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Final Statistics: Alex & Maz Total distance: 93,550km
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There's More to Bali than Kuta Beach

Written by Martin Pitwood. Uploaded 27 September 2006.

Indonesia, Country 24, Diary entry 13th-25th August 2006, Total distance in Indonesia: 6654km

The ferry from Java to Bali was quick and painless - only half an hour sailing time, but triple that when you add the messing around at each end.

After a quick meal at one of the food stalls in the port town of Gilimanuk (sate kambing - goat satay!) I drove along the coast for an hour or so until the road follows the beach, and eventually I found a place to camp. I was aiming for the beach and found what would have been a nice spot if it had not smelled like a compost heap, then second attempt led me to a river bank. Not very secluded but it was well and truly dark by then and I decided any interruptions would be in the morning. Don't care then, I've already slept, and sure enough the interruptions came in the guise of a couple of very confused locals tending the banana palms just nearby.

The temple at Tanah LotI decided that I would stop along the way at anything worth seeing as I probably wouldn't be returning along this stretch of coastline so I stopped at Tanah Lot, which is a temple built onto a lone rock just off the beach, and only accessible at low tide. I discovered I was well and truly in touristland now - the price just for parking the car was the same as I'd paid for entrance to other sites in Indonesia - and made my way to the beach. It was in a lovely setting, I will admit, but tourist cheese was on the menu here. There were holy men anointing people's foreheads with tika or bindi or whatever you call the spot of stuff on people's foreheads, and of course encouraging donations. Along the beach front there were overpriced restaurants and annoying the visitors at every turn were girls selling postcards at "bargain" prices. No matter how nice the beach, the cliffs or the temple itself, hassle like this is unwelcome and does not encourage one to stay. In any case I was starting to think it'd be a good time to find Toyota and get my car fixed properly as a priority.

The people at the Toyota dealership in Denpasar were very professional. They took apart the master brake cylinder and examined the rubber seals and agreed that they needed replacing... but of course Toyota in their wisdom do not sell just the seals - you have to replace the seals, the springs and the other moving bits and pieces inside as a whole kit. So despite the fact that the part that failed should cost a few pence to replace, you have to spend 20 quid instead. I should buy shares, I'd be laughing all the way to the bank. Anyway, I had no choice, I had to fix the car and it was a quick job. They put it all back together, bled the system and gave it a clean bill of health. I also asked them to check whether the hole in my exhaust pipe could be repaired or if not, how much would it cost to replace that part - assuming it'd be cheaper to fix it in Indonesia rather than Australia. The chap thought it could be welded so we took the car to the guy they use for welding about a ten minute drive away and he climbed inside the wheel arch and started work. Word came back - he couldn't get the torch far enough behind the pipe as the chassis was in the way, but suggested cutting a big hole in the accessible part of the pipe through which to gain access to the far side. What the hell, I thought... so he removed a piece of the exhaust pipe about the size of a credit card, worked through the hole to weld up the other side and then welded the missing piece back into place again. I was remarking to the Toyota guy that this would never happen in Europe, labour charges being so high it is cheaper to throw it away and put a new one, when the guy crawled out reporting job done, we certainly couldn't feel any gases escaping any more, and his bill was just over a pound. We've got something very wrong in Europe - it's not just the cost, but it wasn't too hard a job to fix it. Why do we have such a disposable society?

Kuta Beach, quite crowdedWith a car that actually seems to stop properly again, I made my way into Kuta - the Australian equivalent of the Costa del Sol. I knew it was going to be pretty nasty but I had to see it for myself. I parked first in the Legian Beach area to the north of Kuta, mostly because I was confused that I couldn't find where I was on the map and with this number of restaurants and other tourist facilities around me surely I must be near the middle now? I parked in a car park next to the beach and walked along it - it was nice to get my feet wet walking along a long stretch of sand again and I was pleasantly surprised how nice the beach was. I walked about half an hour down the beach and found some landmarks to locate myself on the map and sure enough, where I had parked was well off the map, I was nowhere near the real tourist centre, as became even more obvious when I got in the car again. The roads are a nightmare here - choked with traffic and narrow, and with a ridiculous one-way system where one road is southbound only except for one block where it's northbound, so for that block the three roads in from the beach all head north and you have to take a massive diversion inland to get any further. Clever. So when I saw a hotel offering rooms at a reasonable price and with a car park I stopped there and abandoned the vehicle.

This was the main drag, one block inland from the beach, and walking to the beach was fairly easy along little alleyways not wide enough for cars but with cars going along them nonetheless. All the standard tourist stuff was there - the bars and restaurants, the arts and crafts stalls, the massage girls... and finally it spits you out onto the beach. I arrived in time for sunset, which was a little disappointing as the sun disappeared behind clouds and it never got very colourful. Looking around me I discovered where all the tourists in Indonesia had gone - after seeing very very few other tourists around in Sumatra and Java, here they were on Kuta Beach.

Kuta Beach, what can you say?I had some food, and not McDonald's despite the photo - sorry Rebecca no increase in your share price today - I just thought it summed the place up rather well. Afterwards I walked around the bars near the hotel, decided I just couldn't be bothered - it's certainly not a place to go out alone - and went to bed to the accompaniment of thudding bass from a nearby club.

The next morning, of course, I got the hell out. I drove to Ubud.

Temple guardian in UbudUbud is a remarkably touristy place but somehow keeps a quaint feel. With probably more art and crafts outlets per square kilometre than the Glastonbury Festival the hippy potential is very high but mercifully it hasn't gone that way. Perhaps because of the prices in the galleries, I don't know. While the town itself is mostly restaurants and galleries, the surrounding countryside is beautiful and perhaps is an inspiration for a lot of the art. I explored along one of the rivers which took me into the heart of the farming areas, through lush bright green paddy fields where I could almost believe I was off the tourist trail except that even the half-submerged farmers said hello in English, and then past woods which with the smell of composting undergrowth almost smelled like they could have been in England. Sporadic galleries appeared along the way just to remind me again that I'm in one of the most tourist-concentrated areas of Southeast Asia. Finally I found a road to take me back into the centre of Ubud, along which the locals' warungs were slowly but surely replaced in favour of upmarket restaurants and I was back in the thick of it again.

Rice paddies around UbudI had to return south to Sanur, a more upmarket version of Kuta, the following morning. Finally after witnessing preparations taking place all through Indonesia, today was 17th August - Independence Day. I was invited to join a traditional flag-raising ceremony to mark the occasion, with a twist - the ceremony was to take place underwater! I was guest of Butet from Air Diving, who is also heavily involved with organising and promoting the upcoming Sanur Village Festival (which unfortunately takes place after I have to leave Bali). This underwater flag-raising was arranged as a sort-of pre-event and media crews from newspapers, magazines and television from Bali and from Jakarta were invited. Butet was very helpful in introducing me to everybody and explaining what our trip is about and how we are raising money for Care International and we ensured a copy of our 2-page mission summary was included in their press kit. Hopefully our near-global fame will now spread to include Indonesia!

Underwater flag raising ceremony. Photo (c) Marthen WellyThe underwater ceremony was one of the more unusual dives I have done. Just off the beach at Sanur is a floating pontoon from where 17 divers (to mark the 17th of August) entered the water, but we were also joined by a number of non-divers wearing "Seawalker" equipment - basically a large helmet with a glass front and a hose connected to an air supply on the pontoon. They formed a line along the sandy sea bed first, taking care not to get tangled up with each other, then the divers lined up opposite and everyone saluted as the flag was raised. Some people were wearing fancy dress - one was a farmer with coolie hat and hoe, others had fake guns to symbolise the independence struggle. I kept out of the way at the back as I didn't want to look too Dutch! One by one, the flag fluttering surprisingly well, they swam up to the flag and kissed it. The less-mobile Seawalkers had smaller individual flags to kiss, and the ceremony was complete. Around the sandy bottom were some metal cages designed for growing coral as part of an ongoing campaign to repair the reefs that were previously damaged by destructive fishing techniques so we looked at them for a little while but having been pretty much stationary for half an hour before that we were all getting a little cold so we surfaced, had lunch on the pontoon and then returned to the shore.

Underwater flag raising ceremony. Photo (c) Marthen WellyButet then took me and a magazine journalist called Dito across to Legian Beach where she seems to know everybody! On the beach was a large stage for the evening's Independence Day concert and after joining some of her family in a nearby restaurant for drinks we watched the concert. The main sponsor was Surf Time, an Indonesian surfing magazine, but other surfing sponsors had also supported the event, but in return wanted to use the event for their own publicity. As a result the concert was interspersed with fashion parades, and sometimes the two even overlapped. My favourite was the teenage girls strutting across the stage like it were a catwalk, modelling Roxy clothing and Oakley sunglasses to the accompaniment of an Indonesian version of The Clash's "I Fought The Law".

We were heading for food when Butet's mobile rang - she had forgotten a dinner engagement that evening. She is involved with the local Rotaract organisation (a kind-of younger version of Rotary, I'm told) and they were meeting with the Swiss consul, a prominent local Rotarian, to discuss setting up a new branch in Nusa Dua, further south from Kuta. It was no problem for Dito and me to gatecrash, we were told, so we burned rubber as much as Kuta traffic allows (i.e. not much) to make our way to the restaurant. Dinner was a Balinese buffet and was excellent, and accompanied by traditional gamelan music and Balinese dancing, which was a little weird in the surroundings of a Swiss "Fonduestubli". On the wall was an eclectic selection of paintings of Alpine peaks and rice terraces, sometimes both in the same painting, and outside on the pavement was a life-size fibreglass cow with Swiss scenery painted on one side and Balinese on the other. Jon, the consul and restaurant owner, was a very affable chap and most interested in our expedition. He pointed at a very faded picture on the wall of a VW campervan negotiating rocky terrain - he had done a similar expedition many years ago! Times change, countries open and countries close... he had taken a similar route from Switzerland to Iran but had included Afghanistan prior to Pakistan. Afghanistan is supposed to be a beautiful country but regrettably off-limits at the moment, but who knows in the future? On the other hand, he had not been able to travel through China meaning the only way to Southeast Asia was by ship from India. Unfortunately for me, the meeting had to start so I didn't get as much time to chat about his trip as I'd have liked. I kept a low-profile as important matters were discussed (I was happy being there stuffing my face). A photo session (complete with painted cow) brought the meeting to a close and Butet, Dito and I headed off back to Legian Beach.

A typical roundabout in DenpasarButet had acquired tickets for the Surf Time awards ceremony at the Dיjא Vu club. It was interesting that there were so many people there going mad over their surfing heroes being presented with medals for such honours as Hottest Male Surfer (whoo!) but knowing nothing about surfing whatsoever it went over my head a little and with all the day's activities my eyelids were starting to droop. Butet kindly provided accommodation for me at her home and I slept like a log.

I called in on Jerome at Atlantis Dive Centre, who had also offered to help, but it turned out that his timetable didn't work out with mine and unfortunately nothing came of it. Thanks to him though, he was very keen to help out, and hopefully Alex and Maz can catch up with him when they pass through Bali later.

Monkey Forest, UbudI took a quick drive down to look at the famous surf break at Ulu Watu, the southernmost tip of Bali to see what all the fuss was about. Perched on the cliff above the sea were a number of small restaurants and I took position in one with a banana smoothie (with peanut butter in it, which tastes nicer than it sounds!) and watched the surfers. There were probably 30 or 40 of them in the water bobbing around waiting for the perfect wave, and the waves kept coming, barrelling in towards the shallow reef. Most of the people out there seemed to be pretty good with no drownings and no smashed bodies on the reef so I packed up and headed back to the car. Wanting somewhere quiet to get some work done, and the whole of the south of Bali not being anything close to quiet, I headed back to Ubud and the same guesthouse, stopping at the Monkey Forest Sanctuary just outside the town. This place is a shameless tourist trap, but I can't argue as they got my money too. The forest is quite pleasantly cool and shady and there are hundreds of monkeys there posing for photos in return for bananas. They are keen hunters, smelling the merest trace of hidden food in a tourist's pocket, and they tug on trouser legs until the tourist, fearing attack, hands over everything they have in an attempt to escape their clutches. It was funny to watch the reactions of the scared tourists whenever a monkey made a sudden move - it was funny at least until I got too close to one with my camera and a disinterested gaze suddenly turned into evil gnarl, all magnified through my telephoto lens, and I nearly jumped out of my skin!

Besakih templesThe next day I explored Gunung Kawi, a Hindu temple complex just 15 minutes' drive up the hill and then a ten minute walk down to a stream where the rock faces have been carved out into a series of ten temples. It all sounded nice in the book but the temples were very boxy and not especially impressive. I know I've been spoiled by a zillion temples already but even so I'd mark this a "could do better". I walked back up the hill which seemed strangely longer than it had been climbing down, and drove on to the next temple.

Besakih templesThe temples of Besakih are perched on the side of Bali's great volcano Gunung Agung which means they are just about to disappear into the clouds at any moment. Agung normally has a thick cloud obscuring it from mid-morning onwards so was not visible by the time I arrived but the temples were impressive all the same. There are quite a few of them all in the one place - a relic from old Hindu times I'm told, from when the caste system required different temples for different classes of people, but nowadays this caste system has been abolished in Balinese Hinduism so they end up with surplus temples. All are still used, I guess it depends how much privacy you want. They are all dedicated to the same three gods - Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. After an argument with the ticket checking bloke about whether a guide was required (I knew it wasn't obligatory, he insisted it was, I asked for my money back in that case, he obviously didn't want to have to answer his boss's questions) I wandered in and a local approached me offering guiding services. Normally I refuse - after being in a few tourist-laden places in the last few days, everyone seeing me as a walking ATM was starting to grate a little - but he started right out by quoting an honest price so this time I accepted. His name was Wayan and he pointed out the sights of the temples while at the same time ensuring that as a non-Hindu I didn't stray into places I was unwelcome. Restoration work continues, and apparently this is because of the 1963 eruption of Agung which destroyed large sections of the temple complex. Currently Agung is sleeping but surely one day will erupt again and all this work will have to be redone.

Gunung Batur and Lake BaturI continued on up the hill to Gunung Batur which is another volcano with a large crater from an ancient eruption, with new volcanic cones from smaller more recent eruptions inside and a lake filling in the rest and, like the previous crater lakes I'd seen, is stunningly beautiful when viewed from the rim, especially as the sun was sinking in the sky and illuminating the inside of the rim on the far side, and making the water a brilliant blue colour. If you can ignore the tat-merchants tirelessly plying their trade that is. The volcanic cones look imposing and from the most recent eruption in 1994 the lava field is a distinct black in comparison to the older flows which are now covered in grassland and trees. My plan was to descend into the rim and find a place to stay for the night, and return by a different route in the morning making a circuit of the cones, but it was clear once I'd descended that the area was so much more beautiful from a distance. The villages were dusty and run-down and not a place to want to stay, and the supposedly navigable road around the cones was in a terrible state. I decided to quit while I was ahead and climbed back out of the crater and descended a long tortuous road to the north coast and the area known as Lovina Beach. None of the villages are called Lovina so I wasn't really sure where to go, but it was pretty obvious when I arrived as both sides of the road were filled with hotels, restaurants, dive shops and internet cafes. I stayed the night in a reasonable room, ate reasonable tuna and in the morning explored the reasonable beach before heading along the coast to the east, the aim to eventually return to Denpasar airport where at the DHL office, in a couple of days hopefully, my new carnet de passages would be waiting for me, the original one expiring after one year.

My first stop along the road was at Yeh Sani where there are pools designed to collect the freshwater for bathing before it drains into the sea, and which the Lonely Planet describes as "attractively laid out with pleasant gardens". Lonely Planet Indonesia strikes again... I went inside and found the pools filthy, crammed with kids playing with assorted inflatable things and the gardens unkempt and uninviting. Having paid an entrance fee I was very disappointed and felt I couldn't walk straight out again but all I did was eat a quick rice parcel and read my book for half an hour - or try to as assorted kids kept interrupting me with a cheery "Hello Mister" even though I'd tried to find the most secluded spot possible. I gave up and carried on to Tulamben.

Tulamben exists for one reason only, it seems - diving. Just a few metres offshore is a coral reef and is the final resting place of the USS Liberty. Torpedoed by the Japanese during the Second World War, she was towed to Bali to unload her crew and cargo, and only just made it before sinking. The wreck now lies on a slope so the shallowest parts can be explored with a snorkel and the deepest around 30m.

On arriving at the car park there I had no particular plan of how I was going to do this dive. The dive operators there provide a guide, lunch, equipment etc. and for the privilege charge a lot of money, whereas I didn't want any of this. All I wanted were a tank and a buddy. One of the two was easily obtained, the touts in the car park saying they could get me a tank for just a few quid, and then started offering the dive guide, the lunch etc. to which I politely declined. The buddy was more difficult to obtain and I ended up diving with a Mr. N. Visible.

The dive was superb. Only a couple of minutes surface swim from the shore and you can see the top of the wreck, descend and keep descending to the bottom. The wreck lies parallel to the beach so it is easy to visit the stern and the giant rudder still in place, and then move along the body to end up at the bow. Along the way there are large sections intact and would be a great place to explore inside, but my buddy's "blank expression" made me think this was not a very clever idea so I just peered inside the holes with a torch. Over the course of the dive I saw only two other pairs of divers which made things a lot more moody and atmospheric. There were large puffer fish hiding in the dark corners and in general there was a lot of fish life, so I decided to have another dive in the morning.

According to the Lonely Planet, Amed is a much nicer place to stay than Tulamben so I drove the 20 minutes down the coast to have a look. Although the village does have some charm with fishing outrigger-style fishing boats all lined up along the beach, I couldn't see an obvious reason to stay (the Lonely Planet Indonesia really is a piece of crap) so I returned almost to Tulamben and took a dirt road I'd spotted earlier which took me down onto the beach and a perfect camping spot amongst the trees on the water's edge.

I repeated the USS Liberty for the first dive the next day and then on the recommendation of the guys in the car park I did a dive on a wall just a few minutes along the beach. The visibility was pretty good but the dive had a very grey feel to it. There was a profusion of life on the wall, including other divers who had turned up from their early start from their beach resorts on the southern tip of the island. It wasn't as atmospheric as the wreck dives but pleasant all the same and worth doing if you're in the area.

I washed my kit and packed it back into the car and was on the road just after lunchtime aiming to get back to Denpasar and to the airport where I had to collect a package from the DHL office. The carnet de passage for passing the car through customs in each country is valid for one year, so mine would be expiring during my time in Indonesia and I needed a new one for East Timor and Australia. Stephanie at the ADAC in Munich made my life immeasurably easier by accepting to transfer the deposit from the old one to the new one without needing the old one back, I just need to send both back at the end of the trip to reclaim my deposit. All I had to pay was the document fee and the cost for sending to me by DHL and we agreed the only sensible place to send it would be Denpasar airport. I arrived at about 4:20pm and of course they were shut even though they're open until 5pm according to the DHL website. After much screaming, shouting, complaining and being a pain in the bum the night watchman finally agreed to give me the package. This was good, as it meant I could get away from Denpasar and the Kuta Beach areas straight away rather than spending another night there which I really didn't want to do. I drove to Padangbai, a little bay with a sandy beach, where there are a couple of diving places and the port for the ferry to Lombok. It was an ideal place to hang around for a couple of nights before pushing on eastwards to visit the islands of East Nusa Tenggera.

I booked up to go diving with Absolute Scuba as they seemed the most professional outfit there. The boat was small, there was me and another guy with one guide, and a group of four Singaporeans with another. It was perfectly comfortable for the short 20 minute trip to the dive sites. Along the way I was a little shocked to hear one of the Singaporeans bitching about how her stupid computer was telling her it was broken as the screen said Error... It had "broken" the previous day when she missed a 3 minute decompression stop. Hmmm, maybe it's trying to tell you not to dive? But no, it was definitely broken, apparently. Another guy said that they had had an error on their computer once too under similar circumstances, but he had to dive the next day and it was a pain because he had to borrow a computer from someone else... the mind boggles. (For the benefit of any non-divers reading, the computer calculates your decompression requirements over repetitive dives and to use a computer that doesn't have all the info will mean the calculations are wrong, as any fule kno).

The dives were nice but nothing special except for two things... the first was that the currents were fierce, as could be seen on the surface before we got in. I'm happy enough in strong currents, I had my flag and surface marker buoy so if we got swept away from the dive site I could launch that and be sure the boat would be able to follow us, but that is only good for the normal sideways currents. At the first dive site the current also went upwards and downwards! Not so much fun at all. I was constantly finning upwards to keep a constant depth, not wanting to put air in my jacket because when the current stopped I'd pop out of the water like a cork, but finally we found our way round to a sheltered part and we could have a bit more of a normal dive. At the end of the dive the second exceptional thing happened - two dolphins swam past us, only about 10m away, completely unconcerned by our presence they didn't stop and have a look but just swam past as if we weren't there. It was only the second time I'd ever seen dolphins underwater and it was only a fleeting glimpse but it absolutely made the dive.

After the boat returned to shore I just had time to wash my kit and pack everything into the car in time to catch the afternoon ferry to Lombok. Once again everyone at the port tried to rip me off and I lost my cool a little bit, perhaps even suggesting to the police there that they were all a bunch of f***ing crooks (did I really say that?), but they just smiled at me and let me on the boat. The crossing took about four hours and from to port at Lembar to Senggigi took me less than an hour. I enjoyed a nice meal at one of the restaurants there (which are all good but overpriced) and then drove out of town a few km to a nice big grassy area with coconut palms where I camped for the night, to be awoken early the next morning by the gentle mooing of cows all around the car.

Mount Rinjani from the Sumbawa ferryI'd decided there wasn't anything I particularly wanted to see on either island of Lombok or Sumbawa so the plan for the day was to drive across Lombok and catch the ferry to Sumbawa, and then see how far I was going to get across Sumbawa before dark, but I was hoping I'd make it to Sumbawa Besar, the main town on the western half of Sumbawa island. Having been woken up nice and early by the cows, I made good time across Lombok - just a couple of hours - and after the obligatory attempted rip-off by anyone and everyone at the ferry port I got straight on a ferry which departed only 15 minutes later. From Lombok to Sumbawa is one of the shorter crossings but nonetheless I was still pretty pleased when the ferry docked and I could drive off. The landscape of Sumbawa was immediately very different to that of the previous islands, with very much less vegetation it looked like the Australian outback. Despite the hills around, the road was mercifully flat and straight, and with much less population I found myself arriving in Sumbawa Besar at around 2pm. Well, no point pushing too much I thought, so I checked out a couple of the hotels recommended in the Lonely Planet with the intention to get a nice afternoon's mooching around the town, reading a book etc. I should have realised by this point how useless the Lonely Planet is, as two hotels were disgusting and two looked at me and claimed to be full. There seemed to be nobody there at all so maybe everyone was out but I got the impression they just didn't want "my type" there. Perhaps having people like me there isn't good for their more common hourly trade. By this time I'd done a lap of the town and decided it was a bit of a hole anyway so I decided to press on. Again I didn't know what the roads would be like but I have the tent so I can stop anywhere, and after a couple of other hotel viewings and similarly insincere welcomes in Dompu and Bima, and two aborted camping attempts where people showed up a few minutes after I'd parked up (the eastern half of the island being more intensively farmed), finally I found a nice quiet camping spot... 20km from Sumbawa's east coast. I'd done nearly 500km driving on top of the ferry crossing, it was 10:30pm and I was TIRED but I had a spot. It'd be visible from the road in the morning I knew but I didn't care. Sure enough the next morning I had a little audience when I climbed out of the tent so I spared them the washing and teeth cleaning ceremony, drove along the road to the port at Sape and hid out of the way there to make myself human again before driving to the port for the ferry to Flores.

I arrived at the port at about 7:30am with the departure supposed to be 8am daily, but when I bought the ticket (and actually, surprisingly, the guy asked the right price first time) I was told there was a delay. The boat had no fuel and they were waiting for it to arrive, and the estimated time was 1pm! I went to one of the food stalls in the port compound and ordered some breakfast and got chatting to a Canadian guy called Ian. It turned out he had arrived at 9am the previous day, when of course the ferry had departed on time so he'd missed it. He was happy enough though, just hanging around waiting for whenever. At about 8:20am the bus arrived and two dishevelled passengers joined us, an Italian called Christian and a Spaniard called Virginia who both live in London. They had endured the overnight bus across Sumbawa, stopping for a connection in the early hours at Bima and were not impressed when they found they had to wait another few hours before the ferry arrived. They made use of my car for storing some of their bags and we could snooze a bit until finally at about 1pm we boarded the ferry and 2pm we cast off and started making our way to Flores.

The ferry was actually really nice, for the sole reason that it was new, or at least recently reconditioned when passed over from whatever country one link up on the food chain had decided it was too shoddy for them to use any more. The passenger area was half seats and half a raised carpeted platform which was clean enough for us to lie down on it and read a book or get some sleep. Apart from the blaring music (Indonesian pop seems to be like Europop but double speed and double volume) it was by far the most comfortable ferry I'd been on so far, and the eight hour crossing was soon over and we disembarked at the town of Labuanbajo on the island of Flores, gateway to the Komodo National Park where I hoped to go dragon spotting.

Thanks to Marthen Welly for the underwater photos of the flag-raising ceremony.

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