A trip across Flores is like stepping back into the Indonesia of William Dampier and Joseph Conrad. Buffalo still plough the fields here and old women still chew betel nut while they weave fine ikattextiles by hand in the old ways. Flores is more than twice the size of Bali yet, until recently, has been overwhelmingly overlooked by visitors who have used it solely as a springboard to nearby Komodo Island. Venture beyond the hub of Laubuanbajo to discover the spectacular landscapes of the island that enchanted the first explorers of ‘the Cape of Flowers’.
Land travel across Flores can be dusty, slow, hot and bumpy, but there’s never a dull moment. The island of Flores is only 375kms long, but the Trans-Flores Highway snakes along its spine for a hellish 666kms. Climbing from Labuanbajo port, you first pass through spicy clove groves and sweet-scented orchards where the trees are heavy with bananas, papayas, mangos, lychees, and mangosteen. Then comes the rollercoaster drive through the highlands, past steaming springs and across jungle-clad volcanic slopes, then down again to endless beaches. By the time you reach Larantuka you feel like you’ve have had an insight into the real Indonesia, a world away from the resorts of Bali.