Woke at 7:30, had breakfast – pancakes on Friday, apparently. Dumped by big backpack in the staff bungalow at Gardena, taking only a small rucksack. Gathered outside Figo’s shop, where he had just broken news to the captain, YoYo, that I would be joining the 4 day 3 night trip to Lombok, but jumping off at Komodo.
Met a few of my boat mates whilst waiting – a Canadian guy with a ginger beard called Ben, his cute Indonesian girlfriend called Rini (who I later found out works in Eastern Promise, owned by me Dutch friend Lens, and we all know the same people – small world), and an eccentric old Frenchman, Bernarde, a university professor of history and art in Paris, who had travelled so much he had several anecdotes for everywhere you said you’d been, all told with great French gusto and enthusiasm. Over 60 and travelling alone. I had great admiration for him. I want to be doing that when I’m 60.
We got on the boat – exactly the same one that had sailed from Lombok to Labuanbajo with the Spanish girls on board, arriving last night! They spoke of the ‘ramshackle boat’ with ‘no seats’ and the ‘terrible journey’, but spoke highly of Yoyo, the ‘crazy captain’. The boat has no seats, and upstairs are the sleeping quarters, with a stack of thin, rolled-up blue mattresses. The 4 of us and the captain and his crew of 3 set sail after much Indonesian-esque delay. It was cloudy, but quite smooth sailing. We sailed by a small island and anchored up. We picked up an English girl and a Dutch family, a young man called Cookie, who was dating the English girl, his mum, and his mum’s boyfriend.
The snorkeling here was magnificent – shoals of fish darting away from me in unison, ghost pipefish swimming around, their bodies unbending as they turned. I snorkelled underneath the pier. Multi-coloured starfish were everywhere. The sea bed was alive with shimmering coral.
After this, we all set off for Rinca, one of the 3 places in the world where the famous Komodo dragons can be found. We hopped out onto the barren land. Not even a water buffalo grazed here. The place had an eerie feel to it. Our first encounter with the dragons was tamer than expected. We saw a group of them spread out next to the kitchen, just inside the entrance to the park, like dogs waiting for scraps. At least there was a guaranteed sighting! Went for a walk, but only saw 1 of the scaly beasts swagger across the path in front. No birds or animals. Like a deserted island. Beautiful, but strangely devoid of life at the same time.
Left and got back on the boat, where we went for a long cruise through some weird and chilling looking currents – whirlpools, currents going this way, others that….the waters around Komodo and Rinca are some of the most tempestuous in the world. We stopped near an island, and a bamboo grove where thousands of bats were beginning to stir as the sun set. Witnessed a beautiful, moody sunset, dark clouds looming and broken by reds and pinks and oranges and yellows, as though someone had thrown buckets of paint against a black canvas…then the bats flew into the frame…eerily magnificent.
On the boat, we had dinner, followed by a surprise package – a birthday cake for the Dutch woman – who was 53 today – and 3 bottles of bintang, presented in ribboned bottles as though they were expensive bottles of champagne. It didn’t matter. Tonight they were. It was a lovely gesture from the captain, Yoyo, and his crew. It had been a stormy night, wet and windy, but a memorable one all the same.