Waecicu Beach, Flores, Indonesia

D261A01A-60E9-4F2B-995A-738AF48CE13E.jpegAfter our AMAZING, will forever go down in history as “one of the best things we ever did together”, three week motorcycle trip across Indonesia we opted to lay low for a while. A large factor in that decision is the necessity of healing Rob’s smashed left foot as soon as possible so when we get to Bali next week we can continue trekking and exploring.  Given how poor the roads are on this island we are feeling fortunate that a smashed foot is all that happened and still hasn’t marred what a great time we had zipping around.  We really wanted to stay on Flores, but had been unable to find the kind of accommodation we were looking for – a place with our own kitchen, not too expensive, where we could play house for a bit and take it easy.  One of the undeniable benefits of traveling on the fly is meeting people along the way and them helping steer your next move. When we met Jessica in Ruteng she introduced us to Nina who has a beautiful home right on Waecicu beach.  Having never met Nina in person, we traveled to her place, stayed there four days and decided to stay another week. It’s incredibly serene with snorkeling and kayaking available a few steps from the front door. The house is completely open to the elements and invites you to be one with surroundings, which is great since we are removed from the hustle and bustle of Labuan Bajo proper. Transport to the market is by boat, reminding us of our month on Kenawa. Yesterday, in our second market trip, we found and bought cheese, cream and yogurt for the first time since we have been in Indonesia – what a serious treat to have in the house!  Rob is making fettucine Alfredo this week for me…one of my favorites. We fried fresh squid from the fish market 3 of the first 4 nights we were here. I was hooked! I have ordered fried squid in warungs or restaurants while traveling, but NO ONE makes it as good as Rob. Hence, the back to back squid nights.  To satisfy my endless desire for dragonfruit juice we purchased several and have been able to make it fresh with the blender in the house –  yay!

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Sometimes the hardest part of my day is whether to relax in the lounge chair…

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…or hammock

Life here is very relaxed and simple. We make coffee in the morning, lay by the beach and read, listen to music and play cards, kayak for sunset or just to get around and see the boats, I snorkel and swim (Rob can’t with his foot right now) and then cook delicious meals and read in bed.

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Giz is a fan of cumi 🦑as well

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Thai basil here costs about 6 cents a bundle and is a GREAT addition to fried rice…which we both adore now

81C278E8-450C-407D-ADC5-D7A16CAC5A8C.jpegSimple is nice and it’s perfect for Rob to heal. We are very grateful for the people we have met that helped facilitate us being able to be here right now.  Sunday we fly to Bali and begin some more exploring around that island.  We spent four quick days there when we picked up the bike, but there is obviously lots more to see.  We have several friends we have made along the way, having met in other islands, that we will be able to visit in Bali.  It’s fun to be here for such an extended period of time, form relationships, and meet back up with people.  When we began our SE Asia trip we assumed we would have moved on to another country by now, but, and I’ll only speak for myself, there is something special and captivating about Indonesia.  It’s easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and while perhaps not the easiest to navigate compared to other countries in the region (so I have heard), it is so rich in beauty, culture, taste and endless experience that I haven’t hesitated at all to spend 3 months soaking it all in.

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My first kayak trip here where I was scouting out the best coral spots to swim back to

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Kayaking is a great way for Rob to be mobile and not use his foot

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Week 8 Indonesia: Breathtaking Flores, Part 2…our 22 day motorcycle tour of Indonesia comes to a close

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The well maintained roads of Flores 

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💜wild bamboo

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More shots off the bike to try to capture what we are riding through 

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Another lovely beach we stopped at

Lacy: Twenty two days riding through the islands of Indonesia felt like two months.  We experienced so much diversity as each island in this country has a different feel and vibe to it.  Bali to Lombok to Sumbawa to Flores, Rob and I continued to share laughs on the bike as we saw homemade motorcycles and farm equipment pass us, add new inside jokes and references to our ever growing repertoire of Indonesian humor and discover more beauty than I could ever share through photos on this blog.  In fact, going through the photos from Flores it seems they don’t even scrape the surface of how incredibly special this island is.  It marries my love of massive mountains and beach, flora and savannah and defines raw beauty.  If I were to compare Flores to Bali, Flores would be a woman who never wears make up and exudes a glowing natural beauty about her while Bali is a woman, while still beautiful, takes the time to fuss over herself with makeup and hair. Natural raw beauty has always been more appealing to me.  This was my longest motorcycle ride yet, outlasting the trips I have taken for 10+ years with my dad through NE USA.  I love being on the bike and would welcome another opportunity to travel a country like this.  Perhaps even more of Indonesia now that we successfully extended our visas for another 30 days.

Enjoying the sunset last night on the beach in front of our little beach house…

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For now, though, we are laying low on Waecicu beach in Labuan Bajo where we rented a beautiful open air tropical home with a huge kitchen and beach in front.  I woke at 5:30 this morning and caught the end of the moon glittering on the water before enjoying an hour long swim and seeing a a baby mantaray. We really scored on this place and it’s perfect as we need somewhere for Rob to rest his battered and bruised foot after the motorcycle landed on it.  Morning kayaking, reading on the beach in the hammock or lounge chair, watching the sunset over the water or frying fresh squid, as we did last night, will be the medicine he needs for the next few days…or maybe even a week.  We continue to take life as it comes and be thankful for the moments we are sharing together.

Our new place for a bit:

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Bedroom and bathroom in top right. We love how you can take a shower and watch the sunset at the same time with the open concept

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Rob’s comfy place outside the bedroom where he can enjoy the view without taking the extra steps to the beach

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This morning I swam from the house, where the boat is, to the point on top right. 

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Rob’s new office 😍

Sunset just a little farther down the island  in the hotel we stayed Tuesday night when we arrived to Labuan Bajo to return the bike.

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Rob: Outside of Bajawa, Lacy aimed us to a Warung she found on the map that specialized in Babi Sate, Soto & Nasi. *Grilled pig with soup and rice. For less than $2, I ate my second breakfast, (Hobbit reference) with “tears of spice and joy”. Lacy has since put Babi Guling to a tune that she sings each time we spy a little pig along our treks. In Bajawa we broke well away from the main streets at night seeking some local street food and we sure found it. Sape sate dan pedas. *beef skewers of spicy meatballs were a great appetizer to more Babi later. And yes, the word Babi, pronounced like “Bobby”, has probably replaced pig in my normal vocabulary for good. It’s just more fun to say!

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There were actual tears running down his cheeks during this meal…and he loved it

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Giz rides in the trunk

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That’s one way to get the goat from A to B

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A nice morning drive with your cow

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The school kids love to Ooh and Aah at the bike as we cruise by. We often wave hello back and forth with them. Makes for a great morning.

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This table isn’t going to walk itself to your home!

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Forget the ice cream truck.  This is the ice cream bike!

Between Bajawa and Kelimutu / Moni we stopped at several beautiful beaches. All of the ones along this particular stretch of coastline were Blue Stone Beaches. The first has a mix of baseball sized white and aqua blue colored stones that were the foundation of the beach. The second was all pebble to baseball sized aqua blue stones on top of a black sand base. Bizarre and beautiful. Also great that a Warung there sold Dragonfruit smoothies and had cold Bintang! Lacy asks for dragonfruit almost everywhere we go and lucky for her she wins most of the time.

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Another great pit stop along the way. Me with my dragonfruit and Rob enjoying his Bintang

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Cloudy or not, a great spot

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And naturally, these goats enjoyed their lunch next to us

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Rob probably said to me have a dozen times while at this spot how much he loved it 

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Sometimes you just pull over in any flat ground you can find and other times you luck out with a cute place

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The blue and white round stones that make up the beach are unlike anywhere else we have seen

9FB898C8-401C-4FCE-8DA4-7922B3103413.jpegThe little mountain town of Moni sits at the entrance to Kelimutu National Park and its 3 volcanic lakes. We checked into the aptly named Bintang Lodge and Cafe, ordered up some of their finest Arak to mix with some Sprite and chatted with some other travelers to make our plans for the following day. This region’s Arak was a slightly higher grade of jet fuel than we have had previously and another couple had already scheduled a car to take them to the upper part of the Volcano at 4:30 in the morning. Perfect!

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The ride into Moni was beautiful 

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The view from our hotel room, here and below, was gorgeous

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4:30 came quickly and we were pleased that you drove up 90% of this volcano to have just a 45 minute steep hike at the top. There is a viewpoint that we reached at sunrise where you can see all three lakes at the top of this triple caldera Volcano. Each has a different set of minerals or gasses that influence the chemistry and color of the water so each lake has a different hue. It was pretty cloudy once again at the top, but we got our peek-a-boo views in of all three lakes. Maybe we didn’t take the perfect postcard picture but it was still a impressive sight by Mother Nature. Or, Father Time. Wait. Who is in charge of Volcanos? Either way, the 2 1/2 hour walk back down the mountain to Moni was a nice walk in the jungle where we could continue to marvel at the fauna along the way. We even saw a few Babi! We were glad to have had our little view at the top as it began to rain and rain hard for a long time later that afternoon. We were nice and dry this time, sitting on the covered patio with a Bintang and playing cards. Our cards that we brought with us which we purchased on our Amtrak travel last when we took a break from the PCT to travel to Seattle were destroyed by the rain recently. Luckily, the cafe has another deck.

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It was pretty cloudy that morning, but we were fortunate to have the clouds part for us enough that we could see all 3 tricolored lakes at the top of the volcano.  

We chose to just enjoy the view and leave the camera alone so I cheated and got these photos from a website to give you an idea of the view

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Riung’s 17 islands was our next stop on the Northern Loop portion of our map of Flores. After a 5 hour long and bruising (see below) ride we arrived in Riung late in the day.

All shot off the back of the bike on the road to Riung right before we got to the worst part.  This part was hardly a road, but was stunning

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Sometimes I nail a shot off the back of the bike. 

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It is a very small village on the North coast of Flores. It’s little port is the front door to the 17 Islands National Park. We chartered an inexpensive private boat for a day trip around 4 of the 17 islands. Our fist stop was a mangrove ringed island which was home to thousands of the regions giant bats or flying foxes as they are better known here. I just wasn’t prepared for the size or the numbers of them so I was a bit shocked when we arrived.30798D57-B967-42FC-96A3-F55D9A4ADF6851B629DB-741B-4674-BE05-DF7A361D53B547FEF241-3F90-4451-A5C2-0D129E1D501721D3396C-1A6E-4761-BB00-56BE2CCD4FC5

They are the size of a small black Fox in body but with about a 3 foot wingspan to go with it. They screeched and flew above us in circles by the hundreds as the sound of the boat’s engine woke them up from their upside down perches in the mangrove trees. A few thousand at least in total around the bay. Our next stop was a small island with a coral ring reef that made for good snorkeling. Parrot fish chased each other below us. The third island had a beautiful beach where our captain pulled our brightly painted wooden boat right up onto the sand. While Lacy and I went for a little walk down the beach, he started a fire and began to grill 2 Grouper for lunch. Lacy had thought to also have them bring along several ice cold Bintangs for us. Tomato salad, grilled fish, cold beer on a private beach. It didn’t suck. Not at all. One more secluded beach and snorkeling spot later, we were on our way back to port that afternoon. Boat therapy for my bruises was successful.

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This group was on the island too enjoying their lunch 

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Best fish we have had here 

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WKST *White Knuckle Sphincter Tightness update: On Flores, the roads and riding continues to be thrilling, challenging and, well … bruising. Truck sized potholes abound. Sometimes you get an attention grabbing Hati-Hati sign on the side of the road, but often you don’t see them until you are swerving around them. The scary part about these types of potholes is that it can cause a car or truck from the opposite side of the road to abruptly swerve into your lane so you have to watch ahead for them on your and the other side of the road. We have spent hour long stretches between 1st and 3rd gear on the curviest and hilliest jungle roads on Flores. Several curly hairpins have made me think I was in a carnival stunt show because if I stopped or slowed too much on any part of the corkscrew up or down, we would simply flop over. Keeping momentum going is a priority or there just isn’t enough road apex to make the whole turn. The sharpest hairpin turns seem to continue to always show me the front “smile” of truck coming around the other way, too. I am happy that as big and heavy as the bike is, that it is also reasonably nimble and had very stable control on wet roads and during our recent downpour. After about 45 minutes on these types of roads, we definitely keep a lookout for any flat spot to take a quick break. We get lucky when the flat rest area comes with coffee and a view. Sometimes the the road is fully 2 lanes wide. Maybe it even had a shoulder. But if we get off the main East West Island road, on many smaller jungle roads, it becomes to too narrow to pass a truck or bus on the opposite side without pulling off to the side. Lacy continues to earn her weight as a Navigator adding in views as well as directions. “Wow. View of the peak to the left.” “View across the canyon to the right ahead.” “Two dogs fuckin’ on the right.” The bike and the 2 Bule riding it still get lots of wows and whoas from school kids as we pass by. I return thumbs up and wave when I have hands free & Lacy waves like a Beauty Queen on a Parade Float. I think I lost my damage deposit on the motorcycle yesterday though. We were in a coastal area where the road had been completely washed out from the rainy season. It was rebuilt so far with very rough dirt and gravel laid down as the first step of rebuilding the road back to normal. The flat parts just rattled your bones but a steep ravine bit me. Lacy hopped off and I killed the motor. I was straddling the bike and half rolling slow / half braking and balancing everything down a very steep and rutted rock slide area. The next thing I knew, I was sliding and then pinned under the bike. Lacy played Supergirl and literally picked the bike up off of where it had my leg squished against the rocks. Thankfully just a sprained and bruised foot and ribs was the worst of it unless you count scratches on the side cases of the bike now.

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Week 8 Indonesia: Breathtaking Flores, Part 1

2AA496D9-F6FF-409A-AF24-0B3C9E4626E2.jpegLacy: This awe inspiring island, Flores, became my favorite in a matter of hours.  It was never a contest of where we enjoyed most as we travel through this country the past 2 months, but Flores makes my jaw drop and has me saying “Oh my gosh” as we round every new bend in the road.  Easily one of my top 3 places to have ever visited, this was the first time I had even a fleeting thought of moving to Indonesia after this trip.  Flores has the most intense jungle scenery with exploding flora, an abundance of flowers, huge mountains, magnificent bright green rice terraces, volcanoes with lakes, the friendliest people & a variety of untouched beaches.  I love it here.  I want to explore every nook and cranny of this island.  Our week long motorcycle tour is coming to a close as we angle our way back to Labuhan Bajo where we turn the keys back over tomorrow to Chris from the motorcycle shop.  We had one minor scrape up with the bike that injured Rob’s foot (more in the next blog), but we still have had an unforgettable and cherished journey that we would repeat all over again.  Rob wrote most of the blog and I will interject a few places here and there, but somehow it will never be possible to capture through this blog how much splendor there is in Flores and the constant smiles we have both worn.  

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Ear to ear smiles after our first day experiencing just how beautiful this island is – rain & all

 

 

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Rice is life here 

6BBC30B8-C7D5-4092-8CFC-5704FE9275ADB4A08195-DE4F-4A11-9A96-8F4A453B92E4Rob: Flores has not disappointed in our first days on the island. It is the lushest, richest green jungle we have yet seen and that is saying a lot. Farms and rice fields continue to amaze us in the way they are carved into the hills and are geometrically divided in the valleys. We pass through giant bamboo stands where each tree has a 15-20” radius at the bottom of their trunks and are 50-75 feet tall. Sometimes they stand in clusters of 20-30 and sometimes they take over both sides of the road and completely block out the sun. At one overlook, we discussed how many different varieties of trees we could see in just that view and lost count trying. Banana trees grow wild and huge here. Palm trees laden with coconuts compete for the sun with trees weighed down with papayas ripe for picking.

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When we parked to take the short climb to the Lingko Spiderweb view this sweet guy wanted a photo 😊 look at the bamboo in the background!! It’s everywhere here 

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Rob is smiling that we made itthrough the rain today and it cleared up enough for us to see the spiderweb rice fields in Ruteng 

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Teri popped out of nowhere to guide us on the hike and show us the rice fields. Our first hint that people in Flores are extremely friendly 

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Lingko spiderweb rice fields that sit at the base of the mountains. They are divided up to families, village by village, and make a magnificent pattern.

As we cross the island and the road runs from beach through mountain gaps and then winds up and over other mountains, we can see the effects of the rain patterns in the landscape. Closer to the coastal areas and ocean, flowering trees, plants and vines are more abundant. The air is drier with warm breezes constantly. When you climb up into the foothills, you also climb up into mist. Everything begins the get thicker and greener. Much, much larger trees layered with even more tropical plants stretch out over the roads. 20-30 foot tall palm ferns fill in any gap between the larger trees and spread out to catch the sun. Banana trees, wild coffee and other big leafy plants layer in next. The canyons created by the volcanic origins of the island and ensuing erosion are severe in their sharp angles and grass covered slopes. It is like the jungle soaked up all the mist and it didn’t make it into these other areas. So in stark contrast, dried grasses and sparse older looking trees live in these vertical crevasses alone. The further up the road climbs, the mist becomes clouds and rain forms often. The rain in the last few days traveling has been the price we have paid for the amazing and picturesque landscape. Sometimes it is just enough to get wet clothes that dry again in an open sunny area later. Often that scenario repeats itself. So far we have endured only one major downpour that soaked us through to the core and filled my hiking boots with a liter of water. We soldiered on through it for over an hour and were cold drowned rats by the time we drove out of it. One of Lacy’s highlights of that moment was seeing the locals so casually using the massive banana leaves as a temporary umbrella as they walked down the side of the road.

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The first evening of our trip across Flores was spent in this comfy bungalow that sits in the mountains amongst rice fields. We knew it had a magnificent view, but couldn’t see it when we arrived because the rain clouds still hung low. Rob is hanging our soaking wet clothes from the ride out to dry. 

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Still able to catch some sunset colors with the rain clouds

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Udis, our hostess, served us a delicious local meal on our porch that was well received after the day’s ride 

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Rob enjoying the view that “smacked ya in the face” the following morning 

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Yes, it was this magnificent. 

3D50A426-ABC4-4083-92C6-896C1158F10FYesterday we took a rest, gas and Bintang break at a black sand beach created by the breakdown of the volcanic flow that ran into the ocean there many years ago. The beach was dotted with big yellow flowers, the size of your hand, that float down from the tips of the trees that line the beach. Someone told me that black, red or green sand beaches here were “younger” because they form much faster by the volcanic rock breaking down to the beach versus white coral breaking up and rising out of the ocean to form a beach. True or not, when you are in lands like this, you do consider the history and evolution of the islands as you travel. The volcanic action took a long time to develop them just the way they are today and that action remains constant into tomorrow.

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Just a random stop to rest during the ride and we stumble upon this deserted and clean black sand beach…

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…well, deserted except for these gorgeous flowers coverings the sand 

We have traveled 3-5 hours a day of on-the-road time while on Flores bouncing between the key regions surrounding Labuan Bajo, Ruteng, Bajawa, Moni and Riung. All along the way, we see the most beautiful and striking scenery. We stop at Warungs along the way for great lunches or just a Sprite while we rub the body parts back to life that a buzzing and vibrating motorcycle being overworked on bumpy roads tend to put to sleep.

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After finishing the last third of our ride on the road below Rob opted for some of the local moonshine, Arak, mixed with sprite. He bought it at a kiosk near black sand beach, in the reused water bottle, for the equivalent of $2 USD.  Whew, it is strong!

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Just a little windy

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We made a quick turnaround to stop at this place we passed on the side of the road. Looked perfect for a rest, coffee and view. It was still hazy, and the photos below don’t do it justice, but the view was gorgeous 

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Liang Bua Cave was a very interesting stop we made near Ruteng. Do you remember the Hobbit Lady named Flo who’s fossilized bones were discovered in a cave about 15 years or so ago? Not a real Hobbit, of course, but just a very short (<4 ft tall) person along a separate evolutionary path than modern Humans or Neanderthal people. According to the science side of things, this represents a third branch of the tree yet still unconnected to the other 2. It is an anomaly amongst plants and animals in Flores that otherwise seem to be gigantism to their peers in other parts of the world be they giant bats that look like foxes with wings, limes bigger than soft balls, beetles that could carry a mouse away, ferns as big as palm trees and lizards that outweigh me twice over that we have seen along our travels. It was great to be able to speak with one of the Archeologists currently working at the site who has been there 2 months of every year for the last 10 years.

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No bones about it, this is Flo😜, all 3 1/2 ft of her

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Week 7 in Indonesia: Hiking our first volcano, relaxing in a surfer paradise and running into fellow Eathshippers on a ferry to the island of flowers, Flores

31A2641F-0B68-48DA-B2E1-46C4A5196743.jpegLacy: Rob wrote a really great post about our last week.  We covered a lot of ground as we continued east across Sumbawa.  From the tips of volcanoes to the shores of epic surfing locations we completed our tour of Sumbawa.  A 7 hour ferry ride later, I am assembling this post in Flores, the next large island to the East.  Enjoying our last week with our motorcycle rental we will explore this island, but first I’ll soak in the sunset on the beach of Labuan Bajo and hit “publish…”

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Giz enjoys the success of his climb up Mt Tambora while gazing into the caldera

Rob: Tambora

We started out early with the motorcycle. It was a hot but a pretty 4 hour ride along the coast and into the mountains. Once we reached a little town of Pancasila at the foothills of Tambora, things began to get interesting. The paved road became a dirt road and then a one track dirt trail. The following 5 Kilometers were a slick clay dirt mud and rock trail that climbed very steeply straight up the base of the mountain. Although our bike was made to go off road from time-to-time, it was still a big heavy bike laden with big bags full of gear. The rains over the previous 2 days created big mud puddles that I had to just guess at what the bottom looked and felt like before sloshing into them. The muddy path and ruts in it where anywhere from 4 inches to 2 feet deep in long stretches. I wrestled and wrestled with the weight and the sloppy wet clay underfoot. I was wet with muddy water up to my waist. The vines grabbed at the handlebars, mirrors, bags, pegs and tried to hold onto anything they could. Since it is a brand new rented bike, I was paranoid to put a scratch on it but the thick ferns grow like weeds in the high jungle and had the path closed down to about 2 feet wide at some points where I had to put a 3 foot wide bike (with travel bags) through. About 95% of the way up, what felt like an hour of exhausting battle, the slimy clay, overheated clutch, spinning rear tire and my rubber legs & arms finally lost to the hillclimb. Thankfully is was an extreme slow motion rear wheel spin out, slide and flop into the ferns. The ferns and vines were so thick that they actually held up the bike so I could climb from the vines, that I was all tangled in, out overtop of the bike and with the help of Lacy and a local, pull it back fully upright and back onto the path. No damage, except to my ego. Mt Tambora was already beginning to test our mettle.

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Our first break on the hike..not a completely humid and sweat-filled mess yet

We chose to trek this particular volcano because of it’s vast size, remoteness and remarkable history. In 1815 Tambora suddenly blew its top. Over 1/3 if it’s height disappeared from the mountain and went into the atmosphere. 1816 was the year without a summer worldwide and the weather of the whole earth was affected for 3+ years. Last year only 120 souls were able to reach the top of Tambora’s caldera. Compared to Mt. Rinjani, which is actually taller but much more accessible which had 100,000 people climb last year, we chose the path very much less traveled. Tambora is also located very remotely on an end of the island of Sumbawa who’s shape resembles a big Rorschach ink blot. There is little to nothing within hours of driving from even the foothills of Tambora. After we spent 2 full days in challenging logistics to reach this part of Sumbawa, we needed a good night to rest before we even geared up and got our hiking boots tied tight.

Rik, Dutch ex-pat, and his wife Nural, Indonesian, were fantastic hosts who run the Tambora Guesthouse which is in the highest point of a vast coffee plantation and serves as base camp for all Tambora treks. For dinner, she presented a big bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese which was the carb load we needed to insure our bodies were ready for the physical part of the climb. Plentlyful glasses of Brum, rice wine (more like rice mead), a comfy bed and fan also helped my mental preparedness.

The lush jungle enveloped us…

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On the edge of the Caldera

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We started off about 8:30 the following morning. Our experienced guide, Samuda has lead 40 treks up to the caldera over his years. Amir the cook and eager, young Faisal were charged with carrying loads of gear and food for all of us. The lower to mid point of the mountain was lush and thick with foliage. The guys literally needed to machete us through certain places. At times, I knew someone was just 10 feet in front of me but I couldn’t see them or even see the greenery moving, it was so thick. This was also the first time we had ever hiked or climbed and were required to use a local guide. With the thick jungle and maze of unmarked trails, now I knew why. Lacy marveled at the wild orchids and we both smiled as we discovered the micro orchids that reminded us of the the micro versions of other flowers we saw during last year’s Pacific Crest Trail Hike.

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Wild micro-orchid 💘

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Wild orchid in my favorite color 💜

After about 3 hours of trail and climbing, we stopped for lunch. We had done 2/3 of the distance already for the day but would need just as much time in the afternoon for the remaining 1/3 due to the conditions and sharp increase of the incline from now on to the top. The air was wet and humid. Our bodies were wet and humid. In fact, everything from our clothes to the gear, boots and hair were now soaked through with jungle and sweat. The thick overhang of trees, vines and multiple layers of plants upon plants was a bit disorienting to me. The compass showed me North but we had lost sight of anything familiar or discerning other than pure jungle for about 2 days now and it let a little vertigo creep into my senses. It was a minor case of pure green chlostrophobia. Our first evening was full of hearty food and anticipation for the next segment. We tried to read and rest as soon as it turned dark inside our tent. Even tired from the ordeal just getting to Tambora and our first leg up the mountain, we found it difficult to get to sleep. Our alarm was set to go off very early at 1am, just a few hours away.

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Oh, the many layers!

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Yes, there is a path in there! The beginning of the trail was so wet that we had to pick many leeches off of ourselves. I got a good one that bit me and bled for about 30 minutes 

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At our camp spot: Mist rising out of the jungle and layers of clouds with the sun trying to poke through 

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Rob and I are obsessed with these leafy palm fronds 

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“Happy camper”

Lacy awoke first and went out to insure coffee was brewing for us. I love how Lacy takes extra time and makes the extra effort to keep things as nice as possible for us in trying times. Was it early morning or still late evening if the bats were still out munching on mosquitoes? The coffee was thick, black and welcome. Salty Japanese noodles and rice further fortified our big climb ahead. Amir stayed at the campsite with all of the gear so we could take minimal weight up to the rim from here and return to the same place to spend the next night. We set off at 2am for a target of reaching the caldera by sunrise. With new batteries in the headlights and everyone in lightweight mode, we made great time even with big elevation to cover. We drove ourselves and each other at a strong pace higher and higher. We began to notice the stars as we climbed out of the dense jungle canopy and into savanna and open sky above the tree line. The Milky Way stretched across the full sky above us and was breathtaking to admire. Stargazing gave us a little break or two along the steep climb up and up. We continued up into the clouds and you could feel the temperature dropping and the wet mist in your lungs. 4 solid hours after starting out, Faisal announced that we had reached the rim. He needed to announce it because the clouds were so thick that all I could see was about 5 feet of the rim’s edge itself.

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Rob is standing on the ridge of the caldera at 6am when we arrived to the top after hiking through the night. The clouds are so dense we can’t see a thing!

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But, since I am obsessed with lichen, I made good use of my time taking photos of what was around while we waited for the clouds to shift 

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Still waiting….

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…and waiting. Eventually we snuggled tonstay warm in this spot and both fell asleep 

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I have never seen lichen with what looks like a lily pad in the middle 

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The sun began to lighten the clouds but they persisted to remain all wrapped around us like a wet sheet. We found a niche out of the wind and snuggled ourselves around each other to hold out the chill. We both fell solidly asleep in each other’s arms after the very short night of little rest. Over 4 hours later, we stirred and stretched to hear an excited call from Faisal. The wind had changed and was now slowly clearing the clouds and mist from inside the volcano. We could finally see over the edge and into the caldera. Over the next hour the temperature continued to warm up and the green yellow sulphuric lake at the bottom came into view. The caldera was impressive to see now all the way to the other side of the rim. The sheer drop off that was inside of the outer rim looked just like you would draw a pretend volcano as a little kid. Creeks, grasslands, cracked rock fissures in only 200 year old lava flows and the lake filled the inside of the caldera’s bowl. One of the nicest things was that we were there alone and had this amazing view just between us. It’s difficult to express the sensation of being up on the edge of something so big and striking but rarely seen.

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Rob and I one of our guides 

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The sulphuric lake in the caldera behind Rob 

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All smiles now that we can see into the volcano!

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Faisal is a cutie 

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CALDERA

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After Gizmo took a few more selfies, we all set off back down the mountain. We arrived back at our base camp after the 13 hour round trip to the top. Steaming rice and veggies didn’t have to wait long for us to devour them. I’ve come to love a squash they have here that looks a lot like a big hard winter acorn squash but has a soft edible skin and sautés like something in between a zucchini and a potato. Yummy green and starchy with spicy sambol and rice! We turned in early to rest knowing we would begin the last leg home at sunrise the next morning. After a quick breakfast we bounded down the mountain at a brisk pace arriving after only 4 hours of wet slick trail and pushing through rain soaked foliage. We stopped for more of the great local coffee from the plantation around the guesthouse along the way. I truly needed it as I was beginning to feel the physical toll. A quick but well needed shower to remove the layers of volcanic dust upon foliage slime upon sweat felt great.

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Heading down the mountain we could see the savannah landscape we had traversed in the middle of the night. 

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The draining physical trip to ride the Beast from Bali back down the muddy trails to the road was next up. We took the heavy bags off the bike this time and sent them down separately on other bike taxis. Lacy also road down this way precariously on the back of a local’s off-road motorcycle. This gave me a lot better maneuverability coming down with the motorcycle than going up. My shoes and legs were soaked through with muddy water again but we made it without too much more than a little drama. Once reassembled at the Ranger Station, we aimed the bike 5+ hours away to a surfing area called Lakey Beach (Peak).

Lakey Beach

0600EEEF-9BC0-4333-8D53-E254C1EEAD2E502AF8D3-DC58-4F87-8FDE-A41671BC7B76B8116904-3C31-4945-93FB-6C462C4BF2ECWe pulled into the sleepy beach town just after dark and a very long day of coming down the mountain and riding on the bike. There was ice cold Bintang and Tequila waiting in a little beach bar called 3 Waves. It was the first place we reached in the town and we were so warmly greeted by proprietors, Alex and her husband, John, that we decided to stay in their newly opened guest rooms. They are both from Australia and have been developing their place for the last 7 years. Their hospitality and attention to detail showed well. Our room was beautiful with one full wall of glass. We both slept in late the next day and awoke to the sound of the surf just 50 feet away. The tide had come way, way in from the night before. The surfers were out to catch morning waves at the onset of high tide. We lazily strolled the beach for the next two days watching the surfers and soaking in the sunsets from Ali’s Bar just down the beach from our room. Ali is an ex-Chef From Australia and his spring rolls lived up to the hype. The sunset view from his bar’s deck is a front row view over the bay as the sun sets into the clouds and mountains on the other side of the water. The respite from the trekking and previous long motorcycle riding days made a really nice vacation within our travels. On our last evening, Alex made us great Tequila Sunrises and John whipped up pizza long after the regular kitchen had closed, thus winning our hearts for a lifetime.

Lakey Beach seemed to be a mix of Ex-pats who were making their investment into building a little community on a little known but world class surf break, well away from the rest of the tourist areas. So far, so good since it has all the amenities needed for a beach getaway without the tour hawking and in-your-face tourist treatment of other islands. Restaurants open when someone comes to eat for lunch and close when the last patron turns in for the night. Although a bit more expensive than some of the other places we’ve stayed in Indonesia so far, we just might come back for more!

To Flores

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As our ferry was pulling into the Flores harbor and we prepared the bike to ride off the boat we were greeted by this man from Sumba, the neighboring island. He wanted to check out the bike and was very friendly. 

3DCAA459-BE40-46A6-A4B8-F54284BB250FAt 4:30 am we packed up the Beast, fired up the engine and pulled out into the cool coastal air headed toward the port city of Sape. We flew along the uncrowded roads while the cows and goats were still sleeping limited only by the brightness of the auxiliary driving lights. Ahhh. 6th gear in some stretches of better road. We slowed as we came through Dompu and Bima. Two mid sized working class cities on the interior of the island. In between these cities and the port we passed through many villages thriving with people out in the earliest morning hours. It is the very beginning of Ramadan and here in Indonesia, they have many local traditions during this month of prayer, reflection and family. Most Indonesians travel back from Jakarta and other main cities to their home villages. Even to their ancestors villages. Since they fast during the sunlight hours, a special call to prayer, family meal and community time begins around 4am. After a light meal, everyone takes to the streets to gather for prayers at the local Mosque but also in public gathering areas and in small groups right in the road as they meet and pray with neighbors along the way. Kids seem to form their own smiling masses and everyone is dressed in their formal clothing. For the next month, we will eat snacks during the day, as most warungs will be closed. Then big meals at night when the fast is broken for the local community and all of the warungs and restaurants will fill up quickly.

After making the town of Sape in record time, (4 hours vs 5) we quickly boarded the ferry and I secured the bike wedged against the wall of the cargo area. Port cities and ferries are not on the post card tour of the country, so you get in and out of them as efficiently as you can.

While we were on Tambora we crossed paths with an aspiring young Canadian MountainBiker named Alex. While buying a Coca-Cola and some Oreos at the Ferry’s commissary, I looked up to see him standing next to me. We were both surprised and happy see one another and to quickly share our Tambora caldera stories. He was shooting a video for his bike sponsors and lugged his bike through the same jungle path we had taken except he needed 2 extra days due to the slow down of carrying the bike most of the bottom 5/6ths of the way. He mentioned two Americans he was visiting with up on the top deck of the ferry who were from Colorado and had also done some ecological housing work in Indonesia. I was instantly curious to meet them so we went upstairs. Will & Sarah turned out to be the couple who came behind us on Kenawa Island to work on the Earthships as we had! They had a much shorter stay than Lacy and I and were also on their way to explore Flores.

Approaching Flores at sunset was another gorgeous view with the many smaller islands that surround this island of flowers…

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We all agreed to meet for dinner and drinks once the long 7 hour ferry ride was over and we are safe and sound in Labuan Bajo. At the Paradise Bar, the local Arak rum flowed and we shared stories from our Earthship experiences. They were craving some non-Kenawa Island food so we walked to a Mediterranean restaurant in the tourist area of the city for dinner. With Alex along also, we had lots of food and fun. It was a surprise to meet them as we both know of one another but had never met. I’m certain we will all reconnect back in Colorado where they live as the mountains and ski areas of SW Colorado are on Lacy and my target list of places to check out and possibly start our own eco home and business.

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It was so fun to meet everyone on the ferry and enjoy the evening together.  These moments are what making traveling so great  

Alex is off to shoot more downhill mountain bike videos here on Flores. Will & Sarah are searching for a motorcycle for themselves. Lacy and I will be at the Immigration office in Labuan Bajo to try and add 30 days more to our Indonesian Visas first thing tomorrow morning before we head out into the island of flowers, Flores.

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This evening’s sunset on the beach 🏝 

 

Riding through Sumbawa’s countryside: raw and beautiful May 12, 2018

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Yesterday, when we rode off the ferry in Sumbawa and started east we both had the sensation the we had “come home.”  Not that we intend to move to Indonesia, but having gone back and forth to Sumbawa while we lived on Kenawa, we had a sense of familiarity with the road we were on and what to expect.  It felt comforting, like home. This morning we began our 2 day ride east across the island to arrive in Mt. Tambora tomorrow evening. We have arranged a guide to take us on a 3 day trek of the volcano. The ride today was so beautiful and serene, driving through the quiet countryside and villages.  We had about four hours of actual ride time, winding through the growing mountains and then along the coast.  We stopped every hour or so to stretch our legs and get a fresh juice from the side of the road, cold sprite or lunch overlooking the mountains and water. All in all, it took 6 1/2 hours before arriving in the very small traditional town of Cabang Banggo. There are no hotels here, but we were told there are 2 Homestays. We had no idea what to expect: would it be a mattress on the floor, a room full of people, shared bath..?  But whatever it was going to be we were up for it because it is part of our Sumbawa experience and getting to that volcano! Fortunately, we were both pleasantly surprised when we were shown a room with a bed off the floor and our own private squat toilet. Not bad! And for the equivalent of $7 USD.  Tomorrow we have another 4 hours of ride time ahead of us through more picturesque landscape while traveling to our guide’s guesthouse.  Rob and I both really love the raw beauty of this island and seeing it in it’s natural state, unadulterated by the tourist industry.

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The breakdown on Bali: Bikes, Babi Guling & Balinese Dancing (May 5 – 10 2018)

Rob & I arrived back on Sumbawa island (2 islands east of Bali and the one closest to Kenawa where we traveled and visted during our first 30 days in the country) today after 15 hours of hassle-free, smooth traveling.  The day began by leaving our hotel in Bali at 4:30am and included over 7 hours of ferries and 2 separate 2 hour rides across two separate islands.  Why did we leave Bali after only 4 days?  Well, we never actually intended to stay there that long, but we enjoyed the island more than expected, as you will read below.  Over the next 2 days we will travel east across Sumbawa towards Mt. Tambora so that we can spend 3 days hiking the volcano with a guide.  A couple days relaxing at a southern surf area to follow and then we head to the island of Flores (the next island to the east) which we have heard has almost no tourists and is stunning.  We tried to leave 9 days for this island, and we may get to half of the it, but it already seems like it may not be enough time.  I wish we had this bike for 6 weeks, but we are making the most of our 3 week tour.

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Shot off the back off the bike while riding across Sumbawa this evening

Lacy: I had reservations about going to Bali to get the bike after our Sengigi experience. Being in a tourist area with all the locals constantly approaching you to buy a bracelet, take a boat ride, or try their restaurant was a huge turn off for me. I made the best of it, naturally, but did not enjoy that experience near as much as being in a village or other local area that wasn’t geared entirely to tourists. I began to get excited about Bali on the boat ride over as I watched it approach from my perch on the deck. I instantly saw what a mountainous, lush and beautiful island it is. Not unlike the others we have been on. Truthfully, Indonesia, as a country, from what I have seen, is absolutely stunning with its tropical clear beaches, jungle landscape and enormous mountains. The combination of mountains and beach is my favorite, which is why I love Northen California so much. Our first night in Bali we stayed at a hotel near the motorcycle shop we knew we would be at in the morning. This was specifically planned to avoid the tourist area and be in a local environment. The street food scene CAME ALIVE as Rob and I walked around the neighborhood about 6pm. Lights came on, boards were taken off the food carts and the fires on the grill started to burn. We walked right through it all and loved it. Of course we had our fair share. Bali being predominantly Hindu, in contrast to nearly every other island in the country that’s predominantly Muslim, pork is readily available and we tried the local Babi Guling Warung that serves a pork plate with every single part of the animal done a different way.

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Rob was in heaven. I love seeing him so happy and it happens often when he eats! Bali is far more modern than where we have been in neighboring Lombok and Sumbawa. They only have taxis here – no horse carts or bemos, the micro buses. Fast food chains and large strip malls are in the city center. Multi-lane paved roads and an insane amount of traffic move you through the southern part of the island. The next morning we could not have been more excited to pick up our motorcycle for the next 3 weeks – a 250CC Kawasaki Versys with saddlebags and a trunk. This is a big bike for Indonesia because anything above this size gets taxed 3 times it’s original cost and is really expensive. We went through 3 islands just trying to find a 250 and had to come to Bali because nothing we could find anywhere else would fit both of us and our gear.

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We both ride with bandanas over our faces to protect our noses and not throat from the fuel, dirt and smoke that around every corner

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The faces behind the masks 😊

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Riding through beautiful roads

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Huge shoutout to Chris who owns the bike shop and could not have been nicer and more helpful. Made it a wonderful experience. With massive grins on our faces we loaded up the bike and drive an hour away to the town of Ubud. Touristy, yes, but Rob wanted to see a Balinese dance and why not?! We noticed pretty immediately that we were getting a lot of looks while riding because the bike we have is unlike almost any other you see on the road here in terms of size and the fact that it has saddlebags and a trunk. No one bats an eye if you’re carrying a 20 ft bamboo pole, a family of four or 20 chickens on your bike, but we are again the attraction. Doesn’t bother us at all. We are having an amazing time. The dance was nice and afterwards we ate at a touristy restaurant where Rob devoured a grilled duck. Seriously, this man has a self professed duck problem.

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Countryside view during ride for the day

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Diety statue at our hotel

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 🦆=😍 

I was happy we finally found a place where you could sit low at the table and take your shoes off, Asian style, even if it was touristy. Since alcohol is so available in Bali and they advertise Happy Hour everywhere to try to get tourists in, we might as well enjoy a cocktail or 2 with dinner. Once we go back to Sumbawa, alcohol, along with the Babi Guling, will nearly disappear. We decided to get out of the area first thing the next morning and head north where, honestly, there might be less white people and we could see the real Bali. We immediately noticed here that we had anonymity again, just blending in as any other tourist. No one was saying, “Hello Mister” or “Bule.” Our first full day with the “the beast,” our new nickname for the bike, was excellent. It was a Balinese dream.

From Ubud we drove North the next morning through the backroads. Rice fields are nothing new for us to see, but the terracing in Bali seems to be taken more seriously and makes for drop dead gorgeous scenery when riding through the countryside.  There is a huge rice terrace area where you can walk through them all.  The thing about Bali is that it really is beautiful, and they have turned everything into something that can be catered to tourists. So you will often find yourself admiring a view that also has a couple Western restaurants nearby with several huge air conditioned buses parked and crowds of tourists. Even so, you’re in awe of the beautiful terraced rice fields in front of you and the mountains behind. So picturesque.

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From the rice fields we went to a Hindu temple on a lake that also had crowds of buses and tourists, but couldn’t take away from just how beautiful the scenery was.  One of things that makes this island so enchanting are the Balinese temples, architecture, statues and offerings found EVERYWHERE.  The other islands we have been to are not like this at all and it makes Bali really aesthetically pleasing.

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As the day was growing late and we wanted to get to a hotel before dark, we chose one on Agoda while sitting on a bench and enjoying the view before taking off on the 20 minute ride around 2 more lakes. We had no idea that this would be our best view of the day, riding on a ridge with the lakes on one side and mountains on the other.  And of course a few monkeys on the road along the way!  Our hotel was tucked up in the mountains on the ridge with a neighboring hydrangea farm.  We felt as if we were in a dream as we enjoyed our “welcome tea” on the deck of the reception area and marveled at the mountains and lake before us.

Rob enjoying the view and his tea…

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As we walked back to see our room we could feel the mountain air begin to get cooler and I can’t explain how nice that felt. The first time we have felt cool mountain air in 6 weeks. Our “room” turned out to be a villa all on its own nestled on this ridge with a deck, fireplace, and living area.  Pleasantly shocked, we sat on the patio and discussed how amazing it is what $26 will get you in Bali! We began to refer to our room as the 4 seasons Bali. In “our previous life” when we took really expensive weekend vacations we often went to the 4S Vail and loved it there!  Our evening was magnificent.

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Happy guy at dinner 😊

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MY Jaw hit the floor when I saw we had a fireplace!

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Planning our bike trip by the fire

We enjoyed dinner in the restaurant while looking over our 2 big Bali and Flores maps.  Over a pitcher of Balinese sangria we made plans for island hopping the next 3 weeks.  Back in the room we lit a fire and left the doors and windows open to enjoy the cool breeze.  I realized I could see the Milky Way from our porch because of the altitude and how dark it was and I could not have been happier.  We both stepped outside marveling at the stars and knowing what a great day we shared.  The 4S Bali did not disappoint the next morning as they served us a beautiful breakfast on the porch of our villa. We leisurely enjoyed our coffee, fresh juice, delicious warm croissants and omelette before packing up the beast and hoping to return one day soon.

 

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Rob: We started our ride along a mountainous ridge road that took us by a very picturesque area that turned into a mini photo session for Lacy. We were high up in the cool misty mountain air above 3 beautiful lakes below. The natural beauty of subject and setting made for some great pics.

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Our couples date today was a long walk in the Botanical Garden above the Hindu Temple we visited the day before. With schoolchildren singing and playing games near the opening gate and fountains, we made our way up the mountain further into the main part of the gardens. The huge statues that looked like they were made of gold and white porcelain lead the way. Just like my hike on Moyo Island, our eyes were quickly drawn to the trees. There were so many different kinds and each of them supporting 10+ types of secondary plants that grew symbolically along the trunk, branches and in the canopy. Ferns, mosses, lichens and flowers all climbing everywhere up and down the tallest trees. Every inch of the supporting tree seemed alive and creating its own little ecosystem. We strolled around in the orchid gardens which were a display of Balinese architecture as much as they were of the flowers themselves. The higher up in the park ground we ventured, the more we found things just to ourselves. It was quiet and peaceful. Tranquility was what I needed before getting back out on the roads today. More on that shortly.

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About half way down our 3 hour ride from the mountains to the beach it was time for a break. Like a message from the heavens, a bright green building had a big blue banner proclaiming “Warung Babi Guling”.   Signs like this just can’t be ignored. My calling was a steaming plate of rice topped with cooked greens, chilis and roast sucking pig to the 8th degree. 8 variants of preparations of the little guy from the milk only feed meat, sausage, stewed offals and several kinds of cracklings. Our second leg of the ride landed us near Amed Beach. Paradise Palm was a $17 gem right on the ocean. This area is directly under the Agung Volcano that spewed ash for 4 days last fall evacuating the residents and resorts for 6 months. It is a very popular SCUBA diving area still struggling to come back to life. While Lacy lounged in the pool, I relaxed with an $11 massage on the deck just 10 feet from the ocean lapping up against the rocky beach. That evening, we found great warung food just a block or so away from the resort area for dinner. Coconut husk wood grilled chicken in a spicy peanut sauce has made its way into my soul. Lacy’s Mie Gorang was beautiful and tasty too. We truly are eating our way across Bali.

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Beach at the hotel where Ron enjoyed a massage 

 

The next morning’s drive was another W.K.S.T. (explanation soon) ride back up into the mountains from the coast. We arrived at the brow of a mountain which was the base of an age old walking path that would take us up through 6 Hindu Temples to arrive at the 7th, Lempuyang Luhur, at the top of the mountain. It took a little over 2 hours and 2700 stairs up to reach the top. Along the way, we were mixed in with kids, families and groups of men, all dressed in bright white shirts and colorful sarongs. As the faithful climbed, they stopped for prayers and to receive blessings at several of the Temples along the way. Everyone was full of smiles and greetings, colorful flowers tucked in everyone’s hair and in the men’s hats. The air was cool but humid so it was a difficult and steep trek for everyone. Your visual rewards were constant and as breathtaking as the feeling of spirituality surrounding you along the way. Offerings of food and flowers were carefully carried by the worshippers up along with water that would be blessed and returned back down the mountain. On our way back down from the top, what are the odds that an enterprising Bakso cart Lady had 2 Bintangs hidden in her orange juice and water bottles? Rejuvenated and refreshed we returned our borrowed sarongs and headed off on the bike with happy hearts.

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This evening, we planned to spend the night near the port of Pading Bai on the east coast of Bali in preparation for an early morning ferry to take the motorcycle back over to Lombok and Sumbawa. Nasi Jinggo, a Balinese rice dish served to-go style packaged in palm leaves and sold on street corners, along with potato fritters was for dinner. Like most rice dishes here, it is 80-90% rice topped with 4 or 5 little servings of spicy mackerel, shredded chicken and different veggies. The very aromatic spice in Nasi Jinggo is a unique blend of chilis, cloves, mint, cinnamon and salt. So jingging good!

W.K.S.T. defined: Driving, especially on a motorcycle, in Indonesia is a thrilling, challenging and terrifying experience for pilot and pillion. The roads themselves need constant alert level attention to navigate humps made by tree roots, holes of every size, dirt/gravel patches and so on. The 90 degree, S and U turns are typically unmarked and can be off camber creating some interesting turning angles. The living, breathing obstacles are the next level of challenge. Chickens and monkeys are the fastest moving, second to dogs, children and goats. More predictable but larger horses, cows and water buffalo fill out the tier. Goats thin as you get away from villages and toward more populated areas but they are replaced with swarms of scooters, horse carriages and motorized carts. Cars, small trucks, Bemos and large trucks barrel along at full speed, pass on blind corners and will squeeze up to 4 wide on a 2 lane road. Merging is the general rule here while on guard for being merged into, being merged over constantly and being aware that you may need to yield to someone merging without even looking when they pull in front of you or anyone from either side of the road. Stop lights, when they exist, are just suggestions. Some intersections are designed like a traffic circle, but without the same rules, but most are just an X where you slow dow just enough to avoid a collision. Traffic lines on the road? Perfunctory suggestions at best or a false sense of security if you dare to pay attention to them. Passing is done as a very dangerous ritual of mutual trust. On a 2 lane road, a car can pass a truck into your lane from the opposite direction. If they can’t make it around the truck in time, it is oncoming traffic’s job to slow down to let things continue to flow. A motorcycle can pass a car that is passing a truck. Once again it’s the oncoming traffic that yields or gets run off your own side of the road. Cars or motorcycles can pass anything else if there are solely motorbikes in the oncoming traffic. They do their best to leave you that paint stripe next to the edge of the road. You have to be careful to not slow unexpectedly but be ready to hammer the brakes at any moment. One of the few ways to pass where you feel the most safe and protected is to follow a truck passing another truck. This method is so popular that trains of trucks and cars will fall in line using the power of sheer mass to make their way down the center of any road. The power of mass is also a great way to use the better roads to speed along quickly. I’ve found that tucking behind an SUV cruising about as fast as the road will let them is the only way I can use 5th or 6th gear. I don’t know how, but it seems to work the vast majority of the time. We have covered a lot of ground in the last 5 days and only seen one minor fender bender. When we rented the motorcycle, Chris, the owner of Bali Adventure Motorcycles made sure we had new tires and brand new brake pads. I’m using every bit of them! Lacy has been amazing as our Navigator. I couldn’t get through the endless Kilometers of country roads without her calling out; “90 degree right in 200M”, “2 hairpins starting left ahead”, “Y to the right in 2 Klicks” or simply just “Cow!” So have you guessed that W.K.S.T. stands for White Knuckle Sphincter Tightness? There is even a strong residual sphincter tightness factor that can last long after the ride is over. Oh… I almost forgot. You drive on the left side of the road so you have to reverse all of your natural instincts on the road, too.

Fingers & Toes crossed that all continues to go well as the views from the places we can go anytime we want with the bike gets us further off the tourist track and is making it possible to go to more remote areas that that we just couldn’t access without our bike, the Beast from Bali. All motorcycles should have a name, you know.

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Thanks for bearing with us on some of these longer posts with a minion photos. We would like to eventually print all these out in color and make a travel journal for ourselves. You’re along for the ride…😉

Recap of Week 5 in Indonesia: The Backpacking Portion of our Trip Commences. “Bemo me up Scottie”

This last week was completely different than any other since we arrived in Indonesia as we left the comfort our Kenawa Earthship, donned our backpacks, and began to explore more of these 17,000 islands…. 

Lacy: Monday morning Rob and I packed our belongings back up into our large backpacks, cooked one last meal on the front porch and said goodbye to our home for the last month. It felt a little strange to take the boat away from Kenawa that last time, but we were both very happy and satisfied with the month we spent on the island and ready to begin to explore more of the country.  Suji, as always, was a great help and assisted us in getting our ferry tickets to Lombok and boarding the large vessel for the 2 1/2 hour ride to the next island. We were both really tired since we hadn’t slept well the night before; it became very humid and sticky in the middle of the night and kept us up.  Since we have no timeframe that we need to worry about, we decided that we would make a decision when the ferry got to Lombok about whether we would stay in a hotel by the harbor or take the 2 hour bus ride across the island to a bigger city where we would try to score a large motorcycle.  As we docked, I made the call to stay in East Lombok.  I had been having very bad headaches for a few days already (which is highly unusual for me) and just wanted to get somewhere and rest.  Nicola & Patricia, who camped on the island with us the week before, sent us a message that they stayed at a dive hotel 15 minutes from the harbor and we decided to head there as well.  Getting off the ferry we were ambushed by people asking us where we want to go.  I had prepared some new Indonesian words and phrases for just such an encounter, but what I didn’t plan on was them being so aggressive and ready to just get us on the back of a bike that they wouldn’t even pay attention to where we said we were going.  This situation could have gone better. I showed them on the map where we wanted to go and agreed on a price at which point they pointed for me to get on the back of one motorcycle and Rob another.  Rob, with his huge backpack on, got on the back of a bike with what looked like a 9 year old driving it in a skull and crossbones bandana.  I was right behind him with what turned out to be a crazy and aggressive driver.  I was following Rob for about ten minutes before I couldn’t see him anymore.  I didn’t like that at all.  We were separated and to make matters worse my guy pulled over on the side of the road and started complaining that the hotel was so far away and he wanted more money.  I could feel my blood starting to boil and and kept saying in Indonesian that he saw the hotel on a map, agreed to a price and WHERE IS MY HUSBAND?!  After a few minutes we continued driving, having gotten no resolution because he didn’t speak any English and apparently my  Indonesian wasn’t getting through to him; there are hundreds of dialects in Indonesia and while Bahasa Indonesian is the official language taught in schools to unify the country it does not guarantee that everyone does speak it.  East Lombok is a smaller, more traditional area and I later learned they primarily speak their own dialect where we stayed so I think my Bahasa may have been lost on him. Thank heavens we saw Rob and his driver on the side of the road.  Instant relief.  We all continued riding when 4.5km from the hotel they stopped AGAIN.  This time at a gas station trying to get more money out of us.  I do not take well to these kinds of games and wasn’t budging on the price.  Rob, however, was hot and tired and I had to think of him too so I started negotiating, eventually offering $60,000 Rp. (Keep in mind all this is so cheap and it wasn’t the cost of the bike that I was mad about, but the fact that they separated  us and then stopped 5 min before the hotel to demand more money- it was the principle of the matter!) When the leader of what came to be known as “the motorcycle shakedown” still wanted $150,000 Rp for what started off as a $20,000 Rp ride Rob & I agreed that we need to turn around and walk away.  They were absolutely taking advantage of us and while we were willing to pay a little more just be done with this BS we weren’t going to give into him entirely.  So we walked away, and naturally, they came up behind us and said they would take the $60,000 since we had said $60,000 or nothing at all for this nonsense. ($60k Rp is about $4 so this definitely was not about the money…well for us at least).  I wanted to push my driver off the bike into traffic at that point. A few minutes later we turned down a side street, saw the sea in front of us, and pulled up to the East Lombok Dive Hotel. I could not have been happier to see those guys ride off.

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Rob on the porch of the hotel

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View from Rob’s seat

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Same view with kids playing on beach

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Walking down the black sands…

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We didn’t realize before arriving that the hotel was only 2 rooms so we really lucked out that one was available.  Jeremie, French, and his wife, Maya, Indonesian, own the hotel that sits on a black sand beach tucked away in a tiny village with amazing views of the sea and islands to the west. This was the perfect place for us to stop and relax for an evening.  Rob and I took a walk into the small, very traditional village and said hello to all the kids while seeking food.  It was nearly 4 and Rob was starving since we hadn’t eaten since breakfast.  My headache wasn’t going to let me eat just yet. Thankfully a Bakso cart saved the day.  After a fabulous .50 cent meal and a satisfied smile on Rob’s face we walked back to the hotel.  Jeremie & Maya have a 5 month old with whom I played and got in a little “baby time.”  Their 2 year old daughter is precious and very cute playing on the beach with all the other kids.  It’s refreshing to see young children playing on the beach freely without parents hovering over, naked and rolling in the sand.  This is just life for them.  For sunset, we held hands and walked along the beach.  We were completely in awe when we unexpectedly saw the moon rise – big, red and reflecting in the water creating quite a scene.  We spent a bit of time that evening relaxing on the porch talking with Jeremie and Jess.  Jess is staying in the other room for 2 weeks and getting her advance dive certification.  Earlier in the day, Jeremie mentioned that they planned to dive the next day and asked if we wanted to dive as well.  I have never been diving.  Rob has many times in his life, but felt he could use a refresher.  And just like that, with the beautiful view and lure of spending time in the water, we decided to dive the next day and stay another night.

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The next morning we woke up refreshed having enjoyed our first night’s sleep with a fan in a month (true, we did have the 2 nights of AC at Whales & Waves)! It was divine! After a light breakfast at 7 we completed a dive skills training on the beach.  I felt comfortable with the tank, gear, and breathing under water and was excited for the actual dive.  3 motorcycles with riders arrived at 10 to take us, the dive bags full of gear and 3 scuba tanks to the harbor where we would take a boat out to dive by Gili Kondo.  Gili means tiny island and there are many “Gilis”  throughout the country, some more popular with tourists than others.  Not surprising, yet another gorgeous island.  One of the bikes was loaded with 3 scuba tanks in the footwell of the scooter.  Only in Indonesia!  The drivers of these bikes were very cautious and a joy to ride with for the beautiful 20 minute trek to the harbor.  Setting out on the boat and putting my wetsuit on again I was excited to finally see bigger fish and more of the underwater landscape than I had been able to while snorkeling.  As we began our dive Jeremie was with me the entire time and I was surprised how much my ears hurt.  I eventually cleared them and was able to keep diving lower, but almost immediately, panic and fear started to settle in for me.  I was ready to end the dive 5 minutes after it began, but this wasn’t just my dive.  Rob was excited for it too.  And Jess was diving as part of her certification so I tried to steady my breath and keep going.  The deeper we went the more “out of control” I kept feeling.  Being a first time diver I wasn’t able to regulate my buoyancy well with my breathing and felt I was either getting too close to the coral or floating back up.  At one point I did start to float up and became very very panicked.  Again, I steadied my breath and kept going forward, but I was petrified by this sense of being out of control under the water.  I couldn’t enjoy anything and kept hoping it would end soon.  At one point I began to cry in my mask.  As if knowing, Jeremie came and grabbed me and held on to me the rest of the dive.  I was so relieved to be with him, the expert.  I was holding in so many emotions the entire 45 minutes we were diving that when we broke the surface and Jeremie asked everyone how it was I said I was petrified the entire time and began to cry.  Everyone was shocked.  They couldn’t tell I was panicked at all and couldn’t believe I was reacting like that.  What I didn’t realize until the next day was that being under the water like that triggered the fear I felt when I was swept down the river in the Sierras last year when we were hiking the PCT.  Tumbling down the raging river and trying to survive I had no control over what was going in the water and nearly died.  That’s why I was so panicked.  I haven’t been afraid of water since then, but being submerged like that diving brought that traumatic moment back for me and unfortunately, I did not get to enjoy the dive as I expected.  Once I got the cry out, though, the day continued to be a great one.  45 minutes of panic isn’t going to ruin my day! After we all climbed back in the boat we went to an area where there is a mangrove forest growing out of the water.  Naturally there was a shaded platform (as there always is in this sunny country) connected to a jetty and there we ate a delicious meal that Maya packed for us all.  Following lunch, Jeremie and Jess went on another dive and Rob and I passed up snorkeling to take a nap on the boat instead.  We enjoyed another lovely evening on the porch of the hotel.  Before the sun went down and the evening call to prayer took the boys from the beach to the mosque, we watched them play football.

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Eventually the sun set and red moon rose beautifully again before us as we chatted and played cards on the porch with Jess.  Maya served us an excellent dinner and we went to bed saying what a really great day we had.  We planned to travel to the other side of the island the following morning, but with no pressure to be anywhere at any certain time, and just living life day by day, we again decided over coffee to stay another night.  What’s the rush when you have this gorgeous view and wonderful hospitality?!  We easily passed the day along watching some of the younger boys play on the beach, walking along the shore at high tide,  packing our bags for the journey the next day (yep, the one we kept saying would be “the next day”) as well as a box of things to ship back home so we can minimize our gear for a motorcycle.  Jeremie let us borrow his motorcycle to go into town to the post office but we missed it by five minutes! No great loss though because we managed to see both a funeral procession and wedding procession in the streets while out.  For the funeral, they carry the covered body through the streets on a platform held by several men.  The wedding procession had loud music, officers directing traffic and a beautifully decorated bride on display as the festivities slowly moved down the street. When we stopped to take money from an ATM, for the first time since we arrived, we were pretty surprised to see armed guards with machine guns patrolling the bank.  We hadn’t seen that level of security prior, but we felt safe taking money ;).  For dinner, we walked through the village and a mile down the main road to the warung where Maya had gotten us lunch from the day before.  We nearly gave up the search as we walked and looked for it, but were so glad we didn’t because we had such a great experience there.  Warungs we have been to before were always smaller, just carts on the side of the road with a table and some benches; however, this one was in a building and had 2 rooms and Beyonce playing.  She’s clearly universal! We ordered several skewers of chicken hearts (which I tried but didn’t love so Rob at them all) with a very tasty, fresh & spicy chicken fried rice that was easily the best we have had here.  The local kids waved at us as we ate and we watched the local scene of people stopping by to pick up dinner, have a coffee and a kid pull up on a motorcycle to borrow a scythe. Upon finishing our meal we ordered 2 additional to go (we love how they wrap to go food – rice, vegetables, meat and hot sauce – all in a triangle shape in either a piece of thick brown paper or banana leaf) and walked back home before dark.  We did indeed leave the next morning, thanking Jeremie for their wonderful hospitality and letting him know we plan to return on our bike trip through Lombok.  We quickly caught a bemo, a local mode of transportation: microbus with about 15 seats that zips through the streets, to take us on the 2 1/2 journey across Lombok. It was a beautiful ride and we completely lucked out that the bemo wasn’t crowded. In fact, it was near empty most of the time – a few chickens and 5 pound bags of rice included.

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Walking through the village to the bemo with our package to mail

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Bemo!

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Bemo #2

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The dirt and exhaust from the walk to dinner day before & multiple recent motorcycle rides made my throat hurt a bit so I rode with a little protection in the bemo since the door was open the entire time

Rob: Senggigi Beach on Lombok Island is less of a tourist town than many places in this region that are not named Bali, but to Lacy and I, it is still the most touristic area we have been since we arrived over 5 weeks ago. We came here to try to locate a larger motorcycle for the 2 of us plus our 2 backpacks. We spent the afternoon roaming the tourist spots for bikes. There were a lot available and 10x more here than in any other place on Lombok. The catch was that they were all small 110-125cc automatic scooters designed for day trips. 200-250cc with saddlebags or racks is what we really need. * 250cc bikes are the largest allowed here.

We resigned to have a beer and some lunch. We picked a small restaurant and bar. Lacy’s pizza with real mozzarella was her reward for the trek to get here. During lunch we decided to just stay for a few days and then make our way to Bali where we know we can rent a larger bike for island hopping. The restaurant was in the process of a soft opening of their own little hotel. Since we were one of their very first guests, Lacy negotiated a 900k IDR rate ($21 per night) for a 3 night stay in a brand new room with a comfy bed, real sheets, duvet, cable TV and AC. Happy hour started later and Large Bintang Beers were on special. Yeah, we could hang here for a few days.

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That’s a happy man watching the news ….with the call to prayer in the background.  This is the first bed that we have had in 5 weeks with an actual blanket and not just a top sheet.  I was happily snuggled for 3 nights.

We took our Senggigi stay pretty easy enjoying walks, drinks, cheap massages and lots of great local food from the Warungs.

Tourism is good and not-so-much for certain areas. It raises the standard of living for the locals, keeps the beaches clean and provides access to the great natural sights for many people, but the competition for the tourist Dollars, Euros, Yen and Rupiahs can create an unpleasant experience for everyone too. You can’t simply ignore all the pleas to buy this or that. The hawking of the vendors for boat rides and the like was incessant.

Our second day was spent mostly at the beach in a little bar area of a very nice resort. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful view on the beach to the little boat harbor with the expensive resort villas just behind us. Jose Cuervo Margaritas were a very nice way to enjoy the beach and the day. There is a 23 country joint Naval exercise going on here in Indonesia at the moment and the resort was gearing up for a big VIP celebration that evening. It was fun to see Navy people from several countries all beginning to arrive through the day. We were very tempted to have a sit down dinner in the resort’s restaurant. Lamb or a steak would have been about 1/2 the price of an equal menu back in Dallas. Instead, we walked down the beach to a local place cooking right out on the sand under several tarps. There were 30-40 beach mats spread out across the sand to form their dining room. Most places here like this really just have one specialty that they make. Sate Bulayak is a version of a chicken and beef grilled satay served with the spicy peanut sauce we both love so much. It also comes with rice that is cooked in palm leaves. Sitting on the beach with my beautiful Istri, while we both have mouthfuls of amazing food and spicy salty tears in our eyes was a pretty great way to round out the afternoon. Our late afternoon lunch was 30k IDR or $2.25 each. It made our $6.30 Margaritas seem outrageously expensive. Ahhh. But, what a great mix though.

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Sate Bulayak on the beach

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Our next day was about exploring a little more. We took a long hot walk to check out a different Sate Bulayak place that sat on the edge of a cliff with the beach and waves crashing below. We also discovered a spicy grilled local corn on the cob. They cooked it right on top of smoldering palm “hair” from the exterior of a coconut. It was slathered in salty, spicy buttery goodness that ran down your chin and arm while you tried to munch every kernel. Wow. I could eat that 3 times a day. One of the nicer massage places was right next to our hotel. We stopped in so I could get a 1 hour massage (my second). Lacy wanted hers for 2 hours. 210k IDR total. $17. Senggigi has been a movable feast for us so shortly we were hungry again. This time we sought out another specialty Warung that served Ayam Taliwang. Taliwang is a city we had visited back on Sumbawa but we didn’t know exactly what the dish would be other than Ayam (chicken), probably grilled. Previously, I have written about the difference between farmed chicken and “village” chicken. When our plates arrived, we learned that Ayam Taliwang was definitely the village version. One whole tiny chicken each. The only thing not grilled and on the plate were the beak and claws.

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Sate Bulayak and accompanying rice wrapped in leaf

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This was our view as we sat on the side of the road eating Sate Bulayak and corn

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Ayam Taliwang – head and all.  This did not turn out to be one of our better meals, but you have to try something new to find the ones you love

Late night snacks here became a quick tradition for us. A few Warungs stay open late to accommodate the tourists and locals out at midnight. All 3 nights we were in Senggigi I made a run to one in particular. It was run by a local Father/Daughter team who made some of the best fried noodles, Mei Goreng, we have had during our time in Indonesia. They were just yummier, kind of like a Whatburger or In-N-Out at midnight versus any other cheeseburger in the daytime.

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The daughter got a good laugh over Rob coming back 3 nights in a row

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Scene of the crime 😉

One other nice routine for me was that Happy Hour in the bar coincided with the opening of the stock market, NY time, since we have a 12 hour time difference. Every evening, I took a little bit of time to myself to have a fresh cold Bintang while flipping back and forth between screens on my phone to read early news, earnings and quotes. I even sent a quick selfie to Papa Romero knowing he would be turning on CNBC at about the same time half a world away. On days when I have enough connectivity and data to “watch” the market open, Lacy usually leaves me be for about 30 minutes or so and then peeks at my phone to see if it has more green numbers than red.

The last morning and last meal before we headed out for our boat to Bali was a simple one. Our hotel has opened a little bakery. Fresh croissants with real butter (first butter eaten since arriving!) and coffee. I didn’t really start writing with the intent of making this such a foodie post, but it’s just so interesting to eat the local cuisine here. I feel for the people who do nothing but eat a far away version of Pub food wherever they go and who haven’t learned to become Travelers vs Tourists.

Lacy: I am finishing up our post on Monday afternoon in Bali over yet more Mie Goreng at a local warung.  Our travels here yesterday were great on a fast boat that had a bit of a party vibe.  Not surprisingly, we enjoyed some more local cuisine for dinner – which varies greatly here from the other islands and most importantly picked up our  motorcycle today!  We have wheels for next 3 weeks and have a minimum of 4 large islands planned with a couple small ones along the way, naturally.  Stay tuned!

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New wheels with saddlebags and a trunk!

A few shots from beautiful our boat ride to Bali...

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Deck of the boat that was a bit of a party scene with music blaring and drinks flowing. I didn’t drink until a group of young kids offered me a slug off their bottle of Johnny Walker Black…why not have one little drink 😉 That’s our luggage wrapped under the green tarps and Bali in the background to the right.

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Gili Air, 1 of 3 stops on boat before ours

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Lombok in the background

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Gili Air

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Gili T, also known as the “party island”

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Rob rode in the AC and enjoyed a beer or 2 on the boat while I rode on the deck and enjoyed the wide open view

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Bali approaching in the distance

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