I’m extraordinarily lucky in that I have two husbands. There’s Irishman who of course you are all familiar with, and then there’s Seamus who is my second husband by proxy as he’s one of Irishman’s best friends.
They are not similar in appearance but their Irish characters are almost identikit. The only difference being that Seamus never draws breath and Irishman does occasionally take a brief pause. They are both as mad, and wild as each other and both share the same short fuse if something, or someone gets up their nose.
Recently Seamus has been to stay with us on Bali, and while Irishman was able to take weekends off to be with his mate, during the week sadly he had to fly back to Jakarta for work; This meant that Seamus and I spent four days alone together. Very early last Monday, after a wild day and a night of partying, celebrating Seamus’s birthday, the two of us packed our bags and after only two hours sleep, caught a plane to the Catholic island of Flores, a one-hour flight east of Bali.
We boarded our small, rattling aircraft and took off. None of the illuminated signs in the plane worked, nor the nozzles to keep cool air blowing on our faces, which meant that it felt like we were sitting roasting in an oven for an hour. However, as we flew closer to Flores we soon forgot about our discomfort as our jaws dropped open and we gazed out at the exquisitely beautiful mountainous and volcanic scenery that lay beneath us and marvelled at the turquoise green seas studded with jewel like islands. I would have so loved to have taken a photo with my phone, but it was the sort of plane that if you’d turned anything electrical on, it would’ve either rocketed straight up to the moon or re-directed itself to Benidorm.
Labuan Bajo airport is tiny and after collecting the suitcase off the plane we made our way to the exit. Unlike Bali there is no taxi rank so it’s a case of potluck picking out a driver from the crowd that are waiting just outside the airport. Seamus decided that a guy wearing a tie n’ dye t-shirt looked the part, so after negotiating the price, I booked Antonio to be our driver and guide for 3 days. It was a big mistake.
Passing by a church, we stopped to give thanks, atone for our sins and light our votive candles before heading the short distance to the small picturesque fishing port of Labuan Bajo, and the Lounge Bar that Seamus had already singled out as a good place to have breakfast whilst we made some plans.
After an excellent breakfast, we found a hotel, which described itself as ‘boutique’, perched up on the side of a steep hill above the bay. ‘Boutique’ may have been something of an exaggeration on the owner’s part, but it did have breathtaking views of the harbour so we checked in. Earlier, Antonio had recommended that we should visit a spectacular waterfall that afternoon so with him at our disposal we set off on the 2.5-hour journey there. No sooner had we left Labuan Bajo behind, than the heavens opened and the tropical rains began. Within minutes the twisting mountainous roads became like gushing chocolate rivers hurtling down towards us as we made our way higher and higher up into the jungle and volcanic interior of the island. Both Seamus and I felt decidedly green around the gills as the driver swung the car at speed around the bends narrowly missing lorries coming down from the other way. After what seemed like an eternity we left the metalled road and headed down a rough track for about 3 miles. Bumpety bump, thump, more thump, more bumpety bump until there came a point where we had to get out and walk for a while as the road was so bad and steep that the car needed all it’s energy to get up the hill. Eventually we made it to a small, and remote hamlet on the outskirts of the jungle.
On our arrival children poured out of their houses and crowded round the car, waving and shouting hello and the elders of the village all smiled and waved too. Diving into the depths of my bag I found all the change and small notes that I could find and asked our guide to explain to the children that they had to share it out fairly. We left the very over-excited group of children counting their new bounty out on the damp grass and Seamus and I set off on the one-hour walk to the waterfall leaving Antonio to have a sleep in the car.
The tiny isolated village consisted of just a dirt track down the middle with small homesteads made out of woven leaf material and topped with corrugated tin roofs on either side of it. It was clear that despite the villagers being very poor, they were proud of their community as many of the houses had neat gardens at the front and all of the plots had vegetable patches growing cassava, sweet potatoes, and rows of maize. We reached the end of the village and admired a cashew nut tree before beginning the steep descent through the jungle. It soon became apparent though, that I was not wearing the best outfit or shoes for the occasion.
Seamus had on some seriously grown up walking boots; I on the other hand was wearing a pair of flip-flops. I probably also need to explain that my second husband’s idea of fun is climbing hundreds, sometimes thousands of feet up the side of sheer rock face, or traversing dangerous mountainous ranges. I on the other hand, haven’t even climbed so much as a flight of stairs in over a year, the nearest I get to any sort of climbing, is into bed each night. We both looked at each other and burst into fits of laughter.
With our guide in the lead, we made our way slowly down along the narrow jungle path. Gnarled tree roots, rocks, boulders and at times sheer vertical drops, meant that it was quite a hike and especially so in such ridiculous footwear. Around us monkeys screeched out and parrots squawked in the high green canopy overhead. Because of the rain earlier, the ground was slippery and as I went to grab passing branches, Seamus warned me of the dangerous snakes that may be lurking on the trunks and branches. The thing that concerned me much more than the fear of being bitten by a venomous snake was how the hell I was going to manage the steep climb back up. At one stage the swarms of mosquito’s where buzzing so loudly that it sounded like we were being pursued by millions of motorbikes. We’d sprayed a ton of insect repellent on beforehand, but nothing was going to deter the huge red jungle ants from biting my bare feet. It didn’t take long for my bitten feet to look like a couple of puffballs, and we were both literally dripping in sweat as the humidity was almost unbearable.
Eventually we could hear just the faintest sound of water in the distance and it was at that moment that we both had a terrible sense of foreboding about the spectacular waterfall. As we neared the river, instead of hearing the mighty thunderous roar of water crashing down over steep rock, all that could be heard was the birds and the sound of the babbling river as it made it’s way over the boulders and rocks of the river bed.
In a small clearing close by the river, there was a shack, and Seamus, crestfallen and decidedly pissed off went to sit down. I went to find the waterfall and I think you’ll agree that it is indeed very spectacular. I crossed a shallow part of the river and climbed up over more boulders to where the guide was sitting having a cigarette. I looked at him as if to say ‘well?’ and he looked at me as if to say ‘stupid bule’.
I took some photos, but Seamus, who has been lucky enough to see some of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world, decided to give it a miss and frankly I didn’t blame my second husband in the least. With such a terrible sense of anti-climax I was rapidly losing faith in my decision to employ Antonio as our tour guide and was already having some misgivings about instructing him to find us a boat for the next morning to take us to Rinca to see the Komodo dragons.