21.03.2017 - 14.04.2017 30 °C
Always a pleasure coming to Asia! A welcome committee of around 20 taxi drivers is happy to see us walking through the arrivals door, one more eager than the next about bringing us to our destination. After travelling western countries it takes a little time to adjust, but soon enough we’ve negotiated our way to Uluwatu for half the price that was offered at first. When agreed we are handed over to another guy, who calls one of his sons, who brings a friend and takes us to the car and into the dark night we go. One of them is quite the singer and very young so no problem for him to karaoke some Katy Perry on the way. Welcome to Bali!
Once letting go of our hectic Australian travel schedule we slowed things down with chilling by the pool, enjoying delicious Indonesian food and the ‘occasional’ large Bintang. Mother nature made sure we didn’t stay in bed too long by throwing a 5.5 earthquake our way one morning. It only lasted around 20 seconds, but quite a scary experience nonetheless! Luckily the damage was limited apart from a temple wall collapsing nearby.
In front of the cliffs of south Bali many experienced surfers face the enormous waves coming from the Indian Ocean, which is a lot of fun to watch from the coast with a beer in hand. We also visited Uluwatu temple, which is beautifully positioned on top of those cliffs as well and populated by macaque apes. Some of them were quite aggressive and fond of Havaianas flip-flops, but Isabella fought back and kept hers.
Next we found ourselves in Ubud, the spiritual heart of Bali and home of many a Yoga school and massage place. Having our first Balinese massages and some delicious street food, we liked this small (but busy!) town very much. But don’t think we only took it easy though, we explored the rice fields in Campuhan hills, visited a beautiful water temple and hiked up the volcano Mt. Batur in the middle of the night. Goal was to see the sunrise, which was unfortunately clouded and rainy but beautiful nonetheless. The breakfast stealing monkeys on top were a lot of fun as well Most intense was squashing a huntsman spider the size of Isabella’s hand, who had moved into our room. Afterwards spirituality could resume – Michael: 1, Spider: 0.
We tried to book our onward travel for the 28th of March but somehow couldn’t find anything, which was very weird. It turned out to be because the Balinese celebrate Nyepi, a.k.a. “Silent Day” and on this day the whole island is sort of… closed. No one is allowed to leave their house, to eat, to make fire or have entertainment. Even the international airport in Denpasar stops service for the day. The locals use this day for reflection (officially), and to get over their hangover from the celebrations called “Ogoh Ogoh” the night before (unofficially). The celebrations take place in a big parade with self-made evil puppets, being carried by the people and guided with music and dance. The puppets are meant to attract all evil and negativity and after the parade they are burned, thereby destroying the evil and start the new year fresh. Great fun and a lucky coincidence that we were here to see it!
Next our journey took us east, to the small village of Tulamben. It pretty much only exists because diving in front of the coast is AWESOME here. Just a little swim from the beach lies the 120 meter long shipwreck of the USAT Liberty, an old World War II freighter. Seeing the overgrown hull of the ship appear in front of you out of the blue is an incredible sight, made even better by so many different animals living in and around it. Special highlights for us were the green turtles (3x!) eating lots of sea grass, but also the octopus, pygmy seahorse, moray eels and mantis shrimp around the drop off were amazing.
Indonesia has around 17.000 islands, and we decided to check some of the other ones as well before our 30-day visa expired. The “fastboat” was armed with 4 big outboard engines, and after some starting issues (lots of beeps and hitting switches) crossed the channel between Bali and Lombok in no time. Just before the coast of Lombok lie three small islands called the Gili’s, all of which can be walked around in under 2 hours. No cars or scooters are allowed here, with horse carts and (electro) bikes taking their place. So much quieter!
We hung out a lot with Davina, an interesting woman from Spain who is taking a break from her job in humanitarian aid. Our days consisted of waking up with the most delicious banana pancakes you can imagine, followed by snorkeling straight from the beach or just hanging out. Because it was still rain season here, huge rain showers would come by every now and then. No problem though – reading a book on the bungalow terrace is very relaxing as well. We both finished around seven books since we left, probably more than in the last three years put together! Things got so relaxed here in fact that Michael even tried his hands on a Yoga lesson.
Moving on to Lombok, we met Joram and Naomi in our shared taxi to Tetebatu. This tiny village in the shadow of mighty volcano Mt. Rinjani turned out to be a great place to see both beautiful nature and get an insight into the local people’s lives. With the four of us and led by a local guide (over 70 years old but still fitter than us ) we had a great day hiking through rice fields, chili plantations and jungle to a secluded waterfall where we went for a refreshing swim. On the way back in the forest we spotted both wild grey macaques and rare silvered leaf monkeys up in the trees, more afraid of us than looking to steal our flip-flops. Good to see some natural behavior.
Our homestay had a small restaurant, which was a gathering place for young people in the village during the evening. Usually jamming on guitar and drums started around seven and went on well into the night. One evening we joined a birthday celebration for one of the guys with much singing and drinking local rice wine. Many Coldplay and U2 covers later we ended with a last go at Bob Marley’s “Stand up for your rice!” Maybe it is time to pick up a guitar somewhere again…
We joined Davina, Joram and Naomi again on the southside of Lombok in Kuta. This place should definitely not be confused with Kuta on Bali, which is the Lloret del Mar/ Ibiza for Australians. Instead, Kuta Lombok is one of those special places that you know is not going to be the same in five years time. A small laidback village filled with surf shops, bars and restaurants, with the most amazing beaches within reach on all sides. Most pieces of land around the village were for sale, sold or already being cleared to build huge resorts and villas…
For now however… what a place! Everyone gets around on scooters here, with usually two hooks on one side to put a surfboard in for transport. Scootering around to our hearts content, we visited the prettiest beaches and lived on coconuts and dragon fruit juice. After sunset we met up with everyone to enjoy dinner followed by drinks at one of the rotating live music parties around the village. We had noticed a very thin dog living in the green area before our homestay, and found her with no less than six puppies one evening. Needless to say we’ve been feeding her rice every day so she could take care of her babies. Puppy love! <3
Our visit to Kuta also coincided with the Tour de Lombok, a cycling tournament that somehow even has the same logo as the one in France. It was really cool to see them whooshing down through the hills around the village, dodging scooters and holes in the asphalt.
As there were also some beaches good for beginners here we decided to put our surfing skills to the test! During our lesson (Isabella caught the first wave she tried!) we met Bram and Anja, another nice Dutch couple that made the same decision we did – quitting jobs and travelling. Over some drinks in the bus bar deep conversations followed… where to go, great things to do and… what will the future bring…?
We came across this cool collaboration between an Indonesian and German artist. For everyone who wants some more impressions ---------> clickerdiclick!
Michael & Isabella