Friday, March 27, 2009

In search of dragons

We left Jake in Jogyakarta and started a mad dash eastwards. Our plan was to split up with Jake, head east to see what we wanted and then meet up later on Timor island and go together to East Timor. Since we'd already booked a flight out of E. Timor we had a very limited time to stay in Indonesia and a few "musts" to accomplish first. It was going to be another rush but we were determined.
Our first day we took another economy train, 15 hrs east to the end of Java. It wasn't as bad as it sounds because the train wasn't very full and the weather a little cooler. We crashed that night at a little hotel beside the ferry terminal rather than take a midnight ferry. The following day we pushed forward by jumping on the ferry to Bali. One thing we quickly noticed (and has held true so far throughout Indonesia) is that they must have some sort of no-wake zone everywhere, because the ferries are so slow. It's like they are afraid to rev the engines. It was a 45 minute crossing that could've been done in about 15.
Not wanting to deal with the hassles of Bali when all we wanted to do was cross it, we waited around for the bus that went directly to the opposite ferry terminal to Lombok, the next island. There is definitely a transport hassle and they like to overcharge everyone foreign but we have managed to get by. It only takes 5 hours to cross Bali, but it took us a little longer because the bus kept getting stopped by Hindu festival processions. It reminded us of India with all the Hindu temples and it always did feel like there was a festival everyday in India too. No idea what it was for, but it did make the bus ride a little more interesting. We stayed that night at the local hotel (that was hard to find because nobody will point you to it, but only to the expensive tourist guesthouses) across from the ferry terminal again.
The following day, again at the crack of dawn like the days before, we jumped on the ferry to Lombok (4 1/2 hours) where we were hassled by transport touts to get into town. We managed to stir up enough trouble and bluff walking 22km so that we got the real price and then got talked into an overnight bus onward to Flores.
On our fancy A/C delux coach we head off across Lombok, jumped on another ferry to Sumbawa (only 1 1/2 hrs that time) and an all-night drive across Sumbawa. At dawn we switched to a smaller bus to the next ferry terminal. The ferry to Labuanbajo, Flores takes 7 hours but we had to wait 4 1/2 hours for it to leave because it was just sitting in port waiting to fill. The schedules here are very subject to the whims and fancies of the captain I think. Maybe we could ask them to set sail for Australia! Every ferry we've been on has looked different and had a different layout. The only consistency is that the seats are hard, they are mostly covered but open-air (although they go so slow that there is almost no breeze at all) and not very busy. There are some great views from the boat though as every island seems to be volcanic and you can get great views of the volcanoes that form the core of each island in the chain.
On the overnight bus we'd met an older Japanese guy that was getting nailed by every tout in the country. He'd spent in one month on Bali (which is supposed to be cheap if you do it right) as much as I'd spent in 2 years. No wonder my life is so difficult with overpricing. He wanted to follow us and get some tips on saving money, but there is no way such a drastic change was going to work for him. He crashed with us that one night and then moved on alone the following day, even though we were supposed to do a boat trip together.
Having made it to Labuanbajo and checking in to the only cheap homestay with rooms left (and they were just little wooden boxes and nothing else) we were happy to have arrived at our first destination in only 4 days of solid travel. The following morning we were up early and on a boat to nearby Rinca island.
Rinca, together with nearby Komodo island, is part of Komodo National Park, the home of the world's largest lizard, the Komodo dragon. Mom had been dreaming of coming here to see them since the beginning of the trip 4 years ago so it's actually quite amazing that we have managed to loop around and finally get there. The lizards are basically and overgrown monitor lizard and the males grow up to 3.1m long and weigh up to 100Kg. Their saliva is also septic because of a high amount of some bacteria so the bite is fatal to their prey of deer, buffalo and wild pigs. Humans have been attacked as well and unless medical attention is quickly sought, would also die from a bite. They know all this and yet the dragons are just hanging around the park office and under the accommodation huts and the nearest medical facilities require a flight back to Bali. Yikes! From the little park office you pick up a guide (and he gets a big stick to protect you) for a short hike around the island to spot the dragons and any other wildlife. We saw most of the dragons at the camp though.
After Rinca we stopped to snorkel at a little islet on the way back to Flores. Komodo NP is also one of the top dive destinations in Indonesia and I was very tempted but the price is too high. We did see a sea turtle from the boat, but failed to find the famous manta rays that hang out here as well. The snorkelling was good, lots of coral and fish, but I definitely prefer diving. The breathing is just so much easier to figure out....
It was a great day, but again, with our crazy schedule, we had to continue our hectic schedule and move on the following day.


At 9:20 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

41hr 45 min plus time travelling in this blog, man that's nuts!!!
You guys when you get back should compete in the IRon Butt Motorcycle race.



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