An Epic Journey: From Lombok to Komodo by bus

From Gili, we started our epic journey to Komodo island. Researching online, naturally, the most popular option was to fly. However, with the flights costing seventy pounds each, this wasn’t an option we could consider. After hours trolling the web, we formed a route plan from snippets of others’ blogs and online sources. The following day we started our journey from Mataram on Lombok to Labuanbajo on Flores.

As we arrived at Mataram bus station, a dozen figures dancing in the shadows of the early morning sunshine flocked to our taxi; jostling with one another for our attention and, most importantly, our money. Opening the door into the, already scorching, heat, we were met with a chorus of voices – ‘where you go sir, where you go mam? Cheap travel, very good deal for you sir.’ Sleepiness still clouding our heads and our empty stomachs rumbling, we pushed our way through the masses of men.
After some bartering, we settled for a deal of 450,000 rupiahs for two of us for a 15 hour bus journey, including a two hour ferry (about ten pounds each).
Taking out seats on the bus, the aisle was soon flooded with numerous ladies and men balancing large baskets on their heads containing a plethora of foods from fried banana to fruit to rice.

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Among these merchants were also young street children who proceeded to play a short song and collect money. There were also numerous beggars – one man remains at the forefront of my mind and I am unable to shift him from latching on to my memory, even months later. Lacking of any limbs – neither arms nor legs – he scrambled along the bus floor. Dressed in scraps of material coated in layers of filth and clenching a hat between his teeth, he stared at passengers with eyes void of any emotion, emulating a frightening emptiness.
The bus journey passed painlessly – aside from being thrown into each other at every sharp bend as the bus swerved round blind corners on the other side of the road, squeaking and moaning as the suspension strained from the demands of the driver.
Only two hours into our journey, we boarded the ferry from Lombok to Sumbawa. Trailing off the bus, we followed the locals upstairs into a small room. The heat was stifling, dozens of pairs of eyes bore into our skin watching our every move. A loud, crass man laughed coarsely and told a tale in Indonesian before hitting us on the back and holding his sweaty palm in front of us requesting money. I slumped uncomfortably in the metal chair, manoeuvring in between it’s cold juts and points, attempting to cower away from the questioning eyes.
My gaze rested on an elderly woman slumped on the dirt ridden floor of the ferry. Large creases crowded her face, paired with dark shadows caressing her deep green eyes. Her right hand aggressively picked at the infected callouses on her foot and her left hand remained stationary – palm up in the air – her eyes searching the passengers, attempting to lock them into an unforgiving gaze.

A ten hour bus journey followed our ferry crossing, after which we caught a quick four hours sleep in Bisa (2 hours drive from the East coast of Sumbawa). In the early morning, we squeezed into the front seat of a bemo to take us to the ferry port where the ferry to Labuanbajo on Flores Island was scheduled to leave at 8am. After two hours of mountainous roads and a constant stream of cigarette smoke – courtesy of our driver – we arrived at the ferry port. On arrival, we were approached by a Russian man who informed us that the ferry was not running that day. This was immediately reaffirmed by a pack of Indonesian men –  dressed in attire which reminded me of pirates. Both the Russian and one of the Indonesians tried to convince us to hire a private boat for 4 million rupiah (240 quid) instead – the first so his personal costs would be reduced, and the second as he was the captain of the boat. Being pretty familiar with Asian travel delays, we decided to sit tight and wait it out with the locals (and save £230!) much to the dismay of both individuals.

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The large, tiled floor, room where we waited was scattered with locals doing the same. They, however, unlike us, had come prepared. They proceeded to lay out blankets and floor mats, curled into one another and snoozed most of the day away – only awakening from their slumber to indulge in home cooked meals of rice, noodles and meat to be enjoyed cold. The children, instead of growing impatient – as they might in our society – shrieked with delight as they chased new friends around the room and danced happily in the afternoon downpour. We passed the day exchanging life and travel stories with a father and son from Canada whom we then went on to explore Komodo island with.
Throughout the day, we gained an attachment, of sorts. An elderly man shuffled towards our corner of the room, gathering his knees towards his chest and muttering to himself in Indonesian. He wore baggy trousers stained with a mixture of fluids and covered in holes, his t-shirt hung off his skeletal bones, his skin was tarnished with pussy, infected bites and scars where flies, which didn’t seem to bother him, took solace in. His scrawny ankles gave way to long toes with yellow, sharp toenails flaking and rotting – forever markedly by years of shoeless wandering. His eyes settled on us and rarely wandered, every now and then he let out a loud cackle. During the moments he was silent, he remained sucking the gaps between his few teeth, shuffling his position on the floor ever so slightly.

After a day of people watching, chatting and adopting a certain patience – which the locals seem to have down to a tee – our ferry to Labuanbajo finally arrived at 5pm.

 

Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. – Howard Thurman

Be weird. Be wonderful.:)

Indonesia: A country of innate, traditional and harnessed beauty

Indonesia is a deep inhale of fresh air – the kind of air you breath deep into your lungs on a crisp winter morning. Indonesia is an intertwining of cultures and traditions, a country where the language differs depending on the island; a country of innate, traditional and harnessed beauty.
It is a country of contrasts; from tropical forests inland to white sanded beaches lining the shores and coaxing you into an ocean clustered with beautiful, healthy corals providing a habitat for an array of sea life and startling creatures.
Back on land, whether it is Bali, Flores, Timor or Lombok, people dress themselves with pride, with elegance. Men and women alike walk down the roads donning hand crafted, ikat woven material wrapped around their bodies, creating clusters of delight for your eyes with patterns curling intimately around one another in vibrant colours. Young girls and women wear bright, hand picked flowers in their neatly kept hair. I am startled as I watch them – in Bali, in Flores, in Lombok, in Timor – at their exotic and undeniable beauty.
The blinding sun licks their skin as if it were an old lover, used to their presence – a lifetime spent outdoors, entangled with nature, has blessed their skin.
And they smile. A bright white smile – they smile as they carry a large woven basket on their heads full of goods, they smile as they cradle a tiny baby on their hip whilst chattering away to you at full speed, and they smile through their weary eyes after another long day.
I developed a strong love for Indonesian people during my time there; their kindness, their traditions, their family values, and of course…their smiles.

The first stop on our Indonesian adventures was Ubud. Hidden amongst the hanging vines of central Bali’s forests, Ubud emits a spark of mysterious magic from its core. Famous from the 2006 novel ‘Eat. Pray. Love’, this hippy haven has seen an influx of tourists over the past few years. However, don’t be put off by this. Ubud is clustered with markets intertwining with one another, leading you up and down rickety concrete steps and squeezing through intricate lanes gazing at the many patterned, aztec, colourful garments overflowing on the street stalls. With a plethora of yoga studios offering classes which stray from the norm and eateries geared towards veganism and superfoods, Ubud is indeed a hippy heaven.
A sucker for aimlessly wandering, I spent afternoons strolling through the enchanting streets of Ubud, gazing into windows of shops selling intricate jewellery, or round market stalls laden with hippy pants which I had to tear myself away from otherwise I wouldn’t be able to close my rucksack for overflowing amounts of patterned clothing!

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Otherwise, our time was spent revelling in the many amazing eateries – after 2 months of eating rice and noodles as our staples, I resembled a child on Christmas morning as my eyes jumped excitedly about the menu of Earth Cafe. Salads, humous, pitta bread, veggie burgers/wraps and a plethora of health juices and smoothies.

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I would highly recommend this Eco warrior cafe for anyone looking for a wide selection of vegan and veggie munchies!
My excitement and our health cafe adventures didn’t stop there. One afternoon we found ourselves in Soma cafe. Finding ourselves a seat on some floor cushions, we settled in for a good few hours of relaxed vibes as a jam session of local musicians playing traditional tunes unfolded before us.

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Awesome vibes, yummy food and delicious raw desserts!
Ubud’s chilled, hippy vibe is infectious – many people spend their days doing yoga followed by sipping on health juices and getting lost in its entangled lanes selling yoga pants, incense and hippy crafts. It’s charm is not connected to a particular age or sex and here’s hoping it is also a charm immune to ever increasing tourism.

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Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. – Howard Thurman

Be weird. Be wonderful.:)