A week before our Flores trip, Mount Rinjani located just across the Straits from Bali erupted and caused flight diversion and Bali airport closure. The situation was not optimistic and we thought that we might have to cancel our holiday again. Fortunately just one day before our trip, the volcanic activity subsided, Bali airport reopened and our flight to Flores resumed. We boarded the plane happily without worrying whether it was really safe to fly near an erupting volcano.
We flew in to Labuan Bajo from Singapore with a transit in Bali via Garuda Airline. The flight from Bali to Labuan Bajo took about 1hr 30min. For this short flight, we were expecting to take a small propeller plane but to our disappointment it was a jet plane instead. The plane cruised at a relatively low altitude throughout the flight, we could see dozens of pretty small uninhabited islands and even some volcanic peaks (including the smoking Rinjani) through the plane window. Komodo Airport in Labuan Bajo was a very small airport with only 1-2 planes in the field; giving us the impression that we were really in for some outback experience. To our amazement, there was a taxi booth inside the airport with a list of fares to the various hotels in town. The fare to Golo Hill Top Hotel (http://www.golohilltop.com/) was 60K IDR per vehicle. It was quite expensive considering that it was only 10 min drive to the hotel. However we took the cab without much complaint for we knew that it was a “wholesale” rip off rather than a tout rip off which we experienced ample times in Bali. The driver was conversant in English and was very friendly. He even stopped along the way to allow us to take some nice photo of the scenery. Golo Hotel ran by two friendly Dutch ladies was about 10 min walk from the town center but its location on top of a hill overlooking a tranquil and scenic bay more than offset the slight inconvenience. The room was very clean with air-conditioner and reliable hot shower – something which most Singaporeans can’t do without.
We went to the town area to look for tour package for Cunca Wulang Canyon and Komodo/Rinca Island. The prices offered by the various agencies were more or less competitive but we couldn’t tell their quality and reliability till we tried them. After asking around for more than 1 hr, we finally decided on one agency based on some traveller intuition and physiognomy – though it turned out wrongly many times:( We patronized the number 1 restaurant in TripAdvisor – Sushi Banana. We ordered a maki roll and a bento for only 230K IDR. It was surprisingly refreshing considering where we were at. After dinner, we took a private taxi back to hotel for 40K IDR.
The agency driver picked us from the hotel around 7am. It was a 1hr 30min drive from our hotel to Wersawe Village where the trailhead of the trek was located. There was an official booth at the trailhead where we made payment for the hiking permit. We hired one of the villagers (who couldn’t speak any English) as our trekking guide. The trek to the canyon took about 45min along relatively flat terrain. At the river, we saw two villagers catching fish in waist deep water. Their fishing tackle consisted of a long and thin flexible grass stalk (which served as the fishing rod) with a small string loop at one end. No bait was used at all. When an unsuspecting fish swam into the loop, the angler would cast the rod upwards thereby trapping the fish within the loop. It was an ingenious but painstakingly slow fishing method.
We climbed to the top of the canyon which was about 10m above the water surface. The canyon was famous for cliff diving – one of us jumped down from the edge of the canyon into the water below. Instead of this daredevil act, i entered the river from another side of the canyon where the water touched the bank (yeah, i am a scaredy cat). We swam to the plunge pool of the waterfall and enjoyed some jacuzzi massage under the falling water. The waterfall was not especially impressive but the surrounding beautiful landscape and nice cooling swim more than made up for it.
In the evening time, we walked from our hotel to the waterfront in town There were many street food stalks selling BBQ seafood. The laid out their fresh seafood in front of their stalks. A decent size red snapper (about 400g) cost about 50K IDR. We ordered a BBQ red snapper, calamari sambal kangkong and two big bowls of bakso soup noodles. It was quite an authentic local dining experience as most of the diners were locals. After dinner, we went over to the mini mart across the road to buy our desert – magnum ice cream. Exactly the same magnum as you get in Singapore but at half the price! Along the way back to our hotel, we saw a very bright shooting star streaking across the sky.