Feed them meat

Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
Trip End Nov 30, 2009

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Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Well, I didn't get to feed anyone to a rampant dragon during our visit which was a real shame - there were plenty of loud and large Americans about yesterday that were perfect candidates for a quick shove resulting in a bloody sacrifice. Unfortunately the Komodo Dragons didn't turn up to the party or I'd be sleeping pretty now. (My apologies to the many fit, intelligent and reserved US citizens potentially reading this, but some of your compatriots have really been living up to the obnoxious US tourist stereotype).

Not to worry. We arrived Monday morning after another uneventful overnight sail. We did actually get some sailing done this time which was appreciated, and at 1.30am or so on my graveyard shift watch I witnessed an awesome moonset (if there is such a thing), which I can't recall ever seeing before (and hey, I've done a few all-nighters!). It was blood red and fell just like a western hemisphere sunset, except on a pitch black background. Combine that with calm seas, no course changes or obstacles, and a fiery shooting star every couple of minutes and you have the perfect watch.

Barren and jagged hillsides all around Spooky water currents

I awoke at 8 or so and found our boat surrounded by desolate islands and chugging through in the middle of a washing machine. Sounds dramatic but it wasn't. The straits between Komodo and Rinca Islands are known by sailors the world over for having some of the most notorious currents, so one minute we were travelling over glass at 8.5 knots (very fast) and seemingly not moving, then in the middle of rippling, whirling, turgid seas the next, bucking and bronking and going only 3.5 knots. Action.

We managed to stay roughly on course and eventually get the anchor down before lunchtime. Then some enterprising locals came and spruiked a ride to shore and that's when the American problems began. To cut a long story short we went to see the Dragons at 3pm or so and there was none around, even after a 4km return walk, which made the Americans pretty hot, bothered and disappointed. Then there was a misunderstanding with the negotiated price of the boat - we thought we agreed 150,000 rupiah to collect and return 4 yacht's worth of passengers, but the locals were expecting an exorbitant 150,000 for each yacht - and their English wasn't so good after the job was done. We ended up paying 200,000 which settled it, but everyone was grumpy that night.

So this morning I got my chores done early and got them to drop me to shore so I could try the dragons again. Lo and behold I had a much better day. I joined a group of young Frenchies and saw four of the legendary dragons near shore and one out in the wild, which made me feel much better about the insurance coverage included with every entrance ticket. That and the story of the European that recently went missing - they found his mangled spectacles and chewed up camera a month or two later. In the end I didn't try to ride one.

Welcome to Loh Liang Glad I'm covered

The monsoon forest walk was interesting on this otherwise barren hunk of rock island. It's a bizarre and (currently) dry jungle full of stately trees, massive palms, delicate pink orchids, and a rich variety of wildlife (including deer, wild boar, water buffalo, eagles, brush turkeys, civets, and of course the famous reptiles). Ground cover is very light and the terrain is flat which makes it easy to move around. Very similar but different to the top end scrub witnessed just last month.

Big palms Strange pineapple palm Familiar scrub with bizarre trees This palm grows to an enormous size, then for one season sprouts millions of seed pods, then promptly dies. Talk about living fast and dying young...

So what about the dragons I hear you say... These guys are pretty funky, especially when they move about, which unfortunately due to the heat is not very often. It is estimated that there are about 2,500 to 3,000 in the wild in the Komodo/Rinca National Park and it is the only place on Earth that this particular species now inhabits. They live to the ripe old age of 50 years, sometimes measure up to 3 metres in length, can weigh up to 100 kilos if a fully grown male, and can eat up to 40 kg in one feed. Here's a couple of 25-30 year olds in various states of motion, and another with a GPS kit on so researchers can track range and movements.

Heads up and looking about Woohoo it's moving!

GPS for research purposes Komodo lair in a riverbank

Komodos can climb, swim and run up to 15km per hour, but it is not the act of biting which is the major concern. When they bite they transmit a nasty bacteria which infects the wound which in turn ends up killing the carrier within a few hours. So guess who ended up standing right next to one just to get a photo? That's right, the moron in the VB cap.

Hanging out at the beach Ross about to be dinner

Thank goodness they're so lethargic they're not likely to move more than a few metres per hour in the middle of the day. There is a 1 mb video in the photo gallery of one lumbering about so check it out. I had to share a Bintang with it to get him moving.

So what do I think of the Komodo experience? It is a bit of a tourist trap and the locals have made a sport of extracting as much cash from travellers as possible with persistent and hard selling. To be expected but annoying. There has been a steady decline in Komodos since feeding was abolished back in 1994, I assume because the poor guys have to range a lot further to find sustenance. Apparently the neighbouring island of Rinca (pron. Rincha) has more accessible and larger groups of Komodos, plus monkeys, which makes it a better option these days.

Still, just half an hour ago at dusk we saw a bunch of wild boars feeding on the beach next to us, so some of that David Attenborough stuff is still retained here once the tour boats and locals head home. And I did have a good, mellow day today which probably illustrates the importance of the company you keep.

Next entry -> Palau (Island) Banta - paradise on a stick

Ode to a beard

Every day, for fifteen long years,
I held a blade to my throat,
And I've shaved my face,
To within an inch of my life,
Thank goodness I'm now on this boat.

Because it's one holiday month
since I've picked up a razor,
And the facial hair has kept on growing.
Across cheek and jowl, lip and chin,
everywhere I'm no longer mowing.

I must admit,
it's been quite and affair.
Now it's firmly taken hold.
I'm getting used to the new sensation,
And the growth doesn't seem to slow.

So now I have a bushy moustache,
and an even bushier beard.
It's a little itchy,
and just a little scratchy,
And it feels pretty weird.

But ladies love it, I look more manly,
and I can re-sit every meal.
All definite benefits,
of this hairy appendage,
I nurture with increasing zeal.

But I digress,
it's been only a month,
that I've had to deal with it for.
Another month and I might go nuts,
So I'll shave it off in Singapore.
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