Friday, July 26, 2013

Here be Dragons

Komodo Dragons are fierce, dangerous, 300 pound predators that frequently attack not only water buffaloes and local deer, but people.  Their red saliva can be seen along trails where they regurgitate undigested pieces of the previous week's meal.  The creatures are faster than one would think, and will even attempt to chase a fleeing person up a tree.  You can imagine our friends' surprise when we posted on Facebook that we had finally seen them and found the journey to them much more dangerous than the dragons.

We had come back to Indonesia after our previous April visit, in part, to find Komodo Dragons in the wild.  We also wanted to see more of the 17,000+ islands than what Bali alone could offer.  As we hopped down the island chain in eastern Indonesia, we were well rewarded by the incredibly diverse cultures we visited.  One island would have predominately Hindu natives, the next Muslim, and the third Catholic, all of whom also believe in magic.  Most of our travel was the moderately risky type we have described in previous posts, until we decided to take a two night "cruise" to bring us the last miles to the dragons.

For us, it was a pricey choice.  It cost $300 each for a "private" cabin and $200 for no cabin and a mat on the deck among several other people.  This is in a place that nice accommodations can be obtained for $30 a night and $5 buys a meal fit for a king.  We asked about the cabins, found one was available, and ascertained there was secure room storage for our bags, two beds (no bathroom), and a fan.  We decided to go "deluxe" and get a cabin.  The Perama Company representatives had been accurate.......there were two beds, although the slightly wider bottom consisted of a mattress on the floor and required a person to roll into it as the top bunk was claustrophobically close.  The "secure storage" was a 6 or 8 inch strip of floor between the mattress and the wall, and the fan was tiny and offered little relief in the tropics even for the top bunk where it was pointed.  All of that would have been workable except for a few additional surprises.  The first is that while Perama had been correct in telling us there were two bunks, they neglected to mention they had sold one to our roommate, a sweet girl from France.  When we realized that three of us needed to cram into a room built for two hobbit-sized beings, we talked to the company rep and guide before we left the first night.  They assured us that one of us could have a mat on the deck if the room was too packed.

Gamely, Jess prepared for her first night in the hot, dark, stifling space and rolled toward the wall only to find that the mattress was soaking wet.  After a few minutes something crawled over her.  She made the mistake of asking Sally to get a headlamp.  Imagine our "dismay" when we discovered a myriad of spider webs and cockroaches!  One giant roach was twitching its antennae and staring, appraising us carefully.  After the third heavy strike with a sandal it was stunned, not dead.  We gave it a burial at sea.  We can take a lot, but this space was too much for either of us, even after we fumigated it with our roommate's insecticide.  (We were to find that several people travel with insecticide in Indonesia and they thought we were crazy to travel without.)  Jess went in search of our guide to find out that the ship designed for 30-40 people had an all time high of 52,  and despite assuring us less than two hours earlier there was room on the deck, they stated there was none.

A fairly frustrated Jess then elected to sleep in the open air garbage bay at the back of the boat near the motors, preferring the smell of rotten fish and the sticky goo of spilled beer and pop to the comforts of the "deluxe cabin".  The benevolent Company did supply her with a thin mat on which to sleep..... Her new "bedroom" was between those sleeping on the upper deck and the bathrooms on the lower so she had lots of visitors stumbling by.  Sally "slept" on the the very outside edge of the lower mattress and our roommate on the top bunk.

The 52 passengers and 10 crew turned out to be about 20 more than the number of available life jackets.  While that may not matter much in most countries, in Indonesia, boats disappear frequently. The currents around Komodo Island are especially dangerous and a Perama Company craft had shipwrecked there two years ago.  On the second night, as we approached the notorious Komodo waters, our roommate woke us both up, afraid.  The seas were rough and we had just hit something in the water.  We tried to alleviate her fears by promising we would stick with her and getting headlamps and the two life jackets in our three person cabin ready.  One was virtually unusable and took 20 minutes with a Swiss Army knife to get it to the point where one of us might be able to wear it.  So much for reassuring our roommate.  Eventually dawn did come.  However, as we cued up for breakfast, the strong currents would hit the ship so hard, that 52 people would run to the "high side" on orders from the crew trying to help us avert disaster.  We have done similar maneuvers on a white water raft, but were surprised to be doing so on the cruise ship as it tilted toward the sea.

Ahhh... Indonesia.  Here be dragons.  Here, each mile traveled often has to be earned, so this was the journey to help us appreciate the destination.  The Komodo Dragons were fearsome and majestic. The beaches on the national park were pink and the coral reefs the healthiest we have encountered.  The people on the boat were fun and well traveled.  We would come back again... Just not on one of these boats!

Images are
of our new favorite land reptile; of our "cruise ship"; and of Sally in the breakfast line about 5 seconds before we needed to "high side"!  Posted in Bali, Indonesia.


  1. ohmy. You two have justifiably earned the Good Attitude Award for travel stories. Here be dragons, indeed! What an adventure.

    1. Always an adventure! In Java now. Gorgeous temples! Take care.