Phnom Penh, the taste of cricket and a dive into the history of this country welcome us as we begin our travels through Cambodia 🇰🇭

 

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…we were all smiles and excited as we got our first glimpse of Phnom Penh

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Boarding our flight to Phnom Penh

Lacy: Tuesday night we ate our last meal in Indonesia as we enjoyed dinner and 2 towers of Bintang in Kuta before walking ourselves to the airport. It felt a bit odd to walk right into the airport as opposed to driving, but then again this wasn’t the first time we have done that in Indonesia and odd is our new normal. Arriving in Malaysia at 2am we stretched out on some terminal chairs and slept for a few hours before passengers began to pile in around 6am eager for their upcoming journeys. As our flight didn’t leave until 10am we enjoyed a breakfast of rice and chicken in the Malaysian airport. We are both so used to eating rice all the time now that it doesn’t really phase us to consume it at 8am. By 1pm we were getting our Cambodian visas, new SIM cards for our phones and grinning ear to ear as we embarked on our first tuk tuk ride together! Before even leaving Indonesia we decided that a tuk tuk ride seemed the most appropriate way to begin our travels in Cambodia. Oozing excitement, we began to soak in our new surroundings and come to a few early conclusions.

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Cruising down the Mekong river our first evening in Phnom Penh gave us another view of the city

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We both love the juxtaposition of traditional temples and the Royal Palace displayed against the modern architecture

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Rob needs very few things to be happy.  A boat and a beer is a winning combination for him

Another noted contrast is the shanty river town that sits on the banks of the Mekong directly in front of a swanky high rise hotel and residence:

 

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View of Royal Palace, that we later tour, from the river

I don’t think we realized how good we had it in Indonesia with the language using the same alphabet as English. Being able to read the local language and recognize words as we traveled, even if we weren’t sure how to pronounce them correctly, really helped us navigate through the country.  Our ride through the Phnom Penh made it pretty clear that our deciding to come to Cambodia with a days notice didn’t give us much time to prepare a few phrases, key words or knowledge of the language. I say “we” but the language part of traveling usually falls to me while Rob handles other parts he excels at. We actually find ourselves starting to speak Indonesian to Cambodians and having to stop ourselves.  We continue to use between each other though!  Speaking English, and not having some of the local language to throw in every once in a while, at a minimum, in a foreign country takes away the experience so I’ll be brushing up on Khmer. The traffic here is still just as crazy and plentiful. The combination of older rickshaws, modern tuk tuks, motorcycles, scooters, buses, minibuses, cars, bicycles and pedestrians make for a wild and crazy scene. We already witnessed a car backing out of a spot on the sidewalk and barely missing a motorcycle. The guy on the bike dumped it to avoid an accident and flying off went the 2 girls on the back. Everyone seemed fine on the bike and not 1 person stopped to see if they were ok, including the driver of the car.  That’s just what happens apparently. Not unlike Indonesia at all.  Because the of  the abundance of tuk tuks we immediately noticed that there are not motorcycles piled with chairs, chickens and bags of rice whizzing by.  Don’t worry – families of 5 are still piled on the bikes. While there is still street food here it seems to have less of a presence than Indonesia and in our few days here we are still trying to get our bearings. The food here in the carts is different and without really understanding the language and what we are eating we have been a little apprehensive. We did dive into a street cart once and it was great, but we are still weary given sir of the Jen things normally served that we don’t want to find ourselves eating…insects, rats, eels, buffalo intensities (2 of the 4 I already willingly tried but don’t need a repeat performance of).  Buddhist temples and statues are everywhere as well as monks clad in orange and red robes.

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Just to give you an idea of what the alphabet looks like – it’s the line under Singapore.  I chose to include this sign  because I thought it added something by advertising “fresh frog porridge!”

After our first 45 minute crash course as we cruised along in our tuk tuk we arrived at our hotel where we enjoyed a shower and rest before a sunset boat ride on the Mekong river nearby.  The boat was a great way to get another view do the city and relax after traveling.   $17 gets you a pretty decent place here. Hot shower, bottled water for drinking (no, you still can’t drink the water here), daily maid service and even a tv (I think there was a tv in maybe 1 place the entire time we were in Indonesia).  After three months it was nice to find and scroll through the 3 English channels hoping to find something that seemed mildly interesting.  The one thing we both miss is the included breakfast that was standard for every hotel or hostel in Indo.  Wasn’t fancy – usually toast and eggs and coffee, but always so appreciated.  I joked with Rob in Ubud as we laid in bed one morning and I was just beginning to wake up that sometimes the most “stressful” part of my morning is making sure I don’t oversleep and miss our free meal!  The people here are so friendly and kind.  On our first day we already had 4 new local friends whom we shared dinner, drinks and laughs with for 4 hours.

I love the style of this local bamboo bicycle and helmet:

 

 

The weather is noticeably warm here. Stepping out of the Phnom Penh airport reminded me of walking out of the Jakarta airport for our very first impression of Indonesia over 3 months ago.  Hot and sticky! Nothing we haven’t encountered already, but it’s still warm and we have both found ourselves getting a little overheated the past couple days and needing to sit down and cool off. Currently I am sitting on the pier behind our hotel in Kep, a sleepy little beach town 4 hours from Phnom Penh that we took a bus to this morning. The sun is setting, the waves lapping and breeze blowing and it feels refreshing after a hot day. It’s quiet here in the off season as the rain is beginning for monsoon season. We have experienced very little so far, but the one day we got a glimpse was like seeing a flash flood. Just solidified our decision not to rent a motorcycle for 3 weeks here, but rather on an as needed basis.  When we arrived in town this afternoon we picked one up for $5 and I LOVED being on the back again with Rob. Having our freedom to cruise and explore around is great. I’m intrigued by Cambodia’s recent tragic history with the genocide in the 70s which is actually why I rallied to come here when we were uncertain as to what country to explore next. Having a quarter of your population gruesomely disappear only 40 years is not that long ago and seeing a country recover from that and how it has it impacted the development and morality is something I want to experience. We both do and are right now.

Rob’s first impressions and highlights:

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The electrical wiring in the city has us floored. These tangled messes are everywhere!

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Rob and Giz walking through the city while more tangled electrical wire hangs low

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The French influences in Phnom Penh are about equal to the Dutch influences we saw in Indonesia. Bread, real bread, being one of the best and welcoming to me. Classic French cooking techniques make some of the local dishes a lot more than just street food. Amok is already my favorite by far. It is a light coconut curry with lemon grass and banana leaf infusions that features fresh white fish poached in the hot creamy broth or, here in Kep Province on the coast, lump crabmeat is the center of attention. All it needs is white rice and a cold beer to be my new death row meal.

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The Central Market in Phnom Penh has everything from earrings to underwear.  You can have a dress made while you get your nails done and buy toothpaste all before grabbing lunch and a bouquet of flowers

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Street food

The S21 – Genocide Museum is located right in Phnom Penh proper. In the 4 year reign of the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979, 25% of all Cambodians were killed by the Pol Pot regime. Outside of the main city, the Killing Fields were where much of this was carried out away from outsider scrutiny, but within the heart of the city a secret location housed the torture rooms for so many of the country’s intellectuals, artists, scientists and politicians. A small High School was converted to house up to 1000 prisoners at a time while they were “processed” methodically with unrelenting torture through their confessions and to their deaths. Lacy and I spent about 3 somber hours listening to the history, recordings, looking through 100s of photographs and walking through the buildings of the atrocities that occurred only 40 years ago. Much of it was still kept exactly as it was found. It definitely gives you pause and helps you understand how the country has struggled to recover ever since. Since this happened in SE Asia, which is much more physically and mentally removed from America and Europe, it has only been in the last 15 or so years that investment in education, infrastructure and commerce has begun to be felt by the people. Children and young adults are forming the future of the country and still only go to school 1/2 days because they are needed to work in the family businesses. It’s the one place in the world that I’ve come to understand why someone cooking at a lunch cart or working in a small shop can often be a very young teenager. The population gap here is obvious with the very old and very young citizenry. As we have traveled south out of P. P. I’ve also had a hard time driving by any High School without seeing S-21 in the shadows of the buildings. These schools all fundamentally look the same down to the type of cement blocks used to build them in the exact same size, shape and formation of 3, Four-story buildings laid out in a C shape creating a central courtyard. I truly hope that my traveler’s dollars help the recovery in the right way so we will try to spend them correctly and generously without harm.

While in P. P. we also checked out the Cambodian National History Museum. It was mainly filled with sculpture from several Buddhist Renaissance periods around 500, 700 and 1000 AD that corresponded with strong Kings and Buddhist leaders that inspired / ordered massive Temple building projects. I’m hoping it was a good primer for our Temple treks and explorations to come in the next several weeks.

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History museum

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Royal Palace

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Escaping a flash afternoon monsoon wasn’t really on our to-do list when we arrived in P. P. We weren’t too far from our hotel when we stopped under a big leafy tree for a quick rain shower to pass. It decided not to pass and we ducked for cover in a very small local restaurant. The type of place that uses much more sidewalk than interior space for everything from seating to the charcoal grill. After standing under the awning for a moment or two, we joined a table and were asked if we would like to share a beer. The guys there were on a 1 Day leave from their Military Academy. The rain grew stronger and began to move everyone further and further under cover. The beers were good and cold. The conversation was spirited and warm. We were offered to share in their dinner as well but we just participated in a few tastes. Lacy was the braver of our duo and learned to peel off the wings of a giant cricket before eating the Twix sized fried bug in 2 bites. We both used large amounts of beverage to wash down the whole grilled baby frogs but declined the Snicker bar sized cockroaches that the rest of the guys expertly de-winged and downed. The rain at this point had been pouring for 2 hours and the street was quickly becoming a river. Even more of the restaurant and patrons retracted into a cozier space as we watched brave motorbike drivers try to use the highest point in the center of the road to barely swim past. The water at the edges was at least a foot deep and churning right to left toward the larger streets and into the Mekong river. The deluge didn’t seem to slow the beers, conversation or laughs at all. After about 3 hours, the rain stopped as quickly as it started, the street cleared, tables moved back onto the sidewalk and we hugged our new friends goodbye for now.

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New friends and great times in Phnom Penh

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I ate one of the little guys.  I like how the local Cambodian beer is pull tab and the inside says thank you.  Thank you for my first insect eating experience.  Honestly, they don’t taste bad.

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90 days in Indonesia

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After leaving Flores, we flew to Bali where we spent a few days exploring Ubud and then traveled north where we rented a home in Sambangan for a week and a half in an area known for having many waterfalls.

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The flight from Flores to Bali was easily the most stunning experience from the air!

BB166C53-DACB-4A20-8469-57C9036465883C635B0B-1F78-42C3-AF3B-C58EE3E3611E1D84FB2C-66FE-4DD5-9BC1-061C353C4CD70332AA5D-093C-4C0C-A811-1423923F351CWell, we have probably had way too much fun in Indonesia the last 90 days. Wow, only 3 months?! Looking back at everything we have done, seen, experienced, smelled and tasted it feels as if we have spent 6 months here. I just told Rob that this has been a once in a lifetime experience – traveling through Indonesia with such an adventurous spirit that just so happens to be my very amazing husband. Motorcycle trips across islands, hiking volcanoes, swimming in blue lagoons, more boat trips than I have been on before, endless massages (we estimate we have each had approximately 2 dozen at $7/hr or less) and “playing house” on 3 separate islands: earthship on Kenawa and rental homes on Flores (my favorite!) and Bali. We have spent most of our time in areas that are off the beaten path and not touristy at all. Being the only white people, needing to speak the language to get by and seeing how the country changes across islands has been more special than we could ever get across in this blog.

We spent a day hiking through the Sambangan waterfalls with our guide, Mahri.  Eight waterfalls, swimming together in a blue lagoon with no one else around and both taking the plunge to make 16 and 32 foot cliff jumps made for one of our best days in Bali!

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I was so excited to jump into my first waterfall of the day!

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Rob and Mahri

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Part of our hike took us through exploding flora

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Aling Aling waterfall

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Enjoying the peace and beauty don the blue lagoon

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Approaching blue lagoon

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Other parts of our hike took us through remote areas with more stunning rice terraces

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Happy in the lagoon

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My advice to anyone planning a trip to Indonesia would be – Do not only plan to visit Bali! Yeah, yeah, I know it’s easy for foreigners – you can probably get by with never speaking the language or using a squat toilet, always having air conditioning, western food and the “comforts of home,” but why bother traveling 1/2 way across the world if it always feels like home?!  Each of the main islands have such a unique feel to them from the religious traditions that vary, local food, topography and dialects.  We counted 15 islands that we explored over the past 3 months and not one was identical to another. Everyone has their own way of traveling, but mine is not to take the easy route. Easy is boring. Test my limits, put me outside my comfort zone, and show me how much I never even realized I didn’t know. That’s what makes traveling fun for me. We are both absolutely in love with the random, crazy, unexpected things that are thrown your way on a minute by minute basis in this country.

These “little guys” hang out by one of Rob’s favorite sate babi stands (pork on a skewer) and we have to protect our food from their grabby hands.  Snack and a show!

Someone cradling a wild monkey on the side of the road, walking a huge pig down the street, waking up to the sound of wild dogs and chickens every morning no matter what island you’re on, watching the bats come out at dusk and fly right in front of your face each evening, driving a Suzuki Katana rental that feels as if the wheels will fall off with every bump in the road (but heck it was $13/day), seeing homemade farm equipment and motorcycles on the road with you, families of five all riding on the same scooter, offering trays on the dash of your rental car, crossing the sea in a boat that feels and sounds like it is likely to die before you reach your destination, ….watching beautiful sunsets over the water more consecutive times than ever in my life, having friendly people welcome you no matter where you go in the country, eating a meal for $1, falling in love with the sea, swimming, snorkeling and the beach for the first time in my life, hiking volcanoes under a brilliant sky full of stars, wild orchids lining the street…The phrase “that’s Indonesia” gets used all the time between us. We have a huge repertoire of jokes, silly songs, and references that have all come to life over the past 90 days. We have met so many people that have helped shape our travels. Whether remembering the local lady who Rob visited 3 nights in a row at her Senggigi Warung to get us late night Mie Goreng (we still comment that hers is the best we have had here), some of the outstanding local guides who have taken us hiking through jungles, waterfall trails and national parks or the many ex-pats we have met that decided to move here, Rob and I remember each encounter fondly. We encountered so many people on every island who visited from abroad and fell in love with this country as we have except that they made the plunge to live here.  I have really enjoyed talking with these people, most of which run their own business or nonprofit here, and listening to the challenges and rewards they have faced.  Rob and I briefly discussed moving here, but don’t think that will happen now. Instead we will return and spend a lot more time here in the future. Who will join us?! And no, this is not the end of our SE Asia journey. We opted to continue our travels here through the summer and head to Cambodia next…

Gitgit waterfall

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Giz is a great travel companion

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West Bali National Park and Menjangan Island…we woke up at 5am and drove 2 hours to the park to meet our guide, Idriss.  We hiked 2 hours through the park seeing deer, beautiful birds including the gorgeous Bali starling and dozens of black monkeys.  The monkeys were our favorite part as watched them eat, jump between trees and be shy of us in their natural environment.  Truly amazing.  Then we took a boat to the island in the park and had one of the best snorkeling experiences of the past 3 months.  Rob couldn’t snorkel because his foot is still healing, but he was laughing at me when I came out of the water and ran up to him yelling, “there were so many big fish! I felt like I was in an aquarium! It was a amazing!” I didn’t realize I was yelling, but it was such a great experience and I was so excited that it all came out at once!

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Looking back at Bali

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Pulling up to the mainland to begin our trek through the park

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In contrast to the aggressive gray monkeys we see everywhere the black monkeys are shy and it was rare to be able to get so close to them

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Hiking through monkeys & snorkeling through what felt like an aquarium is best followed by the completely unexpected legitimate Indonesian winery on the way home! And only the second bottle of wine we have had in 3 months!

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It was a hot day a and the tour guides ay the winery offered Ian these hats to protect us while we toured the vineyard

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Local Balinese grapes are grown on pergolas

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And the imported Australian grapes grown in the raw traditional method

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Fun in Ubud

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Blanco museum

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Rob enjoys the pool at our hotel

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Loving the Balinese style door to our own little bungalow in Ubud

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And more fun in North Bali…

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Lunch overlooking Lake Tambinglan

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VIsiting Brahma Vihara Arama Buddhist temple in North Bali

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Amazing lotus flowers at the Buddhist Temple 

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Lovina Beach

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WW2 memorial by the house 

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This bakso (meatball soup) truck sets up in the parking lot of Lovina Beach. We have been down there 3 separate evenings to watch the World Cup at a local expat bar.  While we eat from the local lady next to this truck (I can’t get enough Mie Goreng/fried noodles and Rob is suffering from a dire Babi Nasi/pork & rice addiction) we think this truck is fantastic and we need one back home!

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Sunsets from the house in Sambangan 

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Waecicu Beach, Flores, Indonesia

D261A01A-60E9-4F2B-995A-738AF48CE13E.jpegAfter our AMAZING, will forever go down in history as “one of the best things we ever did together”, three week motorcycle trip across Indonesia we opted to lay low for a while. A large factor in that decision is the necessity of healing Rob’s smashed left foot as soon as possible so when we get to Bali next week we can continue trekking and exploring.  Given how poor the roads are on this island we are feeling fortunate that a smashed foot is all that happened and still hasn’t marred what a great time we had zipping around.  We really wanted to stay on Flores, but had been unable to find the kind of accommodation we were looking for – a place with our own kitchen, not too expensive, where we could play house for a bit and take it easy.  One of the undeniable benefits of traveling on the fly is meeting people along the way and them helping steer your next move. When we met Jessica in Ruteng she introduced us to Nina who has a beautiful home right on Waecicu beach.  Having never met Nina in person, we traveled to her place, stayed there four days and decided to stay another week. It’s incredibly serene with snorkeling and kayaking available a few steps from the front door. The house is completely open to the elements and invites you to be one with surroundings, which is great since we are removed from the hustle and bustle of Labuan Bajo proper. Transport to the market is by boat, reminding us of our month on Kenawa. Yesterday, in our second market trip, we found and bought cheese, cream and yogurt for the first time since we have been in Indonesia – what a serious treat to have in the house!  Rob is making fettucine Alfredo this week for me…one of my favorites. We fried fresh squid from the fish market 3 of the first 4 nights we were here. I was hooked! I have ordered fried squid in warungs or restaurants while traveling, but NO ONE makes it as good as Rob. Hence, the back to back squid nights.  To satisfy my endless desire for dragonfruit juice we purchased several and have been able to make it fresh with the blender in the house –  yay!

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Sometimes the hardest part of my day is whether to relax in the lounge chair…

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…or hammock

Life here is very relaxed and simple. We make coffee in the morning, lay by the beach and read, listen to music and play cards, kayak for sunset or just to get around and see the boats, I snorkel and swim (Rob can’t with his foot right now) and then cook delicious meals and read in bed.

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Giz is a fan of cumi 🦑as well

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Thai basil here costs about 6 cents a bundle and is a GREAT addition to fried rice…which we both adore now

81C278E8-450C-407D-ADC5-D7A16CAC5A8C.jpegSimple is nice and it’s perfect for Rob to heal. We are very grateful for the people we have met that helped facilitate us being able to be here right now.  Sunday we fly to Bali and begin some more exploring around that island.  We spent four quick days there when we picked up the bike, but there is obviously lots more to see.  We have several friends we have made along the way, having met in other islands, that we will be able to visit in Bali.  It’s fun to be here for such an extended period of time, form relationships, and meet back up with people.  When we began our SE Asia trip we assumed we would have moved on to another country by now, but, and I’ll only speak for myself, there is something special and captivating about Indonesia.  It’s easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and while perhaps not the easiest to navigate compared to other countries in the region (so I have heard), it is so rich in beauty, culture, taste and endless experience that I haven’t hesitated at all to spend 3 months soaking it all in.

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My first kayak trip here where I was scouting out the best coral spots to swim back to

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Kayaking is a great way for Rob to be mobile and not use his foot

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Week 8 Indonesia: Breathtaking Flores, Part 2…our 22 day motorcycle tour of Indonesia comes to a close

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The well maintained roads of Flores 

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💜wild bamboo

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More shots off the bike to try to capture what we are riding through 

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Another lovely beach we stopped at

Lacy: Twenty two days riding through the islands of Indonesia felt like two months.  We experienced so much diversity as each island in this country has a different feel and vibe to it.  Bali to Lombok to Sumbawa to Flores, Rob and I continued to share laughs on the bike as we saw homemade motorcycles and farm equipment pass us, add new inside jokes and references to our ever growing repertoire of Indonesian humor and discover more beauty than I could ever share through photos on this blog.  In fact, going through the photos from Flores it seems they don’t even scrape the surface of how incredibly special this island is.  It marries my love of massive mountains and beach, flora and savannah and defines raw beauty.  If I were to compare Flores to Bali, Flores would be a woman who never wears make up and exudes a glowing natural beauty about her while Bali is a woman, while still beautiful, takes the time to fuss over herself with makeup and hair. Natural raw beauty has always been more appealing to me.  This was my longest motorcycle ride yet, outlasting the trips I have taken for 10+ years with my dad through NE USA.  I love being on the bike and would welcome another opportunity to travel a country like this.  Perhaps even more of Indonesia now that we successfully extended our visas for another 30 days.

Enjoying the sunset last night on the beach in front of our little beach house…

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For now, though, we are laying low on Waecicu beach in Labuan Bajo where we rented a beautiful open air tropical home with a huge kitchen and beach in front.  I woke at 5:30 this morning and caught the end of the moon glittering on the water before enjoying an hour long swim and seeing a a baby mantaray. We really scored on this place and it’s perfect as we need somewhere for Rob to rest his battered and bruised foot after the motorcycle landed on it.  Morning kayaking, reading on the beach in the hammock or lounge chair, watching the sunset over the water or frying fresh squid, as we did last night, will be the medicine he needs for the next few days…or maybe even a week.  We continue to take life as it comes and be thankful for the moments we are sharing together.

Our new place for a bit:

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Bedroom and bathroom in top right. We love how you can take a shower and watch the sunset at the same time with the open concept

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Rob’s comfy place outside the bedroom where he can enjoy the view without taking the extra steps to the beach

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This morning I swam from the house, where the boat is, to the point on top right. 

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Rob’s new office 😍

Sunset just a little farther down the island  in the hotel we stayed Tuesday night when we arrived to Labuan Bajo to return the bike.

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Rob: Outside of Bajawa, Lacy aimed us to a Warung she found on the map that specialized in Babi Sate, Soto & Nasi. *Grilled pig with soup and rice. For less than $2, I ate my second breakfast, (Hobbit reference) with “tears of spice and joy”. Lacy has since put Babi Guling to a tune that she sings each time we spy a little pig along our treks. In Bajawa we broke well away from the main streets at night seeking some local street food and we sure found it. Sape sate dan pedas. *beef skewers of spicy meatballs were a great appetizer to more Babi later. And yes, the word Babi, pronounced like “Bobby”, has probably replaced pig in my normal vocabulary for good. It’s just more fun to say!

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There were actual tears running down his cheeks during this meal…and he loved it

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Giz rides in the trunk

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That’s one way to get the goat from A to B

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A nice morning drive with your cow

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The school kids love to Ooh and Aah at the bike as we cruise by. We often wave hello back and forth with them. Makes for a great morning.

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This table isn’t going to walk itself to your home!

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Forget the ice cream truck.  This is the ice cream bike!

Between Bajawa and Kelimutu / Moni we stopped at several beautiful beaches. All of the ones along this particular stretch of coastline were Blue Stone Beaches. The first has a mix of baseball sized white and aqua blue colored stones that were the foundation of the beach. The second was all pebble to baseball sized aqua blue stones on top of a black sand base. Bizarre and beautiful. Also great that a Warung there sold Dragonfruit smoothies and had cold Bintang! Lacy asks for dragonfruit almost everywhere we go and lucky for her she wins most of the time.

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Another great pit stop along the way. Me with my dragonfruit and Rob enjoying his Bintang

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Cloudy or not, a great spot

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And naturally, these goats enjoyed their lunch next to us

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Rob probably said to me have a dozen times while at this spot how much he loved it 

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Sometimes you just pull over in any flat ground you can find and other times you luck out with a cute place

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The blue and white round stones that make up the beach are unlike anywhere else we have seen

9FB898C8-401C-4FCE-8DA4-7922B3103413.jpegThe little mountain town of Moni sits at the entrance to Kelimutu National Park and its 3 volcanic lakes. We checked into the aptly named Bintang Lodge and Cafe, ordered up some of their finest Arak to mix with some Sprite and chatted with some other travelers to make our plans for the following day. This region’s Arak was a slightly higher grade of jet fuel than we have had previously and another couple had already scheduled a car to take them to the upper part of the Volcano at 4:30 in the morning. Perfect!

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The ride into Moni was beautiful 

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The view from our hotel room, here and below, was gorgeous

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4:30 came quickly and we were pleased that you drove up 90% of this volcano to have just a 45 minute steep hike at the top. There is a viewpoint that we reached at sunrise where you can see all three lakes at the top of this triple caldera Volcano. Each has a different set of minerals or gasses that influence the chemistry and color of the water so each lake has a different hue. It was pretty cloudy once again at the top, but we got our peek-a-boo views in of all three lakes. Maybe we didn’t take the perfect postcard picture but it was still a impressive sight by Mother Nature. Or, Father Time. Wait. Who is in charge of Volcanos? Either way, the 2 1/2 hour walk back down the mountain to Moni was a nice walk in the jungle where we could continue to marvel at the fauna along the way. We even saw a few Babi! We were glad to have had our little view at the top as it began to rain and rain hard for a long time later that afternoon. We were nice and dry this time, sitting on the covered patio with a Bintang and playing cards. Our cards that we brought with us which we purchased on our Amtrak travel last when we took a break from the PCT to travel to Seattle were destroyed by the rain recently. Luckily, the cafe has another deck.

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It was pretty cloudy that morning, but we were fortunate to have the clouds part for us enough that we could see all 3 tricolored lakes at the top of the volcano.  

We chose to just enjoy the view and leave the camera alone so I cheated and got these photos from a website to give you an idea of the view

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Riung’s 17 islands was our next stop on the Northern Loop portion of our map of Flores. After a 5 hour long and bruising (see below) ride we arrived in Riung late in the day.

All shot off the back of the bike on the road to Riung right before we got to the worst part.  This part was hardly a road, but was stunning

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Sometimes I nail a shot off the back of the bike. 

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It is a very small village on the North coast of Flores. It’s little port is the front door to the 17 Islands National Park. We chartered an inexpensive private boat for a day trip around 4 of the 17 islands. Our fist stop was a mangrove ringed island which was home to thousands of the regions giant bats or flying foxes as they are better known here. I just wasn’t prepared for the size or the numbers of them so I was a bit shocked when we arrived.30798D57-B967-42FC-96A3-F55D9A4ADF6851B629DB-741B-4674-BE05-DF7A361D53B547FEF241-3F90-4451-A5C2-0D129E1D501721D3396C-1A6E-4761-BB00-56BE2CCD4FC5

They are the size of a small black Fox in body but with about a 3 foot wingspan to go with it. They screeched and flew above us in circles by the hundreds as the sound of the boat’s engine woke them up from their upside down perches in the mangrove trees. A few thousand at least in total around the bay. Our next stop was a small island with a coral ring reef that made for good snorkeling. Parrot fish chased each other below us. The third island had a beautiful beach where our captain pulled our brightly painted wooden boat right up onto the sand. While Lacy and I went for a little walk down the beach, he started a fire and began to grill 2 Grouper for lunch. Lacy had thought to also have them bring along several ice cold Bintangs for us. Tomato salad, grilled fish, cold beer on a private beach. It didn’t suck. Not at all. One more secluded beach and snorkeling spot later, we were on our way back to port that afternoon. Boat therapy for my bruises was successful.

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This group was on the island too enjoying their lunch 

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Best fish we have had here 

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WKST *White Knuckle Sphincter Tightness update: On Flores, the roads and riding continues to be thrilling, challenging and, well … bruising. Truck sized potholes abound. Sometimes you get an attention grabbing Hati-Hati sign on the side of the road, but often you don’t see them until you are swerving around them. The scary part about these types of potholes is that it can cause a car or truck from the opposite side of the road to abruptly swerve into your lane so you have to watch ahead for them on your and the other side of the road. We have spent hour long stretches between 1st and 3rd gear on the curviest and hilliest jungle roads on Flores. Several curly hairpins have made me think I was in a carnival stunt show because if I stopped or slowed too much on any part of the corkscrew up or down, we would simply flop over. Keeping momentum going is a priority or there just isn’t enough road apex to make the whole turn. The sharpest hairpin turns seem to continue to always show me the front “smile” of truck coming around the other way, too. I am happy that as big and heavy as the bike is, that it is also reasonably nimble and had very stable control on wet roads and during our recent downpour. After about 45 minutes on these types of roads, we definitely keep a lookout for any flat spot to take a quick break. We get lucky when the flat rest area comes with coffee and a view. Sometimes the the road is fully 2 lanes wide. Maybe it even had a shoulder. But if we get off the main East West Island road, on many smaller jungle roads, it becomes to too narrow to pass a truck or bus on the opposite side without pulling off to the side. Lacy continues to earn her weight as a Navigator adding in views as well as directions. “Wow. View of the peak to the left.” “View across the canyon to the right ahead.” “Two dogs fuckin’ on the right.” The bike and the 2 Bule riding it still get lots of wows and whoas from school kids as we pass by. I return thumbs up and wave when I have hands free & Lacy waves like a Beauty Queen on a Parade Float. I think I lost my damage deposit on the motorcycle yesterday though. We were in a coastal area where the road had been completely washed out from the rainy season. It was rebuilt so far with very rough dirt and gravel laid down as the first step of rebuilding the road back to normal. The flat parts just rattled your bones but a steep ravine bit me. Lacy hopped off and I killed the motor. I was straddling the bike and half rolling slow / half braking and balancing everything down a very steep and rutted rock slide area. The next thing I knew, I was sliding and then pinned under the bike. Lacy played Supergirl and literally picked the bike up off of where it had my leg squished against the rocks. Thankfully just a sprained and bruised foot and ribs was the worst of it unless you count scratches on the side cases of the bike now.

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Week 8 Indonesia: Breathtaking Flores, Part 1

2AA496D9-F6FF-409A-AF24-0B3C9E4626E2.jpegLacy: This awe inspiring island, Flores, became my favorite in a matter of hours.  It was never a contest of where we enjoyed most as we travel through this country the past 2 months, but Flores makes my jaw drop and has me saying “Oh my gosh” as we round every new bend in the road.  Easily one of my top 3 places to have ever visited, this was the first time I had even a fleeting thought of moving to Indonesia after this trip.  Flores has the most intense jungle scenery with exploding flora, an abundance of flowers, huge mountains, magnificent bright green rice terraces, volcanoes with lakes, the friendliest people & a variety of untouched beaches.  I love it here.  I want to explore every nook and cranny of this island.  Our week long motorcycle tour is coming to a close as we angle our way back to Labuhan Bajo where we turn the keys back over tomorrow to Chris from the motorcycle shop.  We had one minor scrape up with the bike that injured Rob’s foot (more in the next blog), but we still have had an unforgettable and cherished journey that we would repeat all over again.  Rob wrote most of the blog and I will interject a few places here and there, but somehow it will never be possible to capture through this blog how much splendor there is in Flores and the constant smiles we have both worn.  

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Ear to ear smiles after our first day experiencing just how beautiful this island is – rain & all

 

 

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Rice is life here 

6BBC30B8-C7D5-4092-8CFC-5704FE9275ADB4A08195-DE4F-4A11-9A96-8F4A453B92E4Rob: Flores has not disappointed in our first days on the island. It is the lushest, richest green jungle we have yet seen and that is saying a lot. Farms and rice fields continue to amaze us in the way they are carved into the hills and are geometrically divided in the valleys. We pass through giant bamboo stands where each tree has a 15-20” radius at the bottom of their trunks and are 50-75 feet tall. Sometimes they stand in clusters of 20-30 and sometimes they take over both sides of the road and completely block out the sun. At one overlook, we discussed how many different varieties of trees we could see in just that view and lost count trying. Banana trees grow wild and huge here. Palm trees laden with coconuts compete for the sun with trees weighed down with papayas ripe for picking.

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When we parked to take the short climb to the Lingko Spiderweb view this sweet guy wanted a photo 😊 look at the bamboo in the background!! It’s everywhere here 

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Rob is smiling that we made itthrough the rain today and it cleared up enough for us to see the spiderweb rice fields in Ruteng 

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Teri popped out of nowhere to guide us on the hike and show us the rice fields. Our first hint that people in Flores are extremely friendly 

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Lingko spiderweb rice fields that sit at the base of the mountains. They are divided up to families, village by village, and make a magnificent pattern.

As we cross the island and the road runs from beach through mountain gaps and then winds up and over other mountains, we can see the effects of the rain patterns in the landscape. Closer to the coastal areas and ocean, flowering trees, plants and vines are more abundant. The air is drier with warm breezes constantly. When you climb up into the foothills, you also climb up into mist. Everything begins the get thicker and greener. Much, much larger trees layered with even more tropical plants stretch out over the roads. 20-30 foot tall palm ferns fill in any gap between the larger trees and spread out to catch the sun. Banana trees, wild coffee and other big leafy plants layer in next. The canyons created by the volcanic origins of the island and ensuing erosion are severe in their sharp angles and grass covered slopes. It is like the jungle soaked up all the mist and it didn’t make it into these other areas. So in stark contrast, dried grasses and sparse older looking trees live in these vertical crevasses alone. The further up the road climbs, the mist becomes clouds and rain forms often. The rain in the last few days traveling has been the price we have paid for the amazing and picturesque landscape. Sometimes it is just enough to get wet clothes that dry again in an open sunny area later. Often that scenario repeats itself. So far we have endured only one major downpour that soaked us through to the core and filled my hiking boots with a liter of water. We soldiered on through it for over an hour and were cold drowned rats by the time we drove out of it. One of Lacy’s highlights of that moment was seeing the locals so casually using the massive banana leaves as a temporary umbrella as they walked down the side of the road.

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The first evening of our trip across Flores was spent in this comfy bungalow that sits in the mountains amongst rice fields. We knew it had a magnificent view, but couldn’t see it when we arrived because the rain clouds still hung low. Rob is hanging our soaking wet clothes from the ride out to dry. 

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Still able to catch some sunset colors with the rain clouds

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Udis, our hostess, served us a delicious local meal on our porch that was well received after the day’s ride 

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Rob enjoying the view that “smacked ya in the face” the following morning 

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Yes, it was this magnificent. 

3D50A426-ABC4-4083-92C6-896C1158F10FYesterday we took a rest, gas and Bintang break at a black sand beach created by the breakdown of the volcanic flow that ran into the ocean there many years ago. The beach was dotted with big yellow flowers, the size of your hand, that float down from the tips of the trees that line the beach. Someone told me that black, red or green sand beaches here were “younger” because they form much faster by the volcanic rock breaking down to the beach versus white coral breaking up and rising out of the ocean to form a beach. True or not, when you are in lands like this, you do consider the history and evolution of the islands as you travel. The volcanic action took a long time to develop them just the way they are today and that action remains constant into tomorrow.

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Just a random stop to rest during the ride and we stumble upon this deserted and clean black sand beach…

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…well, deserted except for these gorgeous flowers coverings the sand 

We have traveled 3-5 hours a day of on-the-road time while on Flores bouncing between the key regions surrounding Labuan Bajo, Ruteng, Bajawa, Moni and Riung. All along the way, we see the most beautiful and striking scenery. We stop at Warungs along the way for great lunches or just a Sprite while we rub the body parts back to life that a buzzing and vibrating motorcycle being overworked on bumpy roads tend to put to sleep.

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After finishing the last third of our ride on the road below Rob opted for some of the local moonshine, Arak, mixed with sprite. He bought it at a kiosk near black sand beach, in the reused water bottle, for the equivalent of $2 USD.  Whew, it is strong!

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Just a little windy

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We made a quick turnaround to stop at this place we passed on the side of the road. Looked perfect for a rest, coffee and view. It was still hazy, and the photos below don’t do it justice, but the view was gorgeous 

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Liang Bua Cave was a very interesting stop we made near Ruteng. Do you remember the Hobbit Lady named Flo who’s fossilized bones were discovered in a cave about 15 years or so ago? Not a real Hobbit, of course, but just a very short (<4 ft tall) person along a separate evolutionary path than modern Humans or Neanderthal people. According to the science side of things, this represents a third branch of the tree yet still unconnected to the other 2. It is an anomaly amongst plants and animals in Flores that otherwise seem to be gigantism to their peers in other parts of the world be they giant bats that look like foxes with wings, limes bigger than soft balls, beetles that could carry a mouse away, ferns as big as palm trees and lizards that outweigh me twice over that we have seen along our travels. It was great to be able to speak with one of the Archeologists currently working at the site who has been there 2 months of every year for the last 10 years.

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No bones about it, this is Flo😜, all 3 1/2 ft of her

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Week 7 in Indonesia: Hiking our first volcano, relaxing in a surfer paradise and running into fellow Eathshippers on a ferry to the island of flowers, Flores

31A2641F-0B68-48DA-B2E1-46C4A5196743.jpegLacy: Rob wrote a really great post about our last week.  We covered a lot of ground as we continued east across Sumbawa.  From the tips of volcanoes to the shores of epic surfing locations we completed our tour of Sumbawa.  A 7 hour ferry ride later, I am assembling this post in Flores, the next large island to the East.  Enjoying our last week with our motorcycle rental we will explore this island, but first I’ll soak in the sunset on the beach of Labuan Bajo and hit “publish…”

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Giz enjoys the success of his climb up Mt Tambora while gazing into the caldera

Rob: Tambora

We started out early with the motorcycle. It was a hot but a pretty 4 hour ride along the coast and into the mountains. Once we reached a little town of Pancasila at the foothills of Tambora, things began to get interesting. The paved road became a dirt road and then a one track dirt trail. The following 5 Kilometers were a slick clay dirt mud and rock trail that climbed very steeply straight up the base of the mountain. Although our bike was made to go off road from time-to-time, it was still a big heavy bike laden with big bags full of gear. The rains over the previous 2 days created big mud puddles that I had to just guess at what the bottom looked and felt like before sloshing into them. The muddy path and ruts in it where anywhere from 4 inches to 2 feet deep in long stretches. I wrestled and wrestled with the weight and the sloppy wet clay underfoot. I was wet with muddy water up to my waist. The vines grabbed at the handlebars, mirrors, bags, pegs and tried to hold onto anything they could. Since it is a brand new rented bike, I was paranoid to put a scratch on it but the thick ferns grow like weeds in the high jungle and had the path closed down to about 2 feet wide at some points where I had to put a 3 foot wide bike (with travel bags) through. About 95% of the way up, what felt like an hour of exhausting battle, the slimy clay, overheated clutch, spinning rear tire and my rubber legs & arms finally lost to the hillclimb. Thankfully is was an extreme slow motion rear wheel spin out, slide and flop into the ferns. The ferns and vines were so thick that they actually held up the bike so I could climb from the vines, that I was all tangled in, out overtop of the bike and with the help of Lacy and a local, pull it back fully upright and back onto the path. No damage, except to my ego. Mt Tambora was already beginning to test our mettle.

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Our first break on the hike..not a completely humid and sweat-filled mess yet

We chose to trek this particular volcano because of it’s vast size, remoteness and remarkable history. In 1815 Tambora suddenly blew its top. Over 1/3 if it’s height disappeared from the mountain and went into the atmosphere. 1816 was the year without a summer worldwide and the weather of the whole earth was affected for 3+ years. Last year only 120 souls were able to reach the top of Tambora’s caldera. Compared to Mt. Rinjani, which is actually taller but much more accessible which had 100,000 people climb last year, we chose the path very much less traveled. Tambora is also located very remotely on an end of the island of Sumbawa who’s shape resembles a big Rorschach ink blot. There is little to nothing within hours of driving from even the foothills of Tambora. After we spent 2 full days in challenging logistics to reach this part of Sumbawa, we needed a good night to rest before we even geared up and got our hiking boots tied tight.

Rik, Dutch ex-pat, and his wife Nural, Indonesian, were fantastic hosts who run the Tambora Guesthouse which is in the highest point of a vast coffee plantation and serves as base camp for all Tambora treks. For dinner, she presented a big bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese which was the carb load we needed to insure our bodies were ready for the physical part of the climb. Plentlyful glasses of Brum, rice wine (more like rice mead), a comfy bed and fan also helped my mental preparedness.

The lush jungle enveloped us…

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On the edge of the Caldera

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We started off about 8:30 the following morning. Our experienced guide, Samuda has lead 40 treks up to the caldera over his years. Amir the cook and eager, young Faisal were charged with carrying loads of gear and food for all of us. The lower to mid point of the mountain was lush and thick with foliage. The guys literally needed to machete us through certain places. At times, I knew someone was just 10 feet in front of me but I couldn’t see them or even see the greenery moving, it was so thick. This was also the first time we had ever hiked or climbed and were required to use a local guide. With the thick jungle and maze of unmarked trails, now I knew why. Lacy marveled at the wild orchids and we both smiled as we discovered the micro orchids that reminded us of the the micro versions of other flowers we saw during last year’s Pacific Crest Trail Hike.

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Wild micro-orchid 💘

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Wild orchid in my favorite color 💜

After about 3 hours of trail and climbing, we stopped for lunch. We had done 2/3 of the distance already for the day but would need just as much time in the afternoon for the remaining 1/3 due to the conditions and sharp increase of the incline from now on to the top. The air was wet and humid. Our bodies were wet and humid. In fact, everything from our clothes to the gear, boots and hair were now soaked through with jungle and sweat. The thick overhang of trees, vines and multiple layers of plants upon plants was a bit disorienting to me. The compass showed me North but we had lost sight of anything familiar or discerning other than pure jungle for about 2 days now and it let a little vertigo creep into my senses. It was a minor case of pure green chlostrophobia. Our first evening was full of hearty food and anticipation for the next segment. We tried to read and rest as soon as it turned dark inside our tent. Even tired from the ordeal just getting to Tambora and our first leg up the mountain, we found it difficult to get to sleep. Our alarm was set to go off very early at 1am, just a few hours away.

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Oh, the many layers!

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Yes, there is a path in there! The beginning of the trail was so wet that we had to pick many leeches off of ourselves. I got a good one that bit me and bled for about 30 minutes 

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At our camp spot: Mist rising out of the jungle and layers of clouds with the sun trying to poke through 

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Rob and I are obsessed with these leafy palm fronds 

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“Happy camper”

Lacy awoke first and went out to insure coffee was brewing for us. I love how Lacy takes extra time and makes the extra effort to keep things as nice as possible for us in trying times. Was it early morning or still late evening if the bats were still out munching on mosquitoes? The coffee was thick, black and welcome. Salty Japanese noodles and rice further fortified our big climb ahead. Amir stayed at the campsite with all of the gear so we could take minimal weight up to the rim from here and return to the same place to spend the next night. We set off at 2am for a target of reaching the caldera by sunrise. With new batteries in the headlights and everyone in lightweight mode, we made great time even with big elevation to cover. We drove ourselves and each other at a strong pace higher and higher. We began to notice the stars as we climbed out of the dense jungle canopy and into savanna and open sky above the tree line. The Milky Way stretched across the full sky above us and was breathtaking to admire. Stargazing gave us a little break or two along the steep climb up and up. We continued up into the clouds and you could feel the temperature dropping and the wet mist in your lungs. 4 solid hours after starting out, Faisal announced that we had reached the rim. He needed to announce it because the clouds were so thick that all I could see was about 5 feet of the rim’s edge itself.

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Rob is standing on the ridge of the caldera at 6am when we arrived to the top after hiking through the night. The clouds are so dense we can’t see a thing!

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But, since I am obsessed with lichen, I made good use of my time taking photos of what was around while we waited for the clouds to shift 

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Still waiting….

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…and waiting. Eventually we snuggled tonstay warm in this spot and both fell asleep 

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I have never seen lichen with what looks like a lily pad in the middle 

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The sun began to lighten the clouds but they persisted to remain all wrapped around us like a wet sheet. We found a niche out of the wind and snuggled ourselves around each other to hold out the chill. We both fell solidly asleep in each other’s arms after the very short night of little rest. Over 4 hours later, we stirred and stretched to hear an excited call from Faisal. The wind had changed and was now slowly clearing the clouds and mist from inside the volcano. We could finally see over the edge and into the caldera. Over the next hour the temperature continued to warm up and the green yellow sulphuric lake at the bottom came into view. The caldera was impressive to see now all the way to the other side of the rim. The sheer drop off that was inside of the outer rim looked just like you would draw a pretend volcano as a little kid. Creeks, grasslands, cracked rock fissures in only 200 year old lava flows and the lake filled the inside of the caldera’s bowl. One of the nicest things was that we were there alone and had this amazing view just between us. It’s difficult to express the sensation of being up on the edge of something so big and striking but rarely seen.

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Rob and I one of our guides 

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The sulphuric lake in the caldera behind Rob 

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All smiles now that we can see into the volcano!

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Faisal is a cutie 

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CALDERA

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After Gizmo took a few more selfies, we all set off back down the mountain. We arrived back at our base camp after the 13 hour round trip to the top. Steaming rice and veggies didn’t have to wait long for us to devour them. I’ve come to love a squash they have here that looks a lot like a big hard winter acorn squash but has a soft edible skin and sautés like something in between a zucchini and a potato. Yummy green and starchy with spicy sambol and rice! We turned in early to rest knowing we would begin the last leg home at sunrise the next morning. After a quick breakfast we bounded down the mountain at a brisk pace arriving after only 4 hours of wet slick trail and pushing through rain soaked foliage. We stopped for more of the great local coffee from the plantation around the guesthouse along the way. I truly needed it as I was beginning to feel the physical toll. A quick but well needed shower to remove the layers of volcanic dust upon foliage slime upon sweat felt great.

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Heading down the mountain we could see the savannah landscape we had traversed in the middle of the night. 

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The draining physical trip to ride the Beast from Bali back down the muddy trails to the road was next up. We took the heavy bags off the bike this time and sent them down separately on other bike taxis. Lacy also road down this way precariously on the back of a local’s off-road motorcycle. This gave me a lot better maneuverability coming down with the motorcycle than going up. My shoes and legs were soaked through with muddy water again but we made it without too much more than a little drama. Once reassembled at the Ranger Station, we aimed the bike 5+ hours away to a surfing area called Lakey Beach (Peak).

Lakey Beach

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Lakey Beach seemed to be a mix of Ex-pats who were making their investment into building a little community on a little known but world class surf break, well away from the rest of the tourist areas. So far, so good since it has all the amenities needed for a beach getaway without the tour hawking and in-your-face tourist treatment of other islands. Restaurants open when someone comes to eat for lunch and close when the last patron turns in for the night. Although a bit more expensive than some of the other places we’ve stayed in Indonesia so far, we just might come back for more!

To Flores

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As our ferry was pulling into the Flores harbor and we prepared the bike to ride off the boat we were greeted by this man from Sumba, the neighboring island. He wanted to check out the bike and was very friendly. 

3DCAA459-BE40-46A6-A4B8-F54284BB250FAt 4:30 am we packed up the Beast, fired up the engine and pulled out into the cool coastal air headed toward the port city of Sape. We flew along the uncrowded roads while the cows and goats were still sleeping limited only by the brightness of the auxiliary driving lights. Ahhh. 6th gear in some stretches of better road. We slowed as we came through Dompu and Bima. Two mid sized working class cities on the interior of the island. In between these cities and the port we passed through many villages thriving with people out in the earliest morning hours. It is the very beginning of Ramadan and here in Indonesia, they have many local traditions during this month of prayer, reflection and family. Most Indonesians travel back from Jakarta and other main cities to their home villages. Even to their ancestors villages. Since they fast during the sunlight hours, a special call to prayer, family meal and community time begins around 4am. After a light meal, everyone takes to the streets to gather for prayers at the local Mosque but also in public gathering areas and in small groups right in the road as they meet and pray with neighbors along the way. Kids seem to form their own smiling masses and everyone is dressed in their formal clothing. For the next month, we will eat snacks during the day, as most warungs will be closed. Then big meals at night when the fast is broken for the local community and all of the warungs and restaurants will fill up quickly.

After making the town of Sape in record time, (4 hours vs 5) we quickly boarded the ferry and I secured the bike wedged against the wall of the cargo area. Port cities and ferries are not on the post card tour of the country, so you get in and out of them as efficiently as you can.

While we were on Tambora we crossed paths with an aspiring young Canadian MountainBiker named Alex. While buying a Coca-Cola and some Oreos at the Ferry’s commissary, I looked up to see him standing next to me. We were both surprised and happy see one another and to quickly share our Tambora caldera stories. He was shooting a video for his bike sponsors and lugged his bike through the same jungle path we had taken except he needed 2 extra days due to the slow down of carrying the bike most of the bottom 5/6ths of the way. He mentioned two Americans he was visiting with up on the top deck of the ferry who were from Colorado and had also done some ecological housing work in Indonesia. I was instantly curious to meet them so we went upstairs. Will & Sarah turned out to be the couple who came behind us on Kenawa Island to work on the Earthships as we had! They had a much shorter stay than Lacy and I and were also on their way to explore Flores.

Approaching Flores at sunset was another gorgeous view with the many smaller islands that surround this island of flowers…

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We all agreed to meet for dinner and drinks once the long 7 hour ferry ride was over and we are safe and sound in Labuan Bajo. At the Paradise Bar, the local Arak rum flowed and we shared stories from our Earthship experiences. They were craving some non-Kenawa Island food so we walked to a Mediterranean restaurant in the tourist area of the city for dinner. With Alex along also, we had lots of food and fun. It was a surprise to meet them as we both know of one another but had never met. I’m certain we will all reconnect back in Colorado where they live as the mountains and ski areas of SW Colorado are on Lacy and my target list of places to check out and possibly start our own eco home and business.

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It was so fun to meet everyone on the ferry and enjoy the evening together.  These moments are what making traveling so great  

Alex is off to shoot more downhill mountain bike videos here on Flores. Will & Sarah are searching for a motorcycle for themselves. Lacy and I will be at the Immigration office in Labuan Bajo to try and add 30 days more to our Indonesian Visas first thing tomorrow morning before we head out into the island of flowers, Flores.

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This evening’s sunset on the beach 🏝 

 

Riding through Sumbawa’s countryside: raw and beautiful May 12, 2018

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Yesterday, when we rode off the ferry in Sumbawa and started east we both had the sensation the we had “come home.”  Not that we intend to move to Indonesia, but having gone back and forth to Sumbawa while we lived on Kenawa, we had a sense of familiarity with the road we were on and what to expect.  It felt comforting, like home. This morning we began our 2 day ride east across the island to arrive in Mt. Tambora tomorrow evening. We have arranged a guide to take us on a 3 day trek of the volcano. The ride today was so beautiful and serene, driving through the quiet countryside and villages.  We had about four hours of actual ride time, winding through the growing mountains and then along the coast.  We stopped every hour or so to stretch our legs and get a fresh juice from the side of the road, cold sprite or lunch overlooking the mountains and water. All in all, it took 6 1/2 hours before arriving in the very small traditional town of Cabang Banggo. There are no hotels here, but we were told there are 2 Homestays. We had no idea what to expect: would it be a mattress on the floor, a room full of people, shared bath..?  But whatever it was going to be we were up for it because it is part of our Sumbawa experience and getting to that volcano! Fortunately, we were both pleasantly surprised when we were shown a room with a bed off the floor and our own private squat toilet. Not bad! And for the equivalent of $7 USD.  Tomorrow we have another 4 hours of ride time ahead of us through more picturesque landscape while traveling to our guide’s guesthouse.  Rob and I both really love the raw beauty of this island and seeing it in it’s natural state, unadulterated by the tourist industry.

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