Never underestimate animals – Flores Island, Indonesia.
The huge, black, dusty sow stopped at the zebra crossing, waited until it was clear then trotted across the road, udders swinging side to side and ears pricked up for on-coming motor vehicles. Not that anyone was going to try to plough the monster down and scoop it up as road kill. The beast was 3 foot high, 5ft long and 3ft wide. In the unlikely event that a foolish motorist did decided to take the animal on they would have either ended up on a funeral pyre, in casualty or as the swine’s next lunch. The pig would have got off scott free with only a slightly surprised and injured air emanating from its being as it surveyed the damage around it.
I was in Ende city, suitably ironic as I was at the end of my trip around Flores Island, Indonesia and flying out the next day. The town was an interesting mixture of modern, slums and dockland buildings. Pigs and goats roamed around huge concrete channels that intersected the city, joyously snuffling out the edibles and growing to massive proportions. The use of insatiable dustbins was a clever idea and a way of feeding live stock for free but it didn’t seem to be making a significant in-roads into the waste that was dumped daily into the channels.
Flores Island had been a joy to travel around. National parks full of pristine islands, beaches, coral gardens and rare animals such as the komodo dragons. Communities untouched by modernisation, volcanoes, hot springs and lush tropical vegetation. The food and accommodation were often basic, power cuts frequent, poverty prevalent and bus travel exhausting. Locals were generally friendly, helpful and tried hard not to rub their hands together in glee at the sight of a tourist. Many of the places we visited were remote, isolated and lacking other travellers. It was therefore an added pleasure when I met any ex-pat living in the area.
The journey commenced when I stepped off the ferry from Lombok and arrived in Buket Luwang. The town was buzzing with the news that the BBC had been filming on Komodo Island for a couple of months. Locals were full of pride at being befriended by members of the crew and many had stories they wanted to share with newcomers. As in the case of Chinese whispers, by the time I heard the tale it had grown in proportion and to my ears sounded a little unbelievable.
According to local lore the BBC had been present on the island for a few months waiting to film a buffalo dying and the Dragons eating it. Not having an understanding the niceties of lizard dining, I thought it a bit strange that the monitors would be polite enough to wait until it’s prey dropped dead of old age or sickness. As it turned out the dragons bite their prey, sit back, watch with anticipation as the bacteria (all 57 strains of it) in their saliva does the hard work and kills the animal by causing sepsis. They then tuck in. Talk about tenderising your meat on the bone!
So if you are thinking of going to Flores make sure, unlike me, that you have your camera ready when in the vicinity of a zebra crossing. And if visiting Komodo Island stop by and say hi to the BBC Buffalo bones. But whatever you do, do not wander off on your own. Dragons are not fussy as to what kind of meat they eat and one bite will more than likely kill you. Happy travels.