06.10.2012 - 10.10.2012
Day 257 – Saturday 6th October
Had a relatively good night’s sleep last night considering the condition of the room, but after I’d managed to sweep most of the cockroaches out the room didn’t seem so bad except the dampness and the wonky bed! Due to the fact that I am paying a lot less than I should be, the bastards gave me the worst free breakfast this morning, haggling is a part of the culture I don’t know why they have to hold a grudge. I went for a walk around town to find some cheap food, and found a nice little restaurant to eat a proper meal, then came back to the hostel and spent the next few hours just sitting on the internet. I haven’t had this much internet at my fingertips in so long, so it was easy to spend the entire afternoon sitting there wasting time, plus the mammoth blog entry took a while. I did manage to distract myself for a while and spoke to a Californian couple about the komodo islands and the diving around here as well, and they just made me really want to do both but my budget restricted me to just doing one. So once I was finished up on the laptop I headed off to book myself on a day tour to see the dragons tomorrow, I managed to get 2 places to come down to the price I wanted (after a while) but in the end chose the guy who had a more empty boat tomorrow which should make the trip a bit more relaxed and might meet myself a travelling buddy for the next couple of weeks. Due to the fact that we are now very much into low season and East Flores and Timor are rarely visited anyway it might be a lonely few weeks ahead. After booking the tour I got myself some dinner and came back to the hotel to spend a bit longer on the internet before sitting in bed watching a movie and going to bed.
Day 258 – Sunday 7th October
Had to get up at 7 today, which wasn’t very nice, and after another piss poor breakfast I headed off to meet up with the tour guide and the guy coming on the boat. The guide seemed really nice yesterday, and after a bit of convincing sorted out some lunch and snorkelling gear for me for free, but today was a right dick, he told me to tell the other guy I was paying a lot more than I was and then ripped him off. It didn’t bother me too much, it’s the other guy’s fault for letting him walk all over him, but I did feel bad that when we were on the boat I just lied about how much I’d paid. Anyway, the guy is a Swedish man name Jan who’s a typical tourist, he turned up with his trousers and long sleeved shirt, caked himself in sun cream and had a bloody ponytail! Needless to say we didn’t have a hell of a lot in common. The boat ride to Rinca (the other Komodo Island, with more dragons than Komodo itself) took about 2 hours, and in order to avoid awkward chats I just tried to sleep the whole way, looking up every now and again to take in the beautiful views of thousands of islands drifting past in the crystal clear waters. Luckily we were the first boat to arrive on the island, so there wasn’t a barrage of tourists trying to pay and stuff, so we met up with our ranger and paid the countless fees for tax and rangers and other bullshit including camera fees (which I didn’t pay, s I knew they’d never bother checking my pockets). Then we headed off on the hour and a half trek around the island to see some Komodos. After about 2 minutes we saw 8 sitting outside the kitchen, obviously attracted by the smell, and fuck me were they big just incredible. We were so lucky as well because they started fighting with each other and then run at us (which was fucking terrifying) the ranger completely freaked out and like pushed us back out the way as he tried to fend them off with his stick. Normally they just lie around doing nothing in the day as it’s so hot, and today it was 40 degrees would you believe it, so to have seen them move let lone attack us was awesome. After that hair raising moment we got started on the trek proper to see them out in the jungle, and we did manage to see a few, but as I said they were all just lying around sleeping so not very enthralling, but they are pretty impressive lizards. The ranger gave us a load of interesting facts about them as well; there are 1300 on Rinca, the males are 3 metres long and the females 2, the females dig holes to lay their eggs and dig around 10 all next to each other to confuse predators (we actually saw a female guarding her holes) the incubation time is 9 months (like us) and the babies come out 30cm long, they hunt in the evening and very early morning and almost every day, but they can go months without food as their diet consists of buffalo! They manage to eat such big things as their bite is poisonous, and they can just sit around and wait for a buffalo to die then eat it up, they don’t eat monkeys which is unfortunate as the island is fucking teeming with them, you can’t walk 2 steps without seeing about 10 jumping about. I think that’s all the fun facts I can remember, the last person to be injured by one was 5 months ago and was actually a ranger, but they managed to get him to hospital just in time. Apart from that it’s normally stray local fisherman who come on the island for food and get killed by them, the last person to be killed was in 2009. The trek was really good, not just for the cool facts, but we saw a shit ton of monkeys, some komodos and a few buffalo as well as the amazing scenery, it was fucking hot though and I didn’t have any shoes so my feet burnt to a crisp which was the only down side, plus I was accompanied with this boring bastard. Once the trek was over we hopped back on our boat to go snorkelling, when I found out that this guy is scared of the water which bodes really well as I wanted to go to loads of different island to check out the underwater life. Instead I just told the captain to take us to the best spot and went swimming around there for around half an hour, and the coral and fish were incredible you can really see why this place gets such a good write up from divers. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really snorkel for too long as Jan was just sitting on the boat looking all bored and depressed and it just ruined the whole experience, so after that one spot we just headed back in to harbour at Labuan Bajo. On the way I spoke to Jan a bit and it turns out he’s also on his way to East Timor which means that this won’t be the last I see of him as there’s only really one route to get there, I’ll just have to avoid all the places in the Lonely Planet as I get the impression that he uses it religiously. Once we did make it back we parted ways and I went to bed for an afternoon siesta, it really is too hot here to do anything else. When I got up I went to find myself some food, and the restaurant had a shop so I finally picked myself up some flip flops having been without for a while now since they were stolen on that beach back in Lombok. Then I came back to my place and debated where to go tomorrow and if I should get a local bus or pay these tour agencies commission to sort out a shuttle bus, the problem is they have something to sell so getting any information about the local buses is impossible. It looks like I’m going to go to Ruteng tomorrow, a small place about 4 hours from here which is supposed to have some really nice scenery, and I’m not really sure what else, I guess I’ll find out. Eventually I went for some dinner, then came back and spent the rest of the night on the internet chatting to people; unfortunately I couldn’t find anywhere showing the United match.
Day 259 – Monday 8th October
Got up at 10 today, packed up all my stuff and went upstairs to get my breakfast, and the cunt behind the desk decided it was too late, despite the fact they don’t prepare anything and there are just cold pancakes lying around. Luckily though the girl working here isn’t as mean and brought me over a pancake and some tea, and I proceeded to sit on the internet for a while as I doubt I will have any for a few days at least now. I decided that in order to save a lot of hassle I would just get the shuttle bus, so I asked the boss to book me on it, but he said if I just waited out front I’d see it go past at 12 and could just flag it down. This should mean I will save money by not having to pay him commission, which is surprising as everyone at this hotel has been against me since the day I got here. So I checked out and sat on the pavement and waited for the bus to go past, and waited, and it got to half past and the girl from earlier told me that the bus was never going to go past unless you booked it and if I just walked down the road, there are a few guys who run their own bus service for cheap. Thank god for her this morning! So I did just that and sure enough next to the motorbike mafia on the corner of the street was a minibus waiting and the guy took my bag and said he’d take me to Ruteng and even drop me off at my hotel for 60000, the same price as the local bus, result! Unfortunately he wasn’t leaving until 2 so I had to spend an hour just sitting on the pavement in the boiling heat, you can tell rainy season is just around the corner here as it’s pushing 40 degrees every day, and it’s fucking unbearable. Just before 2 the driver drove off with all my stuff in the back and not me, but he just did a tour of the town to find some more customers and eventually came back and I jumped on and we hit the road. The drive to Ruteng was absolutely jaw dropping, an abundance of amazing scenery, rice terraces everywhere, beautiful mountains and all as you cruise along this windy mountain road carved in to the rock. It took about 4 hours to get there, and it felt like I’d done my activity for the day, rather than just drive from point A to point B, plus I saw a stunning sunset over the mountains, so I was happy to arrive late to my hotel and not do anything for the evening. Not that there was anything to do, Ruteng is seemingly a ghost town, and I had a good 30 minute walk around just looking for a shop, but I did manage to find a restaurant and had some dinner and then came back to my hotel. The hotel is relatively nice, but it’s been in the lonely planet (which I didn’t realise and normally try and avoid) which means they take the piss a bit. I did manage to get her down on the room rate, but they charge an extortionate amount to use the wifi (when it’s always free in any other hotel) plus she charges by the item for washing for the price of what’s normally a kilo, and after asking for a blanket twice she never bothered to bring it up to my room. Plus there’s no lock on my door and I really don’t trust her, but that seems to always be the treatment when you haggle for a room here. Tonight I really needed a blanket, as Ruteng is up in the hills it got fucking freezing, so I had to lie there in any warm clothes I could find with my sleeping bag liner and towel on me and still froze to death during the night.
Day 260 – Tuesday 9th October
After a pretty awful sleep due to the conditions last night I eventually crawled out of bed around 9 and headed downstairs for my free breakfast, and I was shocked to find that it was actually bloody good. A really nice banana pancake with chocolate sprinkles on top and a pot of tea, very surprising given her antics yesterday, I’m guessing she’s just bored as I seem to be the only one staying here. After that I went back up to the room and read for a bit on the balcony watching the world go by and waving to all the kids as they left school and shouted ‘hello mister’ at me from the street. I don’t really know what to do here, as there are a few sights around but on the drive yesterday I pretty much saw everything I wanted to see from Ruteng, plus there’s no one else staying here and no one to talk to so I’m a bit bored. I must’ve spoke to soon, as not long after these thoughts bloody Jan from the komodo tour turns up, and his face lights up to see me and of course he was obviously going to stay in this place as it’s in the book, that bloody bus driver bringing me here! So I chatted to him a bit and pretty much the first thing he asks me is ‘have you been to THAT Chinese restaurant yet?’ I had no idea what Chinese restaurant he was on about, it turns out that Lonely Planet recommends it very highly, give me a break! In any town there have to be at least 50-100 restaurants, how on earth could lonely planet know which one is the best, and if you’re hungry just eat anywhere nothing is bad. Either way I was hungry and bored so I said I’d go with him, and after searching around Ruteng for ages we eventually stumbled upon it, and would you know it it had shut down! But he didn’t want to give up yet, for some reason he wanted to find a Chinese restaurant, despite the fact we’re in Indo and there’s no way they’d be any good at cooking it. Anyway, we did find one and sat down and ate a pretty crap meal for a very high price, and I got to know him a bit better, but he really doesn’t talk very much so I didn’t find out too much of any interest. Long story short he’s 38, an ex-alcoholic who now works with alcoholics and drug addicts, and is pretty unsatisfied with his life so he came travelling to broaden his horizons. Thankfully he picked up the tab, I think he sensed that I was a bit pissed we went on a wild goose chase for a restaurant when we must’ve walked past at least 30 local Indonesian places which all serve good food. On the way back from lunch we got harassed by this group of Indonesians asking if we’d like to join them on a tour of the countryside, and I was like hell yeah, why not? Plus there was a young Swedish guy with them who said they were all really nice and weren’t trying to stab us or anything. So I hopped on the back of one of their bikes and me and Janes (I think his name was) went off with these guys as Jan went back to the room, I guess this experience hasn’t been recommended by lonely planet yet! My driver was literally the nicest guy, and all of them were students who just wanted to speak English and show us around Ruteng a bit, and they were all just really cool friendly people. Except for one guy who was a bit of a dodgy guy, even before he had a drink, but all of them apologized for him and I bought him a pack of cigarettes to get him to shut up as he tried to get me and Janes to buy him some booze. Our first stop on the tour was this hill with a chapel on top looking over the whole village and with a 360 degree view of rice paddies, it was really nice and it was nice to finally talk to some normal people. Next we went to the airfield where we stood next to the runway watching the sunset go down over a beautiful lake and yet more rice paddies, then they drove us back (there was lots of hanging around and chatting in between and the whole thing took about 2 and a half hours) and I went back to the hotel and promised to meet up with them later for some food. Once I was hungry I mentioned to Jan that we were going to have dinner with them and that the Swedish guy was even staying with them which proved that they must not be rapists and after a while convinced him that they’re really nice and he should come for dinner. So we headed off to the little coffee shop that one of them owns and they all hang out at and sat down as a few of them played guitar and sang and I played cards with some of the guys and chatted to them all a bit more, it was an awesome time. But Jan just looked fucking uncomfortable and pretty quickly left, and went to have some food alone, despite one of the guys (who’s actually the brother of the owner of our hotel) trying to persuade him to stay and have some food and even offered to take him on a tour tomorrow, but Jan had already booked with one of the guys from the hotel, an paid a lot for it. So me and Janes sat and hung around there for a bit longer, and the promised food never materialised, so we went for dinner with one of the guys at a restaurant down the road. Here we spoke about religion, and the guy was just gobsmacked that we didn’t believe in anything, it didn’t get awkward but you could just tell he was super confused, but that didn’t change how nice he was to us and just kept saying that all he wanted was to make us feel welcome in his village which we certainly do. After dinner it was around 10 and people were starting to peel off so I decided to just head off to bed, I wish I’d met these guys yesterday because then I wouldn’t have to stay in my shitty, cold hotel and could instead stay in the coffee shop for free. At least tonight the woman had brought me a blanket, so I sat down and got cozy in my bed and watched a movie and went to sleep.
Day 261 – Wednesday 10th October
I didn’t get up until half 10 this morning, something I really wasn’t planning as I need to get a bus to Bajawa and buses seem to stop existing in the afternoon here in Flores. But there was nothing I could do so I went downstairs and asked for some breakfast, and after a while the woman came back with no breakfast and asked if I was leaving today as she would have to kick me out anyway due to a large group arriving, so I asked her to book me on the 2pm shuttle bus to avoid confusion. Unfortunately that wasn’t possible as you have to book the day before, but she assured me there would be buses, so I asked for my breakfast again and sat and waited some more. Eventually I gave up and went and packed all my stuff and checked out, and once again asked her to make me some breakfast, and once again she didn’t bother. By this point it was 12 and I’d sat waiting for an imaginary breakfast for 1 and a half hours, so I just picked up my bags and left. Whilst waiting for a bemo to get me I waved to the guys from last night, and they all shouted goodbye, and one of them turned up on his bike and gave me a lift to the bus station, I fucking love how locals are always so bloody helpful! Once we got to the bus station, he found out that there were no more buses to Bajawa, but no worries as he assured me that one of the cars driving past would be going there and would take me on board, so all we had to do was wait. I bought myself some biscuits as well to finally have some breakfast, and chatted to him a bit more, before finally one of the cars he flagged down was going to Bajawa and I hopped in and said goodbye and thank you to him and got on my way. I have no idea what I would’ve done if he hadn’t come to the bus station, I probably would’ve just gone back and spent another night with them which would’ve been good. The driver first had to drop off his current passengers in Ruteng, and pick up his new ones who all seemed to be dotted around all over town, but after about an hour we did finally get on our way to Bajawa at 2. One of the guys he picked up turned out to be a tour guide in Bajawa, so he pointed out all the cool things on the drive there and recommended me a couple of hotels too, my phone had run out of battery though so I couldn’t ask for his number because he would’ve been quite a useful tour guide while I’m here. The drive took about 5 hours, and was just as stunning as that last drive I took, except this time there was a 2400 metre volcano on the way and an even more epic sunset over the mountains. Once we got to Bajawa the driver dropped me off at the hotel that was recommended, and it turned out to be a bit shitty and just a bit more expensive than I would expect for a place, and even though I picked up my bags and walked off he still didn’t lower the price. But luckily I’d been told the name of another hotel and I walked there, and they were the same price as the last just with much nicer rooms and breakfast included, so I took it. I dropped off all my stuff and had a shower then went out for some food at this place just next door, the further east I’m getting the less English they speak which is really good as I’m able to practice my Indonesian which is really coming along quite quickly and the guy at the restaurant was impressed. After food I came back to my room, and did the usual of sitting down and watching a movie then going to sleep. Still no wifi!