Friday, June 27, 2014

Jun 14-15: Komodo and Environs

On the morning of the 14th, we were fed a small breakfast of toast and jam, and then made our way to Komodo Island, where we hoped to get more exciting views of Komodo dragons in the wild. Sadly, it was not to be. Even though we opted for the longest trek around the island (about 5 km), we never saw a single dragon. Some birds, yes, plenty of deer, a few wild pigs hiding in the brush, and even a flying lizard, but no dragons. We were consoled, however, with the sighting of some of their droppings.

These are komodo dragon droppings, so they say.

As at the last island, we eventually found a couple of komodo dragons lying around the cabin area, so all was not for nothing. Here's what they looked like.

And we also had a more tangible memory: Al had purchased a pair of carved wooden dragons the previous night, from a family of opportunists who approached our boat from theirs. Apparently no matter where you go in Indonesia, someone is always there trying to sell you something.

From Komodo Island, we made our way to...ehh, some other island. From reading the tour description, I think it might have been Laba Island, where we were encouraged to go snorkeling. Once again, I didn’t feel like getting wet, so I stayed on the boat, but after an hour or so, I learned we would actually be staying there overnight. So I put on my big girl swimsuit and hopped into the water, aiming to hike my way up a tantalizing-looking trail winding up the mountain. Al came with me, but we had only made it halfway when we were signaled to return to the boat.

Look closely; you can see me!
Apparently we had been wrong about staying there overnight, as the captain wanted to leave. Soon we were enlightened as to the real plans—we would be sailing all night, to arrive at our next destination in the morning.

That night was one of the most horrifying nights I can remember. The skies were clear, but there was a wind blowing, which tossed our little boat left and right and up and down all evening. At first, I felt like I was going to get seasick, but fortunately that feeling disappeared when it was subsumed by abject terror. Every shipwreck movie I had ever seen came parading through my mind one after the next. Shortly after dinner, which I choked down somehow, I went to bed, but didn’t get much sleep, choosing instead to spend my night fearing for my life.

Amazingly, we made it through the night, and as morning approached, the waves calmed down and I slept a bit. You wake up early on a boat, partly because of the sun, partly because of all the bustle, so we were up and at ‘em by 6 am, eating breakfast by 7 (this time it was crepes with banana, and that does remind me that I was pleasantly surprised by the food on the boat, which was surprisingly edible, given my dietary restrictions), and making our way to the next beach, 2 at a time on our little canoe, by 8:00.

The next location, officially known as Satonda Island, was dubbed by me and Al as Trash Beach, for reasons you might be able to guess. It seemed that all the currents of the Pacific Ocean converged onto this beach, covering it with all manner of undesirables (including the poop from the onboard toilets of the two boats anchored just offshore). The upshot of this was that they brought a magnificent intact nautilus shell onto the beach as well, for me to find and keep as consolation for not being able to go swimming.

Trash Beach was suprisingly picturesque from behind.
Just a few meters inland from the beach, there was a saltwater lake. This (aside from the waves of the previous night) was the biggest disappointment of the trip, because the only way to access the lake was by jumping into it from a tall wall which you would never be able to scale again once you had left its summit, or wading through a very mucky, algae-covered shoreline. Needless to say, I did not swim in the salt lake, but I did take its picture. I don’t know its official origin, but judging from the height of the hills immediately surrounding it, I think it might be an ancient volcanic crater.

After leaving Trash Beach, we puttered across the briny seas to make one more stop on the island of Moyo. The main reason for visiting this island was to see the waterfalls just a bit off the beach, but I also took advantage of it as my first and last opportunity to go exploring in the coral reefs. I experienced one of my favorite natural phenomena (watching a river meet the sea--who knew it could make the water look oily like that?), and I saw a few pretty fish, and considered it a day well spent, though I somewhat regret that I never had the opportunity to see any giant clams such as those Al saw when he went swimming on the first day.

The waterfall was used by much of the crew of our boat as a place to wash up. They brought their soap and everything. Us landlubbers contented ourselves with splashing around in the waters. A few of us climbed the hillside next to the falls, to have a swim in the deep pool up there. The locals had outfitted a nearby tree with a vine so that we could swing into the pool. A few of them did flips into the water, and one of them climbed even higher, to plummet into the pool from an impossibly high tree. None of us paying customers tried that.

The waterfall island was the last stop on our adventure at sea. We departed the island at full steam (again, another metaphor since we were in a gasoline-powered conveyance), hoping to reach Lombok Bay by 10 in the evening and disembark first thing in the morning.