So we bought our boat trip from a bloke called Ludi who had a stall outside of the $5 shop on Gili T which kind of serves us right really. We paid Rp2,000,000 each for all-inclusive deck class and it turns out we got a little bit ripped off but hey, that’s on us and our British inability to haggle because it’s unseemly. Ludi told us that we just had to catch the first local boat from Gili Air to Bangsal in the morning and there’d be someone from Wanua Adventures waiting for us with a sign. We’d be refunded for the boat ticket and we’d be taken to Dickey’s Cafe where breakfast would be included.
Haha, nope! We hopped off the boat and looked around. No idea, there was no sign. We ended up just asking the several blokes who were waiting for tourists who was from Wanua Adventures until we found him and he lead us and a few other tourists to Pandu Cafe where breakfast very much wasn’t included. I’ve no fucking idea why we had to get there so bastard early either. It was 8am by the time we got to the cafe, over the next couple of hours more and more people rocked up and I lamented the loss of the extra hour or two I could have had in bed instead of being slumped at a plastic table waiting for my basic motor functions to kick in and for a thousand humans to arrive. At one point we were told if we wanted snacks and beer for the boat we should get them now, as in we’d pay for them and they’d be loaded onto the boat and there’d be receipts and we were handed a list to choose from, most of which was unavailable.
This served us right too. We’d fully intended to be all manner of productive the day before, we were going to stock up on sun cream and crisps and beer, everything you need to survive a four day boat trip, but we’d accidentally gotten drunk instead which meant we now had to fork out Rp25,000 per snack and we wouldn’t even be given the damn snacks. Probably a good thing to be fair, if I was allowed anywhere near them I’d probably have scoffed all of ours and started eyeing up the others before the boat even launched. It was 11am when we were loaded into two vans and driven for about three hours across Lombok to Kayangan where we all stood around looking slightly bewildered as the staff tried to ascertain their arses from their elbows.
There were two boats. One of them seemed to have more cabin space and this wasn’t to be our boat. We had to walk through that boat to get to ours. It’s kind of like having to walk through business class on the way to peasant class on a plane but at least no one was quaffing complimentary champagne and judging. And fuck me I was hungry, we all were, it was hours since breakfast and it didn’t help matters that we still hadn’t left dock and the other boat had already been served lunch. I started eyeing up the weakest to pick them off and start devouring limbs.
So there was definitely a bit of “other boat” envy going on. They got served food on a table, and they got it before their stomachs started digesting themselves. They had a guide who’d spent time in the cafe chatting to people and getting to know them and was now stood at the front briefing them on where they could smoke, where their life jackets were kept, what the plans were for the rest of the day. We looked at our utterly disinterested crew. No idea who was even in charge. Eventually a blue cloth was laid out on the floor and plates of food were laid out and we fell on them like vultures that hadn’t eaten in a week.
The food was fine, it’s basic, but that was expected and at this point you could have wheeled in the mortal remains of Elvis and I’d have happily chewed on his femur. And then we were off! Eastbound towards Komodo. I’d already dosed up on travel sickness tablets, I know I don’t deal well with boats. Okay so it’s not the boat, it’s the waves underneath the boat, I don’t deal well with those bastards at all. If the water is nice and calm and not doing everything within its power to relieve you of your stomach contents it’s fine, but I wasn’t about to take any risks.
It was a few hours later when we dropped anchor and jumped in for a swim. The water was perfect, that glorious balance between refreshing but not so cold that all of your nerve endings go into shock and there isn’t enough hot tea in the world to appease them. It doesn’t matter how fancy your boat is, it’s the humans you’re sharing it with that matter and we bobbed around in the sea with the carbon based masses of flesh and hair that we’d be sharing close quarters with over the next few days. Very close quarters. Like, sleeping shoulder to shoulder on narrow mats in very un-British proximity to total strangers. As for the beer/snacks system. We all had receipts for everything we’d bought on land and there were duplicate receipts in the… god what do you even call the bit where they drive the fucking boat? The cockpit? Or is that just for planes?
Whatever. There were duplicate receipts there and the system was you grabbed your beer or whatever and marked it off on the dupes. We’d ordered six large Bintangs each, two for each night at sea. It didn’t bode well that there appeared to be some confusion and crew from both boats were counting stock and comparing it with lists. One of them told me with a shrug, “We are missing some beer.” Turned out a lot of things had been loaded onto the wrong boat but they seemed to remedy the situation.
Anyway. We all chilled out, drank some beer, it got dark, dinner was served and consumed. We’d have to be getting very used to living off rice, vegetables and some manner of protein such as chicken or tempeh. There was generally enough for a serving each, and maybe small seconds but not for everyone, but then this is why we all had snacks. Then, finally, our guide made himself known and told us what to expect for the next few days. He told us when we’d be sailing, when we’d be anchored, what we could hope to see or do at each stop. Then he told us that we all had to pay an extra Rp200,000 each to cover the second day in the national park. Wait, what?? Wasn’t this all-inclusive? I’m pretty sure we were told the only extras would be beer and snacks and I had photographs of my paperwork to prove it.
We all looked at each other as if for confirmation that he was chatting a large steaming pile of shit before head shaking and a chorus of “Nooooo” rippled around the boat. It got heated quickly, some of us waving the proof we’d paid in full in front of him, others trying to insist he called the rep that sold them the tour. He stuck to his guns telling us that if we sailed through and the government didn’t stop us there’d be no problem but we should pay the money to avoid an issue. He even suggested that if we didn’t pay we’d have to skip a day in the national park which riled everyone up even more.
Eventually the others decided they wanted to deal with it the following day but I can’t do that, I can’t let something go until my brain thinks it’s settled, and Tarrant is like a dog with a bone if she thinks she’s being wronged. A very angry dog. We took him on, told him that we’d all paid in full and could prove it and if that wasn’t the case then they needed to take it up with the reps that sold us the tour right now, we all had phone numbers, which he refused to do. It’s not a surprise sprung upon them, every single boat follows the exact same itinerary, they all follow the same route with two days in the national park. If we’d paid for all-inclusive then that would include all. I won’t lie, voices were raised to near shouting which I know is considered incredibly bad form in Indonesia, until a guy who said he was in charge of publicity, and who until now had just sat silently, said everything would be fine. No one would pay extra, we’d follow the itinerary we’d paid for and there would be no problems.
Fuck’s sake. I’d read this could happen which is why I’d asked Ludi to write it on our receipt but it still leaves a bad taste in your mouth. We joined the others on the top deck (which we discovered quite quickly became a very slick slip ‘n’ slide of cracked knees and elbows once we’d all dripped all over it after a swim) because drinking beer and chilling is way more fun than glaring at someone who just tried to rip off 19 foreigners. Sleeping would be interesting, they hadn’t given us enough mats so we had to locate where they stashed them so everyone could set up beds and there was only just enough room for everyone plus their little bags.
It’s not as cramped as you might think though and the mats are actually comfortable enough. No idea about the tiny pillow they provide, I travel with my own pillow because I’m a delicate fucking princess that likes her comfort. The hardest part was the low ceiling, you have to bend over to get around whilst clinging onto the beams above you so you don’t stack it face first into the tender parts of someone you’ve only just met and haven’t bought a drink for, which is fine but wait until you get to my age and see how much your joints and spine enjoy trying to manoeuvre your overweight carcass around a small space.
I was one of the first to bed of course, the early start combines with the travel sickness tablets and a couple of beers? It’s a surprise grandma here managed to stay awake for dinner.
Lombok to Flores, Indonesia
With: Wanua Adventure