Brick houses next to concrete houses next to wooden shacks, women bathing and washing clothes in roadside drains or some flowing water source. Water buffalo straddle the road demanding you go around, people sitting seemingly in the middle of nowhere and someone is always “fixing” something roadside.
I pass cars with names. Titanic, ATOYOT, Naughty Kiss, Predator, God Bless. Through fields, some of indistinguishable crop, some flooded, others tiered with rice. Clothes drying on bushes in front of houses, seeds drying on tarps. Children all wave, some try and slap your hand as you pass as if knowing the trepidation with which I was riding my scooter. Every child sings out “”mister mister” as I ride by.
15000 rupiah gains me a coconut a guy in an army uniform (who was not in the army – he was a barber) had to cut down fresh from the tree. It was massive. There must have been a litre of coconut water in there.
Houses disconnected, no running water, no electricity. Pride in home displayed by bamboo picket fences. Patios immaculately swept. Rubbish everywhere else disappearing to only jungle for miles, occasionally a guy is on the side of the road…. that’s it.
I sit here blessed, looking upon the pool with Cunca Rami’s tiered waterfalling adding a natural soundtrack behind giggles of Sanka and Ardus as they sat here with me on a large rock above the water. I had met a Dutch guy who spoke the language and deftly negotiated the price with my two experienced guide chaperones, Sanka and Ardus, 10 year old twin brothers who happened upon me at the start of the trail.
The trail down was harsh on my knee, but stripping down and diving beneath the cool fresh waters, surfacing under the falls provided an indescribable sense of freedom. A Spanish traveller joined me under the falls. His name was Santiago and he was from Catalan. I couldn’t remember much Spanish anymore and found myself in any company repeating my mantra “Estoy apprendiendo Espanole por seis or siete sumanas.” Which I think means “I have been learning Spanish for 6 or 7 weeks.” I haven’t. We share experiences of similar waterfalls, particularly one we had both visited towards the Burmese border out of Chiang Mai. His friend nuded up and lay by the waterside on a rock.
Cunca Rami is 75m high and located almost 50km from Labuanbajo. The hike there takes about 30 minutes from the road where there is no discernable markings to indicate the trail, leaving you to make a couple of passes before deciding, with consensus of other travellers and some locals to incur the forest there. The hike through the mountainous vegetation can be a little tough at times, very humid. The emerald green pool at the bottom though a satisfying reward.
The hike back up takes 45 minutes and there is no reward. Ardus took my daypack for the last leg out. Both boys found it hilarious when I finally succumbed and sat down to rest, only to find when I started again I was 20 metres from the road. Both boys watched me with the cheesiest of grins for that last 20 metres.
Back at my bike I bumped into Santiago and “the nude” again. They invited me to come with them to Sano Nggoang. It is a lot further into remoteness and they are continuing so I woiuld have to find my own way back alone. I decide Ill find some lunch then meet them there. After all, what could go wrong?
About 12 km past the last village I ran out of petrol. My bike lost power coming down an “offroad experience” and seized. Someone didn’t check the petrol and ran out at the most inopportune time. The bike gained power momentarily at the bottom of the hill, just in time to throw me over the handle bars as I fought to slow down and straighten.
Bleeding from the shoulder, knee, feet and hand I picked myself up. It was a long hilly walk back to the last village and just then a dark storm cloud eclipsed the sun. I poured the last of my water over my wounds and scrubbed to clean them .
The locals this far from Labuanbajo spoke no English, and anyone driving past me with space on their bike tickled at my catastrophe. Well, you wanted adventure.
I was left with no choice but to start pushing my bike through the mountainous heat. For hours I pushed. Pushing and bleeding. Bleeding and pushing.
Eventually I met a guy who I gave 50,000Rp for two water bottles of petrol, but mostly for helping me push the last 500 metres to his friend’s roadside stall. For this payment, him and his mates all but hailed me the greatest man alive from their response . I know I paid over but to be fair it was only $5.00.
Back at Labuan Bajo, crimsons, purples, oranges, reds, yellows and blues of all different hues filled the sky and reflected from the rippling waters. Boats returning and setting out added intrigue to beauty. The sounds of competing mosques filled the air. The boys have stopped playing soccer on the foreshore. The bay looking a little like Ha Long. As the water illuminates around the islands in view in one final show before the sun sets, I can honestly say I don’t believe I have seen anything more beautiful. I reach for my Anker from my balcony table, briefly tend to my leg wound and breathe in what a photo could never capture and mere words could never describe.