My introduction to cold blooded jungle creatures began on the very first day I walked into this jungalow and drew back the kitchen curtain. I felt something land on my head, and then bounce down into the sink. I took one look at the beady eyes looking up at me and ran straight back outside. I took some deep breaths, composed myself, put the biggest zoom lens I own on my camera and returned to the scene. Ok – so it’s tiny, harmless, can’t hurt me, how could I not like it, it’s ‘cute’.. blah blah blah. Shuddup. I hate them, and you will never change my mind about that so shhhh. I have a deep dislike for these rubbery, suction footed creatures that goes right back to my childhood. I grew up in a place where the geckos were twice the size of this one, and had the ability to drop their tail off as a defence mechanism. When I was younger, I once walked out of the back door at home closing it firmly behind me. As I did so, I felt something cold, rubbery and very much ‘alive’ fall down the back of my shirt. I urgently shook the squirming object out of my shirt, and as it plopped onto the ground it continued to wriggle and twitch. Disgusted, I had a closer look and realised (to my horror) that I must have startled a gecko when I closed the door, and its response had been to drop it’s squirming tail down the back of my shirt. Even now, a gecko sighting makes the skin on the back of my neck crawl, and my spine tingle. If I have to enter or exit a door at night time and I find there’s a gecko anywhere in the vicinity, I run and then I keep running until I feel like I’ve cleared the area, sometimes leaving the door wide open behind me. I knew there would be geckos here in the jungle. I didn’t know just how many there would be, and I had no idea just how many I would have a personal encounter with. They’re everywhere. Really. I could look anywhere at any given moment, and find a gecko. Or two. Or ten. Maybe to the unassuming eye, this looks like a photo of a tree, just some bark – nice texture, nothing too interesting you might think. Look closer people, and you will see it’s an ambush waiting to happen. Fortunately, I have one very understanding man in my life who has become extremely competent and efficient in the skills of gecko catching and removal. He does it wordlessly, and he no longer rolls his eyes when he walks into a room and finds me standing on a table, or crouched awkwardly on the back of a couch. When we arrive at a hotel room or someplace new, he immediately sweeps the room, clearing it of any potentially scream inducing creatures. He’s never ever played any silly little boy jokes on me, and while he must find my gecko related antics amusing (or more likely pathetic), he always treats any gecko situation with seriousness and a sense of duty. One night we were out at dinner with some of Bazil’s colleagues, and the discussion turned to geckos. It was this night that I discovered that the little creatures I called a ‘gecko’, are definitely not the same creature that the Indonesians call a ‘gecko’. It turns out that if you are talking about a ‘gecko’ here, you are referring to a Tokay gecko. I had seen these ginormous lizard creatures before, but I had no idea that the fell into the gecko category. They’re HUGE, and LOUD. Their call is distinct, and it was one of the first sounds that we were acquainted with when we arrived in the jungle. There is a resident Tokay gecko at our neighbours’ place, and thankfully it’s always in the exact same spot. For this reason I have no concerns that I am going to find one of these tangled up in my curtains. Since arriving here, I have had multiple geckos fall on me – usually out of curtains. Sometimes off of a roof, or tree. I’ve dined with hoards of them overhead, and had gecko poo fall disturbingly close to my dinner. I’ve had a gecko climb me like a tree. I accidentally squashed one gecko flat in the laundry door. I’ve had them run up through the floorboards and over my feet on the verandah. Out of necessity, I’ve believe I’ve become a little more accepting of the gecko situation. I’ve even existed with the knowledge that there has been a gecko living in the kitchen for the last couple of months. Staying out of each other’s sight has been the key to our coexistence, and thankfully visual encounters have been brief. However, today I saw a whole lot more of this resident gecko than I would have liked to. Nothing prepared me for today’s disturbing encounter with this very bloated, lethargic gecko who apparently couldn’t say no to a ginger biscuit. I was cleaning down the benches, and I went to grab this container off of the bench to put it in a sink full of extremely hot, soapy water when I sensed there was something inside it. I looked under the lid, thinking there must have been a biscuit left – saw that there was most definitely no biscuit left, squealed like a girl, dropped everything and climbed up onto a chair. (Don’t ask!) The worst part of this particular encounter was that I was home alone, and I had to put my big girl pants on and deal with it myself! Fortunately for me, this gecko had indulged himself to the point that he could hardly drag his fat belly around, and I took comfort in the fact that running up my arm and down the back of my shirt wasn’t an option. I had only just evicted this four legged creature from my house, when I heard a rustle outside the window and saw a far more seriously sized reptile heading my way. I grabbed my camera just in time to see this guy pass below me and take up residence under the house. Gecko’s are suddenly looking a whole lot cuter..
On Friday we celebrated 6 years of marriage. I spent some time reflecting on the past six years, thinking of the incredible places our journey together has taken us. Last year, as our 5th anniversary approached, I was given permission to organise an overseas trip to a destination of my choosing to mark the occasion. Knowing that it might be my only chance to take my unadventurous husband on an adventure, I made plans to go trekking in Nepal, camping all the way – with several of my more adventurous friends for company!
Admitting it wasn’t exactly what he had expected, it took Bazil a while to grow used to this idea, and he was repetitious in reminding me that the trek was going to be my ‘adventure of a lifetime’, and that it probably wouldn’t be something we’d repeat in the future. So, 12 months ago as we camped under those Himalayan stars, I would never have imagined that the adventure hadn’t even begun yet. When I wake up here – in the middle of a jungle on a remote, developing island in Indonesia, I sometimes wonder how I/we got here. It’s been a wild ride – it’s had it’s challenges, but it’s also been very rewarding and we’re both glad we embraced this opportunity.
There are not a whole lot of options available when it comes to celebratory dinners here and whilst I would have been happy to share a pizza on the beach, I was impressed when I learnt that Bazil had gone above and beyond, organising a romantic dining set up on the beach. Our private beach side dining experience was complete with fancy chair covers and various other decorations, including a scattering of tropical flowers and some candles. Ok, so some of the flowers were of the plastic variety, the candles were never lit (and by ‘candles’, I may mean ‘candle’), and our dining experience was only private until a couple of little girls thought it would be fun to creep up and steal the flowers from the ground.. Having gone for a pre-dinner round of golf, we didn’t quite make it to the beach for the sunset, but the colours and rays of light that followed the sunset were stunning. Before long I was drawn away from our romantic dining set up, down onto the beach where I found myself captivated by the changing colours in the sky. After a while I turned around and noticed the unimpressed look on my dining companion’s face – apparently he hadn’t envisaged an evening of solo dining. You’d think after 6 years of marriage, he’d know not to put himself in a position where he’s required to compete with a vibrantly coloured sunset for my attention.
According to my number 1 fan (who always provides me with the most honest, yet sometimes harsh) feedback, my last blog post was too long and wasn’t a very good read. Not my best writing was his summarisation. His advice was to write smaller posts, and to keep the details to a minimum. I’m no longer sure where the week starts and where it ends with regards to my ‘week that was‘ posts – the days and weeks are just all merging into the one big adventure here! I realised this morning when I started to put together another post that I actually had many things I wanted to share, and at the risk of creating another wordy blog post that my husband would struggle to finish reading, I thought I’d give a brief summary of 10 things from the last 10 days.
Noticing that the crayfish I saw at Sardine restaurant in Bali share similar characteristics to this crustaceous body part I discovered a while ago on the beach. I feel like I’m one step closer to positively identifying the mysterious creature that this spiny limb once belonged to – maybe it belonged to something like this? Marvelling at the fact that it has been 5 weeks since I’ve used shampoo or conditioner. Yes that’s right, I’ve officially adopted the ‘no poo method‘ – using baking soda to wash, and apple cider vinegar to rinse. It’s taken a lot of commitment, especially in the initial adjustment period where my hair was producing so many oils that leaving the house without the disguise of a hat wasn’t an option. I wanted nothing more than to strip all of those oils away again with a bottle of shampoo! Then there was the open wounds/injuries I sustained out on the reef – using apple cider vinegar in the shower wasn’t a particularly pleasant sensation at the time.
It’s definitely not the most convenient or pleasant way of washing hair, but I’m really glad I stuck with it. Not only will I save myself the hassle of trying to keep myself supplied with my favourite shampoo/conditioner here on the island, but my hair is already looking and feeling better for it. I only have to wash my hair a couple of times a week now (previously it was every day), and it’s getting more and more manageable in this humidity. I would take a photo, but there’s one small problem.. Wishing I hadn’t let a non English speaking Indonesian ‘hairdresser’ anywhere in the vicinity of my long locks of hair with a pair of scissors last week. All I wanted was a trim – a bit of a tidy up. Bazil and I both sat down in front of our hairdressers at the exact same time, and I could see his haircut taking place behind me in the reflection from the mirror in front of me. He was being attended to with the greatest of care and attention to detail. Unfortunately, I wasn’t receiving the same kind of love. I could see (and feel) that my hair was being hacked at ruthlessly, the ‘hairdresser’ chopping away at it carelessly and with an apparent lack of competence.
Bazil was still sitting in the chair getting little touch ups applied long after my hairdresser had claimed ‘I finished’, dropped her scissors and walked away. I sat there stunned. Speechless. When Bazil’s haircut was complete, he spun around in his chair and faced me. He was horrified, and exclaimed loudly “What happened to your hair?” Everyone in the salon turned to look at me. “Hair gone!” someone helpfully explained. Back in a taxi, Bazil urged me to go to another hairdresser to see if the situation could be improved at all. I refused to set foot inside another salon though, concluding that hair grows back – and the less incompetent scissor wielding Indonesians to get their hands on it, the faster that growth will occur. Loving this tropical super fruit I discovered in Bali. I had never noticed before, but it turns out mangosteens are available right here in the little shop up the road! I’ve learnt that this amazing fruit is packed with vitamins and antioxidants called xanthones which have amazing healing properties.The list of health benefits is long, and I’m thankful that I’ve finally found something in that shop that has some sort of nutritional value! We may get out alive after all!
Looking forward to a time when we return to Australia for a visit, and I can go out in public and blend into a crowd. I am so tired of standing out, being the ‘bule’ (foreigner), and feeling gazes follow me wherever I go. I don’t take my camera out much, it draws even more attention to the fact that I don’t belong here. In a poverty stricken village where my camera (as basic as it is) could probably buy a house, I end up feeling so uncomfortable with it hanging around my neck that I almost always choose to leave the house with my iPhone tucked away in a pocket instead. I was glad for the opportunity to go out photographing last week with an Indonesian friend – she loves photography and she took me to a place where we could photograph the sunset, and the lights of the port at dusk. I took photos of the sunset as planned, and she took photos of me photographing the sunset. I hadn’t planned on becoming the subject of a photo shoot, and I definitely wasn’t prepared for the crowd of locals that gathered around watching me either. I’m not a photographer, and it’s only since we arrived here that I’ve spent some time actually getting to know some of the more technical aspects of photography. This was one of the first opportunities I’d had to put some of the theory I’ve been absorbing into practice, and I would have preferred that I didn’t have the added pressure of ten curious Indonesians leaning in to view the results of each photograph taken on my camera’s LCD. Amused by the way the local ants refuse to ingest any of the Ant-Rid I brought especially for them all the way from Australia. They approach it with caution, and appear to have some sort of safety summit on the sidelines – huddling together and exchanging thoughts on the situation, before scurrying away (obviously concluding that there is most definitely something suspicious about the substance). Thinking I might need to get myself an underwater camera so I can share this new world I’m discovering with you. I’m always a bit nervous about ‘what lies beneath’, but intrigued at the same time. We’ve seen some really cool fish, and some amazing coral – it really is another world down there! Watch this space! Wondering how close we came to being fried when we found ourselves caught up in the middle of a lightning storm during a stargazing evening on the beach. I had just set my camera up, pointing it towards the beautiful night sky to capture some stars when the storm started. Most of my photos look like the one below – a flash of lightening captured mid exposure. We didn’t make any moves to leave as the storm seemed far away, and we’d just gone to the trouble of coating ourselves in insect repellent. Plus, there were fireflies everywhere, little fishing boats, a soft breeze – rather romantic! All of a sudden though, there was a HUGE white blinding flash all around us, that sent us both running for the car without so much as a ‘what was that?’. Another lesson learned. Feeling a bit shaken (excuse the pun) after sitting through my first earthquake on Saturday. I was sitting here editing some photos when my chair started rolling from side to side all on it’s own, and the windows and contents of the house began to rattle. It measured 5.4 in magnitude, thankfully it wasn’t a big deal, no harm done – but it was unsettling all the same. Perhaps the most unsettling thing was knowing that the tsunami siren could have gone off in the minutes following, and I’m still not exactly sure what my action plan would be, should that ever happen while I’m home on my own. It would involve climbing I suspect, I’m just not sure what.
One more thing..
Thinking of my mum last Sunday on Mother’s Day (and every day)! My mum makes this jungle island existence more bearable by keeping in touch with me daily on Viber (she’s even learned how to send photos!), so I never feel too alone. She spends a lot of time shopping for me and putting together awesome packages from Australia, which I love receiving! I had some handmade paper flowers custom made for her on the other side of the world, and I pretty much held my breath until I heard they were delivered to her on time! I’ve heard that they’re beautiful and I can’t wait to see them in person when we visit! (Photo by Chantal at Dragonfly Expression)
Last week we went island hopping, and headed over to Bali to escape the jungle for a few nights. I had an extensive shopping list in hand (much to Barry’s delight), so we packed lightly with just 15kg of baggage between us, and took the seaplane out of here. The seaplane isn’t very spacious to ride in, and getting into a seat requires bending and folding – much like a piece of origami. It’s also unbearably hot inside, but as much as it’s a relief to break free of it’s confines after a trip, I always enjoy the short but scenic flight to Lombok. As the main purpose of our trip was to gather some supplies, and my DSLR camera is a little on the heavy side I had to leave it behind – so without further ado, I present some of my best iPhoneography. We purchased a Cudo voucher a couple of months ago for our accommodation at Nyuh Villas, Seminyak thinking we were getting a good deal. The voucher was for a three night stay for two people in a private pool villa (apparently valued at $1479), for $699. Out of curiosity, before we left last week, I checked out the rates for similar stays throughout various weekends in May and I made the discovery that if we had booked just days or weeks in advance (as opposed to months in advance using the voucher), we would have saved ourselves over $100 on accommodation and still received all of the same inclusions that our Cudo voucher boasted. (Daily breakfast, welcome drink, cold towel, 2 daily bottles of mineral water, a fruit basket, free wifi, return airport transport & 1x 60 minute massage each). In summary, the Cudo voucher was overrated in our opinion. Seeing that the voucher included complimentary transfers to/from the airport, and as we were keen to avoid the chaotic scene of numerous drivers all competing for our attention at arrivals, I had been sure to confirm with Nyuh that there would definitely be someone there waiting for us at the terminal when we arrived. In fact, I confirmed this fact several times, ensuring that they had our flight details and knew we would be arriving at the domestic terminal, not the international. When our flight from Lombok was delayed, I took the time mid journey to update them of our new arrival time just incase our transfer got tired of waiting for us and left. I was assured that the transfer would be waiting at domestic arrivals for us.
As you might have guessed, there was nobody waiting for us when we arrived. We walked around, checking all of the signs with names scrawled on them but there was no “Mr Barry”. Barry rang Nyuh and explained that we had arrived, and again we confirmed that we were waiting at the domestic terminal. We were assured that our transfer was there. We waited and waited. And waited some more. I said to Barry ‘bet you anything they’re waiting for us at the international terminal’, and within 10 seconds we were approached by an apologetic Nyuh uniform wearer bearing a sign saying “Mr Barry”. “So sorry, I wait for you at international terminal”. Of course you did. Sigh. On our (eventual) arrival at the villas, we were greeted with a coconut, some tropical fruit and cold towels. Barry made the mistake of displaying some of his best Indonesian at reception, and unfortunately for me – the rest of our introduction and tour of the facilities was carried out in Indonesian. I went along with it, nodding where it seemed appropriate and inserting a few words from my limited Indonesian vocabulary where possible. My bluff was called though, and I had to confess “saya tidak mengerti” (I no understand). Shortly after our welcome we were delivered afternoon tea. Our voucher promised that we would enjoy daily afternoon teas with traditional homemade Balinese cake throughout our stay. We were delivered some deep fried banana daily, but we’re still unsure exactly what homemade Balinese cake is like. The villa itself was very private, clean and well attended. The floor to ceiling doors opened up to our own pool that was surrounded by tropical gardens. The bed was extremely comfortable and a welcome change from the hard boards we call a ‘bed’ here in the jungle. The villa had an outdoor shower, and a beautiful big bathroom complete with a bathtub on centre stage. Each night I used the air conditioner to transform summer into winter inside the bathroom, and indulged in a hot bath. Well at least that’s what would have happened if the taps over the bathtub had produced more than a trickle of water. It took well over an hour to half fill the tub, and by the time I lowered myself into the water it had already cooled on every occasion. Still, lying back in a tub inside a beautiful, spacious bathroom is a luxury I haven’t had in a while and I wasn’t discouraged. We enjoyed a huge breakfast beside our pool every morning. Rolling out of bed with bed hair, and showing up to breakfast in pyjamas without as much as a glance in the direction of a mirror has it’s advantages, and digging straight into a feast of bacon and eggs, fruit, yoghurt, croissants, danishes, pancakes and fresh juice was perfect. However, the real highlight here was the bacon. Real bacon. Do you even know how long it’s been? We couldn’t remember. The ‘bacon’ occasionally available to us here is a very poor substitute for bacon, and it usually requires an archaeological excursion to the depths of an unmarked freezer – hidden away out of site so as not to offend any muslim shoppers. Another inclusion our voucher boasted was a heavenly one hour Balinese massage each – ‘performed by the trained staff at the onsite day spa’. At the same time I updated the villas of our delayed arrival time on day 1, I also attempted to book our spa treatments. We were looking forward to some pampering after a day of travelling, but unfortunately I was informed that by the time we would arrive the spa would be closed. It was suggested that maybe I would like to book for another time. Over the course of our stay, we made several attempts to schedule our spa visit – each time we were told that the spa was closed. In the end we gave up on getting an appointment at the ‘onsite spa’, and we sought out a reputable spa nearby.
We passed many hours at Sundarai Day Spa, over the course of our visit to Bali. I subjected myself to an Ayurvedic massage, an aromatherapy foot bath, a full body scrub, a Balinese massage, and a facial. Sundari was very well priced, clean, and the therapists were friendly, professional and evidently trained in the various styles of massage offered. During our travels around Indonesia, we’ve visited a few spas and I’ve often requested an Ayurvedic massage from the list of treatment options. Sometimes my massage has felt much more ‘Balinese’ than ‘Ayurvedic’ and upon comparing notes with Barry after the treatment I’ve learned that his ‘Swedish’ massage also felt similarly ‘Balinese’. We concluded that the only differences between the listed treatment options at some spas was the spelling, and the price. Given the lack of fresh, healthy and appealing food available to us here on this island, I was looking forward to a little bit of fine dining. We’d been given a recommendation by a fellow seaplane traveller, and our first restaurant stop was Sardine. Here, overlooking beautiful rice fields, the service was faultless and the food was amazing. A grilled vietnamese style quail, cress & organic greens with ginger sesame dressing was the perfect way to start off a couple of days of indulging! My favourite place to eat and shop in Seminyak is at an organic grocer/cafe called Down to Earth. I don’t visit Bali without a trip to this shop. The menu at Earth Cafe is amazing, and the meals are fresh, organic and nutritious. I have been craving a decent salad for so long, that when the salad Barry ordered was accidentally delivered to me, I had already inhaled a great portion of it before anyone realised the mistake. When my dragon bowl arrived soon after – again, I tucked right in before it occurred to me that I should take a quick photo. I barely put down my cutlery for a second, snapped this photo and started filling my mouth again. It was so good. And those vegan samosas – delicious! Another food highlight was a visit to Ginger Moon. The food was tapas style, so we shared salt ‘n’ pepper squid, crumbed barramundi steamed buns, hoisin duck dumplings, an amazing bbq chicken pizza, bbq beef ribs with green papaya, coconut, peanut salad… we ate until we were uncomfortably full, and then we rolled out of the restaurant onto the road. We decided to aid our digestive system in processing this huge meal by heading off in the general direction of our villa on foot. When we eventually decided to hail a taxi, we found that we were in for a real treat. Our driver was singing at the TOP of his lungs, ‘never mind, I’ll find someone like youuuuuu…. I wish nothing but the best for you toooooooooo”. In a (rare) moment of silence, I commented on how good his English was. He informed me that he learned English by singing karaoke, then confessed that he’d just had some magic mushrooms, and burst into song all over again.
Another food stop worth mentioning was Taco Casa – we felt like Mexican, and stopped in here for a quick meal before a spa appointment and we weren’t disappointed. The food was so cheap, but fresh and delicious. We both had an 8 layer burrito, and I don’t think a word was exchanged between us until after we’d both eaten our last bite. Another restaurant we made a return visit to was Petitinget, having had dinner here on a previous visit to Seminyak. On that first visit to Petitinget, I ordered semolina flour papardelle, slow braised lamb, tomato & thyme ragout, with parsley gremolata, and pecorino. It was a meal my tastebuds have never forgotten, and for this reason Petitinget will always be on my list of places to visit in Bali. This time though, we stopped here for lunch to break up the shopping and after a huge breakfast at the villas just hours before, these rice paper rolls were a perfect light lunch. So good. With shopping and stocking up on supplies being the main point on our agenda, we visited a couple of shopping malls – Discovery Mall, and Mal Galleria to try and knock the bulk of the list off in one location. If I’m really honest, I don’t enjoy shopping in Bali at all and it’s always made worse by the knowledge that I’m dragging someone else around who hates shopping at the best of times. The malls can be crowded and hot. The streets are full of cars, taxis and scooters weaving in, out and around each other. Crossing to the other side of a crowded road can be nearly impossible at times. It’s dirty, and if you stroll along looking sideways at a shop window for too long you are likely to fall down an open drain or trip over a pile of loose bricks. Everywhere you go, there is always someone trying and rip you off, sell you drugs, scam you or snatch your bag. Did I mention that it’s hot?
And then, should you happen to step inside a shop (if only to get out of the sun for a minute), there’s the relentless hassling, and the haggling. I don’t enjoy the whole process, but I participate because don’t appreciate being ripped off (and I like a bargain). Barry prefers just to pay the amount the seller first requests, so he usually walks away embarrassed when I put on my poker face and commence my bartering sequence. Shopping like this quickly becomes tiring though, and it’s always nice to browse some of the more upmarket shops in Seminyak where the sales assistants generally leave you alone. Another way to avoid the all of the hassling and haggling is to visit a place like Geneva Handicraft Centre where everything is clearly labelled with a fixed price. Normally I like to make the effort to buy from the local people at the markets, but sometimes I just don’t have the stamina and it’s nice just to wander around and browse without the constant pressure of ‘you buy?’. Geneva Handicraft centre is huge and lined with shelves filled with every type of handicraft item imaginable – a great place to buy souvenirs, or in our case – some homewares for this jungalow! One of the highlights of our shopping trip was an unplanned visit to Lucy’s Batik – a shop we wandered into late at night on our walk back to the villas from Ginger Moon. I spotted a quilt in the window that I decided I could put to good use in covering the hideous, stained lounge we’ve been supplied with in our jungalow. The girls in Lucy’s Batik were very friendly and while the prices were all marked in this shop, I was making a rather large purchase of a king sized quilt and an assortment of cushion covers, so I thought there was no harm in asking for a special price. Barry chimed in at this point pulling out some of his best Indonesian and straight faced humour combined, asking for a local price because we live in Sumbawa. The girls were laughing hysterically – whether at his attempt at Indonesian, or at the concept that this ‘Bule’ (foreigner) thought he was a local after three months of residence I’m not sure.
Barry proceeded to entertain the shop attendees, while I tried to make some decisions about cushion cover colours/sizes. His audience was growing, and I could hear him telling the ladies in Indonesian that he was waiting a long time for istri (wife), and that ‘any time shopping time’ is ‘banyak masalah (many problems)’ for him. Several girls crowded around urging him to be patient, all the while giggling and spreading out even more merchandise for me to peruse. When we eventually checked out, one lady took great pride in announcing the discount she had applied, which saved us the grand total of $4 on $112 worth of items! We really do know how to barter! After this last minute purchase of the (somewhat weighty) double sided king sized quilt, I became a little concerned about getting all of my luggage back to this island. Our bags were both well over 10kg, so we decided to pack Barry’s bag with the essentials and if we had any problems with checking in my bag, we could leave it to be delivered home another day. We did have to pay excess luggage on our flight from Bali to Lombok, however at 55c/kg it didn’t break the bank. It turned out that the seaplane wasn’t going to be delivering us back to the jungle after all, but rather a helicopter – and there were no weigh in issues at all. I was excited to go on my first helicopter flight, and it couldn’t have been a more scenic route! Upon arrival back to this lazy island that we call home, I immediately felt more at ease. The pace of life here at Sumbawa is much slower. Instead of hoards of taxis, scooters and cars there are herds of cows. No beeping horns, just the clanging of cow bells at they amble along beside the road. The air is cleaner, the views are uninterrupted and for the most part – the beauty of this island is unspoiled. We’ve both decided that we’re done with Bali for now, and if we do return there in the future it will be to a less known area where we can get to know the ‘real’ Bali. For now though, we’re staying put. Every trip away reminds us that there is no place like home – even if it’s just a little jungalow in a remote corner of the world!
If you follow our journey on any other social media avenue, you will know that we hopped across to Bali for a few nights earlier in the week. But before I write about that though, I thought I should do a brief summary of “the week that was” first. Last week. The problem is, last week seems like a long time ago already, and when I sit down and think about it, there is really only one thing I’d like to share from last week.
At the beginning of the week, we went back to that same reef where I had been previously knocked onto my backside and dragged over the razor sharp rocks by a huge wave. (You may have seen the damage report here.) Upon our return to this spot, we were hoping that the conditions would be more favourable for another snorkelling attempt. Things did appear to be a little calmer, but after over a week of soreness that restricted me to manoeuvring around in a painstakingly awkward manner like that of an arthritis ridden 95 year old, it seemed that the memory of the beating I received from the waves was all to recent in my mind and I stood on the beach unwilling to enter the water. The next day, we decided to try another beach – it’s not really a snorkelling beach, but Barry thought it would be a much better place for a beginner if we could get out behind the place where the waves were breaking. After a sizing up the waves at this beach, I felt that maybe the swimming pool would actually be a better place for this beginner. As I watched Barry navigate his way through the waves with ease though, I decided that there wasn’t much to lose. All I can say is I wish someone had been taking a video of the moments that followed.
I managed to get myself out past the waves breaking right on the beach and I braced myself as I attempted to pull my fins onto my feet. I was successful in getting one securely on my foot before I was hit by a wave, lost my balance and had the other fin swept from my hand. I quickly retrieved it before it was swept away entirely, but in the process of doing so, the other fin that was already in place, slipped off of my foot. I struggled with my gear for ages, taking yet another a beating from the relentless waves, all the while growing more and more frustrated as I occasionally glimpsed Barry peacefully floating along facedown out beyond the waves – seemingly oblivious to my struggles.
When I eventually got all of my snorkelling gear in place, my mask immediately began to fog up, and unable to see a thing, I was swept over backwards by a huge wave. Caught off guard, I inhaled a lungful of salty seawater water through my submerged snorkel. My eyes were stinging, my lungs were burning, I couldn’t get enough air and I was on the verge of having a panic. Coughing and spluttering I tore my mask of, and flung it away in annoyance. I was over it. Done. Just as I was about to let the next wave wash me to shore, I felt an arm around my waist. Barry recovered the mask and snorkel, helped me fit it properly and held me above the water while I pulled myself together. Then he took my hand, put his head down and powered us both out away from the waves to the reef. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about mixing with the sea creatures. Very much aware that there were potentially creepy creatures lurking below, I kept an excessively firm grip on Barry’s hand. The first creature that came into view was a huge white, hideous looking sea cucumber. It looked like a giant bulging wichetty grub, and I was more than happy to keep my distance. I noticed Barry pointing at something down below us, and as I peered into the depths I saw something moving through the water. It was rather large (or so I thought), and forgetting I was in the water for a moment – I attempted to make a run for it. In an instant my fins had propelled me about 10 metres away from Barry who (wondering where I had suddenly disappeared to), looked up from the water questioningly. Seeing the horrified look on my face, he proceeded to inform me that I had frantically fled the presence of.. one small harmless fish.
You’ve probably heard a saying along the lines of “the magic happens just outside of your comfort zone”. It’s true. After I had calmed down, let go of the fear, regained control of my breathing, and taken up a more horizontal position in the water, the magic began to happen. All I could hear was tiny clinks of the sand/shells being swept around on the ocean floor, and my breathing. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. It became very meditative, and to my surprise I felt remarkably relaxed. I didn’t lose physical contact with Barry again, he was right beside me. (Most probably due to the fact that he was unable to pry himself free from my death grip). The swells lifted us up and down, one minute I could have reached out and touched the coral – the next I was metres above it. It was like a slow dance in the ocean. Breathing. Floating. Magic. And it happened just right there behind those waves that I had almost “walked” away from minutes before. A couple of days later I was flicking through one of my favourite magazines, and this illustration caught my eye. I felt like it could have been a page out of my own journal – the little island, the huts, the mountains and the trees – and of course the message it carries. I’m very familiar with that safe, secure little haven in the centre of the island. I think we all have a little zone that we’re happy to hang out in. Sometimes it’s not easy to push past the boundaries of our comfort zone and venture outside because it means taking risks and putting ourselves in a place where we feel a little vulnerable. I’m (slowly) learning how important it is to break through the boundaries, because that’s how our world expands. It’s only outside of our comfort zone that we can have new experiences, learn, grow and feel alive. It’s where the magic happens!
Observing that (by some miracle), he might actually be growing to like the beach, but knowing that verbalising this observation is not a good idea. I’m happy if we all just keep pretending I’m dragging him there against his will, if that’s what it takes. On this particular visit to the beach, after a swim in the ocean I went for my usual ‘treasure hunting’ walk along the sand. I was gone for quite a while, and when I returned – this is what I found. I couldn’t believe my eyes. This is the guy who hates sand.. The waves were huge – breaking right on the shore, and constantly threatening to engulf his sand sculpture. He protected it with his body at first, lying in the path of any encroaching waves and getting covered from head to toe in sand in the process. He didn’t appear to be phased by this, and I was gobsmacked. I wanted to point out that he had sand in his hair but I refrained, knowing it was best just to act as if nothing out of the ordinary was unfolding right before my eyes. If we hadn’t been the only two people on the whole beach, I’m sure I would have felt the urge to double check and make sure I had the right guy. Frustrated at so many missed photo opportunities. There have been way too many this week. Too slow to point the camera, wrong lens, wrong settings, too shy.. all of the above. Kicking myself often. So many wasted opportunities.
Cringing at the memory of yet another food related meltdown. There were even tears. I have only had a couple of complete meltdowns on this jungle island. One memorable one was internet related, all others have been due to the complete lack of fresh fruit/veg and healthy eating options. Oh, and there was this other time a gecko fell on my head, and I had a bit of a girly moment, but I was home alone – nobody else was there to witness it, so I don’t believe that should be counted. Feeling amazed at the difference a week can make. My wounds have all but healed, infection was avoided and once again I am experiencing a relatively pain free existence. Not being in constant pain makes everything ok. You really don’t appreciate that fact until you find yourself living with pain every day. It wears you down. Sparing a thought for people who suffer chronic, relentless physical pain around the clock.
Seeing all that is wonderful in nature. There is so much beauty all around us. Look up, look all around you and breathe it in. Life is beautiful. Collecting beach ‘treasure’ despite the fact that Lenny the maid made it quite obvious that she doesn’t consider it ‘treasure’. On Friday, she bundled it all into bags and put it outside. As soon as she was gone, I brought it straight back in, feeling awkwardly like one of the Bobolas family. (Google them). I plan to blow her away with some mixed media creations in the near future, but until then I need to find a hiding place for my ‘treasure’. Noticing my improvement in the swimming pool. I’ve never been big on swimming. It’s not that I can’t swim – I can. It’s more about some of the feelings that surface when I’m doing laps in a pool. I had a teacher in primary school who thought that throwing small children (who weren’t confident in the water), into the deep end of the pool was a good idea. I remember too well that feeling of panic in the water. I remember being completely exhausted, inhaling water, and reaching up for the edge of the pool, only to have my little hands crushed purposefully under the shoes of this nasty teacher.
There is a 25m pool just a short walk away from our house, and when we arrived here I decided it was time to try and change the way I feel about swimming. I’ve been swimming 1km every time I visit the pool. I started off doing 90% breastroke as I’d find myself exhausted quickly doing freestyle, and the same feelings that I once experienced as a child would start to surface. I’ve been building up my freestyle laps every session, and now I can alternate with one lap of breastroke to the deep end, and freestyle back to the shallow end. Never the other way around. Since my first attempt, I’ve cut 18 minutes off of my time. My last time was 27 minutes. My goal is 20 minutes, freestyle all the way. Attending my first ANZAC dawn service. Early mornings are really not my thing. In fact, concerned that I would miss the occasion altogether, I lay awake the whole night in anticipation of moment my alarm would go off. The service was up on a hill near the port. I loved arriving under the stars, and watching the first light of dawn spread over the surrounding hills. It was a beautiful service however I could barely keep my eyes open throughout, and I was thankful for a hot breakfast and coffee as soon as it was finished. Learning that caffeine is not a good idea. I thought I had already learned this lesson, but it seems I needed reminding again. I am somewhat sensitive to caffeine, and unfortunately for me, I chose to ignore that fact whilst I indulged in an early morning coffee at the dawn service breakfast. Caffeine makes my heart race, my hands shake, and even a beverage seemingly harmless as a green tea has been known to keep me awake for days at a time. After I returned home from the service, I found myself in quite the caffeine-induced coma. I really wanted to paint some poppies, being the 25th of April and all, but with hands that were shaking uncontrollably – the results were a little abstract. Looking forward to escaping this island next weekend. We’re only hopping across to Bail for a few nights, but I cannot wait to catch that seaplane out of here. I can’t remember the last time Barry has had a full, uninterrupted day off of work and I’m looking forward to having 4 whole days away with him. Ok let’s be honest, I can’t WAIT to go SHOPPING!
As you may have noticed my blogging schedule is somewhat random and erratic. Ok, lets be honest – there is no ‘schedule’. I write when I feel like writing, hope you’re ok with that! In all seriousness though – if you find yourself checking back here regularly and not finding any updates, I’d like to suggest that you scroll down a little and look over to the right sidebar. I’ve recently installed a little box there where you can subscribe by email, that way as soon as there’s some action here, you will get the post delivered straight to your inbox.
I’ve been blogging on various platforms for about 6 years now, and I’ve never had any success in committing to regular posting. So I already know what I’m up against, and history suggests that I am setting myself up for another failure to follow through, but I’m feeling the need to implement a regular weekly post. A weekly reflection of sorts? Every week here on this rugged island brings new challenges, experiences and lessons. Different feelings arise, new questions pop up and sometimes answers appear. I’ve started writing things down. They’re random notes – there are no life changing epiphanies here, but I think I’ll enjoy having the little reminders of each week ‘that was’.
Feeling physical limitations. I’ve been wanting to climb up to this lighthouse since we arrived, and when I realised our Hash run was taking us up there last weekend I was so excited. We bounded off into the jungle at a cracking pace and powered up the first hill – at the front of the pack. At the top of this hill however, was a steep descent into a valley and I was reminded that my knees no longer descend with ease. My pace was reduced to a painful hobble, one by one our competitors overtook us and I struggled the whole way with the sad realisation that my climbing/trekking days might be over.
a) have white skin
b) carry a fancy looking camera
c) can’t speak Indonesian, and therefore are unable to negotiate yourself a good price
Seeing that there is a very good reason everyone says ‘don’t eat the fish’. *Vomit*. ________________________________________________________________________________
Wondering if this was really necessary. Seriously. Dear Almighty Ocean,
I believe you have made your point. I do have to question though, whether your point could have been made without leaving me looking (and feeling) like a victim of a tiger attack?
Anyway, I look forward to one day being able to get comfortable again. I’ll be back.
Peace out. x
Loving sunny mornings and dark, rainy afternoons. The wet season was supposed to be over, but it’s been pouring almost every afternoon. Because we live under a canopy of jungle trees, even after the rain has stopped it still sounds like it’s raining. So peaceful. ________________________________________________________________________________
Baking using the ingredients available to me. Coconut is the one ingredient readily available here in the jungle. Using coconut sugar gave this cheesecake a beautiful caramel flavour, and making a butterscotch sauce with coconut cream worked surprisingly well. The cheesecake received a lot of attention, and it didn’t last long. Sadly there is no longer cream cheese available in the shop, and as much as I’m getting comfortable with improvising in the kitchen, I’m not sure that I can produce a cheesecake without cheese.
Noticing all of the butterflies. So many butterflies.
Thinking about all the things that a butterfly represents. Joy, freedom and transformation. Remembering the way I used to chase butterflies as a child, for no reason other than being enchanted by their vibrant colours. I never caught them, the joy was in chasing them. Moving so playfully. Now I chase them with a camera.
Making something from nothing. Last week I impressed myself with my own ‘make something out of nothing’ skills, piecing together this little sailing boat from some burnt driftwood, a length of bamboo, a couple of twigs and some fabric scraps. I have so many ideas in my head, and my collection of ‘rubbish’ (as Barry calls it) from the beach is growing.
One last thing. Maybe that makes it 11 things, oh well who’s counting? This moment. These words.
When I post a photos of yet another beautiful island sunset, or a spectacular mountain view on the Facebook page, Instagram, or even here on the blog I receive a lot of nice comments. I love reading them and I’m glad I’m able to share some of the jungle island views with you. Sometimes I get comments along the lines of ‘This makes me want to go there’. Lately these comments have been stopping me in my tracks, and making me feel a little twinge of something that I can only describe as being guilt. It’s hard to explain, but when I read a comment like this, I feel like I’ve been a bit dishonest in my portrayal of this place. Like I’m not showing you the reality of it all, and that you might be getting the wrong impression.
A few days ago on one of the photos I shared on Instagram, a friend commented “Oh your world is beautiful”. I replied “It is, but it depends where you look”. And that’s the thought I’ve been stuck on since. Don’t get me wrong, many parts of this island are awe-inspiringly beautiful, and I’ve only seen one tiny corner of it. But it really does depend on where you look, and what you focus on. This photo was taken down on the beach while the tide was out. It truly was a beautiful sunset, and that’s what I was focused on – because that’s what I wanted to share with you, that’s what I wanted you to see.
Here’s the thing though – what you can’t see in this photo is how dirty the beach here really is. This photo was taken just across the bay from the port where all the boats come and go, and the sand is a filthy black colour. There was litter everywhere. Washed up shoes. Plastic. Bottles. Broken glass. Right at the same spot I took this photo, I turned my body 180 degrees and pointed the camera down towards ground, capturing a dirty and discarded syringe lying in the sand. I later deleted that photo, knowing it would never be an image I would share, nor was it something I wanted to remember that afternoon by.
The point is, both the beautiful sunset, and that discarded syringe existed right there, in that moment at the very same place. I could have shared either image with you, and I’m sure they both would have evoked very different responses. If I had posted the latter, I’m certain that nobody would have remarked ‘I wish I was there’, or ‘You’re so lucky!’. I’ve been showing the best, the beauty, because that’s what I’ve been choosing to see – but if I wanted to give an entirely different impression of this place it wouldn’t be hard at all. When we first arrived here, I really noticed the poverty, the cruelty and the seemingly hopeless plight of so many people. Everywhere I looked as we travelled along the road I’d notice the skinny, starving dogs. Limping. Scratching. Puppies curled up on the road. Being the dog lover that I am, my heart would break over and over. There would be silent tears running down my cheeks as I looked out of the car window. Barry would say to me repetitively ‘desensitise wifey, desensitise.’ In the first week we were here, it was his word of the week. I would get frustrated and snap at him through my tears ‘How can you not feel it?’ He’d reply, “I just switch it off’.
In the past, there have been times when I’ve read the news and it’s overwhelmed me. So many things wrong in the world. So much sadness. Anger. Fear. Sometimes after a natural disaster, or some sort of accident I’d read though all of the stories. Occasionally I’d even search for more information. The loss, the heartbreak. I’d lie awake at night, thinking about all of the sad things in the world, feeling helpless. I’d start telling Barry about something I’d heard or read to get it off my chest, and he’d cut me off, telling me he didn’t want to hear it. I’d glare at him and ask, ‘How can you not care?’ ‘You never read the news, you wouldn’t have a clue what’s going on in the world’. I’d accuse him of being naive, and insensitive. This couldn’t be further from the truth and I knew it, but I couldn’t understand how one could just ‘switch it off’. He would tell me quite simply that it made him sad, and that he didn’t want to be sad. It’s taken me a long time to realise that there is a valuable lesson in these simple words. A life lesson. Barry is always happy. He oozes positivity, joy and enthusiasm in all that he does. (Except shopping, or visits to the beach – these are two activities that seem to suck the life from his soul right before my eyes). He knows it’s all out there – all the sad things, the darkness, but he doesn’t let it impact him in any way. He will say to me ‘You and I are not in a position to fix it”, ‘We can’t change it, so why get hung up on it?’ ‘Don’t focus on it’, “Don’t let it get you down”.
I read a blog post last week titled “Why focusing on joy doesn’t mean we’re ignoring the world’s problems”, and it came at a perfect time – just as I was trying to put my own feelings about all of this into words. Putting feelings into words is not something that I find easy, so I was glad to find that on this particular topic, it has already been taken care of! I’d encourage you to have a read of the post, it mightn’t be in my words, but the essence of exactly what I’ve been thinking/feeling/learning is right there. If you do happen to include this remote island of Sumbawa on your travel itinerary in the future because my photos have made it seem like some sort of irresistible paradise where the sun always shines and the birds always sing – I hope you see it the way I do.
I miss my Buddy dog. I miss waking up every morning and being greeted at the door for a lengthy cuddle with my little friend. I miss rolling around on the grass in the backyard participating in his games. As tiring as it sometimes was, I even miss throwing his ball. I miss all the laughter his antics induced. I just miss him. I miss the mail lady and her frequent deliveries to my door. I miss opening packages and parcels. I miss the weekly delivery of fresh, organic fruit & vegetables to my door.
I miss the galahs, and the kookaburras. I think I even miss magpies. I miss watching Buddy protect his territory by charging at intruding magpies.
I am missing the change of seasons. I miss watching the sun set a little earlier every day, and I miss feeling that unmistakeable crispness in the air that signals winter is on the way. It’s always summer here. I’m going to miss cardigans, tights and boots. Scarves. Hot baths. Weekend winter getaways. Log fires. Flannelette pyjamas.
I miss being able to do yoga without rearranging my whole house to make room for a mat.
I miss cheese. Real cheese. I miss Oportos. Sometimes I could just go some hot chips. With extra chicken salt.
I miss my garden, the fresh herbs and the continuous supply of fresh, organic vegetables. I miss my morning green smoothie. I miss getting my hands dirty. I miss the afternoons I spent watering, weeding and willing the little plants to grow. I miss my kitchen sink, and I miss the knowledge that I was preparing food in clean, safe water. I didn’t even think about it. Now I’m sick of bottles. I miss brushing my teeth with water from a tap.
I miss going outside without being covered from head to toe with sticky insect repellent.
I miss people. You know who you are. I miss conversation. Complicated sentence structures. Australian accents. Even my husband is developing an Indonesian accent. At work, he is so used to saying ‘pak’ (sir), that he sometimes says it to me. We’re leaving words out of sentences, talking like 3 year olds, and it’s becoming normal.
“We go beach?”… “Yes, I bring camera!”.
I miss being able to overhear and understand conversations that take place around me.
I miss the sound of the lawnmower. I miss that freshly cut grass smell.
I miss my car. I miss driving. I’m not sure if I can drive still, it’s been so long.
I miss being able to open any recipe book, knowing that I’ll have any ingredients I need either on hand or just a 3 minute drive away. I miss the butcher. I miss roast dinners. I miss my pantry. I am frustrated at the lack of healthy ingredients and fresh food here. It’s been an ordinary week for me. I’ve struggled. The holiday is over, reality is setting in. This is the longest I’ve ever been away from Australia. It feels like it’s time to pack our bags and head for home. But this is home. And that’s when it hits me.
The real estate sent us photos of the first inspection they made of our house in Australia since it’s been rented out. There’s someone else’s furniture in my house, and there are strange dogs sitting at the door, not my Buddy dog. There’s no home to go back to. It’s not ours anymore.
I know there is so much on offer here. So much to learn, so many new experiences. So much to see and do. It’s an amazing opportunity and I’m thankful we’re here. We’re learning lots. Changing. Growing. I have been embracing the experience with an open heart. It has been exciting, challenging, rewarding. But sometimes I just miss home.
Change is hard. Letting go is hard. Sometimes we fight to hold on. Then we fight to let go.
I haven’t been feeling much at all this week. It’s just been ordinary. The things that usually speak volumes to me went quiet. Things I usually love doing didn’t interest me. It was like the world lost it’s colour, and I could only see in black and white. Dull, boring and uninteresting.
Yesterday I wanted to go to the beach to try and reconnect with this place. I needed to feel the sand under my bare feet. I wanted to see the sunset. Barry got held up at work. When he got home I thought it was too late, too dark. He insisted we go for a quick drive anyway. I’m glad we did.
As I walked along in the shallow water picking up pieces of coral, examining shells and breathing in the ocean air, I felt the colour returning. Slowly at first, but then this happened.
The sky was full of colour. Vibrant, saturated colour. It was unreal, and it was impossible not to feel anything. It was just what I needed to see, the timing was perfect. It was like a little sign, a reassurance that this is where we need to be, and everything is going to be ok.
I was just going to type all of these words, to get them out. I needed them out. I didn’t want anyone else to read them. But I’ve been thinking, and all of this – the feelings, the emotions, the black and white – it’s all part of the journey. It’s not always blue skies and butterflies, and I don’t want to filter out the reality of it all so I’m going to quickly hit publish before I back out.
Last Saturday (not the most recent, but the one before), we participated in our very first Hash Run. We had never heard of Hash House Harriers, Hash Runs, Hashers, Hares or Hounds before, but it sounded like a great way to see parts of this jungle island we wouldn’t otherwise see, so we signed up. Hash Runs are organised here every Saturday and involve running/walking/climbing a trail that has been marked out in advance by red ribbons. The location of the run is always different, and from week to week the runs offer varying degree of difficulty. There have already been over 900 Hash Runs here, so there are a lot of red ribbons tied to trees throughout the jungle!
This particular run was considered easy. It took us through some rice paddies, into thick jungle, along a creek and out onto the beach. There were no hills, and the only obstacle we had to navigate wasn’t actually part of the trail, but rather a wooden gate that we hastily made an exit over after realising we had taken a wrong turn into a farmer’s enclosed rice field. At the end of the run, we were given directions to the starting point of the next week’s run which we were told would be an extremely challenging run involving lots of hills. Most people didn’t appear too enthusiastic about this news, but the mountain goat inside me started skipping around excitedly at the thought of exploring some of the many hills and mountains that appear to rise up out of the ocean and form this jungle island. I decided then and there that participation in the next run wasn’t optional, and as the week went by I found myself eagerly anticipating the arrival of Saturday afternoon.
Unfortunately, things didn’t quite go to plan. In the early hours of Saturday morning, there was a major breakdown at the mine that required Barry’s attendance. I was holding onto the hope that everything would swiftly be restored to working order, and that by the time we needed to leave townsite to make our way to the starting point of the Hash Run, Barry would be home. Sadly though, the situation at the mine deteriorated and as Hash time approached I found myself pacing around counterproductively with my phone in hand, daring it to ring.
When I did eventually get a phone call, I had already resigned myself to the fact that there would be no adventuring that afternoon, and when Barry asked – “What can I offer you for a consolation prize?”, I knew just the thing! That evening after the Hash run had finished, I contacted some of the participants of the run and gathered all of the information I could about the trail. I then informed Barry that I would like to redeem my consolation prize the very next afternoon.
We set off on our Sunday ‘stroll’, following the directions I was given to the starting point of the trail. We located some red ribbons and (a little reluctantly), we were directed into a quagmire where we could somewhat reassuringly see footprints from the previous day’s runners. I had been given information that there were two water crossings on the trail, one at the very beginning and another at the end. I had looked up the tide times to make sure we set off as the tide was running out, and I was hoping that our timing would mean we didn’t need to get our feet wet at the start of the trail. As we located one ribbon after another, the ground became more and more waterlogged and making our way across the mud with dry shoes was getting to be impossible. Eventually, we reached the edge of a creek where it seemed that there was no way forward. We looked around for the next ribbon but we couldn’t see it anywhere. I stood glued to the spot by the suction of the goopy mud while Barry backtracked a little, and tried to find our next clue. He had just started making his way back to me through the mud when I spotted it! Tied to a stick, right in the middle of the water a little way upstream. We stood frowning at the red cloth it in disbelief, and I was forced to admit that perhaps my tidal calculations weren’t quite spot on. Coming to the conclusion that we’d rather not squelch our way up a mountain in wet shoes, we decided to back our way out of the swamp and try and locate a bridge I thought I had spotted as we’d been driving to the starting point. There was indeed a ‘bridge’ a little way upstream, however upon closer inspection of this awe inspiring feat of engineering, I began to wonder if wet shoes was possibly the better option. We’ve made a few ‘less than ideal’ bridge crossings before, especially when we trekked in Nepal – but I think the prize for the most structurally unstable bridge would have to go to this construction! There’s nothing quite like a bridge crossing that puts an extra ‘spring’ in your step. Reunited with solid ground, we made our way back to what we thought was the trail. The red ribbons appeared a little faded though, and realising there was a chance that we could come across an old trail, we walked around in circles for a while trying to confirm that we were definitely on the most recent trail. We could hear a family working away in a nearby cornfield, and it wasn’t long before they spotted us and began yelling out enthusiastic greetings in broken English. We wandered over to the fence to say hello, at the same time hoping that maybe they could confirm that we were on the right track. One of the farmers insisted that we needed to go through his paddock, and seeing the red ribbons strung up along the bottom of the fence, Barry climbed up to investigate further. There seemed to be some confusion, and after some further attempts at communicating ‘jalan-jalan’ (we’re walking) whilst pointing up at the hill, one of the farmers finally appeared to comprehend. “Ahhh, you just walking!”. He went on to explain that the day before, there had been another backpacker working for them, and he thought that Barry with his backpack was also there to work. Laughing at the confusion, and thankful that we had narrowly avoided being recruited as a corn harvesters we headed off into of the jungle. It was hot and sticky in the jungle, and the ribbons lead us on a steep incline that set my buttocks on fire. I’ve never been a ‘sweaty’ person, but here in the jungle I felt like I had just been for a swim, fully clothed. I had drained a water bottle all too soon, and I was glad when we emerged from the cover of the jungle out into the open. At this point, the slope of the terrain became so steep I felt that hands should be involved. At the sharp incline we were ascending at, it wasn’t long and we were so high up that we thought we had to be somewhere close to the highest point of the trail. The views here were spectacular! We could no longer see people, and we could just make out our car where we’d left it under a tree beside the water. We could see the port, and we watched the seaplane take off across the water way down below us. We thought that this was probably as high as the trail would take us, so we stayed here for a while, absorbing it all. I had some fun with my camera, zooming in on the port and the backyards of the little villages, before setting the timer to put us into the picture! We were conscious that the sun would be setting in a couple of hours, and not wishing to spend a night atop an Indonesian mountain we resumed the hunt for the red ribbons. We followed the ribbons up over a ridge and to our surprise, we saw that we had most definitely not been at the highest point of the trail. There was a HUGE rock face rising up out of the ground, and we couldn’t even see how high the mountain went up beyond the rock. It was really high, and I was adamant that there was no way the trail could possibly go up there. Little did I know. We climbed.. ..and climbed.. ..and climbed. With the help of some knotted ropes in some of the more vertical sections, we eventually made it to a place where we could see down towards the ocean on the other side of the mountain. We heard the seaplane returning, but this time we could barely see it – it was just a little dot down below. The air was fresh, the sun was sinking deeper into the sky and we could hear the various pitches of cow bells clanging down below us, in and around the hills. The afternoon couldn’t have been more perfect, and I dawdled along breathing it in before I was brought back to reality with a friendly yet firm reminder that somewhere down there (now out of site), was our car, and that we really needed to reach it before sunset. The descent proved to be just as much of a challenge as the ascent. It was so steep in places, that I wasn’t sure whether I should be going down forwards or backwards. The ground was covered in loose stones, and Barry seemed to be having particular issues with finding stable footholds. Over and over, I cringed as he slipped on the stones, making that horrible ‘skidding on gravel’ sound that no climber likes to hear on the side of a mountain. One particular slip though, made me burst out laughing as he sat down hard and unexpectedly on his backside. He didn’t miss a beat, lifting his head and pretending to admire the view with a look of absolute peace and calmness on his face. I took a quick photo before he picked himself up, and as I hovered there reliving the moment on my camera, nearly wetting myself with laughter – he snapped a couple of photos of his own. Earlier in the afternoon, Barry had accidentally stepped in a cow pat and I had laughed uncontrollably at his misfortune. I quickly realised my mistake, stating “I shouldn’t have laughed at that, now I’ll step in a super sloppy one”. Well, about one hour later I confidently put my foot on what appeared to be a smooth and stable stepping stone, only to feel my foot sink into it. It was very sloppy indeed. So after I’d had a another good laugh at him sitting down hard on the hillside, I was very protective of my tailbone as I inched down over the place where he’d slipped, and I didn’t let my guard down for the remainder of the descent. Our car came into view just as the sun slipped down behind the mountain. (You can see it in the photo above, Barry is looking at it – just to the left of the white house standing out on it’s own.) We hurried down the hill towards it, racing the sun and arriving relieved back at sea level just as the sun sank into the ocean – the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Nothing makes me feel more alive than this kind of an adventure, and it has gone down in my memory as one of the best afternoons of my life. Tourists don’t get to go here. When you travel to a place, you don’t often get to really ‘know’ it. Usually, unless you really go out of your way – you will see and experience the same things that every other traveller/tourist does. The most special thing about this adventure was that it was just us, a few local farmers, the cows and some monkeys. There was no litter, and nobody following us trying to sell us something. It was unspoiled, unpretentious and we’re beginning to feel like we’re getting to ‘know’ this place. I think I like it!