another one of Flores’ hilly escapes. I figured I could just grab a passing bus but the owner of the hostel told me the Bajawa buses leave from the terminal outside town. Informing her in advance meant she could have arranged a free pick-up for me but I told her last minute so she gave me a lift herself to the bus terminal. I guess you could try and flag down a passing bus in the city but the advantage of going to the terminal was that the bus was mostly empty, which makes a huge difference on Flores’ horrific roads. The fare was 75,000 IDR for the 4 hour journey. It was another scenic one, passing by hills and rice terraces and the journey passed pretty quickly.
The bus dropped me outside what I thought was my hotel but for some reason there are 3 accommodations with ‘Eidelweiss’ in the name so if you’re staying in one of them, double check the full name. Fortunately Bajawa is pretty small and all the hotels/guesthouses are in the same area. I was in Madja Eidelweiss Homestay, a nice little guesthouse off the main road. A basic single room with breakfast was 150,000 IDR a night. Bajawa lacks the charm of Moni and isn’t worth too much of your time, but I think all the buses stop here anyway so you may as well stay a night. If you get a clear day, it’s worth staying to get a look at the conical Mt. Inerie, the majestic volcano looming on Bajawa’s doorstep. There’s a lookout point accessible by motorbike/ojek out of town but it was too cloudy for me to make much use of. I did get a look at the volcano as I passed out of town though.
Instead I visited Bajawa’s other premier attraction, one of the traditional villages on the outskirts of town. Replicating the villages built 250 years ago, they are touristy (though they were empty when I visited) but certainly worth a look. Bena is the most popular (25,000 IDR entry) and is complete with information boards to give you a sense of the history.
Bena is about 17km out of town and it’s easy enough to get someone to take you. Literally seconds after leaving my guesthouse I was approached by an ojek driver who offered to take me to some villages and hot springs for 200,000 IDR. Since I wasn’t bothered by the hot springs, we agreed on 150,000 IDR. He was a good driver, stopping to allow me to take pictures along the way; introducing me to the art of ‘musical bamboo’ (mixing some beats with a brick and some bamboo trunks) and even offering me a free ride back into Bajawa when he saw me walking round later on in the day. I’m never ceased to be amazed by how friendly and laid-back people in Flores are.