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Labuanbajo

In view of my time restriction I had been desperate to ensure somehow of bagging a tour that morning, a plan scuppered by my understandable reluctance to sleep lest we get hit by "the big one". Woken at half 8 by a French boy and a local prattling away in bad English outside, it was a dismay to realise it probably already too late to catch a boat trip out to Pulau Rinca 2 hours away, and all I could do was trail LB's shonky seafront road in search of suitable offerings. There was an evident dearth of fellow itinerants however, with most of them being Cherrypickers who had plumped for dedicated tourist boat services from Bali or Lombok. Considering the interest value of the nearby Natioanl Park which boasts a UNESCO listing to boot, I felt I had no choice but to dedicate another precious day in trying to sort something out though, first of all tracing the small park information office. It was never going to be a surprise to find the small Raja house stylised hut closed however, and I attempted to cut out the middle men in hunting down a boat directly, finding plenty of iridescent fish trolling around the pier but no boatmen. Given the propensity of schedule changes, cancellations and heavy bookings, I then tried to redeem the day with a visit to the Transnusa airline office, finding their schedule to now bear little resemblance to their route map. A case in point was the short hop allegedly linking Labuanbajo back to Ruteng which I would have undoubtedly done had it still been in operation, and my pressing concern to book a flight out of Maumere was scuppered by the sods law fact that it ran every day except Friday, the one day that I needed it. In trying and failing to hook up with any one of the boats lying offshore, I cheekily traced a route through the cramped grubby confines of the shoreline fishing community, finding large shoreside stilt platforms decked with bamboo which were used for the laying out of nets and the drying of seaweed.

There was then nothing for it but to accept the long hot scorchy sojourn out along the lengthy seafront road in a quest for further info, interrupted by a downpour which I sheltered from back in "Hello mister" territory away from the tourist trappings. I passed first a tourist office which was again closed and indeed unreachable due to a ditch having been dug in front of it, rather an image which encapsulated Indonesia I thought, then stumbling across another unexpected and much larger general information office in the throes of renovation. Ambitious demands for a brochure or map remarkably revealed a rare tourist pamphlet about the park after much rustling about through piles of paper, and then I found the Merpati airline office which if it hadnt been for the sign outside I would never have recognised the dilapidated shack as such. Lazy sifting through of a dissaray of faxes revealed that the boy could only reveal a dearth of services and no fares for the ones still extant, and it was only at my request that I received an unprecedented glossy booklet from a glass showcase listing the schedules at least. I was so close to the airport here that I thought I might as well take a look, and found the small terminal filled with habitual X-ray equipment and single check in desk, it was open but utterly deserted. Instead of helping myself to a computer monitor I strolled through the open door airside, finding nothing but wandering goats and cycling kids on the runway and hardstandings, and I wondered how and who was going to clear them for the imminent arrival from Bali promised by the timetable. No one was though, the anticipated flight didnt materialise and it rather served to sum matters up. Becoming somewhat exasperated by the continual contradictions which made any kind of forward planning impossible, I dropped that concern for a while in crossing the runway and followed a muddy trail out onto a distant parallel road, pursuing an impromptu shortcut to hopefully trace a local attraction promised by the guidebook, Batu Cernin. This limestone outcrop seemingly housed some cave tombs allegedly not justifying the entry price, but my conviction to nevertheless qualify the day in that vain was scuppered when enquiry with a local revealed it to still lie much further away than what the map promised. Baulking at the extra expense of an Ojek, it was another frustration to let that one go then, plumping for a Bemo back into town to a much needed Mandi.

Contemplation of my now still questionable alternatives elicited at least one indisputable fact, I really was scarily short of time for anything more than constant eastward travel. The world took the piss all over again when just after crushingly admitting to myself that the park tour would have to be shelved, a snooty London girl with a Cherrypicker vibe and fantastic cleavage turned up with the same plan in mind. Though most men would have thought differently, it almost qualified my decision in considering that she would just be one more distraction I didnt need, and so the plan became somewhat simplified. Get drunk, then get the hell out on the first morning bus east. Even that resolve wasnt allowed to pass unhindered however. My Bahasa allowed me to circumvent the normal agenda of a trinket vendor whose island origins betrayed the existence of a doubtless deliberately hushed up public boat into the park, a service which I guessed had to exist but had failed to trace. This cheap unadulterated option was an attraction in its own right in enabling a circumvention of the pricey package tourist conveyor belt, but my visa expiry now took precedence over even that. Though I had elected to aim for the closer hence cheaper island of Rinca, this boy hailed from its larger more distant neighbour some 4 hours away from LB, a destination provoking excitement at its name alone. Komodo. Though there were allegedly a number of redemptions in forking out for the foray in that direction, the main ones being an assortment of wildlife treks promising deer, wild buffalo, horses, monitor lizards and cockatoos, there was only really one reason for this problematic sidetrack but one which fully justified it. It was Varanus Komodoensis Ouwens, the world's largest lizard species, the Komodo Dragon. This one had attained the heights of a priority for my whole trip, and for the sake of a day it was excruciating to let it go.

Posted by andyhay2 18:37 Archived in Indonesia

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