Exploring the Natural Wonders of West Timor – Mount Fatuleu/Gunung Fatuleu
It wasn’t long before I realised that West Timor had a lot of natural beauty. I then made it my mission to explore the natural wonders of West Timor. As the public transport timetable was quite restrictive, my friend Jeff was kind enough to let me borrow his bike to get myself up to Gunung Fatuleu, or Mount Fatuleu. It is situated in Oelbiteno, about 50km northeast of Kupang. The roads were good most of the way up, except for a 100m stretch. There it looked like the road had been attacked with jackhammers, leaving it in a very rocky and uneven state.
What Road Rules?
Even with the mostly decent state of the roads, riding up there was indeed an adventure. It took every ounce of concentration I had to keep out of the way of cars, trucks, mopeds and dirt bikes driving on the wrong side of the road while overtaking. It seems that even solid lane markings are only suggestions that are to be ignored when you want to pass someone.
The constant cat and mouse game was very tiring, which made it all the more lovely when I found myself on a deserted mountain road. Thankfully, that would be the road I’d be on for what was left of the journey to Mount Fatuleu. Even though I was following a map, the entrance to the mountain trail was not easy to find. I initially rode straight past it!
Finding Mount Fatuleu
Luckily I realised quickly that I’d overshot the target and eventually found the entry. I should mention at this point that it had been misty for the entire trip up. I had been hoping that it would clear by the time I got to my destination. It was not my lucky day. I had stopped a few times enroute, when the mist had moved enough to see the top of the mountain. Unfortunately, the mist managed to return to its perch on the mountain top before I could get a picture of it. You’ll just have to imagine that it was there!
Getting My Bearings
After a quick stop at the park map, I found my way to the start of the trail up the hill. My map was telling me that it was only 400m to the peak. I must admit, I was a little disappointed, as I was dressed for a proper hike, not a stroll! At the beginning, the trail seemed to consist of your average run-of-the-mill stairs, but that escalated quickly into a chunky uneven concrete nightmare, that had me wondering what the workers who constructed it were drinking when they did it. At least I was getting a workout!
It seems the workers gave up when they hit a rock outcrop a little further up the trail and figured that if people made it that far, they were on their own for the last 200m. That left me literally in the middle of the mist with no trail to follow. You’d think I’d turn back at that point, right? Not a chance! I found my own way through the rocky forest! By the time I made it to what my map told me was the top, I was completely engulfed by the mist. I was quite glad when I’d made it back to the crosses at the rock outcrop, which indicated that the stairs were nearby and I’d be out of the mist momentarily.
Natural Wonders of West Timor – Goa Kristal/Crystal Cave
So onto another day and another adventure! My friend had generously allowed me to use his bike again. This time head to Goa Kristal, or Crystal Cave in Bolok, 20km west of Kupang. On the way there, I ended up on a 4 lane highway that had a strip of land running through the middle of it, separating it into two 2 lane roads. I had figured that this was done to give both directions of traffic their own road. I found out I was wrong when the occasional truck going in the opposite direction ended up on the same road as me. So it’s really just another Indonesian ‘drive where you want’ deal.
Turn Left at the Coast
At the end of the highway, I found myself on a road that followed the coast for a while, before making its way into the town of Bolok. I had to ride through the town for a bit to reach the dirt road that led to the cave. I was lucky enough to see some local cows just hanging out, eating grass. The town also seemed very proud to be Christian. There were crosses on the side of the road throughout the town.
Cows and crosses
After a short drive down the dirt road, my map was indicating that I was right near the cave, but I couldn’t see any signs to indicate exactly where it was. I did see a small trail that seemed to be going in the general direction I needed, so I followed it for a few minutes to a fence with a small gate that was locked from the other side. I was hoping that I hadn’t gone all that way to be stopped by a fence! While I was there, contemplating my next move, a young man appeared from nowhere inside the fenced area and began running toward the gate. My welcome wagon had arrived!
Getting to the Cave
The young man, who introduced himself as Bo, enthusiastically welcomed me and beckoned for me to come in. Upon walking through the gate, I could see a cute handmade wooden sign, but still no cave. Thankfully Bo knew exactly where it was and had me at the cave entrance almost instantly. The opening was so small that it would definitely be difficult to find unless you knew exactly where it was.
The cave entrance from both the outside and the inside
Bo then asked myself and a family, that had gotten there just before I did, if we wanted to go inside. You can imagine what my response was, but only one of the people from the family was eager to have a look. I almost had a bat fly into my face on the way in, then heard some squeals behind me as the younger members of the family caught a glimpse of the bat.
Where’s the Lake?
After giving my eyes a second to adjust to the darkness, I realised that the lake was still a considerable distance below me and the ‘path’ down was full of slippery rocks. It was totally worth it to see the lake close up and dip my hand in though!
Not long after I’d made it to the lake at the bottom of the cave and was letting the serenity of the place wash over me. Then I heard a huge splash. Bo had jumped in for a swim! As I hadn’t realised that swimming was allowed, I’d not brought a change of clothes. So sadly, I had to decline Bo’s invitation for a swim. At least he looked like he was enjoying himself though!
Natural Wonders of West Timor – Air Terjun Oenesu/Oenesu Waterfalls
Anyone that knows me is aware of the fact that I’m in love with waterfalls. I try to find them in each new place that I go to. It was rather convenient that there was a small set of falls in Oenesu, about 20km southeast of Goa Kristal. Again, the road was good for most of the journey. Until I had to turn onto a bumpy dirt road about 5km before the falls.
My map was trying to guide me to an area that didn’t look very accessible. I decided to just keep following the road and eventually found myself in an empty parking area. I swear there was no one around when I entered the area. As I got off the bike, there was all of a sudden a young man behind me asking for money to see the waterfall. I was a bit taken aback as all sources had told me that there was no entry fee. It was at that moment that another young local appeared from nowhere and told the first guy not to charge me.
Rocky Road to the Falls
My new friend, Raymond, decided that he would guide me to the falls and show me the secret viewing places. This involved a bit of rock climbing, but I’m always up for a bit of an adventure!
The real fun started after seeing the falls. I saw a trail to the side of the falls and asked where it went. Raymond advised that it went around the back of the falls and indicated that we should take it.
A Slight Detour
While we were on that trail, I noticed some fallen coconuts and may have professed my love for them. That caused him to say, “I can get you coconut. Would you like?”. So he took me to his house, which was nestled in the middle of a forest, where he proudly introduced me to his family. It was only a short stop so he could pick up his coconut carving knife.
From there we took a short walk through the forest. As we walked along Raymond would point out things and tell me the Indonesian words for them. After just a few minutes, he had spotted the tree he was looking for. He wasted no time in climbing to the top to ‘shake down’ a coconut for me.
Shaking the Coconut Down
I had noticed that most of the coconut trees in the area had foot and hand holds carved into them at intervals. That’s what the locals used to climb up and down the trees and make it look like it’s the easiest thing in the world. Once back on the ground, Raymond used his knife to open the humongous coconut for me.
As he handed me the freshly opened coconut, Raymond said, “Kelapu Oenesu”, which means Oenesu Coconut. After drinking the water from it, the coconut was chopped in half so that I could enjoy the delicious flesh inside.
Sunset Over Sea
How do you end a wonderful day? With dinner and sunset at a highly recommended cafe down the road from the falls! I’d actually planned to go to Cafe Tebing for lunch. I was disappointed to find it closed at 1pm. It didn’t open until 4pm, just in time for dinner. Indonesians are so easy going that they don’t even open their businesses at normal hours!
As with many places in Timor, this cafe is open-air, with a super relaxed atmosphere. Perhaps a little bit too relaxed when it comes to bringing out food in a timely fashion, but who’s going to complain when you get this view while waiting?
To say the sunset was stunning would be an understatement. I’d dare say this is possibly the best view in town. From almost anywhere in the cafe you have a panoramic view from port to coast.
All Good Things..
Unfortunately, my time in Timor had to end. On the day I left, Jeff cooked up a local delicacy, Pisang Goreng, or fried banana for breakfast. And it was AMAZING!
I wasn’t the only one delighted with the meal! Apparently Matt also loves this dish. But Jeff only cooks it when people are visiting from overseas. I’d say it’s worth a trip to Kupang just to try it.
After an obligatory picture, to remind us just how happy Jeff’s food had made us, I headed off to the airport.
Next stop – Jakarta.
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