Indonesia

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July 31 - September 3, 1997

I flew from KL to Denpasar, Bali, in Indonesia. I arrived late at night, so the bemos weren't running. But a guy said he'd give me a lift into town on his motorcycle for about half what the taxi was charging. So I got on the back of his bike, with my big backpack on my back, my day pack clutched in one hand, while I held on to his jacket with the other. I'm glad we didn't hit any bumps. When we got to the guesthouse, he, of course, didn't have change. My first time being ripped off in Indonesia.

The next morning I caught a bemo out to Ubud, up in the hills. It was nice, but quite touristy. I spent a few days there. Saw a couple of Balinese dances, which were very interesting. They move very robot like, and their music almost sounds synthesized. I also saw a shadow puppet show, which was interesting, but lacked plot.

Went for a walk in the monkey forest, and rented a bike, and rode around to various temples. I made the mistake of wearing shorts, so I had to rent a sarong at each temple. Everywhere you went, people were trying to sell you stuff. At one temple, there were so many stalls, it took me fifteen minutes to find the temple.

I did a van tour around the countryside, to various temples and things one day. There was an Irish woman on the tour, who kept saying that she didn't think the Indonesians were as friendly as the Malaysians. I'd only been there a few days, so I couldn't say, but after a few more days, I'd had to agree with her. The Indonesians were constantly ripping you off, and you could never get a moments peace, because they were trying to sell you something. Except the people in the restaurants, who acted like they would rather you weren't there. In one restaurant I had to wake the waitress up in order to pay the bill.

From Ubud I went down to the coast to Padangbai. On the bus I met a Vancouverite, Peter, so we shared a room. He was really excited, because Messier had signed with the Canucks.

Spent a couple of days swimming at the beach, and snorkeling. Saw a jellyfish. The guy who owned the guesthouse was a fisherman, so one morning, before sunrise, Pete and I went fishing with him. It was an outrigger canoe type boat, with a sail, brightly painted to look like a big fish. We were out there with the fleet, as the dawn arrived. First we had to fish for bait. Once we got that, we trolled around for big fish, but never caught anything.

I was in a restaurant, when an obnoxious American started asking these three people about the place where they'd been snorkeling. He asked them where they were from. I thought the guy said Saskatchewan, so I asked him.

He was from Saskatoon. I said I was from Regina. He came over and shook my hand. After seven months, I was someone who could understand Saskatchewan.

That night a restaurant had live music. It was reggae night. Reggae night turned out to be some locals playing folk songs. Dylan and such. Pete and I stayed up late with the Saskatoonians, discussing Canada's Cultural Identity.

I've discovered one thing on this trip. Every Canadian loves The Hip. It's universal. No matter how old or where they're from, they love The Hip.

From there I took the ferry to Lombok, and, after getting ripped off a few more times, ended up in Senggigi. Spent a couple days on the beach, while I booked a trip to Gunung Rinjani, a volcano on Lombok.

There was also a German couple of the trip. There was supposed to be another couple, but one of them got sick the night before. The guys from the company were really upset that they cancelled. As if it was the guy's fault that he got sick. Anyways, we had a guide and three porters, who carried a couple of live chickens hanging upside down from the bamboo poles they were balancing our gear from.

The guide was 19. He was turning 20 that month, but he didn't know when, because his parents hadn't recorded the date of his birth. He didn't know much of anything else, either. How far the hike was. What elevation we were camping at. Etc.

We hiked to a camp spot just below the tree line the first day. The the guide wanted us to get up before sunrise next morning to hike to the rim in time for the sunrise. We didn't want to, but finally gave in. Then the guide slept in, so we got up at a reasonable hour.

The sight from the rim was amazing. Inside is a huge lake, with a smaller cone, from which smoke is still issuing. Looking out across the ocean, you could see Bali peeking out through the clouds.

We hiked down into the caldera, to the lake. It was quite steep. Then we relaxed in the hot springs, which were great. After lunch we hiked back up to the rim, instead of camping by the lake. I later realized this was because the porters didn't want to carry the stuff down to the lake.

On the way back up, our guide got lost, and we had to show him the way.

At the rim it was really windy. The porters had set up the tent right on the rim, even though there were sheltered spots just inside the rim. We almost froze to death.

They slit the neck of one of the chickens. It didn't actually run around like a chicken with its head cut off, because there were too many tufts of grass, but it did flop around like a chicken with its head cut off. And then it rolled down the hill.

I talked to another guy, whose porters had cooked lunch for themselves, but not for them.

The next day I got up for the sunrise, and then it was all downhill from there.

From Senggigi I went to Gili Air, a small island, and spent a couple of days swimming and snorkeling. Then I went to Gili Trawangan, for more of the same. I even did some writing.

Then I signed up for a boat trip to Flores. It was six days and five nights. I signed up at the same time as Rene, a Swiss guy. They usually go on Mondays, but they had people who wanted to go on Sunday, so I said that would be okay. That night, as I was passing their booth, the guy grabbed me, and said that Sunday was Indonesia's Independence Day, so it would have to be on Monday after all. He never found Rene, who went to the mainland on Sunday for nothing.

There was a Brit couple, Dave and Sarah, an Austrian couple Pitt and Anne, and a German couple. And four Italians. The one Italian guy, Bruno was a big Rush fan, and thought I looked like Geddy Lee.

There were ten other people, enough for two boats. We got on the boats, and they told us that the other boat should have the twelve people, so two people from our boat would have to go on the other boat. But no one wanted to change. The other boat was full of Brits with a ghetto blaster playing Techno. Finally everybody swapped boats.

The first couple of days the sea was very rough, and it was kind of nauseating, but after that it was great. We stopped at several little island for snorkeling. The coral was great. The fish were very colourful. There were clouds of tiny jellyfish, and as you swam through them you could feel little stings.

They threw mattresses on the deck for us to sleep on at night. The first day they caught a fish, which we had for lunch.

We stopped on Komodo and Rinca to see the Komodo dragons. Very big, ugly lizards. We walked into the island with a ranger, to where they were sleeping, and he poked one with a stick. It got up and lumbered off, walking like John Wayne.

When we got off the boat at Rinca, there was one by the end of the pier. We went to take pictures, but it was hungry, and it chased us. It could move surprisingly fast. After a hike around the island, we went back to find the dragon was on the pier. We had to stand up on a platform, while they threw water at it to chase it away.

We arrived in Labuanbajo on Flores, and spent a couple of days there. Dave and Sarah didn't have any money, because the tour people told them they could use Visa on Flores, but there was no place that took visa. Finally they found a shipping company that would do it - for 25%.

Dave had been sick the entire boat ride. Finally he came down with a 39.97 degree fever. They went to the doctor, and he was going to get a malaria test the next day.

But I headed on to Bajawa. There I did a day tour around some traditional villages, whose culture is being destroyed by the westernization of Indonesia. We also went to some hot springs, which were great.

Then on to Moni. From there you get a truck at four in the morning for the top of Keli Mutu, a volcano. There are three lakes at the top, all different colours. And every few years they change colour. Unfortunately, they had recently changed colour, so two of them looked pretty normal. But the white one was pretty cool.

At Bajawa they had said that the ferry to Kupang, Timor left on Friday, so I left Moni for Ende on Thursday afternoon. When I checked in to the guesthouse in Ende, they said the ferry was leaving on Friday. When I went to the ferry dock on Friday, it turned out that the ferry goes on Saturday.

On the ferry on Saturday there were two other white guys; Angel from Argentina, and Brian, from Australia. The ferry trip was 18 hours, and they showed Speed.

In Kupang we checked into a guesthouse, and killed a few days waiting for the plane to Darwin. There was a TV at the guesthouse, which was the first TV I'd seen in six weeks. When we got back to the guesthouse that first evening, the woman who ran the guesthouse was very upset. Something about Princess Di being in a car accident. We watched the evening news, and they announced that Princess Di was dead.

Brian headed to East Timor. We met up with Rob, a Dutch guy, and Mark, an Australian, who were all on the same flight to Darwin. We spent a day trying to find a the Crystal Cave, which we finally did, with some local help. It has a little lake in it, and was great for swimming.

Finally we caught the plane to Darwin, and civilization.


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Last updated: December 18, 2014