Some trips start out with the sudden realization that something is just not right. My 4-night slow boat trip from Gili Trawangan, Indonesia to Flores Island was one of those trips. It began with my minibus driver’s drunken babbling, and progressed from there. Since I did arrive in one piece, the sinking feeling in my stomach has been replaced by relieved retrospection – and, of course, now makes for a good story.
To get to Flores, you need to pass through the poorest islands of Nusa Tenggera, each with a very different feel. First, to the rugged, dry, seemingly untouched island of Lombok. Next, to the volatile, volcanic Sumbawa, one of the poorest places in Indonesia whose claim to fame lies under the surface: the 1815 eruption of Gunung Tambora is one of the most destructive volcanic eruptions in modern history, and the ash that it propelled into the atmosphere led the locals to refer to 1816 as the Year without Summer. From Sumbawa, we soldiered on to Komodo, home of the world-renowned Komodo dragons, essentially the world's largest and fiercest monitor lizard, and then to Rinca and Kelor before anchoring in Labuan Bajo, the capital of the Flores. Flores, home to the famous Kelimutu lakes (each separated by a volcano's crater and varying in green, blue and red colours) is both difficult to reach and achingly beautiful.
But back to my trip....
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