Hunting Dragons on Rinca,

Driving With Andre -- Flores Island, Indonesia

August 26 - September 5, 2006





Rinca Island, just off the west coast of Flores, holds the largest population of the rare Komodo Dragon, which grow to 3 meters and can weigh 100Kg. These reptiles only exist on Rinca, Komodo, and Flores Islands. They kill their prey (water buffalo, wild pigs, snakes, monkeys, even their own babies, who hide in trees 'til they are five years old...) by biting and then waiting a week or more for the animal to die of infection before devouring up to 40 Kg in one sitting.





  Liza, Andre (the driver), Hans (new found friend and travel companion), and our hired Kijang on our 5-day 500 Km trans-Flores expedition.  

The main road here is amazingly windy and twisty as it climbs up and over one high volcanic range after another, then down into rice field filled valleys, and past small villages, even the smallest with a Catholic church (or two) and a mosque. All went well until day three, when the Kijang broke down. Here's an excerpt from my journal as we waited in the village alongside the road:

"The Kijang is broken. We've been here three hours, maybe more, while Andre and many different men, some in sarongs, others in jeans, all in t-shirts and flip-flops, make futile attempts at fixing the car by pushing wires, taking out wrenches, putting them back, crawling under the car, closing the hood, then opening the hood, turning over the engine, and generally doing nothing! Meantime, trucks with huge loads, bemos with passengers and white bags of coffee and ice, plastic jugs of gasoline, bundles of firewood (Andre just opened and closed the hood again...) boys perched precariously on the roof--even a goat on one roof!--drive slowly by, kicking up clouds of dust. Another group of villagers has just arrived, one with a beautiful black sarong with fine blue and red stripes. There are now five villagers discussing the problem with Andre. As night falls, women return to the village after a day of hard work, walking slowly up the road carrying huge bundles of firewood on their heads. (Hood is now closed, no one is attempting to fix the car. Andre is on his mobile phone, hopefully calling someone to tow us or transport us.) The village kids had great fun with Hans, showing off their "race cars" and running away screaming and laughing as he tried to play with them. (Andre is off the phone, popped the hood, but didn't open it, crawled under the, he's out again, hood is he's back under on the other side). The village men stand around, staring at me sitting and writing. Mark and Hans are chatting away, I hear them talking about politics, travel plans, Hans' Bavarian village, AAA. (Andre just got a call, rummaged through the wrenches, and is back under the hood). Each bemo that drives by is named --one is "Missisippi" (mis-spelled), another "Cynderela." Motorbikes zip by, some with three people or a huge load, most are single men. A fellow still wearing his motorcycle helmet is staring at me (hood is open...) Mark and Hans are now discussing telecommuting. A woman just walked by, carrying a 15' bamboo pole on her head..."

After five hours, another car pulled up to take us the 20km's to Moni, our next destination. Andre got the car fixed the following day, but we were never really certain what happened. Unfortunately, Andre blamed Hans for the breakdown, claiming he had dislodged a wire in the cab, and on the last day of our journey, Andre was steaming mad and barely speaking to us...
















Senggigi, Lombok (taxi) ► Mataram (plane) ► Denpasar, Bali (plane) ► Labuan Bajo, Flores (boat) ► Rinca (boat) ► Labuan Bajo (jeep) ► Bajawa (jeep) ► Moni (jeep) ► Maumere