19 August, Indonesia – ‘All Over The Place – Asia, part 2’
After a day off doing just about as little as you can we were up with the cockerel yesterday morning (two of them actually, locked in a competition every morning to see who can wake up the most tourists). We had breakfast on the sand overlooking the sea and watched as our boat came in to the shore to be loaded up with all our gear, then boarded to head back to Bali. Even after only a few days on Lembongan the feeling on our return, as we negotiated with porters carrying our bags and weaved our way through other tourists, was that Bali is the big smoke in comparison. Funny how these things are always relative.
Our drivers dropped us off at our fixer Andy’s restaurant for a spot of brunch before whisking us off to domestic departures for our one hour flight to the island of Flores. On approach I could see through the window that the terrain had changed and that the islands were becoming less verdant and more barren and volcanic. Stepping off our small, sweaty plane and into the arrivals hall we were greeted by some traditional dancers who did their best to entertain us while we waited for our bags. Their small airport is a relatively new addition and still seems to be a novelty for them. Give it another couple of years and I’m sure the tourists will get a much less elaborate welcome.
Our island fixer Sebastian greeted us and took us by 4×4 on the 5 mins journey to our hotel, which was perched on the hillside off the busy high street looking over the harbour. The sun was starting to come down low in the sky, the boats were starting to ride up with the tide, the call to prayer was being sung from the next door mosque and looking out at the islands dotted along the horizon I sat on the balcony of my functional hotel room and thought how odd it was that I’d ended up here presenting children’s television.
Woke up extra early this morning at 4.30am thanks to the call to prayer, and didn’t have much snooze time till my alarm went off. We got down to a port on the other side of the hill and then boarded a speedboat for our trip across the bay to Komodo National Park, home of half of Indonesia’s 3,000 Komodo dragons.
I’d heard of Komodo dragons, and just thought they were large lizards a bit like salamanders. I didn’t realise quite how large. Coming in at up to 3 metres in length these things are basically dinosaurs, and total killing machines, even feasting on their own young when they’re really hungry. You have to keep your eye on them because, like crocodiles, they’re quite partial to eating people if they get a chance, especially children.
Once we’d disembarked and walked up a concrete path to the ranger station we were a little surprised to see one of the beasties lying under a tree, perfectly camouflaged to look like a log from a distance. It was approaching 10am, just as they start to like to chill out, and we found several others dotted around outside the wooden huts, conserving their energy but keeping one eye on us as we walked past with a guard at either end of our group holding large sticks with crooks on the end to beat them off if they got cheeky.
We were warned we might not see much as it was getting to the hot part of the day, but only metres into our trek we spotted a 3 year old picking its way through the parched bushes and grass, and later caught up with him having a drink in a stream, lapping the water with his long pale forked tongue. Then not long after we found a fully grown female chilling out under a log, before returning to the ranger station and seeing a full on fight between a male and a female who wasn’t too impressed with his advances. At one point they pelted towards the group of tourists who had gathered and we all scattered, my self preservation kicking in as I jumped up onto a balcony (I’m quite fond of my ankles and would like to keep them).
Had a spot of lunch in the shade and then finished off filming with a little sketch pretending to be CBeebies presenters petting the deadly lizards, wrapping early enough to be able to stop the boat on the way back and do a quick bit of snorkelling as the sun set. It was Naomi’s last day with us before we all head off for the last block of filming in Singapore tomorrow, and there aren’t many work days I can think of that ended better than that.