It’s a Wednesday night, and I’m tucked up in my bed, unable to sleep. It sounds like there’s a farmyard outside my window.
I’m in the small town of Bajawa on Flores Island, Indonesia. A bit of a geography geek since childhood, I pride myself on having a very good grasp of where places are on the map, but even I had never heard of Bajawa before this trip. Flores is a primarily Christian island in multi-cultural Indonesia, located in the East Nusa Tenggara region 3 islands to the east of Bali. We had flown to Flores a few days earlier, landing at one of the two main airports at Ende, and were slowly snaking our way westwards towards the coast and the islands of Rinca and Komodo.
Earlier that day, our minibus had been snaking its way up from the coast, past volcanic beaches with black stone and vivid blue pebbles, then inland through lush farmland, past rice paddies filled with locals working hard in the knee-deep water. Volcanoes rose above the landscape in perfect cones, covered in lush vegetation. Beautiful brown cows peeked out at us from hedgerows.
Bajawa is a working town, one of those places where there isn’t a lot to see, but you have a real sense that you are experiencing authentic local life. We were lodged in the Edelweis Hotel, a somewhat less Bavarian establishment than the name might suggest. Only half-finished, entry to the hotel was through a building site before we clambered our way up higgledy-piggledy tiled staircases which felt doubly steep while towing a large suitcase. But my room had everything I needed: a double bed, a dressing table (albeit with a hole burned through the centre of it) and a private bathroom, tiled in a fetching brown pattern which I hadn’t seen since the last old bathroom of the 1970s had finally been ripped out. Double windows led onto a balcony, but arriving late at night, my priority was to slip into bed and recover from a long day’s drive along winding mountain roads.
Around midnight, however, I was wide awake. The reason? Well, the strangest array of sounds was coming through my single-glazed window. I could definitely hear chickens, and a rooster crowing despite the time of night. Dogs barked, too – almost certainly in response to the squealing which sounded like it could only be coming from pigs. The thing is, I was in a back room in a hotel which ran well back from the street and which was surrounded by other buildings on all sides. We were in the middle of town, for heaven’s sake. I know this was a remote corner of Indonesia, but I had to be imagining it.
My last thoughts before I finally drifted off to sleep were, “It’s like sleeping next to a bloody farmyard…”.
Morning soon came, and my alarm went off to start another day. Rising from my bed, I padded over to the window and stepped out onto the balcony to look around. And you know what? I was sleeping next to a bloody farmyard.
Did you enjoy this post about Flores Island? Check out these other posts about southeast Asia!
The Bamboo Train of Battambong: taking the slow route in Cambodia
Men of the Forest: the primates of Borneo
Traditional dance around the world