Location Report - Labuanbajo - last stop on the Island Of Flores
08 30.914 S 119 52.071 E
After an enjoyable “snorkable” anchorage at Gilibodo, we motored the short 17 nm over to the “big tourist town” of Labuanbojo yesterday morning. We are anchored about 3 km from the main port/center of town and that is close enough….it is a typically dirty/dusty 3rd world town ….with lots of live-aboard charter boats (like in Turkey), commercial shops of all sorts, tour operators, “Indonesian Style Supermarkets (would not qualify as a supermarket in our familiar western world towns/cities)….and RESTAURANTS…even serving western food!! The “tourist dimension” is new for us to experience since our arrival in Indonesia….the reason this is a tourist destination/center is the world famous Komodo Dragons and Komodo Island and RInca where you can go to see the Dragons… and other many beautiful resort islands with hotels and beach/water attractions……this is one of Indonesian’s top tourist pulls….and we have seen tourists from numerous European countries as well as Asian and North American tourists….here for a few days to explore the Komodo area as they roam through South East Asia on a “hurry up” schedule….well, certainly “hurry up” (say 3 or 4 days or maybe a week in Indonesia) when compared to our sauntering.
Where we are anchored, we are just offshore from 4 or 5 hotels/resorts that nestle themselves into attractively developed settings along the beach. But this anchorage is not a “snorkable” anchorage….how do you like my newly coined word? We enjoy calm water/no nuisance swell, clean/clear water and idyllic settings around reefs worth exploring….this anchorage has none of those dimensions.
It has been VERY busy since our arrival yesterday at noon: young men from Komodo Island come here each year to service the Sail Indonesia Rally boats as they pass through…and this year, despite the Rally Event here being cancelled, these Komodo Island entrepreneurs are here with their very meagre boats (and their noisy one-lung, single stroke, engine-driven, long “ bum boats” ( you get a very sore bum when you have to ride on them into town). As soon as you drop your anchor, they pull up/paddle up beside you…introduce themselves….and tell you (with workable command of enough English to get by) that they are here to serve you for shuttle rides into town, get diesel fuel and/or petrol as you require, get water for you, beer for you, take your garbage…..and give you the opportunity to see and buy from their assortment of Komodo Island handicrafts (i.e. strands of fresh water pearls in several colours, carved Komodo dragons and other hibiscus wood carvings such as traditional masks and jewellery boxes.
Our Boat boys: Donna, Supring and Padhy on-board Sea Mist at end of day today….and a bottle of Bintang in the corner for good measure!
They work extremely hard at the task of getting your fuel from town to your boat across what can be a very rough couple of miles of open water….and then manage the movement of the fuel from their Gerry cans to your tank….with, hopefully, minimal spillage. For me it was 3 trips they had to make to bring me 17 jerry cans containing 505 litres of diesel . They took us to town both yesterday and today to do shopping for necessities….take in a rare experience of eating in a restaurant with readable menus and recognizable food….and mix with a number of other yachties at a local meeting place/bar/internet café/restaurant kind of place called the Mediterranean. We did buy a few items from their collection of handicrafts as we found their variety and quality the best we have yet experiences…at the best price also…once the tough negotiations were concluded….they always finish with “I’m Happy / You’re Happy…then everything is fine”…even if it has been a tough negotiation to get to an agreed price.
Sometimes it really feels like we are not being very fair but it is as it is in this poor nation: for example, they buy the fuel for say 50 cents a litre somewhere in the town > filling their 20 litre plastic jerry cans, then carrying those jerry cans back to their wobbly long/bum boat, then manually hand crank the one lung banger engine to get it firing, then motor a half hour across, maybe quite rough seas, the bay to the anchorage, turn off the direct drive engine far enough away from Sea mist to sort of coast to an alongside position with the help of their paddling to steer and cover the last distance so that they can get the boat to a controlled stop…then lift and pour the many litres of fuel into my special baha filter to catch any dirt or water so that it can’t get in Sea Mist’s tank…….and they do all of that for 20 cents a litre as we pay them 70 cents as the delivered price. So they would make the equivalent of $100 gross from the work all day today to handle my fuel….3 men (2 brothers and the 3rd , a brother-in-law…..and that is the lowest price we have paid for fuel over the 7 years in this life. Their normal life is in farming….rice paddies and the like….and they do this for 2 weeks each year when the Sail Indonesia Rally boats pass through….to make some real money……maybe $20 for a nicely carved, hibiscus wood, dragon. But, at the end of the day…they are happy although tired…and we are happy!...and life goes on.
Once last story: This afternoon, when I was in town to get some flour and yeast for baking bread….and a few other minor items, I came upon a store that had 330 ml cans of Bintang …instead of the big 620 ml bottles. So I said to the cashier , who understood a few English words, could she find someone with a motorbike to take me back to the port if I were to buy 4 cases…within a minute, she had a young guy (maybe 20 years old) who she said would take me….by the time I got back to the cashier after a minute of picking up some cookies or the like, I went to pay her and as I glanced out into the street, there was this young guy, sitting on the motorbike with 4 cases of 24 cans of beer between him and the handle bars…and waiting for me to get on board with my loaded backpack and another bag of goodies (which he hung from one handlebar….and she hollered out to him that I wanted him to go to the ATM (cash machine on the way)…and that meant that he had to go an extra 4 or 5 kms to get to the ATM ……wait for me to get through the line up to get cash….then drive me and the beer back to the port….and carry the beer the last 100 yards to where the long/bum boat was waiting for me….and when I wanted to pay him and asked him how much….it took him a while to come up with the number…….he asked for 15,000 Rupia - the equivalent of $1.50…which is what I gave him….and he was happy!! Now that is a cheap “taxi ride”. And the Komodo boat boys, they got $7 for the round trip from Sea Mist to town….$7 total for the 2 of us…..and they did that at agreed times…and I even phoned and changed the time both days…and they still kept to the requested times…..reliable/dependable/HAPPY/”taxi drivers”.
Enough of all this. Tomorrow at 7:30 am, we and 4 other boat crews (10 of us) are being picked up here in the anchorage to go for a day long tour by “big” boat to be landed at the National Park on Rinja to see the Komodo Dragons…instead of sailing our own boats over there. We have been warned to wear closed toe footwear and there can’t be anyone who is bleeding in anyway….wounds or otherwise…as the dragons will smell the blood and make it more dangerous for us to tour the land to see them. We will report how it all went.