We take a taxi from Denpassar airport to Kuta, the famous surf beach of Bali. We expect it to be very
busy... read more
07-13/01/2005 Kuta, Bali, surfing
We take a taxi from Denpassar airport to Kuta, the famous surf beach of Bali. We expect it to be very busy,
not cozy and probably just a short break. In reality, it is mainly as we expected, except for the fact that we want to try to surf, and that keeps us busy for a week. We take some classes at first, a few hours for lots of dollars. But the result is that we can easily stand up on a long board, without any help. Then we just rented boards on the beach and motivated each other to keep trying and going. Must say we can't take a big pipe yet, but we are able to do some
standing and little turns on the whitewash of a wave. A week is not enough though so we'll have to come back before leaving for another continent beginning of March.
During the surf week we also became regulars for lunch in Warung Indonesia, where you take from a buffet and pay for what you take, mostly less then 8000
Rupiah (1 Euro = 12000 Rp). We also regularly enjoy the happy hour beers with Joe and Gem in Poppies 1, and
go for dinner at a Thai place with great curries.
We sleep cheap for just 50000Rp a night, and later during the week book a flight to Flores, the biggest island of Nusa Tengara, the part of Indonesia east of Sumatra, Java and Bali. This flight is
cheap because it is next Friday the 21st, so we have some time to go
west first, to Java !
Although I have a terrible hangover, we get in into a night bus to Yogyakarta, starting point to
get to the temples of Borobudur. Now, we already have spent 3 days in the ruins and temples of Angkor, Cambodia, and I must say that Borobudur is nothing,
nada, null, compared to all that. Especially after a 16 hour night bus, and
a temple full of school kids on there cultural trip of the year, all wanting to practice there
English with us, and even more wanting a picture with that orang putih (white
people, us again). We fled the place to find a quite bench behind the
museum, slept there for 2 hours, then waited for 5 hours in the bus terminal
and took another night bus to Probolingo, final destination Cemoro Lawang, at the crater rim of Bromo
16-17/01 Bromo volcano
Its cool up here, and I don't like it that much, cause I feel sick. The place we stay is
cozy and people are nice. The glimpse we had on the volcano was already amazing, but the real deal is the morning jeep tour to the
viewpoint and the crater rim the next morning. A sweet English -
Tsjech couple give me some 'morning nurse' pills to ease my feverish feeling.
In the morning everything runs perfect, still some clouds hanging in the big crater, but the two
volcanoes inside are clearly visible. The big one in the back is puffing
up a huge black mushroom every 15 minutes, awesome. On the way in the crater, towards the foot of mount Bromo, the clouds
magically start to dissolve. We hike up 10 minutes to the Bromo top, toss a
bunch of dried flowers inside the toxic smoke and take
postcard pictures. After the unsatisfied feeling of Borobudur, this feels much better. O yes, it is
touristy, but at least it is for a understandable reason. The same evening we arrive late and exhausted back in
our 'losmen' Taman Mekar 2, and crash in bed.
18/01 Kuta Bali
Don't do much today, no weather for surfing, plus I still feel a bit weak. Only feverish in the evening so I don't worry about it, this always
happens when I am over exhausted.
19/01 sick puppy
But I wake up and still feel bad. I start thinking worst case scenarios: Malaria ? Dengue ? Something else, typhoid maybe ? Sofie supports and convinces me to go the
a local clinic (for westerners ;-). Quick service, and I must say,
the best needle shot ever for taking blood samples. and some people
know how much I like needles...
Results come in 5 hours later: Dengue fever.
The doctor asks me if I can swallow, eat, drink, take medication. Because my levels are quite low of something (white
blood cells ?), and if it drops another 30 percent I will be unable to feed and nurse myself, which means she wants to put me on a
drip, in a hospital ... Aaaargh But as I say I can eat, she decides
to let me eat by myself. Just come back tomorrow and we'll get some more
precious blood and check the results, once again.
20/01 Dengue, the final
We're supposed to fly tomorrow, and I get nervous that they'll put me
somewhere in a hospital. But luck is ours, I feel better when waking up and the results concur, its
ok, the levels look better. So we can start our anti-malaria tablets, we're leaving for Flores
21/01 to Flores
Its a good and cheap flight. And before we know it we are in Maumere, eastern Flores. The goal is to get back to Kuta, Bali, in about 5 weeks, by boat and bus. First stop Moni.
The bus to Moni picks us up at 8 am. Good service, we think, but at 10.30, we reach the Maumere bus station again, after driving around town several times and picking up customers, a pig (put on roof, next to our begs, let's hope it doesn't shit), coconuts and a chicken. Finally we leave and we reach Moni at 3pm,
knowing that this should have been a 3 hour trip... Moni itself is a bit cooler, and Arwanti homestay, with large bungalows and space, is the perfect place to recover a bit more from my
illness. Too bad the stomach is upset as well, probably from all the pills they gave me.
23/01 Kelimutu lakes
Normally people come to Moni to go to the Kelimutu volcanic lakes to see the sunrise ! But we seem to be missing something rather important, the
last few sunrises we did. So we decide to have breakfast at a decent hour and check the weather then. So do our
neighbors, and together we charter Tam's car to the top. The clouds are not present so we can see all 3 lakes, one is so bleu it seems a trick of the eyes. The other two are rather dark, one black the other
brown, I think the locals called it 'coffee with milk' and 'hot
chocolate'. The strange thing is that these lakes change colors over the years, the brown one was more white like, 10 years ago. Another,
story is the disappearance of the Dutch guy, Willem, 5 years ago. They found one of his shoes, unlaced, on the crater
rim of the volcano. Local theories talk about strange disappearing,
magic or voodoo, but me and Sofie soon explain it as - man sitting down to remove ruble from his shoe, so he unlaced it, and lost his balance, maybe because of the shoe, maybe because the wind blew the toxic
volcanic fumes in his nostrils, and he tumbled in, very unlucky,
never to be seen again. We don't wander to the crater, but can walk a bit closer to the blue lake for a better picture, and indeed, the sulfurous invisible cloud does make breathing harder, and my eyes start itching as
well, lets get out of here...
We walk the rest of the way back down. The last hour through gardens, small towns with naked children and pigs running around, sucking on mangos, all of them as dirty alike. A waterfall and pool just before the finish, and then another candle light dinner, as the electricity in town fails again
for a few hours. This is what we're traveling for.
I finished my antibiotics for the Dengue fever, but my stomach now reacts on that, so we stay another few days relaxing, enjoying the candle light dinners and
coolness of Moni.
The next step is to get to Riung or Bajawa. To get to Bajawa we
can arrange a through bus, to Riung we'll have to swap busses in
Ende. But swapping busses means a lot of hasle, handling the bemo
mafia, and long hot days in dirty and cramped buses. Because we also
need internet soon, to book some flight tickets before they will
become more expensive, we have to spent time in Ende, the only town
with reliable internet available. Luckily Tam, our driver before,
comes to the rescue. For a good deal of money, he'll bring us to the
internet, and then all the way through to Riung, showing us the
tourist spots as we pass them.
Riung is small, merely a fishing village, with a beautiful ring
of islands at the coast...
We arrange a boat to get to the '17 islands' national park the
next day. They have 20 plus islands , but 17th is the national
celebration day in August, so that sounded nicer. The park is famous
of corals, deserted beaches, some giant lizards, and huge bats. We
are mainly interested in the deserted beach and snorkeling the
corals. The boatman brings us to some nice coral blocks, where we
see squid for the first time, and then drops us on our island. We
have the whole island for ourselves for the rest of the day, enjoy
sunbathing and running around the island naked, getting a sun tan
all over. This can be paradise, luckily it is not discovered yet. I
imagine how beautiful Thailand may once have been as well, before it
got concreted and bombarded with bungalows.
Bajawa is a cooler place, just like Moni, surrounded by old Ngada
villages, where they still practice old animist beliefs. Every
family has a temple where male and female is represented by little
huts, Ngadhu and Bhaga. A wooded pole is used for making animal
offerings, old monolithic stones are still present and have spiritual
meanings. We visit Wogo village, the local market of Mataloco, get
guided by a friendly old local to a bamboo and monoliths
also take an early bemo to the village of Ngoronale, from
where we hike all the way upto Wawo Muda. This is a collection of
volcanic lakes, the little version of Kelimutu, with the difference
that these lakes got shaped just 3 years ago, when the mountain
exploded and the farmers found out they were sitting on a volcano.
The setting is perfect, you can still see the scorched trees, the
mudslides, the not yet shaped lakes, the new crater rim. The best
thing is, no other tourist, no shops on the way up, and the pretties
hill walk of Flores. We wander around half the crater, and meet some
wild boar hunters ! They still use a spear, and dogs to help track
them down. The old man starts chatting with us, and the first part
of conversation is understandable, but then he seems to forget we
only know some basic words of Bahasa, and he rambles on about
everything in the world, we have no clue. On the way down the rain
starts poring and he offers Sofie an umbrella, yes, even pig hunters
have umbrellas !
The last action is getting to Bena, the most traditional Naga
village, and just as we are about to leave, we see Tam's car across
the street. He had some new customers, Steve and Heidi just arriving
and checking in. We ask if they would like to join to get to Bena,
as the next day, they will also leave with the early bus to
Labuanbajo. So we get in Tams car again and get some great views
over the hills, the magic volcanoes and the pretty Bena village.
31/01 To Labuanbajo
It is a long ride, Steve and Heidi keep an eye on the bags in the
back, me and Sofie grasping for air in the front. We all check in in
the Gardena hotel, nice setting and one of the best diners in town.
Sea food hot plate every night !
We also meet Darren and Jane, and soon we sit together to check
out where we'll go diving.
1-3/02/2005 Labuanbajo, Komodo national park
We decide to go with Reefseekers, a dive shop that before
operated on the Gili islands as well. The owners now have an island
here, where they are building luxuary cottages, and from where they
organize dive trips in the Komodo and Rinca national park. We check
out the Dutch owned Golo hilltop guesthouse, and meet Catherine, the
dive instructor of Reefseekers again. she is very knowledgeable and
very experienced, and it is a very nice dive experience going with
her under water. Darren dives with Marco and Frank, Me and Sofie go
in with Steve and Heidi, both Ko Tao trained dive masters. This is
their first diving since they did their training in Ko Tao, so its
going to be fun. Batu Bolong, a kind of pinnacle has quite some
current, and me and Sofie have to get used to different buoyancy. We
have very thick wetsuits, and load of extra kilos, so we need to do
some inflation before we get it right. The underwater life is good
though and we see plenty of what we already know, but even more of
what we don't. Just loads of nudibranches, types of corals and fans
we haven't seen before, big coral coverage, almost 100% in some
places. During lunch break we stay near a current where regularly
Manta rays are spotted. We do some snorkeling, but only Jane, the
non diver sees one. Me and Sofie fear that we will never see any, as
it is some kind of curse, but then both of us see one, jumping out
of the water. The curse is over, we gonna see lots of them ! And so
we do, the second dive at Tatawa Besar is just amazing. About 15
mantas, most of them about 3 meter width, circle and show, sometimes
4 in a row. There magic, angel like movement is jut too impressive.
To make it even more perfect, we spot two big turtles, and some
white tip reef sharks. The next day the weather is not that great,
our first dive is cancelled as the captain says it is too rough, so
we move over and do two channel dives. In one the current is too
weak, so we wander around and enjoy the small drift and small sea
life, the second one has loads of current. The drift gets so strong
the we hook up with the other group and Marco even gets confused and
decides to hang out with us. When finally the boat picks up the
girls, who stayed under 15 minutes longer (more air), the waves are
hitting hard maybe 5 meters high at some times. But our captain is
great, and the dives were good, and 'antimo' is the perfect anti sea
sickness pill !
04/02 Perama boat
Only Darren goes out today, with Marco and Frank, and get some
nice spotting. We get to the bank, where they give us a ridiculous
rate for our Euro travelers cheques, but we have to pay the dives,
and the Perama boat cruise. We could have stayed, and gotten to
Serayu island for a few days, but we decide to hook up with our new
friends and go on the two day 'cruise' to Lombok.
The first night we already sleep on the boat. Me and Sofie stay
on the sundeck, which means stars in the skies and beach sand to lay
down on. Luckily it didn't rain.
05/02 Komodo dragons
We leave early, and head to Rinca, one of the island where the
famous Komodo dragon lives. At the park HQ we spot about 10 of them,
waiting for kitchen left overs. On the sweaty 1 hour walk the park
rangers only manage to locate one more. This beast is quite
impressive. If it charges and attacks, you better run fast, or climb
in a tree asap. If it bites you, you'll die of the infection of all
the bacteria in its slimy mouth.
After this a stopover for snorkeling, and then we meet the rough
see. It takes them till midnight to find a calmer spot where the
cook is able to actually prepare some food. The night is windier,
but me and Sofie stay on the open roof deck, until rain drops wake
us up. As the lower deck is getting full, the friendly staff offers
us a bunk bed inside, just for a few hours of perfect sleep.
We stop after breakfast at Moyo island, and walk up to a nice
waterfall. The Perama staff shows us how to do it, sling the big
rope, and let yourself go to fall in the fresh water. Soon, all of
us enjoy the coolness. Some more snorkeling and finally we board
main land, and transfer by bus to Sengiggi, where we'll depart the
next day to the Gili islands.
07/02 Darrens Birthday
It is Darren's birthday, and we join him and Jane to Gili
Trawagan, the biggest island of the 3 Gilis, the party island it is.
We have a good time out for his birthday, even went dancing in the
bleu Merlin ! The next day we transfer to the perfect guesthouse,
right in front of the nicest beach and snorkeling part of the
island. 2 luxury chalets in front, 5 normal bungalows in the
08-16/02 Relaxing Gili Trawagan
What initially was the plan to stay a few days on party island,
and then move to the quieter ones, turned around to staying on party
island all the time. Why ? Because it is low season, it is a perfect
relaxed atmosphere, they have the greatest sea food and restaurants,
and of course we enjoy hanging around with Jane and Darren. We
snorkel, watch movies, have beach BBQ, try mushroom effects when the
power is down, and see some good movies in an Irish pub. Life can be
worse than this, it is difficult to leave, but we have to move on
one day. Oh, and the last 2 days, we moved in the luxurious chalet
in front, from where you can see sunrise over the ocean, whit the
only sweet shower of the island, in an outdoor garden ! We love it.
17-19/02 Padangbai, Bali
Perama boat and bus and boat again brings us to Padangbai, on
Bali. Here we want to do some more diving. The Liberty wreck, a
freighter sunken by the Japanese during WWII, and just off the beach
one hour from Padangbai. The town Padangbai itself is super relaxed,
and we meet the Germans Marco and Frank again, and have a good night
out on the beach Reggae bar.
The Liberty wreck dive is just fabulous. The first dive is more
looking at the structure and size of it, looking at some detail here
and there. But the wreck is the perfect habitat for corals, plants
and fish life. We see a beautiful white frogfish, do a swim through
and enjoy the beauty of it all.
The next day we go for two dives nearby. Ratka of the dive shop
says it is a bit tricky with the currents, and indeed when we get
there she doubts of going in. But she does, and after 10 minutes of
mainly kicking and fighting the current, she cancels the dive when
we are at 10 meters deep. What happened next was a night mare for
Sofie. As the currents started shifting a whirlpool shaped. Although
it looked quite innocent, it suddenly flipped all our positions
relative to each other around and then Sofie was dragged under, in
just a split second. From about 3 meters deep, to maybe 8 or 10.
That is to quick, and she screamed out the pain swims straight up,
her left ear bleeding. Ratka helps her out of the water, and then
the boat itself starts sliding, so hard that Darren is sucked under
it, and misses the propeller by just half an arms length. Then the
boat starts moving and they forget that I am still hanging on the
shaky stairs on the side, between the boat and rocks 3 meters away.
Just to say, never go diving with 'OK divers' in Padang Bai ! She
rinsed Sofies ear, and checked that she is ok otherwise. After two
dives in quieter locations, without me and Sofie, we get back on
land and Sofie is scared. The next day we head straight to Kuta, and
to the medical clinic.
The doctor says it will heal very slowly, up to a year. For now,
no water in her ear allowed, so no surfing or swimming. Antibiotics
for 5 days, so no drinking either. It is our last week together, so
not much of a party.
I try some surfing with Darren. Sofie and Jane get a tan on the
beach. Sofie is allowed to go shopping, so at least she can do that.
in the evening me and Darren drink for Jane and Sofie, both on
antibiotics. We even stay up to see the FA cup match between Chelsea
and Darren's team Newcastle ! Newcastle kicks Chelsea out 1-0 !
22/02 Doctor checkup Sofie goes back to the clinic, as her
pillow is getting quite stained with yellow spots. No problem says
this new doctor. But she does now better what the next steps are.
The eardrum is damaged too much to grow back, so a transplant might
be necessary in a month or more. The rest of the ear is not damaged,
so hearing and balance are all going to be ok. Flying shouldn't\t be
a problem if she takes Actifed before, to clear the system. Some
more antibiotics, so no drinking for another 5 days...
23-25/02 Shop'n surf We do some shopping, me and Darren
try surfing again, and we have some nice evening dinners and chats.
But to al comes an end, and Darren and Jane move on west wards. We
had a great time together , 26 days in a row. Hope we'll see them
some day in Duncaster.
Me and Sofie get away for a few days from hectic Kuta, and travel
1 hour north to Ubud. At the long slopes of a volcano, terraced with
thousands of rice fields, and the cultural center of Bali, this is
the perfect getaway. We walk between the rice paddies, see traditional
dances and gamelan music in the water palace, and eat some real
Emmental cheese and dark bread... Lets not forget the swimming pool
under our bungalow room. Some last relax together.
01-03/03/2005 The end (of South-East Asia)
This is it, the last days are shopping, some last surf, good food
and talks about how it all was. 3/3 we fly to Kuala Lumpur. After I
get a connection to New Zealand, Sofie goes back to Bangkok and in a
few days back home...
I'll update this page later with thoughts and facts about
the whole South-East Asia experience, but I first have to let it
sink a bit. It has all been great and fun. Very different experience
than South America, but very rewarding as well...
Next plan - New Zealand for 2 months - Melbourne to Sydney in 1
month - Snow boarding New Zealand for 2.5 months - home
Keep on tripping,