Friday, October 22, 2010

Komodo Island, Indonesia

A definitive must see in Indonesia is the Komodo National Park, which is the one place in the world where legendary Komodo dragons can be found. The 2 meter lizards lay here and there on the five islands forming the park and, accompanied with a guide, we were able to have a look at these large predators whom, although not as dreaded as the crocodiles in Australia, call for a certain respect. We were lucky enough to see four of them during our visit as well as deer, birds and red ants.

Seeing the dragons was surely a treat but other than being big fat lizards lying very passively on the ground they were not much of an interest. However, the local people of Komodo were by much more interesting to see and to deal with. Upon arrival at the Komodo village we were immediately surrounded by local fishermen who, when the small fishes found in the area gets less abundant, go after the larger fishes sailing around the world on a catamaran to sell them some Komodo souvenirs! We usually don't buy tourist stuff like that but when we saw Komodo it was hard not to encourage them a little bit. Other than lizards and giant fruit bats there is basically nothing on this island for the locals to make a living of any kind. We used a free mooring ball for the night and they were all over us to help us with anything we needed and spending a few dollars was just the least we could do really. So after less than half an hour we were the new proud owners of three sculpted wooden statues of Komodo dragons and three tiny fishes that were already half dried after staying too long in the guy's boat under the scorching Indonesian sun but the poor guy had followed us for over half an hour to take us to the mooring ball so I had to buy something from him. I gave him $1 for his three decomposing beasts. There was no way we would even venture thinking about eating them and I just left them on the deck and finally forgot them when we left for our visit at the Komodo Park.

One of the fishermen took us to the park located about 2 km from where we were mooring. The ride in the boat was a treat. This is actually the one with the blue tarpaulin on the picture. You can also see a new cost effective design of a dinghy they use here to commute from one boat to another! Why bother with inflatable boats and outboard motors when a good reliable block of Styrofoam just does the job? The mono-cylinder engine, on the fishing boat, had to be started by hand with a sort of handle while to fuel came from an old plastic jug formally used for water and sitting just on the deck with its hose plunged through the opening. Of course don't even think about glow plugs or anything fancy such as a muffler or a decent exhaust pipe for instance. The exhaust was coming straight out of the engine into the section under the tarpaulin. Thank God, while the boat was moving, the breeze was pushing the black smoke toward the stern just where the driver sat! I don't think I need to mention the kind of noise that was coming out of this machine probably devised before man invented fire. But that's exactly why this was such a treat. For $10.00 they took us to the park, waited during our entire visit and took us back to the boat; all this while being nice, polite and very attentive. For that price in Canada we couldn't pay someone to give us a kick in the ass! As we climbed back on Chocobo we noticed that local birds didn't find the three fishes, I left on the deck, that disgusting and had feasted while we were away leaving of course half of the inner organs scattered all over!

With the help of the locals we were able to do all our visits the first day we arrived allowing us to leave the next day to an anchorage north of Komodo. The place was simply beautiful with clear water; we could see the bottom while the depth sounder indicated 80 feet (25m), and colorful coral everywhere. The only thing though with Indonesia so far is the fact there is no wind enough to make any decent sailing and we are forced to motor all the time. But on the plus side, no wind also means no waves and the rides are extremely smooth so we don't really complain especially since diesel here is relatively cheap.