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Published: October 29th 2011
We went to the world's largest Muslim country, and found a convent. We even stayed there, and took the opportunity to photograph aspects of our hosts' lives.
Flores was colonised by the Portuguese (flores = flowers). The most obvious remnant of their time here is the widespread Catholicism of the island's inhabitants. Simple churches stand where Bali has its temples and the rest of Indonesia has its mosques.
In 1000 metre high Ruteng we also found regular rain for the first time. Deafening downpours would last for hours in the afternoon, necessitating early starts. As we were staying in the convent with a 9pm curfew and 6.30am breakfast, this was not difficult.
Ruteng itself is fairly unremarkable, but it is surrounded by imposing peaks and lush countryside. It sits on a plateau which houses rice fields in concentric rings, bordering traditional, simple villages.
It seemed tourists are a rare treat to the inhabitants of Ruteng. For the younger ones, we represented an ideal opportunity to practise their English. This usually took the form of asking direct questions as we walked down the street, trying to find somewhere to eat.
"Where are you going?" was a common, and
slightly threatening opening gambit, often followed by
"May I have your name?" which, although we'd become used to hearing, still begged the question of what they intended do with our names if we acquiesced to their request.
A few miles north of town, down a dusty unsealed track, stands a wide open cave. In here, in 2003, the ancient remains of unusual humanoids were found. Read more about Homo Floresiensis here:
We discovered a friendly guide and his three children, plus a large cockroach with huge antennae. There is no information whatsoever at the cave. Thankfully the guide spoke pretty good English, our Bahasa Indonesian still requiring some work.
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Can't believe you stayed in a convent! How bizarre is that!! So glad Mina didn't display a photo of the cockroach, the nuns are much nicer to look at. Think we're sampling the rain now x