A Travellerspoint blog

The Gili Islands but not Lombok!

Trewangan - turtles, Irish bars and the night market

To break up my time in Bali I decided to head out to the Gili islands. A quick evening phone call by Nyoman Sueren, my Ubud homestay host, and The Fool was all booked on the ferry for the next morning.
A 6.45 shuttle bus start was scheduled however the driver must have had a good lay-in as he was at least 30 minutes late reaching me and still had more pickups afterwards. When the bus was finally jam packed full we had under 55 minutes to complete the drive, all the passenger registration formalities and to board the boat - the only trouble is the journey to Padang Bai always takes well over an hour. The result was that our moody driver went like a maniac trying to make up time, overtaking on blind bends, swerving in and out of lanes of traffic and even jumping red traffic lights on the wrong side of the road. Well, we all lived to tell the tale however pulses were racing and many a sweaty brow was wiped as we all tried to calm ourselves at journeys end. The irony was that we had to wait some time for another bus of punters to arrive before we could board the boat and set off to sea, so he need not have put all of us through the death race experience!
The boat, too, was pretty packed so quite a few passengers sat up on top. Many of them ended up absolutely drenched as the boat carved through the sea towards our paradise islands.

On arrival at the beautiful, idyllic beach the usual accomodation touts were yet again out in force and here I was lucky once more. Whilst one pushy young fellow was trying to promote 3 or 4 different homestay options, a quietly spoken lad next to him offered me a room at his family place for the same price with all the same facilities - bedroom with fan, bathroom, and breakfast included. For some reason I opted to check this place out and, despite the walk some 4 streets back from the beach, I felt comfortable and immediately agreed to stay. The place is called Little Woodstock and it is well worth the money and the few minutes walk into the town.
My en-suite facilities

My en-suite facilities


Bags dumped in the room and it was off to wander around the latest location and seek out some breakfast - like most tourist resorts that have grown in popularity there are numerous eateries and bars, bike, snorkel and flipper hire stalls and little stores selling overpriced everything. There are plenty of choices about where and what to eat, with higher prices reflecting those with a beachfront location while smaller, much cheaper and more traditional places are found one or two streets further back from the shore.
My walk along the front afforded views of the beautiful beach peppered with many colourful boats, the backdrop being the sandy coastline of nearby Gili Manuk and beyond this the brooding, cloud-cloaked presence of Lombok which had started its rainy season a little early (due, no doubt, to the much higher volcanic mountains nestled over there). As I neared the eastern edge of the main street I happened upon that most touristic of all establishments - an Irish Bar complete with unpronouncable gaelic name, a drinks board proclaiming both Guinness and Irish Whiskey (neither of which they appear to have stocked - EVER), staffed entirely by local Balinese and the jewel in their crown, a huge indoor bar area complete with multiple tv screens to show all of the major sporting events! Winner!!
After enjoying a beer or three in the company of Glen, an affable Aussie who, at 45, is visiting various places in Asia with a view to finding his long term retirement location and with some traditional local food safely despatched it was back to the homestay to nap, freshen up and return to Little Ireland to endure the disappointment of an inept Arsenal team capitulating to the arch enemy of all Leeds fans, Man U. High point was that on the way home the night market was still open so I had a tasty take away chicken and noodles supper for just a knicker!!

Day 2 started with a lovely homestay breakfast cooked to order, followed by a solo biped circumnavigation of the whole island (including lengthy chats with several locals, it took about 2.5-3 hours), taking in the wonderful views followed by a well deserved couple of bir bintangs.
His and hers loungers

His and hers loungers


Solitude with a view

Solitude with a view


Surfs up

Surfs up


Dinner across the road from the homestay was in a small local's place and was nicely filling, the meat quite boney though, then it was off to the Paddy Bar to watch Lewis Hamilton's wretched luck continue in the Abu Dhabi grand prix. I ran into Glen again, who had been on the sauce since mid afternoon and was a little bit the worse for wear (properly pissed actually), before I toddled off to the homestay for a late and cold shower and my bed. Mild exertion can be quite tiring in the heat and humidity - well thats my excuse anyway.

Day 3 was a real breakthrough day: Today I have finally seen LIVE TURTLES SWIMMING IN THE WILD!!.
First thing on the agenda for Monday was a jaunt into town to book a snokelling trip - 3 sites around the 3 Gili islands. Whilst talking to the helpful young lad in the sales booth we discussed the merits of visiting neighbouring Lombok. The options were there but 1) going to see another waterfall just didnt do it for me and 2) the treks up the volcano have been marred by very poor weather and rain. Given that the mountain had been constantly shrouded in cloud since my arrival in the Gilis the thought of trekking and camping in the rain was a no brainer. (I later met  a guy who had done that volcano trip and he said that there was no health and safety provision and that parts of the ascent were effectively rockclimbing as it was that steep on occasion).
Having procured a ticket for the snorkelling and finally located my free flippers I joined about 25 other intrepid tube suckers on our jolly green boat and we headed up the shore of Gili Trawangan to the first snorkel site (easily recognised by the plethora of swimmers already there from other boats). The water was very pleasantly warm and the views were pretty damned good for the price (£6.50 for the 5 hour trip) with the fish being small but plentiful and the coral somewhat less dense than on the Great Barrier Reef but with some much bigger individual corals in the mix.
Snorkel central!

Snorkel central!


After a good swim around it was off to a site off of Gili Meno for a guided trip along the "reef" to spot and briefly follow the timid wild turtles. Finally, after my barren attempts in Oz, I got to see some of these beautiful, languid creatures just doing their stuff in their own back yard. We were priviledged to see 3 individuals, the last of which was the biggest of the day with a shell measuring about 60cm across, munching on coral before surfacing for air and then just easing out to sea, away from the many masked pairs of eyes and wafting flippered feet of our gawping group. It is gratifying to know that such a simple creature can entrance an eager crowd of humanoids simply by being seen!
Guided tour section completed we then headed across to a site off of Gili Air where the captain suggested we be very careful - prudent and yet obvious advice as the wind had picked up and was encouraging the pretty big waves shorewards over the coral.
My mask sprung a constant leak so it was back to the boat a bit early to await lunch on Gili Air itself - seafood fried noodles notable only for the fact that said seafood comprised exclusively of a few small prawns! Our journey home was an adventure in itself - out in the open sea the waves were pretty big and our course was about 45 degrees right of head on, the result being that our sturdy old clinker pitched and yawed constantly in the increasing swell, with everybody being regularly doused in spray as we ploughed into and across each wave. Whilst a few of the passengers were clearly unnerved by the trip nobody screamed (much) and all lunches were retained.
Back on dry land The Fool sought to procure a cheap fishing charter however prices for the single traveller proved prohibitive so it looks like fishing off the jetty tomorrow provided the wind dies a bit and I can find some bait. A brisk walk around the western end of the town to see the sunset at the "Paradise Sunset Bar" run by an aussie called Rob was enjoyed whilst downing a couple of cheeky Bintangs with Glen, followed by watching a crazy fire juggler. and then a trip to the night market for supper. I selected a red snapper from an array of fresh fish which was then barbequed with lemon and garlic and served with rice and a garnish for the princely sum of IR50,000 (or £3.35 in old english). Beautiful!!
At sunset beach

At sunset beach

Man on Fire?

Man on Fire?


Last full day

With the wind up, the sea choppy and the Fool unable to source some bait the fishing aspect of this island trip was finally binned off, so priorities were booking a return ticket to Bali and . . . .  erm, well that was it!!
Having haggled the price down to the cost of the original trip out it was a day dedicated to enjoying a bit of downtime and some more fried noodles before another night market supper (white snapper, not as tasty and much more boney than his ginger coloured cousin) before an early night. The weather had been moody all day and finally, in the middle of the night we had a reasonable downpour, sufficient to take the temperature down to "comfortable".
Departure morning comprised breakfast, packing and waiting at the shore for our 10.30 fast boat to arrive.
Gili breakfast on leaving day.

Gili breakfast on leaving day.


On the return leg the boats call at both of the other Gili islands as well as Lombok so the journey time is significantly longer. The choppy conditions out in the open sea found out a few passengers, with a couple of unfortunate ladies losing their breakfasts in the most uncomfortable manner. Back at Padang Bai it bordered on pandemonium at times as people and luggage were finally reunited and with the charter guy trying to put the right number of people in the right sized vans to get to their onward destinations. Our shuttle back to Kuta was a compact 7 seater minibus which, somehow, managed to take all 7 of us and all of the assorted backpacks, suitcases etc inside by way of human tetris. Given the crazy shuttle ride from Ubud on my way out I had hoped for a straightforward and gentle 90 minute transfer through Bali's incessant traffic. Sadly this was not to be as about half way back to Legian our driver (who looked about 14) started to give a couple of guys on a motorbike a bit of a close call, almost running into the back of them and then forcing them to the side of the road. The boys had the temerity to pull up alongside and return the verbals at which point our driver swerved violently towards them, literally forcing them off of the tarmac. A repeated attempt to berate our driver resulted in another crazy swerve, this time hitting the bike broadside, bending/breaking their wing mirror. Needless to say the fight was now on and the bikers buzzed around the minibus like an angry wasp, trying to get us to pull over to sort things out while our driver continued to try to swat them, using our bus to do it. At one point they were seen  to pull over ahead of us and, as our driver again ignored them, they picked up some rocks to use on us (fortunately they didnt throw them). The battle carried on for several kilometres and included a reprisal attack by the bikers who kicked out at and smashed the shuttle's nearside rear light covers. The driver ignored the pleas and demands of all of us  passengers not to carry on with his crazy antics however the matter was finally "settled" by a long argument at a set of traffic lights. Both parties having made their point the bikers drove away leaving us to hope that our driver could complete the journey without further incident which, fortunately, he did.

And so endeth the Gili section of the Indonesian leg of the trip.

Posted by RoystonBoyston 09:24 Comments (0)

Ubud - the cultural heart of Bali

Luwak coffee, rice, temples and the burning of the dead

Following another aimless town based day in Kuta the Fool finally got his butt into gear and (after a McD's coffee) headed to the main street in Legian to locate the bus/tour company for a ride to Ubud. Having secured a ticket, returning by taxi to the hostel to collect my baggage and then being dropped off back at the bus stop ought to have been straightforward. However limited time and the crazy, all-day-long traffic in Kuta meant my arrival back at the ticket agent's office was pretty much at the same time as the bus was due to depart. Although Bluebird Taxis are everybodies first choice and run on the meter the drivers appear to think that the size of "tip" they get from customers is something that they alone decide!! Hence, whilst the meter for my trip read a tad over IDR30000 my driver deemed it appropriate to give me no change out of the 40k I handed over - he probably sensed that I had very little time and to be honest I struggled to work out what the tip actually meant in proper money, before he rejoined the constant stream of mopeds and taxis and sped off, at about 5 kph!!!

The bus ride cost 50k (just over 3 quid) and proved that you get what you paid for: no air con, possibly no suspension judging by the constant bone jarring jolts from the many potholes that the driver appeared to aim for, and the "stick to your thighs" ancient plastic seats.

On arrival at Ubud we were ejected into the usual melee of locals touting for guests for their homestays. My captor, Nyoman Seuren, whose family own and run the Suartha Pension homestay, reduced his initial quote to the off season norm of R100k per night then it was off into the tight street traffic on his moped - we two adults, my full backpack and a couple of other bags, negotiating the narrow streets at a fair old lick on his gutless little machine. Once at his I was led to my "room" which was a self contained unit - double bed, overhead fan and en-suite bathroom, far from the noisy main street - bargain at the price methinks. An initial chat with mine host included agreeing an itinerary for the Tuesday in which he would transport me around the countryside for the day on his newer, more powerful motorbike, and would end with me having to decide how much I should pay him based on how much I enjoy the day!! An after event narrative follows:

Day 2: After a quick trip to the local food market (which reminded me of last year's Peruvian equivalents) it was back to a delightful breakfast of an omlette sandwich and fresh fruit before perching on the back of the moped for a magical mystery tour of the top spots, as identified by Nyoman.
Homestay breakfast .... nom,nom,nom

Homestay breakfast .... nom,nom,nom

Our tour comprised what must be the standard for every short term visitor to Ubud - winding through un-named and largely unmade streets, roads, paths and alleys to a set number of "must see" attractions, each of which cost an entrance fee of about £1 (reminding me of the farmer in the "Carry on Camping" film).

First stop was to view the rice terraces which were all the more impressive as they were some way up in the hills in a steep sided valley. The most remarkable thing about these (and all subsequent paddy fields throughout my asian swing) was the amazing hue of green that the mature rice plants reach just before the rice is ready to harvest. It is a different shade to any other vegetation I can recall in that it seems to radiate its colour, drawing the eye and brightening up the surrounding area.
Rice paddies

Rice paddies

Harvest time

Harvest time


Next port of call was the Rock Temple, built, not surprisingly, into the rock of another valley. Evidently ancient, it is still an active place of worship with an attached monastery. After this we went to the Water Temple and I bet you can guess what the theme of this one was. As well as the temple itself there were a couple of large rectangular pools, fed by multiple spouts under which one is encouraged to cleanse away ones sins by ducking into the flowing torrents. Yes, the Fool did do the tourist thing and go in and, yes, the water was bl@@dy cold.
The Rock Temple

The Rock Temple

Cold?? - its effing freezing!

Cold?? - its effing freezing!


The fourth stop was a bit of a surprise on two counts 1) it was free and 2) it was informative and enjoyable! Stopping on a quiet country road I was led into a well cultivated area which is run by a coffee plantation in the hills. A guided tour of their local fruit trees was followed by a run through of the manual process of making Luwak coffee - the coffee berries are eaten by wild Civets which then pooh out the coffee beans, allegedly removing caffeine and adding some magical health inducing ingredients and properties during their digestive processes. The beans are collected, washed and then roasted before being ground up - all by hand - packaged and sold at a rediculous premium, mainly to a few Singaporean restaurants apparently. After the tour I was treated to a tea and coffee tasting session which was a real treat.
Luwak coffee basics

Luwak coffee basics

Coffee tasting - nice job

Coffee tasting - nice job


After the coffee stop it was into the mountains for lunch - another entrance fee for the valley view then a hugely inflated priced, rubbish buffet which, given its location and the lack of alternatives at the top of the mountain, was not really optional.
The view at lunchtime!

The view at lunchtime!


The return journey incorporated a visit to a "traditional" village which was well worth the fee followed by a surprise visit to Nyoman's family home where his wife made us tea and snacks. His eldest daughter is currently studying to be a beauty and massage therapist and gave me a full thai massage on their front porch, with all family and pets looking on, as practice for an exam she was taking the next day. After this relaxing session it was back on the motorbike and back to the homestay.
Standard issue shrine in the traditional village

Standard issue shrine in the traditional village

Suaren's family

Suaren's family


Day 3 was supposed to be relaxing and low key however my host kept coming up with interesting things to do. Having taken a leisurely breakfast of banana toastie and fresh fruit the Fool set off to visit the nearby Monkey Forest and temple at the bottom end of town. This proved to be mildly entertaining as the monkeys tried to rob those tourists who allowed them to get too close or taunted them with bananas.
Statuary at the Monkey Temple

Statuary at the Monkey Temple

Mmmm ... banana!

Mmmm ... banana!

Dont tease me frenchie!

Dont tease me frenchie!


During our trip the previous day we had passed through sites of forthcoming weddings and funerals so Nyoman suggested that I hotfoot it back from the monkeys for around midday so that he could drop me off to view a quadruple funeral/open air cremation ceremony.
Depositing me at a local's eatery near the procession start point I find that I have no local lingo knowledge and nobody in the food shack speaks a word of the queens (or any other) english. The chappie there tried to help me but we both end up simply pointing at the menu and reading out aloud the names of the dishes - not a hope of either understanding the other. I ended up having some coloured, cooked and flavoured rice with crispy fried onions on top, filling and tasty but still, as yet, unnamed!
Lunch despatched to the old belly and its outside into the raw heat of the day to follow the funereal procession through the streets, witnessing the chaos that ensues when 25-30 men of all ages carry a multi-storey construction (containing the deceased) through streets which are criss-crossed with telephone and power lines that hang too low for the procession to pass under unaided.  Every time a new cable is reached pandemonium breaks out as long bamboo poles are used to try and raise the wires above the construction and all the while an old fire engine is using its water cannon to soak and cool down the pall bearers. Not all of the construction (nor indeed the wires) escaped damage but eventually the procession reached the cemetery.
Too big for the streets

Too big for the streets

Crowd refreshment

Crowd refreshment


Preparation of the body for the cremation itself takes about 45 minutes during which the brightly wrapped remains are transferred to the platform on which it will be burned, various things are added to help the deceased in their onward journey and the large attendant family pay their last respects. Finally the pyre is lit using a couple of industrial gas-fired flamethrowers and, with remarkable speed, the whole thing flares up and burns bright and very hot. Once the body has been completely cremated the families set up shrines at the various cremation platforms to remember those who have passed, a noisy, colourful and vibrant celebration and ceremony, fittingly ended with time for quiet reflection.
Having never previously witnessed a Hindu send off I had the mixed emotions of a nearby observer, walking in amongst the crowd following the route, slightly bemused by the vivid colours and raucous musical accompanyment, unused to the friendliness and openness of everybody involved and also slightly embarrassed at intruding on such a private family event. The local people, however, celebrate the passing of their relatives and are very welcoming to all and sundry at the open air site, offering food and drink freely to anyone in the throng.
After witnessing the cremation of the body that I followed from the start I wound my way back to a rendezvous with Nyoman and his motorbike who returned me to the homestay.
The body is transferred...

The body is transferred...

...... and finally the cremation

...... and finally the cremation

Day 4 was moving day, as I had decided to head off to the Gili islands for a few days rest and recuperation after my all action programme in Ubud.

Postscript: Whilst Kuta, Legian and the other coastal places are completely commercialised and touristic Ubud is currently undergoing an increasingly rapid transition. Currently it still, deservedly, retains its cultural centre of Bali title but the tourism sector has recognised its financial potential and a speedy regeneration programme has been undertaken. Whilst the town still has its mixture of quaint traditional streets and some run down areas, a number of 5 star resorts, spas etc have sprung up with many other high end tourist hotels and the like under construction or in advanced planning. Some of the shabbier street have already been "made over" with restaurants and souvenier shops moving in, to the detriment of the village feel that so recently attracted the punters. If you want to experience the old and the new, I suggest that you get yourself to Ubud asap before it loses what character that still remains.

Posted by RoystonBoyston 19:09 Comments (0)

Bali

Kuta, Legian and reunited with Tim

My arrival in Bali, which also constituted my first steps in South East Asia, was after some local storms and, after experiencing no visa issues at the airport despite the late hour, I caught a taxi (it cost IDR150,000 which, to be honest, meant nothing to me at the time as I had no idea of exchange rates and taxi fare rates) to secure cheap room and board at the Bedbunkers Hostel in Kuta.
The next morning I did the usual on-foot reconnoitre of the local area (hot, dusty roads with no pavement, chock-a-block with seemingly millions of mopeds and motorbikes buzzing around like flies and beeping their horns at everything that moved or even threatened to - welcome to Asian Standard Noise).
Having made my way to the grand beach entrance at Legian I was accosted by Pepe, a local who was touting for a holiday ownership programme (NOT timeshare apparently) and who pretty much blackmailed me emotionally to go with him to their sales office for a short, painless, no obligation presentation for which he would earn US$50 - enough to keep him for a month. When will I learn to keep my mouth shut?? After 2 hours of the usual timeshare style sales technique and, armed with literature and their "once in a lifetime discounts, only available for the next 48 hours" price quotes I was whisked back to the beach entrance where, finally, I was able to walk onto the hot sand and soak up the relatively uncrowded view.
My first Indonesian temple

My first Indonesian temple

Legian beach entrance

Legian beach entrance


Afterwards I walked (sweated actually) back to the hostel to meet Jeff, the dutch owner, who runs Bedbunkers. It is a good hostel but suffers from a poorish location for the beach and main tourist amenities. The dorms comprised 12 beds in the room, triple deckers which could instill vertigo on the upper levels, with each bunk having its own locker and light built in. I stayed a couple of nights, just enough time to locate a conveniently close MacD's, for my breakfast coffee, and a couple of decent local food eateries (warungs) where I was happy to sample new and exciting asian fare. Discussions about places of culture and interest with Jeff revealed that the journey to the island's cultural heart, Ubud, was a simple matter of catching the Parama bus in central Legian and cost about £3 (or 50k in the local coinage) one way. See the separate entries regarding my short sorties to Ubud and The Gillies.

Following the frankly harrowing minibus journey from the return Gili trip I returned to Bedbunkers and arranged to meet up with Tim Barnett, a long term traveller from Oz who was one of the first people I met in my Americas trip. I had traversed the USA, dipped my toes into South America's cultural waters, returned home to the UK for 8 months to work and completed 5 months in NZ and Australia since we last met. He, on the other hand, was still enjoying uniterrupted travel and had no plans to return to his home. Naturally his extensive time on the road (particularly around SE Asia) had given him immense local knowledge regarding hostels/homestays, great cheap places to eat, how much to pay for and where to rent motorbikes (only c£2 per day) etc, etc.
We met up on the Wednesday and by the weekend I had rented a motorbike and joined the road chaos (the girl at the hostel reckoned the helmet made me look like a nazi?!?!?), moved into the Dua Dara hotel (own room, included breakfast, swimming pool, great central location), tried my first sheesha (the hubbly bubbly thing, wasnt unpleasant but not sure it if did anything for me), and enjoyed a big, alcohol fuelled,  night out at the Sky Garden.
My new wheels

My new wheels

My Nazi Stormtrooper look!!

My Nazi Stormtrooper look!!

Hotel Dua Dara - sweet!

Hotel Dua Dara - sweet!

Reunited with Tim

Reunited with Tim

The Sky Garden deserves a separate mention - this is THE place to go in Legian, with 8 different bars, each of which plays different music genres, multiple free or cut priced drink offers throughout the night and great views of the night time city from the higher floors.

The friday night alcofest was a big one, what with pre-club drinks in the street (Jaegermeister and Morgan spiced rum with coke), then free drinks from 9 til 10 in Sky Garden, then back to the hostel for more Capt Morgan. Back again to Sky for cheap drinks and dancing, I imbibed a significant volume of strong alcohol, lost Tim, have no idea what time I returned to the hostel and next day found that Tim thinks he was out til 5am.

Food choice in Legian is great, with many warungs (including the Suckling Pig place by the bridge), Tims local favourite off of Jl Poppies 2 and the great night market. Plenty of fried options and the chicken satay at Smiles warung in the market was fab (they put something extra in the peanut sauce for us to help us smile!)
Nom, nom and nom

Nom, nom and nom

Sunset beach

Sunset beach

Saturday was lazy but Tim seeed to be hooking up with a beautiful little local girl, so mooching around the beach area was the height of the excitement.
The beach at Legian

The beach at Legian

Top end kite-flying

Top end kite-flying


My departure day from Bali was a mixture of the old and the new - an early morning swim, breakfast, packing, McDs for coffee and poor wifi were the norm. Todays variety was the post Dua Dara hours - the taxi over to Ubung bus station, swapping indonesian and spanish words and phrases with my friendly Bluebird driver followed by the local bus trip to Gilimanuk. Local buses here run along similar lines to those in south america in that they are quirky, brightly coloured mini-buses in varying states of disrepair and that they are operated by a two man team - the driver and his "catcher" who's job is to tout business along the streets of each town. The upshot of this is that every time we went through any built up area the driver slowed down to crawl along the side of the dusty roads at fractionally above walking speed. Indeed, when we left the Ubung bus station we spent the first half hour of the trip in first gear kerbcrawling, no wonder the journey takes about 3 hours! The locals are a canny bunch, sitting at the side of the road along the route waiting for the bus to come to them, unlike the Fool who joined at the start. As well as joining at any point the bus also stops anywhere that the passengers want to get off so be prepared for a very disjointed trip.
About halfway through the journey I saw a motorbike skidding along the tarmac outside my window and coming to rest in front of the bus. The bike was closely followed by the rider who slid, rolled and tumbled along the road beside me until he too came to a halt, somewhat bizarrely landing on his feet after a final balletic roll. Dusting himself down he trotted over to the bike, made a brief check and then prepared to resume his journey - no idea how or why he came off his ride but nobody was hurt so all good!!

The rest of the journey proved uneventful with arrival at Gilimanuk in the dark at just before 8pm. Touted by a local to stay cheaply up the road, I bedded down for just the one night in what was definitely the worst homestay, hostel or hotel room so far - its ONLY redeeming feature was a window fan which eventually lowered the room temperature to just below the boiling point of blood by the early hours of the morning. As well as being sited right on the main road which runs 24/7 with lorries going to or from Java, we also had the deep joy of being very close to one of the many mosques in the west of Bali and this one had an immensely powerful loud speaker system. At 4.15 am I was awakened by the early morning call to prayer blasting through the open louvres in my window, I was not a happy bunny!!!

My morning pick up was way ahead of time, however I was already packed and, to be honest, couldnt wait to leave my "home away from homestay". I had planned to take some breakfast at the ferry area but found myself whisked right to the ticket line and 5 minutes later I had been frogmarched aboard the ferry so, with barely a backward glance and a very empty belly it was farewell to Bali, hello Java.
Java ahoy!

Java ahoy!

Posted by RoystonBoyston 22:26 Comments (0)

Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks

sunny 30 °C

Having heard so much about the beautiful scenery in the Northwest of Australia it was a no brainer to book a package deal to visit these National Parks. My premature arrival in Darwin courtesy of a panic buy flight from Sydney certainly afforded me the opportunity in terms of time and, since I had been unable to get to Perth and then travel up the beautiful west coast and flit through the Kimberleys, this was the ideal back up plan.

As with my snorkelling trip to the barrier reef it is evident that me plodding out a description of the length of the journey, quality of roads, tour group make up, etc will not do justice to the fantastic experience we were to enjoy. As ever our guide proved more than capable of the task of showing us as much as we could take in, suffice to say that, in my humble opinion, it can best be described as a "Wonderful 3 days".

I have decided, therefore, to let the pictures do the talking as you feast your eyes on just some of what this Fool was fortunate enough to witness:

Day 1 - Into Kakadu

Our first wildlife sightings !

Our first wildlife sightings !


Aboriginal graffiti

Aboriginal graffiti

Chillin above the plains

Chillin above the plains

The land of big views!

The land of big views!

Our first bathing stop

Our first bathing stop


Day 2

Buzz reveals himself as the mystery stowaway!!

Buzz reveals himself as the mystery stowaway!!

One of many croc traps along our watery route

One of many croc traps along our watery route

No swimming? No sh!t, Sherlock!

No swimming? No sh!t, Sherlock!

Our transport

Our transport

Our route to the waterfall - a simply magnificent view!

Our route to the waterfall - a simply magnificent view!

The long, rocky trail to our next waterfall photo

The long, rocky trail to our next waterfall photo

This is in the dry season, during the wet season this is only accessible by heli-chopter

This is in the dry season, during the wet season this is only accessible by heli-chopter

Our plucky crew - this was as close as we were allowed to get to the waters edge in case of croc attacks! Nice!!

Our plucky crew - this was as close as we were allowed to get to the waters edge in case of croc attacks! Nice!!

Wow!

Wow!

A local tree-hugger

A local tree-hugger

Our all terrain transport

Our all terrain transport


Day 3

Early start for breakfast

Early start for breakfast

Roughing it - executive style!

Roughing it - executive style!

Our last day cruise site

Our last day cruise site

Nice!

Nice!

The majestic Sea Eagle surveys his domain

The majestic Sea Eagle surveys his domain

Bloody tourists - I'm outta here!!

Bloody tourists - I'm outta here!!

Padding around on the water

Padding around on the water

Silent and deadly, croc at 12 o'clock

Silent and deadly, croc at 12 o'clock

Lazing til lunch comes along

Lazing til lunch comes along

Stretchy legs!

Stretchy legs!

The identikit bird!

The identikit bird!

Beautiful

Beautiful

Up close and personal

Up close and personal

One of many magnificent cathedral termite mounds - phenomenal!

One of many magnificent cathedral termite mounds - phenomenal!

High-fiving with Buzz

High-fiving with Buzz


Funny but true

Funny but true

This enormous thing is a single tree!

This enormous thing is a single tree!


In a previous life I was the height of luxury and endurance!!

In a previous life I was the height of luxury and endurance!!

Florence Falls from the top viewpoint

Florence Falls from the top viewpoint


Florence falls watering hole - thats the Fool, in the bottom right corner.

Florence falls watering hole - thats the Fool, in the bottom right corner.

No idea what is going on here.

No idea what is going on here.

Our companion at the last waterhole on the trip

Our companion at the last waterhole on the trip

Beautiful plumage

Beautiful plumage

Another form of termite mound.

Another form of termite mound.

Returning to the oppressive heat and lack of excitement that Darwin provived put this trip into even more stark contrast. As with all of the parks and natural landmarks that I visited in Australia I thought that this adventure ticked all the boxes and was well worth the cost. Darwin may not win my vote as the best place in Oz but Litchfield and Kakadu are places not to miss!

Posted by RoystonBoyston 19:35 Archived in Australia Tagged kakadu_national_park litchfield_national_park Comments (0)

Darwin

Heat, humidity and decorated fridges

Even as you step off the plane on arrival at Darwin you are aware of a significant change in the environment - at 12.45am local time it is still 28 degrees and humid, humid, HUMID! Given that the clocks went back by 90 minutes during our 4 hour flight my slight fatigue was understandable, so thank goodness the shuttle buses ran all night and the Dingo Moon hostel allowed me to crash in their grounds til dawn!

I was laying prone on a sunlounger beside the pool when Lisa, a scandinavian human dynamo,, turned up to start cleaning at 5 am and shortly afterwards a delivery guy from Pizza pizzas called to deliver 6 full-sized pizzas, that nights closing stock, which he bestowed upon us instead of binning. Pizza for breakfast indeed! As the hostel started to wake up I completed check in formalities with Jess at about 7.15 after which she laid out quite a wide, and much more traditional, breakfast spread, so brekkie number two was scoffed before I would have normally even got out of bed.

What followed was a 4 hour "stroll" around parts of Darwin to get some bearings (a city that may be described as small but that description is relative to one's mode of transport and the prevailing weather conditions) and also to get used to the heat and humidity. Having picked up a couple of completely useless fishing tips from a singularly unsuccessful local fisherman I called in on the local legislature's home at Parliament House (a very large and largely unoccupied building) for a coffee before dragging my tired and sweaty body back to the hostel to freshen up and take of the days 3rd repast, and all of this before 1pm! If this carries on I could either balloon in weight or sweat myself to death before the Bali flight!
Darwin Harbour remembers WWII

Darwin Harbour remembers WWII

 
Art in a cup, and the coffee was tasty too

Art in a cup, and the coffee was tasty too


As is my wont I decided to continue my investigations of the locale on foot, despite the rediculous heat and humidity (although I had only just arrived and the weather conditions were new and extreme to me the truth is that I never got "used" to them during my time in Darwin) - points of "interest" included Doctor's Creek, the Deckchair Cinema by the beach, Cullen Bay (walking all of it) and Mindil Beach, inclusive of the evening market - a quaint mixture of exotic food options and local arts and crafts that ranged from model aeroplanes make from old beer cans to natural insect repellent and pictures to didgerydoos. Originally the market was a bit of an unofficial hippie style affair but in recent years the market has ome more of a tradition which provides some evening distraction (including musical performances and fire jugglers) after the long hot city days.
First sunset in Darwin

First sunset in Darwin

Fire juggler in action

Fire juggler in action


The promised thunderstorm never materialised but Max (from the Port Douglas reef trip) did and yep, that fella can effing drink!! After many libations, my first Australian traditional Thai meal, more alcohol and entry refusal at a second bar (cos we were wearing thongs) it was back to the sanctuary of the Dingo Moon Lodge for this unseasoned drinker!

Friday was somewhat unforgettable as for the most part as it was spent dangling food in the water for non-existant or fasting fish. Were it not for the seven lovely Irish girls (and Christophe, the intensely ginger german hitch hiker that they picked up and adopted) brightening up the evening the day could have been a total write-off. Being friday, when all the party animals headed off to theivellry, the Fool ended the day watching a subtitled spanish version of the film of Pans Labyrinth - summed the day up pretty well really.

Saturday was mission day with the task of finding singlets (vests to my traditional UK readers) to replace the tee shirts for day to day wear. The public bus to Casauria is cheap and air conditioned, the best possible combinatior the Fool in this quest. Being cheap means that they are also popular and the bus filled quickly with as wide a cross section of passengers as one could imagine. Amongst these were a number of aboriginals who's somewhat bizarre and drunken antics continued on the bus as they had on the roadside. The shopping centre is pretty damn big and had the usual Target and Big W superstores where I eventually tracked down the required white cotton wifebeaters. Sadly the promised free wifi proved less than effective so it was back on the bus to head home. The relative cool of the evening drew near so the Irish girls enlisted a number of other hostellers to head to the harbour area to play both Gaelic and english association football. Take it from me that these girls are fit, strong and mean when it comes to sport so they murdered us at the gaelic form and held their own in our traditional form of the game!! Great fun followed by evening beers.

Sunday was moving day, somewhat ironic as the continued energy sapping heat and humidity instill a listless torpor in the Fool and many other guests who were checking out or repositilning within the hostel. One highlight later in the day was a wander around the various entries in the somewhat bizarre Darwin Fridge Decorating exhibition which were dotted around the pedestrian area in front of the harbour.
One of the many bizarre decorated fridges

One of the many bizarre decorated fridges

Mega lego

Mega lego


Having sorted out my Litchfield and Kakadu trip (see separate entry for this adventure) and booked the Dingo Moon for the residual days it was just a case of passing time by fishing at the marina (where I hooked rock cod and blackspot as well as sighting thousands of jellyfish and one good sized croc), walking, drinking Aussie micro-brewery beers and doing washing in the ever increasing heat and humidity. On more than one occasion the full weeks washing was left on the line overnight only to be drenched by nighttime downpours - the monsoon season approacheth?
the deadliest catch

the deadliest catch


Shortly before my departure the weekend heralded an early Hallowe'en party where the British contingent of long termers went overboard with their costumes and gory makeup (particularly Jason, Matt, Liam etc) and also, as it turned out, with the volume of alcohol they managed to consume before terrorising the local streets and bars.
Jason and co ham it up at Hallowe'en

Jason and co ham it up at Hallowe'en


My final night in Oz coincided with the arrival of two eyecatching frauleins, Sarah and her travel buddy Hilke, the former of whom I was destined to meet on a number of occasions later in my South East Asia swing!
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Posted by RoystonBoyston 04:06 Comments (0)

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