32 - Mosquito Massacre & The Lost Ferry Of Ende (Flores, Indonesia)
Skeeter near my peeter… knock it off. Nyamuk banyak, bitches. Respond. Don’t react. Try a little tact. Ain’t no Dharma here, my dear.
by The Nostomaniac
HOMO SAPIENS. THAT’S ME AND ALL MY FLAWED, imperfect humanity. Opened-minded? Sure. Easygoing? You betcha. As a guest in Indonesia, I did my very best to avoid letting frustration color my actions. Much to my shame and chagrin, I wasn’t always successful. As experiences piled up, I began to suspect even perfect language fluency would only smooth so many wrinkles.
Respond to the world without reacting to it. You can’t always control what the world throws at you, but you can always control how your mind reacts to it…grasshopper.
I left Bajawa with a bounce in my step and was looking forward to another volcanic experience, this one with color coding. From what I’d read, Kelimutu was a marvel and a somewhat less trafficked one at that. But first I made a pit stop in Ende to break up the journey and investigate the prospect of riding a ferry. I had to get back to Bali one way or another, preferably by boat. I had a visa to renew and a not-so-seamless clusterfuck procedure to complete. Ain’t no goddamn way I was retracing my steps, nor should I have had to. Being an island nation (as in over thirteen thousand of them) boats go everywhere to nowhere and back again three times. I was reasonably confident there was a vehicle ferry departing Maumere (northeast of Ende on the opposite shore) to Surabaya in East Java. Java was not Bali, but it would suffice. Still, it was good to have options and I couldn’t necessarily trust the Lonely Planet’s outdated timetable. I also held out hope I could find a boat direct to Bali.
I dropped my gear at a hotel and went in search of “the Lost Ship of Ende.” First stop? PELNI, the government-run passenger service. Though I knew it was passenger only, I figured they could point me in the right direction. Also, I wanted to size up the clerk to see if he or she might be amenable to sneak the Phantom on board for an additional “fee”. The guidebook described the local office as “helpful”, so I thought my chances of a quick resolution were good. Annnnd…
Either there had been a regime change or my manner doth offend. The first gentleman wanted nothing to do with me. He spoke no English and had little interest in interpreting my broken Indonesian. Fair enough. Bad day, perhaps? We all have those. Clerk number two was slightly more motivated. I was informed, again, there were boats going every which way, but only for passengers. His disposition had a “plenty of ships but not for you, bitch” aura. I sensed proposing he levy a foreigner motorcycle “fee” (wink, nudge) might be met with contempt or worse, so I abstained. I then inquired about vehicle ferries to Bali, Lombok, and Java. I received a one-word reply in the manner described above. Very helpful.
Fine. I knew there was a boat. Definitely. Without a doubt. Ende? Maumere? Somewhere, someway, someday. Ende has a harbor. Harbor equals boats. With this infallible logic as my sword, I soldiered on. Near the harbor entrance were two small shops with signs for the Dharma II and Dharma Recana both leaving from Ende (where I was) to Surabaya (where I almost wanted to be). I inquired inside. Those boats neither leave from nor pass through Ende. Why would they? For that I must go to Maumere. Just to be clear, there were ticket offices manned by personnel not selling tickets to boats that never dock in Ende with signs contradicting that reality. Umm… ’kay.
I pressed on to the harbor itself. “Forlorn” as a description was too warm and fuzzy a term. A teenager emerged from the dock area and demanded cash for no discernible reason. It was hot and the frustration I mentioned earlier was setting in. Also, my Spidey Sense was tingling. Something was off. In a regressed state of child-like petulance I thought, Screw you, poor Indonesian boy requesting cash without noticing how cool my motorcycle is and not even trying to butter me up before cutting right to the chase. Usually, when people “ask” the way he did, it’s either preceded or immediately followed by presentation of a blunt or not so blunt instrument. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, but I was in no mood for bullshit. I was ready to plow the fucker over at the first sign of threat. Serenity had taken a sabbatical…buh-bye.
Turns out, there’s a tourist office in Ende. Probably should’ve started there but such is not my way. Ferry from Ende? Sure was. Why wouldn’t there be? I was directed to a different shop selling tickets to the now existent ferry. Trip duration? Three days, two nights. Umm… ’kay. Three days on an Indonesian ferry? Perhaps not one of my better ideas but better than the alternative, i.e. a week-long ride back the way I’d come.
At said shop I discovered the boat does not leave from Ende. Why would it? For that, it was Maumere. A boat departed that very night, but this did me little good. If my Indonesian could be trusted (which it most certainly could not), there was another leaving in five days. Even if my Indonesian could be trusted, given recent precedent, I’m not sure the information could be trusted. So, I called the tourist office in Maumere and was told a boat left in a week, give or take a day, i.e. sometime between a week and never. That was all the gumption I had for ferry investigation. In a few days time, my fate would be sealed in Maumere. C’est la vie, mon amie…or some shit.
A civil disturbance unfurled the day I arrived. A woman bystander told me there’d been a “fight”, whatever the hell that meant. That felt like serious understatement as I saw riot police in the back of a cargo truck and a crowd gathering in the road ahead. Young men with disgruntled looks were heading in my direction. I have no clue what their grievances were about but I considered the possibility a foreign tourist might make for a hell of an object lesson. I envisioned a “Down with whitey!” chant succeeded by the unceremonious kicking of my ass and Phantom sacrifice. Overreaction? Sure was, but I turned around in the interest of caution.
Back to the Hotel Safari for the icing on the proverbial gâteau de vexation. It was egregiously overpriced but did have aircon and a shower. Gotta pamper thyself every once in a while. To the shower! Disappointment. No knob on the handle, no water on my body. I informed the staff and was shown to a different room with the desired knob. As a bonus, the room was stocked with mosquitoes—a few more than I’m normally comfortable with. I love Dengue fever and Malaria as much as the next asshole, but I was hoping to save mosquito-born illness for a rainy day. Initially, I thought, “Ahhhhh it’s only a few skeeters. You’ll live, big boy…probably. Kill a few with my cat-like reflexes, throw on some repellent, you’ll be aces.”
Then I entered the bathroom. As I stood there, naked and sweating, I could feel the collective stare of a thousand mosquito eyes bearing down upon me and hear the collective buzz of an absurd number of insects. I swear I heard a few scream, “LUUUUUUUCH TIME!” Naked and afraid, I fled the shower and shut the door. I can deal with a few mosquitoes, but this was more like a malarial testing booth at the CDC.
At reception I announced “Nyamuk banyak” (a crapload of mosquitoes) occupied my room. I thought I’d be shown another. I thought wrong. Instead, an employee entered with a canister of insect repellent. Actually, it was one of those pump devices with the canister on the end, like the ones I remember from Saturday morning cartoons. He started spraying…and spaying and spraying and spraying and spraying and spraying and, well, you get the picture. I was assured the fumes were nontoxic. (Ummmmm…riiiight.) I’d hope so because there was now a cloud of gas along with air you could chew wafting three doors down. Everything was varnished with non-toxicity. The bed. My belongings. The walls and ceiling. My seven chakras. Gimme an “N” for noxious.
And it was a goddamn massacre. Mosquitoes rained down from the heavens. The floor was a sticky, gooey “Valley of the Fallen.” The photo doesn’t do the mosquito graveyard justice. There were Indonesian guests sitting outside their rooms watching the whole ordeal. Not sure what was going through their minds.
Seeing as my room should’ve been quarantined and designated for toxic cleanup, again I assumed I’d be given another. Nuh-uh. All booked up. Their solution? A broom and a smile. That was a bridge too far for this princess. I packed my shit and hit the road. Well, sort of. I went next door. No aircon with less mosquitoes was an acceptable tradeoff.
The day wasn’t a total loss, but it inched a bit closer when I realized I’d lost my sunglasses. Poop. On to Kelimutu.