6am in Bali, I’m watching a huge and very ugly toad hop around on the little veranda/patio thing in front of our room and hoping that it’s main source of dietry intake is ferkin’ mosquitoes so that my ankles get a rest.
Have spent the last week in Flores, and the one before that travelling by plane, horse cart (locally called Ben Hur!), car and barge/ferry to get there. A few memorable moments along the way, including fab snorkelling in south eastern Lombok – cuttlefish and nemo galore! – plus pink chickens!
And a 12 hour olfactory and auditory assault in a tiny village called Sape while waiting to catch the barge (ten thousand tons of drying seaweed and fish, mosque about two metres from accommodation), and hordes of very curious children snatching and grabbing anything that looked half way interesting. Oh, and a magic show in a very dusty village square, that involved turning footballs into chickens, frightened children and a lot of exclamations vis a vis alakbah.
Flores… or at least the tiny bit of it that we had time to explore, was beautiful. We arrived at the port town of Labuan Bajo, on the western coast, just on sunset. Unusually for us, we had booked accommodation for the first few nights, and utter joy! The accommodation owner sent staff to meet us at the port! No haggling with taxi drivers, no stumbling around dark streets looking for non-existant losmans we had read about in some guidebook six months ago…
After a few days of exploring, and in a moment of brain dysfunction, I insisted that we needed to do a trek up a mountain to a traditional village, in fact the last remaining one for the indigenous folk from western Flores, the Manggarai (sp?). After a slow, long drive up and down and up and down moutains and along the western coast.
On the way, and just by chance, we arrived in a tiny village where the men were busy at work making traditioal swords. It really was something watching this age-old process, and real recycling in action. Most of the metal in contemporary swords is retrieved scrap from old cars!
But back to the trek… it was fabulous, in spite of my many, many moments of bitter regret as I dragged myself
up yet another 90 degree rocky, scary, slippery bit of the mountain, expecting at any moment to plunge head first off the path and into the oblivian of thick jungle.
Eventually, we get our first glimpse of our destination and place of rest for the next few days…
We stayed in one of the huts… unbelievable architecture, and impossible to imagine how the villagers could build them. There is absolutely no mechanisation, except chainsaws, no beasts of burden (can’t get them up the mountain), and the 200mm2 beams and poles that support the huts are made of teak, cut from the jungle, dragged up the mountain to the tiny valley by the villagers, it really says something about the possibilities there are in humans actually cooperating and working together for a common cause.
Another amazing experience out of Flores… the dragons of Komodo. Apparently they existed on many islands in Nusa Tenggara before human intervention, and now can only really be found on Rinca and Komoda Islands. Komodo Island is a full day’s boat trip, so we decided to go to Rinca, which is only four hours from Flores. The trip is a long ride in a slow fishing boat, hugging the coastal islands along the way. It’s quite peaceful, and quite beautiful.
Rinca Island… wow, what an incredbile, landscape! Totally Jurassic. And the Komodos, words don’t do justice to these prehistoric monsters! They look so slow and dopey, until they cast their eyes over you… then it feels like you’re being sized up for your ability to run away. It was just past mating season, and the females were busy preparing their nests. We followed a huge giant for what seemed like hours as she lolloped down the path, occasionally casting a backward glance which
looked very much like a warning to keep our distance. The ranger/guides are amazing, the only form of protection they have is a big, forked stick (and fast legs for running away I assume!). During our trek around the island we came across an ominous sign… the skull tree. The rangers have collected the skulls from around the island – victims of hunting, hungry dragons. They can kill buffaloes! Not a creature to trifle with! But, anything that will take on a buffalo, in
my view (and no surprise to anyone who has heard about my many buffalo mishaps and adventures) is worthy of awe and respect.
Anyway, back to the Bali thing… a stop-over on the way to Kalimantan, for the next installment of the Indonesian adventure.