Our stop in Labuan Bajo was motivated by the need to extend our visas to a total of 60 days in Indonesia. This visa extension process turned out to take longer than expected.
Using the extra time that it would take for our extensions to process, we gathered our tattered cushions and brought them to a local tailor to reupholster over the weekend while we took a motorcycle trip inland.
Google maps estimated the motorcycle trip from Labuan Bajo to Ruteng to take about two and a half hours. With all of the road obstructions, switchbacks, twists and turns through the mountains, it took just over five hours.
We met some interesting characters along the way. Like these street fighting bulls. This part of the road was clearly their turf so we quietly crept by. One of them chased us a bit on the way back.
After stopping at a shack for a roadside snack we realized our back tire was completely flat. Limping along at a snails pace, we finally found a sign that looked like tire repair.
We pulled the bike into a makeshift garage where it looked like this guy and his son were on duty for this kind of event. All we did was point at the back wheel and not a word was uttered. The man pulled out a few tools from his shop and went right to work.
In a matter of minutes he had the tube peeled from the wheel, located the leak and applied a patch. Normally a patch takes some time to set but he had this little round black stove he used to “cook” the patchwork he had just done. A few minutes later the tube was back on the wheel, fully inflated and we were on our way. $1.33 was the total.
A thunderstorm picked up on our final approach to Rutang and we were cold for the first time in months.
After a night in a convent we found this underground marketplace where all the locals come to buy and sell their goods. The amount of fresh produce here was impressive. The area was probably about four city blocks and was packed all sorts of tantalizing aromas.
There were a fair amount of livestock vendors that sold live chickens. It would be nice to have a chicken aboard but would likely have to be slaughtered before entering another country.
While this looks fairly gruesome it is pretty efficient way to showcase the different cuts to your customers. There were about 5 of these little piggies on display.
This is known as the Hobbit cave. Recently discovered in 2004, archeologists found another missing link to our past on the Island of Flores. During each ice age, a land bridge formed to join all of the islands of Indonesia, except Flores. Flores remained isolated and so it was believed that humans could not have lived there before the age of sail.
Bones were uncovered at this cave site and were first thought to be children until the teeth were examined. These hobbits grew to about 100 cm and lived on this island that was dominated by giant rats which grew to about 75 cm. The Hobbits hunted the rats for food.
The hobbits used basic tools but there is no evidence that they used fire or buried their dead. Komodo dragons also lived on this island and bite patterns on hobbit bones suggest a few dragons enjoyed a hobbit snack every now and again.
We have never felt like such celebrities. Everyone we rode past waved and smiled. On our way back, school was getting out and all the kids seemed particularly enthusiastic about our being there. Most of them knew one phrase, “Hello. Mister!” And it was how we were warmly greeted just about everywhere we went.
More bike trouble! This time the front brake failed. We had to fix this immediately as the grade of the declines coming out of the mountains would be made even more dangerous without a front brake. It was a little more difficult finding a place that did brakes but with a little help from the locals we found a place that could replace the pads on the spot.
After a show of interest from some of the adults hanging around the bike shop, Byron pulled out his oversized iPad Pro to show a few pictures and try to tell our story. Almost immediately we were surrounded by a bunch of the town’s kids. They were fascinated by the iPad, or Byron, or both. Dan showed the kids some videos of us swinging off our sailboat around the Galapagos and a couple pictures he took of some lazy Kangaroos we saw in Australia. The kids seemed to be really amused with the lazy sleeping kangaroo as they all erupted in laughter upon viewing it. We talked with them a bit about the Arak drink we had tried in Kupang. The adults said they had something similar but better called Sopas which they immediately poured us a glass to try. This was much better than the Arak which We had found too strong. By the end of our quick stop it seemed as if we had made friends with half the town so we took a group picture and continued on our way.
One more site to see before leaving the outskirts of Ruteng: the spiderweb rice fields. We had trouble finding the scenic overlook and took a few wrong turns that took us into the middle of a rural area. As we have come to expect we were quickly greeted with “hello mister, where are you going?” We told the gentleman we were trying to find the fields. He would not give us directions but instead hopped on his bike and led us there himself. The overlook had a maintained stair path and cost a couple bucks to go up. The view from the top was spectacular. Hundreds of rice plots sectioned off overtime with size proportioned to your standing in the community, which is why they formed these circular spiderwebs over time as the community grew. It is said that traditionally a water buffalo is sacrificed when a plot gets turned over to a new family.
A section from the winding road back to Labuan Bajo
The tailors were hard at work with our cushions while we were away. They turned out really well and we paid a fraction of what it would cost back in the states.
The finished product is gorgeous. The bottoms are now of course different than the tops but at least they are not a shredded mess like they used to be. Plus we kind of like the contrast.
The sun now sets on our time spent in Labuan Bajo. Our visas are extended. We have newly upholstered cushions. We did a nice movie exchange with our boat neighbors Bernie and Liz. We did all of these things and still had time to go on an adventure that formed memories that will never be forgotten.
Next stop: Lombok and Bali!