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August 11, 2005

Dragon Tales

DAY: 58
LOCATION: Labuan Bajo, Western edge of Flores Island

I'm back in Labuan Bajo after a white knuckle experience at the immigration office Wednesday morning. My flight back from Bali to here on Flores was at 10.30 am. When I arrived at 8am at the immigration office in the hope that they'd turn the application process around in time to get my flight I was filled with optimism when I was asked to take the application forms to the cashier and pay the fee. 'Great' I thought, 'This must be the last hoop to jump through'. But the forms then had to returned to the myriad of desks manned by the rows of brown uniformed worker bees and there they sat unattended on a table until 9.30, an hour before the plane was due to depart.

It's often hard to know what might be inappropriate behaviour here in Indonesia. Certainly losing one's temper is very much frowned upon. Much offense can be taken even if your eyes are too wide and round when you say something, as opposed to more 'squinty' + therefore obsequios. I opted instead to make a show of pacing back and forth raising my watch every second stride. Eventually the passports appeared and I made a mad dash for the airport with just 30 mins to spare.

Tomorrow morning April and I plan to leave from the Mutiara Hotel in the Librat XT bound for Komodo. We'll have to spend at least one night on the northern tip of the island before making a second hop to Gili Banta then across Selat Sape to the island of Sumbawa. This will be the trickiest part with the tide running at up to 10 knots between low and high water. One thing we have in our favour is it being neap tides at the moment, so the water will only be running at 5 knots at full flood or ebb. Still a pretty unpleasant prospect and certainly made triply worse in a wind versus tide situation. We'll just have to take our time and get the crossings bang-on over slack water. The longest stretch from Gili Banta and the island of Sumbawa will take a good 5 hours to cross, so at either end of this window we'll have to deal with some strong current.

But I think one of the most amazing experiences of the next 3-weeks will be camping for one night (illegally - national park) on Komodo. Aside from the rules and regs it's bizarre to think there'll be wild dinosaurs roaming around us, quite capable of taking down a human (the last one taken was a Swedish tourist back in 1997. All they found was his glasses!). Kind of like being in Jurassic Park.

I think that if we can find a beach that has a steep cliff behind it - that the beasts can't climb down - then we'll be fine. I've had one big lizard experience on this leg of the trip already (the croc debacle in Queensland back in April this year), and that was enough. Still, we'll probably take it in shifts to stay up on stag holding the speargun and a stout piece of timber. Like crocs, apparently they have sensitive noses and a 'good belt around the snout should do the trick' so we've been told by one of the local tour operators.


Posted on August 11, 2005 3:46 PM