Two days before I left Sumbawa, I started to have a sore throat along with flu symptoms. I thought it was a normal flu so I continued. I headed to Sape, a place where I could take the ferry to Labuan Bajo, Flores. I was excited to see Flores because everyone talks about it. Some people warned me how difficult the roads would be because there are thousands of corners.
After eight hours on the ferry, I finally arrived in Labuan Bajo. It was raining when I got there and one thing that I noticed is that this place is touristy and a lot of stuff is expensive. In the ferry, I saw so many vegetables that they had carried from Sape which means they don’t really grow food here. Because it was raining and I started to feel so unwell I stopped at the military base in town. They let me use one of the rooms there and after shower I went to sleep right away because my head was heavy.
In the morning I felt better and I said good bye to everyone at the military base and continued to Ruteng, also on Flores. I had heard good things about Ruteng and the town is close to the mountains so it’s a lot cooler so I thought it would be nice to stop for a rest there.
I knew there was something wrong inside of me but I thought it was just a usual flu. I started to lose my voice and I was coughing a lot. I had a headache, I felt hot and cold and I started feeling weak, especially at night. Sometimes, I felt like the disease was trying to play hide and seek with me. It was Easter when I drove to Ruteng and since the majority people in Flores are Catholic, almost everything had shut down, even the petrol station. The funny thing is, so many locals were selling petrol on the street but it was super expensive. I bought a bit less than 1.5 liters for Rp 20,000 ($1.47), almost double the normal price.
When I finally arrived in Ruteng, I looked for a motel. I don’t have much money so normally I try to find places to sleep for free, but because I felt so unwell and weak I needed somewhere comfortable. I was lucky because I met a guy who was renting rooms in his house and he let me stay there for cheap. I don’t like doctors so much so I thought that if I rest nicely for few days I would recover. But soon, I found my phlegm contained blood. I thought it was because I coughed so much that maybe I hurt my throat a little bit. If you are wondering why I hadn’t see a doctor at this point, it’s simply because during the day, I felt fine and except for lack of voice I felt okay. I spent two days in Ruteng and felt a little bit better so I continued my journey.
I originally planned to go to Ende, Flores but I took wrong turn and ended up in Mbay. I liked Mbay. It’s a small town and around the way there were small hills that Iooked like the Telletubbies’ home. That was so cute. I arrived into Mbay in the evening and it was raining and I felt sick again. The police let me stay a night in an empty building near to their office.
The next morning, I packed my things and continued to Ende. When I arrived in Ende, I went to a welding shop and a mechanic’s shop because I had problem with my exhaust pipe. It took almost all day to fix it. While waiting for the exhaust pipe to be fixed, I met a truck driver that I had already met on the ferry to Labuan Bajo. He was so happy to see me again but he warned me about landslides, because they were common and in a certain area, the whole road vanished. People also warned me not to drive after dark because I might not see the rocks that had fallen onto the road. The roads around Ende are surrounded by rocky mountains and the landslides have become a big problem these past few years. It is because when they built the roads, they used explosives to make the job easier. Now, the rocky mountain is shattered from the inside and landslides happen, especially in the rainy season.
From Ende, I continued to Maumere and then to Larantuka, from where I could take a ferry to Lembata, an island where they still have traditional whale hunting. In Larantuka, I stayed at a local family’s house while waiting for my ferry. I still felt sick and my voice kept disappearing so the family bought cough syrup for me. The first night we spent together, they bought a giant fish and we had little barbeque. In East Indonesia, fish is the main food. It is fresh and also cheap.
I said goodbye to the family and headed to Lembata. Due the ferry schedule, I had to stay in Lembata for almost a week but it was ok for me because my body felt so weak and my headache was getting worse. Because I felt sick, I decided to stay in a motel there. I found a motel called ”Hotel Rejeki” near to the ferry terminal and the owner of the motel was so nice to me and gave me more than 50 % discount. I spent most of the time just lying on my bed because I felt so weak and I decided to text someone that I knew that had friends in Lembata just in case something went wrong. Right away, their friends all came to visit me. One of them was a doctor and told me to get a test for malaria. In the beginning, I hesitated to go to hospital because I didn’t have a fever. I just had a cough and a headache that it seemed wouldn’t go away. She said that in an endemic place, the symptoms of malaria could be anything. So we went to the hospital and I was tested. The result was positive for malaria. It was like my worst nightmare come true because malaria can stay with you forever if it’s not treated properly. To treat the malaria, I was supposed to take two different medicines. One medicine, I had to take it for three days and another one, for fourteen days. Unfortunately, the second medicine was not available so I had to wait two days before I got it.
Lamalera, a village on the south coast of Lembata, is famous for traditional whale hunting, which has been going on for hundreds of years. My feeling about whale hunting was uncertain. It sounded fascinating and horrible at the same time. I talked with many locals about this and they said there will be a ritual before the hunt and that usually the whale already knows that he is going to die and will separate themselves from the group. I am not sure if it’s true or not but that is what the locals believe there. Usually the hunt starts around May and goes on until end of September but when I was there, they already started and May had not come yet. One of my friends got a call and said they had already caught the whale and would start to cut the whale open the next day after church. From the city to go to Lamalera is around four hours’ drive. I planned to go even when I felt ill again that morning. I went there with a local guy on his bike. I didn’t use my bike because I felt sick that I didn’t think I could drive. Also the roads in Lembata were so bad and I was not sure if my bike would make it. But half way, his bike got a flat tire and we had to wait until another guy came and picked us up to find a place to fix it. By the time we had finished fixing his bike, it was already noon and everyone said I looked super pale so we decided to go back to my motel and let me get some rest. I didn’t regret that I did not go to see the whale because I don’t think I could handle the smells of blood and the gruesome scene there.
Every year, a lot of people came to Lembata to watch this hunting. Since the interest in the whale hunters increased, the government has started promoting the hunt as a sort of cultural tourist attraction. This is sad because I heard they don’t just hunt the whale but also dolphins and sharks. And since this became a tourist attraction, I strongly feel this will affect the population of whales, sharks and dolphin, which is very sad.
I spent the last few days in Lembata hanging out with the locals there and we went to the beach and ate coconut on the beach and also ate the local traditional snack “Jagung titi”. We had so much fun and on my last day, they all together drove with me to the harbor and waited until my ferry came. I had so much fun with all the new friends that I met in Lembata.