One day in August 2015, a very warm day, we met our friend’s Ervy in a place called Kopi Mane Inspiration in Jalan Yos Sudarso, Ruteng, Flores. It was a kind of coffeeshop and small restaurant, and for sure their specialities are the famous Manggarai and Bajawa coffee.
Ruteng is Ervy’s hometown. We knew each other for a long time and few years ago she went back to Ruteng and I guess it will be for good ..yeahhh life is so peaceful there.
6 of us – 4 adults and 1 kid and Strawberry-our lovely Landrover were in the middle of road trip journey from Bandung to Flores. A soul searching journey, looking for our future house and office. We’ve been to Tambora via Doro Ncanga earlier (will post about this later) and now is our time to explore the Flores island, the extraordinary.
The journey was our second visit to Flores, just three months since our first visit to the island. Our first visit was to Komodo National Park in May 2015. We fell in love since then and very curious to explore the main land of this beautiful island.
We were planning to visit Bajawa that day, but Om Bony (coffee shop owner) told us that there was a road closure due to construction work in the main road-Trans Flores between Ruteng and Bajawa. This is Flores, so always be ready for second option. Om Bony was suggesting to take a visit to Riung 17 islands via alternative northern route, Ruteng – Reo – Riung.
It was not in our plan, the road is very challenging, some parts of the road are terrible, no gas station and most of the area might not covered by mobile phone network. It won’t be easy journey. But Om Bony and Ervy had successfully convience us that the journey will be great, Strawberry is perfect for the route and as usual not need a lot of time to say YES, Riung here we come.
We left Ruteng around 02:30 pm, the road condition was good, not much traffic, uphill follows a small mountain range and offers very nice views over the villages, rice fields, rivers, an excellent view of Flores. After a small village called Golongorong, the road descends to the coast, approaching Reo.
We arrived in Reo around 4:30 pm and stopped a while for a late lunch. Reo is a small beach town, just inland from the northern coast. We bought fuel from mini petrol station just to make sure we had enough fuel in case of emergency. We ate bakso from small warung at the main street and the seller was Javanese family who have been in Reo for many years. We also met another Javanese family who were in the motorbike journey to Ngada, a small town near Riung. It was not a holiday journey nor adventure for them. It was just family visit trip and they brought their small baby along.
In Reo there are few basic homestay in case you need to stay overnight. 5 km west of Reo, there is Kendindi harbour village. From Kendindi, coffee is shipped to Antwerp, such a long journey. Beaches in Reo are beautiful, Cengkalang, Torong Besi, Sengari are some of them. Pay a visit if you have a chance.
After leaving Reo the road was still nice for about 30 mins, approaching Pota the road was terrible with potholes, sand, rocks and we started completely alone on the road. It was during sunset time, getting dark quickly without street light and the villages just very quiet. The houses were small and very modest.
I started thinking a lot. This is another face of my country. Sometimes I couldn’t believe it but this is the reality. “Were the kids going to school ?” I don’t know the answer, I didn’t see any school nearby. “Were they watching television ?” I am not so sure, even electricity is a luxury here.
From Pota all the way to Riung the road was paved with some part of potholes and mud. So far this is my favourite part, untouched and unspoiled one. Unfortunately we were there after dark and we couldn’t see a lot. The road is following the coastline, Flores Sea and Kelambu Bay in our left and savanna in our right. It must be extremely beautiful. Somehow we also manage to see wild horses crossing the street. It is a definetely worth it for pay second visit.
In Pota, there is one accommodation owned by two friendly French who break ground on the village of 4 Pohon in May 2008, simply driven by a new desire for adventure. Noted on that !
I read the review in TripAdvisor and visited their website. It is absolutely amazing.
Disconnect yourself to re-connect with nature, in this guest house: no network, enjoy it while it lasts. Leave your contact info and we will call you back, from the beach, a mere 3 km from the lodge.
Les 4 Arbres (The 4 Trees) is a totally autonomous ecolodge providing its own fresh water and electricity. It offers two types of accommodations, individual rooms or bungalow (larger room with bathroom and terrace).
For budget oriented travelers, we provide tents with full sleeping. Campers are also welcome.
These guest rooms are built in wood with simple and useful teak furniture. At the end of this road, there is the domain of Les 4 Arbres, north of Flores. This cottage is located on the edge of a river, which you can follow downstream to the sea, while admiring the fauna and flora.
This guest house also offers a French-Indonesian cuisine with bread, jam, cake and homemade ice-cream. We grow our own vegetables, and cook from garden to table.
I could see our future there, another reason for pay second visit 🙂
We arrived in Riung around 9 pm. It was dark with only few light from guesthouses and restaurants. We don’t have any reservation been made thus we just proceed to the one and only restaurant that still open. We were the only guest and quickly we ordered our dinner menu which was turn out very delicious. The seafood was fresh (no doubt) and the sambal was amazing.
The restaurant owner was helping us to find accommodation, most of the accommodations were full but we manage to stay in Hotel Bintang Wisata, basic room with AC for IDR 250k per room per night and breakfast included.
Pak Udin – the restaurant owner also helping us to reserve the boat for island hopping trip. The price for boat trip and lunch for 5 persons was IDR 700k. It might be overcharged and we might get better offer if we were not get into town late and deal directly with the boat owner in the pier. But I believe Pak Udin wasn’t trying to rip us and it was already 10 pm. So I think it was a good deal and it will be a private boat for us, perfect deal.
Next day we were ready at pier around 7 am. We parked Strawberry near the pier and met with Pak Udin and his red rantang (tiffin), our lunch. It was very funny, the tiffin was so eye catching, it was like we were going for picnic.
Riung it self is a small town which has hardly been affected by tourism. There are few guesthouses and restaurants but mainly just palm trees and local villages. Most of local are fishermen and boat owners.
Indonesian visitor is a rare animal, at least we were the only Indonesian visitor at that time. Pak Udin also told us the same thing, most of the visitors are foreigner. The place is not really popular because it is hard to get there. The only option is overland via Reo as we did or another route via Bajawa. Both options need at least a day from the closest airport, it is hard. Our way to paradise isn’t an easy journey and that is true.
Riung is a marine national park and the formal name is Pulau Tujuh Belas or 17 islands. In fact the national park consist of more than 17 islands. Though 17 islands label is easy to remember as it refers to Indonesian Independence Day on the 17th of August. The marine park status has been established to preserve the area’s underwater world. The Riung waters are home to plenty of exciting animals and rich coral reef ecosystem.
The first stop in our island hopping was a small island (I forgot the name – too bad) with white sandy beach and turquoise – crystal clear water. The beach was great and had the best water for swimming. It was the perfect depth, particularly for my 6 yo daughter – Cici, not too cold, not too warm, just perfect. There was no resort or infrastructure and no one was around to clean away the mess, so make sure to bring your trash home. We spent more than 2 hours here, alone, the island for our own.
We then continued on the next spot which was perfect for snorkelling. The boat stopped in the middle of the sea and we just went into the water, swam, snorkelling, played with the fish, a heaven. We saw so many fishes and colourful corals from our boat just because the water is crystal clear.
We could make our way from the boat to the beach nearby. It was quite far but I am glad I did it. It was a moment that I felt really happy and free.
At the beach we were having our perfect island hopping lunch. Our tiffin menu was perfect, steamed rice with fried fish, fried chicken, sambal and vegetables. We built sand castles at beach and Cici wanna stay there. She refused to go haha.
Our last stop in the trip was Kalong, the flying fox island. Here we can see the huge group of fruit bats called flying foxes, hanging on the trees. The sunset visit to this island will be amazing. We can see them flying into the sunset.
It was lovely to spend a full day in the islands but unfortunately we must back to the Riung village before sunset. We will continue our journey to Moni Village, Ende.
Saying goodbye is always difficult. But wise people said if you are brave enough to say goodbye life will reward you with a new hello.