Clock ticking, it was with some reluctance that, after my third day of diving, I walked off the dive boat and instead of turning left at the end of the jetty to head up to Paradise Bar for Sunset Bintangs, headed the other way to make my way to the commercial harbour and onto the next leg of the journey.
I'd met some fantastic people - Guy from Dive Komodo was a great divemaster, Erin the random Aussie (never quite worked out what she was doing on Flores) was huge fun over fish kebabs and two sisters from my old home Jersey - dive buddy Sarah and the LOVELY Emily - were rare examples of un-annoying Brits in SE Asia.
But, onwards now - for the next two nights and two days I'd be on the Perama boat, heading west from Labuan Bajo to Lombok, via stops on Rinca, Gili Moyo, the village of Labuan Haji and Gili Laba. Perama are the godfathers of Eastern Indonesian tourism - impeccable Western standards of customer care hooked up with irrepressible Balinese hospitality and friendship. Not dirt cheap, but ultra reliable and absolutely vital if, like me, you've only got limited time to get about.
Our boat, Perama 114, is a 23m traditional Phinisi schooner with a choice between a handful of cramped cabins or deck class - sleep where you want, assuming a crew member hasn't put their mat down first. When the engine's running, there's power and water and when it isn't there isn't. Food is a simple combination of rice, fish, chicken, salad and noodles served with smiles by the friendly crew. Just two shared shower/toilets sounds a bit limiting, but both are basically wet rooms open to the sea, so are surprisingly clean and pleasant. There's cold beer until the ice melts, then it's warm Bintang all the way, but great company and awesome sunsets make up for any absent "luxuries" of civilisation.
I slept on deck the first night, waking at dawn as we motored steadily towards Rinca for a perfect couple of hours sitting out on the bow drinking indo sludge coffee and getting my besok and bagus confused (Bahasa for "tomorrow" and "good"), much to the amusement of the crew.
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