From Bali through Java to Sumatra

8- 17 December 2007 Bali to Sumatra

First stop was Ubud, a mass of art shops set picturesquely within the tiered rice paddies of the Bali countryside. Ubud is a real centre for Balinese art and culture and thus is a huge magnet for Westerners it is growing at break net speed. We stayed a bit out of town in a home stay with superb views of the paddies and a lot of noise from the ducks who waddle around them! 

We didn't get to stay as long as we'd like but headed on north to Kintamani another active volcano. We hadn't really planned to, but ended up signing up for another 3am wake up call to climb it to see the sunrise over Lombok. We stayed in a little hotel just on the lake.  It was actually quite a tough climb ..probably not for any mountaineers reading this but I was struggling a bit. It is  only approx 1100 meters  above sea level so not as high as Bromo but there are  no real steps and the path is fairly basic, so  we had to scramble up mountain goat style. I had to hold the guide's hand throughout (I was not alone most guides came with a terrified hand holding westerner attached!)  It was a 3 hour climb to get there for the 6am sunrise but the view when we finally got there (and I got my breath back) was superb. The guides cooked breakfast (including eggs boiled in the stem from the volcano) and soon  we were innundated by the monkeys that live in the crater of the volcano who are obviously partial to these early morning feasts! Then for the walk along the crater followed by the climb down which was even worse for me  ..we made it though and I had a wonderful feeling of achievement to replace the feeling I'd lost in both my legs!

We re-traced our steps to spend a further night in Medewi where Andrew managed to get a couple of good surfs in, and caught the ferry back to Java. After a night in Jember (nice enough little town in East Java) we did a big drive to Solo then on to Yogyakarta, and Borobudur. This is an amazing Buddhist temple, almost 2,000 years old. It comprises six square bases topped by 3 circular ones and is all in the open air. It was buried by ash following a volcanic eruption and only in the 19th century when Raffles (of Singapore fame he was governor of Java at the time) organized its re-discovery did they realize what a colossal structure it was. We are into the wet season here -much like Darwin sunshine interspersed with showers of immense force- and we were in a middle of a down pour when we undertook our tour!  It was really interesting with many narrative panels telling stories around it, as well as over 400 Buddha images. Apparently the sunrise is amazing but we will have to come back again for that experience! Borobudur is a mass of souvenir sales men/women (also selling umbrellas which was a smart move!) and you have to fight your way through crowds of them.  

After leaving we drove until 6am the next morning to arrive in down town Jakarta, as we were very keen to miss the rush hour. We only had a days rest there before leaving the next morning. The alarm was set for 5am but unfortunately went off at 3am as Andrew's phone was still on Australian time which I hadn't noticed when I set it as the alarm..but maybe it was a good move as after asking directions we got a police escort out, without which I'm sure we would still be driving around now!   By the time we reached Merak to catch the 6am ferry to Sumatra we were really tired. Once the 2 hour ferry trip was underway we climbed into the back of the car and where both asleep within seconds..and we failed to awake until the ferry was ready to unload so, somewhat disheveled  we climbed down the back ladder to a crowd of about 20 open mouthed on lookers!

First stop in Sumatra was Banadarlampung, where we got maps and information from the very helpful tourist information centre about the best route to take. We had 3 days to make the journey up the coast to Padang from where we were flying to Kuala Lumpar on Monday 17 December to renew our visas, and decided to go up the west coast beach road through the Bengkulu province. The problem began the next day when going up a fairly steep hill the car lost power. We ended up crawling on to the next little town where the mechanic diagnosed that water had got into our diesel (probably caused by unclean fuel) causing damage to the fuel injectors. He managed to put a band aid on it, but we will have to fit new injectors in Padang. This delay (quite a few hours) meant we were a bit tight time wise to get our flight.

The drive was very scenic the west coast of Sumatra being very unspoilt. It comprised miles of vpure white beaches, set against wild jungle and little fishing villages where life hadn't changed much for 100's of years. The tsunami did a great deal of damage here as had the earthquake earlier this year so many of the houses had been destroyed. The people were very friendly and we were a bit of a travelling circus drawing huge crowds whenever we hit town!

You have to be careful driving as there are children/goats/chicken/cows everywhere. The motorbikes weave in and out of the traffic a bit alarmingly too. It is amazing what fits on one, usually the whole family, and we saw one with 2 live goats head to toe, I tried to get it on  camera but missed it. It is also quite usual to see a dozen or so chickens being carried this way!

We finally got to the Hotel Benjamin in Padang at 10pm. Chris the owner remembered us from before. He speaks very good English having lived in Melbourne and he agreed to take our car to the mechanic whilst we are in KL. So, to bed at 12pm (after a much needed meal hadn't stopped to eat all day) and we set the alarm for 5am to catch our early morning flight to KL. Just made it!!