Goodbye Moni, hello Maumere

I staggered backwards as the mob worked itself into a frenzy…grabbing my clothes, arms, probing hands into my pockets. In the distance I could see more reinforcements running in my direction and suddenly I knew I was in trouble.

Angry locals? Betel-nut-chewing zombie women? Nope…this time it was elementary schoolkids.

Before I left Moni, I decided to walk to a small bookshop owned by a Dutch guy in Woloara, a small village just a few kilometers from here. Disappointingly, the “bookshop” turned out to be one small shelf of books in his home. The owner was back in Holland, but his local help let me exchange 2 books (The Reader and The Beach) for a new one just to dump some weight. I always loose weight on these trips but my backpack mysteriously gains it, even despite not buying anything.

On my way back to Moni along a very hot, dusty road, around 40 schoolkids rushed me. There were more than I could keep track of and I was soon overwhelmed, so I did my best to get some pictures and to keep their grubby hands out of my pockets (they were looking for candy and ink pens – both are highly sought after by the little monsters). Just as more were pouring out of the nearby school like hornets swarming in my direction, three olive-drab uniformed teachers came to the rescue and started dishing out generous amounts of justice via wooden yardsticks.

I managed to slip away amid the swirling chaos of wailing, smacking, and arm grabbing and put some distance between us.

Today is a market day in Moni, so all the neighboring villagers show up to buy, sell, and trade everything you can think of. Chickens fetch a huge price here, even making any meal that contains chicken way out of my price range. Seafood isn’t cheap either, so I’ve literally been living on rice and fried noodles. I eyeballed some betel nuts, just for the sake of culture and trying this local addiction, but after seeing the vendor’s rotting red-stained teeth, I decided there have to be better bad habits to take home.

After a third enjoyable, relaxed night in Moni, it was definitely time to leave the tiny village and get on to something else. I did meet several couples, who like everyone else, that had come to see the lakes in Kelimutu. It was nice to have some English speaking company finally, and we had our share of laughs about Indonesia and Flores culture.

The bus to Maumere, my last stop in Flores, was comfortable enough. This my 5th local bus ride in 7 days, so I was excited to get a seat to myself and to have a freshly charged IPOD to help put me into a happy place. As a bonus, no one was even puking into plastic bags on this ride, also a first. I climbed out in Maumere four hours later in overwhelming equatorial heat radiating off the road.

The Lonely Planet says Maumere is decayed and dilapidated thanks to a local earthquake and tsunami they had a few years ago. I wouldn’t argue, but the place is easy to get around and full of conveniences, making it easily one of my favorite towns in Flores. There is a huge, cheap supermarket (which plays country music) for supplies, fast enough internet access, and a waterfront with fresh seafood. There is also a strip of very cheap street stalls offering grilled fish, chicken, beef, and dog.

Yes, dog. I passed this time, I gave it a go in China and one plate of the gelatinous, fatty meat was enough for me.

I dropped my things into Hotel Gardena for $6 a night and walked 30 minutes to a restaurant on the water. There is no menu, you simply look into the ice chest at the catch of the day and choose a random fish. Some in the box were still twitching and squeaking pathetically “don’t pick me!” I chose one of the squeakers (assuming it would be the freshest) and 30 minutes later I was looking at more baked fish than I could possibly eat, enough for two people easily, for $4 – a little over my eating budget but my reward for crossing Flores from end to end.

I ate everything but the eyes, teeth, and bones!

I ran into a local guy that I had met previously in Bajawa and he’s been showing me around (and off to his friends) on his motorbike. I have to say, out of every place in every country, I have met more locals here in Flores than anywhere – which is nice and gives me a slightly better peek into their culture than the average tourist normally receives.

I haven’t heard an airplane in two days and supposedly the airport is just a few kilometers away, so that’s a little concerning, but hopefully I can get something booked and get on down the road – Indonesia is too big and too interesting to hold still for very long. (unless you’re on an island of course!)