Star date: November
Hello dear family and friends!
(How are you? Bahasa Indonesian)
Yes, Virginia, there are dragons! We made it back from Komodo Island in one piece! Better luck than the older European traveler who went for a walk and was never seen again. Now you have to read another bloody travelogue! Oh well.
We flew into Laubanbajo, Flores Island, Indonesia to cut the grueling over land and sea trip in half. We have both done 30 hour bus rides, hanging precariously on the edge of mountain tracks, and have no need to risk life and limb, unless necessary. Flores was inhabited by the Portuguese for many years but the sleepy little fishing village of Laubanbajo was mainly Muslim. The people were once again extremely friendly and helpful and we blended into the tapestry of life there for 5 days. We discovered the little 5 room Matahari Guesthouse, and spent most hot afternoons on the little lanai overlooking the activities of the fishermen and families living all around us. Fish is caught early morning then the women and children would spread them on large mats, over the water, to dry. Baskets of these dried little fish would show up in the market down the road. The local markets are “where it’s happening” and always a fun place to hang out and observe life in action. We always go to the market daily and buy vegetables and fruit to peel and eat during the day. We have just one cooked meal out a day, usually at a place where the locals eat. If you become a regular it is fun to interact with the other regulars. Many people spend lifetimes trying to reach Nirvana but we simply walked up the hill above our guesthouse and hung out in Nirvana ( the warung or small restaurant, that is).
We walked down to the pier and made a deal with a fisherman to take us out to Rinca Island, a smaller, more remote island than Komodo. We teamed up with a young doctor from Sweden, a Kiwi relief worker from East Timor, and two Brits to set off early on the 2 hour boat ride. There were hundreds of Komodo dragons on this small arid island and the first thing we saw was a dragon down by the pier. Luckily he was sunning himself and it gave us time to get orientated. Other Aussies we spoke to had arrived only to be chased down the path by a dragon and meeting head on with another one running down to see what the commotion was. They hunt in packs and usually only wound their prey and let them limp off to die from the ensuing infection of the venomous bacteria left in the wound. Besides the meat has a chance to age that way. We slowly walked around the path to the small National Park office; the sign stating outside that everyone who enters is covered by life insurance. Try collecting that one! These strange, unique creatures are protected to keep them from extinction. They only exist on these 2 small islands and a few on the coast of Flores. We hired a local guide for 50 cents to help us navigate the trail around the island. This is not a place to get lost. It was as if we had walked back in time. Even the vegetation was prehistoric. It was only 9 am and already very hot and dry. Just past the only little cabins on the island we saw a pack of dragons, hanging around. They are amazing creatures, up to 12 feet long, with a long yellow tongue and large sharp claws. They only eat once a week or so (or so they say). It was scary knowing that they could turn and attack at any time, but as with all travel experiences you tend to just get into the flow of things and get swept along. We walked around for about 2 hours seeing dragons down by the water hole, eyeing up a water buffalo, and a female protecting her underground nest. We gave them all wide berth but they looked like logs lying in the shade and Andy was so busy looking at one by the mud that he almost stepped on a camouflaged dragon next to a tree. They can outrun and out climb a human in most conditions so we asked the guide what good his little forked stick was. He admitted that it made the travelers feels safer and if they decided to attack he would just try to run faster than the tourists! We found this info very soothing!
We took photos and when I was zooming in on one large adult it suddenly went from lying flat, to “hydraulically” lifting, to a stand, to walking towards me. I stepped back only to discover a baby dragon had walked only two feet behind me! It was a set up but I decided not to test out the old wife’s tale of “Never, ever, get between a mother Komodo and her young”! I bowed out gracefully – actually I was a "blur" as I put some distance between myself and Baby Huey!! Our doctor friend Chris, from Sweden, said that he used to get drunk with his buddies in high school and act like Komodo dragons. Now he wanted a picture with them. He must have still been drunk because he dropped down on all fours and posed. The dragons took it as a threat and “hydrolyzed” up and started this deep guttural growl/hiss. When they started walking towards us the ranger shouted “DANGER!” and we took off faster than streaks! Suddenly that old fishing boat seemed like our mother’s womb and we were glad to climb back into its safety, in one piece! We went snorkeling and looking for flying fox bats at sunset before heading back to the port. A crazy but rewarding adventure!
A few days later we took an 8 hour ferry ride to Sumbawa Island. We spent the night at Bimo. It was interesting because it was a town set up for electricity but there was a blackout every night. Great big 6 ft. deep holes lined the streets where road construction was in progress. A few weeks later when we met up with a British friend again he told us he had gone out for a “few pints” in the dark and had fallen in one of the big ditches. He had an ugly scar on his leg to prove it. I hope that beer tasted good! Sumbawa is a very poor island and it was interesting to take the twisty 10 hour bus ride through the lush vegetation of this remote island. We then took a ferry over to Lombak Island and arrived in the dark. After hiring a bemo (local transport van) we climbed up into the misty high elevation of Rinjatti volcano. The next morning we awoke to breathtaking views of the jungle around us. Realizing that it would again be raining that afternoon, due to the elevation, we caught a little local bus along the rim of the volcano to the next valley. A young sullen looking Muslim man got on wearing a Bin Laden t-shirt and carrying a machete. Seeing that we were very remote and the only tourists we had seen in 3 days, when asked where we were from Joseph blurted out “Germany! I am Hansel and this is my wife Gretel!” We can’t stand George Bush and there is no need to suffer for his cause. This was the only time we felt the need to expand our nationality. This is where the terrorist training camps are supposed to be but it’s just more fear tactics. Yes, these Muslims don't like our government or the fact that we have killed 1+ million people in Iraq. Yes, they idolize Bin Ladden for standing up to this Bush Bully. But they were nothing but friendly and helpful people. Muslims are just like us, wanting a quiet, peaceful life. Once off the bus they proved themselves again. No buses even went along the dirt road we had chosen so we hopped on a truck full of garlic and rode across the next mountain to catch a bemo to the north coast. In 2 days we had traveled by ferry, horse cart, motorcycle, bus, bemo and finally fishing boat over to the Gili Islands. We chose the middle one, Gili Air, and hung out to regroup and recoup for 6 days. We stayed in a little local hut on the beach, complete with bathroom, and lanai 50 feet from the ocean. We made friends with Lucky, the owner of Lucky’s Guesthouse and his wonderful wife (who was the Best cook in all of Indonesia)!
We had arrived on the Island thinking my birthday (October 3rd) was the next day. What a place to celebrate! We then found out it was already October 5th and we had completely missed it. Joseph declared that the next day would in fact be my birthday and I spent the whole day lying in the shade by the ocean reading. He snuck away to the little local market and came back proudly displaying my birthday present, a crisp fresh watermelon. What a great guy. I am very thankful to have such a wonderful husband. We sure are having fun losing track of time together!
We went back to Ubud, Bali for another week and said goodbye to our friends at Jati 3 Losman (guesthouse), Dewa’s Warung ( local restaurant) and the ladies at the vegetable market. Indonesia is a great, friendly, inexpensive place. (even if there are U S. Government warnings not to come here!) Don’t miss it!
Thank you all so much for the birthday email wishes awaiting my return back to electricity. Computers have added a whole new dimension to traveling. It is great to be able to keep in touch. Hope you are all happy and healthy and making the most of each day. You never know when a dragon might decide it’s time for a snack.
Take care, keep smiling, and keep in touch!
Xoxoxoxo, Love you all ! Nancy & Joseph
Komodo Dragons!! Yes, they are 12 feet long!!
Fishing boats from our lanai in Laubanbajo.
Happy faces at a market on the Island of Sumbawa.
Mouth watering fruits and vegetables.
Muslim kids off to school on Sumbawa.
Now this is a school bus! Everyone fasten your seatbelts.
Modern day Robin Hood ?
Fellow travelers on the 'Lombak Express' garlic truck!
Happy Birthday, Gili Island style.