After three whirlwind days in Labuanbajo, it was time for us to move on and so we booked a flight for noon the following day. As we were packing up the following morning, R discovered that someone had stolen his shorts from the drying rack we left outside the room. As any backpacker knows, you carry only what you absolutely need and the loss of any item can feel kind of devastating. These particular shorts were nifty in that they had detachable pant legs and are very lightweight, so R can use them as hiking pants, everyday shorts, or swim trunks. The fact that they cost $50 and he had just replaced them during our stopover in the States didn’t soften the blow, but the really hard part would be finding American-man-sized pants in an Asian country to replace them; there’s a bit of a sizing discrepancy.
Funnily enough, this incident came the morning after I mourned the loss of pants of my own: we had sent laundry out and I had a pair of leggings that serve as my universal leg coverings anytime I am not in my single pair of shorts. Like R’s shorts, they are a key element of my wardrobe for this trip and not so easily replaceable, as not all leggings are made equal (if you need to know, potential problems include crotch sagginess, over-snugness of the crotch, sheerness in the rear when bending down, pilling, running, and unflattering lengths- mine were free of all flaws). Turns out the woman doing the laundry accidentally burned a huge hole in the seat of the pants when ironing them (why????) and slyly tried to substitute a different pair of leggings in their place. R noticed the swap and called her out on it, wherein she supplied the mangled pair, which I had hopes of patching, but quickly realized was beyond repair. The substitute leggings are in possession of at least four of the flaws mentioned above.
These kinds of losses are annoying and sometimes very inconvenient, but we had been more irritable than usual due to the mosquito factory in our room. We tried burning coils, slathering ourselves with poison, and individually hunting the offenders down, but we woke up in the middle of the night with a small swarm buzzing around us. We were itchy and on edge and the final words of our house-mom in Ubud kept playing in my head: ‘Be careful, there is malaria in Flores’. Perhaps I’d have been more cavalier about it in the past, but after Nuri’s bout with Dengue Fever, I’m on my toes.
We packed up, lighter a couple pairs of irreplaceable pants and with a seething swarm of mosquitoes on our heels and made it to the airport, where security was so lax it made me want to try to smuggle on something illegal because, well, if not now, then when? We flew to Bali, where we had a long enough layover to take a taxi into town to say hi to Roy and have lunch. Then, we were back on an airplane, heading to Sulawesi’s capital city of Makassar, arriving just in time to catch the night bus to our ultimate destination of Tana Toraja. We actually arrived with plenty of time to spare before the bus departed, so we occupied our time by searching out some food and, when that was done, hanging out in the waiting area, watching the goats stroll by. (The late-night appearance of a pair of goats at a capital-city bus station may strike you as an oddity, but incongruous farm animal appearances lose their shock value in developing countries and count as entertainment only to foreigners like us).
The bus that carried us on the final leg of our journey that day was a little slice of luxury by any standards. I heard one of these buses described as having more legroom than a first-class flight and I think it’s true (never had the pleasure of first-class myself). The seats fold back to a nearly horizontal position and leg-rests extend out like a La-Z-Boy recliner. Each seat is outfitted with a small comforter (necessary in the crisp AC churning all night long) and a snappy log-style pillow. We were so giddy with comfort that we found it hard to sleep at first, wanting to stew in our own comfort for a while. When I finally dozed off, I was out for the night and slept like a rock, although some invisible design flaw was responsible for a crick in my neck that I still haven’t shaken almost a week later.
Other travelers that we met suggested that we get a guide on arrival in Toraja and start exploring the area, since we’d get in around 6am and should be well-rested. I think that this tip is for the time-crunched and the insane, because despite my full night’s sleep, I was in no mood to bargain for a guide and go traipsing all over the countryside after our marathon of travel. I was in a bit of a stupor from our multi-legged journey from Flores just the day before and R, who had been complaining of a slightly itchy throat was, by now, full-on sick. We decided to find a place to crash for the day and leave the hard work until tomorrow. We ended up staying at Wisma Monton, a Lonely Planet-recommended hotel of which we were the sole tenants. We managed to bargain them down to 130,000Rp per night, but in hindsight felt like we could have done better. I guess that is a testament to how run-down we were feeling by this point. Anyway, it was clean, comfy and a totally sufficient place to rest up.
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