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July 18, 2005

Rat Race


From offshore, Maumere began to take shape the closer we approached land. This was to be a restocking point for supplies for the next hop down the coast of Flores. We also hoped for an internet café to touch base, businesses to deal with immigration questions, banks for exchanging money, ect. I’d seen Maumere briefly from the crowded bus window in my initial trek across Flores, but hadn’t recalled it as being any more than a wide spot in the road. It proved to be much different upon our arrival.

Coming into a town is always such an adjustment. People in small villages will congregate around us with much curiosity (a group of small children the other evening were absolutely fascinated with my setting up the tent and putting air in the sleeping mats!). These same folks offer eggs and vegetables in exchange for a bit of knowledge about where we’re traveling in the kayaks. Arrival in town, especially with a unique ‘sampan’ (small boat), brings forth a deluge of curious onlookers, bustling about, volunteering help with moving gear from Point A to B. Organized chaos, and, all this before we leave the beach!

The streets of Maumere are much like the carnival atmosphere of the State Fair. Bemos with strings of flashing, multi colored lights, horns constantly honking, whiz by within inches. Motorbikes by the hundreds congregate at intersections or scream down the road, effortlessly darting in and out of traffic. People hang about store fronts, calling out, “Hey, Missy, want taxi?” or requesting you stop for a meal. It’s an event to walk down the street, dodging people, pigs, and motorbikes…Quite exciting, actually, and redefines my whole image of a ‘rat race!’

The streets tend to roll up about 8 p.m., the traffic lessens and the people seem to fade into the evening. A small bar and restaurant across the street from where we’re staying offers a quiet place at the end of the day, a sharp contrast to the streets a few hours earlier. A huge rat inhabits the flooring of this bar and makes his presence known after the sun goes down. He’s a bit moth eaten and has seen better days. His evening routine involves running full tilt along a series of drains in the floor, much like lab rats in a maze. The patrons of this place take no notice, but I sure do! He’s the biggest rat I’ve ever seen and would give most cats a run for their money! We watch for him to appear on his nightly dash around the drains and occasionally glimpse his long tail disappearing around a corner. Even quiet places in this town are constantly on the move! I guess rat races come in all forms.

Posted on July 18, 2005 1:59 PM