With another early start to beat the heat, we drive to the base of Iya Volcano. Starting at sea level, we walk through a rock quarry to start our assent. Long lightweight trekking pants are recommended as we trek over land through large grass sections. Trekking poles are also recommended. The ground is made up of loosely packed pumice stones - we will pick our way up the flank of the volcano.
As the vegetation gives way to a desolate landscape, we know we are near the summit. Beyond the summit is an enormous crater on the edge of the South Sea. The smoking wall has bright yellow sulfur deposits. Here, it is easy to understand the respect that the people of Flores have for such an active force of nature. The descent is as challenging as the ascent, as we find footing among the palms and grasses, but with spectacular views of the peninsula and the coast line.
Once back at the hotel, a shower and breakfast await. Then it is a one-hour coastal drive along blue-green cliffs that drop down to the sea. Ende’s unique blue stone beaches are something of an oddity in the world. Locals believe these beaches will gain international fame someday, but for the time being they’re all yours and the locals’ to enjoy.
When you reach the seaside village of Nanga Penda, you’ll find a small but beautiful mosque that you’re welcome to explore. Like many coastal settlements in Flores, this village is home to the Bajo ethnic group, many of who migrated from the southern Philippine islands. Although history has credited them with pirate raids on the spice route and a nomadic seafaring lifestyle, today the Bajo have settled in Flores to flee religious persecution. In the relative haven of Flores, they continue their traditions that blend animalism with a less conventional form of Islam.
A further two-hour drive brings us to the town of Boa Wae at the base of the active Ebulobo Volcano, where we’ll stop for a warung lunch. From here, it’s a 1.5-hour drive to Bena, the seat of the matrilineal Ngada people. Here you’ll see UNESCO-listed megaliths that are thought to be 1,200 years old, which the Ngada use to commune with the supernatural world via animal sacrifices. The Ngada population may be dwindling with less than 60,000 members alive today, but efforts for cultural conservation are alive and well, with Ngada chiefs still residing in Bena’s traditional wood-and-palm houses.
Then we’ll head to the home of Margaret, a Bajawa local, for a Flores-style BBQ in her front lawn. With a few chickens roaming about and the barbecue pit smoking, you’ll get an immersive dose of daily Flores life.