Ende to Ruteng

\"164_6445-4.JPG\"Joylani and I rode on the back of a couple of motorcycles to the bus station this morning. As we slowed and approached the station, tons men started running after us and grabbing my arms and bags. It was a bit scary at first, because it was all these tough-looking muscular Indonesians, but after our bike stopped I realized what was going on. First, I told them to let go of me and my bags and to back off. The half-dozen of them all let go, but kept on trying to convince me to get on one bus or another. Basically there were two buses going to Ruteng and they were fighting over me. The competition allowed me to negotiate the fare a bit, before I just picked one. Then Joylani’s bike pulled up and I watched them start for her before they realized we were together. We waited another hour or so for the bus to leave, but it was so entertaining watching them chase down and literally stop the motorcycles, cars, and vans of approaching potential passengers. Everyone else they assaulted were local; we were the only tourists, which made me feel better because at least they hounded down locals the same as they chased us down. It was especially funny watching them tear bags our of peoples hands barely after their vehicle had even stopped or seeing several of them run alongside a van and jump on and in it to get passengers. I’m not sure who was more impressive to watch: the ones running after vans and motorcycles barefoot or the ones chasing them down in flip-flops.

The rest of the day was not as entertaining, but just as enjoyable to observe. We spent most of the day on a bus to Ruteng, a cool town in the mountainous interior of Flores. Despite the chainsmokers and lack of armrests (which meant we were constantly clinging to anything so as to not fly our of our seats on the continually windy road), it was a good ride. Good only because of the spectacular scenery. After our ride, Joylani said Flores is one of the most beautiful places she’s ever seen, and I agree. She added, “It reminds me of Hawaii, but much bigger.” The topography is similar to what I’ve seen of Polynesia. Fingerlike lava flows into the ocean, jagged ridges, volcanic craters, tall skinny waterfalls, green covering every square inch of black volcanic soil or rusty red dirt, black sand beaches, and smiley Melanesians. Flores is awesome.

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