East Indonesia Day 12 – Labuanbajo, Flores

Breakfast with the ants, then Okat, my driver from my first day around Lombok, took me to the airport.  He was in a different mood today, and looked worried and tired.  He mentioned money problems several times, and I wasn’t surprised when he asked to borrow some money off  me (quite a substantial amount)  at the airport, to pay back ‘when you come to Lombok again.’  I said no, and he lost a little of my respect, and he won’t be recommended by me to anyone anymore.

I caught the Transnusa flight to Bali, which took 20 minutes, then a connecting flight to Labuanbajo, Flores, which took 1 hour and 20 minutes.  On the flight I sat next to an Algerian Frenchman, Zinedene, who was travelling with his wife and their 6 year old daughter.  Quite an adventure for her.  We had a good chat about travel, politics, cost of living in Paris, London and Singapore…..he was interesting to talk to, and we had much in common.  I would meet him again, luckily, on Komodo island.

At Labuanbajo, I shared a minivan with some other travelers to the main strip.  I was looking forward to Labuanbajo, and Flores as a whole.  Here, you can see Komodo dragons, Kelimetu volcano and the 3 different-coloured lakes, spectacular volcanic scenery, arid landscapes and endless ocean, home of some the world’s best diving.

I got dropped off at Gardena hotel, and got a standard cottage overlooking the harbour and bay islands, rugged green hills and volcanoes for 150,000Rp.  Not bad.  Simple, but I’d pay a lot more for those kind of views.  I went for a stroll down to the port, past ramshackle wooden houses, some raised on stilts, children playing, women crouched down under kaleidoscopic umbrellas selling fish in bowls of water, huge green mats and silver trays full of flat silver fish reflecting the sunlight, men tying rope around wooden beams or fixing their boats.  It was lovely.

Later, on the advice of 2 local girls I met at a little food stall, Rosni and Wati, I took a motorbike taxi to Batu Cermin, otherwise known as ‘Mirror Rock’.  It costs 10,000Rp to enter the site, and a guide is mandatory.  I walked in and around a series of caves, and the more cavernous ones had loads of bats dangling from the roof, readying themselves for the night’s hunt.  Also in the cave were some hand-sized spiders, flat and black, with pincers like scorpion’s claws.  One bite from one of these, and you’re in a lot of trouble.  They’re very poisonous.  Enjoyed the tour, tipped the guide 10,000Rp, then got a bemo back to Gardena with a bunch of cool local kids who cranked hard dance music and reggae up loud in their reggae-influenced bemo replete with Bob Marley motifs and the requisite cannabis stickers.

Went to a place called The Lounge in the evening for a delicious pasta and delightful homemade tiramisu with a cappuccino for dessert.  I went to Corner bar after and bumped into the Spanish contingent I’d met back in Gili Trawangan.  We enjoyed a few beers, and I enjoyed the company.  I felt a buzz of energy that I always get from talking to Latin people.  I belong in South America or Spain I think.  A great evening, but I couldn’t stay out too late as I’d booked a trip to Rinca and Komodo the next day.  I’d wanted a 2 day 1 night trip, returning to Labuanbarjo, but nobody else was going, so I was going to have to charter one for 1.5 million.  I hadn’t fancied that, so the bloke I had spoken to, Figo, had some other ideas.  He suggested I join the 4 day 3 night boat to Lombok, but that I just hop off at Komodo and not rejoin the boat, instead getting another boat back that was bound for Labunabajo, and just paying that boat’s captain a bit of money for it.  Seemed like a plan, and a bit more of an adventure.  I agreed, and paid the 450,000Rp to go 1-way to Komodo.  Figo’s mad-cap idea,  the catalyst of which was a large bottle of bintang.  I was ready for it.  Had a cappuccino at Corner bar to finish off, then went to bed.

Author: Neil

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