We began our voyage! Mathias, three young boys who formed the ‘crew’, the Latvian family and I were going to be stuck to each other for the next few days, through rain and storm and Komodos… The morning was clear, the sea calm and anticipation high.
The wooden boat, that like its furniture on board had seen better days, took off, amidst the roar of the engine.
We settled down on the wooden benches, placed around the wooden table (which was to serve as the ‘dining’ table). Mathias began his narration but finding no interested audience, quickly shut up and began to look around for coffee. Ever since I stepped on Indonesian soil several days before, I had come to change my idea about coffee. I now belived that if coffee was to have a decent place among Indonesian beverage, then it had to be really strong, black and bitter…not like the Bintang, but worse. I sat on the bow, sipping the bitter concotion, getting used to the boat’s rythm, balancing myself quite well while Amanda and her mother applied sun tan lotion. I found that particularly interesting.
I was convinced that brown skin never tanned and the sun couldnt affect it in any way. I managed to smile to myself too and then busied myself with the scenary unfolding infront of me. This was going to be fun, so long as there was coffee, the boat moved over the waters and skies remained clear, I could handle the churning and the rolling. I am a water person! Small picturesque islands dotted the sea. Mathias told us that they were not habited, due to the lack of fresh water.
The islands only served as a “decorations” in the sea, he joked. However, among the numerous islands in West Flores, Rinca and Komodo Island had few inhabitants. Fresh water was scanty but they survived.
So did the dragon and the other wild animals that lived on the island.
ENTER THE DRAGON
Few instances can match the excitement of seeing the famed Komodo Dragons in their natural habitat. The giant lizards with their snake-like tongue dripping with poisonous, bacteria infected saliva, though not pretty to look at, were definitely jaw-dropping. My small group of Latvians and I clicked away – the dragons, probably used to these alien sounds, didn’t mind too much. Instead, with the swish of their long tail, made their way into the forest, lost to sight. Our guide was excited. We weren’t. We hadn’t had enough of the dragons….I kept my camera rolling, hoping to catch any movement, anything.
The guide egged us on, telling us we would surely see more of them near the watering hole! Surely he wasn’t lying, but the watering hole can be reached only after marching in a single file, long and hard, through brushes, skipping over rocks, sweating under the blue sky visible through the huge palm trees dotting the landscape.
But I held on. Maybe, maybe the ferocious dragon that I had focused my attention on, would appear…in another minute…maybe…and voila, it did. He (I am assuming it to be a male), turned his beautiful head in my direction. Even looking through the video screen, I was mesmerized. He seemed close…I stepped back a little, only to remember that I had zoomed in…!
He held his head in place…staring into the camera, then rolled out his long, snake-like tongue….
Only later when I saw the pictures Peteris had shot of me filming the dragon, did I realize that I hadn’t been too far away from death’s door. He could have had me in one stride! We walked in a single file, led by a ranger carrying a long, forked stick which, he explained, was to stop any dragon if they decided to attack….they Y end of the stick would lock their front legs (same as how they use a similar stick to capture snakes), while we could make our escape.