The fella and I have just had the most magical 48 hours in Indonesia that I think it’s possible to experience. So many wonderful and unpredictable things happened that it occurred to me the only way to realistically share our wanderings would be in the form of a Fairy-tale. Perhaps I’ve been reading too much Robin Hobb, but this is a tale of dragons, volcanoes, journeys and adventure. A fairy-tale is surely what we were in ? Everything that you’re about to read happened in real life, and within the same 2 day period. Names of characters have been changed; not to protect their identity but because I don’t know what they all were or how to spell them in Indonesian. So, if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll begin.
nce upon a time, in a land far far away, was an adventurer called The Clansman. He was from a realm called Scotland, one of the four corners of a united Kingdom called Great Britain. The Clansman was a jolly fellow, with a loud booming laugh and a friendly smiling face. So sociable was the Clansman that he could often be found in the local free house, sharing stories and tales of his adventures over a mug of foaming beer, with friends old and new. During his journeying the Clansman had explored as far as the south eastern corner of another of Great Britain’s realms called England.
In England the Clansman chose for himself a companion; a fair Maiden of English heritage, but who had spent her young years in the third of Great Britain’s realms; the land of Wales. She herself had adventured as far as the south eastern corner of England, and it was here the Clansman fell in love with her. The fair Maiden was young and beautiful, extremely intelligent and had a wit about her that endeared the Clansman to her eternally. There was nothing the Clansman wouldn’t do nor a distant land he wouldn’t explore in order to please and make happy his fair English Maiden.
One day the Maiden beseeched her Clansman that Great Britain was too small a land to explore together; she had heard tales of dragons and seas, volcanoes and great underwater beasts, far far away in a magical place called Indonesia. Willing to do whatever it took to keep his Maiden happy, and to remove the sorrowful expression set upon her fair features, he agreed to lead an expedition to this mystical land, so named Indonesia.
Months of travel from their united Kingdom did it take to reach the far part of the globe where Indonesia lay spread across the ocean, poking its mountainous peaks above the surface of the seas like the spiny backbone of some gargantuan underwater Leviathan. During those months the love struck travellers endured hardships and challenges untold. Soaring temperatures, strange digestive disorders and exotic fare to name but a mere few. Not to mention the heartache that only separation from loved ones and the comforts of ones own realm can produce.
Eventually, after what felt like endless weeks of dedicated journeying the Clansman and the Maiden arrived in the Land of Flowers, in some tales named Flores. Both were weary and travel beaten; their normally ample statures somewhat depleted and their skin burnt dark by the relentless sun; a foreign star seldom seen in their united Kingdom.
So with lodgings procured, secured somewhat precariously at the base of a mighty conical volcano, the Clansman and the Maiden began planning how to track the mighty dragons they had travelled so far to see. Both the Clansman and the Maiden had grown up with the dragons and mythical creatures of their own lands, so they were in no doubt these mighty beasts would exist. However, to their size, their ferocity and their habitats they could not turn their imaginations.
And so here is where our story truly begins.
One night, in an attempt to garner some useful information about the mighty beasts, the Clansman bid farewell to his Maiden, making sure she was comfortably ensconced in their humble homestead. Armed with nothing more than a few bottles of the local brew, he set out to the harbour to engage with the local fisherman. A night of sea travel ensued for the brave Clansman, visiting Angel Cove and witnessing mighty shooting stars never before observed in his native Scotland despite its proximity to the awe inspiring Aurora Borealis. His nights adventure on the high seas around the islands of East Nusa Tenggara, of which Flores is just one of many, was bountiful. Full of new information and the promise of safe passage to the land of the dragons, the Clansman returned to his Maiden to share his titbits of information.
The Captain of the boat on which the Clansman had ventured was indigenous to the land of the dragon, known as Komodo Island. Captain Komodo, like so many before him, had fallen foul to the charms of the Clansman and his bottled brew, and he had vowed to provide transit and a nights lodgings to the Clansman and his Maiden in their quest to find the dragons. The maiden was thrilled with these tidings, but somewhat apprehensive about staying on the island inhabited by such unknown beasts.
The following day, the Clansman and the Maiden met Captain Komodo as planned and boarded his beautiful pea green vessel, the Indahnesia. The Maiden perused her new travel companion and found him to be much to her liking. Captain Komodo was a small man, wiry and lean. He had deep brown skin, black wavy short hair and when he smiled, which was often, he had only four teeth in his upper jaw; black where they met his shiny gums, and startling white elsewhere. He, like so many seamen the Maiden had met on her voyage, wore knee length grubby shorts and had a small cigarillo constantly burning in the corner of his mouth. He greeted her in a friendly manner and introduced her to the rest of his crew, who had been affably reuniting themselves with the Clansman. His crew was made up of only 2 other men; a quiet smiley older version of Captain Komodo, introduced as his uncle, and a younger skinnier boat boy, all curly hair and tattoos, neither of whom spoke any of the Maidens native tongue.
Off they departed and within a few hours of bobbing determinedly along a flat calm sea Captain Komodo slowed the engines and informed the Clansman and the Maiden that if they so wished, this would be a good place to swim amongst the gentle sea going giants known as Manta Rays. The Clansman and the Maiden did so wish, and bedecked themselves in apparatus suitable to breath and see underwater. With their bodies floating on the surface and faces submerged a few inches under the water the Clansman and the Maiden witnessed a sight that took their breath away. Beneath them, gliding effortlessly as if flying, were six enormous diamond shaped rays. They swam in what appeared to be a family group, in slow sweeping circles, with their mouths wide open, syphoning in the plankton that filled the waters. Black or dark grey on their backs and pale ghostly white on their under bellies the giant beasts were absolutely beautiful and dwarfed the humans in the water with them, whose arm span could not come close to matching their glorious wing span. The Mantas tolerated the Clansman and the Maiden diving down to be amongst them, only disappearing after thirty minutes of companionable sea time with a few beats of their mighty wings. Breathless and overwhelmed the Clansman and the Maiden clambered back aboard the Indahnesia and Captain Komodo chugged them off onto the next stage of their adventure.
When the engines next slowed, the sight that the adventurers beheld was one of mystical wonder; an arc of white beach whose sand turned a magical pink colour as the water lapped at it. Between the boat and the pink white beach was twenty meters of turquoise sea, crystal in clarity allowing the Clansman and his Maiden to see directly to the bottom, which was covered in a myriad of corals housing a multitude of life. Once again bedecked with the seeing and breathing equipment the pair splashed into the cool waters and wondered at the new world that was on display beneath them. No waters in their native united Kingdom could compare to what they were witnessing here; fish of all shapes and colours, star fish, cucumbers, corals, jellies all on show.
Whilst Captain Komodo, Uncle and Boatboy took a snooze on board their floating home, the inquisitive duo swam and sunned themselves in the glorious cove. A handful of other intrepid explorers were also present and the exited sounds of their underwater discoveries filled the air with happy exclamations and gasps of wonder. Could Komodo Island have more to offer than their morning had already provided ? The pair felt it was hard to believe, but excitedly resumed their seats on board the Indahnesia as Captain Komodo restarted the engines and headed onwards towards Komodo Island.
The wondrous Mantra Rays had obviously encountered some underwater companions and told them of the pairs epic journey across the seas to Komodo Island. This could be the only explanation as to why within the next ninety minutes the happy crew and incredulous guests of the Indahnesia had visits from both huge sea turtles and playful dolphins.
Rounding the headland of yet another island, the Clansman and the Maiden suddenly encountered a change in the sea conditions. Small eddies turned into giant whirl pools and the once flat calm was now choppy and ran in fast dangerous currents. The Indahnesia battled on and Captain Komodo expertly navigated his way round these obstacles, obstacles that seemed to the Maiden to be a natural barrier, perhaps put there by the magical dragons they sought to protect their island from too many visitors. Should they turn back, content after a wonderful day of natural discoveries ? The Clansman looked into the distance with a determined look on his brow, and the Maiden knew there would be no turning back today. She took a seat and gripped the railing of the vessel a bit tighter, a ball of excitement and anxiety worming its way around her stomach. Or perhaps it was just the choppy sea that was making her feel queasy ? She couldn’t be sure.
After what seemed like an eternity to the Maiden, the chug chug chug of the engines slowed yet again and she looked up to Captain Komodo’s face to see what had caused the change in speed. With a furrowed brow he solemnly pointed to a bank of mangroves at the base of a tall mountain. In amongst the green foliage were row upon row of giant bats, hanging upside down in eerie silence. Flying foxes, as Captain Komodo called them, peered out at the intrepid explorers and made the atmosphere feel strange and creepy. As the boat got closer so they became more and more agitated, finally taking to the air in a squeaking screeching black cloud of wings and furry heavy looking bodies. What were they telling the exploring pair ? Warning, dragons be here ? It sounded like that to the Maiden.
With the bats once again settled, Uncle and Boatboy turned their attention to steering the boat towards its final leg of the days journey; Komodo Island Harbour and the home of Captain Komodo.