Asia | South East Asia | Indonesia | Lombok | Kuta – Kuta, Indonesia
Things are going well. I’m back in civilization now, which is Kuta (Bali), after a couple of weeks of full-on travelling.,
We started, Stephan and I, with a 4 day boat trip from Lombok to Flores.
At first, we were not going to be on this trip at all because we had decided to take the bus and ferry to get to Flores. It is still raining season and we figured it wouldn’t be much fun being on a boat (and having to sleep on deck) for 4 days and nights if it’s pouring down with rain all the time. When we got back from Gili Trawangan to Lombok however, we were offered a good deal for this trip so we decided to do it anyway and just hope for the best
These trips are very popular with backpackers: it’s a good way to get over to Flores, while doing some excellent snorkeling and checking out the islands of Komodo and Rinca. And dirt cheap of course: 30 USD is all that it’ll cost you. For that you’ll get a small, old and rusty used-to-be fishing boat with a deck that’s just big enough for 12 people to sleep on. Meals are included but there’s no fridge and no electricity. The solution to keeping the meat fresh is simple; just don’t kill it yet! We actually started out this trip with two live chicken aboard.
Apart from some small incoveniences (warm beer) the trip was going fine. The weather was good, we slept under the stars the first night and just cruised on towards Flores. The second day was nice as well, that is – just until after we left our second snorkeling spot. We’d just had dinner, started cruising again as darkness was setting in. The ocean was calm, the sky was cloudy but from behind some evil weather was approaching us.
The crew nervously started to put all stuff that was on deck in the bottom of the boat. Within 5 minutes we were in the middle of a raging storm, rain was thundering down and huge waves were playing with our boat. Visibility dropped down to just about 50 meters in any direction, the storm was all around us. Even the crew wasn’t talking anymore and we could just see the tension in their faces when they would shout some Indonesian words to each other, and ordered us to sit down in such a way that the boat would keep balance. We were just sitting there, in silence, soaking wet and cold, just hoping this would all come to a good end.
I have to admit, these were strong winds, but this was no hurricane type of weather. I reckon this boat would not have survived a hurricane. Some people had different opinions about whether or not we were in serious danger, but I really lost my nerves in this situation. This boat was a piece of shit and definately not equiped for this type of weather. This thing had no electricity, no signaling light on top of the mast, no radar or GPS, and no radio to communicate with others. There was no liferaft, there were a few lifevests but they were in the bottom of the boat and probably not enough for all of us.
My most comforting thought was that if we’d flip over, I’d have a chance of making it to shore alive… Sumbawa was within a mile from our position. The really bad weather probably lasted for a long hour. It was pitch dark by then, still very windy but visibility had increased and our crew was using a strong flashlight to both communicate with some other boats and navigate our way along Sumbawa’s coastline. An hour or two later we entered a natural bay to wait for the worst of the weather to blow over. Later on that night we continued our way to Flores.
Apart from this scary experience the rest of the trip went fine. I think we should consider ourselves lucky because afterwards we met quite a few people who had to get off their boat halfway (because of weather that was even worse), stranded on sandbanks, or couldn’t leave at all. The weather was mostly fine, we saw some amazing snorkeling spots, and saw the Komodo Dragons on Komodo and Rinca Islands. These dragons are like huge lizards, but over 3 meters long and the closest thing to Dinosaurs that is not extinct yet.
We stayed one night in Lubuan Bajo, before we started making our way up to Kelimutu. A good thing about Indonesia is that, if you have money you can get virtually anything done. There was about 11 of us, (travellers from Australia, the States, Germany, and Brazil) and we just talked to this guy, ended up chartering a whole public bus that would take us whenever and wherever we wanted to go for three days. So we made our way east to Kelimutu, the multicolored lakes of Flores.
It was a great trip, we had a good time sitting on the roof of our private public bus, enjoying the amazing landscapes and all the friendly people that would wave at us from the side of the road. We stopped in Ruteng for the first night, and in Moni for the second night – because it was in total about 15 hours driving to get to Kelimutu. We went up the vulcano of Kelimutu in the morning of the third day, to see the sunrise from the top.
Unfortunately it was all cloudy then, but later on it cleared up and bit and we could see the three vulcanic lakes, each a different color – an amazing sight. This trip ended that day in Ende, the capital of Flores, where we found out that we must have been about the only travellers on the Island. No white people around at all, hardly anybody would speak English and everything seemed to be highly disorganized, which makes it quite a hassle to travel around.
We took three days to get back to Labuan Bajo as well, travelling both on public busses and bemos. Highlight of that trip was a short stop at the village of Soa, and visiting its hot springs. It was on a Sunday, dozens of Indonesians kids were out there and again we found out this place is hardly ever visited by tourists. WE seemed to be the big attraction there, but it was fun and it got us some great pictures. Nevertheless we were glad to leave the island two days later. No more fully packed local busses with chicken and goats in there, no more travelling 5 hours to cross a distance of 125 km. Back to civilization, back to the tourist areas, back to Bali – this time over land. 3 Ferries, a long (but comfortable) busride, and 36 hours later we were back in Kuta.
Selamat tingal !