Day 699: The Ruteng Clan


After dragging myself out of bed at 6.30am, I wasn’t too chuffed when I was told that the minibus to the next waypoint, Ruteng, didn’t leave until 8am.  But no sooner had I settled down under a bamboo bivouac at the side of the road to drink coffee with the locals (the coffee in Flores and Timor has an amazing spicy taste to it) than the bus driver started tooting his horn. The bus was already full and therefore what was the point of hanging around?

I wish bus companies in the UK could be as damn sensible.  By 7.30am we were whizzing past Ende’s city limits and back into the jungle.  Timetables be damned!!

I could wax lyrical about the drive, but suffice to say that it was incredible and a whole lot of fun.  I just wished I was driving.  Damn, I miss driving.  It would me nice to be in control of my own destiny in the near future.  Another nice thing is the fact that everybody smiles and waves as we drive by.  When I was bitching about being stared at in India, I justified my position by explaining that when the look is accompanied by a smile and a wave (as in Africa), it generates a warm, positive feeling… when it’s a dead-eyed stare (as in India), it raises your anxiety levels considerably – you start thinking that there’s something wrong with you, maybe you’ve got something on your face, maybe the guy thinks you’re someone you’re not and is about to launch a violent and frenzied attack.  Who knows?

But, yeah, Flores – all smiles and waves.  I like that.

The minibus arrived in Ruteng in the afternoon and I was told that I would have to stay here for the night and get another bus early tomorrow morning.  No way, Jose… I’m going all the way with LBJ.  All the minibuses that buzz around the island tend to leave in the morning, but as I learned on the way to Aimere last week, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.  Shared taxis (Toyota People Carriers) ply across the island and in the manner of African Bush Taxis, they go when they’re full.  Lucky for me there was one waiting as I got off the minibus.  I barely had time to grab some Nasi Goreng (egg fried rice) to go before we set off towards Labuanbajo.

It was dark when the rains came – and boy, did it rain.  The kid driving the Toyota might have had better luck seeing if he hadn’t covered the windscreen with stickers and dangly love hearts (Indonesians are nothing if not a little effeminate in their decorative tastes: a facet they share with Indians).  He might have also been better off listening to me when I was trying to explain that cool air fan didn’t make the windows mist up, that was the internal/external temperature difference and our sweat.  In fact, the cool air fan would make the visibility better, because we’d be sweating less.  But no, he trundled on regardless.  Imagine the last run of the Bluesmobile but on mountainous, jungly, unlit switch-backs with very bad Indonesian hip-hop (“The Ruteng Clan”) playing at full volume.

In his defence, at least he took it easy and we did get to Labuanbajo in one piece.  We arrived just before 9pm.  I slung my bags in the Bajo Beach hotel (hello again!) and then raced down to the camera shop, catching it just before it closed and stocking up on video tapes.  A miscalculation on my behalf led me to paying way over the going rate, but I was tired and hungry and we all make mistakes.  I trundled back to the Lounge Bar where I simultaneously inhaled a pizza (mmm… something that’s not rice… lovely!) and attempted to upload as many of these blogs as possible using their wi-fi before they chucked me out.

The boat for Sumbawa was due to leave at 8am.  This is great – I should be in Bali a day earlier than I expected.

Next Month >>>

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

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