The Riau Islands to Bali and back!

Week 3   Thursday 20 October 2007 - Friday 26 October

Spent most of our last day in Singapore in a very noisy internet/gaming café trying to get this website up and running. We had all sorts of difficulties to do with the PC not recognizing our new software so we couldn't use our USB, finally got it sorted and rushed to get the ferry.  We were planning to go to Bintan Island and accordingly we'd gone to the ferry terminal and enquired about the prices so we struggled in with an hour to go to book our ticket …to find that the ferries to Bintan went from across town and that we were at the Batam only section…you'd think they'd have mentioned that when we went to get the prices!!

We finally got the ferry to Bantam …..first view of Indonesia not favourable the LP is scathingly about Bantam and we would have to concur, (if anything they were too kind!) after getting ripped off in a taxi we spent the night in an absolute fleapit too tired to look elsewhere and collapsed into sleep (or tried to in my case!) we stuck around the next day long enough to change some money and get ripped off for another taxi to get the ferry in time to catch the morning boat to Tinjang Pinang on Bintan.

Getting off the boat we were somewhat encumbered by all the luggage and therefore easy prey for the touts …particularly as the only tourists (not Asian anyway) we were very visible and about 4 different lots pounced on us and began a tug of war trying to get us into their respective taxis.    Feeling the need for a few days r & r, as Singapore whilst great fun hadn't given us much chance to relax we opted to go to the quieter   East of the Island. We were taken by the taxi driver (of course we were ripped off a bit….but we bargained down to what we later found was only double the rate for a local!) to a lovely range of beach cottages which whilst  basic were really  relaxing.  We gazed out on the Pantai Trikora Islands with the beach just at our doorstep. Just down the road was an old traditional fishing village Teluk Bakau with houses on stilts over the water, truly lovely. We spent 3 days relaxing before we were ready to step back into the frey. 

We returned to  the old port of Tanjung Pinang which  is a thriving little town  with some lovely old parts and a huge market as well as a busy working harbour. We spent the night there prior to getting the ferry in a cheap hotel on the waterfront. It was ok but very noisy. Our room backed onto the TV room and that was on full blast nearly all night with people shouting to be heard over it when they all finally went to bed I had about an hour of rest prior to early morning prayers being called at the Mosque. Then we had an hour of what sounded like a cat being dis-emboweled .  We showed up for the 6am ferry to Tanjung Buton very bleary eyed.

 Thursday 25 October 2007

The ferry was packed and we settled in for the 8 hour journey to Tanjung Buton, the plan being to catch the bus from there to Pekanbaru. The ferry was bloody freezing, the other passengers obviously knew this as though it was very hot they all got on with big coats, apparently the air conditioning runs at -1 degrees in order to keep the motors cool. We sat in our shorts and thongs with our teeth chattering!!   En route we passed under the suspended bridge stretching from Batam to Pulau Setoko. It is an exact replica of Glebe Island bridge in Sydney and stretches 1.2km interlinking the islands, quite impressive. They showed a movie Die Hard 4, presumably for our benefit as it was in English with no sub-titles and we were the only English speakers.  Not really my cup of tea but Andrew was into it when suddenly we had to get off, not sure why, we think as we were the only ones going through to Buton they decided to cut out this stop, very confusing though we were suddenly running across the terminal to catch out next ferry being yelled at and herded like cattle, 5 minutes heads up would have been nice! 

Getting off at Buton we were wary. We made an Indonesian friend Are (Ar-ree) in Bintan who told us (not that we needed telling) that the ferry and bus terminals would be full of  "very bad mens" with an eye to pinching our stuff so we were very paranoid about all our still quite sizeable luggage. Are had also told us that the fare to Pekanbaru should be no more than 30, 0000 rupees. We were initially charged 80,000 but stuck to our guns and eventually paid 30,000. Thanks Are, for once we dodged the foreigner tax!

The bus was an experience. From being below freezing we plunged into 30 degrees plus, as we bumped along having a bone shaking experience. The people on the bus were lovely. Like all Indonesians they are very open inquisitive people and love to practice their English. We just wished we were better at Indonesian, "Good morning" and "Thank you" being the limit so far!  Spent the night in Pekanbaru an oil based  industrial town, pleasant enough but not really for the traveller. We stayed in a slightly better class of hotel, first hot shower in a week …..luxury!!......A much better night's sleep.

Friday 26 Oct 2007

Anxious not to be late we dragged ourselves from bed at 6am to be ready at the bus terminal at 6.45am to catch the 7am bus to Bukittingi.  We were told the bus would go in "10 minutes" an hour later we finally boarded. There were only 5 passengers, and as the friendly second bus driver (due to take the drive back) told us they could not leave before they had a minimum of 8 passengers to pay the fuel, 450,000 rupees to fill the tank. This meant that we bumped around in a circles for the next 3 hours while the bus boys hallowed out to drum up more customers. Another hour in bed would have been good!!

It was made up for by again the extreme friendliness of all the passengers, and the extreme beauty of the scenery, through the mountains of central Sumatra. We drove through valleys carved by rivers flowing into flood plains of rice fields which had been tiered for several thousand years. The paddy fields were full of workers and buffalo.  Even an hour spent when the truck broke down (a broken suspension leaf they just removed it and re-bolted) was pleasant as we chatted to the fellow passengers as well as we could with the language barrier.  As said before they are  very inquisitive about everything and ask questions constantly, I keep being asked why am I so tall, (not easy to answer particularly given my language skills!) and Andrew's curly fair hair is a source of amazement/merriment!  The bus stops as and when needed people just come out and flag it down and various hawkers of food/drink and buskers come and go so it is a bit of a moving market.

Finally arrived in Bukittingi at 4.30pm. It is a gorgeous town. With a population of over 100,000, it is 930 metres above sea level and was initially a Dutch stronghold in the 19th century and the site of the Indonesian rebels' first government in 1958. It has beautiful views and is an interesting mix of architectural styles incorporating Dutch, Japanese and Indonesian. Our hotel Pemandanganor "Mountain view" has (yes you've guessed it!)  a great view of the 2 mountain peaks of Merapi and Singgalang. The town has a colossal statue of the president over viewing it.  Indeed all the hotels and public buildings have pictures of the president and his number 2 displayed prominently. As neither of them is terribly photogenic we imagine this must be a legal requirement!  

The traditional (now tourist!) mode of transport is the pony and trap, and the spritely little horses trotting around are a pleasant feature.The room is different from previousexperience in that it has no fan but extra blankets as it is pretty cold up this high.   We plan to spend tomorrow here which is good timing as it is market day. Whilst we could spend far more time we have to keep moving so we meet the car on time. Again not the best night's sleep very noisy plumbing system which was going off the richter scale all night  and once again the 5am mosque calls. When it finally seems to finish  you drift back to sleep and suddenly there is another flurry of round up calls ..presumably for the tardy prayers still struggling down the hill to worship!

  No doubt I will eventually manage to sleep through it; Andrew unsurprisingly has managed to do so and is bright eyed and bushy tailed whilst I feel a bit ropey. Thankfully we have Indonesian   coffee...very strong and sweet here (condensed milk only) one of those generally kick starts me in the morning!!

We will try and get our photos loaded asap but not always easy getting to the internet..off to Padang tomorrow.

 

 

Saturday 27 October - 30 October 2007

 

Spent the last morning in Bukittinggi looking around the remains of the monument Fort de Kock and the zoo adjoining it. There is little remaining of the fort (a former Dutch stronghold) but the gardens are beautifully set out with a great view of the town, and the many Minangkabau style roofs which are based on the distinctive buffalo horn shape. The zoo however was (predictably I guess) extremely depressing and we didn't hang around long. We got the bus to Padang which thankfully only took 2 hours as it was made a bit uncomfortable by the fact that everyone but us was smoking throughout, we felt very green by the end. Indonesia is amazing in this regard and in shops we are regularly served by someone with a ciggie on the go throughout!

Padang is a busy city renowned for its cuisine. In Bukittinggi  we had got fond of a sort of small pancake made of squashed banana (have asked which they are called and they just say pisang which means  banana) so we were glad to see they are here too. Padang restaurants or stalls involve many different dishes and you have a taste of each ..a sort of spicy tapas. The coconut buffalo curry (redang) is a favourite.

We have taken a  room for a couple of nights at a cheap hotel in the centre of town next to the markets, so lots going on!  Out with the ear plugs once more! You can see the effects  of the earthquake earlier this year. We felt the tremor in Darwin but here it has wrecked the upper storeys of many buildings. Padang is not as pretty as Bukittinggi but a pleasant City with lots of traffic (and badly potholed pavements) so you have to take your chances on the road. The people are as welcoming here too which is nice.

We have had an email confirming that the car is on track to arrive in Surabaya by 4 November so we plan to fly the next couple of stages of the journey,  first  down to Jakarta where we will spend a couple of days and then on to Surabaya. We managed to book cheap flights on the internet after picking the hotel owner's brain re local airlines and we got both trips for approx $200 AUSD so it makes more sense than days on a bus, and obviously we want to be there to receive the car personally.

We both have new careers as English teachers as every day we are inundated with kids (and adults) wanting to practice their English.  When  we step out it is to a chorus of "Hello Mister" (depending on degree of linguistic skills some of them know Miss ….but generally Mr seems to apply to either of us!) They really are such happy friendly people. Soccer is very popular here and when I say I am English I am asked if I know David Beckham, "he is I think the most handsomest man in the world"!!


So, we  have a final night in Padang and then at some unearthly hour tomorrow we head to the bright lights(very)  big city of Jakart

Jakarta 31 October to 3 November 2007

Jakarta is a huge very full on City of over 10 million people. It has some of the greatest wealth in Indonesia with world class hotels/shopping/restaurants but by contrast some of the worst poverty and slum conditions. We managed to fight our way out to catch the airport bus to Gambir Station from where we caught a Bajaj to Jalan Jaksa the main backpacker centre where most of the cheap hotels are situated. A Bajaj is a sort of 3 wheel motorized cart ..it is amazing how they can weave through the traffic and a bit of a white knuckle ride! By the time we were both jammed in with most of our luggage there was only room for our biggest bag on the roof! Not the most comfortable journey.

Once in Jakarta we had a couple of jobs to do. Firstly we had to meet with Mr Ronny Lawrence of the IMI or Ikatan Motor Indonesia this is the AA of Indonesia which handles the carnet, and we had to provide both pictures of the car and an itinerary for our time in Indonesia so they could provide the same to the police. We also had to pick up our parcel of excess luggage that we had sent on from Singapore. Amazingly it was there at Jakarta Poste Restante waiting for us..only thing we now have to carry it once more…back in a Bajaj! We also had to sort out our Insurance for the car so we can drive it from Surabaya where (hopefully!) it will be waiting for us. We went to see the Autocillin insurance company and whilst initially they knocked us back, a phone call to Mr Ronny sorted us out and they agreed to provide us with a short term 3rd party policy. As all our vehicle particulars were not on their system we were in the office for 3 hours ..where everyone was very kind bringing us sweet tea and iced water. Success..we emerged with a policy..no small thanks to Mr. Ronny. It will be tough in places later on where we might not have someone like him on side, as the whole carnet thing is just a brain teaser to people in authority as they have never seen one…we had much the same back in Oz! We also had to sort out an Indonesia sim card so we have emergency phone access and register with the Aussie embassy to vote as the election is now looming.

  

By the time this little lot had been ticked off we were fairly au fait with the public transport system and had seen much of the city. We had a day left to see the National Museum which was good but bizarrely half the collection was  in transit to the new building next door which meant the map /guide we shelled out for was out of date! We didn't work this out till the end when we were ushered to the new building and had thought huge sections had been moved for cleaning/were -missing!  We also saw the National Monument (Monas) which is an amazing structure built by President Soekarno in 1961 to celebrate independence, and taking 14 years to complete.  Crafted out of Italian marble and with 35 kgs of gold it is an amazing structure towering 132 metres. We also indulged in a little bit of retail therapy..the shopping is fantastic up there with Singapore and having a lot of the pommy shops I have missed (especially M & S!) and very cheap given the improved status of the AUSD. Once again on our travels we were constantly amazed at the friendliness/helpfulness of people, many going miles out of their way to assist us when we got lost - which happened frequently as Jakarta is a very spread out city!  We went to a really good Steamboat restaurant in Jalan Jaksa for our last night and prepared for our 4am trip to the airport (groan!) to fly to Surabaya.

4 November 2007

Landing at 7.45am Surabaya was already heating up. First impressions very favourable it has a lot more greenery than Jakarta and seems a bit cleaner….though standards dropped sharply in the waterways! We found a hotel in the old city area which is full of character a relic of the Dutch colonial period. Our room feels a bit like an old hospital with iron bar beds and 20 foot ceilings and a 6ft wide doorway but in the courtyard and landscaped gardens you can begin to imagine its former glory. Being pretty tired we opted for a becak to explore the area.  A becak is a bicycle trishaw and the most popular mode of transport in Surabaya. I have to say though the drivers clearly  want the business I felt a bit uncomfortable  as both Andrew and I outweighed the driver substantially also they are built with 2 tiny Indonesian bums in mind…so tend to be a very tight squeeze! They are a cheap way of getting around though.

We went for a wander down Mesjid Ampelin the Arab Quarter, a market/bazaar leading up to the Mosque which is the most sacred in Surabaya. This is where the founder of Islam in Java is buried and pilgrims come to chant and lay rose petals on the site of his grave. There are many stores selling dates/peci hats/clothes/nuts and it feels very Middle Eastern. I had come out in a short sleeved top and had to buy a shawl to cover my shoulders and arms. Though an increasing number of   ladies are opting to cover their heads with a jilbab and wear cover-all dresses generally it is a matter of personal choice in Indonesia and fairly laid back. However this is probably a good place to stock up on some more cover-all garments (I will definitely need for later stages of the trip- Iran)  as the choice is enormous,  though getting something to fit me could be a challenge as I am a head and shoulders taller than everyone here!

Java - Surabaya to Gunung Bromo

5 - 11 November 2007

The 4 days we spent in Surabaya passed in a circle of meetings with customs and the police, and back again dealing with the phenomenal amount of paper work required to allow us to get the car in. We had hoped to go it alone without a local shipping agent but quickly realized this would be a nightmare as no one spoke English, and they couldn't seem to get their heads around what we were up to. Best not to go into details maybe but we were greyer haired and lighter pocketed at the end of the whole experience but yippee…we finally got our car. She started first go, and after the customs inspection ( a bit of a farce they only wanted the engine number which was in an impossible location under the bonnet so we had to crawl under with carbon paper to trace it !) and we were off into the sunset or into the heavy Surabaya traffic ..dodging rickshaws, motor bikes and amazed onlookers alike!

We had made friends with Ihsan a Commander in the police force who is also a keen 4 wheel drive enthusiast so he was a great help to us. He had invited us to stay with him and his family and getting there was our first night driving and possibly our last as it was quite hair raising. The map we had didn't go into too much detail and it was hard finding English speakers to ask so we went around in circles a bit. Finally we cornered a police car and as Ihsan was their boss we got the VIP treatment and arrived in style with a police escort!

Surabaya is a base for both the army and navy and is proudly known as "Kota Pahlawan" or City of Heroes. It has very strong links to the birth of the Indonesian nation and many of the battles of independence took place there. The Indonesians triumphed over the Dutch and British forces against tremendous odds, about which they are justifiably very proud. The next day was Heroes Day. We didn't even know about this but as Ihsan was attending in full uniform we got to be VIP guests at the ceremony. It is a bit like Anzac day with all the services represented and speeches followed by a march through town. After this we said our goodbyes to Ihsan who had been really hospitable to us, and headed out on our big adventure at last …first stop Gunung Bromo, an active volcano.

On our way we passed another volcano in the nearby town of Siboarjo which has been much in the news of late following a continuous spewing of mud which had buried parts of the town. Trucks are working frantically to spread and level it out before the next lot arrives. This has been happening for the last year and is becoming a big concern with all the outskirts of the town having to evacuate. The traffic came to a standstill and crawled for an hour or so …it being an ill wind which blows no good some people are already making a living out of the whole thing selling drinks/food/cigarettes to the tourists who come to gawk at the remains as well as tours by motor bike around the ruins, out to the bubbling mud/gas.

The drive up to Gunung Bromo is magnificent, as you climb the temperature drops lower and lower and the terrain changes becoming much more arid and hilly. We drove up 37 kms and climbed to an altitude of over 2000 metres. We noticed the people waving were getting increasingly wrapped up and I don't blame them by the time we got to the top we were in single figure temperatures for the first time in over a year. We found somewhere to stay with an amazing view over the mountain and had an early night as we are up at 3.30am tomorrow to get on horseback and begin the climb up Gurung Bromo to see the sunrise. Thank goodness we have blankets and a hot shower here!!

Sunday 11 November 2007

When the alarm went off it was bitingly cold and I had to remind myself that this was the sort of experience I would remember for ever as getting out of a warm bed to slog up a mountain wasn't up there on my wish list!

The horses were tiny and I could just about step on mine with one leg on the ground I felt a bit guilty but they are nuggety little things and seem to cope ok. I did feel the need to get off and walk for the more arduous bits though, It was pitch black and a bit disconcerting as as I have ridden a bit I was on the lead horse which they kept urging on so I was trotting up a mountain in pitch black without a clue where I was going…not for the faint hearted!!

We had had to raid the winter clothes store but most of our winter clothes were under the car so we had decided to do the layer thing…which meant we both had on thermals and then about 50 layers of everything topped off with our new delightful woollen hats, purchased from a street vendor. They also sold "hand shoes" or gloves which I was tempted to buy as I liked the name so much! Andrew had his shorts on over thermals, and thick green socks (the warmest) then thongs….styling!! I shouldn't talk as I looked equally ridiculous. As always seems to happen we were of as much interest as the attraction and we got lots of Indonesian tourists, mainly those from out of the way places where they don't see many foreigners taking our picture. I could see them eyeing our get up curiously I think they thought it was some sort of national costume! We're not doing a great deal for the street cred of Australia as a capital of style!

We climbed the last part (thankfully for the horses!) and were hit by both the amazing view and the stench of sulphur as we reached the volcano's rim.. Bromo isn't huge being 2392 metres high but the setting is magnificent it is one of 3 volcanoes standing in a vast crater, within the shadow of the smoldering Gurung Semeru. The sunrise was lovely though the cloud cover was heavier than it could have been. The locals throw money/chickens into the volcano to appease it, and I bought an offering(a sort of straw /flower arrangement) to do that, it worked as we made it down ok, in the light of recent events at other volcanoes in Indonesia it was smoking a bit ominously!! We made it down in time for breakfast and a much needed sleep for the driver as we head on today …next stop Banyuwangi on the coast from where we catch the ferry to Bali.


 

Sunday 11/11/2007 to Saturday 17/11/2007 Bali

It came on to drizzle quite heavily as we drove back down through the mountains. We stayed en route in a small hotel in Bondowoso, which remarkably was hosting a huge (worship?) of Jehovah's Witnesses ….much hymn singing followed .. a bit of a break from the mosques!


We arrived at Banyuwangi with 10 minutes to the next ferry so we decided to press on to
Bali. It surprised us how close to Java Bali was only half an hour by ferry and clearly visible from the shore.  Getting to Bali immediately you can tell you are in a more touristy area, most of the signs being in English. Other than the main strip of Kuta though it remains fairly traditional with temples rice paddys, and scratching chickens still everywhere!


 Andrew was keen to explore his old surfing haunts and we spent the first night in Medewi. It was quiet being low season and indeed the locals told us that it has been desperately quiet for them since the bomb of October 2002. On our travels we have seen evidence of plenty of businesses which have gone to the wall as a result of this.  The beach is pebbly and quite wild but nice once in though you have to navigate the slippery rocks.


The area has many sea front temples some of which we have called in to visit, and on the way out we visited the famous Tanah Lot temple, the most photographed temple in Bali. It is pretty touristy with hundreds of vendors to avoid on the way in (you have to go through an alley way of them to the entrance so no escape!) but the temple itself, cut off from the mainland at high tide is very beautiful. We were able to wade through the slippery water to the temple …indeed we were dragged out by the temple assistant who also anointed us with flowers and rice and blessed us with the fresh water from the temple… for a donation, which he requested afterwards! 


We negotiated the maze of Kuta (incredibly busy and touristy though they reckon numbers are down) and drove on to Jimbaran Bay which is a lovely old fishing village. You can buy your seafood from the markets (it was still hot - see the poor old ice runners below!) and then cross the road to get it cooked for you …or go to the more expensive seafood restaurants. We ate at a little family run stall (our chili mud crab and prawns were superb) and just went across the road to the 5 star place for a drink and to see the Balinese dancers perform on a stage set just before the ocean. 


The accommodation around these parts is not very budget but as it is quiet we managed to do a deal whereby we slept in the car, just using the bathroom of the beach bungalow , thus we stayed right on the front. We followed the same routine at nearby Bingin beach where we were once more the only guests in the luxury cliff top bungalows so we got the car sleeper's discount! It is a steep hot climb down to the beach (and a major cardio work out back up!) but the view from the top made it worthwhile.


We also visited nearby Ulu Watu, another surfers' reef. It has a steep walk down a carved stairway where there are a maze of cafes, and then a further staircase down to the water. It is a surfer's mecca and Andrew was there 25 years ago and couldn't believe the change (no shops then, just a ladder down to the waves.) The beach had a fair few monkeys as did the nearby Ulu Watu temple, another temple on the beach  which we visited next.


At the temple they endanger your life by selling you bananas to feed to the monkeys, and then advising  you to remove necklaces/sunglasses etc as they are vicious and liable to steal anything! Andrew made me carry the bananas till I got swamped and panicked , so he had to do the feeding honours!  The temple was a bit dilapidated but had lovely views of the ocean.


We spent a night in a fairly sweaty hotel in down town Denpasar as the car had clocked up 280, 000 kms so it needed its service and the Toyota workshop was there.

Next stop Sanur a beach resort on the South coast east of Kuta and hopefully a bit quieter than Denpaser!

Saturday 17 -18 November, 2007

Sanur is a bit of an up market version of Kuta, chock a block with Europeans (mainly Germans) and Aussies soaking up the sun. It abounds with  shops,  restaurants, beauty salons and  art galleries and everything is in English, so  it felt more like being in Avalon ( stylish Sydney beach suburb) than Indonesia. Not sure if that's a good thing or not, I guess it brings money into the country, it's certainly a nice place to relax. We have found a lovely place to stay in a homestay with little bungalows around a court yard. Really beautiful all the doors and windows are covered in traditional wood carvings. Just as well we are comfortable as poor Andrew has gone down with the Bali Belly  and is in bed sweating as I type. I told him there are worst places to recuperate, but he just groaned poor thing!

Sanur, Bali Sunday 18 to 23 November 2007

The last week has passed in a succession of doctors visits. Poor Andrew got really quite sick and we were concerned it was Dengue fever, particularly worrying when we heard a local guy (a prominent young surfer) had tragically died of it just recently. Tests confirmed it was just flu, and a week on he is still drained and sleeping 20 out of 24 hours but at least his temperature has abated. We're very grateful for such a comfortable home stay and Donna our host has been extremely kind making Andrew drinks etc. Even the touts who wait outside the door have started asking how he is rather than trying to sell us trips or  souvenirs   that's how bad it got!!  I have been left to my own devices so   have had the chance to do some reading about Bali. It really is a truly fascinating island. The predominant religion is Hinduism but with a very Balinese slant, they  believe that spirits, good and bad  are everywhere. The people, living between the good spirits and the bad demons must maintain the balance and they attempt this by placing offerings up high for the good spirits  (see Donna below doing this in our court yard) and leaving them   on the ground to appease the bad ones. This ritual takes place every day and the evidence of it can be seen everywhere.  We will stay here until Andrew feels better as he is still pretty wiped out. We hope to be able to  get a visa extension so we don't have to pelt hell for leather all the way up to Medan, from where we will catch the ferry to Malaysia. We have a doctor's note saying he has been unfit to travel so will try and use that for leverage as generally tourist visas are not extendable. In the meantime fingers crossed the next few days see a big improvement.


23 November -26th November 2007

Inevitably I guess I have now gone down with the flu so we are both languishing in our beds!!   Not much to do only rest and hope to feel better soon.

 

 

Sanur, 1 December 2007

 It felt like a long haul but we are both now very much better, and so we are off to Nusa Lembongan, an Island which lies about 90 minutes by boat from Sanur and is apparently a relaxing place with good surfing. After a few days relaxing we will be ready to get behind the wheel again and continue the trip around Bali. Went out for a nice meal for our final night in Bali at a lovely beachside warung. We had a special Balinese dish we had to order the day before .. babi guling..this is split roast pig which is served stuffed with chili turmeric garlic and ginger and it was truly delicious. A bit of a shock to the system after a couple of weeks of plain food. We are certainly now (very!) well fed and rested now and ready for off again and the next stage of our journey to Nusa Lembongan.

2 -3 December, 2007

The journey across to the island was 90 minutes long,…and I felt very queasy for the majority of it! It was a beautiful traditional Indonesia long boat with  outriggers. There was no jetty so we had to wade on board holding our luggage over head. Once on board it was very rocky.. I'm not usually such a bad sailor don't know if it was the flu aftermath (Andrew thought it might be the suckling pig aftermath!) but I felt like kissing the ground when we finally reached shore!

Nusa Lembongan is still very traditional and unspoilt. The village area reminded Andrew of Kuta village 25 years ago, which is hard to imagine.    We docked at the working harbor and seaweed farming area, and this is where we are staying. The majority of the holiday accommodation and the best swimming beaches are around the other side of the island, and we plan to explore there tomorrow on motorbike (no cars on the island.)  The main industry other than fishing is seaweed farming, and we are next door to the main sea weed drying area. It comprises an acre of mats all laid out with seaweed of different types/colors and stages of drying, and is quite visually appealing.  The majority is exported for eating/food additives and cosmetics. It is very labour intensive (men women and kids), and Sunday clearly isn't a day of rest if you're in the sea weed game!!   Gathering it in and rinsing it then drying it all looks pretty back breaking.   It is now going into low season and is extremely quiet here we were the only people in our restaurant (tuna and salad  ... the former caught this morning and absolutely delicious) and most of the bungalows are empty. We can hear the sea pounding from inside  our bungalow …all quiet around us by 8.30pm as surfers and seaweed farmers are both "early to bed early to rise" types!


Had a good explore by bike …a bit hairy at times for the pillion passenger as the roads are a bit twisty! I am very English about that sort of thing and also when we picked the bike up I asked about helmets and they looked at me liked I'd grown a 2nd head! No police on the island so concepts like helmets and insurance don't exist. An offering to the gods was tied to the bike when we picked it up so I just hoped that would protect us! There is some beautiful scenery both on Lombongan and Nusa Ceningan a neighbouring island joined by a narrow (scary!) suspension bridge. The area is very poor; most people scrape a living out of seaweed farming. Some lovely temples on the island, we came across ladies making lots of offerings so we think there might be a special festival coming up. The big passion here is cockfighting..thankfully we haven't witnessed a fight which are very grizzly and end in certain death, but we have seen many of the future champions/dinners as they are paraded around and groomed. They are left at the roadside in big cages so they can be stimulated by watching the various goings on.


We went to the aptly named sunset bar for dinner ..the most beautiful sunset to date, and of course our camera battery ran out and we had forgotten the spare, you'll have to take our word for it! Delicious meal fresh tuna again  …. It's a hard life!!!


4-5 December 5, 2007

Spent the next couple of days chilling and having an explore around the island. It is very beautiful, lovely seafront restaurants (we had lobster straight from the boat) and Andrew enjoyed a couple of surfs but I found there was a bit of tension in Nusa Lembongan. Compared to other parts of Indonesia I started to  feel a bit of unfriendliness, ie) not as smiley as elsewhere, I guess it could be just that tourists aren't so rare  as to be a novelty like they are elsewhere and maybe our perceived wealth compared to their poverty causes understandable resentment. We had an incident where someone insisted on being our guide, attached himself to us, and then more or less demanded payment. It wasn't threatening really but a bit unpleasant, as was the high incidence of people asking for "money money" not just kids either.  Don't mean to be over negative and it doesn't really detract from the huge welcome we received elsewhere, and Andrew feels I am over reacting but I'm just noting it is the first time I felt this at all during the trip.

On our final night we went for a drive and got caught up in a colourful wedding possession and the guests were all very friendly smiling at us, as they were also at the water front temple where some huge ceremony was taking place so perhaps I was hasty.  Would definitely  recommend the island for a visit.


6-7 December 2007

Back on the mainland after another sea sickness bout on the way over for me , we stayed the night in Legian near Kuta which is very busy full of shops night clubs and restaurants. Andrew wanted to revisit TJs a Mexican restaurant he used to go to 20 years ago in the good old days! We found it and it was superb. On the way back we visited the monument to those who died in the 2002 bomb, an incredible 88 Australians, (30 odd Indonesians and 23 English as well as various other nationalities) it is a lovely monument with a water feature. Dreadfully sad all those young lives. We finally head to Ubud today. We had the car serviced at Toyota Denpasur whilst we were off the road and Wayung and the team were very helpful..thanks a lot guys! As we have lost a lot of time whilst ill our visa is almost up ..on the 17th  of this month.  It is impossible to extend so we will fly out to Malaysia and back getting a fresh 30 day visa. We have found a flight on the internet from Padang to Kuala Lumpur for just under $10 each way!! At that price (Air Asia) we wonder quite what the plane will be like! This gives us just over a week to get up through Java to Padang in Sumatra so we have to get a move on.

 

Please see  Bali to Sumatra sub page to this one.