Loooong way back to Mataram, Lombok
It was time to say goodbye to the Flores Sea and head back to Mataram, Lombok to catch a flight back to Kuala Lumpur. This time, our mode of transportation was by ferry and bus through Perama tour operators. They operate from Labuan Bajo all the way West as far as Jakarta. Our ticket from Labuan Bajo to Mataram was IDR 250k. The journey time takes 24hrs. However, it took longer than that due to a certain 'delay'…
The first leg was from Labuan Bajo to Sape by ferry – 7hrs. We got to the ferry half an hour before departure as suggested by the agency to get good seats. There were already a lot of people who arrived early and took the mattresses in the middle of the room. What was left were metal seats, boo. We sat down near the front. Then we noticed a doorway in the front that lead to another room where it had cushioned seats. There were only a few people in this room so we thought those were premium seats. We asked one of the ferry staff how much it was to upgrade. Not sure if he understood what I said as he momentarily got distracted by a question from another passenger. He turned back to me and I asked if we can sit in this room? He said yes we can go in and that was it. Didn't have to pay extra at all. Dope. So we took a whole row, enough for one of us to fully lie down. You'd think that this would be the first to fill up after the mattresses were taken. The boat ended up being delayed and didn't set off until 8:45. Well at least we were comfortable now.
From Sape we got onto a mini bus that transfers you to Bima in 2hrs. We got coaxed to paying extra 20k each as we supposedly got on the wrong mini bus. When we got off the ferry, there was someone that asked us if we're going to Bima. We said yes and he ushered us onto the bus. What we didn't realized was that there were a few companies operating this route and we got on the wrong company vehicle. They didn't bother checking our tickets when they asked us in the first place. Same thing happened to this other guy on the bus too. I guess it's a tactic to make an extra couple of dollars since they only asked for payment half way through the ride. Sneaky bastards!
We arrived at the bus terminal in Bima to switch to the big bus that would take us the rest of the way to Mataram. The ride was quite windy as we were driving around mountain pathways. At least the roads were nicely paved and wasn't bumpy. It seems like the transportation infrastructure is being improved with upgrades. Based on an account from a diver we met on one of our boat trips, he did the same overland route 8-9 years ago and the roads were pretty rocky back then. We passed by a lot of rice fields with local village kids playing soccer in them. A nice opportunity to take a few pics.
So half way through our 8hr ride from Bima to the next harbour…the bus suddenly dies. The driver tried to start the engine. It did't go. Umm it's nearly midnight and we're stuck on the road, in the dark, in the middle of nowhere. Aaaadventure! So the crew goes outside to diagnose the problem. Another tour bus drives by but then stops 50m down the road. Hopefully we can hop on to this if they can't fix it. They made repeated attempts to ignite the engine after some mechanical work. This went back and forth for over two hours. It was almost 2am and we're still here…then another bus comes by and stops to help out. After a couple of more cracks at it the bus finally starts!! What a relief! The funny thing was that nobody on the bus was really concerned to begin with. Most of them just kept sleeping. We were the only foreigners on the bus so maybe the locals were aware that breakdowns like this happens? Anyway, delayed by 2.5hrs, but moving again!
We got to the Pototano harbour at 6am. The bus was loaded onto the ferry so the same bus takes us to Mataram. Catching the sunrise was our consolation prize for the ordeal earlier 😉 The ferry was a shorter 1.5hr ride. We got back onto the bus for the final leg which took another 2.5hrs.
Finally, we reached the bus terminal in Mataram. As we were pulling in, through the window I could see a bunch of yellow taxi van drivers anxiously running towards us like a pack of hungry wolves! The bus stopped and open the front and back doors…a few drivers rush in to try and secure passengers. Being the only foreigners on the bus we obviously stuck out. Three drivers were talking to me at the same time. I told them let us get our bags outside first. They thought we were going to Sengigi, the resort area on the west coast. But you could tell the excitement died down when I said we wanted to go to Hotel Maktal which was only a 10min ride into town. After a bit of haggling we got onto a van for the last ride to our accommodation.
Boy do we need to shower! 🙂