So we finally landed at Komodo airport, Luanbanjo, Flores. It is definately the smallest airport we have ever been to! The arrival/baggage room/waiting etc etc was one room and all the taxi drivers were like zombies against the one exit door waiting for our business.
We got a lift with the cheapest person into town although that may have not been the best idea. He wanted to know what we were doing how we and were getting around Flores and offered to be our chaffour for the rest of the trip. We don't like working like this as its dificicult negotiating in the back of a car when you're in the middle of nowhere! We like to be able to walk away. His price was too much anyway. We asked about the possibility of a trip to Komodo so he took us to the boating yard where a captain said he would not take us that afternoon due to bad weather, but would take us the next morning. We thought he was charging too much so we decided just be taken to the hotel, and with some persistence from us he took us there.
It seemed the only trip we could do was to Rinca which is part of Komodo National Park but is closer and less dangerous to get to than Komodo Island due to the weather, which we had suspected anyway (as our other boat trip was cancelled). We paid a lot less as 2 other people had booked to go. Later that day our driver from earlier found us and said his friend is going to Maumere and can take us to the other end of the island over the next 2 days. His freind looked like a cross between Fred West and Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction!
We negotiated a price which was less than anybody had quoted. We suspect that he brought tourists from the east and was going back anyway (-they charge tourists for petrol both ways!)
That evening the weather was pretty bad. A girl came over to us and told us about her experience on the Rinca trip she had done that day. She said that the weather was so bad that a boat sank in front of them and they thought there own boat was going to sink as they all had to to scoop water out. She told us not to go. They did however go at stupid times. They left late and tried to get back in the mid afternoon rain (it rains every afternoon!)! We have been in Indonesia long enough to know not to do much in the afternoon. We decided we wouldnt make a decision until the next morning. Another lady told us she was booked on our trip in the morning but probably wouldn't go.
Over night a really bad storm hit the island (which Kris completely slept through!), but surprisingly we woke up at 6am to a bright day. The.captain was happy to still go, and by 6.30am we were on our way allowing us to return way before the afternoon rain. The only thing that did concern us was that the captain walked us to his boat, got us on and then watched us sail off from the pier! We were waiting for him to jump on but he just stood there motionless! He was happy for us to go, but wasn't going to come with us, instead leaving us with his sons. I may have got this wrong but I thought a captain had to actually be on the boat!!! He stood on the pier watching us sail off as the song 'Lovely Day' played from one of the other boats, hoping he was going to see his boat again! It was quite surreal and it felt like a clip from a film where '2 people go sailing then disaster strikes when the boat get sunks in a storm and everyone gets eaten by sharks!'
The crossing was fine, and quite pretty as there are many small islands.
When we arrived the Ranger that greeted us said we were very brave to travel after such a bad storm. We were the first tourists that day. He (unlike Kris!) had not slept at all the night before as the wind and rain had caused trees to fall, and they were worried one would fall on their little wooden huts. As a result he said he was unable to take us on the full island trek, but would take us to the view point and hopefully we would see some Komodo Dragons on the way.
The first part of the walk took us through open marsh land, and to all of our surprise there were two very large Komodo Dragons ready waiting for us. Our Ranger was really nice, and kept making jokes about how dangerous the Komodos are, but when we got closer to these adult Komodos he was obviously nervous! We got some great photos from there.
We continued to the office where we made a lot of payments for entry, a variety of taxes and ranger fees. After emptying our wallet we were shown skulls of animals that Komodos had eaten. The ranger said that they were human skulls and many of his friends had been eaten!
A Komodo eats animals on the island which include horses and buffalo. They bite their prey, which infects the animal, and return to it when it dies 3 weeks later!
We saw a few more Komodos before walking upto the view point and heading back. On the way back we saw crabs with one huge orange claw and one tiny pointless little claw, and two massive centerpeeds (one of which was eating a snake) and a baby Komodo dragon perched on a hill (see photos for all). The baby Komodos have to hide from the adults (even their parents) as they would be eaten! How very Jurassic!
We got on the boat and didn't mind the fact that we had only been on the island for 1.5 hours as we wanted to get back safely. It was a fun ride back with big swells making the boat wobble around a lot. But we got back safe and sound feeling good that everything went to plan without any problems and seeing the Komodo dragons was very very interesting.
Our driver then picked us up and we drove for 14 hours straight, arriving at Moni at 4am! We didn't mind too much as it meant no driving the 2nd day and only 2 hours on the last day but we did miss a few towns and sights, but we just didn't have the time! We were lucky that we didn't leave the day before in the end as the huge storm (that Kris slept through!) blew trees onto the road and caused mud slides that partially blocked it. Luckily by the time we left, the trees had been cut to at least allow single file traffic.
The next day the weather was better so our driver drove to Kelimutu volcano which was 20 minutes away. He couldn't drive all the way as there was a large tree that had fallen down. He blamed the government for being lazy and not cutting it yet. He definately had a point, as when we went past the checkpoint the employees were all fixing their scooters instead!
Anyway we had to walk 3km from the tree. We told our driver we'd walk back the shortcut he told us about and his face lit up as he knew he was finished for the day and could get on the Arak which is an alcoholic short made from palm sugar, and usually homemade.
Kelimutu is an active volcano and has 3 active lakes that change colour regularly. At the time our LP was written (2 years ago) the lakes were blue, brown and red. The first 2 lakes we saw were aqua and light aqua! We walked up to the 3rd lake and it was dark blue! Whilst this wasn't what we were expecting it was great to see because it can change without notice. It was quiet tourism wise with only us and 6 local tourists up there. When we were on our own all you could hear was the wind in the trees and when the cloud started to hit the mountain it was really eery!
We got an 'Ojek' (motobike taxi - he fitted both of us on!) from the mountain to the fallen tree and then walked until we got to the short cut that our driver had shown us back to Moni. The route went through a couple of local villages and was steep and muddy. When we got close to the 2nd village a lady asked us if we wanted tea. We said no at first but then we saw that she had a house in the village we decided to accept. We entered her bamboo hut/house and sat down while she ushered the chickens outside!
She asked us if we'd like fruit salad and we said yes again. She said 'back in a minute'. We look out the glassless window to see her with a big stick smacking fruit out of the trees! She brought back papaya, banana, grapefruit and avocado. She then showed us scarfs she makes and takes to the market. She showed how she gets the colour for he scarfs by rubbing tumeric on Emmas nail to show orange. We got the idea and stopped her before she started to colour in the rest of Emma!
We gave her a large note (money) and she said 'oh no change' despite us checking with her. We had already privately agreed that we would let her keep the change anyway. As soon as we said that, she put one of the scarfs she makes around Emma and refused to take it back. We went outside to see her parents who were buried in a large tiled grave right outside the hut before taking pictures of the rest of the family on their request so we could send them to her. We said our goodbyes and continued downwards where we saw a nice waterfall but unimpressive thin bamboo 'bridges' to get you across! But we managed it, with the usual 'don't look down' and walk on hands and knees approach!
Our hostel (run by our drivers parents) was only 5 minutes from the waterfall, so we headed back for a shower and out on the town in Moni - the single road, 20 house town that it is! Still, we found somewhere good to eat (garlic and vegetable potato cakes) and a great bar to have a drink. The guys working there were all really nice and cousins of our driver (as we said it's a very small town!) They all had giant affros and loved American and British music. They had a jamming session where they played Muse and Coldplay, really well!! They also played a really cool local song that's in English and has been stuck in our heads ever since! YOU TUBE.
For the short drive to Maumere the next morning our driver was pretty quite, a bit hungover from all the homemade Arak! The drive was really nice though, through tropical greenary and rice fields. Although we still had to dodge the odd fallen tree and landslide! We stopped off at a pretty rubbish beach, and shortly arrived in Maumere. Now we have absolutely loved Flores and the people have been the nicest we've met yet. And because of that I think the less said about our departure town, Maumere the better. It was just a grey miserable dirty port town that we were pleased we were only staying one night in. We had to upgrade our room so we had a TV it was that bad!
We really needed 5-10 days to drive across Flores to fully appreciate the island but we didn't plan to visit so had little time. We saw the 2 main tourist draws so leave happy :)
Our flight the next day would take us to Kuala Lumpur and the Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix...!
The Flores Island Song....