Indonesia: here be Dragons!

“I’ve already paid!”…….“I paid at the desk back at the airport!”……..“That was what I was told to do!”

And I was pissed off! Hardly surprising when after a flight across the planet starting yesterday afternoon the taxi to the hotel was – predictably – twice as much as I was told it would be, the driver didn’t want me and took a route through town in the tropical night that – when I got my bearings – I had reason to believe was deliberately lengthy. All this after a long flight when one feels tired and disorientated in an unknown place after nightfall. This was a weak link in my journey through 4 countries. Taxis were usually more expensive than one was led to believe and potential trouble. Mike – a genius otherwise with travel plans – couldn’t understand this and had lined me up for a situation I despised. And as for being accused of not paying; well that was the last squalid straw! The driver was forced to learn fast that I was in the mood for a fight, gave in and left.

The hotel was not a luxury one I’d hoped for but would have been ‘interesting’ in other circumstances. It seemed to be composed of converted colonial bungalows up a back street staffed by teenagers. I knew a few words of Indonesian for courtesy’s sake and they knew more English so one could just about communicate, but that was another problem to be coped with. I was led to my room through a confusion of light and shadow, raised levels, the odd exotic plant and a small swimming pool, starkly illuminated or in black shadow in the hot tropical night.

My room appeared to be one small league up from the Athens hostel. Looking bare with basic old furniture. The TV reception was bad enough for it to be almost as unworkable as the Greek one. At least the room was big with a double bed. Last time I was in the Philippines they just had sheets on beds being a tropical country. Same thing here. So one could actually get cold if the air conditioning was on all night. Another way was by using the shower here which was just a nozzle in the same tiled room as the toilet. I tackled that with humour imagining I was being harangued by Michael Caine;- “Ow can you be bladdy cold you’re in the bladdy tropics fer Chrissake!”

There was no room safe but there was a small cafeteria at the other end of the space I’d walked through. At last I was able to unwind as long as I kept my stuff within sight.

Never mind, the main plan was holding. I’d wondered what the flight was going to do regarding the Middle East and Isis held territory? But the route was south then east across the arid masses of rock that passed for mountains in Sinai and Saudi Arabia, before flying into the night through the Empty Quarter until the plane was over Abu Dhabi, it’s pinprick city lights and tentacles of more light along the outlying highways in the night making it look like a bejewelled organism in outer space. During the long wait there I’d resigned myself to the dead weight of the largely useless laptop in my cabin max – which could have held a paperback – for the whole journey; it resolutely didn’t delete junk emails. Court martial and set a date for execution by hammer on my return then. Onward across India to SE Asia, somehow sleeping while hurtling through the atmosphere 1,000s of feet up until dawn over Java. The volcano that had closed 4 airports in this region had quietened down, the airports were open, so Jakarta airport was okay apart from an obstacle course of customs and security, but there was time for it was another long wait for the plane to Bali; hence the arrival after nightfall. I’d got here on schedule with all my stuff – apart from my old alarm clock which had joined Rupert Brooke on Skyros Island – and there’d been no problem with baggage at the airports. Now for a good night’s sleep before the challenge of tomorrow.

Easier said than done. It sounded as though we were next door to the centre of Bali nightlife: between a karaoke bar and the biggest disco in town. I got to sleep by imagining – then dreaming – that the pandemonium was the awesome WHUMP WHUMP WHUMP of those native drums and delirious chanting when that actress was being sacrificed to the monster gorilla in that film King Kong. Well the film was set near Indonesia on an island off Sumatra and where I was going in the next few days would be the closest anyone could get to that.
Thousands of feet up again the following day; but this time it’s on a propeller driven plane and although it looks gleaming and efficient it belongs – like the one that got me to Greece – to another of the world’s ten most unsafe airlines, giving an Indiana Jones feel to the adventure! Especially as when I get to my destination I’ve got to get to a harbour as soon as possible after checking into the hotel to hassle for a trip to the island. A chancy operation but Mike told me it could be done. There might be an opportunity to arrange this at the hotel anyway. I’d given the whole thing up for lost when the original trip fell through and the price was hiked by $300 dollars so I was doing it now quite literally on a wing and a prayer and there was no guarrantee that I’d find any dragons when I got to the island. Komodo Island. Komodo Dragons. Hence the title of this journal. Yes that was the reason why I was in Indonesia, to fulfill one of my boyhood ambitions – after watching David Attenborough – and have a cracking good adventure while doing so!

It felt like that as the plane descended over steep hills set in an endless sea, very close over one of them to land on Flores;- one of the main long islands along the chain of them from Sumatra to New Guinea, the western end of which was going to be the base for this exploit.

There was an easy link up with the drive to the hotel and on the way the driver told me he could contact a friend who ran trips out there. I was ahead of the game but wanted to check out the hotel.

The hotel this time was luxury jackpot! No trips to the island though so I gave the green light to the driver. His friend came, agreements were made, money changed hands, hands were shaken.

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By the time I’d sorted myself out sunset was on it’s way. Out by the pool with a beer or 2, the sun silhouetting boats that looked as though they could have sailed out of a film, I felt my luck was in!

 
Up and downstairs in the hotel lobby at the for the rendezvous at 6 am. A few night staff were lounging below the wall TV or asleep on a sofa. Dawn had arisen.

The guy taking me to harbour hadn’t though. The time for departure came and went with no appearance. Don’t panic.

By quarter past I felt the pressure – not of panic but anger – rising inside me.

By half past I was doing something about it by trying to get the staff to do something. Communication – though difficult – was not impossible. The whole thing had been a long shot and I had to hassle hard before the trip left without me.

Eventually a driver turned up to take me to the harbour. The fellow supposed to meet me had had an accident. Now it was a battle against fate and would we still make the boat?

Down at the ramshackle harbour the boat for the journey was still there thank God! But I was the only one going! And the boat itself:-…. Not a sleek tourist vessel but a narrow long craft decked out in blue and pink. I hoped the crew of 2 weren’t as frivolous or were going to kidnap me. Sulawesi island to the north was reported as being unsafe and north of that were the Muslims of Mindanao in the Philippines where the police kidnap tourists, so I’d heard. The guide was a skinny teenage girl, of 17 – she told me later – but the tour uniform and cheer found in tour guides anywhere was reassuring and I’d wanted adventure anyway, which by its nature was supposed to involve risk.

Kchunk kchunk jalopy jalopy jalopy rrrrrrrracket! went the boat’s engine, giving it all it had got to the point of breaking down by the overwhelming sound of it; as the boat edged out of the harbour, edgeways it seemed to me, although that was probably down to where I was sitting, nevertheless it looked as though we were taking on the sea crossing slightly sideways and would we make it without breaking down, sinking or exploding? It was 30 miles each way, littered with reefs and the odd whirlpool, I later learned.

The harbour shrank into its proper perspective astern: dwarfed by the immensity of nature, although the hotel was too tall for its surroundings really. The immensity of nature this time was an emerging moutain range to the south with small islands everywhere and the odd fishing village, one of them had a mosque. 100 million years ago some present day mountain ranges looked not unlike this: a chain of volcanic and mountainous islands emerging from under the sea.

The thrill of adventure took me over. Here I was on a rickety boat in the hands of people I’d never seen before that I had to trust to get me there and back again, through unknown waters. (Well it felt like it.) As for ‘there’ it was the haunt of dangerous – almost mythical – dragons. And not a health and safety official for thousands of miles! Absolutely bloody brilliant!

So was the scenery. Rumpled convoluted hills and mountains of all sizes, some conical indicating volcanoes, or piebald with shadowy valleys, tawny grassland scorched by dark areas of previous fires, stretches of trees and tufts of palms; ascending up to the dark bulk of primeval mountains to the south, all the more awesome with overhanging mountain ranges of cloud. It was easy now to imagine this sort of scene in the Jurassic or Cretaceous.

Here be dragons! There were some on Rinca Island which we were passing now, about the same size as Komodo Island. But Komodo Island had more so the best chance of seeing them was there. And it was further so being the kind of nut I am it had to be Komodo Island.

Not that Rinca should be underestimated. A party of scuba divers had become beseiged for a night on the island by the Komodo dragons there. Further incidents involved an old woman who was bitten on her leg and a guy who actually survived a dragon that had ‘stealthily entered the house and suddenly jumped on to the victim!’

Yes this region was one place where that ancient call to adventure ‘here be dragons’ had some truth to it. Rumours of dragons and a ‘land crocodile’ led to the discovery of Komodo Dragons by Europeans around 1910. They weren’t fire breathing or the size of Dinosaurs but were undisputably awesome animals – whopping big for lizards – and dangerous. The first zoo in Europe to have the honour of exhibiting Komodo Dragons was actually London Zoo in 1927. Since then their spectacular size and primeval nature have made them favourite zoo attractions. The film ‘King Kong’ released in 1933 was inspired by an early expedition to Komodo Island.

And now I was on my way there! We had something to eat and the sea became rough which only added to my delight while the crew and guide became concerned about spray drenching me. No worries I explained: my smile was that of ‘a crazy old man’ who’d refused to grow up and was really in his element now.

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Komodo Island. Like Rinca it was tawny with grassland over sawtoothed mountains. ‘Here be dragons!’ I tried to spot any for it was mostly open country. We were navigating a minute part of the biggest tropical island archipelago on this planet, so one would imagine the scenery being carpeted in jungle but the trees here were mostly woods hugging the shore or clustered up valleys and defiles, with tall mop like palms on the hills. A friend has remarked since that the crumpled terrain spotted with clumps and scatters of trees looked ‘made up.’ Maybe it was a climate anomaly. It looked sufficiently alien for dragons anyway and I even wondered if they’d been ripping up too many trees?

Round a headland was a village beyond a bay. I’d heard that one here was supposed to have a wall of stakes round it to stop the dragons from getting in, just like in King Kong!

There was a long jetty within the bay. I had a perilous moment getting myself and camera over the gap between the prow of the boat and the jetty. A national park existed here to protect the Komodo Dragons and the place had the trappings of controlled conservation: an ornamental wall with sculpted dragons on it, bare tidy spaces under trees and around huts and a lodge with massive photos of the dragons and maps.

There were introductions to a young lad who was a park guide and then the head of the park, at least in that area. I had time to comment on whether there was a wall around the village I’d seen, like in King Kong, prompting laughter from the head which indicated it was folklore for the tourists. Then we were interrupted by someone saying there was a dragon nearby!

It was a very young one crossing a sunlit patch of rough ground, with striking markings in contrast to the duller hues of the adults I’d seen on photos. The size of a monitor lizard and looking exactly like that. Logical since Komodo Dragons are really giant monitor lizards. Oh well – I thought taking the photos – at least you got here and got a result. Very likely wouldn’t see any others though. So that was the joke;- I’d come this far to see a baby dragon.

Further on though was confusion. I was warned to avoid an adult lying across a path! Sure enough I could see a big prone form dozing across a path amidst the dappled shadow of the trees but there was something odd about it’s sprawled posture; indicating it could be stuffed. On the other hand reptiles looking inert to the point of being dead could suddenly move very quickly and these were dangerous animals. It became apparent though that this was a wind up for the tourists.

But then the real thing came round the corner of a hut! Just as long or longer than a 6ft. man definitely, skin like chain mail, the grey bulk of it much bigger than a lizard ought to be, one felt. An adult Komodo Dragon for real! But everyone seemed to take it so matter of factly. To me it was like a Stegosaurus showing up with nobody seeming to care! It was probably there for the mud wallow at that corner with water in it but before long people were getting close to it. It was amazing how close people could get to it. Too close in my opinion.

There had been a lot of argument over whether these animals were actually poisonous. Two glands in the lower jaw secreting proteins inhibiting blood clotting and causing paralysis seem like enough evidence to me.

The Komodo Dragon was a female, I was told. One of the tourists knelt to take a photo of her from the front less than her length away from him. If that animal had lunged forward the way I felt it could have it would have had him! But she just lay there in repose, as though enjoying being admired.

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My turn came and I was motioned closer by the park guide who had a long branch ending in a fork. If I’d have seen the ‘U’ tube I’ve watched since returning home;- of a Komodo Dragon belting after a deer for an astonishing distance I wouldn’t have got as close as I did; but I was to be photographed with a Komodo Dragon, something I really prized. In theory I had more chance of getting away than the foolhardy tourist in front of her for if she became frisky I was near the tail as opposed to the head and it’s not easy for a lizard to turn around. The photo above captures one of the more memorable – not to mention fantastic – days of my life and how incredible it is that these monsters seem to have become so used to people around them. Nevertheless I felt that there could be accidents waiting to happen here.

I lined up the camea on this lady dragon from the side at a safe distance, I thought, intent on getting ‘portraits’.  But before my eye, through the viewfinder, her mouth actually broadened into a smile!  An unnerving experience.  What the hell was going throuh her reptilian brain?  Was she actually pleased or sizing me up as food or even ‘giving me the eye’?!  She didn’t try to attack so maybe I should just take perverse satisfaction in having this effect on an animal such as this.

The park guide, tour guide and me made our way inland. In the bank of a dried up watercourse he pointed out a hole under a tree that reminded me of badger burrows I’d seen in Gosport. Only this one was created by a Komodo Dragon. They retire to their burrows at night to retain body temperature and can stay cool by day within them.

My encounter with a female dragon would have been a good enough result I guess but the story wasn’t over yet when we moved on I found! There was a bridge over the watercourse with another dragon at this end of it! A handful of tourists were milling around again seemingly unaware of the potential danger while another park guide stood guard with another forked branch. I wondered if it could stop this Komodo Dragon for it seemed a bit bigger, stouter, longer. It was a male, I was told.

As we drew close it decided to lurch on to the bridge and I got a rear shot of it with a man on the other side transfixed by the prospect of a great photo of this thing lumbering towards him. A woman who originally had the same feeling gave in to common sense and legged it; also included in my photo of the whole thing. Luckily he got out of the way in time too.

Then there was the ultimate surreal walk of my life! A well maintained path led off into the jungle and this Komodo Dragon seemed to prefer the smoothness of it to the natural habitat on either side. So it started walking up the path with a patient plodding manner, with a steady regular flip of its paws, and kept on lumbering onward, and kept on. While we followed respectfully behind it as it dictated our speed, nobody being foolish enough to overtake. Like traffic behaving itself when a police car’s in front. In a sense it did police me at one spot when it took a short break and I got too close for its comfort. A cock of the head meant “watch it!” I retreated. It’s not every day you get told what to do by a lizard.

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Yes it certainly was surreal ‘being led up the garden path’ as it were, by one of the more dangerous animals on this planet who’d obliged us by taking on the role of an veteran guide with an unhurried casual manner; because he’d led so many dumb tourists before.

After what felt like a long way the park guide drew level with this Komodo Dragon on a space by a flimsy sapling and motioned me forward. I passed with nothing between me and this monster lizard but the sapling and the guide with an inadequate looking stick. The dragon was taking another break lying in the middle of the path and was as close as the door into the room – not a big one – where I’m typing this now. The guides and me got beyond him. Other tourists and guides remained behind.

This walk didn’t lead to more spectacular dragons but there were still discoveries. I’d thought the Komodo Dragon’s main diet was buffalo but it was mostly deer. Now and then we could see them in the underbrush of the dry woodland we were passing through.

We went up a steep hill. Nothing more than a spur of bigger hills and central mountains. There was a good view of the bay though and a name hinting at volcanism: Sulphurea Hill. A dragon had taken a dump there. I was invited to survey a soggy grey/brown ball of a turd with milky issue around it.

The woodland below held more deer, some spectacular palms and tree ferns, but was mostly dry forest: a profusion of bare trunks and branches and little enough greenery for it to begin to resemble winter woodland in England. Except it was hot and we were really in the dry season here. This part of the East Indies is a region of monsoon forest which we were walking through, cloud forest on the mountains and savannah. Photos taken after the monsoon show this country green enough to resemble a island sized park, with mountains and beaches thrown in.

It was in these woods that the 2 guides I was with told me they were really boyfriend and girlfriend. So: my lust for adventure had become the girl guide’s ticket to get over to the island and see him. I approved, for it’s nice when a lunatic enterprise of mine happens to work out benevolently for others involved. Back at the beach I left them alone for a bit by buying a T shirt with a dragon on it.

Again that worrying step across camera ruining deep sea water from a stable jetty to a rocking boat. Made it; but there was one more stop on the way back.

It was snorkelling over a coral reef, a spectacular one. Colours, shapes and size. And every tropical fish a jewel of colour. I couldn’t admire it for long though for the life jacket chafed me raw under both arms.

On the way back I decided to tip the 2 boat crew members to their delight and shaking of hands. I’d already done likewise to the guides. Why not? This enterprise had been run on quite literally a wing and a prayer and had turned out to be a real who dares wins triumph against the odds: a journey across half the planet on a schedule with no margin for error, to hunt dangerous monsters with a camera, with no guarantee of seeing any. I’d seen 3; it had been a good hunt!

It was such a good result that even a theft didn’t mar it. Back at the dock on Flores I took a last photo of the boat, then found the tour guide had made off with my Komodo T shirt which was in her bag. Oh well, I was thinking of tipping her more anyway since she’d been with me all the time; so that solved that problem. Neat! Photos were the real trophies I came for anyway.

And it wasn’t over yet. The organiser who’d had the motorbike accident was there and announced that despite that he would kindly take me back to the hotel on the back of his motorbike! He considerately showed me his injury too, a bloody scrape on the shin. All this while a tropical thunderstorm had built up and was about to break gave a ‘this is getting better and better!’ feel to the situation. I could tough out the rain (Ow can you be bladdy cold you’re in the bladdy tropics) so I tried to get it across to him;- forget the rain! Just drive safely and get me to the hotel in one piece!

It must have worked for although it was a wobbly ride it wasn’t that fast. The rain started but only became a downpour on the entrance drive to the hotel. Like any good adventure there was suspense right to the triumphal end.

The rain was soon over in time for more photos of the sun sinking into the sea while downing celebratory beers to honour what must be one of the more fantastic days of my life. A hairy, cockeyed,surreal and comical cracking good adventure!

 

Back in Bali there was some confusion with the hotel over my lift there from the airport. Maybe Mike had a point after all preferring the taxis. When I eventually got back to the hotel I still had plenty of time to chill out. This included a quick foray up the back street to the main tourist drag and a photo each way before popping back to my quarters. There was some sort of monument to the right at a junction but otherwise it was a crowded garish tourism scene with the odd tropical plant.

 

The plane taking me to the next country wasn’t taking off until well after nightfall on my last day in Indonesia so Mike had managed to line up a one day tour of Bali; an island I’d felt guilty about overlooking in my haste to hunt dragons. For it is a beautiful island.

The trip arranged for me was better organised than the dragon venture, with a rendevous that went according to plan, with a spruced up air conditioned combi. Again though I was the only one going.

The Guide was a Catholic. Indonesia is mostly Muslim. Bali is the biggest enclave of Hinduism outside of India, but it’s a Hinduism influenced by Buddism and ancient beliefs. There’s a religious ritual for everything here but they’re observed more in the spirit of celebration than duty. The Balinese are also prolifically creative. The result is an artistic powerhouse inspired by their religious beliefs.

It’s as though their religion was not only tolerant to other beliefs but a visionary drug if their art was anything to go by. Anything from masonry to fabric was utilised for fantastically intricate and frequently colourful work. The costumes of the Barong dance being a good example with the monster in particular taking on aspects of a LSD induced vision. That was the first example of Bali creativity we visited: a dance which was also a play about the struggle between good and evil. The plot was chaotically entertaining and the ‘gamelan’ orchestra of xylophones, gongs, chimes, percussion and flutes really got one into the atmosphere of it.

To be honest a lot of it was a tourist trap. One was taken to several craft centres where one was ‘encouraged’ not to just admire but to buy stuff. Wasn’t my original plan but it all looked beautifully made and I became interested enough to acquire a shirt of lurid swirling marine colours depicting a kraken in a storm. It actually became very useful for it was a lightweight but distinguished addition to my T shirts to the point of women admiring it, I found. I was less interested in a silver ring but the woman at that craft centre was expert at the hard sell, though she only succeeded at the cost of some haggling, which I was only good at because initially I didn’t want it; but I’m still wearing it. I managed to avoid taking woodwork on board – though it was the same striking standard – being concerned about the trees needed to make a store of woodcraft.

Perhaps I shouldn’t worry. Bali is much more a typical tropical island than Komodo. Though it was city, habitation then rice paddy cultivation as we drove inland one could see lush tropical vegetation where there was the slightest chance for it to grow back towards a jungle again. Then there were the standards here. I’m probably wrong but did the psychology brought about by small temples or offerings to the gods at almost every home help to curb commercial excesses denuding the island of trees? The driving too, didn’t seem bad compared to many 3rd world countries, more laid back perhaps. I’m not normally a fan of organised religion which could be responsible for a lot of evil but maybe Bali could show the world how it should be done if one’s going to have that kind of society.

Then there were the ‘Penjors.’ My internet research has only just revealed the correct name and explanations in broken English. Indonesian flags were everywhere through the outlying suburbs and villages because of yet another festival tomorrow. Along with these were upright bamboo poles outside every house drooping over the road, embellished with ‘coconut, small shrine, snack, fruits, paddy and many more’ so the description goes. Penjors: an example of the fusion of art and religion here, these weird looking 10 metre long lengths of bamboo tree had become religious artifacts through a competition for artistic excellence. They were burned after a month to symbolise a break with anger and emotion. An answer to rioting and crime? Get rid of those urges through ritualised vandalism perhaps?

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The Bali temples could look like fragments of heaven; with tropical paradise vegetation, pagodas and pyramidal roofed structures, exotic statues. One was on a clifftop, another on a great rock set in the sea, another in a volcanic lake. We saw 2 others which were sited at springs; of holy water in at least one case. Water gushed into rectangular pools inhabited by large fish but at certain times of year people bathed there. One of those -Goa Gaja – included a cave, the entrance of which was sculpted into a mouth big enough to swallow the devoted and others.

It was worth noting the sarongs around the statues at the entrance and elsewhere. They were supplied at the temple entrances. The laundry logistics of my lightning campaign had led to me running out of jeans and track suits by now so I was wearing shorts. Not to be advised when touring these parts of Bali. The Balinese often prefer legs to be covered.

One structure kept being repeated: an open gateway between 2 identical edifices scuplted to a greater extent or less on 3 sides of each edifice with the outer side sloped or rounded. By contrast it was sheer and unembellished where one walked through. The guide explained that they symbolised a mystical mountain one passed through.

The volcanic mountains to the north were sacred in fact. Treated like gods with the kind of respect shown to volcanic eruptions. Dead flat to begin with the ground gradually rose towards the volcanic terrain forming the spine of the island. Gullies became surprisingly deep and filled with jungle. More numerous too the further north one went, broadening into valleys, forming ascending ridges between.

Eventually we were on high ground and at a restaurant where I could have a break and a meal. It was a meal with a view. A grandstand view of the volcanic forces shaping this planet.

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Right before me was a panorama of curving escarpment to the left, volcano with barren slopes around which a road ran, including through a village, right in front, large lake under more escarpment and mountains over to the right, rain forest with the odd habitation in the foreground. I had this grandstand view which I could photograph at leisure between mouthfuls of delicious food because the restaurant was sited on the edge of the escarpment which was actually a ‘caldera’ wall; formed when a volcano blows its top off or slumps inward, maybe sometimes both. Either way I was on the edge of what was once a much bigger volcano.

The volcano before me – Batur – was more than one volcano. One on it’s southern flank had erupted the most recently on this side and I could see the lava flows. The guide told me it had erupted in 1922, the year my father was born. Research shows it’s erupted many times since, sometimes every several decades, sometimes through several consecutive years. One last thing: the alignment of this volcanic complex marks a fissure system pointing towards the restaurant where I was.

Furthest to the right – to the east – a great domed cone of a mountain loomed above the clouds and the landscape. Mount Agung. The name means ‘paramount.’ It was Bali’s most sacred mountain and the highest at 3,142 metres. It erupted less frequently than Batur but its 1963/4 eruption was one of the largest in the 20th century with many fatalities.

On the return journey I was shown a cocoa plantation where – on a covered gallery with benches and a view of rain forest – one could sample various high grade cocoa beans and associated foodstuffs. I spotted an old friend: a papaya or pawpaw tree.

We returned past increasing settlement, endless bamboo penjors, motorbikes and a fortune in artistic craftwork stretching across half the island. The guide – impressed with my knowledge of calderas and pawpaws – chatted. I’d overlooked one thing though that had been right under my nose.

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“You know you’re next to where the Bali bomb went off?” No I didn’t! But hang on, there was a monument just to the right of where the backstreet to my hotel came out. So that’s its site! I’d wondered how close I was to that event but somehow hadn’t cottoned on to the monument’s significance. The land plot opposite the monument used to be the site of the nightclub and hadn’t been rebuilt since then.

In 2002 the ‘Bali Bomb’ – 3 bombs including 1 main one – killed 202 people from 21 countries. Most were Australian and there were 28 Britons. The trouble was the force of the bomb igniting and exploding nearby cars, one man remarked back at the hotel. The swimming pool there might well have been used to soak burn victims, swimming pools were. If this horrific crime was intended to stop tourism it’s been a complete failure.

Nightfall. Time to go but there was a problem represented by a youth whose nervous giggle was truly irritating. I gathered despite the language barrier that the car taking me to the airport had left 10 minutes earlier than the agreed time to pick up someone else. Why? But I waited without losing it despite not being sure of when the plane was going. This approach led absolutely nowhere with no result but the irritating giggle. My car was stuck on the main road somewhere. Finallly I made it clear that I was infuriated, took off with my gear on foot, followed by the giggle on a motorbike who caught up with me at the main road. It was jammed solid! But there they were!

It took ages to get out of there but reaching a the huge exotic statue on the junction near the airport was a good sign. When we got close enough to the right building I fled.

The plane wasn’t taking off until the early hours. Strange how arguments at the beginning and end of my Indonesian foray had bracketed what had actually turned out to be a brilliant success! And I was over half way with the 13 plane flights. 6 to go. Next stop: celebrating my success with friends.

© D. Angus 01 16

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2 Responses to Indonesia: here be Dragons!

  1. John B says:

    What a great week!

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