Published: December 14th 2010December 13th 2010
Salamat datang! Welcome back to Bali. I am now staying in Sanur, on the SE coast this time. A much more laid back atmosphere than the chaos of Kuta Beach. Mostly an older, middle aged crowd (wait a minute-I am middle aged as well!), and a much more sedate atmosphere. I also decided to splash out on more upscale accommodation at the Alit Beach Resort, right on Sanur Beach. I get functioning air conditioning, a queen sized bed with mosquito net, television with english channels, swimming pools, resort living and daily breakfast. And all this luxury is costing me about $33/night. There's time for tightening the budget later.
My journey to Komodo Island began on Sunday, December 5th, on the Peramatour Boat #212, with 12 other adventure seekers. I booked deck class, which meant I would be bunking on a mat on the covered deck aft. First we toured overland through the island of Lombok, stopping first at Masbagik, to see how traditional pottery is made by hand, without a mechanical spinning wheel. In less than 15 minutes the local lady had produced a finished pot! It seems that the women of the village predominantly perform this work as the
men are not as capable. We also had a snack of "pillow cakes" made from rice and banana boiled in wrapped palm leaves. We set sail after lunch, anchoring off Gili Perama where we played some beach volleyball and snorkelling the rebuilt choral reef. The choral reefs throughout the region have been heavily damaged by extensive past use of dynamite for fishing. This practise has since been banned, but the damage takes many years to repair. For supper, we had bbq chicken on the beach, plus fresh roasted corn. Later after a couple of Anker beers we participated in an Indonesian traditional dance with simple four step moves, that soon fell into disarray and amusement. Back on the boat for a night sail to Satonda Island, where I noticed that the safety rails on the upper deck were not even knee high! Some of the passengers wouldn't even attempt a bathroom break overnight for fear of falling overboard! I didn't have much choice after the Ancher beers!
After a long night of 9 hours sailing time, I was barely coping with the seasickness, but the morning plunge into the sea was refreshing. After breakfast we hiked up to the
volcano crater lookout. Currently a non-active volcano that was filled by seawater from a tsunami in 1815. It made for some nice swimming. During our lunch break I discovered that the crew really likes their reggae music. After some more sailing we arrived at the primitive village of Dongo on the Island of Sumara. Basic thatched hut living with traditional livestock such as chickens, goats, and water buffalo. And yet, some villagers still manage to own small motorcycles to negotiate the muddy tracks in the region. Had a couple of beers before supper and a night sail at 2100 hours into the teeth of a very big storm. Sleep was nigh impossible due to being tossed around on our sleeping mats, and we all spent a very unpleasant night.
On Tuesday, December 7th we weighed anchor at Komodo Island. This was definately the highlight of my time in Indonesia as the first beast we saw was nearly 3 metres, weighing over 100 kilograms! Such a fascinating creature, a real throwback to the age of dinosaurs! Our guide said that this Komodo Dragon was probably 40 years old. When walking the creature projects his forked tongue testing the air for
signs of prey, even humans! Fortunately the park ranger had a long forked stick to project us with! Hmmm...would that really stop a charge by such an animal that can reach speeds of 18 kilometres/hour? The saliva dripping from the Komodo mouth is apparently very toxic, loaded with bacteria, and while a bite won't immediately kill it's prey, two days later, the victim will have succombed to it's injuries. The island was also populated by Indonesian deer, that are also prey of the Komodo, in addition to goats and wild boar. The rangers no longer feed live goats to the Komodo in what used to be a macabre spectacle for the supposed amusement of tourists, which is a good thing! Our next stop was the fabulous Pantai Merah or Red Beach, so named because of the red coral sand washed up on the soft, squeaky white sands. Great snorkelling offshore as well.
Our boat journey ended at Lubuanbajo on the Island of Flores, where we were put ashore like a collection of refugees, trying to find reasonably priced, decent accommodations, which were a step down in affordability and amenities. I shared a room with Frank from Germany at the
Bajo Beach Hotel for the night to cut costs. Walking around town, I was amazed at the friendliness of the local people, as they seem genuinely happy to see you, children shouting out "Hello Mister"! One mother sheparded her children into the yard for a photograph, which the locals are happy to pose for and have fun with, especially when you show them the results of their funny faces.
It took me a couple of days to get my sea legs back, giving me time to plan the rest of my journey to the eastern regions of the Island of Flores. Flores was named by the Dutch explorers back in the 17th century due to the lush, jungle vegetation and myriad of plants and colourful flowers to be found there.
On Thursday, December 9th, I travelled to Bajawa by mini-bus. It was a rather excruciating arduous 10 hour travel day, bouncing around on the impossible steep, narrow, winding mountain roads, dodging potholes and other traffic. We passed many locals going about their business, such as drying rice and palm fronds on the side of the road, local laundry drying in bushes or on sun drenched boulders. Also saw
a pig lashed to the roof of local transport called a Bemo. The landscape of Flores is carpeted with rich shades of green jungle foilage, interspersed with terraced rice paddies. Flores is also mostly Christian due to the influence of Portugese colonists and settlers. Highland homes are mainly constucted of split bamboo, woven reeds, boards when they can find them, a few with mud bricks and even fewer constructed in concrete. On the bus I met up with Frenchman Henri and his Indonesian girlfriend Hali, who was curious how I could operate in Indonesia without knowing how to speak Indonesian. Well I am getting by well enough and pantomime seems to work when I don't have Indonesian words to voice my requests. We stopped for the driver's supper break, so I took the opportunity to wander the village and interact with the local people. So friendly, kind, curious, and eagre to share a few laughs with me. I was invited to use my camera to take many photos which delighted everyone, especially the children as they were so excited! Bettle nut is chewed extensively in these parts, as indicated by the horribly stained teeth of the women in the market
selling fish fresh from the sea.
I stayed at the Villa Silverin just outside of Bajawa that night. I had a really pleasant room, no fan required in the cooler mountain climate. So peaceful and quiet listening to the hum of the crickets and cicadas, except for the misguided rooster who began crowing at 0230! Shut it up already! The room was designed in a very novel fashion. The bathroom was up some stairs, but did not have a basin. Only a toilet flushed by bucket and a shower head. Where are you supposed to brush your teeth? In the toilet? I got up at 0500 for the sunrise over the mountains that did not materialize due to the cloud/fog cover. After breakfast, I accompanied Henri and Hali into town to see the local markets. That's always a treat with the proliferation of fresh produce, watches, spices, fresh fish and local colour on display.
On Friday the 10th, I took the mini-bus to Moni, a lesser journey of about 5 hours this time. Enroute, we scattered pedestrians and children dressed in their brown school uniforms, with unique, musical automobile horns sounding like trumpets. The farther east I go
in Indonesia, it seems the more remote, rugged, and primitive the conditions. In Moni I stayed at the Lonely Planet recommended Hidaya for 150,000 Rupiah/night. I wasn't keen on the copius amounts of black water streaming out of the plumbing! How are you supposed to get clean? I met a German fellow, Juergen, riding a 110 cc motorcycle through the region, and we went up to the Kelimutu National Park together, to see the mystical 3 coloured crater lakes. After 45 minutes puting up the hill and a 20 minute hike, we only got a glimpse of the two turquoise lakes before the clouds/fog rolled in. We waited a while, but as it was getting dark, we thought it best to leave and come back in the morning for sunrise. Back at the Park Gate, gatekeeper Anton was so happy to see us come back down safely, he gave us a hug and a kiss on the cheek! What a strange, but friendly fellow.
Juergen and I were back on the road at 0400 the next morning and this time, I had to go wake our little buddy Anton up as the line of traffic was starting to cue
up! The fog lifted just after sunrise, but we got some decent photos of the three lakes, two turquoise and one black. And not to foget the mischevious macaques hanging about the summit lookout, searching for handouts and any loose items of interest to get their little hands on. It was very pleasant taking in the panoramic views, sipping on ginger coffee supplied by industrious touts, who also made the climb to peddle their goods.
After breakfast consisting of a banana pancake and local coffee, I had a nap before taking a local bemo back to Ende, an appropriately named place to conclude my journey to the east of Flores. This mini-bus with 5 rows of seating was already chock-a-block full of men, women, children, jammed with luggage, bags, boxes and other possessions. I counted over 30 passengers, with two on the roof and two boys standing in the doorway! Somehow, they made room for me on an already overcrowded bench seat, practically sitting in the lap of a fragile looking, bettle nut chewing grandmother!
I stayed at the Hotel Ikhlas, basic, but decent enough accommodation for only 70,000 Rp/night, or about $8, cheapest yet. I walked around
Local Petro Station!
Fill Er Up Please-1 Litre Only!
town, feeling like a celebrity as the locals smiled and called out greetings to me! How fun and cool is that? I arrived at dusty Perce Ende Stadium to take in a local soccer match, attended by hundreds of other cheering locals. I bought a canned drink called Pocari Sweat, just because of its name to see what it tasted like. It was mildly sweet and is supposed to be an Ion supply drink. Contents listed included: Air, Gula, and Natrium Sitrat! I also sat in on a well attended Catholic Church, Saturday night mass at Christo Regi.
The next day, Sunday, December 12th, I flew back to Bali aboard a Trans Nusa BAE-146 jet. I was amazed to see villagers actually living inside the aerodrome, wandering all over the runway! The airport authorities sound an air raid siren to get the locals to clear off for landing/taking off aircraft!
Other observations of Indonesia include: smoking is rampant everywhere, in all offices, taxis, buses, restaurants, I mean everywhere. Gasoline is quite cheap at 50 cents/litre. $200 exchanged gets you close to 2,000,000 Rupiahs, so you feel like a millionaire. I find in incongruent to see Christmas trees on
the beachside restaurants in this tropical climate, but at least it gives things a feeling of Christmas.
I have been unable to upload any photos from the primitive internet cafes that are available, so I'm going to at least publish this text so you all can follow along. I'm off to Thailand tomorrow, long enough to collect a visa for Burma.
Until next time, your intrepid traveller,
There are more photos below