Earlier this month, my friend C came to visit from Canada. We’ve been best friends for almost 30 years (!!), and although we haven’t lived in the same city for quite some time, we’ve always been close. Having her visit made me feel whole again.
In celebration of her visit, we decided to tour Nusa Tenggara Timur – where you’ll find the islands of Flores and Komodo. It was top of our Indonesia bucket list – because who doesn’t want to see komodo dragons in their natural habitat??
On our way to Flores, we had the terrible inconvenience of a two-night stopover in Bali. We had a hard time enjoying ourselves in our Balinese villa, with our own swimming pool and billiards table, minutes away from shopping, restaurants and the beach. Since we only had one full day there, we focused on the essentials: fill the fridge with beer, walk on the beach, eat gelato, buy a colorful handicraft skeleton, have epic swimming and billiards games, stuff ourselves with mexican food, watch strange reality tv and asian music videos in the middle of the night. All check!
The flight to Flores was only a quick hop, in a propellor plane, which made LittleB happy. Me, not so much. Flying in Indonesia is probably the bounciest experience ever – I’ve heard it’s a training area for pilots because the conditions are so terrible: unstable tropical weather, volcano updrafts, strong crosswinds, questionable airport infrastructure. You just can’t learn as well anywhere more difficult, I guess! Doesn’t make me feel any better. Anyway, we landed safely in Labuan Bajo that afternoon, arriving at their crisp, new airport (literally only a few weeks old) just outside of town. It was basically an empty room with a hole in the wall for the luggage to come through (right beside the people door we just walked through). I think it would have been easier to just let us get our luggage off the plane ourselves.
From the airport, we caught a cab down to the harbor to charter a boat. Our destination was an island resort about halfway between Flores and Komodo island, where we booked in for a few days of touring and snorkeling. To get to the resort, you can take their daily shuttle boat, but we had missed it. The cabbie was trying to get us to rent his friend’s “fast” boat for almost double the price, but luckily we’re not new to this game and were not easily convinced. The boat we did get was… well, good enough. I figure it was mostly made out of scavenged pieces of garbage and other people’s boats. It probably would have shaken apart if the weather was bad, or if the 15-year-old captain was more inexperienced. Thankfully we were enjoying a calm afternoon with glorious golden sunshine and a light breeze cool on the air.
We arrived at our island within an hour, just in time to settle in before sunset. The resort is an “eco” resort, travel-speak for “limited amenities” – but we were happy enough to rough it for a few days. Water was rationed, but who needs showers when the whole ocean is your bathtub? And there was plenty of beer to go around. We stayed in the family bungalow – basically a bamboo hut with two mattresses, and was probably also made out of garbage and other people’s boats. Should I remind you that there were 5 of us on this trip? Luckily C was generous enough to share the “ladies” mattress with me and J – we claimed the top bunk, a loft area hanging out over the bungalow deck, and the boys took the main level.
That night we lounged away the evening, sitting around a bonfire on the beach and watching the stars wink into view. We could have stayed there all night, but we had big plans for a trip to Komodo the next day. Also, the power turned off at 10, so we did too.