This blog entry covers our travels over 2 days from Gilis to Flores.
We left the last blog where we had booked ourselves onto trips. Well we had booked ourselves onto a 'Hunting Komodo' trip which would see us take a 3 day boat trip to Flores stopping at numerous places on the way, including Komodo island to see the Komodo Dragons.
The weather was very bad in the Gili islands during our last night, so much so that the company had cancelled the trip. The captain had looked at the weather and decided it would be too dangerous. This would later turn out to be a good decision especially as the same company had a boat sink about 2 years ago in a rough storm (they hit coral while taking shelter and everyone got off ok).
So that disrupted our plans especially as we had a flight booked back from Eastern Flores with no way of getting there.
We had to think fast so we decided to get a boat back to Bali and catch a flight to Flores instead. Problem...all boats cancelled due to reports of 7 metre waves. Whilst we were annoyed we didn't really fancy another ride in the floating coffin anyway.
The slow car ferry boat from nearby Lombok was our next option but we found out even that was cancelled.
We went to an internet cafe to look at flights but the power was off on the island (a fairly regular occurrence).
Our options were running out!
We went back to the booking office where we decided to book a flight from Lombok to Flores via Bali which would leave the next day which meant we had to get moving! They telephoned someone that booked it on the internet. We were then given a receipt that we would need to exchange for tickets when we got to Lombok. The tour agency we used (Perama) were pretty good in the end. They charged only £1.50 for booking the flights and because they had offices everywhere it made things easier if there were problems.
The public boats to Lombok were still running as the route is sheltered by the Gili Islands. There was a makeshift sign at the boat booking office which effectively said 'the price has doubled for tourists' (because your stuck here otherwise)! They're quick to make an extra buck!
A man from the booking office went with a couple of tourists that were on a tight shedule, probably on honeymoon so money was no object. He sorted out a driver for them so also bundled us into the same car. The drive from the makeshift port along the Western Lombok coast was really scenic. It took an hour to get to Mataram where we would spend the night before catching a flight the next day.
Mataram was pretty uninspiring so we watched tv in the room after a wander around town.
We, for some reason, decided not to book a taxi and instead wing it in the morning. Whilst we did find a taxi, it rained very heavily on the walk from the hotel so we won't do that again! We'll get a pick up next time!
The airport was new as they are hoping south Lombok is going to be the next big thing - Dubai based companies are building large resorts.
We were expecting a small plane and we got one. A Fokker 50 - 56 seater propeller plane. On the plane were a group of local men that had clearly never been on an aeroplane before. It was very funny to see how amazed they were with all the new fangled technology they had on the plane, they kept opening and closing the window blinds, turning the lights on and off, and opening and closing the blowers. Amazing! The funniest part was during the safety demonstration when one of the men actually got his lifejacket out from under his seat! The stewardess was not impressed and had to move him to another seat where the lifejacket was still in place.
The flight was in 2 parts - Lombok to Bali and then Bali to Komodo airport, Flores. Our first flight to Bali only took 30 minutes. When we landed we got taken all the way to the terminal building to check tickets, only to get the shuttle bus all the way back to the same plane!
The 2nd flight took 1.5 hours, although there was a problem. We started circling Flores island instead of landing on it. We were then told that we were flying back to Bali as the weather was too bad to land! Argghh! We landed again after another 1.5 hours and were told we could not fly until the next day. This was annoying as it would mean we would have 1 less day for travelling in Flores. It seemed like everything was against us and it was proving so difficult to get to Flores and there were so many signs telling us not to go, that we thought about not going and just staying in Bali!
So off we went back to Kuta in Bali and went to a different hotel with a swimming pool. The weather was hot so we sunbathed and as it was Kris birthday we went to Hard Rock cafe where we had amazing ribs! Yum.
The next day we went back to the airport to try and get to Flores one last time.
Whilst we were in the airport there was a power cut and it went pretty dark - no emergency generator! Security carried on scanning bags and people but they couldn't actually see what was going on or if anyone was jumping through! I don't think it would have even crossed their minds that someone could have intentionally cut the power! It what its like though for domestic flights, they haven't checked our passports and you can take your own food,water through security.
The air stewardess said 'hello again' as this was the 3rd time we'd boarded the aircraft! The views from the plane were amazing of all the islands dotted everywhere. We were given a cake and water again and this time successfully landed at Komodo airport in Flores! Finally!!