Rural life with no connection to the outside world, Moni, Ende, Flores
Moni is a small village in Ende, Flores. It’s a more unexplored area of Indonesia with significantly fewer tourists.
It’s evident immediately on arrival to Moni that the way of life is modest and simple.
The Landscape is unspoilt, trees and nature are the kings here, with people merely blending into the background.
Though you can certainly see change being made. Workman and machinery can be found along unmade roads making them suitable for cars and a tourist information centre has recently been added to the area.
Arriving in Ende
We flew from Bali to Ende, via Labaun Bajo using Garuda Indonesia. Ende airport is tiny, you walk off the plane into a room which just has a luggage belt and a toilet, nothing else. The toilet is disgusting and only of the squat variety so avoid if at all possible.
When you leave the airport there are dozens of taxi drivers trying to win your business. We agreed a price of 300,000 Rupiah to take us to Moni with one of the drivers and made our way to the car.
Before arriving we had read very questionable stories online about drivers demanding more money part way through the journey, taking people’s bags hostage and making them wait for hours.
Naturally therefore we were nervous. We kept our backpacks in the seat with us and when the taxi driver started speaking a lot on the phone and texting I could feel myself getting uncomfortable.
A little way after the airport he requested us to pay a ‘deposit’ we refused and he then rang someone speaking loudly on the phone. I had the journey mapped on my phone and when he took us the wrong way down a rural side road I felt quite alarmed.
He said he was going to see his Mum, which seemed very odd. We demanded that we got out of the taxi and fortunately he eventually agreed.
We went back to the airport, and got a different taxi. Our new driver said that the previous driver needed petrol that’s why he wanted money upfront and why he was going down back roads.
We assume this probably was true, seen as he didn’t seem particularly aggressive or annoyed when we requested to get out. But it wasn’t a nice experience given what we had read online previously.
It was the first time since leaving England that I had felt unsafe and vulnerable.
Accommodation in Moni
There is very limited choice of accommodation in Moni or the surrounding areas for that matter.
When looking online ahead of arriving a lot of the options were camping, with outside toilets being a hole in the ground and no electricity. Given that we were in a high risk area for Malaria we didn’t fancy our chances there.
We took the risk very seriously as you can see from our den!
We were pleased to find Bintang Lodge. It is still very basic but it at least had electricity and a toilet.
When we arrived we were pleasantly surprised having had our expectations set very low. It was also really useful that Billy, the nephew of the owner spoke really good English.
Eating in Moni
We were expecting the bintang restaurant to be extremely quiet at dinner, but it actually was really busy. It turned out it was the only restaurant in the village open.
The menu was limited to say the least. There was rice, noodles, egg and potato. Beer, water, coke or Fanta.
The food was cooked outside, on what looked like an open fire with a resident duck and puppy just chilling next to the food. My guess is that hygiene was not the greatest here, but the food tasted ok for what it was and we didn’t get ill. So can’t really complain.
Mount Kelimutu and the three lakes
Billy the host at Bintang lodge was really helpful in explaining the tour/guide options for going to the top of Mt Kelimutu and his excellent English skills really made our lives so much easier.
Despite having had a lot of pre 4am wake up calls since leaving Singapore we thought it a great idea to go to the top of the mountain for sunrise.
The driver for a day cost 750,000 rupiah or £40, which we didn’t think was to bad considering the time.
We got picked up at 4am, and it’s about a 45-60 minute drive up to the national park entrance.
At the entrance you have to pay 150,000 rupiah or £9 to enter the protected area.
Your driver drops you at the parking area, and you make your way to the top of the mountain on your own. It takes approximately 20-30 minutes to get to the top and isn’t to strenuous.
Compared to Mt Batur the number of the people at the top was astounding. There was maximum 50 people there compared to hundreds on Mt Batur.
We were able to get a spot right at the front with an amazing view of 2 lakes and the sun rise.
Even Moni generally was a lot colder than other areas of Flores due to how much higher above sea level it was.
There are two waterfalls in Moni. One on the map and easy to get to and one not.
On the main road in Moni if you take the path next to rainbow cafe and follow it down you reach a pretty waterfall (shown on map).
The unmapped waterfall
Our driver dropped us off at some rickety steps and said waterfall, I’ll wait here.
We looked on our maps and there was no waterfall mapped, we asked him were it was and he said over 1km and pointed to some bushes.
We didn’t really know where to go from here, and I think he could see that on our faces.
He arranged for a local man to takes us to the waterfall for 50,000 rupiah (£3).
There is no chance we would have found the waterfall with out him. We walked (scrambled) for around half an hour, through dense greenery, uphill rocks and flowing water.
In hindsight we really should have been in trousers as I ended up with scrapes and cuts on my legs from all the bushes, trees and rocks.
But we eventually made it and it was so nice to see an unspoilt natural landscape.
Unlike the waterfall I saw in Bali, there was no well trodden path with hundreds of tourists, nor was there a fee to see it, or stalls of tat.
It was literally myself, Dom and our willing guide (plus some pigs, cows, and mosquitoes obviously).
It was a real mission to get to but really worth the effort.
There are various natural hot springs in the Moni area and our driver stopped for us at one within a rice field.
We interrupted some poor local mans bath time and it was really awkward. Our driver took our my phone and snapped a picture of us capturing the old guy mid-wash. It felt a little awkward to be there while he was washing but he didn’t seem that phased.
Blanket weaving and Village experience
Our driver took us to a village where women weave blankets, scarves and clothes. It was really interesting to see the craftsmanship that goes into making these peices. But of course we felt obliged to buy an item, the lady was so desperate to show us all the products and knowing how poor the area is you can understand why.
We went to a village in the middle of nowhere, and explored there little patch of land.
There were houses made of straw, bamboo and other types of wood. Children running around, and families doing chores.
Not being religious myself, I actually found it quite refreshing that their god was nature. They worshiped nature and its powers rather than ‘an all powerful’ human figure which seemed pretty logical given nature decided their crop yield and hence their lives.
I did feel a hint of ‘set up‘ and don’t for one minute think this was a unique experience. I assume that tourists are taken here by drivers to encourage spending in the local villages.
But given how few tourists we saw in Moni and the way these people lived, I was happy to contribute what to us is a tiny amount of money.
There are a lot of really pleasant walks to do around the Moni area and one afternoon Dom and I found a route and went for a stroll.
We passed rice fields, farms, open landscape, roaming animals and tiny villages.
It felt like we were really getting to see the true Indonesian way of life. So far removed from the tourist bubble of Bali, and life as we know it.
Fortunately, a small child saw us backing away and got her Mum to make the dog let us pass.
Moni is a small picturesque village in Flores Ende.
It is beautiful, natural and has an undisturbed feel to it, though I think that may be changing soon.
It is completely cut off from the outside world, there is no wifi, TV or western amenities. But it’s actually pretty refreshing to take a break from normal life.
There is only one restaurant to eat at and the choice is limited, but completely adequate for a short stay.
The sunrise over Mt Kelimutu is impressive and the lakes within the volcano are amazing to see.
The unspoilt waterfalls and villages are a privilege to explore.
2 nights in this isolated little village are enough to relax, explore and see the Indonesian way of life.