Friday, July 28, 2006

Here be Dragons

The other day Geena wrote of bats in the house. It couldn’t help but remind me of what is most certainly one of the worst nights in my life. I’d taken a year out to travel, and this was about mid way through. The was pre LL mind. At the time I was wending my way East through the Indonesian Islands and had hooked up with a motley bunch to charter a boat out to the Kimodo Ilsands. At the time I hadn’t actually heard of Kimodo Dragons before, and was fascinating to see them.

The trip out was uneventful. My fellow travellers consisted of a German couple on honeymoon, an American girl travelling on her own (very unusual), a couple of Israeli blokes, the requisite pair of Aussies (everywhere you travel there are Aussies (it’s a plague)), and a couple of young Brits on their gap year. There was also a lone Japanese who I’d been travelling with for a while. He was a management consultant who took three months off a year to travel. Very un-Japanese and we’d formed a close friendship. Needless to say the mix of languages and experiences made for some grand conversations, especially as there was a good source of cold beer on the boat.

Conditions where primitive, but no one minded. It was also a very slow boat and we took a couple days to get to the Government reserve where the dragons where kept. We arrived mid day, had a snack, then went hiking off with a keeper front and behind. It was all very exciting, they had big sticks are were very vigilant, though we saw nothing.

Well, nothing until we got to the destination. It was a feeding day, so there was nine of the damn things all lazily moping about. They are enormous, two metres long with extraordinarily large teeth. Think a crocodile, but with a smooth hide and bigger legs and you’ll get the idea.

The sacrifice, a goat, was in a small corral, bleating nervously. Quite right too, because there was three rather nasty lizards circling. Using a very long pole, the gate was opened and the dragons rushed in. Quite something really, I won’t bother describing it, but the visuals are indelibly burned in my brain.

The theatre over we were escorted back to the base camp. For that night we had the luxury of sleeping in government huts. Rather picturesque, they were palm frond huts up on stilts (nothing to do with the dragons, most houses where up on stilts there, had to do with flooding during the monsoons). The cook on the boat had done up a Javanese feast, and I was surprisingly hungry. The food so far had been simple, but safe, so I thought nothing of what was served.

Some of the crowd where less hungry, and not everyone tried everything. We had a fine old time though, and it was well into the night before we retired to the huts. Middle of the night I awoke in agony, my guts cramping something fierce. If you’ve had food poisoning, you know the game. Its instantly recognisable.

Well, the night was spent either lying in agony on my small bed, or crouched on or over the loo. Bad enough you might think, but this is where it got really fun. The small bed was a not very well constructed palm frond hut. The loo was 10 metres behind it, and was not a proper flush type, well lit thing, but a hut with a plank with a hole over a deep pit. To get from the bed to the “loo” you had to run across the hut and down a flight of rickety stairs and run like the wind to get to the “loo”. The ground was also not tidy, but littered with logs and holes in the ground, and it was pitch dark. There were two of the “loos”, but four of my fellow travellers where afflicted as I was. You had to hope one was empty, and that wasn't always true.

Now the bat connection. There where bats, lots of them. They roosted up in the eves of the hut, which we hadn’t noticed earlier. So there was a constant stream of bats in and out of the hut. There were also rats, at least I think I was a rat I stepped on. It squeaked and was furry, and was too big to be a mouse.

Those six hours felt like an eternity. There was a moment, when I’d tripped, fell, and vomited, that I honestly wouldn’t have minded if a Komodo dragon had come and gobbled me up. I expect I wasn’t the most tasty of morsels at that point though.


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