Thursday, June 26, 2014

June 13: At sea!

In the morning, we joined a small group of travelers for our Kencana Adventure! This was a 3-night boat trip to Komodo Island and other points of interest starting in Flores.

We arrived at 8:30 in the morning and soon made our way down the main street of Labuan Bajo to the docks, where we boarded our vessel. I’m sure a veteran sailor could tell you how many feet long it was, but all l know is it had 2 decks, two internal rooms, and two bathrooms.

The bathrooms were of interest because, while they had sitting toilets (as opposed to the squatting kind, which can be found some places in Indonesia), they did not flush. Flushing the toilet in Indonesia means pouring water into it by means of a plastic dipper from a cistern next to the toilet. Sometimes it takes several tries to get all the toilet paper down, which I think is why in most of the bathrooms I encountered, people just throw the paper in the trash or don’t use it at all. The bathrooms were by far the most challenging part of this adventure for me, especially since many did not even have a sink next to them, meaning I had to leave the bathroom entirely to wash my hands.

That aside, we had a pleasant day at sea, sailing (chugging, as we had a motor) past what seemed like hundreds of tiny islands, some of them no more than a boulder jutting above the water.

We stopped once (at Kelor Island, which I can't even find on Google Maps) to pick up two more travelers, who had to be ferried to the boat by canoe, bringing our party to a total of seven members, plus the crew. We got lucky, because as we were arriving, a person from the last tour told us he had had about 40 people on his boat. I cannot imagine how crowded it would have been with 40 people, but our spacious boat was quite comfortable for us seven.

We made our second stop shortly after lunch on the island of Rinca (also called Loh Buaya), where we were to have our first encounter with komodo dragons in Komodo National Park.

Although we trekked around the island for a good while, the only place we ever saw the world’s largest living lizard was right at the entrance to the park, where they gathered under the cabins to enjoy the smell of human cuisine, but I won't show a picture of them just yet, because I want to foster a little more suspense.

Throughout our walk, we saw a couple of monkeys, some ground-dwelling bird, and at least the tracks of water buffalo, but no more dragons. Just as we were leaving, however, we spotted a young one making its way toward the forest. In spite of being a pretty nasty predator, this lizard did not seem to faze the deer and the monkey who were both chilling in its vicinity.
Our second stop of the day was at a beach just outside of Komodo Island. I didn’t originally want to go, because it was getting on toward evening, and I was too cold to swim, but the thought of getting some good pictures convinced me to get my butt into the canoe and go ashore. I’m glad I did, because it turned out that this island was home to the famous pink beach we had heard so much about. Our crew, although sweet, did not do a great job of explaining to us where we were or what we were doing at any point on the trip, so a lot of our excursions were a surprise like this one. Here the coral reefs were so close to land that I could touch them while wading, and I found a sea cucumber, which our Indonesian guides pulled out of the water for me (I was afraid to touch it, thinking it might be a stinging eel or some such horror). I also startled a flounder out of hiding, which gave me no end of delight!
Of course, it's too dark to really see the pink on this beach, but then again,
sunset makes everything pink!

Our time on the beach was not very long. Soon we set sail again, dropping anchor very near to Komodo Island, where we had dinner on the boat and settled in 'til morning for the next day’s adventure. Our sleeping accommodations were pretty spartan, consisting of a vinyl mattress pad and an equally vinyl pillow. We each got one blanket, which I used to cover up the mattress and pillow, since my skin kept sticking to them. Midway through the night, however, I got cold, which forced me to creatively wrap myself up like a burrito and vow to wear long pants and sleeves the next night.