For many travellers, visiting Komodo Island is a must-do when in Indonesia. However, getting there on a budget isn’t exactly a quick and easy trip. We took a four day boat journey from Lombok to Flores, which resulted in an almost shipwreck and a few disasters before we finally made it to Komodo Island.
After a blissful week in Gili Air, we had to figure out how we could to get to Komodo Island and back to Bali again within a tight time frame, thanks to being forced to book a flight to Surabaya before we had even left Australia. Being constrained by pre-set schedules can be such a pain when you’re backpacking.
We left Gili Air by boat, and landed back in Lombok. We were headed to Lombok’s surf spot, Kuta Beach for one night, and still didn’t know how we would get to Komodo Island. We wound up booking our boat ticket to Komodo on the minibus on our way to Kuta.
We had been unsure of whether it was even possible to make to the island and back, but when the driver’s smiling friend appeared at our window with a ticket book in hand and bursting with enthusiasm about his new boat that miraculously wasn’t full, we decided to just go for it. We paid a deposit and continued on our way to Kuta.
Day one of the boat journey to Komodo, on land
And so, as is often the way with Asian backpacking journeys, it started with an early morning pick up time and not knowing whether anyone would come for us.
This time, our pre-arranged ride was a different guy in an ordinary car who stopped to pick up his – stunning- girlfriend and their baby on the way.
No one else was picked up, which was unusual, and the couple didn’t speak English, and we had no Indonesian. The journey through Lombok’s lush jungles and rice paddy fields was long and silent and peppered with the uncertainty that comes with not really knowing where you’re going.
After a few hours, we reached the city of Mataram. It was industrial, smoggy and busy. We were told to get out and wait, and were then abandoned by our driver.
A small man with a smile that was unnervingly wide introduced himself as August (not the right spelling!) and told us we had to wait. Confused, as is so often the way in South East Asian journeys, we were told that we would be picked up soon. We sat on a kerb surrounded by manufacturing factories and car workshops, and chatted to our new minder as we leaned against closed shutters.
After an hour, and one relocation when we were shooed away from our spot by a man opening the business whose kerb we sat on, August made a call, and told us that the others weren’t far, and that we should just keep waiting.
We looked at the varieties of mopeds passing with different Jenga-like combinations of people and goods slotted onto them. We watched the local shoe repair guy set up his jumbled assortment of shoes and sandals, and the woman in the food stall next to us who splashed buckets of grey noodle water dangerously close to us with vigour and rhythm. A man up in a tree used a small machete to hack the high branches, sending them crashing to the ground and away from the electricity cables they were becoming entwined with.
We chatted about the upcoming Indonesian elections, the tobacco industry and August’s family, but after more hours passed, our go with the flow attitudes began to strain. Were we even going to be picked up at all?
We probably should have been on the boat by now. We had left our homestay hours ago.
After even more waiting, our new friend made a few calls. Then, he hailed a taxi and took us to a supermarket, where we were told we would now be picked up from.
All you can do in these situations is go with it and hope it all works out. Based on all my Asian travel, this almost always turns out to be the case. And that is the adventure of travel, right?
Once at the supermarket, we sat in the shade outside and amused ourselves by taking turns strolling up and down the aisles. All of the girls working in the supermarket kept staring, and giggling. I wasn’t sure if it was my short hair, or the fact that I was wearing shorts, but either way, it was relentless and really uncomfortable. Little did I know that this was giving me a little taste of what to expect in India!
Eventually, after I don’t know how long, a minibus arrived, and we joined a group of Czechs on board. The man who sold us our tickets the day before appeared from nowhere and joined us in the car. The driver then gave us all little cardboard boxes with green and white stripes with two little cakes inside. It was a nice little touch. As soon as the driver had loaded the car with supplies, we finally set off for the boat.
And after another two hours or driving, and a stop for lunch, we arrived at our home for the next four days, the Versace Ammara.