Indonesia Pt.IV

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On the day that we were leaving Kuta, when we were paying for our stay at the hostel, I found out that the moped crash had caused some damage to the bike and so I was now liable to pay for it. Luckily, due to the insane amount of mopeds in South East Asia, parts for them were incredibly cheap, so I only had to part with what roughly equated to £10. With it paid for, we ordered a taxi to take us to Sengiggi, which was near the harbour. We planned to stay at a hostel there for a night and then move onto the Gili Trawangan the morning after. However, our driver was useless and dropped us off nearly 2km away from our intended hostel. We had to get another taxi, but rather than backtrack, we decided to abandon our original plan and just head straight to the harbour. We decided to rock up to Gili T a day early.

When we reached the harbour, we booked the next available boat and waited. When it arrived, we found out that these boats were not what you would called well equipped. They were small, local wooden boats that made you question their ability to stay together when out at sea. The boat did not pull in at the pier either, instead, it got as close to the beach as it could, forcing us to wade into the sea with our bags so that we could throw them onto the boat and then pull ourselves aboard. Anya was smart enough to take off her boots before doing this, but I was too lazy and submerged them into the sea instead. A decision that meant my boots still smell funny up until this day. With everyone on board (consisting of mainly locals), the boat set off towards Gili T. The 40 minute journey proved to be extremely difficult, with the rocky waves causing both of us to try desperately to fight off sea sickness. Neither of us ended up being sick, but it certainly was a struggle at times to hold back the urges to vomit.

Our own paradise

With us glad to finally reach the shores of Gili T, we jumped off of the boat and waded through the water onto dry land. The island was simply stunning. It was lined with white, powdery beaches that stretched out as far as the eye could see. Bars and restaurants bordered them, but did not take away any of their beauty. A busy strip of shops, accommodation and diving offices were built up behind it. Everything that you could want was within walking distance. It immediately felt like being in paradise, and topping it all off was the beautiful weather that welcomed us to the island. To this day, Gili T’s beaches and Gili T’s laid back party atmosphere has impressed us more than most.

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Heaven does exist after all.

 

We were also pleasantly surprised to find that this small island had no cars or scooters. What we were not happy to see though, was the alternative. Small, mistreated horses were forced to pull around carts all the day to act as a substitute to taxis. Anya and I vowed to never use one of these horse and carts. It was horrible to watch. Therefore, we walked to our hostel, and when we arrived we explained that we had arrived one day too early for our 3 night booking. They told us it was okay as they still had spaces available and showed us to our room. We were told that we needed to change rooms the next day, but we were just glad that they still had space. When we were settled, we messaged our Canadian friend and found out that she also had arrived. So she came over to visit with a friend she had already made, a pleasant Dutch girl, so that evening we went to dinner together and for some drinks afterwards. They told us that they planned to go snorkelling the next day and asked if we wanted to join them. Anya was keen but I was not sure because of my wounds. I told them that I would make a decision in the morning.

With the evening done, we returned to our hostel and went to bed … only to be awoken at half 4 in the morning to this…

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Forgive me for only providing a link rather than embedding it directly into this blog, but WordPress foolishly expects me to pay for such a feature. Anyway, it turns out that there was a mosque a street or two away from our hostel, and it used its megaphone during any of its prayer times, which included one at 04:30 a.m. Anya’s reaction was one of pure anger, while mine was of utter disbelief. Such a disbelief even, that I found myself laughing uncontrollably. It was an inexplicable experience. It sounded like the man praying into the megaphone was in the room with us. After about 20 minutes, with me exhausted from laughing so much, we were allowed to sleep again.

When we awoke, this time not to the sound of prayers from the mosque, I too decided that I would go snorkelling because otherwise I would have sat around bored until we were allowed to check into our new room. So we had breakfast, checked out of our room and met the other girls. They were not happy. The Dutch girl was covered in bed bug bites, and the Canadian was fearful that they had gotten into her clothes. They both checked out of their hostel, and would find another after snorkelling.

Before we booked Gili Beach Bum, our hostel, Anya discovered from reading reviews online that every single hostel on the island suffered from a bed bug problem. This meant that choosing a place to stay was very difficult, and we were taking a risk regardless of what we had chosen. We were lucky to have not awoken to any bed bug bites, meaning that our mattresses were clean, but we had witnessed a woman complaining at the reception when we first arrived because her mattresses was full of them. We just hoped that our next room would not have them either.

We booked the snorkelling just in time before it was due to start, so I quickly ran back to the hostel to get some water while I still could, and thankfully I did, because the muppet that was Anya had left her tablet under her pillow in the room after we had checked out. One of the staff members had found it when they checked the room and told me to go quickly get it. Who knows if it would have still been around when we got back from snorkelling?

With the tablet safe, and a ‘nightmare’ avoided, we proceeded on with our day. We tried on our fins and masks, and were boarded onto a boat. We were then taken to our first snorkelling point, so that we could jump in and see what the island’s surrounding marine life had to offer. We were treated to beautiful coral and impressively coloured fish. I was so glad at this point that I had been able to reign in my fear of the sea to some degree, and was actually able to enjoy this.

After some exploration, we were told to return to the boat so that we could be taken to the next snorkelling point: the highly-anticipated ‘Turtle Point’. I do not think that a single person on that boat was not excited at the prospect of seeing some sea turtles in their natural habitat, and before we were even close to the right area, one turtle quickly shot by our boat. Only a few had managed to see it in time, so everyone had a sharp eye out for them after that. As we approached the intended area, one of the tour guides was already on the lookout for some turtles. It did not take him long to start shouting out, “Turtle! Turtle!” and low and behold, a ginormous turtle had come up one side of the boat for air. I couldn’t believe it, I had imagined these turtles to be no more than 2 feet long, but this one had clocked in at well over a metre. Everyone on the boat was astonished and tried as quickly as possible to jump off the boat so that they could get a closer look. Never had I been so willing to jump into the sea at top speed.

With everyone in the sea, it did not take long for the turtle to get the air it required and re-submerge itself into the dark, murky depths of the sea. It was peculiar to see the turtle so calm when people were suddenly appearing in the water around it. It did not care at all, and continued on about its business as normal. Now that the turtle was gone, everyone dispersed in search of more turtles. Unfortunately, I did not get far because my snorkel was in poor condition, failed me and caused me to swallow large amounts of sea water. I had to return to the boat within a few minutes so that I could cough it all back up. Anya, on the other hand, did not have this problem so managed to find another two turtles during her exploration before having to return to the boat. It was a shame that I did not get to see any more than the first two turtles, but I did not care, I was still amazed at the ones I had seen and was happy.

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Not a care in the world.

 

When everyone was back on the boat, we were taken to Gili Air for lunch, with a service so quick that the food managed to beat the drinks to the table. With our bellies now full, we returned to the boat so that we could be taken to one more area for snorkelling. At around this time, the waters began to become rougher, and by the time we reached our snorkelling destination, the waters were too dangerous to jump into. We were then taken to another spot with calmer waters. The snorkelling was pleasant, but there was no way it could top our interactions with the turtles.

Afterwards, we returned to land, checked into our new room and showered while the two other girls went their separate ways to find new hostels to stay at. In the meantime, we met our new roommate, a fun Australian teacher who frequently visited Indonesia during the holidays. She was in the middle of a diving course so she had to be up early the next day, but as the next day was going to be her last, she said she would join us for drinks then.

When the Canadian had found her new place, she met up with us so we could go out for dinner and drinks to finish off our day. We found a brilliant little Indian restaurant and while having a delicious meal, we were suddenly joined by an odd Swedish couple. They were very nice people, but the guy was funny for all of the wrong reasons. He had clearly smoked too much pot in his life, and it left him odder than most. Nevertheless, he provided some great entertainment that night.

The next day, we met up with the Canadian only to learn that bad luck had fallen upon her. Her new hostel also had a bed bug problem, because she was now covered in bed bug bites just like the Dutch girl had been. Her hostel was kind enough to move her to a new room and had all of her clothes put into the laundry. Once again, Anya and I were fortunate to wake up to no bites whatsoever. Our new room appeared to be clean too.

Our plan for the day was to explore the island. It was a small island, and could be cycled around comfortably in an hour. The Australian had now finished her morning dives, and ultimately her course, so joined the three of us. Our plans failed however. We did not make it very far before being distracted by the cocktails served at the Indian restaurant from the previous night. After spending a fair amount of time there, we decided to give up on our idea of exploration and returned to our hostel. The hostel had its own pool bar, so we decided that we would continue our period of relaxation there. We treated ourselves to rum coconuts.

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This photo says it all.

 

One party after another

The one issue with our hostel was the lack of a good common area to meet other people from our hostel, but while we were all at the pool, one of the staff members approached us and told us if we would be interested in a family dinner with everyone else from the hostel as a means to meet people. We were obviously keen on the idea, as our last 2 nights had only concluded with a few drinks and nothing more, this was our chance to have a proper night out. We got ourselves ready and went upstairs to meet everyone else from our hostel for dinner. We met many people over dinner, with the meal that we were served randomly being gnocchi, but it was the Americans who stood out. They were genuine, warm-hearted and downright hilarious (it may have helped that one of them looked like a young Jon Malkovich with the voice of Jonah Hill). It was these people that we spent our night with and by the morning, we all treated each other like great friends.

But at the end of that night, I had returned home before Anya had. Foolishly, I locked the door from the inside after being spooked out by a prostitute who had wanted to sell me her services. I was somehow unaware that I was the one with the key despite opening the door with it. I quickly fell asleep, and eventually Anya returned to find that the door was locked. The top of my bed was right next to the door, meaning that my head could not have been more than 3 feet away from it, so Anya began knocking on the door to wake me up and let her in. I did not wake up. She began to call my name. I did not wake up. She began to knock on the door more violently while calling my name through the hole in the door. I did not wake up. Anya began to violently attack the door while screaming my name. I still did not wake up.

After 20 minutes, some locals nearby told her to give up, so she went upstairs to where we had eaten our family dinner earlier that night. Anya had a plan. She knew that the prayers from the mosque would begin to blare out at 4:30 a.m., and they would almost definitely awake me, as they always did, so she waited. Right on cue, at 4:30 a.m., the megaphone began to blast out the morning prayer. This was Anya’s chance. She bolted downstairs and to the door of our room. Surely enough, inside I had been half-awoken by the mosque, so she called out for me to open the door and I finally heard her. I let her in, she told me her tale, I laughed and then went back to sleep.

It had been an exciting night, with a hilarious ending for Anya, but we all suffered for it the next day. We had no choice but to treat ourselves to hungover burgers. This day quickly became bittersweet, as we had to bid farewell to our Australian friend. It was time for her to go home. We could not believe that we had only known her for less than 2 days. It had felt much longer, and it was a shame to part ways with her. In fact, our time at Gili T was supposed to be coming to an end at this point, with the last night we had booked forthcoming. We did not want to leave the island. We were in love with it. The beaches, the people, the wildlife and the convenience of having it all on your doorstep. We were in love with all of it. So rather than just extend by one day, we extended it by three. We would spend a week on Gili T, a quarter of our entire time in Indonesia.

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One of the Americans and the Australian were more than willing to join us for a hangover cure in the form of burgers!

 

Now without the fear of leaving looming over us, Anya and I thought that perhaps we could finally explore the island while our Canadian friend was scuba diving. Our plans failed again, with the day and night following a similar trend to the last. A day of relaxation followed by going out in the evening. This obviously resulted in the need for another hungover burger the next morning. It was on that morning that we discovered that the upcoming evening was going to be our last with the Americans. We obviously needed to make the most of it, but it was still sad news nonetheless. Saying farewell to such great people was never easy for us, but there was a silver lining to all this: the French Canadians, which we had met in Kuta, were due to arrive in a matter of hours.

The reunion with them quickly led to discussions about that evening. We had already planned on going to go out with the Americans, so now the French Canadians wanted to join in on these plans. It was something that we could not have been more thrilled about. The French Canadians and the Americans together? The formula was perfect. Therefore, we took on another round of punishment to our livers and ended up at a bar with unlimited drinks. It was so good to be with the French Canadians again, and instantly we remembered all the reasons why is was so fun it was to be around these guys. Much to no one’s surprise, we had another great night out.

The next morning, after what felt like the hundredth hungover burger, we bid a sad farewell to our American friends and also had to bid farewell to our Canadian friend. She was moving onto Canggu, which was also going to be our next destination, meaning that at least one of these farewells was only temporary. After all that, we proceeded with not doing very much at all once again. We began to wonder if we would ever actually try and explore the rest of the island after so many failed attempts. In a move that stunned no one, we went out yet again that night with the French Canadians.

A nightmare that was not my own.

I do not know if my luck had somehow changed by this point, because on that night out a nightmare had befallen Anya rather than me for once. Anya had unknowingly lost her card at some point during the night. It is not known whether it was pickpocketed from her or it had fallen out onto the floor at some point, but the card ended up in someone else’s hands. Anya was actually still completely oblivious to this the next day … until she received a text saying that her card been declined at another hostel. She was confused and upon trying to find her card, she quickly realised that it was gone. She blocked it, looked up where the hostel was, and went to find her card. Oddly, no one at the hostel knew what she was talking about, and had told her that no one had tried to make any payments to them yet that day. Anya had no choice but to accept that the card was lost, and proceeded with having another card ordered home.

Now obviously I was not glad that this had happened to Anya. I could easily imagine how annoyed I would have been if it had happened to me, but there was some form of joy in the back of my mind nevertheless. Not at the misfortune that transpired against Anya, but at the prospect, the possibility even, that my luck on this trip may have turned somehow. I found myself wondering if perhaps I would not end up experiencing any more ‘nightmares’ on this trip. Care to take a guess if I was right on that one?

The final night

With the issue regarding Anya’s missing card finally sorted, we quickly realised that our last day on the island was upon us and we still had not explored the island. We could delay it no longer, so despite being very hungover, Anya and I rented some bicycles and proceeded with taking a tour of the island. Anya’s hangover must have been worse than mine, because at nearly the half way point around the island, Anya had decided that she could go no further and told me to go on. We split ways and went different ways around the island. Anya went back the way from which we returned and I took the unexplored route. We met back at our hostel and rested before meeting up for dinner with the French Canadians. It was our last night, so we had decided we would take it easy. We wanted to be in good shape for the boat ride the next day back to Bali.

At dinner, the French Canadians desperately tried to convince us to go out with them again, but we told them that we could not risk being ill for the boat ride. We exchanged farewells and headed back to the hostel, but as Anya got ready to go to bed, I found myself questioning my decision to not join the French Canadians one last time for a night out. Eventually I managed to convince myself that staying in was the actual mistake, so I quickly changed and headed out to find the French Canadians. I knew exactly where they would be: the bar with the unlimited drinks offer. I was not wrong and another fun night followed. To me, it was the perfect way to say goodbye to them.

With that, the next morning we boarded a ferry and headed back to Bali. Before we knew it, we were in Canggu. Despite the fact that we had been at Gili T for a week, we still wished that we could have stayed for longer on the island. Even now, months later while writing this, Anya and I still maintain that Gili T is one of the highlights of this trip. We constantly tell people to go there if they plan on going to Indonesia, and we constantly hear others rave on about Gili T themselves if they have already been there. We both want to return there someday.

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One day we will be able to see this with our own eyes again.

 

After arriving in Canggu, we proceeded to do nothing for the next two days. Gili had exhausted us, and now Canggu was giving us our overdue detoxes. On the third and final night however, we met up one last time with our Canadian friend for dinner before bidding each other farewell. It was time for her to head home, and it was time for us to head to our next destination: Vietnam.

I wish that I could end the blog here, but it just wouldn’t be one of my blogs if there wasn’t a ‘nightmare’ to tell…

Nightmare the Fifth

After our final night’s rest in Canggu, we prepared ourselves for our flight to Vietnam. We had a morning flight booked, so we made sure to get up with ample time to arrange transport and arrive at the airport 2 hours before flying. But there was a problem in our wake. There were only two roads of Canggu. One of those roads was a narrow street built through rice paddies, and on the day of our flight, this road had been blocked. Two cars from opposite directions had tried to pass each other on a narrow strip of road. What resulted of this were two cars half hanging off the road and dipping into the rice paddies on either side of the road. There was no way through.

What this meant was that there was now only one road out of Canggu. With a whole town’s worth of people trying to leave it to get to work, it was clear that it would be difficult to leave Canggu. In reality, it was even worse than that. It had left the sole road out of Canggu completely deadlocked. We joined the queue, and in an hour and a half had only managed to move about 50 or 60 metres. It was hopeless. We had to give up our attempt of making our flight. To our annoyance, any flights later that day, or the next, cost an absolute fortune, yet we had no choice. When we returned to the hostel, we paid the hefty price for a flight later in the evening of the same day.

To further increase our annoyance, our original flight only had a 2 hour layover in Singapore, but our new flight had a 7 hour layover in Kuala Lumpur. We were forced to sleep in a freezing terminal on hard, uncomfortable benches that felt no better than the tiled floor beneath them. But when I say slept, what I actually mean is that we shivered ourselves into exhaustion, in the freezing cold, for hours on end. During that time, our only, but constant, wish was that time would do us a favour and speed up.

After the ordeal, we readily jumped onto our second flight. In a little over an hour, we had made it. We had reached Vietnam. We were sad to leave Indonesia, and the fond memories of it that it had given us, but we were also excited for what laid ahead of us. To explore a country that ran along the entire spine of South East Asia.

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Indonesia Pt.III

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Our original plan was to fly from Labuan Bajo to Kuta on the island of Lombok. However, we left it until the last minute to book a flight and there were no seats available. We decided to settle for Kuta in Bali for a few days instead. It was close to airport and we would wait until there were seats available to fly to Kuta, Lombok. We had heard many mixed opinions of Bali’s Kuta in the very short time we had been away. Its large strip of bars and clubs are known as party holiday central for young Australians, and essentially equates to what Magaluf is for the British. All we heard of the place were Marmite-like opinions, people either loved it, or hated it. There was no in between. I did not arrive with high expectations for the place, but it would turn out that this unwanted alternative would become one of the highlights of our time in Bali. All because of the French Canadians that we were about to meet.

Nightmare the Third

But before that, another unwanted event transpired against me. A relatively simple one, but a pain nonetheless. We decided to book a delightfully calm and modern hostel on the outskirts of Kuta. The reason being for this that we were told to beware of the mass thievery problem in the centre of Kuta, aiming at the possessions on you while you were out during the day and night, and the possessions you left at the hostels at the same time.

We arrived back at Denpasar Airport in Bali in the afternoon and I was ecstatic to see that my bag was one of the first off of the plane. No drama this time. We arrived quickly at the hostel and decided to have a nice quiet evening to recuperate. There’s not much else to say about the day apart from the fact that in the evening our room flooded through a window that leaked from the heavy rain. All of the water pooled into a single locker under one of the beds. It was my locker. Under my bed. My bag was soaked much to my own frustration while everyone else’s were nice and dry. It was almost as if my bag was both a magnet and a sponge for all the water that came into my room. Fortune certainly did not favour me on this trip.

The next morning though, I awoke to a string of emails on my phone telling me that I was making purchases on my Playstation account using my Paypal details. I most certainly was not, so I quickly checked if it was my brother back at home. It was not. I had been hacked. So while eating breakfast with one hand, and my phone in the other, I desperately tried to shut down my accounts and go through the process of claiming the stolen money back whilst racking up an enormous phone bill because I was calling from abroad. Eventually I had to leave the table to deal with the problem further, so Anya took the opportunity to talk to a guy who had sat down on the next table over. It was one of the French Canadians, but the one who was the least confident in his English. Anya described the task of talking to him as hard work, and it highlighted the ignorance that we had in assuming that everyone can speak perfect English. I could relate to it as well, because after I concluded the pressing issue with Playstation and Paypal, I ran into him in the elevator and also just assumed he could speak perfect English. It turns out his English was just fine, he just wasn’t sure of himself without his two friends about, who were much more confident in speaking it.

Ô Canada!

We quickly met the other two as it turned out that they had just moved into our room. We got along with them instantaneously. It seemed mad that we became such great friends with them in a matter of minutes. It was so easy for them to make us laugh (admittedly, a large part of that was due to their accents), but we were able to respond in kind. Who knew an English accent could make someone laugh? It wasn’t long before we agreed that we would go out that evening to see what Kuta had to offer us. We had a plan.

So in the evening, after we got ourselves ready, we met upstairs in the common area with our drinks and playing cards so that our night could begin. Another two English people joined us, and it was at this point that I decided to teach everyone how to play ‘Fuck the Dealer’. The game was a success, and within a couple of hours we were all evidently drunk (but thanks to the brilliance of the game, some were more than drunk than others, providing everyone with even more entertainment) … so it did not help when we finally got an Über to the strip that we managed to land ourselves in a bar with unlimited drinks. The only problem was that there was only one hour left of the unlimited drinks offer, so for some reason we all came to the conclusion that we had to consume as much alcohol as humanely possible in that hour. It’s safe to say that I do not remember much past that point, but I certainly enjoyed the night. I loved it. We all did.

The only problem was the hangover the next day. Mine must have been worse than everyone else’s as Anya and the French Canadians went to the town centre to explore while I stayed back to recover. Eventually they returned and we all agreed that we were exhausted. No drinking was required that day. It was at that point that I remembered that there was a projector on the roof of the hostel. So I downloaded Superbad (because who doesn’t love Superbad?) and in the evening, everyone pulled up a bean bag, had some McDonalds delivered, and enjoyed the movie. The perfect hangover day. The only problem for Anya and I was that this was supposed to be our last night in Kuta, but the French Canadians still had another day. We didn’t want to part ways with them soon, and we couldn’t believe how much we enjoyed their company after such a short period of time, so there was only one thing we could do. We extended our stay by one day. Lombok could wait.

The next day we all went to the beach to soak up some sun. Kuta’s beach was grand and littered with people trying to get us to go to their little pop-up bar or to be given a lesson in surfing. But the French Canadians were insistent on going to one bar that they had already been at. They were right to be, as the bar was in a prime location and belonged to an overly-friendly local called Bejo. We stayed there for hours, listening to great music while drinking one ice cold Bintang after another. We took the time to appreciate where we were, far away from the working life that home would have offered us.

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Why work when you can drink in the sun?

 

After a delightful lunch near the beach, and it being the last night in Kuta for all of us, we all came to the conclusion that there was only one thing we could do that evening. Repeat what we had done the before: get drunk and go to the strip. So we did. And once again, we loved every second of it. However, we were granted a bit of a bonus gift this time. Before we headed out we noticed that a Columbian had moved into our room and he looked strangely familiar. It was one of the guys that we had got drunk with the very first day with before we went to Bali Ultra. We couldn’t believe that through no planning at all he wound up in the same room, of the same hostel (of which there are many in Kuta), at the same time. He had no choice but to join us all that night for round 2.

The next morning came too quickly and this time Anya and I had not left booking the flight to Lombok until the last minute, so after we bid farewell to the French Canadians and the Columbian, even though neither of us really wanted to, we made our way to the airport.

Nightmare the Forth

Even though I had my locker flooded in Kuta and I had an account hacked at home with money stolen from it, it turns out that another bout of unluckiness was heading my way. Because my short time in Kuta, Lombok would have me fall off a moped not once, not twice, not even three times. That’s right, I managed to fall off a moped four times. Four times. Looking back at it now, it may seem like a funny story. But at the time, I had never held so much hatred for something in my life. Mopeds, in my eyes at least, were utterly stupid and pure evil. I felt like such a fool for attempting to ride one.

We arrived in Lombok with no issues whatsoever, and we quickly found ourselves a taxi to our hostel. We learnt that the hostel we had chosen to stay at was a bit far out from the centre by the beach. This seemed to perfect to us, as the roads in Lombok were not too busy and would be perfect for us to finally give mopeds a go in preparation for Vietnam. The only problem was the road quality, it was a strange mix of perfect roads, rocky and potholed roads and areas which were just sand or mud. We concluded that we would probably need to learn to deal with such conditions anyway, so we decided to rent one to give ourselves a taster. But before we departed, we met an Englishman at our hostel who had also rented himself a moped. He only had minimal experience so far, but it was still far more than we had, as we had none whatsoever, so we departed the hostel together. I was on one moped and Anya was on the back of his one.

We managed to get to the centre with no problems and we all decided that we should go somewhere for lunch. So we started to look for the best restaurant, we passed one that looked good so we had to turn back. Now at this point, I had about 10 minutes of experience on a moped, so when I tried to make a U-turn in the street, I tried to do it too slowly. Not too quickly, too slowly, and so I fell over, but as I had been going so slowly there was no way I could have injured myself. The only damage sustained was in the form of a hole in my shoe, and this upset me.

Due to our exhaustion and hangovers, we decided to return to the hostel after lunch, with me driving and Anya sat on the back while the Englishman decided to explore the island. We set off, and ended up on the main road leading to our hostel. We had to turn right into a dirt road to get to the hostel, and as we approached the dirt road, I started trying to turn but found myself almost physically unable to. The extra weight on the back of the moped, in the form of Anya, meant that I could not get the bike to lean far enough, so as we turned into road, we did not turn far enough, and the bike slid out from underneath us and straight into a ditch. We both stood there, still on our feet, amazed at how it had managed to slip out from under us and we hadn’t even fallen to the floor. In the space of an hour, I had managed to crash twice. Again, I sustained no injuries, and neither did Anya. Regrettably, this meant that neither of us had yet to learn our lessons.

Now that we were at the hostel, we decided we would relax for the rest of the day, so that we were ready for the some exploration the next day. We had heard tales of a woman at the hostel who had fallen victim to a bike crash and now was bed-ridden and in severe pain. We were even told that she couldn’t actually walk, so had to be carried to and from the bathroom whenever she needed to go to the toilet. At one point, we were sitting in the common area when this woman was carried in and made comfortable, she was awaiting some medical professionals to visit her and check on her wounds. Her foot and leg had large areas of skin torn off, and she suspected that she had a broken bone in her foot too. When the medics arrived, they begun to remove her bandages and clean her wounds. As they cleaned her wounds, the woman began to scream out in sheer agony. It was difficult to hear. She would scream, then breathe heavily as she tried to recoil the pain only to find herself screaming again at the top of her lungs. No one in the common area dared say anything during that time, there were a few that wouldn’t even look in her direction during the ordeal.

At that point, if the minor crashes I had already experienced were not enough to deter me from getting back onto a moped, then surely she would right? Wrong. I was proving to be a perfect display of human nature: that somehow, someway, I was unique and above it. There was no way it could happen to me. The disaster stories are what happen to others, not yourself. It was one of those situations where until something happened to you personally, nothing anyone said to you, and nothing that you saw would put you off from what you had already convinced yourself to do. All because you genuinely believed you were somehow different. At this moment, anyone would have been able to gauge the grand scale of my stupidity, and could easily predict what laid ahead of me. In reality, I was no different than anyone else.

There was one thing that I did manage to get through my thick skull though, and that was the importance of clothing. After the ordeal of cleaning the wounds of the ill-fated woman, the medics left and the woman asked me to help her up into a more comfortable position. After I helped her up, I started to talk to her about what happened and I learned that she had only been wearing a t-shirt, a sarong, and flip flops. I knew that I couldn’t make that same mistake, so I told myself that I would make sure that when I got back on my moped I would wear long jeans and a hoodie. It did not matter how hot I would get, it was not worth the risk. The other thing she told me was a tale I had already heard too many times on the short time that I had been away: it was the sand. The sand is what nearly every person I had spoken to about their crashes had told me. The sand made them lose control. Once again, I thought that I would be above it somehow.

The next morning, Anya and I left the hostel in search of breakfast and this time Anya wanted to drive while I was on the back. So we set off down the main road towards the centre. Along the way were some road works going on, and there were a large pile of rocks on a part of the road that needed to be avoided. As we quickly approached them, I started to become increasingly alarmed at the fact that we did not seem to be turning, but instead, were heading straight for the rocks. I was mentally preparing myself for a third crash when Anya managed to swerve out of the way in the last moment. When we finally reached our restaurant of choice for breakfast and got off the bike, I asked Anya as to what happened back there, we had nearly crashed after all. Her response was almost identical to the one I gave when she asked about the crash the day before: she struggled with turning the moped as we approached the rocks, because of the weight that was I on the back. I was almost glad that it had happened at that point, because she now knew exactly what I meant when I tried to explain myself the day before. Yet again, this should have been a moment of clarity for us where we would come to our senses and realise that scootering was not for us, but did we? No. Instead we decided that we just needed a moped each of our own. So after breakfast, we went back to the hostel and rented a second one.

Back at the hostel, we asked the Englishman from the day before about where he went when he went exploring and decided to set off in the same direction after he told us about how beautiful the scenery was. He was not lying, the scenery was beautiful, but this was our first extended drive on a moped so it was needless to say about how nervous we both were. The route we needed to take was a long winding route through the mountains to reach one of the often spoken about beaches of Lombok. It was going to take us the best part of 40 minutes to reach it.

Believe it or not, we actually made it in one piece, without a single issue to write about. There was one hilarious part when we were going downhill along a windy stretch of road, where I was taking the lead, and I suddenly looked to my left and saw three wide-eyed cows running parallel to me along the side of the road, followed by their owner in sprint. It did not take me long to work out their intentions. They wanted to cross the road, so I began to pray that they would not cut out in front of me or it would certainly spell out my doom. I sped up in the hope that my prayers would be answered, and instead they decided to cut across the road after me, but with enough time for Anya to slow down and avoid an unfortunate encounter with the side of a cow. Apart from that, there journey to the beach was a breeze … well apart from the roosters that kept running out into the road meaning that I had to swerve around them.

The beach was peaceful and picturesque, so Anya and I took our time and relaxed on the beach. I even treated myself to an ice cold Bintang to compliment it, but eventually the weather turned and it began to rain slightly, which was our cue to head back to the hostel. The journey back home was even better, as I began to feel more confident in riding my moped, all the fears and doubts that I had in the back of my mind began to melt away … and soon after that it went all wrong for me.

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The perfect place to unwind!

 

The majority of the journey back was downhill, once again I was leading, and about two thirds of the way into the journey we came across a fairly sharp bend with sand strewn across it. As soon as my tires touched the sand, I lost all control, and came flying off the bike before connecting with the road. I rolled, and the back of my helmet smashed into the road. My bike flew off into the bushes at the side of the road. Thankfully, the helmet I wore saved my life and had even prevented me from getting a concussion. I was in shock, and Anya had witnessed the whole thing. She quickly got of her bike to see if I was okay. She had seen the force at which my helmet had connected with the road and she was worried about the injury to both my head and my neck. Not even my neck was injured however, but I had torn off some of the skin from my right hand. I had even managed to somehow tear some of the skin off of my right arm without tearing a hole in my hoodie. To this day, this conundrum baffles me.

One of the areas on my hand looked especially damaged, and it didn’t take Anya long to conclude that it was most likely going to scar. The most surprising thing however, was not the hoodie conundrum, but the fact that after the crash, the first person to reach me was not Anya, but a local woman and her two children who wanted to see if I was okay. She had even helped me to get the moped out of the bushes and back onto the road again. She could not speak a word of English, but she refused to leave until she had seen me get back on the moped and leave safely. I couldn’t believe that she cared about a foreigner crashing so much. In fact, I would have expected her to be laughing at the stupid foreigner who had tried to get on a moped with no experience.

Eventually, two westerners drove by and stopped to help. They gave me some tissues to stop the bleeding and gave me some water to drink before going on their way. I was still in shock, but nonetheless, I had to drive the moped back to the hostel so that I could return it and pay my due diligence in rent. So that’s exactly what I did, I drove it back and hated every second of it. I got onto the main road leading up to the hostel, and ended up at the turning onto the dirt road that ended at our hostel … and that’s where crash number 4 happened.

My mind was frazzled. I could not think properly anymore and when I tried to turn in, I almost collided with a local woman and her baby on their scooter as she tried to overtake me. Thankfully, I did not, but the near miss in my state of shock only decayed my ability to think further. I apologised, and then proceed to turn into the dirt road, but I did it too quickly. I tried to slow down but as I hit the brake, I failed to realise that my hand was still pulling at the throttle. I flew straight into the ditch next to the dirt road, with the moped falling on top of me and crushing my leg. I wanted to vent my frustration but I only managed to expel a few swear words. I was exhausted, and at that moment I knew that I was done with driving mopeds.

The local woman that I nearly hit came running over to see if I was okay. She gave her baby to a random local person who was walking by and told him to look after her child. She helped to get the scooter off of my leg, and helped to get the scooter back onto the dirt road. Mercifully, my leg was okay. A bruise on my knee was all I had to show for it. The local woman checked to see if I was okay, and I began apologise profusely, again and again like a broken record. She laughed and said that there was nothing to worry about, she just found it funny how time after time she saw non-experienced westerners have a go on mopeds only to always end up the same way. She told me people needed as much as 3 months to get used their roads. I thanked her, and started to push my moped down the road towards the hostel. It was no more than 20 or 30 metres away. The local woman then asked me why I wasn’t driving it down the road and I told her that I had enough of mopeds for a life time. She laughed again and then hoped on the moped and drove it down the road for me to the hostel. I thanked her again when I reached it, she bade me farewell and went back up the road to find her baby. Anya just got to watch this all unfold in front of her yet again.

I returned the scooter to the hostel staff and was told to pay for the rental once we left, so Anya then helped me clean my wounds and bandage them up. The pain was starting to set in, and I decided that the day was done for me. I only left the hostel again that evening to go for dinner in the centre, but without a moped, Anya and I were forced to walk there. It was terrifying. The local wild dogs were extremely territorial, and we both were genuinely concerned that all of the aggressive barking and displays of dominance would conclude with an attack. Fortunately, they did not. So once we reached the centre, we ended up at a restaurant with a Volkswagen camper van for a bar. The Englishman from earlier was there with some friends, so we joined them before the evening proceeded to questions about why had bandages on my hand and arm. After dinner, and after another terrifying walk home. I resigned myself to bed.

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Nothing but regret.

 

The next day, the radiating pain from my wounds only intensified, so I told Anya that I was going to have a rest day and take it easy. She completely understood and joined me in not doing very much at all. Then we started talking, and remembered that our Canadian friend had come to Kuta in Lombok after we separated from her. We were curious about whether she was still there, so we sent her a message to find out. It had been a week at this point since she had left for Kuta, so it had seemed unlikely, but her response confirmed that she was still in Kuta. She had loved surfing there so much that she was still about for one more night, just like us. We suddenly had a plan for the evening. We would be reunited with our Canadian friend. Something good could still come out of our trip to Lombok.

With that, in the evening, we met up with her and some friends that she had made in the restaurant of her choice. It was great to see her again, and after a drink or two we found that our next destination was the same as hers: the Gili Islands.

Indonesia Pt.II

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Nightmare the Second

The ominous heading returns! I could probably write an entire series on just the things that have gone wrong for me on these travels, as other nightmares shall certainly follow this one in my later pieces. Even at this point, I was starting to wonder if a trend was going to develop where everything that could go wrong, would go wrong for me, and only me. It certainly still feels that way … most of the time anyway.

Continuing on from my last piece, the four of us took a taxi from Ubud to Denpasar Airport, where we exchanged farewells and went our separate ways. It was upsetting to part ways with them so soon, but as we would learn later on, it was a feeling we would have to get used to during our travels. We passed through security easily, and before we knew it we were on our way to Labuan Bajo. It was a short flight, and we had touched down on the ground again about 50 minutes later. I remember being in such an upbeat mood because I had been going on and on about seeing the Komodo Dragons for months on end, long before we had even left home, just like a child eagerly waiting to go to Disneyland. My love for them stemmed from all the research I did on them for an A-level Biology project. The more I learnt about them, the more fascinated in them I became, and now I was finally going to get the chance to see them in their natural habitat.

Upon arrival, it was evidently clear that Labuan Bajo had embraced the reason behind the newly-growing surge in tourism to the place. Komodo dragon pictures and statues could be found all over this minuscule airport, and it only further fuelled my excitement for what lay ahead. We made our way to the conveyor belt and waited for our bags to be returned to us. Anya’s bag came quite quickly, but mine seemed to be taking its time to appear.

Back when we first arrived in Bali, we were presented with the exact same situation, and we began to joke that my bag had been left behind. After a while of waiting, the joke weaned itself as an ever growing amount of worry started to replace it. It felt like this hypothetical situation, that we talked about so carelessly, was beginning to crystallise into reality. Fortunately, it did eventually appear on the conveyor belt along with the final few bags from the plane.  Now in Labuan Bajo, the situation was repeating itself. An odd sense of Déjà vu materialised as the jokes were once again replaced by an ever-increasing sense of worry. But living the same story twice would be boring, so this time, my bag decided to never appear on the conveyor belt. My bag was still in Bali. It had been left behind.

After finding a man who dealt with the “bule”, and Indonesian word for foreigners, it turned out that my bag had fallen off of the carriage somewhere on the runway and it was never made it onto the plane. I was told that it wouldn’t arrive until the next morning. It had ruined our plans to go to Komodo Island the very next day, as all of my things were in that bag, and I needed to make sure the bag did actually arrive like the man promised it would. The only silver lining at this point was the fact that I had taken my laptop, camera and kindle with me as hand luggage, so at least I had still had those.

We had booked to stay at a hotel in Labuan Bajo, as accommodation pickings there were slim when we checked online. We were picked up from the airport by our hotel and on the way to it, we quickly began to realise why there were so few accommodation options available: Labuan Bajo was … well it was a bit more remote than we had expected. There was not much there, but it did give us a glimpse into what most of Indonesia is actually like when you are away from the tourism. It made us very aware of how lucky we were to have born in a much more prosperous part of the world.

Originally, we were planning on giving scootering a go there in preparation for when it would be needed later on in South East Asia, but the road quality made us think otherwise. I had never seen such poorly maintained roads before. It was a mix of dirt track roads and broken tarmac, both of which had potholes the size of canyons. There were hundreds of these potholes dotted across every road we saw, and all the locals could only drive at about 10 miles an hour, as they constantly weaved along the entire width of the roads to avoid the canyon-like potholes. We were happy however to arrive to a pleasant and newly built hotel, so we decided to relax and take it easy until my bag arrived the next morning.

The next morning, we awoke in sweat, which was unusual as we had left the air conditioning on during the night to keep us cool. So I got up and went to the bathroom, only to find that the light would not turn on. There was no power. It appeared that we were amidst a power cut so we decided to ask around to find out what was going on, and we quickly came to learn that Labuan Bajo was infamous for them. The island would simply run out of power, and sometimes for up to 24 hours at a time. So now we had to wait for my bag in the undying heat of Labuan Bajo. We were entitled to a free breakfast at the hotel, but with no power to cook or toast anything, all they could offer us was bread. We were in no way satisfied, and our hatred for Labuan Bajo grew exponentially as we both quickly began to feel filthy in the growing humidity of the day. We needed showers, and it was at this point that we realised that there was no water either. The hotels water pumps required electricity to work. Our hatred was strong now.

The morning quickly became the afternoon and my bag was still nowhere to be seen. At this point, I well and truly felt disgusting, so Anya was kind enough to loan me her bright green Celtics NBA vest so that I could change out of my foul-smelling top. I then got a lift to the airport only to find that my bag was not put on the morning flight, but would be put on the afternoon flight so should be with me by 4 p.m. All I could do was return to the hotel and wait, so Anya and I had to use the last of the charges in our phones, my laptop and her tablet as ways to entertain ourselves as there was nothing surrounding the hotel that we could use to entertain ourselves with. I was so happy that Kindles have such amazing battery lives, because eventually that was all I had left.

We began to reek. We were in dire need of a wash, but there was still no water. We couldn’t even flush the toilet. The only water available was in the water cooler in the dining area, but we had no way of getting that water to our bathroom. It was at this point that Anya remembered that there was a small pop-up shop across the road that sold water by the bottle. We could use the bottled water we brought to wash and top it up with the water cooler water if we ran out. So that is exactly what we did: we immediately ran over to the other side of the road and purchased 2 large bottles of water. We then returned and took turns washing ourselves in the shower with them. Whenever one of us ran out of water, we would pop our head out of the bathroom with an empty bottle so that the other one could go to the water cooler and refill it. It was an incredibly frustrating, but simultaneously hilarious, scenario to end up in.

Now that we felt slightly cleaner, we continued to wait for 4 p.m. to come around. It came, and it passed. Another hour and a half went by and I was beginning to wonder if my bag would ever arrive. With my frustration growing, I returned to the airport only to find out that I had just missed it, so by the time I returned to the hotel, it was there waiting for me. I was relieved that the hellish saga of endless bag waiting had finally come to an end.

With that, we got a lift into the small town centre only to find that it was struggling with electricity just as much as the outskirts. Only here, the power cuts were sporadic and would return as they saw fit. For the time being, the power was on, so we began to investigate the best prices for getting to Komodo Island. We only had one more night after this one so we had to do it the next morning. Whilst in one of the stores, talking to the locals about their best offers, the power went out. All of the westerners in there immediately reacted, whilst the locals didn’t stir in the slightest way. This was far too common for them.

Eventually, we managed to book a boat for early the next morning, so we proceeded with joining a German man for dinner at one of the restaurants. We told him about the day that we had, and he could not stop laughing. He promised that people back at home would be told the tale. After a quick trip to the small corner shop, at which point the power failed again and the locals still never reacted, we headed back for the hotel.

When we returned to the hotel, we were overjoyed to find that the hotel was illuminated with light. The power had finally come back on! We immediately took opportunity of the situation and had showers without the need of bottles of water and the water cooler. The power could have cut out again at any moment, we couldn’t take any chances. The power remained on, so with the torment finally over, we called it a day as we had to be up at 4 a.m. the next morning. My excitement was returning. We would finally be able to see the mighty beasts of Komodo.

Jurassic Park

The next morning we were picked up and taken to the harbour, we were quickly fitted for snorkelling gear, as we would be doing that too, and were sent on our way with a lunch for later. The small local boat we had rented was surprisingly pleasant and colourful, which we were glad for as the boat journey would take 4 hours to reach Komodo Island.

Shortly after departure, we were treated to a picturesque sunrise which would come to illuminate the stunning views of the surrounding islands. The constant beauty made the 4 hours fly by, and before we knew it, we were approaching Komodo Island. It was like a scene out of Jurassic Park. We had travelled so far, and so far out of the way, to get to a small remote island where giant lizards ruled supreme.

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A beautiful start to the day.

We were warned beforehand that spotting Komodo Dragons could be extremely difficult and it was even possible that we may not even be able to find any for the entire duration that we would be on the island, so as we approached, Anya and I wondered how fortunate we would be. Suddenly, one of the boat drivers pointed to the shore, and exclaimed, “Dragon, Dragon!” and low and behold, a Komodo Dragon was taking a leisurely stroll along the beach, whilst throwing its weight around like a king.  The scene only contributed further to the whole Jurassic Park vibe that we were both feeling and we laughed at how easy it turned out to be to spot one.

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Approaching Komodo Island.

We were dropped off on a pier and saw that the very same Dragon had decided to take refuge in the shade beneath it. It was going to be a good day, it just had to be after how the day before had turned out. We were quickly introduced to the ranger who was going to take us around the island, and we promptly began our trek in hunt of more Dragons. We were told that if their bellies were empty, we would not be allowed to approach them. He carried with him a forked stick that was his deterrent to keep any Dragons at bay if they got too close to us. We were convinced that the stick would do nothing to stop one coming at you, but nevertheless, we placed out trust in him as he began to lead us deeper into the island.

As we walked along, he told us many interesting facts about the Dragons and the island itself. It turns out that all of the rangers on the island came from a single village on the coast of the island. It was the only village on the island, so it was simply called Komodo, it did not need a name. He went on to tell us about how the Dragons could cause problems for them. They would frequently visit the village and do as they please. The livestock were never truly safe, but there was nothing they could so as the Dragons were protected. If you opened your door one day to find a Dragon resting on your porch, then there was nothing you could do. You would just have to find another way out of your own house.

We quickly came across wild chickens, deer and boars on the island, and as great as it was to see them in the wild, they were simply not Dragons. I was anxious to find some. Even the ranger told us that spotting them could be difficult, but almost as soon as the words came out of his mouth, he ran off to right and told us to follow him carefully without making too much noise. He told us that he found one, but it quickly came apparent that he had not found one, he had found 5 or 6 of them.

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They may as well be called dinosaurs.

The dragons surrounded the remains of a deer. By remains, I mean that a skull and half of a spine remained. The dragons had devoured the rest, and now they all rested around it as their digestive systems got to work with the month’s meal. Only one Dragon was still thrashing the remains around for some last scraps of meat, giving up shortly after. The ranger quickly told us that we were incredibly lucky, as finding so many of them together like this was extremely rare. They had only finished the meal about half an hour before we found them, and considering that they only eat once a month, it turned out that we truly were lucky indeed. Their food comas made them extremely docile, and we were able to get right up and close to them. At one point, I was only 2 metres away from one with my camera. Even the Ranger was nervous by that point for my safety.

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I dared not get any closer.

The ranger told us that he could get a picture of us with one if we stood behind it, and it resulted in one of my favourite photos ever being taken. The ranger only managed to take one photo however, as another ranger then tried to spook it to look at the camera, and the Dragon was having none of it. It began to charge at the ranger and the ranger fled at a speed I had never seen before. Only his own safety mattered at this point, no one else’s. Lucky for him, the lizard only wanted to show him who was the boss so it did not pursue him any further. It was safe to say that if things went wrong, they would most likely be ahead of us in a run. I found it to be crazy that the rangers were still so how scared of them, despite seeing the Dragons so often. It made it very clear to us how dangerous these reptiles truly are.

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Best. Photo. Ever.

Before we moved on with the rest of the trek, a juvenile Dragon dared to approach the carcass, something that the adults did not agree with (as they very happily will eat their own young). The juvenile was forced to retreat, but the rangers were completely aware of this and they decided to help the little one out. They carefully moved the deer remains into the nearby bush so that the juvenile could eat in peace.

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This juvenile was taking a big risk being there.

We continued with our trek around the island and were presented with some beautiful views of the landscape and coast. We were shown the nesting grounds of the Dragons and then taken to their village to see if we could find some more dragons there. We were not disappointed to find them being the pests that they were described as earlier. We found one Dragon sprawled across a footpath without a single care in the world, and a whole group of them hiding in the shade beneath a local restaurant.

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Maximum relaxation in the village.

With the trek finally drawn to a close, we thanked our ranger for such an amazing experience and returned to the pier to get back onto our rented boat. The dragon from earlier had not moved from under the pier, it would seem that he too did not have a single care in the world. Our next stop was pink beach, further along the coast of the island, one of only a few pink beaches in the world due to its mixture of red and white sand. We quickly scoffed down our lunches before the boat stopped not too far from the beach, but to get the rest of the way, we would need to swim, because between us and the beach were beautiful corals that we could explore using our snorkelling gear.

For the first few minutes after jumping into the water, I found myself struggling due to my fear of open water, but I was eventually able to calm myself down, and I began to really enjoy snorkelling. The corals beneath us were beautiful. We were actually there in search of Manta Rays, but they proved to be too elusive for us, but it was worth it nonetheless. For both of us, it was our first time snorkelling, and both of us quickly realised that it definitely was not going to be our last time either. We eventually made it to the beach, and relaxed for a while. I wish I had some pictures to show you, but there was no way that my camera would have survived the swim to the beach. After returning to the water for some further exploration of the corals, we returned to the boat for some sunbathing before we began the return journey to Labuan Bajo.

We told our boat drivers that there were no Manta Rays to be found, and they were kind enough to stop along the way back to some hotspots were they could be spotted. Unfortunately, they still could not be found, but it did not matter anymore, because Anya and I had begun to realise that we were both very, very sunburnt and we needed to stay in the shade. It was quickly becoming the worst sunburn I had ever had, and both of us would end up suffering from it for days to come, but in the grander scheme of things it did not matter. The hellish day before did not matter either, neither did the fact that when we finally got back to the hotel, the power was out again. None of it mattered because all of it just made us appreciate the good things about this trip even more so. The entire trip to Labuan Bajo and Komodo Island was not the cheapest of excursions for us, but the positives most definitely outweighed the negatives. The impression the island has left on me is simply unforgettable, and I would go back there in a heartbeat. I really hope that one day I can go back there and explore the surrounding islands and waters more vigorously.

 

Foreword & Indonesia Pt.I

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Foreword

Where to begin? These blogs are something of a personal project for me, and will help me remember all of this for many years to come. I’m choosing to share them as I know that there are people at home who would like to know more about what I have been up to, but at the end of the day, the audience this is intended for includes only myself, so I apologise if these blogs are not your cup of tea.

This first entry only covers the first week of my travels, which at this point was about 6 weeks ago now. I actually started writing this entry about a month ago but a few things along the way distracted me or physically prevented me from continuing, but at last I have a chance to come back to this and finish it. It is taking me a while, as I have to sit down, recall and then sift through so many memories and experiences, and more importantly, remember my frame of mind at the time. For that reason, it is very possible that these blogs may be edited over time as more memories come back to me that I wish to include, which again, makes this very much a personal endeavour.

Back at the two week mark I could already say, with the uttermost confidence, that going travelling was the greatest decision I had ever made, and I still stand by that comment now. I have dreamt about travelling for years, and I am still finding it hard to believe that I am actually doing this. I was very fortunate to have begun with Indonesia, where we spent a large amount of it on the island of Bali and some of its surrounding islands. Bali is stunning, with so much to see and do there. You can surf, you can dive, you can climb mountains, you can relax, you can experiment with their amazing cuisine or you can even just party. The possibilities there appeared to be endless, but what I loved the most about the island of Bali in particular was its culture. The majority of the Balinese people are Hindi, and have constructed beautiful temples and shrines all across the land to pay homage to their gods. Every day, they leave little offerings to them, be it a sprinkle of rice, a cigarette or even a small piece of confectionary. I found these sorts of things to be utterly fascinating, and it was a shame when the time finally came to say goodbye to Indonesia after spending a month there.

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You’re never short of temples in Bali.

I have met remarkable people along the way too, with a vast array of nationalities including: Germans, Canadians, French Canadians, Americans, Slovenians, Austrians, Dutch and so many more. Nearly everyone that I meet out here seems to share similar views, beliefs and ideals, allowing you to become the best of friends with them in just a matter of hours. At this point now, I am beginning to really struggle with understanding how you return to a life back home after something like this. That’s not to say that there haven’t been some struggles for me along the way however, so let’s begin.

Nightmare the First

Despite the ominous subheading, this blog is not all about the doom and gloom of this trip. There are just little tales along the way that have taught me what is actually important and what is really not, so I may as well include them.

We arrived in Seminyak at 1 in the morning, so we quickly went off to bed, but as soon as I had awoken, Anya had already befriended some of the people in the hostel and found out that the second night of the Bali Ultra festival was the place to be that afternoon and evening. So with that, I immediately parted with a lot of money to pay for a wristband, but by god was it worth it. The Potatohead bar became a huge pool party that played host to the likes of Galantis and Martin Garrix. We were in the pool with the rest of our hostel for hours, loving every second of it. It was an incredible first full day and night for me. Unfortunately, my phone was ruined in the process. I had no idea I was going to be in a pool before I got there, so I had to leave my phone by the side. It was fine at first, but I failed to realise that after a while the waves from the pool started to splash over the sides and right onto my phone.

At first, admittedly, I was too drunk to care, but I certainly did by the next morning. It was still on, but the screen was a pixelated mess, so I did what anyone else would do in that situation: I ran to the supermarket and bought a bag of rice. The worst thing was that the pin to my travel card was on that phone, and I was in dire need of withdrawing more money. Thankfully Anya was there to help me out.

We took it easy the next day in Seminyak and just took in our surroundings while nursing our hangovers. We befriended a Canadian, two Germans and an American, and spent the time with them. On the last day, we took a trip to Tanah Lot, a sacred Hindi temple on a small rock just off of the coast of Bali, which can only be reached when the tide is out. The temple was beautiful and made for a superb view, but unfortunately I wasn’t there to see the beautiful sunset that it is most famous for. Instead, we found ourselves back at the Potatohead bar that evening to relax before heading off to Ubud the next day. The change in atmosphere there was remarkable. Whereas before it was out of control and hectic with the Ultra festival, we returned to see it as a calm and peaceful beach resort, with comfortable sun loungers to relax on and take in the coastline with its powerful waves.

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Despite the number of tourists at Tanah Lot, it was still worth the visit.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Along with one of the Germans and the Canadian, we headed to Ubud where we had booked a bed and breakfast, of sorts, together. Everyone was laughing at me because I was carrying my bag of rice with me, still hoping that my phone would recover if I left it in there for long enough. When we arrived, I realised that we only got a small taste of the Hindi culture back in Seminyak, because Ubud was bathed in it. There were temples dotted all over the town, with many of the locals dressed traditionally, while the town itself was surrounded by luscious rice paddies. There was no denying that this town was very laid back in comparison to Seminyak, and I instantly fell in love with it. We arrived at Raka House, the place we booked to stay at, and I instantly fell in love with the accommodation too. We all did, it felt so pleasant and authentic, and so we asked if we could stay 4 nights rather than 3. We were fortunate enough that we could.

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The front garden of Raka House.

That evening, we went to see the Kecak Fire & Trance Dance. It was an extremely bizarre sight to behold from a foreigner’s point of view, but exceedingly unique at the same time. There must have been about 100 men wearing cloths around their waist creating an assortment of sounds that all derived from a basic “cak, cak, cak” chant. They told the story of a cruel and wicked giant known as Rahwana that battled Prince Rama and his grand monkey army. It was an endeavour that ultimately failed and cost him his life. I can honestly say that I struggled to follow the plot from beginning to end, but the atmosphere, the choreography and the costumes of all of the main characters were impressive enough to make up for my utter confusion.

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I wish I could tell you what part of the story this is, but alas, I do not know.

The next morning, we were treated to crepes and coffee on our balcony as we sat down to plan out our day. We were just around the corner from a large clothing and souvenir market, so we all decided to start off there and see if there was anything there that tickled our fancy. I personally wanted to just find some outrageous clothing for myself and friends back at home. I can tell you now that the market did not fail to disappoint, but it was hard work. The locals are persistent and will not leave you alone, they are determined to sell you something and it quickly becomes laborious to constantly avoid them and get them to leave you alone. I did find the haggling to be enjoyable though, and it is definitely a skill that takes mastering, as the locals will do try their very hardest to make sure that you part with the most amount of money possible. The best tip I’ve learnt that is to suddenly lose interest and walk away, then have the local chase after you with a substantially lower asking price.

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The vibrant market is an experience in itself.

With the shopping spree completed and a cheap Indonesian lunch lining our stomachs, we decided to venture into the sacred forest and take our chances with the often-infamous monkeys. It was not difficult to come across them, as they littered the entire forest, constantly looking for opportunities to get food from the tourists. We were warned that if you walked in with any food that it would not be long before it was torn out of your hands by a feisty primate, so we made sure to follow that advice. Despite this, it didn’t take too long for them to try and get something from me: two young monkeys jumped onto my shoulders and desperately tried to get into my backpack. Luckily, I had padlocked it so their attempts were futile. Anya, on the other hand, had her water bottle stolen from her only to then be taunted by the monkey who proceeded to open the bottle in front of her and start drinking from it. When we had seen our fair share of monkeys, the Canadian, the German and I decided that we were going to have an early night in so that we could be up at 2 a.m. to climb Mount Badur, one of Bali’s volcanoes, in time to see the sunrise from the summit.

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This little thief beared no shame for his actions.

Sunrise Mountain

I never did get any sleep, I was foolish and decided to watch some television instead, so I was already tired when we left at 2 a.m. towards the mountain in a minibus. When we arrived at the base of the mountain, we were given a hilarious breakfast to be consumed at the summit which consisted of a boiled egg, a banana and slice of sweet bread. It was still pitch black, so everyone was given a flashlight and we started promptly.

The tiredness, combined with my lack of fitness, made parts of the climb very challenging for me. I genuinely considered giving up at one point and turning back because I believed it wouldn’t be physically possible for me to reach the summit, but it eventually became easier. Oddly enough, the first part, which consisted of walking up steep and smooth roads was the most difficult for me, whereas climbing up the steep rocks after that proved to be a fairly simple feat. We reached what I thought was the summit and I instantly felt so proud of myself for making it … only to then realise that we had only scaled one of the smaller mountains and the summit was still further up. A grand sense of achievement instantaneously transformed into utter dread as the final part involved ascending a steep mountain caked in volcanic ash. In essence, it was like climbing a blackened sand dune. It was tremendously difficult work, but I was motivated by the light creeping up behind me. I had to reach the summit in time to see the sunrise.

I made it. Barely, but made it nonetheless. The grand sense of achievement had returned in full glory and it was all suddenly worth it. The views were breath taking, and to this day I maintain that Anya missed out on an amazing experience, even if she continues to disagree with me about it.

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Proof that I made it to the summit!

Luckily, the descent was far easier, and I even managed to meet a group of girls from Southend on the way back down. The chances of that happening must have been so slim! But I failed to sleep when I got back home, instead I had some more of the delicious crepes for breakfast and then proceeded with walking out of the town to check out the rice paddies with Anya. It proved to be an incredibly exhausting adventure for me after not sleeping the previous night, climbing a volcano, and then still not having any sleep afterwards. We managed to find a restaurant in the middle of the rice paddies where I could take a break and rest. The views were so tranquil and easy on the eye, there was nothing western as far as the eye could see; it was 100% Asian through and through.

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0% Western.

After an early night and plenty of sleep, we were left with only one last full day in Ubud, so after yet another round of the delightful crepes for breakfast, we decided to do something very touristy and visit ‘Big Tree Farms,’ a chocolate factory fairly close by. We met two Slovenians there, friends of the German, who helped to make the visit a truly fun day out. Therefore, we all met up again in the evening for dinner and drinks. It was the perfect way to finish off Ubud, because the next day, we would all part ways. For the German it was time to go home, the Slovenians already had plans of their own, and the Canadian was heading for the island of Lombok, while Anya and I were going to head for Labuan Bajo: the gateway to Komodo Island. This trip would lead to my second nightmare, but at least my phone had revived itself! It spent the entire time I was in Ubud in that bag of rice and it had done the trick. I left the bag of rice behind, much to the pleasure of the owner of the Raka house, who was genuinely pleased that I was leaving him with a bag of “good rice” as he put it.

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We all loved our headwear at the chocolate factory.