… With a BANG!
Like returning to a crisis at work after a chilled break in the sun we returned to the topsy-turvy world of backpacking…
A glance at my bank account revealed a hefty £550 had decided to pack its bags and mosey out of my account; into someone else’s grubby little hands! Grrr. After a few frantic – and failed – attempts at calling my bank via skype (a note to everyone: Senggigi, Lombok does not have the greatest wifi) I finally spoke to someone. And after, yet more calls and skypes, it was resolved.
Someone had indeed pilfered my account. The bank had returned my money. However, we were down one card. But, that we can deal with.
Relieved, if somewhat drained, we scouted out our options to traverse Indonesia. We needed to get from Lombok to Flores, which meant a long journey through Sumbawa. A journey that would ultimately take 28 hours. Start to finish.
However, there was a problem. No ferries had been running the stretch between Sumbawa and Flores for the last 3 days due to rough waters. What would be the scene when we arrived at the Sumbawa harbour (Sape) the following day? Read on…
Our journey started flawlessly. A 1pm pickup at our hotel. A clean transfer to the bus station. Our bus – as you can see – was ‘excellent’. We were put at the very back of the bus… I guess they thought the rowdy westerners could cause less trouble back there. I assure you, we were as good as gold!
We settled in. We developed some good bum creases on the seats as to ensure our comfort for the next 17 hours or so (until our change of transport).
In twilight, with stars sparkling above us, our ferry chugged across the strait between Lombok and Sumbawa. And we took a last look at Lombok – which in all honesty we had not explored – and a first glimpse of Sumbawa – which would also remain a mystery to us.
We had barely settled back into our bum-creased-seats when it was all stop… Dinner. Now, the sales lady for our ticket had been very effusive about dinner, ‘Oh, dinner included mister. Good. Good. Dinner included.’ I have no words… Hmmm.
And then sleep. To slumber until the light rises again. Well no. We were at the back of the bus. A bus whose suspension was, shall we say, ‘experienced’! Bump. Jolt. Head bobble and wobble. It was a fitful night that was ended. Abruptly! It was 3.30 in the morning and we had arrived in Bima. Or should I say, the dull and dreary bus station of Bima.
But no worries our connecting bus was awaiting our arrival. We’d be out of Bima in no time. Ha! We waited and waited. Our bus driver slept in the bus. Wandered off. Ate. Drank. Got a hand massage? Or was it an exorcism of some kind? I joke not! He hunched and jerked every time the hand masseuse – come priest – touched his hand. It was, err, disturbing seeing as he would be taking us 2 hours to the harbour.
I asked, ‘when do we leave? Have to catch ferry’. His reply, ‘5 minutes’.
Time. Even specific times. They are an abstract concept in South East Asia. The only thing you can be sure on is, 5 minutes does not mean 5 minutes. It may mean soon (10-30 minutes) or it could quite easily mean 5 hours or in fact, and more likely, ‘when-the-driver-bloody-well-feels-like-it’. This was one of the latter.
Remember. We had arrived at 3.30 in the morning. We finally left at 7am! We could now see where we had spent half our night…
… This is not a spot I am eager to return to! It is unfortunately pretty much all I have to judge Sumbawa on. I won’t hold it against the island. Hopefully, one day, we will return and find the beauty of this place. I know for sure not to look in this bus station for it!
Rattling through the hills and countryside of Sumbawa, a local man throwing up straight onto the floor of the bus, we were, with no time to spare – having waited so long in the bus station – racing to the harbour.
We pull in. A ferry awaiting at the dock. But was it going? We found out it was… And we found out it was the first time it was running for 4 days! Phew! Lucky? Yes. And we’ll take it.
As a result of delayed running the boat was rammed. Packed to the rafters. Full to bursting. We escaped the crowded open cabins and made for the front of the boat, just below the window of the Captain’s station. This was a good call.
We met and chatted to the captain, who was super friendly, and along with some Indonesian students and a Singaporean backpacker – who we also had good chats with – we were invited into the boat’s Control Centre… That’s the captain of the left, looking uber chilled!
And then in the blink of an eye… A very, very slow blink (7 hours) we were pulling into Labuanbajo. The western tip of Flores.