I wouldn’t have rated my sleep as quality last night but the back and forth rocking of the boat was much less traumatic than the side to side of the other night. I opened my eyes and peered outside. The sky was on fire! What a stunning sunrise. My basic motor functions grudgingly agreed to an early start and I sat on the deck just drinking in the view. More people awoke and joined me, we sat in a row gazing at the horizon as the sun crept up and illuminated our morning. We puttered into a bay where we’d be having breakfast and a large sign on land welcomed us to Komodo National Park, but the crap lining the shore was… I don’t even have words for it.
It was pretty feral. I get it, rubbish gets thrown in the sea and it’ll probably wash up somewhere but why isn’t anyone cleaning this up? There was old trash with faded, sun bleached labels as well as new trash that looked like it was thrown overboard yesterday. It’s a national park, it’s supposed to be a sanctuary, maybe I’m imposing my Western values where they don’t belong and I need to get off my high horse before it bucks me off but seriously, look at it and tell me it doesn’t make your skin crawl.
Anyway, we were taken to shore by small boat this time where we were to climb a fuck off steep hill fuelled by breakfast which, today, was two pieces of toast and a few chunks of scrambled eggs. I wished I brought more snacks. I wasn’t too sure about climbing the hill, I wasn’t feeling amazing at the moment which I put down to excessive travel sickness tablet consumption, it said on the packet you should take one every eight hours as required but I don’t think they meant for two days straight.
But I was pretty convinced there’d be a view up that there hill and I’m a complete sucker for a view so I gasped my way up, stopping frequently to rest a lot under the guise of taking a metric crap tonne of photos. And what a view it was, very much worth my calf muscles consulting with my lungs and planning some manner of coup. I took the same way down as we came up but you can actually carry on to do a big loop or a small loop. I didn’t want to deal with a loop, I wanted to go for a swim.
I was back on board emptying the ocean out of my ears when suddenly someone shouted, “Manta! Manta!” Everyone turned and looked, I was unsure if they were dicking with us or not, we were nowhere near Manta Point yet. “Manta!” they repeated, pointing into the water, and then we saw it, its fins breaking the surface as it turned. We scrambled for our snorkelling gear and jumped in to harass the poor creature as it glided around the bay in search of food. It’s not the cleanest bay, some manner of sediment hung suspended in the water and I told myself it most definitely wasn’t human excrement, probably just silt or something. Yeah. Silt. We’ll call it silt.
But just being in the presence of this incredible beast was worth overcoming the ick factor of not just swimming in dirty water but shoving my face into it. Yeah, I’m a lot more squeamish about many things than I’d like to be but hey. There was a fucking manta ray over there and it was getting really fucking close to us, swimming straight at us with its massive gob open to filter out what it wanted and I just had to trust that it didn’t want my face lodged in its oesophagus and that it would veer off at the last second.
It was pretty magical, I’m not going to lie, especially once I’d showered the imagined grime off of myself. The chatty guide from the other boat had joined us and he called it “wrong way manta.”
“He is not meant to be here,” he told us, “he is lost.”
Worked for us, especially since our next stop was Manta Point itself and we didn’t see a single one. It’s a drift snorkel, they drop you into the deep, blue sea where you can just about see the bottom and you drift rapidly along whilst scanning the area for mantas and hoping nothing large tries to eat you, then they pick you up. We tried twice with no luck, I could quite happily try all day but we had a destination to get to via one more stop at Pink Beach.
As we sailed into the bay I raised an eyebrow. Yeah, fuck off that’s pink, it’s about as pink as my arse. For the record, my arse is very very white. You could use it to reflect the sun’s rays and destroy planets. You’ll have to take my word for it though because I ain’t proving it here. We anchored quite a way from the beach and it was a hard swim in against a current but once you’re there you can see the colour in the wet sand. Ah okay. There you go. Pink.
There are literally pink grains of sand in amongst the, uh, sand coloured sand, apparently it’s from red coral but that’s not verified so don’t go using that answer down the pub quiz. I’m not a huge fan of beaches unless someone is going to give me a sun bed and bring me cocktails so I walked to the other end with the intention of drift snorkelling back to the boat with the current. The coral isn’t half bad here either, I quite enjoyed my snorkel, gawping at parrot fish and harassing clown fish before we all climbed back on board to head to our home for the night.
When the guide from the other boat was with us in the bay with the manta ray he told us four of their guests were sick last night, but he also said that it was smooth sailing from here on in, we’d be cruising through sheltered waters. I decided to knock the travel sickness pills on the head for the rest of the trip, I reckoned I’d be fine now and I’d be able to keep my internal organs in check like a big girl. It’s only when you stop taking them that you realise how stoned they’d made you feel, andt not in the fun way where you sit around giggling at walls before ordering seventeen pizzas and passing out face down in a pile of Curly Wurlys.
I wasn’t utterly shattered by 6pm and I was even able to engage in conversation with humans without feeling like someone knitted a wooly jumper for my brain. We were moored with several other boats by some mangroves and as the sun began to set hundreds, literally hundreds of fruit bats flew out of them and started to fill the sky looking all badass and huge and bat like. We sat on the deck watching them soar overhead thinking, “Fuck, I hope they don’t need to shit any time now.”
It’s here that you can stock up on your beer if you’ve run out. Men in boats pull alongside and flog large Bintangs for Rp40,000 the same price you’d have paid at the start if you’d bought them at the cafe, as well as snacks and crafts. We were okay, the beer we had left would do us for tonight, we only drank one each the previous night because the waves were doing everything in their power to overturn the fucking boat. The problem now was that there wasn’t actually enough beer on the boat. I’m not even shitting you, even after the first night’s fiasco when they’d realised their error and said they’d sorted it, it wasn’t sorted.
One girl was owed eight large beers which simply didn’t seem to exist in this space-time continuum and she was not impressed. Other people were missing a couple of beers here, one beer there. There was a definite shortage of hop flavoured water on this here boat so this is something you need to be careful of if you’re doing this trip. If I were to do it again I’d buy my snacks from a shop instead of getting blind drunk and I’d only buy maybe three beers. The rest I’d buy from the boatmen on the third night, partially to avoid this kind of situation and partially to support their income. We weren’t told there’d be this opportunity.
I’d read blogs whereby on the third night there was a huge party and all the boats got involved but this very much wasn’t the case tonight, I’m not sure why. I’m not overly sad about it, I’m not great at parties, I tend to drink too much and repeat everything I say several times getting increasingly louder whilst drooling a lot. It’s not pretty. One boat had music going. Our other boat had apparently requested to be moored away from the other boats because they didn’t want the noise.
I would have been very keen to speak to them and see if a) they’d had the same problem with missing beer or b) if they’d been charged the extra Rp200,000 and if they’d agreed to pay it. The paranoid little bugger in me decided they were probably keeping us apart for this reason. But the third night was actually really relaxing for us. Some people played cards, I read my book some more, we all just hung out and enjoyed not being thrown around a small vessel that didn’t feel like it had “staying afloat” at the top of its To Do list.
Lombok to Flores, Indonesia
With: Wanua Adventure