Preparing for Komodo

Dragons and more….

I’m coming out of a time warp experience at the moment. I did indeed get to see the Komodo Dragon’s however, everything happened so quickly and perfectly the past couple days, I don’t really have any sense of time now. So, I’ll reconstruct a bit of what happened and see if I can put it together.

My flight to Labuan Bajo was great, I slept nearly the whole way and we had a nice soft landing. I met a woman from the Philippines while waiting for the flight to leave. She had been attending a UN conference in Bali and was on her way to visit her husband on the island of Flores. He’s doing a two year volunteer project of some sort. She left their two kids, is on her way to visit him and suggested there are a lot of leadership conferences in SE Asia looking for speakers who can talk about leadership. She has my card now.

I also met a woman from Java who is moving here with her three kids because her husband got a great job on Flores. She listened to me talking with the woman from the Philippines and then asked me if I did motivational work. “Yes, I do”!

For most of my career, I’ve avoided calling myself a “motivational speaker” because I’ve been turned off by most motivational speakers and didn’t want to be associated with them and felt I would have to do what they do to be successful at it. Now that I know I “do me”, I’m much more comfortable with the term, what it means to me and what impact it can have on others!

Once again, “Yes, I am a motivational speaker”!

We landed at the sweetest little airport. I’ll post some photo’s of the baggage claim area to give you a sense of what it was like. Down the stairs, along the sidewalk, into the one room terminal, and watching for to be unloaded. The three loaded carts were then pulled manually by men along the sidewalk to the “baggage claim” window where each bag was carefully placed on the baggage claim shelf. Tags were checked before you could remove a bag. Mine was the fourth bag placed there.

I walked to the exit door but had no place to go! The sidewalk ran about 20 yards to the road. Across the line separating the road from the sidewalk was a metal fence with chains and locks on it. The fence reminded me of the heavy gauge short metal fencing we used on the farm.

Beyond the fence was a crowd of waiting touts, tour operators, family members and random other helpers. Signs for the “Mervins” and Angel Island Resort and a few other resorts were held high. Well, not really signs, pieces of paper with hand written names, most legible.

I waited until one of the staff came out with the keys and then gingerly approached the waiting mass. A friendly and soft spoken man asked if I had already arranged transportation. I told him I had not and asked how much it was for the ride into town. “Fifty thousand” he replied. I asked if that was normal price. Several people replied yes. Through the fence, he took my backpack and handed it to a helper while pointing in the direction I should follow to get to the car. He went back to see if anyone else wanted a taxi. “More cheaper with other passengers” he said. No more passengers showed up so we were off.

I gave him the name of the hotel I’d heard about and we arrived about 10 minutes later. Being a tour guide and tour guide operator, he gave me an overview of what was available. It was expensive, more so than other trip I’ve been around on this entire adventure. However, this is KOMODO and I decided that if it cost more than I thought, it was still worth it to see the dragon. However, he was a little pushy wanting to know right now if I wanted to go and I would have a free lunch if “you go now”. I got his card and said good bye. “Maybe, I’ll call later…” but I wanted to look for friends first.

Just having arrived, I didn’t have friends yet but that always works. Little did I know that in a few short hours I would have new friends and we all would be going together!

Joseph helped me at the Hotel Gardena. I got an economy room, they new rooms were bigger and more money but essentially the same other than for the tile. I felt quite comfortable with the older wooden bungalows and really happy with the views and cool breeze from the bungalows up the hill side.

Back down the stairs, I didn’t get to the bottom step before a man came across the street asking me if I wanted to go on a tour? His name is Figo, he had two people lined up for the trip and it would be cheaper if I could go too. The price was $800,000. The earlier prices I had heard were $2,200,000 from the taxi driver from the airport and $1,600,000 from Joseph at Hotel Gardena. I told him I’d think about it and definitely let him know before the end of the day!

I found a wireless restaurant to have a lassie, the internet was down, so I drank my lassie and headed back to my hotel. As I took the last step to the restaurant, three people were chatting at the first table and said hello. When I replied with a hello, they asked if I was from the US as well? Julie has been traveling for 7 months, Don and Brit for a few weeks, all three are from Seattle and had just met. I joined them as they waited for their meal to arrive.

By the time they had finished, all three decided to go visit with Figo and see about the trip. After clarifying the trip, where we would go, the fact that all meals were included and there were mattresses (with pillow and blanket) and a toilet on the boat, they decided to join. Now, we received a discount because there were four of us. The fee was reduced to $600,000!

Views of and from Hotel Gardena:

When we arrived the next morning, Figo was in terrible shape. I’m guessing he was suffering the effects of a serious hangover AND a seriously scraped foot from a motor bike accident the night before. We woke him which was not a good sign. His brother showed up to help which was a very good sign. The other two people never confirmed, Julie was skeptical, we rented snorkel gear and headed for the boat where we met the Captain, Jimmy and his assistant, Andre.

Our ship left port on a perfect day! The weather was clear, the sea calm, gorgeous islands flanked our departure. And the adventure unfolded as we stepped into the time warp.

Komodo: it’s happening!

I went to Kuta Beach yesterday from Ubud to be closer to my flight this morning. I ran into “Yoda” again and he remembered me! I guess I’m really a Jedi Knight now!!!

Kuta is still busy and a bit crazy. I love the people watching and forgot how much walking was involved in getting around. First, I got checked into my hotel, The Kuta Inn. Prices have gone up, the room was fine, the AC lovely in the humidity of Kuta!

Next, stopped at the place with the sign out front, Amino Restaurant, for the “Best Coffee In Town”. I walked directly to the espresso machine, watched the barista finish steaming some milk and pour it into a cup, and knew it would be tasty. I ordered a cappuccino and it was great! I asked the barista, Adi, a couple questions about the coffee blend. He turned to the table behind me with two young ladies sitting there. They are sisters working at running the restaurant for their father that started it!

We talked espresso, milk, web sites, latte art, etc. They had another cappuccino delivered to me while we talked. They are very intent on having a great restaurant with great coffee and asked me a ton of questions. I appreciate their passion and enthusiasm for what they are doing. Then, they asked me why I didn’t have my own coffee shop. Well….er……because…..

I went back this morning for a cappuccino before heading to the airport and it was great!

After the coffee yesterday, I found the gang (a side street off Poppies II) and headed to TJ’s Mexican restaurant this time without my friend Rori! I had the lovely salad we got last time, it was great having a juicy vegetable salad which is seldom available over here! Really terrific!

I found the “Gong Corner” which is a local warung, authentic food, inexpensive and very friendly. This is the place I found the dadar gulung last time, the coconut cooked in palm sugar and tumeric, rolled in a rice flour crepe, drizzled with chocolate sauce and then I added fresh orange from one slice to the top. WOW!

This morning, I had an adventure ride to the airport. Since I’m traveling with my light pack, car’s wanted $80,000 rupiah and a motor bike driver showed up, I decided to take the motor bike. The driver was mostly cautious, only occasionally forgetting he had a tall, wide rider on the back with a backpack, and overshot the domestic airport. It was a short walk back which helped calm my nerves. Well, they really didn’t need much calming. It was a nice ride!

As my plane landed at Labuan Bajo, I realized this is the least information I’ve had on a place for any location I visited. Normally, I hear something about transport from the airport or places to stay or something of that sort. This time, I knew nothing about how to get from the airport, had the name for one hotel and the name for an island I wanted to visit.

The first driver I talked with offered me “normal” price of $50,000 into town. He had a man guide me to his car while he went back to look for other passengers to share the cost with. No one showed, we headed off to Labuan Bajo. On the way, he talked to me about trips he organized, how much they cost, etc. He really wanted a customer and offered me a free lunch if I went with him “now”. Since I don’t like rushing into things when it feels like “rushing”, I was dropped at my hotel.

They had a room and then started talking to me about trips they had available which would cost me $1,700,000 for a one day trip to Komodo and Rinca Islands with a drop at Seraya Island on the way back. Hmm, sounded like a lot so I checked in and went wandering.

Before I reached the bottom of the steps, I was approached by another man who had two people signed up for tomorrow. His is a two day, one night trip including hikes on both Komodo and Rinca, overnight on the boat, all meals, coffee, tea, water included, and we only pay extra for the park admission pass that included guided hikes with the rangers. His price: $800,000 rupiah.

I went looking for a store, checked out some restaurants, bought some groceries and went back to the hotel. As I entered the restaurant, three people were talking and greeted me. I met more people from the US then than I’ve met my entire trip. All were from Seattle, Don and Brit are traveling together and just met Julie who has been traveling for 7 months.

After they had eaten, we went down to talk with Figo who had offered the overnight trip earlier. He explained the options and cost, all three decided to go, now the trip is costing $600,000 which is much more reasonable. I’m looking forward to it!

We stop for snorkeling several times, sleep on top of the boat (weather permitting) on pads he’s bringing, will hike both Komodo and Rinca, maybe see Manta Ray’s on the way back and return no later then 5:30 the next day.

I remember seeing photo’s of the Komodo Dragons in the encyclopedia ages ago. Now, I’m about to witness them first hand!

The morning after I return, I’ll be on the little boat to Seraya Island for a few days. I’m realizing I won’t have the time to go overland to Lombok, the water has been so bad they have shut the ferries down in recent days, so I’ll probably book a flight back to Bali and spend the rest of my time there. I know I’ll be back in Bali in the future so it looks like I’ll save the Gili Island experience for a future adventure!

Needless to say, I’ll be out of commission for several days without internet connection. Once I get back with a refreshed tan, I’ll be able to let you know about the experience!