So. Last time I updated the blog I was in Labuan Bajo, on my way to leave on a ferry for the island of Sumbawa. I am still in Labuan Bajo. There has been a tropical cyclone building up over the ocean just off northwestern Australia, creating strong winds and 4-5 meter waves off the coasts of Flores and Sumbawa, so all ferries have been cancelled until further notice. Today the core of the cyclone is passing over us here in Labuan Bajo on its way east, so the locals are hopeful the ferries will be up and running again by Friday.
I have a bit of slack built into the plan, so I am not too worried but I will have to do some long days on the bike to make up a few days through the rest of Indonesia. As a first step, I will likely take a ferry here from Labuan Bajo straight to Surabaya on Java (the capital island of Indonesia). Mainly because the ferry going to Surabaya is the biggest one of all the ferries so it is likely to get clearance to sail before the smaller one to Sumbawa.
The ferry I am taking to Surabaya arrived yesterday and is now waiting in the harbour here
In taking the ferry straight to Surabaya, I am skipping Sumbawa, Lombok and Bali. I have been to both Bali and Lombok many times before, so that doesn’t bother me too much although I was looking forward to Sumbawa (which is supposed to have great roads). But I guess it’s good to have some part of Indonesia not yet explored so I have a reason to come back.
Under any normal circumstances, being stuck here in Labuan Bajo would have been really really nice. The scuba diving here is some of the very best in the world and the town is not too bad a place to kill the last few hours in the afternoon after returning from a days diving. But with the cyclone all dive boats have also been stuck in the harbour since Sunday… I’ve tried to keep myself occupied as best as I can in the mean time.
Day 19 – Starting to figure out the ferry situation: My original plan was to take the afternoon ferry to Sumbawa on the 4th (which was day 19 of my trip). I had been warned that the ferries might not be running but I headed down to the harbour to check out for myself. I get to the ferry terminal and find a nice Indonesian gentleman who explains that the afternoon ferry is cancelled, and maybe there will be no ferry tomorrow either. But there is another long distance ferry coming through the next morning he says, which goes all the way to Bali but stops in the town of Bima on Sumbawa on the way. It leaves 7am, so he recommends I get up in the middle of the night to get to the harbour at 4am to get tickets. So I pack my bags and head to bed early.
Day 20 – Continuing to figure out the ferry situation: Up bright and early, I pack all my stuff back on the bike and roll down to the harbour just after 4am to get tickets to the big long distance ferry. After waiting in line for the ticket office for some 20 minutes the lady kindly explains that I cannot take my motorbike on the ferry, because it’s not a car ferry – humans only. I try to negotiate a bit to try and get them to use the crane in the harbour to lift the bike up on the ship and strap it down to the deck but in the end they got tired with me and simply said “crane broken, sorry” and that was the end of it.
They did however say that the regular ferry may in fact be running that morning after all, so I hope for the best and ride over to the other ferry terminal where the ferry is sitting at the docks with the gates open to the car deck. I ask a gentleman in an official looking t-shirt if the ferry will sail the same morning and he explains in very poor English that “yes, yes, ferry running” but “not now, maybe later” and finally recommended “best go on ferry, wait there”. Said and done. I ride onto the ferry where there are already a couple of cars waiting on the car deck. I park the bike and lock everything down and then head up to the passenger deck to wait on a bench there. It is now 5am.
I fall asleep on the bench, wake up around 7am. There is a comforting number of locals also hanging out on the ferry so I start getting my hopes up, knowing that the scheduled departure time for the morning ferry is 9am. I head down to the car deck to see if there is anything going on down there, but still just my bike and the couple of cars. There are however a few guys loading big sacks of rice onto the ferry so I head over to them to see if they know when/if the ferry is leaving. One of them speaks a bit of English. A conversation ensues.
Me: Hello, do you know when the ferry is leaving?
A guy: Hello mister, don’t know. But ferry delayed
Me: Do you know how much delayed the ferry is?
A guy: Not sure mister, maybe five days, maybe ten days
At this point, I am so glad the guy earlier in the morning recommended I drive onto the ferry and wait there… for five days. Or ten. Just to make sure I wouldn’t miss it. Anyway, against his recommendation I decide that maybe I will be less miserable if I go back to Blue Marlin (the dive shop I have been staying, and where you should also stay and dive if you go to Labuan Bajo and Komodo) and wait there where there are luxuries such as a bed, coffee and other humans to talk to…
Day 21, 22 & 23 – Killing time and checking ferry status every day: Every day starts with going to the harbour at 7am to check the latest status of the ferries, and then figuring out things to do for the rest of the day to kill the time. There isn’t really much here beyond the diving. But we managed to find a nice fresh water stream a bit up in the mountains where we went swimming and I also took the bike to the local bike wash shop as it was getting very dirty from riding through all the rain and mud so far in Indonesia. But other than that I’ve mostly hung out in the café at Blue Marlin reading a book.
Hanging out at the café at Blue Marlin, between the rain showers
Fun and games in a local stream
Bike getting a wash – before
Bike getting a wash – after