Poolside Storms

Trip Start Nov 12, 2011
Trip End Aug 18, 2012

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Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Friday, January 20, 2012

January 20-February 4, 2012

The first day back on land after living on a boat for four days is a bit strange. It still feels like the ground is moving up and down.  Lying down to try to fall asleep was much the same, "are you sure the room isn't rocking back and forth?" we asked each other.  Perhaps it should have been less shocking when at 4am we both bolted upright out of a deep sleep.  The walls were rattling and the mosquito net was rocking side to side.  The next morning we learned that a 6.3 earthquake had struck about 125km out to sea from Labuan Bajo.  There was no tsunami or any real damage, just a lot of surprised people at four in the morning.

While we had enjoyed near perfect weather while on our dive safari, it is the monsoon season.  Within three hours of our return to shore, the storms started coming.  Back at Golo Hilltop Hotel, we are able to enjoy watching the storms come in across the sea and try to predict when they will hit.  It is really fun to lie in the sun and watch a deep dark cloud out on the horizon slowly and steadily move towards you.  Lounging in the pool, while waiting for the storm to hit, has become one of our favourite past times.

When the storms do finally reach town they are all fairly uniform.  First, we are hit with high winds that knock over anything smaller than a chair, and then hit secondly with a monsoon downpour.  The first few times the storms hit we were not really prepared.  I lost half my lunch one day as the wind howled through the open-air restaurant and I foolishly did not wrap my body around it.  We also watched as our drying laundry was thrown into the dirt if left on the drying rack in front of our bungalow.  After the first two storms, however, we would join the staff in running around and helping to close the shutters around the restaurant, or pull in laundry.  Once we had the hang of it, we started to have a lot of fun watching the stairs turn into a waterfall, and see new guests arriving who had not noticed the dark lurking clouds in the horizon and looked as if they had been swimming with all their clothes on.  While the storms seem to come once a day, it is usually only for about 20-30 minutes and so, as long as you do not get caught out in the open, they are not really too big an inconvenience.

Sukhia and I were invited to visit one of the local schools to help with an English class that ranged in ages from 4-12.  The school was attached to the largest church in Labuan Bajo and run by local missionaries.  While Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world, the island of Flores is more than 90% Roman Catholic.  We started the lesson by being led through a prayer by the teacher and making a cross on our chests.  Most of the lesson revolved around us asking the students questions and them asking the same questions back.  Knowing that we had started with a Catholic prayer, were sitting in a room next to a huge Church that had a huge Christmas tree painted on the wall, in a school run by missionaries, I asked the question “Who likes Christmas?!?!?!?”.  Out of the 12 students, 10 enthusiastically shouted “ME!!!!”  The other two students vigorously shook their heads 'NO’.  The teacher quickly explained that these two students were Muslim.  “Ummm…  Who likes Ramadan?”  “ME!!!!!!”  “Oh thank God… or Allah…”  Seriously, how was I supposed to know?  Anyway, the lesson then shifted to life in Canada and the numerous religions we have at home.  I then sang ‘O Canada!’ to the students (alone – no thanks to Sukhia!).  To which the children replied by singing ‘Indonesia Raya’ (Indonesia’s national anthem).  I think all will agree that the children sound far better than I.

Our last adventure in Labuan Bajo was to some limestone cliffs that feature a place called “Mirror Cave”.  We had read in Lonely Planet that the caves were “hardly spectacular” and so perhaps it was because of our lowered expectations that we really enjoyed our visit there.  The highlight (or lowlight for Sukhia) was going deep into the cave and crawling through a little passage that brought us into a large open area that featured bats, crickets and a rare type of large spider that has pincers like a scorpion.  Something about the large spider and bat infested pitch-black cave just did not agree with Sukhia, who knew?

- Sacha

Next stop – Sanur  

Sukhia’s Thoughts:

Just for the record, I was not scared of the bats or the dark cave but when coming face to face with a spider that looks like he is eating a scorpion, and wearing cricket legs as a kill trophy, I was not going to become his best friend.

Labuan Bajo was a wonderful town, filled with local Indonesian restaurants and a few very nice foreign places that you could get a fix of pizza or sandwiches if you so desired.  Our hotel, Golo Hilltop, became our home and it was wonderful to be situated in one place for more than a few days.

Our schedule mainly consisted of laying by the pool or sitting on our veranda reading and watching the storms come and go. Our main concern each day was deciding where we wanted to have lunch or dinner.  But, we made sure to walk into town once a day for a meal which was a 15-minute walk from the hotel and to be fair there was a hill involved.  Two weeks passed in bliss and it was very hard to pack up and leave.

At least the next stop is Sanur and the beauty of Bali or I might have refused to leave Flores.
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