Well folks, I've begun the planning stage for my next great Indonesian adventure.
It all started with an email from Air Asia advertising cheap flights to Bali. I'm pretty sure I was still skiing in New Zealand at the time, but I figured a $125 flight from Perth sounded too good to pass up. I'll probably add checked luggage, I'm yet to decide if I want to do the seven kilo challenge again.
On my last trip I was trying to decide whether I would head east from Bali or go back to Java. I went to Java, so this time it's definitely east!
Nusa Tenggara is the provincial name given to a whole line of islands stretching east from Bali to Timor. Those at the very eastern end (Flores, Alor, Sumba and Timor) are renowned for their traditional villages, animistic beliefs and customs, and beautiful hand woven textiles called ikat. If you know me, you'll know that's ticking a lot of boxes. And then there's volcanoes to climb!!!
Travel isn't quite as easy off the main highways in these far flung places. Whilst Flores gets a fair smattering of western tourists, the rest of the region is considered well off the beaten track. It looks like I'll need to brush up on the Bahasa Indonesia, and expect to do a lot of walking!! My legs should be in pretty good shape, seeing as I'll have come off a summer of windsurfing and a month skiing in Japan. Yeah I know, retired life is the pits....
So I'm back in research mode, which starts with combing old travel guides, because the latest Lonely Planet isn't even worth wiping your bum with (not that I bother carrying paper books anymore, and anyway, I do it the Indonesian way, with water, if you know what I mean), then moving on to various websites and travel forums. There's a lot less information on this region out there in the inter webs than for Java, so I guess I'm going to have to be a little adventurous.
I'll be flying straight out to Maumere, in eastern Flores, then making my way further east to Alor and West Timor before heading back west to Bali. At this stage it's looking like a 3 month trip as there'll be quite a bit of island hopping and I do rather like to explore those wee villages. It seems most people visit a couple of villages, enjoy the snorkelling and diving and beaches, visit Kelimutu crater lakes, and that's about it. I'm looking at doing a helluva lot more than that!
As usual, I don't intend to spend too much time doing the beach thing, but I will be packing the mask and collapsible travel snorkel, plus my scuba certification, because this region really is world class for its underwater delights. I spent 6 days diving Komodo on a live aboard many years ago so I won't be visiting the dragons again, but I may well be tempted further east at Alor.
There's a fair few volcanoes worth climbing too, and most of them can be done in a day. Which means little need to bring camping gear. That's a bonus!
But first I'll be visiting Juffry in Bali. Remember him? My couch surfing host in Surabaya has moved to Bali and is working in a restaurant there. I'm really looking forward to catching up, and sampling his cooking again, especially as Bali is hardly renowned for great Indonesian cuisine.