The other day we woke up at 4 am (for the third time this trip, and second day in a row!) and rode in the back of the truck we’ve been taking around Labuan Bajo, the first stop on our retreat, down to the port as the sky started to lighten. We got on a wooden boat with a cozy cabin of benches and mattresses and a roof with very low guardrails. We left port and watched the sun rise from our little boat, as the fog on the many surrounding mountains came into view and then started to burn off.
We rode three hours to our first stop, filled with many photos and naps and bananas. We landed on the island of Padar to amazingly blue water and a beach made up mostly of shells and broken pieces of coral. We hiked up to the top of a bluff on a shadeless trail (and lots of sunscreen!) to overlook the overlapping coves and mountains on and next to the island we stood on. We’re definitely on an archipelago!
Another two hours on the boat took us to the much-anticipated Komodo Island! Within 30 seconds of starting our hike we were lucky enough to see one of the dragons catching some shade under one of the buildings belonging to the national park. We saw another one a few minutes later cooling off in the “watering hole,” where the guide tried to get us to take pictures with it (much to Luke’s distress). We learned a lot from the great guides at the park, and were so happy about our dragon sightings!
Our last stop was to the Pink Beach on Komodo Island (admittedly, not extremely pink) for snorkeling.
After some quick swim tests, we set off in buddies to observe the incredible coral and absurdly colorful and crazily-patterned fish. For someone who lives on the East Coast and doesn’t have a lot of exposure to marine life, this was amazing! I was completely captivated by the beautiful communities we were floating above. It might’ve even inspired some later marine bio classes in college!
As we started our four-hour journey home, we entered some rough seas and had a wide spectrum of people loving, hating, fearing, and feeling nauseous from the huge swells our boat was riding and being rocked by. Many of us tried to read, but eventually books were abandoned as waves crashed into our boat. But eventually it settled down, and we watched a beautiful sunset from the boat, to parallel the sunrise we’d seen some 12 hours before. We sang songs (including a wonderful round taught to us by Lauren) and talked as the light dimmed, and then all craned our necks out of the side of the boat (no longer allowed to climb up top in the dark) to see the huge expanse of sky and thousands of stars visible to us without any light pollution, as we were still at least an hour from shore. At some point someone looked down and realized that bioluminescent algae was being kicked up by the boat wake, which looked like glow-in-the-dark polka dots on the surf. With stars up above and glowing algae down below, the rest of our boat ride passed with some deep conversations about life, the universe, and everything.
Our evening ended with some confusing karaoke by one of Rita’s old classmates in his restaurant, and some delicious sate. We were a bit crispy (“buley goreng”!) and a bit dehydrated, but ended the day with a big cuddle puddle and the promise of a 9 am breakfast the next day – a very late morning for us!