After the weirdly aggressive people of Adonara, it's a joy to be on the relaxed island of Lembata. Aside from the ferry breaking down 30 minutes into the crossing, and us drifting for a while whist the engine was repaired, the crossing was uneventful. At the ferry dock the transport mafia wanted a ridiculous 10,000Rp for what is a short stroll in to town. Instead, I walked.
I was hoping to find the Lile Ili Homestay, but, as I found out a couple of days later, it is no longer operational. Instead I stayed at the Hotel Rejeki, which is run by Richard, who speaks good English and is very helpful for travel advice. Just below the hotel on the waterfront is a small Bajo stilt village, and the people are gentle, friendly and very happy for me to visit and take photos. The difference in the temperament of the people here on Lembata is striking, they are relaxed and genuinely friendly. I feel I'm going to like this place a lot.
I wander around town, having conversations with local people, taking pictures of kids and adults alike, and enjoying being back with friendly people.
That evening I have a wonderful meal of crispy fried chicken with a seriously wicked sambal. After the boring food of Maumere, we are back to hot spicy food again. Halelujah! The fingers on my eating hand tingle for hours that evening, god knows what it's doing to my insides!
The next day I hire a motorbike from Richard, in order to do the loop around Ili Api. Ili Api is a volcano which sits on a peninsula north of town, and there is a very scruffy road which winds through coastal villages all the way around it. It is also the region for good quality ikats and it is from some of the villages that one starts the climb to the top of the volcano.
I head off around 9am, carefully negotiating the pothole ridden poor excuse for a road. Luckily, there is minimal traffic to deal with, and once outside town, almost no other vehicles at all. I take an anticlockwise route, heading along the western flank of the mountain, hoping to find the village of Jontona, the traditional starting point for the climb. Unfortunately, I don't work out which scruffy village it is, but do stop at a few places along the way for some photography, and then turn into a very cute town on the north coast, to ask around about skates.
The town I turn into is Lamagute, and there is a lady weaving in the shade just where I stop. A group of men come over to talk and we discuss climbing the mountain. They suggest leaving at 3 in the morning to make the sunrise, and say it's possible for me to stay overnight in the village. We discuss guide prices, and the cost of being picked up from Lewoleba by ojek, and exchange phone numbers. Phone service is poor here, so I am instructed to SMS only. I take a few pictures of the lady weaving, then say my goodbyes.
Just down the road I find a nice shady cove to have lunch, some leftover biscuits from yesterday, and have a chat with a couple of old ladies spinning cotton. Then it's back on the bike for the second half of the circumnavigation.
The road continues to be poor, but then I see a road off to the right which is smoothly asphalted and I decide to turn down it, hoping there will be a nice beach and the opportunity for a swim at the end of the road. The road stays good most of the way out to the tip of land on the very north west of the peninsula and there is indeed a jetty that I can swim off. Of course there is also a gaggle of young boys to contend with, one of whom is fascinated by my nose. Not sure if he was being cheeky or was a little simple, but they were all perfectly harmless, and certainly not camera shy.
The final ride back to town is along more potholed roads, but by now I am feeling much more confident in my bike handling. I'm fully aware of how easy it is to have an accident on a bike, so I continue to maintain a high level of care and refuse to become complacent. I really must get myself a bike licence when I get home, it just makes any travel insurance claims possible should an accident occur.
Tomorrow I'm off to Lamalera, a traditional whale fishing village on the south coast of Lembata.
See you when I get back!!