Lubuanbajo at last!

Trip Start Mar 19, 2008
Trip End Jun 05, 2008

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Where I stayed
Green Hill Apartments

Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Thursday, May 29, 2008

Boy was I glad to get to Labuanbajo!  And yes Labuanbajo is as hard to pronounce as it sounds so I'll just call it LB.  Lovely as the scenery and everything was and as much as I will cherish my memories of Flores, it was blooming tough going, and 4 days in a car takes its toll on a girl!  We've spent the last 3 months on buses, trains, planes, boats and cars but this journey was the hardest, complete with hairpin bends, steep mountains, bad roads and lots and lots of potholes.  Of couse, my husband, lovely as he is, is convinced that travel sickness is all in the mind....  Obviously he's never lost his stomach contents at the side of a road!

But now we had finally arrived!  The most exciting part of getting to LB was the hotel.  A real hotel.  Ok so the room had single beds.  But the beds were clean and had fresh sheets - a novelty in Flores.  And a shower - ok so we couldn't get the hot water to work but it was a shower all the same.  And best of all - it had a perfectly clean flushing toilet!  Not a foul-smelling, darkened pit which had become the norm!  I'm sure the novelty will wear off but for now every time I flush it makes me very happy!

The main reason to visit LB is the boat trips that take you to visit the komodo dragons.  So once we arrived, we scurried off in search of a boat and bumped into a Belgian guy called Jean Louis (shy but strange) who was happy to share a boat with us and split the costs.  The dragons are lizard-like, dinosaur-esqe creatures that live on 2 islands off the coast - Komodo and Rinca - and can be up to 3m long.  They're pretty vicious little buggers and eat big buffalo, deer, wild horses, small children and anything else they can get their teeth into.  That is, after they've watched it bleed to death.  Even their babies hide up a tree for their first 2 years because they are terrified that Mummy or Daddy will eat them!  And chances are they probably will.  I'm starting to wonder why we want to keep these things from becoming extinct!

So after a good night out with an English couple we bumped into called Sam and Liam, we set off for Rinca island as we'd heard there is a better chance of seeing dragons there.  The boat trip to Rinca was stunning and mercifully calm.  When we arrived at 9.30am it was already scorching hot.  We hired a guide and set off on a 5km hike around the island in search of the dragons.  The guide was busy telling us that he couldn't gaurantee that we would see any dragons at all, when suddenly we came face to face with two giant dominant males wrestling with each other.  The sound of them grunting and hissing at each other was terrifying!  They continually reared up on their hind legs and slapped into each other.  While we scurried to take photos and videos while keeping at a safe distance, our guide was busy fending off a third dragon with a stick, who had snuck up behind us. 

The walk through the grasslands in search of other dragons (what were we thinking?!) was soo creepy.  We were walking through fields of shoulder-high grass and I was convinced that a dragon was going to get me!  It was like one of those scary movies where nothing happens but there is that constant feeling of terror.  Of course in those kinds of movies, the guy at the back always gets it.  So we made sure that we put poor old Jean Louis at the back! 

Our next encounter with a dragon was in a dry river bed, where we saw 2 of them scurrying away over the rocks at an unnerving speed.  We looked on at the damage they had done to some wild buffalo.  One of them had a nice bite on his nether regions (ouch!) - the dragons like to attack from behind.  He was bleeding quite badly and the guide said he would be dead by the end of the week, when the dragons would come back and claim their dinner.  The poor buffalo.  Although thankfully he looked completely oblivious. 

A few hours and a few more dragon sightings later, I was relieved to be heading back to the safety of our little boat. I was hoping to use the toilet on the way but there was a dragon guarding the door so I decided I could wait!  But just as we turned to walk along the pier, another little monster appeared - and he was sitting between us and the boat.  Suddenly panic set in all around, as he stared at us and we stared at him.  Of course the boys got their cameras out and starting taking lots of photos.  That morning, I'd asked the guide what we should do if a dragon charged at us and he had said to stay absolutely still, and whatever you do don't run.  Of course when it starts charging at you, common sense goes completely out the window.  Paul and Jean Louis almost dived off the pier when he started his frightenly fast charge and guess who was standing behind them!  Mind you I didn't see the dragon get off the pier because I was too busy running like a big girl in the opposite direction.  I will never forget the sound of the dragon's feet getting closer and closer as my mind raced and I struggled to get away.  2 boats full of local fishermen in the meantime looked on and cracked up with laughter - thanks guys. Luckily something registered in my blonde brain and I remembered the guide saying that the dragons have very bad eyesight so I made a drastic swerve to the left and jumped onto a bench and the dragon raced past me.  I didn't wait around to see what it was going to do next as I scarpered back down the pier and high-tailed it onto the boat. That was enough excitement for one day!  The rest of the day was spent lazing on the beach and snorkelling on a deserted island on the way home.  Although I did keep checking the bushes to make sure there were no more dragons lurking around!

Want to see dragon photos and much more? Have a look at Paul's Flores pics....
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