After leaving Schmee the Rat behind, we sailed out to North Komodo National Park. Andrew could see blustery weather in the forecast, but it should be ten days away and our next major destination (Lombok) is only seven days away. We took up a mooring ball next to one other boat and got settled in to hike to the spot with a recommended sunset view. Pretty soon, another boat puttered up behind us and asked if he could toss us a rope to tie off on the back of Sonrisa. Another boat arrives and ties up on the back of the boat in front of us. "Go take a picture of me!" Sonrisa requests. "I look like I'm on the cover of Abbey Road!"
We go down below to find our hikers, and when we come up again several more boats are on their way to landing. Soon, Sonrisa has a train of 7 boats streaming off her stern, and the lead boat next door has a large train of its own. The crew on the boat directly in front of us on the train next door throws wood into a metal grate and starts an open fire on their boat to grill fish for dinner. “Ikan Bakar!” he calls to me and points proudly at the grill.
“Bagus!” I call back, giving him a thumbs up - though open flames on a fully wooden boat carting around large tanks of gasoline, diesel, and cooking propane is never a good idea.
“These guys do this all the time, right? They must have an escape plan figured out.” I say, picturing Sonrisa as the handle of a flaming, wind-powered boat-whip. Captain Andrew grumbles but figures it will be fine as all the boats are manned by at least a Captain and two crew members - even while their tourists are out hiking. We install bumpers along Sonrisa’s port side and figure that’s the best we can do.
Andrew and I hike up to the smallest of hillsides with the rest of the selfie horde. Everyone is in good spirits, traveling on their vacations. The group is a selection from Bali, Jakarta, Singapore, and one very sunburned young lad from Austria. They are flying two drones, and everyone is working on just the right selfie angle.
“Earrrrrrrrrrrrwin,” one of the tour guides from Labauan Bajo introduces himself three times to make sure we get the pronunciation just right, and kills himself laughing with his own comedy routine. He waits out his own selfie-crew striking up a conversation with us.
“You brought that boat from America?” … Yep.
“Did you sail it here?” This question causes Earwin to give himself a real laugh, subsiding with little squeezes of air coming out from the back of his throat over his tongue, like Elmo on Sesame Street.
(We get this question a lot, always imbued with the tone that says “this must be a silly question, but…” We think it is funny because the speaker generally presumes it is silly to think we DID sail here, whereas Andrew and I presume it is silly to think we did NOT sail here. Two days prior, a man asked us if we brought Sonrisa here in pieces.)
… Yep, we sailed here.
“What!? Just the two of you?” …Yep.
Upon hearing this, he stops the selfies in progress to spread the news amongst his crowd. Apparently, a bet had taken place when they sailed up and saw Las Vegas, Nevada on Sonrisa’s hull. Everyone is properly amazed, and it earns us an invitation to hike with them to the top of the sunrise trek the next morning.
“Vegas…” Earwin says thoughtfully, “there’s a lot of boxing there, right?”
If that is what you fancy, Earwin.
Earwin turns to two tourists in the group making everyone else visibly uncomfortable with a sunset make-out session. “Okay, Romeo and Juliet. It’s time to go.” ending with more Elmo-laugher.
After sunset, we all return to our respective boats for dinner. The crew with the open fire aboard their boat rows over in their dink and gives Andrew and I a freshly grilled fish to share. The anchorage bubbles with laughter, as random groups of people burst out singing. Dinghies buzz by Sonrisa’s hull, their freeboard sunk so low that the waterline trembles at the edge of the dinghy’s lip. “VEGAS!” The passengers wave and cheer, holding up two fists in front of their faces and air boxing. This continues well into the night.
We go to bed after we see Earwin and his crew paddle their dinghy to the lead boat on the train next to Sonrisa - using flip-flops and the engine cover. “Uh-Oh,” says Captain Andrew as he watches them pull up to our next door neighbor to hitch a ride. “I wonder what is wrong with their Yamaha.” (They have an engine just like Kitty.)
Andrew’s alarm clock “Blurps” at 5 a.m. When we peek outside, it seems no one is stirring except Earwin who is pacing the side deck of their boat in a hoodie sweater and beanie cap. Over the course of an hour, other fellas join Earwin to wait on deck.
“Let’s go! Time to go, Balinese!” Earwin calls out.
Finally, with the light of dawn already painting the sky pink - the Balinese girls congregate on the top deck, with their make up on and hair done. Earwin waves over the dinghy from the boat in front of us to taxi the crowd to shore, Grin follows behind.
Everyone hikes to the peak. “Aren’t you hot?” Andrew asks Earwin, sweat rolling in rivulets around the top of Andrew’s own eyebrows, then down his nose.
“No! The wind makes me cold!” Earwin explains.
At the top, the hoodies and beanie caps come off to reveal everyone’s more bedazzled selfie costumes. The process proceeds from every possible angle and every possible composition - including with the tall American for scenery.
Andrew takes a selfie and shows Earwin. “You look very American.” Earwin declares, laughing his Elmo laugh. Andrew turns the camera screen back around and inspects.
They wait until everyone has their fill of selfies then start their hike to the beach. “Let’s go, Balinese!” Earwin chimes. “Let’s go!”
With everyone on their way down, Captain Andrew takes a moment to ask Earwin “What happened your little 5 HP? I thought Yamahas are indestructible.”
“Oh, someone thought it would be a good idea to throw a fireball around…”
We’ll have to let Grin know: Kitty is not fireball proof.