On a mountainbike you can go off the beaten path from the already off the beaten path Flores. The Indonesian island doesn’t have such a thing as a mountainbikeshop or a mountainbike trail. But the potential of mountainbiking in Flores is HUGE!
So has been noticed by Leonardus, a local entrepreneur who has built a fantastic sustainable tour business from the ground up (That’ll be another story, stay tuned!). He invited me to join for a mountainbike exploration in the surrounding of Ruteng. This bamboo town is at 1200 meter altitude, and while only four hours inland from Komodo National Park, it feels like I’m in a completely different country.
Our little expedition team includes: Lusia and Yopi, two young ambitious locals, Oskar, a swiss explorer, and Leonardus himself.
With the bikes on the roof we drive into the bamboo forest north-west of Ruteng. High up in, a little village of Ri’i we change from carseat to mountainbike seat.
Off we are for our first downhill leg!
I’m having a hard time focusing on the slightly challenging downhill road. There is SO much to see, and so much happening around me. Luckely besides an occasional Sepeda motor (Motorbike), other traffic is non existent.
The greens of this area are unspoiled. It is rainforest at its best. Bamboo and palmtrees grow as mushrooms, but then without hardly being cut. Behind every turn there’s something new to discover: huge bamboo plants, grazing buffalos, rivers tumbling down, the greenest rice paddies, tropical fruit and coffee vegetation, bushes with drying clothes, Flores cows, people carrying the most interesting things, remote little communities…
The locals of Ruteng
Wherever we go there are many many curious faces, including mine:). While the people we meet are occupied doing something, each and everyone of them friendly greets us with a smile or a ‘Selemat pagi‘ (Good morning). Some are showering in their sarong in the streams, some are washing clothes in waterfalls, some are walking for water, and some are transporting bags of rice, wood or other food on their heads.
With fresh rainforest air in our lungs we go for a little uphill mountain biking towards the village of Nenu. “Sepeda, sepeda (bicycle)”! “Mr. Mr.!” (used for both Misses and Misters) and “Tourist!” From everywhere locals wave and call out to us. They have hardly or never seen tourists and/or bicycles before.
This adventure has an extra cool dimension because I’m accompanied by three most knowledgeable people of the area. Lusia, Yopi and Leonardus can they tell me everything about Ruteng, Flores and its people.
Something they explain, that really intrigues me, is that more than 90 % of the people here has never seen the sea before. And we’re on an Island! Averagely the people here live in a radius of 5 kilometer. If the sea, even though it’s close, is an unknown phenomenon, imagine how people react to a mountainbike passing bike. As they explains , 80 % doesn’t really have a plan about life. First priority is to start a family, to build a home, and then maybe to have a motorbike one day. People have no idea about the outside world. There is no standard of life satisfaction.
Most of them seem really happy. If you don’t know what else is out there you probably don’t miss it either.
Hike to Tengkulese waterfall
After about a 16 km cross-country biking it’s time for some hiking. This is a nice activity change. By foot we can have a closer look at all vegetation and scenery without speeding past it. We leave the bikes in Nenu and hike down to the Tengkulese waterfall. Soon we are surrounded by a whole soccer team. About every 10 meters a new kid with soccer short jumps out of the bushes to guide us to the waterfall. Many Van Persies and Sneiyders are present. The Dutch influence is really everywhere, isn’t it?
Leonardus asks one of the kids for some Kopi (coffee) and when we arrive at Tebo village the (literally!) sweet ass kopi and biscuits are served. From everywhere people are coming to watch and observe these foreign faces.
We take about an hour hike back the car. Before me walks a women, barefoot. I’d say she is about 60 years old. She’s carrying a 25 kg bag of rice, and is walking to the rice machine, that separates the rice from its skin. The walk is uphill and maybe two hours. She does this daily.
There’s also many people walking for water. Lusia explains to me that maybe half the people of Flores walk 2 hours every day, for clean fresh water! Be grateful, next time you open up your tap for a glass of water to drink.
With the car we drive back to Ruting. We stop for another Kopi where we can hike up to a nice view of the Golo Linko rice fields in Cancar. Every family has a parcel of land, defined from the center by the distance between two fingers.
Golo Linko rice fields in Cancar
This exploration has been a cool combination of mountainbiking, hiking and local culture. I highly recommend this to the adventurous souls looking to go more off the beaten track, powered by own pedal power.
DIY Mountainbiking in Flores | Indonesia:
Is it difficult to mountainbike in Flores? It is not that hard in the ‘technical’ sense, but you need to be in good physical condition and know how to ride a bike. You can be backed up with a 4WD.
How to arrange mountainbiking in Flores? Contact Leonardus or Lusia through www.florescyclingtours.com which is a new branch of Flores Exotic Tours. They organize, guide, and arrange whatever you wish for in regards to Mountainbiking. They have high quality Polygon Mountainbikes, helmets, and can accompany you with local knowledge, nice jokes, and back you up with 4WD car desired a back up car. Your spending will be reinvested in the local community.
What to bring when mountainbiking in Flores? A sporty but modestly dressed outfit, mosquito spray, charged camera, good energy and your refillable water bottle. Leonardus has big gallons of water in the back of the car for refill.
Where to stay in Ruteng? With the nons in Susteran. It’s quiet and clean. Something different. There’s no wifi. In between Ruteng and Bajawa it’s nice to stay at Leko Lembo on the beach.
Learn a few local words of Bahasa Indonesia! You’ll meet quite some locals on the way and even though they all have their own dialects, Bahasa Indonesia is common knowledge to many. Here’s a few useful words:):
[one_half]Sepeda = Bicycle
Jalan Jalan = travelling
Good morning = Selemat pagi
Good day = Selemat Siang
Where is … = Di mana …?
mountain = Gunung
beautiful = indah
summit = puncak
water buffalo = kerbau
Nice to meet you = Senang bertemu anda[one_half]
[one_half_last]What’s your name? = Siapa namanya
Who is your favorite soccer player? = Siapa pemain sepak bola favorit mu?
uphill = naik
downhill = turun
Left = kiri
Right = kanan
North = utara
South = selatan
East = Timur
west = barat
slippery = lichin
emergency = darurat[one_half_last]
Disclosure: this Mountainbiking trip has been made possible by Flores Cycling Tours. All views expressed above are 100 % mine.