First days in Delhi

And we’re off!

 

 

I can’t quite believe that I am sitting on a rooftop in Agra, India, with the Taj Mahal in front of me, writing this blog post. The moment we landed back in Cape Town after our last stint of traveling I knew I wanted to travel again. It was a relatively last minute decision though, because I knew I wanted to travel but that was as specific as my plans were up until about 3 weeks ago, when we decided on India, and 2 weeks ago when the tickets were booked. So this really feels like a dream!

I had so many preconceived ideas about what India would be like before I arrived here. People warned me not to wear open shoes ever, and to be prepared for some of the saddest things you’ve ever seen. What people failed to warn me about was just how much I would fall in love with this country, and how quickly! I am already planning next trip back!

It is sad, there are abused animals and there is a lot of litter. But for me, personally, it wasn’t quite deterring enough. The smells, the colour, and the people… they all enchant me. This is a place with so many things to see that I think you could spend your life exploring it and still not see everything.

So driving out of the airport in Delhi towards my hotel I wasn’t intimidated. The city is surprisingly beautiful, with patches of greenery and a few places that are actually well maintained. It did take us far too long to find our hotel as we were scammed twice before we even arrived there, but we quickly realised what was happening and called the guys out.

Our street – Arakashan Road

 

I certainly was not expecting just how simultaneously charming and sly Indian people can be. And before everyone recoils at this gross generalisation, it is not meant in a derogatory way. I don’t even think they are being malicious, I think it is so engrained into their culture and society that it is considered normal.

This is in fact the only warning I feel necessary to share about India. Not Delhi belly, not dirt, and not even sad surroundings. Just beware of the scammers! Most people you meet will be so nice to you, but just keep your wits about you as many have a hidden agenda.

Delhi from the rooftop

 

So for the first 2 days we explored the area of Pahar Ganj, where our hotel was situated, and just adjusted to the general rhythm of India. We found our favourite eatery, a place called Flavours on Arakashan Road, that was clean and had very tasty and well-priced food. It was here that we were introduced into authentic indian cuisine, like Thali and Dosa. And Norman and I love it!

 

 

 

 

 

Back to Sumbawa

Being stuck on Flores set us back a whole week, which meant Norman didn’t have much time left to surf on Sumbawa. One evening we heard the ferry was leaving at 2AM (after a week of not running at all) so we packed up and left, because we had already just lost too much time and we had to leave as soon as possible.

The ferry ride went smoothly because we paid extra and got to sit in a VIP room, which was totally worth the extra we paid for it. I took a sleeping pill and actually didn’t have a bad night at all. We pulled into Sape harbour on East Sumbawa at 7AM and caught a decrepit bus to Bima, which couldn’t change past second gear and meant that the revs were through the roof the entire way.

After a 9 hour wait at the bus stop, which was close to torture, we boarded the night bus across Sumbawa. The buses were full, and our tickets ended up being the seats in front of the toilet that couldn’t recline! I was not charmed as I had already spent half an hour trying to get tickets on a nice bus so that the experience was not a repeat of the last time. The driver then assured me I could sleep right in the back of the bus where there is a small space for luggage, so I settled in there. 2 hours in the driver decided to sell that space to 2 people, even though it was clearly not a seat in any form. So I was told I had to leave.  They sold any place where a bum could sit as a seat even though we were on the best, most professional bus available and were told this kind of thing wouldn’t happen.

To make matters worse, when Norman came to call me from the back, back to our seats, 2 Indonesians sat down in them an refused to move! What ensued was a heated 15 minutes where they insisted the seats were theirs, and they would not move. It was so bizarre! Norman had literally got up for 5 seconds and 2 people boarded the bus and claimed his seats. Eventually I, over tired and moody, screamed in his arrogant face to see his ticket, and it was for other seats, not ours! I could not believe it. I made him look at the numbers above our seats and then his ticket so that he would get the idea. His next idea was that him and Norman go sit in the back of the bus and his girlfriend and I can have the seats. We declined this offer forcefully as it was completely non sensical, like the rest of the situation. She would not move though and things almost got violent. We eventually got the seats back, but we were too afraid to leave them when the bus stopped for dinner because we thought that they would take them again. It was a horrible ride.

At 3AM we disembarked at the harbour on the other side of the island and bargained for about half an hour with 2 ojaks (motorbike taxis) to take us 2 hours south back to where we had stayed almost a month earlier, and left half of our luggage. We didn’t take all our luggage or Norman’s surfboards to Flores for the road trip so we had to go back and fetch it. My driver’s wheel went flat so I had to walk for a while, and then jumped on Norman’s taxi, and us 2 and his driver drove the rest of the way to our hotel.

We got there around 6AM, and reception was closed. Almost sick with exhaustion I fell asleep against the desk, which is so unlike me. An hour later the receptionist arrived and finally gave us a room. My relief was tangible. Needless to say we slept until late that afternoon.

Photo of the Week: 8

This beautiful little girl is the daughter of the man who opened his home in Komodo Village to us.

He showed the village to us, and exposed us to their culture and life style. It was an eye opening experience, one that I’ll value forever.

This girl was so full of attitude. She was independent and willful, and in this picture she is drinking her morning cup of boiling coffee, and wondering why we are pointing a big black camera in her face (I imagine).

Cunca Rami Waterfall

As it was weekend and we couldn’t do anything more about the visa situation, we decided to go to a waterfall about 2 hours away. We meant to do it on our road trip but ran out of time, so we decided we would go on a day trip.

It took about an hour of driving on the main road until we reached the turn off to the waterfall. The road from there on out was dreadful, so we had to go very slowly and it took close to another hour to reach the beginning of the waterfall trail.

When we arrived we were swarmed by local children shouting, “Local guide?”. They all wanted to be our guides to the waterfall! A few adults sauntered over offering the same thing, but we knew we didn’t really need a guide so we decided we would just get one to support the community. But then the adults started quoting quite steeply so that put us off. When we declined a guide and started walking, they pointed us down the wrong path, so we realised we would have to take a guide to get the right path. From 100 000 IDR the price slowly went down, until I asked the children who would take us for 25 000 IDR. A spunky kid said that he would, and so we began on the (correct) trail down the mountain.

It was very steep, and we mostly stumbled down the mountain. Our guide kept a fast pace, and his bare feet were so surefooted over the roots and rocks. At the bottom of the mountain we crossed some rice fields, and then a river, and finally made it to the waterfall!

Norman jumped in and went for a swim, but I cooled down sitting with my feet in it so I didn’t. The water vapour from the waterfall made the whole area perfectly cool! After sharing a packet of peanuts with our guide, and putting our shoes back on we began the trek back.

And what a trek it was! It was all fine and well stumbling and slipping down the mountain, but hiking back up was so difficult. It gave me a rather stark wakeup call as I quickly realised how unfit I have become. My heart was beating faster than it could handle, and my legs felt like useless appendages with zero power.

Anyway, eventually we got to the top, albeit slick with sweat. We thanked and paid our little guide, who was probably the best guide we have ever had! He didn’t talk much (because his English wasn’t great) but he of cautioned us to be careful on the steep parts, and patiently waited for us to be done at the waterfall without pressuring us at all.

Cunca Rami makes for a nice half-day excursion if you are stuck in Labuan Bajo with some time to kill. It is a pristine walk and waterfall, and the emerald pool at the bottom is refreshing and clean. And it is obviously beautiful! The walk is straining but if you have some basic fitness you will be totally fine.

 

Trans Flores Roadtrip: Part 2

I knew that we needed to make some serious adjustments to our travelling arrangement if I was going to make it back to Labuan Bajo a mentally sane person. The way there had be so painful for me, because the bag was just too heavy and it hurt having it hang off my back. Sylvester, our knowledgable homestay owner, offered to sell us a contraption that extends the back of the motorbike, meaning we could strap the bag on. He just asked us to pay what it cost him to buy, so we agreed. Norman strapped it on, and arranged the whole set up on the bike, so when it was time to leave I just toodled down from the house and hopped on to my allocated spot. It was bliss!

We only had 2 days to get to Labuan Bajo because our visas were due to expire, and we had to hand them in before the weekend. As we were already a day behind schedule, we had to drive from Moni to Ende straight after we had seen the lakes, because we had to begin the long journey from Ende to Ruteng early the next morning.

Our spirits were considerably high as we drove out of Ende the following day. The air was crisp and weather was perfect for a road trip! We enjoyed driving the road along the coast out of Ende, because on the way there we had driven it in the dark so we hadn’t seen it before. The first few hours really sped by, and we were making great time when we arrived in Bajawa just before 12PM.

I am so grateful for Normans driving skills! I would never have been able to do this road trip without him. He negotiated the roads so well, and his quick reflexes saved us from serious collisions about 5 times. I trust his driving totally so I didn’t have to be a vigilant, nervous passenger. Sometimes I would put my earphones in and close my eyes!

After lunch the rain came down heavily, and really slowed our progress. Much more organised this time around, we put on our rain coats and continued towards Ruteng. When we were a few kilometers away we ran out of petrol! It was to be expected really because we hadn’t filled up since Bejawa, which was 4 hours away. We both just laughed, knowing we had been tempting fate, and began pushing the bike. It took us so long to find a place selling petrol! Usually there are always bottles of it being sold on the side of the road, but we were so unlucky because we ran out on a stretch of road that didn’t have any. The funny side of the whole thing was the reactions of the locals. They would walk alongside us and chat, drive by and wave and laugh, and point us in the direction of Ruteng when they gathered that we had run out of petrol. After quite a walk, we found some petrol, and we filled up and drove to book into our homestay.

We were getting pretty good at early starts by that point, and left Ruteng bright and early for Labuan Bajo. We had to get there as early as possible because it was a Friday and we didn’t know what time Immigration would close. In Indonesia, these sorts of offices have really short working hours, so they usually close early anyway… and we could not wait until Monday to get our visas in.

The only stop we made along the way was to see the spiderweb rice fields in the village of Cancar. We had to walk up a small hill to see the view, and it was a lovely, quick sight to see. Other than that we make a beeline for Labuan Bajo, and thankfully we arrived at 12PM, and Immigration was still open.

The whole road trip has been one of the highlights of my travels. The island and it’s people have not been tainted or exploited by tourism yet, and it is so evident. I’m glad I went now because the roads into the mountains are being widened, which is going to make travelling a lot easier and will cause tourism to increase. I really felt like we witnessed authentic, traditional cultures, and that the people didn’t see us as dollar signs, but rather as friends. Flores itself is probably the most beautiful place I have ever been, and its landscapes have been etched into my memory forever.

Kelimutu’s Three Coloured Lakes: Third time lucky!

The three coloured lakes of Mt. Kelimutu are arguably Flores’s biggest tourist attraction, and they incentivised Norman and I to road trip across Flores to go and see them. They are supposedly very beautiful at sunrise, so we had mentally prepared ourselves for a 4AM wake up call. That would give us enough time to dress warmly, drive the +- 12KM up the mountain, and do the 40 minute walk before the sun came up. Unfortunately, just as we were driving home from dinner on our motorbike the night before, our one tyre went flat! It was too late to get it fixed anywhere, so we had to cancel our plans, and book to stay an extra night so that we could attempt it the following morning. That was attempt number 1 – failed.

We explored the rest of Moni (the town at the base of Kelimutu where we were staying) the next day. There is a waterfall just a short walk down a hill, beginning opposite Rainbow Cafe. Accompanied by 2 local children, we walked down the path and were soon surrounded by forest. Tall, thick trunks, moss and ferns made me feel like I could encounter a fairy at any moment! The waterfall itself was magical too, and it cascaded into smaller ones down the river. We took some photos and then sat and just enjoyed the serene atmosphere. 3 old local woman came ambling down the path, crossed the rickety bamboo ‘bridge’, and then sat on the other side laughing and eating guavas. When I walked past they offered me one, and I thanked them and then saved it for breakfast for our hike the next morning.

That afternoon the owner of our home stay, Sylvester, invited us to a party his family was throwing. We would have to wear formal clothes and give the customary gift of a few bucks in an envelope. I jumped at the opportunity, and a while later we found ourselves at an otherwise all local party. It wasn’t much of a party, so it was quite boring for Norm and I, but I’m still glad we went. There was some dancing to the tone-deaf music of a local band, with a piece of fabric as a dancing partner. The way it worked was that several of these ikat cloths were circulated around. When you are done dancing you fold it up and drop it in someones lap, and then they have to resume the dancing with the cloth until they decide to pass it on. People insisted on giving it to Norman and I numerous times, which was rather embarrassing. At the end there was an amazing selection of food, which was nice. But the best part was taking off the sweaty clothes we borrowed from Sylvester and his wife, and having a shower!

Half asleep, in a zombie like state, we rose at 4AM to begin our second attempt at seeing the lakes. The freezing air whipped my face as we navigated our way up the steep, winding road in the dark. A moment of panic set in when we got to the top and I thought I had lost my phone. We began driving back down, looking for it on the road where I thought it may have fallen. Norman was sure we were going to miss the sunrise and cursing that this was so typical of me. I was imagining a life without my phone, and it was frightening. After about 2km, I remembered that I had tucked it into my bra so that I wouldn’t lose it… We sped back up the mountain so as not to miss the much-anticipated sunrise.

An hour later Norman and I found ourselves on the viewing platform in a little huddle, using a monument as shelter. It was still dark and it was freezing! Completely unprepared for that sort of cold, we spent the next 3 hours shivering. It was such bad weather that we didn’t see the sun rise at all. We could hardly see 5 meters in front of us because the mist was so thick, let alone any lakes. We held out for a long time in the hope that it would clear up, but it never did, so we admitted defeat and walked back down.

I was desperate to see the lakes because they were what we had spent hours in pain on that stupid motorbike for. It was the main objective of the whole road trip. I just didn’t want to give up. The problem was that we were pressed for time because we needed to get back to Labuan Bajo urgently to renew our visas. If it weren’t for that we would have spent several days in Moni because we liked it so much. After much debate we decided to wait until lunch time to see if the weather cleared, and then because we would behind schedule with our trip back, we would have to do 2 legs on one day.

I have included this map before, it is just to show the route we took across Flores. The lime green splodge is Mt Kelimutu, and Moni was just at the base of it.

I have included this map before, it is just to show the route we took across Flores. The lime green splodge is Mt Kelimutu, and Moni was just at the base of it.

Well, third time lucky! On our 3rd attempt, we managed to actually see the lakes. They were exquisite, and such a unique sight to see. It was 3PM by the time we managed to leave Moni and head back to Ende, so we knew that due to so much lost driving time we were going to have a long sit on the bike the following day. But it was worth it because we finally got to see the famed lakes.

I don’t remember the complete history of the lakes, but they are basically in craters in a volcano. They are coloured due to their mineral and chemical composition, and change colour sometimes. One guide told us that a Dutch man fell into one about 2 years ago because he was standing too close to the edge, and although he survived the fall he died because of all the sulphur down there.

I would definitely recommend anyone visiting Flores to make the trip to Kelimutu! It such a spectacle, and I doubt I will ever see anything like it again.

One night in Komodo Village

Norman and I had some time to kill in Labuan Bajo because the ferry back to Sumbawa had be cancelled indefinitely, so we decided to go on a trip to Komodo Island. We had seen komodo dragons before on Rinca Island, but we heard they were bigger on Komodo. So Norman organised a man named Captain to take us to Komodo Island on his rickety boat. The whole package would include meals, one nights accommodation in his house in Komodo Village, snorkelling at Pink Beach and Manta Point, seeing the Flying Foxes fly home in masses at dusk, and if we were lucky, a komodo dragon in the wild around the village.

It was very cheap as the man was just a local with a fishing boat, and the food provided was local food that his brother and wife cooked for us. I wasn’t convinced we would be fed sufficiently so I stocked up on a variety of health bars to keep us fuelled if the food was on the dodgy side. The trip turned out to be amazing! I need not have worried about the food because it was delicious and plentiful.

The trip to the island took long, about 7 hours in total, but the scenery was spectacular. The swell was quite rough so we had to take a round about route which took much longer. At times it was so scary that I lay on the bottom of the boat and covered my head because I could not handle seeing the massive swell that surged towards us and smacked against the side of the boat.

On the way we stopped at both Manta Point and Pink Beach to snorkel. We didn’t see any mantas, but we did see other types of rays, and turtles too. It was so scary because it is not off a beach but rather in the middle of the ocean, and it is extremely deep. Pink Beach wasn’t as pink as it sometimes can be, but a faint hue of pink was visible. The snorkelling there is apparently great but the day we there is was average due to the bad visibility. I think it was so bad because of the unusually big swell. As night was falling we took the boat just a bit away from the village and watched the Flying Foxes fly overhead. They are basically like bats. Their squeaking filled the night and it was rather overwhelming.

We slept in the village that night, and it was such a unique experience. My description will never be able to do it justice. Captain has 6 children so his house was full of people all the time. But it was spotless! All the children helped one another, as well as their parents, and there was just the most lovely atmosphere in the house. We sat transfixed as neighbours and family members came and went, each making themselves completely at home and treating the children as their own. No one spoke English very well so we couldn’t communicate with them, but it didn’t matter. It was obviously a very rural experience, but it was so special. We were so used to roughing it at that stage that noting much bothered us. I slept in the same clothes I wore that day, and then just wore them the next day too. I cringe when I think of it now.

The next morning we went on a walk about the village and felt so welcomed! Everyone wanted us to take photos of them, it was hilarious! Then we searched for a komodo and found one on the beach. I also stole a baby turtle that some kids had in a plastic container and set it free in the ocean.

We tried our luck at Manta Point again on the way home and didn’t see any mantas, but we had the best snorkelling experience of our lives! Like I already said, it is not off a beach so the reef is surrounded by the deep blue. It was so scary because our boat drifted far away from us and we could easily have gotten lost from it in the endless blue ocean. Also, the reef tapered off so steeply that sometimes I looked down and couldn’t see the bottom. But it was incredible! We must have seen at least 6 turtles, many massive fish, untouched coral and sting rays. We were completely isolated, floating alone in the Indonesian ocean and it was actually so surreal. We would hold our breathes and dive down to get close to the marine life, taking turns to try and capture just a morsel of the amazingness on the GoPro. The videos turned out to show almost no colour so I would rather not even show them to people because they do it no justice.

We got back to Labuan Bajo (our base in Flores) late that afternoon, burnt and exhausted, but filled with awe at this country that just never ceases to amaze us.

 

Trans Flores Roadtrip: Part 1

Having done extremely minimal planning (basically none at all), and armed with just a free tourism booklet on Flores, we set off on our motorbike across Flores. We made for quite a sight – the 2 of us and our 2 bags squeezed onto 1 motorbike. The guy we rented the motorbike from suggested that we buy a map from him but we refused because it cost 120 000 IDR… and who needs a map anyway? Ha!

How we fitted on that bike with our luggage, I will never know...

How we fitted on that bike with our luggage, I will never know…

It was pretty invigorating, speeding along with the wind blowing in our faces, with the whole of Flores quite literally at our disposal. The feeling didn’t last too long though, as we soon realised how tough the roads are to navigate! They are extremely narrow (often only 5m wide) and full of hairpin bends. We quickly saw how dangerous it was, especially because the Indonesians are very reckless drivers. Honestly, the amount of (un)calculated driving risks we saw them make over the duration of our trip is incredible.

The excitement faded into a dull, throbbing pain after about 2 hours, because our bums began to get very sore! The seat padding on our motorbike was virtually non-existent. At the 4 hour mark we pulled into Ruteng, the first main town on the trans Flores “highway”. We stopped at a Masakan Padang (it is a type of local food originating in Sumatra) to have lunch, and the rain started coming down in buckets. We waited an hour for it stop but it never did, so we decided to find a place to spend the night. Most people stay at Hotel Rima, but it looked a bit too dark and grimy for our liking so we went to find somewhere else. We eventually got led to a nameless homestay, which had a shared bathroom and was quite run down, but it had WiFi and it was getting late so we booked in.

The plan was to set off early in the morning, but we only managed to get going at 9AM. It was overcast and cold, and the possibility of rain looked high, but we had to go. The next main town was Bajawa, and we arrived there at 3PM. The drive was difficult because the roads were wet and so twisty! We were so tempted to spend the night in Bajawa, because our bums were sore, my back was cramping from the heavy bag, and it was freezing, but we knew we didn’t have enough days to do that. Reluctantly, we continued driving towards Ende, the next big town.

It rained heavily on the way and we were forced to stop several times, and eventually just bought ourselves rain coats. We were stressed because night was approaching and we really didn’t want to be driving on wet, narrow, bending, unfamiliar roads in the dark. Although we went as fast as we could, we had to drive in the dark for an hour before arriving in Ende. Once we were there we began the search for a hotel, and due to amazingly terrible directions from numerous people, it took us an hour to find one. Honestly, Indonesians will never tell you that they don’t know the way to somewhere, they will give you vague hand directions that are completely made up instead. Sometimes, when we are lucky enough to get verbal directions, they are still utterly wrong! It is safe to say that our frustrations were high by the time we checked in.

We went to the supermarket and I bought a Toblerone that was either off or had melted and set several times, making its texture crumbly and coating it in white. I opened it at the till to eat it and saw this, and when I tried to ask for a new one, a small debacle began. The cashiers tittered and spoke in Indonesian, and tried to ask the manager what to do but she was having a fat chat on her cellphone so she wasn’t bothered. After waiting patiently for 5 minutes for them to figure their stuff out, and trying to explain that my complaint was not that the chocolate was broken, but rather that it was inedible, I told them to keep the chocolate and stormed out. I bought other things from them too, so why they would spite a loyal, foreign customer, I have no idea. Unfortunately I had to do the walk of shame when I discovered that I had left my helmet in the supermarket, and had to walk back inside! How embarrassing! They apologised so a whole new conversation began, that ended in me swearing and storming out (again). I am not proud of the whole situation (even though I was not wrong!) and Norman was slowly shrinking while waiting for me outside. Sorry Norm!

The next day only entailed a (supposedly) short 1.5 hour drive to Moni, the town closest to the Kelimutu National Park (our final and main destination). It began amazingly because the scenery was magnificent, and we stopped repeatedly on the side of the road to take photos of just stare in awe. Feeling jubilant, with the sun shining and the birds quite literally singing, we sped along smiling. Things changed when we saw that ahead of us was a long line of cars and trucks backed up. Upon investigation we learnt that there were road works going on, so we settled in for the hour wait. The sun that had at first lifted our spirits bore into my back and burnt my arms really badly. A stop/go system was not employed, as the idea of taking turns on a road in Indonesian is completely foreign. So what ensued was a stalemate. There were vehicles blocked up on both side of the road works, and when the digger machine moved to the side, both sides tried to move forward. Men were standing around smoking, and debating what to do for a further half hour. Eventually one man took initiative and started shouting orders. A little while later the cars had moved to one side. At this point the motorbikes from both sides tried to drive. The minute a small space is cleared, motorbikes will inch up and fill it. This guy with initiative ended up being our savior though, because he managed to slowly squeeze past the vehicles and scream at the motorbikes to make space, and we just followed him. Us and 3 other bikes managed to make it out of that mess, and we were thanking our lucky stars when we were driving on open roads again. I have no idea how all the other vehicles managed to maneuver out of that situation.

Moni is the quaintest little town, and we booked into a lovely room at a place called Sylvester’s Homestay. We were so glad to be done with driving for a day or 2, and happy to be spending our time in such a nice place. We looked up at Mt. Kelimutu, excited to go and see the coloured volcanic lakes the next day.

Flores is a truly beautiful island, and its beauty seems to extend to its people. I know I seem to have been pretty negative about them thus far, but no one (other than the supermarket cashiers I suppose) tried to cheat us, and people were so friendly. I mentioned my frustrations with their directions, but what I didn’t mention was that they did it with a loving heart. At least they tried to assist us! Everywhere we went people wanted to help us. The way that we eventually found our hotel in Ende was by following a guy who offered to show us the way on his motorbike, without even hinting towards money. People will make calls for you on their cellphone, and if you offer to pay them they will refuse. Smiles greeted us as we passed through every town, and shouts of “Hello Mister/Missus!” and “Bule!” (white person) were heard over a hundred times. I have never felt more welcome in a place in my entire life.

Here is a map to illustrate our journey. Labuan Bajo is on the left, and Moni is in the lime green dot. The main towns we stopped at are named here too.

Here is a map to illustrate our journey. Labuan Bajo is on the left, and Moni is in the lime green dot. The main towns we stopped at are named here too.

Komodo Dragons, Sharks and Manta Rays

Labuan Bajo offers a lot in terms of adventure, and that it one of the reasons I was so excited to spend a few days there! It is the perfect base from which to go on a trip to see komodo dragons, dive with sharks and manta rays, and go trekking to see waterfalls. As soon as we had dropped our things off at the backpackers, I headed out to book some diving for the following day. I walked into the offices of Dive Komodo and arranged to do my Padi Advanced Course with them, beginning the next morning at 7AM.

I spent the next 2 days doing some incredible diving around Komodo National Park, seeing some of the biggest fish I have ever seen, sharks and magnificent coral. On the third day Norm came with on the boat to snorkel while I dived, and then to go on a trip to Rinca Island to see the komodo dragons. The first dive site for the day was Manta Point, and I saw manta rays and sharks during the drift dive. The current was really strong, and I felt a bit like someone floating about in space, but it was an awesome experience. Norm said he saw a manta while snorkelling too, but it didn’t hang around too long unfortunately.

Our trek to see the dragons wasn’t too much of a trek, more like a 45 minute walk on a path… which we were grateful for! Things did begin a but sourly though because of all the fees we were charged to enter the national park. We were charged suspicious ‘local tax’, that couldn’t be explained to us when we asked what, or who, exactly it was for. There were also additional camera charges, an entrance fee and a compulsory local guide fee. Anyway, our irritation dissipated soon enough when we saw the dragons. Our guide was also a really nice, knowledgable guy from a local village… he was too cute to be annoyed with! Seeing the dragons is one of those things you just have to do when you visit Flores, and it was a unique experience that I’m glad I had. Obviously it isn’t as overwhelming as seeing a shark or manta ray because they just lie sleepily in the sun. Our guide assured us that they can run extremely fast, and that they have attacked humans several times in the past few years, so that added a bit of  fear and excitement to the whole experience.

Within a mere 3 days I had seen many amazing things and had once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and it was so great. I was itching to continue and travel deeper in Flores, but that would involve a lot more travelling, money and time. Norman and I debated it and eventually decided that as we had come this far already, we may as well continue! And so we began preparations for a trans Flores road trip on a motorbike!

 

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