Boats, Dragons and Bintang, Oh My!
Trip Start Sep 17, 2011
20Trip End Oct 07, 2011
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Where I stayed
This morning, after Flores instant coffee and banana pancakes served in our room, we were picked up by the tour operator for our day trip to Rinca island. We boarded a small boat and were off--enveloped in the perfume of exhaust fumes and the ear-splitting, teeth chattering machine gun sound of the engine. Total duration to the Komodo Nat'l Park was 2.5 hours. We were very happy to get off the boat, after sitting on hard wooden benches and periodically getting completely drenched with plumes of salty water from the rough sea. We were met by our guide, named "Mansur." He was a little man, about 4'9" with a huge lower lip. His English wasn't all that great, but we got the gist of what we were seeing,
Our first sighting of a dragon was about 10 steps from the entrance. We saw 5 more hanging out around the camp kitchen. Several of them were sleeping, but others were on alert with heads extended, tongues flickering, staring at the tasty tourists. Yesterday Carsen told us he'd read that the komodo dragon's gingiva grows down over their teeth, and everytime they bite something, their gums bleed, which deposits their bacteria-laden fluids into their victim
We decided to take the hour-long guided walk to see nature. All of the guides carry a simple forked stick, although it's hard to imagine how it would do anything against a full grown dragon. We followed our guide on a path which wound around and through forests and sandy plains, up to a viewpoint and then back down to the office. It was stinking hot. It was also a bit difficult to understand what the guide was telling us. At one point, Bill asked a question about the dragon's feeding habits while swimming in the sea. He asked, "Do they eat fish?" The guide's response: "They are pregnant for nine months." This was sort of a typical exchange, and he obviously has a list of canned responses, regardless of the questions.We did see a young Komodo during our walk, also a snake, 4 monkeys, a water buffalo and a deer. There were huge piles of buffalo poop on the trail. We took lots of pictures. Soon enough, we were back on the boat for the return trip to Labuan Bajo. Along the way, we stopped at an island for some snorkeling, but the wind was whipping the water, and that activity was aborted. We were expecting to eat lunch on the island, but for some reason the boat operators didn't give us our meal, so that made the stay on the mostly deserted island a little miserable. Plus there was no shade, and we had no towels.
We got back to town early due to the lack of snorkeling, and got a ride up to our room from the tour operator. After quick showers, out the door we went back to town to an ATM and another stop at the tour operator to arrange the overland portion of our trip. We were disappointed to find out that they expected the entire amount of money (3 million Rp which is about $320 USD in cash, up front. Because the ATMs around here only allow 2 million Rp to be withdrawn in a 24-hour period, we have had to scramble to come up with the big payment. Sure wish they took credit cards!. I should mention that when we left the room to head into town, we took a shortcut which consisted of haphazardly built and crumbling stairs, ramps,and gullies, all covered in trash.
As this was being written, the power went out in the restaurant. It still remained comfortable, given the flickering candles and lack of disco music. We left in pitch black conditions and headed back up to the room, using the shortcut. Fortunately we'd remembered our flashlight which made it a little less treacherous. Tomorrow we leave on our 4 day adventure across the island. First stop, Ruteng! Wish us luck!