A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Justin Woolley


Yummy yummy

sunny 36 °C

Our Airasia flight from Bali to Singapore had been bought a year before. (I had bought extra baggage but not forked out any extra for food, priority seating and certainly not for extra leg room). After 4 months around SEA arriving into Singapore airport and jumping on the MRT into the center felt like another world. It felt uneasily like a developed country.

We checked into the fantastic Five Stones hostel just near Clarkes Quay and were met by an old buddy from medical school. Yan took us to Clarkes Quay for a beer and nachos before whizzing us off for an incredible Singapore Chilli Crab dinner overlooking the sea. The view out to see twinkled with 1000’s of lights: hundreds of ships queing to get into the busiest port in the world.

Chilli crab. Yummy! I never found out what Yan's bright idea with the crab was....

Waking up the next day I ate my first cereal and fresh milk in 4 months. How I missed it! I then headed off for a run around the Marina Bay and Quays on the on the running track. Singaporians are just crazy for running and the city is a constant throng of runners! Arriving back I woke Lynne up and ate more cereal. With Lynne up and raring to go we walked out to explore Chinatown.

Old Singapore, cicra Lynne's Dad out with the Navy

Old Singapore, cicra Lynne's Dad out with the Navy

Singapore town planning- impressive

Singapore town planning- impressive

Chinatown Food Court

Chinatown Food Court

Chinatown new and old

Chinatown new and old

Statue in Chinatown

Statue in Chinatown

The contrast between well restored merchant houses (much like the fantastic Georgetown in Malaysia) and modern sky scrappers is fascinating. We stopped at the City Museum where Lynne got a bit too excited by the town planning, but it was well worth a stop (for me it was for great food court opposite. $3 for huge plate of Singapore Chinese!) After a bit more walking we stopped for delicious Dim Sum. We were getting carried away with the tasty and cheap food!

Dim Sum

Dim Sum

After some serious pavement miles we had a rest back at the hostel and in the evening headed off to the ubiquitos tourist trap Raffels for a overpriced Singapore sling and beer. We had been given instructions by Lynne's dad to find his old drinking haunt, the Army and Navy club, which we were informed overlooked Raffles. After circling Raffles a few times and consulting the mobile phone internet we worked out it was still there, just behind the some scaffolding and covers. Shame. Still, hanging out in the old colonial bar and breaking peanuts and hurling the husks on the floor is quite fun.



Singapore Sling

Singapore Sling

Later we went to the Esplande to meet up with Yan again for a few drinks and watch the amazing buildings around the marina bay light up. It is amazing how life works out sometimes. Your wife's mother ruptures her oesophagus and then a few days later you meet up with an old med school friend to find he is a upper GI specialist. Not only was Yan a fantastic host and guide, he was also very kind in spending time talking about the implications and future after such an incident.

Singapore Esplande by night.

Singapore Esplande by night.

Singapore CBD by night

Singapore CBD by night

Marina Bay Sands at Night

Marina Bay Sands at Night

Later that evening we finally sat down to make a decision about the future of the trip. Initially it had seemed simple, then after being told in no uncertain terms by Lynne's dad not to return it seemed complicated again. We worked out the costs, thought about delaying flights here and there, but in the end it boiled down to the simple question of flying further away from home, or going home and being with Lynne's family. By 3am I had cancelled the rest of the RTW trip and bought new tickets leaving in 26 hours to London.

Day 3:
Suddenly a holiday with over 2 month left on the clock shrinks to just over 24hrs. Time to fit in far too much into one day. We headed off to Little India and enjoyed wandering the old streets, temples and picking up some gifts for the family.

Curry in Little India

Curry in Little India

Next stop was the cable car up to the Mount Faber. To be honest the whole cable car and viewing is well run with some ok views but not a patch on Hong Kong, or seeing the Manhattan skyline. However only a short walk (though in 36 degrees and 100% humidity it felt long enough), was the brillaint Henderson Waves. A stunning bridge through the rain forest.

The excitement of cable car

The excitement of cable car

Funky Bridge

Funky Bridge

Running the bridge

Running the bridge

Next stop, Marina Bay Sands. The building is enormous and is sat on top of Asia's second largest casino. Singaporeans, much like a lot of asia, love a flutter despite the huge joining fees and daily charge just for entering. The casino makes more money for Marina Bay than all its casinos in Las Vegas put together. Macau and Singapore are heralding the decline of Las Vegas. We explore the ridiculous shopping malls and then went to the top to have a drink. (Top tip, you can either pay to go to the top to have a look around, or go to the bar for free where two drinks is slightly cheaper than the elevator charge, though not if your wife orders a Champagne cocktail!).

Sky bar on the Marina Bay Sands

Sky bar on the Marina Bay Sands

With hours remaining on our trip we decided to battle Singapore at rush hour to make it out into the centre of the island to visit the fantastic Night Safari. The Zoo is attached to Singapore zoo but a different entity entirely and only opens after dark. There are a number of walks but the highlight is the Jurassic park esq open train ride. The enclosures are very cleverly designed with no bars or cages, but hidden water ditches. It gives the unnerving feeling that the animals could wander over to you at any point and take bite. The animal show was fun as well but we hadn't left ourselves enough time to enjoy it fully and would definitely return.

Night Safari Lion

Night Safari Lion

Night Safari Wolf

Night Safari Wolf

Day 4:
There seemed little point in going to bed after getting back from the Night Safai well after mid night and a early start 04:15 only hours away. And so we stayed up organising all the last little boring things that you need when returning suddenly e.g. Car Hire etc. I ate some more cereal and watched some movies. Heaving our rucksacs on for the last travel we hit the near desserted Singapore roads and hailed a taxi to the airport. Two hours later we were in KL again, and 11 hours after this we touched down in London heathrow.

The next three months:
My dad very kindly came to pick us up at LHR and drove us back to Shrewsbury. They said we could stay as long as we needed and we joked that we would stay for a few months in that case. Some nervous laughs followed. The next month flew by with daily trips to the hospital and trying to get our lives in order. We had planned to spend the last two months of our trip getting everything ready for our return. I got some GP locum work around Shrewsbury and did some rowing and coaching at the local rowing club. Three months later we finally made the planned move to London and have settled in East Sheen near Mortlake on old Father Thames. Three months since Lynne's mum ruptured her oesophagus she has finally been allowed to start sipping water.

Agecroft 24 hour row with Olympic torch.

Agecroft 24 hour row with Olympic torch.

Chris Hoy with torch.

Chris Hoy with torch.

Cancellara at the road race. Wiggins smashed it!

Cancellara at the road race. Wiggins smashed it!

Handball in the Copper box.

Handball in the Copper box.

Watching the rowing in the olympic park.

Watching the rowing in the olympic park.

Pass of the Cross. The highest pass in North Wales.

Pass of the Cross. The highest pass in North Wales.

Final word:
A common question is: 'So have you got it out of your system?' And I guess this was partly the aim of the trip, to satisfy that need to explore and experience what is out there. If anything this trip has ignited that hunger even more. Most of all it has shown us that all those fears that stop people from travelling, the worries about jobs and money, losing touch with the system which means paying tax, a mortgage, building a pension, are even weaker than before. We met endless inspiring people who had carved out the life they wanted, were successfully travelling with young children, had taken the risk. So for anyone thinking of travelling, or the reasons why they can't. I'll leave it to Mark Twain to finish off. (ultimate cheese moment)

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Posted by Justin Woolley 08:00 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Flores Part 2

The end!

sunny 32 °C

Bajawa and the Ngada and Nagekeo people.

Lynne and myself, Akke and Xander, Miquel the guide and Sipri the driver all met at the car in the morning and headed off to see some the local villages we had heard so much about. We were excited. As we drove we passed through new villages with the local house style made out of corrugated iron. We were then dropped off in a bamboo forest and walked down the road to catch our first glimpse of the tourist popular Bena. We joked as we first glimpsed it that we could see a car and was that the local car park. Quick as a flash our guide was on his mobile. “Car ruining photos!” And in a few seconds it was out of sight. Slightly surreal.

On our way to the traditional village. View to one of the many surrounding volcanos.

Our first view of Bena. With car moved Stunning!

Despite this it was clear that the Ngada villages were very different from the Manggarai peoples. We waked on past Bena to return to it later as the last village of the day and to buy some local Ikat weaving and headed into the forest to walk to our first village. As we went our guide pointed out local crops and Akke asked questions.

Approaching out of the forest the village of Toliela spread out before us as a rectangle of houses surrounding smaller stranger objects. Behind sat the backdrop of iridescent green volcanoes and blue sky. Children ran around playing football and flying kites made out of plastic bags. Chickens scuttled around. And that was it. No cars. No motorbikes. Nothing. We were in a traditional village, seemingly untouched by many of the spoils of modern world. Of course there was a satellite dish and TV, but still there was a beautiful feeling about the village.

Kids having a lot of fun.

Parasols representing the male spirit.

Horse details on little houses of the female spirit. Representing protection and home life

Details on house. A figure of a warrior says a man from another village has joined that houses clan. If it was a house, it means women. A marriage thing.

Every aspect of the village was steeped in symbolism and had meaning. Three parasols represented the man, the three small huts women, while the huge rocks represented the next generations. The Nagada are matriarchal and the men come to live in the women’s clans house. The warrior or house on some roofs symbolizing the movement in and out of the traditional number of clans in the village. Toliela had two parts on two levels and impossibly the second level was more beautiful.

Amazing views at Toliela second level.

Pressing on down the hill, pursued by local children singing and laughing we arrived at Gurusina and spent another few hours wondering around taking in the amazing surroundings and appreciating more and more the detail and meaning in every construction.

Bena's large stone monoliths representing the next generation.

Ende, Moni and Kelimutu.

Our drive the next day took us past the port town of Ende with its famous black sanded and blue stoned beaches. We spent a short time hunting for the perfect blue stones comparing and contrasting our finds. It seemed the locals were doing it at a more industrial level, filling bags to sell. This was clearly the local business along with Arak production (moonshine). We pressed on and after seven hours in the car, and feeling pretty well swerved out we arrived in Moni, gateway to the volcano Kelimutu.

Ende Beach

A disappointing meal in Moni’s Bintang Café was our reward, 90 minute wait for my most bizzare meal to date. A very strange long macaroni in a tomato sauce of quartered tomatoes. Anyway with a 4:30am start we didn’t have much time to sulk and hit the sack early.

I think secretly Lynne had been planning this for a long time. Some sort of geography wet dream. Why it had to involve getting up at silly o’clock and dragging my self repeatedly up large volcanoes is my question? Marriage I guess. But there we were again. Thankfully it was a short walk this time to the top. There were even stairs. Kelimutu is famous for its three crater lakes that change colour at random. We were treated to an amazing sunrise and two and half craters seen. Then the clouds rolled in. Feeling a bit worse for wear I trudged back to the car and had a snooze only to see the clouds parting a few hours later. I shot back up the mountain and found Lynne and our Dutch friends enjoying perfect views of the three craters and surrounding countryside.

Kelimutu sunrise above the clouds.

Twin craters behind. The black lake sat in the third crater in the direction we faced.

Close up of lakes.

Maumere, the Sikka district.

After the early morning Lynne and I did our best nodding dog impressions as we made our final drive to Maumere. We stopped for lunch at an amazing Wurung (shop). With the perfect setting on the beach I was still a little unsure with its basic interior. However we ordered a fish for the four of us and were showed a moderate sized tuna. It appeared 15mins later grilled to perfection with lemon and turmeric and other spices rubbed in. Amazing food. Very yummy.

Warung's beach view.

Yummy Tuna

The third from of traditional house seen on our brief trip down Flores. Sikkah.

We checked in to Gardia hotel 7km outside of Maumere and said goodbye to Sipri. A highly recommended driver, we found him at random in the street but he’s in the LP bible if anyone is passing this way again. We sat down and enjoyed a parting beer with our Dutch friends. It had been a great pleasure sharing the last 10 days with them. Always quick to laugh and appreciate our surrounding they made great travel partners. The food was rubbish, but the beer was cold and the view pretty stunning. Good luck to them in Sulawesi.

The first flight out of Flores was not until the day after, and a little stranded out of town, we settled down to a day of pretty much nothing. We watched two of our $1 DVD’s, appreciating Thor’s genius for a second time. We read. And we walked on the beach. As we wandered along we realized the hotel was next door to a Karaoke Club, and that this was likely a brothel. The working karaoke girls chased us down the beach and were very excited to have their photos taken with us on their mobile phones. Lynne’s Bhasa was getting pretty good but she was left a bit tongue-tied by this experience, so we stood like plums and had our photos taken with the smiling and giggling girls. Another strange experience chalked up.

Maumere beach and boat. As always with Flores. Amazing volcanoes.

5:30am the next morning we were bouncing along in the back of a bemo to Maumere airport and a Wings flight bound for Bali. The restaurants of Ubud were calling me!


Eggs in Indonesia:

Time for a rant. So after the delights of Thai, Vietnamese and Malaysian food it was a tough act to follow but now 40 days in, I’m just a little fed up with Indonesian food. Don’t get me wrong, we have had some great dishes, some delicious curries, Lynne has fallen for Gado Gado (vegetables with a peanut sauce) and we have had some great Nasi Campur (rice with lots of random bits), but please, please can someone teach Indonesians to firstly cook eggs, and secondly when is an appropriate time to put one in or on a dish.

Omelettes are overcooked rubbery affairs with whatever was not cleaned out of the wok mixed in. Scrambled eggs are omelettes that have received a savage attack from a meat cleaver. But there is something about fried eggs that now makes me a little sick just thinking about them. Firstly an old wok must be found. If it has been used to fry fish or a dead cat then all the better. Next fill with an oil, perhaps engine oil? Then fry. Return a few hours later and place on the top of food, all food, like every dish. And when it’s not a fried egg it is something else. “Perhaps you would like scrambled eggs in your spaghetti Bolognese Mister?” No thanks, but I still get it.

Yes I am spoilt, and yes I am stupid for ordering Italian in the first place but I do feel a bit better now. Rant over.

Fried Egg horror.

Posted by Justin Woolley 20:28 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Flores Part 1

The beginning!

sunny 33 °C

Labuanbajo and Komodo NP:

Alive! The cruise from Lombok was actually great and my misgivings were misplaced. It serves me right for reading too much before doing an activity. Note to self, “don’t read accounts of boats sinking before getting on any more boat trips.” However sleeping on deck was not as restful as one might have hoped and we were pretty tired when we arrived in Labuanbajo.

LBB sits on the edge of Komodo NP. A ramshackle fishing town with lots of dive shops, B+B’s and restaurants. While we overheard some less than happy tourists, Lynne and I loved its rough charm, tasty food, but most of all, its pick your jaw off the floor setting. It nestles on a series of green hills with a view out to KNP’s hundreds of islands. Sunsets with a cold beer were heaven.

LBB sunset!

We spent the first day recuperating and organizing after a solid sleep in. We booked a diving trip and, along with our new travel buddies Akke and Xander (a Dutch couple from the boat trip), arranged a driver to take us to the other side of the Flores on a 4N/5D adventure.

The next morning we were up early and cruising out into KNP with Divine Diving (a fantastic diving school with well earned amazing reviews). The same ubber currents that worried me during the cruise were in full flow, and this time we were going to dive in them.

Diving Komodo Dragon!

KNP view from dive boat as we cruised out to Komodo island.

Dive one was Batu Bolong (hole in rock). As we sat on the upper deck receiving our dive briefing we saw the currents in full force whirlpooling past the rock. Our dive was to take us into the current shadow of a large rock. We were to dive down and then zigzag our way back up the rock over the dive with the dive master leading us and giving hand signals when he saw the current at either side. Any misgivings soon vanished as were entered one of the most amazing dives of my life (and many of the other divers on the boat). Huge shoals of every fish imaginable, sharks, turtles, lion fish, scorpion fish, nudi branches and huge Napoleon Wrasse. Massive smiles.

Strong currents visible during briefing. Eeek!

Dive two. Manta Point, or Makassar reef if we didn’t see any Manta! A drift dive along a ruble coral bottom. For the last few months this sight was producing 30-50 giant manta’s on every dive. Then a week ago they left. We were hoping they might return. Our briefing for this dive included an explanation of the many divers who had followed Manta and then after a while realized they couldn’t see their dive group anymore. Aptly named “Manta Madness!!” As it turned out all we saw was a Manta tail cruising away from us. The dive was lovely in itself with some great micro life to see as well as the crowd pleasing macro life. I came across a smashing mantis shrimp. Fabled for breaking cameras put too close with its punching fists!

That evening Lynne and I celebrated my birthday a day early with a trip to a lovely restaurant after watching the sun go down in the Treetop Bar. Only mild stomach cramps from our rich pasta and cheesecake dinner. But they were well earned stomach cramps and it felt ok!

Ruteng and the Manggarai people.

We met our driver Sipriano at 8 am and were soon cruising out of LBB east along the Trans-Flores highway. It was more of a windy road than highway. Soon the beauty of Flores began to dawn on the four of us. Endless steep, green volcanoes with small villages nestled amongst their bases and on their slopes.

Road Trip!!

We were excited to be heading to see the spiderweb rice padis. The area around Cancur was particularly famous. These giant padi fields are owned by entire villages with the padi divided up to represent the importance of each owner (designated by notches on a post in the middle). As we approached Cancur we started to glimpse half webs of padi. We then pulled up at a steep slope and a local guide took us to the top of a hill just as the sun burst through the clouds. Two vast spiderweb padis covered the floor of the valley. Quite unlike anything I had seen before. But Flores was turning out that way.

Friendly kids at one of the many photo stops.

Spider padis!

Now for an interesting little aside. The sort Indonesia and Flores throw up. Hobbits are from Flores. Not NZ or JR Tolkin or Peter Jackson. Just north of Bajawa an an amazing discovery was made. There were long stories of a tiny humans living on Flores but no proof. Then in 2003 in Liang Bua cave a tiny skeleton was found the size of a three year old child. But this was an adult skeleton. Whats more she existed 18,000 years ago, when modern Homo Sapiens (us) were the only (?) human left. Was this another case of giagantism and dwarfism that occurs in small island populations? A genetic disease? When did they die out? No body knows but Homo Floriens had been discovered. (Standing only 1m tall imagine them coming up against Komodo dragons which also live on Flores. Dragons often attack by standing up on their hind legs and swiping with their 1.5m tail to knock prey over. An even scarier proposition if you are a third of the size the Dragon!!!!)

By mid afternoon we had arrived in Ruteng and we checked into the local convent. Yes, convent. We were staying at Santa Maria convent. No drinking or smoking and the gates shut at 9pm. It was the cleanest place we stayed in all of SEA.

Late in the afternoon our driver took us to a traditional Manggarai village. Ruteng sits high in the hills and the village was shrouded in clouds. The traditional huts loomed large at the end of a raised stone oval. The center of the oval stood another raised platform, the village burial ground. We wondered around the village and sat down in side a traditional hut with a few of the villagers and Sipri as our translator. The villagers spoke some Bahasa Indonesian but Sipri was from Ruteng and could speak their local language. We sat for some time asking questions (I’m sure Akke won’t mind me saying that she is very good at asking questions!). We discussed traditional building methods as well as Cacai fights. These consist of two men from opposing villages, bare above the waist but with a shield and face guard trying to whip their opponent to submission. The villagers proudly told us you couldn’t go to jail if you killed your opponent and that a good win was when you got their eyes through the facemask. That took real skill!

First view of Manggarai village.

Manggarai village houses a little closer up.

Cacai fighting stick and shield.

Bajawa and the Ngada and Nagekeo people.

The next day we were off bright and early again and heading into another tribal region of Flores, the Ngada and Nagekeo. The Flores landscape continued to mesmerize with endless beautiful volcanoes and padis. With the volcanoes the Flores highway was continuously rising and falling while snaking around. The highway seemed constantly in a state of repair or landslide removal. The local technique of cutting vertically into the soil and stone slopes without reinforcement seemed bound to fail, but they seemed to press on regardless. Luckily Sipri was turning out to be an excellent driver, the safest we had experienced in SEA.

It was a long seven-hour drive and we were happy when we finally reached Bajawa and booked into the Edelweiss hotel for two nights. The town was again high in the hills but it was far from Alpine, anyway the rooms were cleanish.

After unpacking a bit we headed to the market for a bit of exploring. We bought some fruit and then got lost in the maze of a market. Dried fish, stomachs of some large animal, vegetables, batteries and well, anything else you could possible want or not want (to smell) was available.

The usual SEA market but with added "cobwebs" for dramatic effect.

That evening we arranged a guide to take us to some traditional villages the next morning……….


Stupid things travellers say (or write):

Another classic from the special people who don't engage brain before writing. This time a lady was complaining on Tripadvisor about her stay in an Indonesian hotel. She spent the whole holiday in the same hotel but said that every morning before it even got light she was awoken by a terrible racket like singing. This went on every day and she wouldn't stay there again. She gave the hotel a low mark.She ended by saying she had no idea what the noise was. Ok, so people may not have been to a muslim country before or heard the call to pray before, but perhaps engage enough with the place you are travelling to ask what the noise is. Arrrrrrrgh!

Posted by Justin Woolley 06:38 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

The rest of Lombok!

Lovely Lombok.

sunny 33 °C

Two days in Senggigi post RInjani were more of a recovery session than a period of enlightenment after the leg burning.

Senggigi Beach. Hardly shabby.

I feel Lynne has done a good job describing Sengiggi already. In brief it doesn’t compare to Kuta Lombok or the Gili’s, but does have a great bakery selling nice fresh donuts.

Kuta Lombok:
The shuttle bus through Perama turned out to be a little Suzuki car, with AC and a driver called Apo who quickly turned into guide supreme. We chatted hard about religion, power cuts and local agriculture (more interesting than it sounds). He added a stop at a pottery village (boring) and a local Sasak village. I must admit with our rubbish remnant of the Lonely Planet South East Asia on a shoestring I knew little to nothing about Lomboks people and culture. The Sasak have their own language and many don’t speak Bahasa Indonesian, they were the original inhabitants of Lombok and were briefly ruled by the Balinese from over the waters. Their traditional villages are charming shared family rice house, ancestral family homes with many generations sharing two rooms and communal spaces as well as a village heads house. These villages are perched between the most beautiful and vibrant green padi fields. We got a tour with a local guide and Lynne bought a beautiful sarong (the men farm, the women mainly weave).

A rice house is shared by 4-5 families.

Lynne with Sasak baby. Pressed into her arms for some skin comparison by the locals. "ha ha, her skin is whiter than a babies". Disconsolate Lynne.

2 hours after leaving Senggigi we pulled into the most picture perfect white sanded bay with turquoise waters and little islands perched off shore at each end. We had arrived at the surfing capital Kuta Lombok (to distinguish it from the VERY different Kuta Bali).

Kuta Lombok. Very nice!

Kuta is rated as the next big thing. Large stretches of the beach are owned by a Middles East consortium with plans to build mega resorts. For now there is the Novotel on a different, private beach, over to the east and the Oberoi Lombok to the west (the Oberoi has won the worlds best hotel for the last few years- a snip at $500-800 a night). The rest of the strip is faced single story warungs (shops) and homestays, for now. Those who have been coming for 20 years say it has changed beyond recognition. I think it still has a slight 'end of the road' feel. Everyone is surfing, apart from us. Nearly all the waves are difficult reef breaks. Not for the novice. Being dropped off in those waves by the fishing boat with out a lot of experience is a sure way to drown or face plant into very sharp coral.

Kuta Lombok main drag with locals goats.

Beach East of Kuta Lombok. Popular surfing spot.

We hired a scooter and cruise east (very slowly mum and dad) down the coast dropping in at different bays, having a swim and eating freshly cut pineapple. After a lunch back in Kuta we try and head west to what we have been told is one of the best beaches in all of Indonesia. We were told by an expat that the road were rough but we though we could always turn around if we didn’t fancy it much. 5k in and the roads were as close to impassable as you can get. The locals have found gold in the hills and lots of little tent villages have sprouted up with homemade tunnels and grinders. We later learn that the Australian owner of the land has been unable to keep these people off it and that people are already dying in their homemade tunnels as they collapse on them. We gave up after hearing the roads were the same for the next 6k to the beach and return to the Kuta with our tails between our legs. We feel much better however after gatecrashing the Novotels 5* services for a few hours.

How to eat a pineapple. Skilfully carved by the local women.

The skilful women. The speed at which five women descend on you when you finally decide you might want a pineapple. The local stall holder laughed that if you even sneeze something like pineapple they appear from everywhere.

Green south Lombok from our trip west out of Kuta. We never made the beach.

Happily safe back at the 5 star resort!

Tetebatu (Stone Bridge):
Lynne is feeling a bit beached out so we head for the hills. We hire a private car again to take us back up the volcano. Getting around Lombok, and Bali for that matter is not easy. We could have got five bimo’s (the little shared vans) to Tetebatu but it could have taken an entire day or more. A car journey is only 90mins. Tete Batu is a village on the south slopes of Mt Rinjani. We had previously gone up the north side and come down the east side and were treated to new views of this monster volcano. The village has become a bit of a padi field retreat and is packed in the high season. We book into the Green Orry Inn as one of the few guests. Sitting at 600m the climate is a bit cooler which is a welcome relief after months of 30+ heat.

View from Green Orry Hotel.

Evening Competitive Monopoly. 3-1 to me at the moment. Easy........

The next morning we are off trekking again! Lynne doesn’t seem to register my repeated claim “that I don’t do hill walking”. However this time it’s a more easy 5k walk through the paid fields with a guide pointing out the various stages of rice production. The fields are incredibly fertile and they knock out 3 crops a year of rice. The benefits of living on a volcano! The terraces of rice stretch out every shade of green as far as the eye can see.

Planting Rice. A womans job. The men plough and as you can see in the back ground chuck the rice bundles to the women.

Stunning green padi. Something majestic about the green glinting in the water. Our walk was tightrope between them for a few hours.

Beating the dried rice. There is a constant cycle of production as the ground is so fertile.

Padis as far as the eye can see. My nemesis Rinjani in the background.

We also get to see some black monkeys. Which is nice. After three hours we reach the jungle and the path to the waterfall. As we approach it sounds like a public swimming pool with lots of squeals and shouting and laughing. We arrive to find most of the village teenagers there with their girlfriends having finished their yearly exams the day before. They are all very keen to get photos taken with Lynne and I. Strange white faces and skin. The human zoo in reverse. The waterfall is very refreshing after our trek. On our way back down we pass through lots of local villages. All have their local guard dogs but our guide is quick to wave a big stick at them which works a treat. I keep my big stick with me all the way back down.

Cooling waterfall / public playground.


Mataram is actually four villages and is the capital of Lombok. It has treelined streets and is quite pleasant as Indonesian towns go. Particularily pleasing was the western style mall (well Indonesian version of), where I bought some trainers (mine died on Rinjani!), and we ate McFlurries while surfing McDonalds free WiFi.

But then we felt a strange urge , quite the opposite of our usual feelings. The need to go to a museum. The Lombok museum has pieces from Lombok and Sumbawa (as it seems devoid of any tourist structure at all). We were the only people there and the guide gave us a relaxed tour ending at a locked gate through to the treasure room. "you have time?" "I get key!". In side were some truly beautiful pieces from the Sultan of Bima including some ornamental Kiri swords and a silver, gold and coconut jug.

Ceremonial masks for dances

Stunning jug. 1700's.

Sasak Kiri's. for weddings not killing.

We also visited two of Lombok's Hindu temples. Both were quite nice, but not too inspiring. I was more excited about buying some knock off DVD's and watching Finding Nemo.

Hindu Temple.

Tomorrow we get picked up by our friends Perama and start a 2N/3D boat journey to Flores via Komodo. Let the Dragon hunting begin.


Where in the world is Lombok?

Lombok nestles between Sumbawa and Bali in the Indonesian Archipelago that consists of 17-20,000 islands. The largest archipelago in the world!

Some facts about Indonesia:

The population of Indonesia is huge: 240 million. 120 million on Java: the most populace island in the world. Kalimantan is one of the most diverse places in the world with twice as many plant species as the whole of Africa. Nusa Tengarra is home to the worlds largest lizard: the Komodo dragon which can get up to 3m long. Sumatra is home to worlds largest flower: Rafflesia anoldi. The reticulated python is the world’s largest snake and the largest ever was recorded in Sulawesi at 9.85m. A country of superlatives.

Some history about Indonesia:

It didn’t even officially exist till 27 December 1949. The region started out as a number of Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms and wasn’t united until the 1500’s when first the Portuguese and then the Dutch ruled the archipelago. The locals didn’t like the Dutch rule and greeted the Japanese during WWII as saviors. However this soon turned to horror as much like the whole of SEA they were treated abominably. After the Japanese were defeated at the end of WWII Soekarno declared Indonesia independent in 1945. However the Dutch with the help of the British tried to regain control but the Indonesians fought a tough four year long guerilla war. Pressure from the US and UN, as well as the mounting Dutch death toll finally brought independence.

Post Independence was a rocky road. Unity in war turned to division in peace. General Soekarno made moves to form a Guided Democracy (a euphemism for dictatorship of course). Despite these moves by 1965 Indonesai had one of the worlds biggest communist parties at over 3 million. A coup occurred which was blamed on the communists and 500,000 communist sympathizers were killed. Not surprisingly it later came to light that the British (protecting interests in Malaysia) and the US (against all things communist) had helped draw up hit lists for the military dictatorship.

Then comes a chap called Soeharto (very similar to Soekarno) who ousts the previous dictator and ruled Indonesia with an Iron fist through the 60’s and 70’s putting down uprisings in Aceh, Papua and invading Timor. The government was corrupt but the 80’s and 90’s were economic boom years. However by the end of the 90’s the government went bankrupt and after 30 years in power Soeharto resigned in 1998.

Indonesia has remained somewhat unstable since then. Demonstrations in Jakarta and the East Timor split are proof of that (the army withdrew only after systematically destroying all infrastructure in the country), but then such a massive country with such vast difference in culture and religion often will. The country continues to grow at a strong 5-6% a year, however while the rich get richer the country still has countless millions surviving on a dollar a day.

Posted by Justin Woolley 19:28 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Bali and Gili Air.

Hello Mr. SeaTurtle!

sunny 33 °C

Arriving in Bali there was a strange sense of deja vu. We had been here 2 years previously on our honeymoon. After the trials of traveling around Kalimantan it felt safe. We grabbed a cab and headed for some resort time at the Mecure Sanur.

Enjoying a Bintang in Bali.

There is very little to report from the those 5 days. We swam, we slept, we watched movies on the box and we ate. The food was good after the more basic fare on Borneo. We even broke our self made "pinkie promise" not to eat any more spaghetti carbonara's in Asia after finding a yummy Italian. The only other event was that I pulled my back at a yoga class which made for a very grumpy Justin over the last two days of our trip. However it felt like the well needed holiday from our holiday and we jumped on the fast boat to the Gili Islands.

Arriving in Gili Air.

The Gili islands sit off the north west tip of Lombok. Three tiny coral islands that have caught the tourist wave and are now well on the pancake trail. Trawangan is the largest and furthest out, the party island. Meno is the smallest and next in line, the quiet island. Air sits a short distance off the Lombok coast and lies somewhere between party and quiet. We had one aim here and that was diving. We got a ferry from Trawangan to Air and headed straight to Manta Dive School to book our open water course.

So the next morning we were up early at the pool to start learning scuba diving! I had actually done this once before when I was 17 years old and had already got my advanced certificate. However I hadn't dived for 10 years and couldn't remember much. I was glad to be starting right from the begining again with Lynne. After a day in the pool getting used to the equipment and drills we were ready for our first open water dive. Well I was, Lynne wasn't so sure. However I think any reservation soon went out of the window when the first sea turtle swam by and both Lynne and I's faces lit up.

Lynne is ok!

Over the next two days we did four dives to a maxiumum depth of 18m and saw many amazing sights. Turtles, turtles, turtles, pristine coral and fish, fish, and fish. Lynne just keep humming "keep on swimming". We were loving our diving. So much so that we just went straight on and did our advanced divers course. The 3 days we planned on Gili Air soon became 9, but you couldn't ask for a more beautiful place to waste away a week. The perfect desert island feel (no motorised vehicles), great coral and fish within 2m on the shore line and all this flanked by Gunung Batur on Bali and Gunung Rinjani on Lombok. These huge volcanoes were the perfect back drop and made for some stunning sunrises and sunsets.

Gili sunset.

Over the first 8 dives we saw some beautiful sights. Our highlights would be:
Bat fish with their crazy eye.
Loads of sea turles. Majestic creatures effortlessly swimming through the clear waters. Green and Hawksbill. Green turtles have clean shells as they carry around moray fish with them. Hawksbills are the scruffier ones.
Bumper head parrot fish. Giant parrot fish who head-butt the coral and then munch up the mulch. Impressive shoal all banging away.
Beautiful corals at Mirkos reef.
White tipped reef sharks. We saw three biggies on one dive 6ft long. Definitely more scared of us than us of them.
Blue spotted rays. The way they glide through the water is beautiful.

Team Woolley go Sub Aqua. Demonstrating hand signals for sea turtles. We went a little sea turtle mad!

However not all was perfect in paradise. Lynne was getting increasing pain from her ear and on waking with lots of muck on the pillow one morning I swung all 13 years of medical training into action and diagnosed a dickie ear (otitis externa) and sent her off to get some drops. I sent her off because yet again had an upset stomach. My proud gut of steel reduced to crepe paper at best. Rob, our dive guru, suggested we take some time to recover. This gave us two days off from diving and a chance to recover a bit. As soon as things settled I was snorkelling and Lynne was pacing the island, and to my horror- finding shops.

Our digs in Gili Air: Gita Gili

Feeling much better we both embarked on our final dive for our advanced certificate. The digital photography dive. Of course this dive had one of the worst visibilites of the lot (15m as opposed to 40m+ on some days) but it came through with some amazing wild life. A green turtles sat in a barrel coral, moray eels, blue spotted stingrays, pipefish (cousins of the seahorse), lion fish, huge puffer fish as well as all the usual Trigger, Surgeon, False clown, Parrot, Angel, Trumpet, Box, Scorpion, Butterfly, Damsel, Moorish Idols, Grouper, Seargent fish and more. And amazingly we can name them all by sight now as well as knowing all the different hand signals for them, which really adds to the experience.

Green Back Turtle in a barrel coral.

Hand signal for sea turtle by Lynne!

Lion Fish

Blue Spotted Stingray

Action Man Justin- Sub Aqua version.

We were very sad to leave the Gili's but we had itchy feet and the rest of Nusa Tenggara was calling. Thanks must go to the Chillout Bar where we must have ate over 15 times. Very yummy and a wonderful welcoming manager.

Posted by Justin Woolley 06:56 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

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