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When 18 hours becomes 30!

Travelling from Lombok to Flores.

We had booked ourselves a liveaboard diving trip in the Komodo Marine Park so our next stop would be Flores.

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We'd been advised that we should be able to travel from Kuta, Lombok to Labuanbajo in Flores in about 18 hours. However I was a bit dubious about this information as we were also told that one of the ferry sections would only take 45 minutes when I had read it takes 8 hours! Slight discrepancy there!

Knowing how unpredictable travelling can be and some of the timings not adding up we decided to give ourselves 48 hours just incase. Our diving trip was costing over £300 each and so we couldn't afford to miss the departure. Better to be safe than sorry.

Our journey began at midday with a car trip to the bus station in Lomboks capital, Mataram. We waved goodbye to Susie & Tom and settled in to playing a game with another Londoner where you have to identify company logos. Now given we are both in advertising you would think we would be better at this game but just as we started to get into a flow of ones we knew (after going back to an easier level) we arrived at the bus station and were met by a guy called Den who had our tickets.

The bus we would be getting was proudly pointed out to us.

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It was new, only a month old with AC and toilet.

Given we were going to be on this until the following morning we were pleased to have chosen this company and not the other one, which oddly was more expensive and their bus didn't look as good.

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The staff were friendly and interested in where we were going and what we were doing. Admittedly this was their way to find out if we needed further tickets or if we would be interested in booking other trips, but they were helpful and we got a cheaper return ticket from them directly and also a quote for climbing Mt Rinjani which Dan was considering. It did take a bit of a while to persuade them we wouldn't book the Rinjani part until we had thought about it.

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The bus wasn't leaving till 3.30pm so we had time to get some water and a few snacks whilst taking in the bustling bus station. As well as all the stalls selling food, drink and cigarettes there were also lots of people walking around with open suitcases full of watches, sunglasses and jewellery. It was interesting to watch the haggling that a local guy sitting on a motorbike did for a watch, he definitely had his haggle face on, trying it on for size, putting it back, trying it on again, pulling a few not so sure faces...I reckon he got a good deal and far better than anything Dan and I would've got!

We clambered on the bus and found our seats along with 4 guys from France and Morroco. We were the only backpackers on the bus and soon it was full.

We were ready to go....but we didn't!

For another hour we sat on the full bus whilst we waited for every seller in Mataram to come on board to try and make a sale. Bottles of water, crisps, fruit and Nasi wrapped up in banana leaves were all shoved in front of us. One guy came on the bus with his guitar, walking up and down the aisle 'singing'. We were a trapped audience so had no choice but to listen as his friend trotted behind shoving an empty crisp packet at your for a 'donation'. There was also a bit of commotion over seats and after a lot of shouting, pushing and shoving, the guy in the 'wrong seat' finally relented and moved to the next seat over. Not sure what all the fuss was about as all the seats are the same and going to the same place.

Finally closer to 5pm we pulled out of the bus station and started the 2 hour journey across Lombok. We were on our way! But not for long as we soon found ourselves in a long traffic jam. There was some kind of political rally going on for the elections which was holding up the traffic. Convoys of open trucks full of people, mainly teenage boys, waving flags and wearing head bands of the party they were supporting went passed us. Lots of people were standing on the roadside and as our bus crawled along at a snails pace I noticed that a lot of people would suddenly point at us through the window, nudging their friends to make sure they got a good look. Some waved, others just stared, it was a very surreal experience.

We were starting to get a bit anxious about whether we would miss the ferry to Sambawa as it had already gone 7pm and so we expected to be rushed on board once we got to the harbour. This wasn't the case as for some reason we did an odd circuit through lots of food stalls where people would get on and off to buy pineapples and have a smoke. No one seemed in any rush.

Suddenly there were seemingly annoyed shouts of 'Get off the bus' 'Quickly to the ferry', as if we had been holding things up! A bit bemused as the bus should also be coming on the ferry too we grabbed our valuables and trusted our big bags would be fine in the hold and followed the crowds on board.

I went to find us a seat whilst Dan kept an eye on the vehicles being loaded on the ferry to make sure our bus was on it! The seating area was really busy and women and children with baskets of food and water again tried to make a sale with cries of 'Mister, mister, water mister'. I tried not to take offence at being mistaken for a man :) A group of teenage boys gathered at the front of the deck and began singing along to the guitar again trying to fill empty crisp packets. All the noise, bright lighting and cigarette smoke was a bit intense so when Dan found out there was seating on the upper deck which was outside we made our escape.

As the ferry pulled out of the harbour all the lights on the upper deck were put out so as not to distract the captain. It must have been closer to 9pm when we finally left and it would take another 2 hours to the other side and we still had to drive all the way across Sambawa to make the 8am ferry to Flores!

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After having a bit of a dose and also watching a random Indonesian rom-com we arrived in Sambawa and walked off the ferry to meet our bus. We were all shattered and tried to find a comfortable sleeping position on the bus as we would be driving all through the night.

It was now 11pm and we were behind schedule, but the driver was not perturbed he would get us to the morning ferry on time. In another life this guy would have been a rally car racer bombing across the island and slowing down for nothing. Punctuated by the blasting of the horn and the bus tipping at such acute angles that if you were asleep you could find yourself waking up on the aisle, it wasn't the most relaxing journey. If you were brave enough to open your eyes and look out the window Sambawa was zooming past in a blur and I dreaded to think what would happen if a buffalo suddenly walked out on the road in the dark.

Miraculously we arrived in Bima just as the sun was rising, in one piece although a little bit shaken. Here we had to swap onto a smaller bus as ours was too big to make it down some of the smaller roads to Sape. Again we were shouted at to change bus with some urgency only to then just sit on it for about half an hour whilst we waited for it to fill up. I don't remember much of the journey as this is where I finally managed to crash out but in two hours we were at Sape harbour.

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This was as far as the bus went so rucksacks and our weary group went up to the harbour guards to show our tickets only to be told we needed to swap the ones we had for a ferry ticket. We hurried back to the bus to swap our tickets which for some reason unknown to us seemed to annoy the bus staff. Bewildered at this we finally made it onto the ferry and looked for somewhere to sit. There are two areas in the ferry, one was full of rows of bunk beds which seemed a bit reminiscent of a communal cell of a prison and the other had seats with a couple of TVs blaring out.

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We decided to sit on our bags in the later and were soon surrounded by kids asking us questions and trying to sell us water and Nasi Ayam (rice with chicken). This is where we met Melody a girl from France who was travelling on her own and asked to sit with us. We had not seen anyway to get on the top deck to be outside and so were relieved when one of the guys from the bus came to find us to say they had found a way up. We stacked our big rucksacks together in a corner before going through a door and up a ladder on the side of the ferry. It was great to be out in the fresh air as it was hot and smokey inside and the idea of sitting in there for 7 hours was not ideal.

We took in the views of Sape as we waited for the ferry to leave...

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And waited some more...

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Until finally we left 2 hours after the boat was meant to!

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We had a nice group of people on the deck with us and as there was limited shade from the beaming sun we soon were all sitting together chatting.

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Dans guitar is always a crowd pleaser.

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The next 7 hours were spent on the top deck, snoozing in the shade, reading, chatting, singing...

And taking in the amazing scenery as we went through the Komodo islands on our way to Flores.

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As we pulled into Labuanbajo just after 5pm we even had the treat of spotting dolphins!! Can you see it jumping out of the water?

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We had finally made it to Flores! Woohoo!

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Sxxx

Posted by doyledan 20:37 Archived in Indonesia

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