The Decision, half naked hikes, and dragons

Trip Start Sep 18, 2010
Trip End Jul 27, 2011

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Where I stayed
On a boat
What I did
Snorkeling around Komodo National Park
Komodo Island
Rinca Island
Red Beach
Wera Island
Moyo Island
Satunda National Park
Satonda Island

Flag of Indonesia  , West Nusa Tenggara,
Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day 1
Early morning boat from Gili back to Lombok. Walk (with option to horse cart) from Lembar harbor to bus. Stops for shopping. Pick up a couple of live chicken: Dinner is covered. The chickens, right under my feet, poke their heads out of the rice bags they're in, looking sad and clucking. One wiggles half way out of the bag. I expect it to go loose in the bus any moment. We cross Lombok to another harbour. Then boarding our boat. Clean. Toilet looks alright: Squatty going straight into the ocean. Better hold it on the snorkeling stops. Shoes stay off on the boat. I am not happy about that. The only time I am comfortable shoe-less is on a sandy beach. I like even less that our backpacks are put away under deck. We have to take out what we need. How am I supposed to know?! I have never been on a boat for this long. This is stressing me. I can get over my fear of open waters. But I am ridiculously nervous about the comfort and hygiene. No showers before bed. I dread it. I could be wrong, but I think I would have minded less and been more excited about this adventure earlier on my travels. Or maybe it’s just the fact that I hurt my back on that marathon trip and am too exhausted to consider any more rough adventures.

On the bus across Lombok I (re-)made a decision. It isn’t the first time I have changed my mind, but this time feels different, firmer. I decided to skip Oz and NZ and instead make Indonesia the last big destination, before traveling back the way I came. Maybe reconnect with a few people I met along the way, maybe poke my head into another country or two on the way, spend some time with my family. For the first time in over 7 months I am not panicked at the thought of returning. I am tired of uncomfortable, never-ending bus rides, cold showers, haggling, BYOT (Bring Your Own Toilet paper) and communication challenges. Indonesia is a country of staggering natural beauty, but it has topped all the rest of this continent on my stops so far, for being uncomfortable. I want to come here again. But preferably not on a backpacker’s budget.

Last night I felt a little better after having dinner and a beer. I forced myself to get over my desire to be anti-social out of fear to be considered the boat’s prissy sissy, spoiled, uncool brat. Turns out it’s a nice group of people. 14 in total, 2 couples, 4 single travelers, 2 brothers, one other girl-combo like Vera and I, different nationalities. Irish, English, Aussie, German, Spanish, Mexican, French and counting Vera as Canadian rather than Paraguayan to balance the heavy Hispanic front. One guy, whose name and nationality I have not yet figured out (he is fluent in English, Spanish and reads Camus in an original French version, later I find out he is also fluent in German), takes out his guitar when the engine stops to anchor in front of some island. A 'holy shit’ slips out of my mouth when he starts to sing. Wow. Very nice voice! Quiet around. Sparkly things in the water, looks like some of the starry sky fell into the ocean. Our guide Wadi tells us that we will start moving at 2am tonight. Two hours after dark everyone crashes. It is not until 3.30am that the engine wakes us. Some of us sleep better than others through the ups and downs of the waves and engine vibrating through our bodies.

Breakfast of toast and jam. Then swimming ashore to Moyo Island, bikini-clad hike through the jungle. First walking through man-high bushes and hip-high grasses, then wiggling through vines and lianes and wading across little fresh water streams. Showering at a beautiful fresh water fall cascading through the jungle. This will be our only shower on this trip. Back through the jungle and swimming to the boat again. Our freshly rinsed skin salty again. Not comfortable, but happy because this morning I heaved my backpack up from under deck to the upper deck next to my mattress. Now my material things are close by and I can easily access them. I am so easy to please, am I not ;)?! (Lol, I wish that was more true.)

Satunda National Park in the afternoon: Swimming ashore again, or rather snorkeling ashore. Thanks to which we swim over and did not step onto the sea urchins with air bubbles glittering between their spikes in the shallow water. Warm saltwater lake in the middle of the island. I think the name of it was Satonda, uninhabited like many islands around here in the Flores Sea.

Commencing on a 16-hour boat ride from here to Komodo Island. Most people in bed again by 8pm, some even right after dinner at 6pm. There is not much to do after sun down. It is dark, the engine is too loud to talk other than one-on-one. Myself and Thorsten, one of two German brothers stay up later, chit chatting until 11pm or so. Still the earliest I have gone to bed in some time. Thorsten, 32, is an avid travel addict, former bar chef at a techno night club, convicted drug dealer from those wild days, has many tattoos, piercings and body implants, is a chain smoker. And against this superficial image he might present, is an extremely nice guy. Right now he is showing his little brother the world. Sascha, two years his junior is a brain tumour survivor who lost his teenage years to the illness. He still shows mild physical signs from those days, does not like to travel and his English is basic, making him appear a tad anti-social while he is actually super sweet once he excitedly discovered that I speak German. Watching the two interact is fascinating. Thorsten visibly loves his little brother dearly and the two have a bond I have never observed in anyone before. Before Sascha joined him on this trip, Thorsten traveled across Sumatra for a month with a bunch of street gang kids he met. It’s quite the story, involving poor teenagers, their suped up scooters, mobilizing friends and relatives across the whole island, showing up at their grannie’s house with 7 friends to stay the night and sharing what little they had with Thorsten. I learn that Sumatra is as rough to travel through as I heard before, with non-existent hygiene standards and bathroom conditions that make this boat look like a 5* hotel. Amongst this story and many other things, we talk about how it often takes personal tragedies like Sascha’s to start appreciating and living life to its fullest.

Banana crepes for breakfast. Hike up a hill on Wera, another uninhabited island. Overlooking bays, the ocean, tiny islands and hilly grass lansdscapes. No people, no animals. Just green grass, shrubs, sand, the ocean. Our boat anchored in the distant bay below us. Backpacker fashion is my climbers’ outfit: Hiking boots, turquoise bikini bottoms, orange long sleeved shirt, rolled up to expose my belly and lower back. Trying to even out my funny tan lines. Stylish. Not. The older Aussie guy on board smells despite the frequent dips and salt water disinfection. He is wearing the same clothes from day 1 still. I have good olfactory memory and recall them smelling then already.

More snorkeling by an Island that might be called Gili Banta. Hanging out at the famous Red Beach, which is picture-perfect once the Asian tourists in their fully covered, parasol holding, sun avoidance disappear. Pink sand. My water proof camera doesn’t capture its colours. My other camera is on the boat.

Komodo Island in the early afternoon. Wrong time of day to see dragons. Too hot. We see just a few of them lazying around. Back to boat. Swimming with microscopic jellyfish: Stings. Showering with a bottle of drinking water to make the jellyfish burn stop. Dinner. Vendors hanging out around the boat in their canoes trying to sell wood carvings of Komodo dragons. Flying Fox across the sky at sunset. They are a sort of massive bat. Another camera disappointment, because there isn’t enough light left to capture the Flying Foxes. Drinks and music on deck. Between Vera and my iPod/Phone we manage to cater to most every cheesy music requests, giving away hints at our age. By now, I know everyone’s name and a little bit about them (see photos). Vera, Hayes and I gang up on Rob defending Michael Jackson and playing several songs from my extensive collection. Just to make a point and drive it home, annoy Rob, who is in his early 20s and hence too young to appreciate the importance and impact of MJ on our youths. Tssss, tsss….

We slept without moving, no engine sound, just the gentle sway of a calm sea. Before our last snorkeling and swimming stop for this trip, Rinca (pronounced Rin-tcha) Island is our second stop in search of Komodo Dragons. It is early morning, therefore we are lucky this time and see these pre-historic beasts active. A couple of hours hiking through the muddy, pretty, Lord-of-The-Rings- and Tierra Del Fuego reminiscent scenery on Rinca leaves me with hiking boots that proved to be as waterproof as they claim. I wash them off with sea water and leave them on the front deck (or is that the bow?) to dry. 30 minutes before we dock at the final destination, it starts to pour so hard I can’t get to my boots without risking to completely soak my fresh clothes I just put on to de-board. I make the mistake of letting them be rained it. As a result, my trusty Echo boots now smell like something a Komodo Dragon would eat. From now on, they stay outside my rooms, at the risk of being stolen, chewed up by dogs or nested in by scorpions. 

We arrive at Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores in the afternoon. Here, we have the option of sleeping another night on this boat. About half of our group takes advantage of this. Vera and I find the best hotel I can afford, with a gorgeous view over the harbor and most importantly, a hot water shower. Getting clean has rarely felt this good. We meet the majority of our boat mates for dinner before splitting up to go our respective separate ways. Vera will be flying home from here, while I am going to hang around waiting for Manu to catch up again.
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aran on

what a great diary/inspiration piece Henni! You're having a wonderful adventure and it leaps off the screen to us! Thanks for sharing and reminding me of the take of Indonesian banana crepes for breakfast, the discomfort of loooong bus rides, and smelly clothes!
xo Aran

henniterness on

Thanks Aran, much appreciated. Now, if only I knew which Aran you are....there are a few I could think of ;)

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