So happy to be about to sleep in a bed for the first time in five days. Under sleeping is over-rated.
I’ve just escaped from 24 hours of horror at sea and am festering in Makassar airport on the island of Sulawesi in dire need of a few buckets of disinfectant and a long sleep. I feel like Bruce Wayne having just escaped from the prison inside the bottomless well.
I once travelled overnight on a cargo ship from Nassau to Eleuthera in the Bahamas, accompanied by my best friend, a full moon, a few bottles of Kalik beer and a fridge freezer being delivered to Ricky Martin, so maybe my memories of cargo trip travel are slightly rose tinted. Not even the most psychedelic of tints could do anything for the last 24 hours though.
The ship looked mildly foreboding as it entered harbour at Labuan Bajo last night, and the hoards of people getting ready to swarm on board were maybe a sign that the journey might not be plain sailing.
But the unbelievably cramped conditions, squalid passenger areas, toilets literally overflowing onto the deck, rivers of bin juice and piles of flying rubbish were truly uncharted territory. It was a ship destined for the gates of hell straining under the load of a thousand sinners.
It’s grainy, but this is literally a crowd of people sleeping on top of one another, piled up like pancakes:
I eventually found a couple of square feet on the top deck in which to curl up and attempt sleep – the stench below deck was unbearable – but had to contend with a pot noodle dropped on my head, a steady shower of cigarette butts from all angles, an inescapable downpoor of rain at 4am and generally being used as a footrest / step / side table / football throughout.
I’m officially pulling out of all long haul travel for the rest of my time here. Am at the airport booking flights like they’re going out of fashion.
P.S. Special thanks to the following for getting me through the last 24 hours large and in charge:
CNN Profiles podcast / Anderson Cooper 360 podcast / Richard Bacon Radio Five podcast / Best of Nick Grimshaw Radio One podcast (feat. Emily Ann Sonnet) / Today Show Radio Four podcast / Silvio Pacini – various mixes / Jamie Jones Paradise Closing party mix / Damian Lazarus Sound of the Mayan Spirit Day Zero mix / Richy Ahmed 145 Clarence Road mix / assorted K-Pop / my spirit
A local fisherman agreed to take a small group of us to Komodo in search of dragons today. It’s low season and they’re not letting many people onto the island as the dragons are mating and are a bit vicious at the moment, but we figured that if we just turned up the park rangers would let us have a look around.
It’s stupidly hot right now so we left Labuan Bajo on Flores really early, trying to beat the heat.
We passed a lot of small islands which was lovely until our sailor/driver confusingly announced that he had lost Komodo. Which island could it be??
Eventually we found Komodo in the distance:
The park rangers seemed fine with us being there so they armed us with a long pointy stick each and directed us off into the interior of the island.
Where are these dragons??
Dragons move fast – try spotting them here:
This one was kind enough to stick around briefly:
Their bite is poisonous so they attack and bite their prey, like this distant water buffalo, then let it wander around dying of poison for a couple of weeks and come back to it when it has keeled over later on to devour it.
We finally saw a whole batch of dragons in a shady clearing behind one of the rangers’ huts. Score!
Goodbye and “terima kasih” to those mean dragons for not killing us with the two-week poison.