As this is our gap yah and we are finding ourselves (plus Phoebe is testing out career options), we decided that staying in a convent would be a good idea. I, for one, was not going to make a Habit of this behaviour (lol. I’ve still got it…). Upon entry to our residence, Atilla the Nun warned us of the 9pm curfew in place; luckily this would not be a problem as the resetting of my body clock often had me slipping into a coma at the ripe hour of 7pm. She also dictated that breakfast would be served from 6-8am. As Phoebes cries of anguish filled the room at being dragged from the warmth of a duvet at such an early hour, I graciously took the news, thinking we could fill a whole day seeing the sights of Ruteng (the naivety of my childish mind still baffles me).
We left the convent; walked down the street; looked behind us and found that there was a small classroom of kids following us. Now I know that I take to kids like a duck takes to treacle; Phoebe though, on the other hand, former teaching in training, should be far better at dealing with the nonsense they spout. In reality, she recoiled back in horror at the sight of the little munchkins. A particularly bold one, named Arhys, offered to show us around town so he could practise his English. After a few seconds of trying desperately to come up with an excuse (“I have a dentist appointment?” “The Nun’s curfew is now 11am?!”), we glumly resigned ourselves to his tour. We didn’t see much except a dried fish market, a staple in every town in Indonesia like a pointless newsagents in England is, but he offered us to see the Leang Bua (Homo Florensis) cave, an activity we had bookmarked in our heavy schedule to evade the youth of Ruteng. We mumbled something about dentist appointments and retreated to our convent. We inquired of Atilla whether we could get a driver to see the caves (“we don’t need a guide, we said”). She asked us to wait. We did. Lo and behold, Arhys, a bane of my short and pitiful existence, strides in and plonks himself across from us.
“Shall we go to the caves?” The heathen exclaimed.
Fresh out of excuses and under the stern gaze of Nungadin, we left with him. The Leang Bua cave was packed with archaeologists (some from the US), only the natives dig here which is a nice touch- we felt a pang of homesickness when we saw a tea break in progress. Along with the famous pygmy people of Flores, the cave contains the remains of Stegadon (big elephants), ancient Komodo Dragons (big lizards) and giant storks (big pigeons). After zoning out for a while in this cave, the whiny, tortuous noise of Arhys’ voice filled the still air.
“I am hengry… Can we leave”
As Phoebe rounded, fists ‘a flying, I, the constant kindness in this travelling duo, allowed him to show us the second of two slightly worthwhile things in Ruteng to do – the spiderweb rice fields.
They were indeed rice fields which can be seen from a litter-strewn, grassy hill. Upon descent of this hill, a man straight from Deliverance (the one with the duelling banjos), demanded a 30,000 Rp sum. While this is only $3, the little cretin just sat in a makeshift hut and charged people to go up a hill – no bins, no toilets, nothing. I also observed that a few Malaysian tourists fluttered by us for free. I bartered it down. I’m not ashamed. Everywhere in Flores is cheap, but everything is slightly less cheap for a foreigner, despite the fact that we earn a fraction of the money most of the native tourists’ lucrative salaries are.
We awoke early the next morning to nun’s singing – we did find ourselves on our gap year, what we found was grumpy English people – and had a breakfast of salted eggs and stale bread. We were a bit exhausted of fighting everything, and what with Sister Ballista looking at us, we just ate our food and left Ruteng, avoiding children like a bad case of zits.
Alec, Phoebe, Arhys and Nun Kung Fuey.