What one Indonesian tourist leaflet charitably calls the ‘Trans-Flores Hwy’ spirals, twists and tumbles nearly 700km from Labuanbajo to Larantuka, at the eastern end of the island. It’s sealed all the way, but buses are invariably small, cramped and overcrowded, and the road is narrow and tortuously winding. Floods and landslides in the rainy season are common. On the other hand, the stunning scenery certainly helps compensate.
It is best to break a trans-island journey at regular intervals so as not to get the bus passenger’s version of road rage. Be warned that all the twists and turns make a lot of people sick on the buses – it isn’t much fun sniffing the country air on a long ride.
Work started on an alternative route, the so-called ‘Trans-Northern Hwy’ between Reo and Mbay, years ago but many sections are in a deplorable state these days.
For those with more money than time, car rental is available in Labuanbajo or Maumere. The trans-island rate is 450, 000-500, 000Rp per day, including driver and petrol. This is becoming a very popular option for small groups, as you can stop where you like to take in remote attractions or take a photo.
Motorcycling across the island is fantastic with the combination of roads and scenery, but it’s only for experienced bikers, due to tough conditions and blind bends. A few superhuman cyclists with legs of steel manage to traverse the island too, using local buses to get up the worst hills and freewheeling down, but the topography of the island rules out cycling for all but Tour-de-France trainees.