As we fly into Maumere on Flores' north coast the rugged topography of the island is quickly apparent. The jagged islands of Teluk Maumere bay plunge into crystal clear waters famous with divers. Aquamarine gives way to black sand beaches backed by coconut palms - all under the towering gaze of mountains dominated by active Gunung Egon volcano (1703 m).
We will be picked up at Frans Seda Airport and taken to the small East Flores district capital of Larantuka, a most scenic journey of approx 3 hours. We'll use two vehicles, an air-conditioned van for riders and a truck for the bikes and gear, which will be tarpaulined in the unlikely case of rain. We'll have a tangy fish soup (kuah ikan asam) for dinner in Larantuka and get to bed early in preparation for the our first full day. Our accommodation will be a modern seaside hotel with a pool.
Day 2 / Saturday
First thing we'll take a boat to explore offshore islands Adonara and Selor where there are the remains of 16th century Portugese fort (Lohayong) and then back to Larantuka where we'll visit Reinha Rosari Cathedral, centre of Flores' Easter festivities, and Ile Padung cashew factory, buy Indonesian SIM cards, use the ATM and trial our bikes around the town. We will spend some time on group riding protocols and Indonesian road behaviour.
Day 3 / Sunday
65 km / Ascent 963 m / Descent 642 m / Riding Time 4 hours
Larantuka - Hokeng
The route leads us through Larantuka following the coast south westwards, affording fabulous views of white sand beaches and the blue-hued Adonara and Selor islands across the incredibly narrow straits. The islands of the Selor Archipelago are almost touchable. We casually make our way up and past the mountains of Lewotobi Perempuan / Female and Lewotobi Laki-laki / Male (1703 m and 1584 m respectively) to the first night's stay in Hokeng convent, near the small hill town of Boru.
Depending upon the time, we may be able to drop into village Lewokluok where shells are interestingly woven into their ikat (traditionally-woven fabrics) made only for local use and not for export to other parts of the island. In the afternoon we'll visit a Cocoa smallholding, meet and talk with its owner (Mr Nyo). With two substantial ascents and a total ascent of approx 900 m it could be classed as an appropriate introductory cycle day. The staff at the Hokeng convent, led by Suster Emanual are incredibly friendly, hospitable and generous with their time.
Day 4 / Monday
75 km / Ascent 582 m / Descent 822 m / Riding time 4 hours
Hokeng - Soa
The route veers slightly westward now to Flores' north coast. Our day begins with a graceful descent past Boru market before we climb around the flank Mt. Ile Wukoh. 10 km after Hokeng, we'll find some people who sell forest honey. There should be ample time to enjoy the views through the old growth forest and, depending on water levels, the opportunity to take a quick dunk in a river pool along the way. We'll visit some traditional sugar palm whiskey making. After a nice 17 km descent, the road leisurely follows the coast to Soa 10 km east of Maumere on the north coast. The beauty of this area is breath taking. Modern resort is a kilometer from the road and set a little back from the beach in tropical forest and coconut palms. With 45 km of flat riding and only one ascent 10 km / 486 m and a descent of 17 km / 481 m it should be a relaxing day.
Day 5 / Tuesday
In the morning, by car, we'll explore a Buginese fishing village Kampung Wuring. We'll visit the traditional village of Sikka. This one time capital is site of what is believed to be Flores' oldest church, and some world famous ikat weaving. We will lunch at Maumere's best fish restaurant and there will be time for shopping in Maumere. Riders will be able to enjoy the hotel swimming pool in the late afternoon.
Day 6 / Wednesday
52 km / Ascent 714 m / Descent 679 m / Riding time 3.5 hours
Soa - Paga
We head southwest through forest with lontar palms and bamboo groves, over the central mountain range and we'll visit the Bikon Blewut Museum (opened 1965) and enjoy the first of two trip's descents to the coastal village of Paga on white sands Koka Beach, on to our accommodation at the Retreat Seminary of Elija. Among beautiful mountainside gardens near the town of Wolowaru. There should be time for a swim at a nearby beach. In the late afternoon we'll explore the Garden of the Life of Jesus and after dinner we'll enjoy a concert put on by a local village youth group.
Day 7 / Thursday
46 km / Ascent 1254 m / Descent 702 m / Riding time 4 hours
Paga - Moni
This day takes us westwards near the coast along flat terrain for 10 km, and then turns north westwards into the mountains to the resort and trekkers' village of Moni. The route from the coast to Moni includes two ascents for a total of 26 km / 946 m and is broken by one descent of 9 km. The ride up to Moni is as scenically spectacular as it is physically challenging, with jungle, terraced rice fields, and enormous panoramic views of the famed rugged coast of Flores from high above. At 715 m Moni enjoys a pleasantly cool climate. Our accommodation will be in comfortable resort cottages by a babbling brook and nearby walk-able waterfall which can be enjoyed before dinner.
The Komodo trip start in Moni on Day 7, this Day and finishes in Labuan Baju on Day 18.
Day 8 / Friday
63 km / Ascent 905 m / Descent 1469 m / Riding time 4 hours
MONI - KELIMUTU - ENDE
Moni sits in a picturesque valley below Gunung Kelimutu mountain (1639 m) surrounded by steep mountain sides and terraced rice fields. At the summit of Kelimutu there are tricolor crater lakes. The steep cliffs that plunge into the technicolor water of these lakes is one of Indonesia's scenic icons. Pre dawn, in one of our vehicles, we'll head up to the summit where we can view the lakes and Flores' narrowest point far below (only 12 km from the northern Flores Sea and the southern Sawu Sea). We'll return to the hotel for breakfast after which we'll depart for Ende.
After a climb of 11 km / 445 m through Moni village and past Wologai village above, we will enjoy a downhill run of 39 km / 1044 m to Ende, Flores' biggest city.
Words do no justice to the beauty of this descent. We glide past green mountain valleys cloaked in cloud and dotted with rice terraces reminiscent of Bali before plunging into a steep canyon. Here, as we ride along the cliffside road under the intermittent shade of old growth teaks and mahogany. We may be privy to an astonishing sight if the rains are good to us the night before - dozens upon dozens of silver cascades glistening down the rock faces throughout the canyon. As we near Ende, the canyon opens again to reveal a valley flanked by steep mountains that could easily be mistaken for the kind of terrain one would expect in Vietnam or Laos! If there is time, we'll visit Wolotopo the beautiful village "on the hill". After lunch and before dinner there will be time to enjoy the swimming pool at the modern hotel.
Day 9 / Saturday
83 km / Ascent 1354 m / Descent 870 m / Riding time 5.5 hours.
Ende - Boawae
The Kelimutu Trip option finishes in Ende on Day 9 and those of you who've taken this option can take Garuda flight out of Ende on this day.
The route, heading west, hugs the cliff faces of spectacular Teluk Ende Bay for a flat 41 km interrupted by 10 annoying hillocks. We than head inland and begin to climb a testing 600 m in 13 km. The views of steep sided ravines and valleys on this climb are outstanding and some warungs perched precariously on cliff edges provide some respite and a well deserved lunch. The route then undulates for 20 km its way down through padi fields and commanding views of Gunung Ebulobo Mountain (2124 m) and distant Gunung Inerie Mountain as they pierce the sky dramatically after which we head into the pretty village of Boawae dominated by the majestic Gunung Ebulobo volcano. Our accommodation here is in a family run guesthouse run by grandmother Maria, is simple, rustic, clean and comfortable.
Day 10 / Sunday
53 km / Ascent 1241 m / Descent 546 m / Riding time 4 hours.
Boawae - Bajawa
Just as our breathtaking views of Ebulobo are gradually shrouded behind forested hills, the road gives way to mighty Inerie volcano (2245 m). 19 km on we'll stop at the impressive St Yohanes Berchmans seminary, built in 1929, is the second oldest seminary in Indonesia. We climb westwards, 35 km / 866 m up through its northern foothills and then descends 7 km / 158 m to the town of Bajawa overlooked by magnificent Gunung Inerie. We'll visit Coffee plantation and factory. We will stay in a modern hotel, in the middle of Bajawa.
Day 11 / Monday
Today we'll visit the traditional Ngada villages of Bena and Gurusina and relax in a hot 'n' cold thermal river at Malanage village. We'll have lunch in a village house by the river before returning to our accommodation in Bajawa. The roads hare are too steep to ride but riders are welcome to give them ago.
Day 12 / Tuesday
45 km / Ascent 175 m / Descent 1295 m / Riding time 2 hours.
Bajawa - Mbalata
The route first up descends a leisurely 37 km / 1170 m to Aimere on the coast. Much like the descent from Moni to Ende earlier in the trip, this is an absolute gem of a downhill with huge views of the coast and Gunung Inerie. The road is flat following the coast for 7 km. We stop at Mbalata beach where we'll be hosted by bapak Francis who offers, interlia, optional horse trekking around the area.
Day 13 / Wednesday
94 km / Ascent 2152 / Descent 1058 / Riding time 6 hours.
Mblata - Ruteng
This is likely the ride you'll be bragging about to all your cycle mates when you get back home. The day begins on the south coast among lontar palms and savannah grasses. The parched coastal landscape gives way to dry forests and ever more lush surroundings while we cycle north for 35 km up and over Gunung Ranaka mountain. Towards the top of this awesome 2,152 m ascent, having crossed many bridges and switchbacks, the road begins to meander its way through thick rainforest and cloud forest. This gorgeous area gives us a chance to cool down, take a quick stroll into the forest to do some river sitting, and check out the beautiful little Ranamese crater lake. After this break, it's a 19 km gradual descent into the lovely, often cloudy mountain city of Ruteng. Our accommodation is in a modern comfortable upmarket hotel.
Day 14 / Thursday
Ruteng is known for its coffee, cool climate and more recently its hobbit cave. We'll be staying in an up-market very comfortable domestic hotel from where we'll cycle (or go by car), 13 km, and back, through lush scenery that includes some seriously healthy ascents but all in all a relaxing day in preparation for the next two days which will be demanding.
Day 15 / Friday
68 km / Ascent 867 m / Descent 1793 m / Riding time 4 hours.
Ruteng - Lembor
Today's route, southwest towards the western end of Flores, begins with a decent into a narrow canyon past a waterfall. We are met at the end of the falls with a very sharp climb of roughly half a km and a gain of 200 meters. From the top of this climb, we enjoy impressive views of the Gunung Rank mountain as we make another gradual climb out of the valley. This is followed by an 18 km / 364 m descent past the Cancar Spider Web rice paddies. The second and true ascent of the day 11 km / 270 m passes traditional villages, offering good views of surrounding mountains. After topping out at the 1,140 m summit, the route descends 23 km / 880 m through lush pine forests before entering the Lembor area. The village of Lembor has seen better days but we'll be staying in a new and ‘best available' guest house.
62 km / Ascent 1395 m / Descent 1573 m / Riding time 4 hours.
Lembor - Labuan Bajo
On the last cycle day from Lembor to Labuan we will be challenged by a 1000 m ascent up Gunung Ambeliling mountain (1300 m) which includes the steepest gradients of the trip. Near the summit, we will be rewarded with vast, sweeping views of Flores' largest protected forest - a home for myriad bird species. There is one slight uphill pitch in a descent reminiscent of the descent down from Kelimutu and Bajawa before a series of hillocks for the last 20 km into Labuan Bajo. Our accommodation in Labuan Bajo will be luxurious resort style by the beach.
Komodo Marine National Park
In the morning we'll take a local launch to either / both Komodo and Rinca islands to see the famed Komodo dragons and to enjoy swimming and snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of the Komodo Marine National Park. Return late in the afternoon to our resort accommodation