Flores island – Indonesia
,Colours are smiles of nature.‘ Leigh Hunt
Indonesia consists of more than 17.000 islands. Flores is one of them. It is more than twice the size of Bali. The island is 450 km long and narrow. And it is fascinating!
Indonesia is a predominant Muslim country. The inhabitants of Flores are mostly Catholic since the island had been colonized by Portugal during the 16th century.
When we first heard the name ‘Flores’, we imagined an island covered with beautiful exotic flowers. To our surprise, the island’s name refers to its magical underwater world – its beautiful coral gardens, which are filled with soft and serene coloured coral flowers! As a matter of fact, Flores is not only covered with flowers, it is also framed with flowers, which grow under water.
Flores offers spectacular highland-landscapes with more than 14 active volcanoes surrounded by vivid green coloured jungle forests. A chain of mostly inactive volcanoes stretches from the islands east to west side.
We visited the mountain towns Bajawa and Ruteng in central Flores. InBajawa we explored the area together with two locals on their motorbikes for 3 days. We visited traditional villages of the Ngada people, who practise a combination of two belief systems: Ancient tribal traditions and rituals, which have survived throughout centuries and Roman Catholicism.
In one of the villages, we bought vanilla from an older woman, who had red-brown coloured, wet lips and teeth due to the Betel nuts, which she was constantly chewing. Betel nuts are domestic, natural stimulants, which are used by many locals.
We drove to an old mystic cemetery, where local families gather once a year to practise death rituals. Buffaloes, pigs and cows are being sacrificed during this time. The Ngada people believe that their blood protects them and their ancestors from harmful spirits.
During a volcano-hike an older local man was slowly driving towards us on his motorbike with a big gun in one of his hands. We had been told that he was on his way to the jungle for hunting. And if he will be able to catch a monkey, he would have a very lucky day.
When drove to Riung, a small beach town in the North of Flores, we interacted with 5 local children, who were playing next to the water. Even though they were able to say only a few English words, they were creative and charming communicators. After a while, they grabbed small wooden sticks and started to draw hearts in the sand.
Flores is an island, which blew up our minds. Its landscape and views are breath-taking. Often times, we were walking and sitting on top of the clouds. In the distance we saw active volcanos towering over the surrounding countryside.
Most of the locals only have few resources and opportunities to make a living. Natural disasters have made their lives even harder during the past. In 1992, an earthquake killed more than 2.500 people.
The locals, which we met were optimistic, cheerful, friendly and welcoming. Whenever local kids noticed us, they were screaming: ‘Hello Mister!’ or ‘Hello Miss!’ We noticed – and will always remember- that the people of Flores enjoy a colourful way of life. As a matter of fact, most of their houses are as colourful as the islands’ coral gardens.