A new experience at check-in this morning – queue, present ticket, weigh checked baggage and then the unexpected request – “Sir, stand on scales please…” – the four staff behind the desk didn’t even try to suppress their giggles when the kg scale flipped into triple digits and kept on rolling. This made me expect a dodgy turboprop but no, it was a natty little fourth-hand BAE 146 – my airline de jour Aviastar used to have two of them but, ahem, misplaced one into a mountainside last year. Not quite early 90s Aeroflot, but Indonesian domestic air travel is never dull – the cabin crew leader tried SO hard with her otherwise perfect English, only to fall short once – don’t think she meant to say “Please THROW your luggage into the overhead lockers”.
Just an hour from Bali to Flores, but flying over Lombok and Sumbawa was incredible – tiny villages, “Lost Word” valleys and scores of cliche-perfect desert islands necklaced with coral reefs edging into cobalt-deep ocean. We descended to Labuan Bajo over arid brown Komodo and Rinca, spikily edged with white sand beaches. The dragon thing would have to wait though – undersea fun first…
It’s impossible not to like airports like Labuan Bajo – yours is probably the only aircraft for the morning so you land, wander around the apron for a while, then sit and watch as the baggage is pulled off, loaded onto a handcart and trundled slowly towards what passes for an arrivals carousel – two blokes with a table in front of a hole in the wall. Things got even better as I walked out into the melee of bemo drivers looking for a fare – there are few sights more welcome than a piece of A4 held up with your name on it – such are the advantages of flashpacking and booking a decent hotel in advance. The place is dirt-poor, so if a Bemo driver can get 100,000 rather than 5,000 Rupiah from an American tourist for the journey into town then fair play, but nice not to have to haggle down for once.
Labuan Bajo, West Flores
Landing at LBJ
Labuan Bajo airport
Human baggage carousel
Labuan Bajo airport