Flores is the kind gorgeous that grabs hold of you tightly, Lonely Planet proclaims.
But as we trudged away from the fifth dingy hotel, still yet to find a room in Labuan Bajo, the ‘next big thing’ in Nusa Tengarra didn’t seem as charming as promised, with its corrugated iron roofed shacks and dour hotel staff who seemed affronted that we’d wish to sully their establishment with our presence.
It took leaving Labuan Bajo on a car tour to see what the guide books were so excited about.
Anyway, there are rocky streams emerging from the jungle, reminiscent of Bali’s countryside. Except these ones are lacking the obligatory pile of debris lying next to it.
The stunning jungle landscapes, volcanoes and coastline make up for the vertebrae-shattering drive along still-developing roads.
It nearly makes up for the people in the towns and cities, who seem begrudgingly reliant on tourists. Friendliness is only found in the countryside, and the male population haven’t yet heard that cat calling and leering isn’t OK any more. Walking down the street felt intimidating and I was extremely glad I was travelling with a couple of other people, as doing Flores on your own wouldn’t be fun.
Seeing the sun rise over Gunung Kelimutu was fun, however:
And posing with a Komodo dragon was also fun (if slightly terrifying):
So, I’m glad I’ve seen Flores as it’s truly the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. And I got to see dragons and a hobbit, which is kind of cool, right?