Monday, 27 January 2014

The ferry was supposed to leave early, around 7am I think, but after boarding in the sticky heat, the boat didn’t actually leave until about 10am?  I didn’t mind that much, I slept through most of that and only woke up as we were leaving port.

 Once you board, go and look for the ‘beds’ and grab one, somebody will come around and charge you a bit extra (about $2.50) to stay in here but it’s totally worth it if you can handle everybody smoking in there.
Stop at the little stalls on the way in the morning and grab yourself snacks and most importantly water, at least 1 large bottle but 2 is better.  I spent most of that trip writing on the Ipad, but did get to meet a few locals, one I would end up seeing again on Komodo Island.  I actually really enjoyed the trip, I normally struggle with boredom but I was relaxed, got some more writing done and had a few naps.
I think the trip took about 7-8 hours and after another long day I was finally in Labuan Bajo, Flores.  When you arrive, walk out of the port/pier area, there is a small archway there.  Turn right and head up the street, there are a heap of places to stay, eat and drink, you don’t need an ojek.

  I tried a couple of places before settling into a different Mutiara this time, it’s right on the main street just up the road from the more popular (and expensive) Gardena. 
It is listed on Travelfish as Matahari though I'm sure it was Mutiara.  It gets a pretty bad review on there and is listed as poor value compared to Gardena.  I can't see how, Gardena wanted 300k for 1 night and I only paid 150k at Mutiara. 

 I can definitely recommend this place, it does come with breakfast, but by this stage I never wanted to see a bloody banana pancake again in my life. It's still a running joke with mates whenever I see banana pancakes!
I promised myself I would remember all the details and costs, but I can’t be 100% certain anymore, I’m pretty sure Mataram to Sumbawa Besar was 125k Rupiah (around $12), the bus to Bima was 60k($6), but I bargained very hard, get there early so you are not at their mercy 5 minutes before the bus leaves.   

Bima to Sape was another 20k ($2), $8 for my room (I actually paid $8 also for my 2 large beers, totally worth it!), then the ferry from Sape to Labuan Bajo was around $5 plus the extra $2 for a bed.  
So for $35 plus another $10 for accommodation in Sumbawa Besar you can cross from Lombok to Flores, have a unique experience and really mingle with the locals along the way.  It won’t be easy,  it won't be comfortable, but it will be worth it. 

 The journey is definitely not for the beginner traveller, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat, the people were super friendly and it was just a great experience all round.  I arrived in Labuan Bajo battered and bruised, exhausted from the journey, but the feeling as we pulled into the harbour, knowing I'd done it, made it all worthwhile and the first beers just tasted all that much better!