Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Labuan Bajo

Wed 9/22 (We're only 2 months behind schedule here)

There'd been a note slipped under my door telling me that Benny from Flores Exotic Tours, the company arranging the Komodo trip, would pick us up at the hotel at 6.30am. We wondered to the lobby around then and a man waiting by a van waved to us. I asked if he was Benny, he nodded, smiled and motioned us around to load our bags in the van. I told him we were hoping to grab some breakfast and asked if we'd have enough time before our flights (all arranged through the company). He seemed confused. At this point we realized he was not, in fact, Benny, but just another asshole wanting to drive us somewhere. No doubt, he could also hook us up w/ a massage.

We left checked out and went to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Before long a man who knew our names found us and said he would be taking us to the airport where Benny was waiting with tickets for our 8am flight. Fortunately, since airports here aren't concerned with harassing you to keep up the appearance of safety (that's only at the hotels) loading up at 7am wasn't a problem.

We met Benny and handed over a wad of cash in exchange for our tickets and an envelope w/ his signature as proof of purchase. Benny assured us there would be a driver waiting upon arrival and we headed into the airport.

Unlike in Yogyakarta where there was no gate info, here it was contradictory. Our boarding passes said gate 17, the monitor said 15. We went to 15 first and asked an employee who was nearby eating breakfast. She asked to see my boarding pass and told me to go to gate 17, making it quite apparent that I seemed mentally deficient. There were no people or signs at 17, so we sat nearby keeping an eye on the family that received boarding passes ahead of us and appeared to be heading to Labuan Bajo with enough supplies to last the winter. About 8.15 an announcement was made that our flight was boarding at gate 16. Tricksy.

The Labuan Bajo Airport

Upon landing in Labuan Bajo, we entered the 'arrivals' door (as opposed to the 'departure' door next to it) and found ourselves literally locked in the 2-room airport. Apparently in order to keep people from wandering into the waiting area, they just lock the exit until everyone and all the luggage is unloaded. Behind the gate was a crowd of people offering transport (but no mention of massages here). It was a lot like being in a zoo with a crowd staring and hollering at you from the fence.

View of the port from above Labuan Bajo

When released from the airport we found a man with our names on a sign and followed him to a van. He told us we were heading to the harbor where we'd meet our boat and head to Rinca island for a trek this afternoon then head closer to Komodo island to stay for the night. The next day we'd trek at Komodo, have some time to snorkel and head back to Labuan Bajo. The next day we'd meet our dive crew and head out with them. Food and water were covered on the boat, but we needed to stop to stock up on beer and snacks. We met our 4 member boat crew and set off for Rinca (pronounced Rincha, in case you cared).

Some Islands seen from the Boat
First view of Rinca

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