There’s a deadline for us to get to Maumere and submit our passports to Immigration for a visa extension, so while we could happily linger at Pulau Hoga it’s time to head south. It’s a bumpy ride for a couple of days. I’m just a little grumpy because it makes life a little more challenging. I want Hyo’s visit to be perfect! It’s ironic because she’s very zen about it all, nostalgic for cruising and actually really enjoying the rolly ride we have down to Flores island.
In Maumere, we struggle to find a good anchorage (NW winds this time of year make most of the bay exposed) but settle in with a stern hook near the village of Geliting. It probably would have been more comfortable in the islands to the north side of the bay, but we need easy access to town for visits to Immigration. It is never easy and takes multiple trips. Our first extension, in Ambon, took 3 visits to their office (4 if you count being sent away to make photocopies of key passport pages, then coming back again). This turns out to have been efficient compared to the experience in Maumere, where it eventually took 5 days and 4 (5) visits to have the visas completed.
With days to wait, we indulge in a little touristing. There is a spectacular natural wonder here, just a few hours drive from Maumere: the Kelimutu. Three calderas, high up a domant volcano, are each a vibrant- and different- color. Not only that, but the crater lake colors change on a regular basis, based on the composition of minerals inside.
We’ve now begun to overlap with territory I backpacked through more than twenty years ago. A lot has changed, including the color of the lakes! During our visit, they were black, green, and a gray/blue. I remember a red lake, and a bright blue one, from 1991. Even Google Earth shows yet another band of color:
It was the non-lake views that most captured Niall. He actually got a little teary, looking out at a landscape that reminded him of the Pacific northwest. Pine trees lined the altitude slopes, and misty fingers of clouds worked their way up between them. Fuzz your eyes a little, and it does feel a little like a Olympic range view.
It’s the terraced rice paddies we see on the way back down that really take me back. We haven’t seen these yet, although Indonesia is a massive producer (and exporter) of rice. I spent time as an undergrad researching rice agriculture in Indonesia, so now it’s my turn to get a little teary at these beautiful and familiar landscape views.
On the road back to Maumere, we pass by a village that is still based on very traditional construction and practices. This ‘adat’ community has, as most of Flores, embraced Christianity. What makes them different is that the animist beliefs of their traditional culture have been incorporated into their current belief system. It’s not uncommon for blends like this to occur; what’s unusual is to see the traditional values taking such a prominent role relative to the “modern” religion.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot we don’t understand. My Indonesian is pretty good- I wouldn’t say fluent, but totally conversational- but it’s not good enough to understand the rapid-fire (and sotto voce) explanations given by one of the young men in the village. There’s a lot of vocabulary I’m just not familiar with. But we can see the elements that make up their ceremonies, their sacred objects and sacred places. Even with a partial understanding, it’s fascinating, and something I hope we can learn about later to filter our experience more intelligently.
For now, we use the opportunity to explore, to make friends, to try to be gracious as they share their personal story.