Frenchman Olivier Fargeix is the adventuring type. Never in his whole life has he sat behind a desk. He’s travelled the world on almost every possible means of transportation for over 35 years. Not too keen on school studies; he dreamed of distant wildernesses, with an initial dream of a military career, things changed with one encounter that changed his fortune.
Indeed, a friend enticed him to do something rather unusual and very exciting for the first time: touring Africa on a bicycle, starting from Zaire. This changed his life and fate forever. Now residing on Flores, aged 54, Olivier Fargeix is a proud family man, father of a little girl, and he’s partly slowed down his adventurous lifestyle.
In 2008, along with a few friends he built an eco-lodge called 4 Pohon, between Riung and Pota. It’s a small place, completely self-sufficient in terms of electricity and clean water and designed to welcome people of his kind – the die-hards who have a serious thing for hitting the road no matter what, staring far away at the sunrise on a never-ending road.
After his African adventures and around six years of sailing on a boat from Europe to South America, where he lived for some time in Brazil, it was only during the 90s that he finally discovered the country that led him to settle a little, Indonesia.
He didn’t come to the beloved archipelago to laze around at a comfy seaside resort like the ones in Kuta, Bali. He went cross Borneo from Indonesia to Malaysia on a bicycle again – and exploit he repeated later around Nias Island. Bicycles, ships, cars, buses, motorcycles, you name it; Olivier Fargeix will embark on any trip, as long as it is not for the fainthearted.
He’s become an accomplished biker since he moved to Indonesia and has travelled extensively in no less than 23 Indonesian provinces on a motorcycle. “I think I rode about 250,000 kilometres on a two-wheeler around the country,” he said with true modesty. This is in comparison to his previous 20,000 nautical miles he’s sailed during his South American endeavour.
This part of the world inspired him, for the first time, to settle down in a place where he could share his passion for travels and adventures with friends; a vast place with no fences around. This was impossible to do in Brazil, you have to live armed 24/7 because of the high crime rate and the consequent need to protect yourself and your belongings. So he decided to do it in Flores. “I found it in Flores; freedom exists here. We have built our eco-lodge on a huge plot of land with no fence just like in my dreams,” he explained. Flores is a place that has slowly but surely become the meeting point of many bike adventurers of the archipelago.
Indeed, 4 Pohon is now on the road map. For two years in a row, famous Indonesian biker club RoFA (Ring of Fire Adventure) has dropped by to shoot footage for their Kompas TV show, “Return to the East.” 4 Pohon can accommodate about 50 bikers while also offering camping on the premises.
Local Bank BRI staff also come every year to camp. Around 200 people invade the site, turning it into a vast gathering of nature lovers united at night around a huge bonfire. For the rest of the year, 4 Pohon is a quieter, 12-bed resort where foreign and local bikers love to come to share their passion for riding the beautiful trails of the island.
“Flores is like my garden. I can guide anybody for a ride around the island. My place is not exactly like a hotel, this is a place where we share the same lifestyle, the rider lifestyle,”
he explained. On-site, there are two Honda XR250, one Suzuki DR200, and one Kawasaki KLX150 to suit different levels of off-road riding without much difficulty.
“Sometimes, I have people coming with their own high-performance motorcycles, equipped with road-book. I mark the destination on their GPS and let them go fast first. Most of the time, people come here to enjoy the ride altogether, not to go full speed MotoGP style,” he added with a laugh.
The main purpose of these tours is mostly to discover the beautiful scenery of Flores. Not to forget the people – Olivier has developed many friendships with the locals and always offers the guests to drop by here and there in remote villages.
“When we go riding for several days, sometimes we have to camp near villages. This way, we can borrow from the villagers what’s necessary to cook for example,” explained this hotelier-biker. As a guide, he can also bring you to unknown places, completely off the beaten track.
“I know plenty of hidden waterfalls, but I won’t disclose their location here. It’s my secret. I know rivers, canyons, caves, hills, volcanoes, and bays. Flores is not only Labuan Bajo, Ende, or Maumere, the Kelimutu three crater lakes or the Komodo dragons! To give you an idea, I bring my guests to the top of the active volcano, Mount Ya, where nobody ever goes except to plant a flag every once a year for the national day!” he explained.
According to him, the word adventure today has lost its meaning to become a tourism marketing strategy for holiday-makers. Biker tours have become more and more like organised rallies and less like real trips. It’s just a tourism business, he bemoans.
“Sometimes, we just go according to our feelings. We don’t have to reach an accommodation where to sleep at night, with pre-paid booked bedrooms and breakfasts. We have our tents, so we are free. A trip is something to live together, not something to buy from a catalogue,” he concluded.