Friday, September 11, 2009

WEEK 20: 5 September - 11 September -Labuan Bajo to Gili Lawa Lout (north of Komodo)

This is the second blog sent in today so you will have to read week 19 before you read this one!

Day 136 - Saturday 5 September - Labuan Bajo, Flores Island
We were enjoying Labuan Bajo so decided to stay another day. Got up early to walk to the Batu Cenin cave (4km). However, we got lost and walked a lot further than 4km and it was very hot.. We were greeted long the way and pointed in the right direction. An old man came out of his house to talk to us and children practised their English very shyly and we found there was a lot more to Labuan Bajo than the long dusty street which was all we had seen. Found the cave and a guide took us in and supplied us with torches. It was a very interesting limestone area with lots of dark caves and a few bats. Caught a bemo back to town and decided to check out a restaurant where we had seen a lot of local people. We were immediately overcharged 5,000rp each bottle. Some young people were watching a soapie on tv and when it was over one of them asked if we were catholic and Peter spoke to him for a while then they all disappeared downstairs and a girl came up and locked the front door. When we had finished our beers she came up and said closed - we have felt incredibly safe everywhere we have been in Indonesia but this was a little uncomfortable!!
Saw some tiny little kids with plastic bags on their hands carrying a brick each down steps so big two of the little girls had to sit on their bottoms to negotiate so Peter went down to help and Jean, David and I formed a line and passed all the bricks to the bottom of the stairs so the kids could get them. They were so excited that they were running with their bricks to get back and get another one! The tiniest little girl dropped a brick on her toe and was crying so Peter gave her a bubble blower which helped make it better. We paid our boat boys for two trips as they had been waiting for us all day. Went to our favourite restaurant and had 6 big bottles of beer (for 4 people!) and a huge meal which turned out to be $7/head and the beer cost more than the food. Peter gave Rum Le and Geoffrey a bonus and some coffee for the next morning and Geoffrey gave us a very emotional farewell.

Day 137 - Sunday 6 September - Labuan Bajo - Rinca Island (pronounced Rincha), Komodo Nat Pk
08°38.965 119°42.780E
Departed Labuan Bajo at 9am and motored most of the way. Got a bit of a sail before we had to turn towards Rinca when it got very windy 25 knots on the nose. Arrived at 1pm. There were a few boats in so we anchored out the back in 17m. It was very windy so Peter did anchor watch while I went ashore with Dave and Jean around 4pm to check things out for the next day. We had heard that the harbour master (dragon) hung around the dock so we were a bit nervous but there were lots of monkeys. Walked a bit nervously the 600m to the ranger station which was closed. There was a basic cafe where we got talking to Arrdy - one of the rangers. We asked him to be our guide next day. He took us up to see the six big Komodos which hang around their cook hut (they do not feed them) and we were startled to see that we had walked past one and not seen it. Arrdy then walked us back to the dock - saw a water buffalo and heaps of monkeys. All the rangers carry a long stick. On the way back in the dinghy we saw a huge water buffalo right on the shore. Whistle stayed for sundowners.
Miles: 18 Total : 3,583

Day 138 - Monday 7 September - Rinca Island
Headed in at 6.30am but it rained - the first rain they have had for three months! The monkeys greeted us and Arrdy came to meet us and walked back with us. Unfortunately, the crews of 4 other boats also came in and we ended up with 10 people. Had to wait an hour for the rain to stop then we had to pay - an 8 day pass for the whole Komodo National Park was something like 630,000rp (about $90). Unfortunately they left us in a group of 10 and poor Arrdie had to take all of us. Arrdie's story was he was brought up by fundamentalist muslim parents who divorced when he was 10 and he lived with his uncle til he was 13 then he went to a catholic college which made him think about religion so now he is a non believer. His thoughts were why have a holy war - let God sort it out!!! He said he had done good things and bad but now wanted to do good. He loves his job, the island and the dragons but wants to go to England to do his masters. I hope he makes it. We saw the six dragons around the cookhouse again. Stupid tourists were trying to get close and making the rangers nervous. A bite from a Komodo has 60 deadly bacteria so even if you survive the bite its odds on you will die anyway. There have been two deaths this year - a fisherman and a child at the school on Komodo and the bloke in the office had a lucky escape. He was working and didn't hear the dragon come in and he panicked and it bit him on the ankle and arm. He was lucky there was a motor boat there at the time and a plane waiting and they got him to Denpasar and he lived to tell the tale. We did a two hour walk and saw dragons in different area, saw their holes in the ground where they live, a water buffalo and a few monkeys. The island looks very Jurassic park being very dry and sparse with strange looking palms growing singly - not in clumps. Got back to the cafe for some bintangs and mie goring (made from instant noodles!) when there was a huge commotion. One of the young dragons (they are the hunters) which had been hanging around the cafe had chased a monkey up a tree and was trying to climb up after it. Monkey got away but only just! The dragons live in the trees till they are 3 - 5 so other dragons don't eat them and then they get too big. They are two and a half to three metres long - look a bit like a large goanna but as big as a crocodile. The water buffalo and wild horses were introduced to feed them - a nasty death as they can last 2 - 3 wks after they are bitten before they die. Dragons eat everything including the bones. There used to be more deer but poachers got them. The legal penalty for poaching is 10 years jail but it seems they may be shot and fed to the dragons - leaves no evidence! We went to the water hole where the buffalo usually hang out and there was a dragon on a rock on the buffalo track - very well camouflaged - ambush! It was a good day out and we had sundowners on Whistle and planned our passage for the next day to get the currents right.

Day 139 - Tuesday 8 September - Rinca Ranger Station - West Rinca, Komodo National Park
08°42.245S 119°39.416E
Left the Rinca Ranger Station at 8am and made our way around the island. Had to get the current right to go down the Linta Strait. Our chartplotter is out by about ¼ mile so it is eye ball and depth sounder. To work out the current we know it ebbs to the north and floods to the south and we work out the transit of the moon (either upper or lower) take off 3 ½ hrs and that is the start of the flow. The flow ends 1 ½ hrs after the transit of the moon time. Anyway we got to West Rinca about 11.10am so we got it right. Its funny when you are moving around islands - you cant tell one from another and it looked as though we were going to run into the island but when we got up there it opened into a lovely little bay. Troubador and Tapestry were there so we went to the next little beach and anchored in 10m and drifted back to 5m but when the spring tide went out we were sitting in 2.8m and Tapestry was sitting on the bottom so he had to move! Troubador and Tapestry lit a fire on the beach so we (nervously) went ashore for sundowners. Dragons are supposed to go into comas at night to regulate their body temperatures but.............. Jean cooked a risotto and we put potatoes on the fire and had a nice meal. Sat around the fire for a while after Troubador and Tapestry left until we heard a big noise in the bushes so like the wimps we are we prudently put the fire out and left.
Miles: 18 Total : 3,601

Day 140 - Wednesday 9 September - West Rinca
Saw 16 monkeys on the beach early and then they disappeared and a huge dragon appeared on the beach. Watched him till he disappeared. Had a quiet day. Took the bathoscope to the reef but the water clarity wasn't much good! Cooked shishkabobs without the sticks. Wave Sweeper and Meridian anchored very close. SiSu and Dilandra a bit further away.

Day 141 - Thursday 10 September - West Rinca to Gili Lawa Laut, North of Komodo Island
08°26.821 119°34.071E
Watched a dragon on the beach for quite some time. Others went to shore to get water from a water hole. We left with Whistle at 11am to catch the current in Linta Strait. Picked it well and at one point were doing 10 knots - would hate to get it wrong. In fact a couple of boats got it wrong the other way and it took them 2 hrs to do 1 mile!!! At one stage there were whirlpools and currents running round us and Whistle went sideways for a bit! Sailed all the way past Komodo island which looks very barren. It is extremely hot as during the last week the sun has been directly over our latitude as it makes its way south. Heard an interesting story about the Harbour Master (dragon) at the dock on Rinca. He came running out chasing a monkey and scattered the tourists, one of whom ran down the dock and jumped in the water (obviously didn't know Komodos can swim!!). We have only caught one fish the whole time in Indonesia. There are a lot of fishermen and they really do live hand to mouth so when they catch small fish they have to keep them or they starve. There are a lot of small fish in the markets. Their boats look pretty old and crappy but they cut through the water beautifully. We arrived at Gili Lawa Laut at 3pm. Whistle anchored and we grabbed a buoy. We then went for a snorkel with a couple of manta rays - they were smaller than we imagined but very graceful. Lovely afternoon.
Miles: 22 Total 3,623

Day 142 - Friday 11 September - Gili Lawa Laut, North of Komodo Island
Happy Birthday Jackson
A quiet day so far apart from the two huge tourist boats which are here and we heard on the radio that Wave Sweeper and Meridian are coming this way so it could get a bit busy. This is a beautiful spot and one to be enjoyed so we intend to stay a while - hope it doesn't get too crowded.
Well, we are now up to date. We are having good days and bad days thinking about our little dogs.

Hope this finds you all well.
Much love
Fair winds and calm seas
Dell and Peter

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