We arrived in Labuan Bajo in a state of… well to be honest we arrived in a state. We were incredibly happy but dear god we were filthy. Having spent four days on our Komodo boat trip adventure, peeing in the sea, not showering, and not caring, we had reached such a level of uncleanliness and disarray that instead of being the magical mermaids of our imaginations we were more like sea lions, complete with hoarse voices, pink noses, and salty manes. One of our Finnish boat friends – whose limited English was fantastic in its creativeness – tried to run his hand through my tangles, looked at me in horror, and after a second of puzzled pondering described my matted hair as ‘closed’.
[Quick aside to say that Finnish is a weird and wonderful language, it sounds sort of like how dolphins might sound if they were imitating humans. Plus their nouns are beautiful: the literal translation of ‘cloud’ is ‘sky pillow’.]
We weren’t checking into a hotel for our one night on Flores – we were sleeping on the top deck of the boat again – free of charge – before we caught our flight to Java. This was a very sensible plan. (After all, frugal spending on accommodation equates to more money for cake.) There was only one teeny tiny flaw… we were going out to dinner with our little boat gang that night and everyone else was going to stay in a hotel and be able to shower all the salt and sweat and suspicious smells off themselves beforehand. When everyone needs an introduction to some soap it’s perfectly acceptable to be filthier than the set of Russell Brand’s daydreams (no offence intended, Russell) but if you’re the only ones who haven’t showered in days then working out how to remain down-wind of all other sentient beings with noses becomes an issue. Especially in a restaurant.
We had jumped in the sea to shave under our arms, and optimistically decided that our Deet would probably work just like perfume. (Disclaimer: Deet is not perfume. It is poison. Slight difference.) After some decidedly feeble attempts at hair taming, mostly comprising of us picking up clumps and putting them down again in despair, we headed to shore. Made in Italy – which according to Jess’s Lonely Planet guidebook seemed to be the best place to eat in Labuan Bajo – was luring us with the promise of carbs. Arriving at the restaurant, we unapologetically hugged everyone despite how beautifully clean they looked and smelled, and we ate pizza and drank wine and cocktails and we sat smiling with our greasy hair golden in the glow of the sun setting over the harbour, and over our time on the boat.
Important life lesson is that there are some things more important than hygiene. You’re probably expecting me to say “friends” or “adventure” here, aren’t you? I’m actually talking about pizza.
But my favourite part about this story is that Jess didn’t wash her hair for like a whole other week after this. More on that later.