Deutschlanders and dragons

Trip Start Oct 27, 2004
Trip End Aug 17, 2005

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Monday, May 30, 2005

We arrived at the port of Labuan Lombok slightly before sunset after a day being bundled around in a tiny van from one place to the next. We'd met our fellow passengers, twelve Germans, three Swedes, an Irishman and a Polish girl. Should make for an interesting journey. The boat was certainly adequate and we set sail for our first day. Fishing, swimming and sunset were all on the day's list of activities, unfortunately, as we arrived at our destination somewhat after sunset no-one really felt much like swimming or snorkelling. The fishing rods seemed to have been left behind or, more likely, never existed so we all sat down together for a lovely meal of rice, rice, rice and a couple of watery veggies. Nutritious!

The next day's schedule was similarly compromised as we didn't realise that the 6 activities listed were to be carried out in the 50 minutes or so stop we were allowed at what can only be described as paradise. By this time some of our 'central European' passengers were scratching their heads and looking at the schedule, "But the schedule says that we are stopping for the swimming, the climbing to the cave, but we have already seen the sunset, I am not understanding this". At this point it was obvious to us that a culture clash was inevitable, although to be honest I think all on board were getting the feeling that the crew were taking the piss a little especially as we were spending most of our time picking up or dropping off the crew's pals!

The four day journey continued pretty much in the same vein right the way through, glimpses and quick drop-offs at places we all wanted to spend days whereas the crew only wanted to stop for as long as it took to sell some of our pre-paid beers to the natives. Nonetheless a lovely trip spent with some varied and delightful company, it was quite funny to be in the company of such a strange mix of INCREDIBLY laid back Indonesians and rather anxious Germans. It was much to the amusement of our German ship-mates that Ciaran, Alex and I were brought breakfast in bed by one of the deckies because we'd slept in until the rediculous hour of 7! At first I found it very surreal waking up on a boat at dawn to half a pancake and cries of "Ahhh, fantastiche!", then I realised I was on a boat full of Germans on my way to an island inhabited by dragons. Nothing out of the ordinary afterall!

The islands of Komodo and Rinca were amazingly atmospheric and just the right scenery to see the infamous monitor lizards as the whole landscape was so dry it really did look as if it had been burned by dragons. We saw a surprisingly large number of lizards ranging from smaller females to quite intimidating 6 to 8ft males! We were lucky enough to see two males have a bit of a fight with each other. This consisted of a lot of hissing and slow prowling around each other followed by them both rearing up into a kind of wrestling hold only to promptly fall back down - the one who landed on the top of the pair was the winner. It was really quite amazing to watch them as it looked just like something you would see on a BBC documentary. All over the islands were the skulls of water buffalo as when the lizards eat them the only thing they can't digest is the horns - everything else goes - hooves and all, and these buffalo were huge.

The underwater life on the boat trip was similarly spectacular, from strange elongated fish that changed colour, to schools of cuttlefish, from huge turtles to a sneaky little sea-snake that I almost swam straight into. Although the stops were brief, they were certainly crammed with a shed-load of input. On one snorkelling adventure I even got to see a particularly rare example of a stream of bog roll leading from our boat to the reef as one of our ship-mates had forgotten the old addage "don't sh@t where you snorkel!".

Flores itself was a complete enigma. The bus rides were spectacular, if at times horrifying, journeys past steaming volcanoes and dense jungle. The towns where we stopped seemed to be inhabited entirely by glue sniffing, joy-riding teenagers and the only steam came from the taxi drivers and open sewers. The exception to this was Moni, at the foot of the beautiful Kelimutu volcano which is famed for its forever-changing three, individually coloured, crater-lakes. Moni was a money trap however and relaxation was finely balanced with wallet-guarding, especially from our ever money vigilant landlady. Mama was a mean-spirited old beast who constantly telling us to relax, every time we did we were interrupted by either her or her husband asking for some sort of payment, the bill was particularly amusing! The area was splendid however and the lakes were as eerie as you could imagine as sunrise burnt off the mist to reveal the multi coloured crater-lakes. Everyone needed a change of underwear when an avalanche began on one of the 100 meter high crater rims, the noise was scarily like the one I have stored in my head for volcano eruptions. Last time this baby blew (back in '69) the water from the lakes was sent 10km skyward, not sure if that's covered by the insurance!

The rest of our time in Flores was spent trying to get a boat to Kupang in West Timor to cross the border and renew our soon-to-expire visas. It certainly was a wild and beautiful place, made all the better by the company of Ciaran and Alex whom we met on the boat ride. One piece of advice though, if you come to Flores bring lots of small change, a tonne of patience and a million rolls of film. Also bring a pen and paper so you can draw a map of where you come from for the locals, they are some of the loveliest and most inquisitive people on Earth (Well, most of them)!
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