This week has been much better than I had thought it would be. I had to wait around in Singaraja while the incredibly slow Indonesian immigration service took 4 days to do what most African immigration services can do in an hour. I dropped off my passport and filled in the application form on Monday, they then said I had to come back on Wednesday to pay them my $25, then back again on Friday to collect my passport with the extension. Luckily I was staying only a couple of Km down the road from the office, the staff were really friendly, the office supplied free water and sweets and I was staying with a really awesome CouchSurfing host. My host and his family were really friendly and welcoming, I spent the daytimes trying to stay cool in the house with his two young kids, then we went out in the evenings to visit his friends, cycle through the city and go to swim in Gitgit waterfall. Then on Friday morning I went to pick up my passport which had an underwhelming (considering the amount of time it took) stamp in it granting my visa, then I cycled almost 100Km. First 85Km to the ferry to Java, then about 15Km to my new CouchSurfing hosts place.
I arrived very tired, washed and ate with my new hosts then had a long nights sleep. My new hosts are also really great, I had originally planned to stay one night, but decided to stay for two. We spent my first full day visiting their fruit garden where they grow dragon fruit. We harvested a bucket full, then sat eating them with a coconut to wash it all down. In the evening we went to the train station to get some information about my journey to Yogyakarta. Unfortunately the company was on holiday on Sunday, the day I wanted to travel, which meant that I would need to stay a third night here in Banyuwangi, but I didn’t mind because it meant I would spend more time with my hosts and would have a chance to visit Ijen Sulphur Volcano. So today I took a scooter and rode up the mountain and hiked the last few Km to the crater. On the way up I passed by many of the miners who carry the sulphur down the mountain and sell it, each miner carries 100Kg of sulphur 800 meters up out of the crater itself, then about 3Km down the steep track on the side of the mountain. Each man will do this twice each day and will earn around $20 for doing so.
At the top of the crater there are clouds of smoky gas which escape from the volcano and swirl up to surround you as the wind turns. The smoke smells really bad, like eggs, but it also burns your eyes, nose and throat. Visitors are only supposed to visit the edge of the crater, but it is possible to walk past the no entry sign and down the 800 meters to the edge of the lake where the mine is located. The further down you go, the worse the smoke gets, but the more beautiful the views are. The lake is a light blue colour, surrounded by these strange pale grey cliffs, then at the edge of the lake is the bright yellow sulphur rock. I hiked down to the edge of the lake and got some pictures and videos, the pictures are already available on my Facebook Page and Google+ Page, the video will become available at some stage.
Hiking back out of the crater was terrible, the wind had changed direction and I was in the smoke most of the time. But once I was out I headed back down the mountain to my hosts place to shower off the smell. My plan is to get the train to Yogyakarta early tomorrow morning, it’s supposed to be a great city to visit. I guess I’ll see for myself soon enough.
After staying with my first CS host in Mataram for just one night, I moved to my second host. A 24 year old local guy and his family on the edge of the city. We had a great couple of days hanging out with some of his friends and visiting the beaches. Unfortunately he was kinda busy during the week so I decided that I would head north to the Gili Islands for a few days and return to Mataram for the weekend. So I set off on a really beautiful, but really difficult stretch of road. The road follows the coast line past several really beautiful bays, the only problem being that each bay has a huge hill separating it from the next. I pushed myself to struggle over the first couple of hills, but then ended up just pushing the bike. This was made even harder because I cycle in flip flops and was so sweaty that my foot was sliding out of the back of them on the steep slope. I eventually got to the port for the local ferry to Gili Air and waited for the ferry to fill up before we could leave.
The Gili Islands are three small islands just off the coast of Lombok, the largest of the islands is a party island which attracts backpackers who want to surf, snorkel and dive in the day time, while partying hard at night. The middle island is very quiet and more traditional, but the island which is closest to Lombok, and the island I chose to visit, is Gili Air. I had heard that Gili Air is a happy medium between the relaxed Gili Meno and the party atmosphere of Gili Trawangan. Just as I arrived on the island I met another cyclist who had travelled to Indonesia from Hungary. He offered to show me a cheap place to stay so we headed over to the other side of the island where I set up my tent for less than $3 a night. The next morning I headed out to arrange some diving and see if I could find a place I could camp for free. That is when I found 3WDive, a small dive company close to the ferry port. For about $70 I did two dives with them and slept upstairs in their dive shop for two nights. The diving was great, about 25 meter visibility on the first dive and 15-20 meters on the second. We saw baby sharks, turtles and loads of reef fishes. It really wet my appetite for more diving, but I don’t think that will happen until I get to Thailand to do my DiveMaster course and maybe even an instructors course, so that I can earn some cash. I took the GoPro down with me on the dives but the footage isn’t amazing. I will see what I can do with it when I have some time to sit and sift through it.
While I was on Gili Air, I had a little time to think about the rest of my time in Indonesia. At the time, I was planning to return to Mataram to extend my visa, head west through Bali into Java, extend my visa again in Jakarta then head through Sumatra to arrive in Singapore. The only problem is that you can’t extend your visa more than once (without ‘paying extra’), Java and Sumatra are big islands and will take a long time to cross. I decided that I needed to prioritise the rest of my trip in Indonesia. My new plan was to get a boat direct to Bali, from Gili Air, head to a town in the north to extend my visa. Then head west into Java, get a train part of the way so that I can see a stilt village that I want to visit, then visit Jogjakarta and Jakarta before I cycle to, and through Sumatra, stopping off to see some Orangutans on the way. So after making the decision, I headed off back to Bali and spent 2 days cycling to Singaraja to extend my visa. Now it is just a case of waiting for the unbelievably slow process of extending my visa. Which instead of taking less than an hour, like most other countries I have visited, this will take almost a week. Luckily I am staying with a really nice family who live close to the immigration office, this means I have fun things to do with the family while I wait, but also means I can cycle to the office each morning to try to push the process along (and steal a hand full of mints from the desk).
This week has been great. I was planning to leave Kuta at the start of the week and ride to Ubud, but my couchsurfing host was really nice, so I decided to hang around for a few more days. We would go out to eat cheap, but really nice noodles and other local food, then get fruit smoothies in the evenings. There are some great smoothy places in Kuta, you can choose what ever fruits you want to add and you only pay about 50 pence for almost a pint of smoothy. One of the best is avocado with chocolate sauce, but I liked to add banana to it too. So on Wednesday I rode 45 Km from Kuta to Ubud. The first half of the trip went quickly, just an hour. But the second half was on a long gradual uphill, my bike is pretty heavy and I haven’t adapted to the weight yet, so I had to slow right down and stop for a few minutes every few Km.
When I finally arrived in Ubud I stayed with another couchsurfer who I met last week through Sita (My first Indonesian CS host). He has a really nice place down by the river, the only problem is that the river gets a bit smelly sometimes. Sita decided to drive up to Ubud and hung around with me for a couple of days which David was working. Ubud is a nice enough place, but it is basically a tourist town, there are beggars and taxi drivers hassling you all the time and everything is more expensive. After a couple of days there I was ready to leave, so I set off towards the coast to get the ferry to Lombok.
The ride to the coast was much easier than my first day as it was mostly downhill, taking me through small villages with mountains and rice fields in the background, it was a little over 45Km but I didn’t need to stop for a rest and didn’t feel overly tired when I got on the ferry. I took the slow ferry across to Lombok because it is the cheapest ferry (about $5). It takes about 4 or 5 hours to cross the small channel between the islands. I sat in the air conditioned VIP section because there was nobody checking tickets, then went up on to the roof of the ferry to do some yoga and admire the view. I wasn’t sure whether I would want to ride into town (which I thought was 30Km from the port), or whether I would camp near the port and ride into town on Sunday. But after almost 5 hours on the ferry I decided to just ride. It was only a little over 20Km to my couchsurfing hosts place and I arrived at about 9pm, had a bucket wash and set up my Thermarest mattress for a night sleeping on the floor. Lombok is a Muslim island, like most of Indonesia, so it reminds me a little of Zanzibar and northern Africa. I’m not sure how long I will stay here. I need to extend my visa soon to get my second month, I can do that here and visit some of the small islands around Lombok. I guess I’ll just have to see what happens.
After arriving in Bali last week, I have been staying with my CouchSurfing host Sita. One of the first things that I noticed when I wandered around Bali was that there are so many beautifully decorated buildings and small temples for people to leave offerings in each day (as the main religion here is Hinduism). It really is a great change after a year of living in the very European culture of Australia. I set up my bike and repacked all of my equipment into my panniers, I am now sure, and relieved, that I have enough space for all of my stuff. I haven’t actually been out on the bike yet, because we have been driving around the south of the island on Sita’s moped, which has been a challenge as it is. I haven’t ridden a motorbike for a year while I was in Australia, but that isn’t the problem. Basically the moped has an automatic clutch, which everyone tells me makes it easier to ride, but as I am used to having a clutch I struggle with ‘slow control’ and changing down through the gears smoothly. The advantage of riding around on the moped is that I am getting used to the hectic traffic here and the different road rules. Basically if you see a space you take it and everyone else just adapts to your movements. The other drivers are used to that kind of thing, so they are alert and I haven’t seen any accidents, despite the amount of mopeds which drive so closely to each other. I also noticed that they actually use their horns for the correct purpose, letting people people know that they are there (when coming around a bling corner or overtaking someone who doesn’t have mirrors), rather that an extension of a shouting voice like we seem to in the UK.
Each day we have been going out to visit different places around the area, only one of those days did we go to a beach, which I didn’t really enjoy as it was kinda dirty and overly crowded with sunburnt Europeans. On Wednesday we went out to an old temple called Pura Gunung Kawi, bathed in the river that runs through the temple and wandered through the rice fields that surround it. On the way back we stopped in another town called Ubud, where we visited the Monkey Forest and met up with another CouchSurfer for dinner. The Monkey Forest is an area of forest in Ubud which contains a couple of temples and is home to a lot of monkeys. I wasn’t planning to spend much time in this area of Bali because I had heard how touristy it is, but I am staying with my CouchSurfing host and avoiding the main tourist areas, eating street food and meeting local people. I am really enjoying it but I think I will move on soon, heading east and getting a ferry to the next island to the east, Lombok. But before I do leave I want to learn some Indonesian from Sita to prepare for the rest of my trip.
Week 133 wasn’t very eventful, I spent some time working and then made a bit of a mistake. I got my shifts mixed up at work and ended up being about 40 mins late for work. Unfortunately they had already covered my shift by the time I realised and called them. They then cancelled my remaining shifts, in effect firing me. It seems a little harsh, but there are lots of people in Melbourne who want to work, so they feel that they can pick and choose and drop anyone at the first sign of weakness. So I didn’t get to work during my final week in Australia, but on the bright side, it also meant that I didn’t need to quit. While I wasn’t working I spent some time looking into the process to claim my tax back and also my Australian pension that I have been paying into while working there. That should get me a couple of thousand dollars for my trip.
I flew out of Melbourne on Sunday morning and arrived in Bali late in the evening. This didn’t go very smoothly either, I was 5Kg over my weight limit and had to pay $200 or leave my bike behind. The woman at the checking counter said “Well I guess you will have to pay, you can’t leave your bike behind” and then she chuckled. I’m not sure if a wealthy customer would have found that to be friendly, light hearted customer service, but it definitely pissed me off. The day didn’t really improve either. I didn’t have any food on my flights as the food was expensive, then during my transit in Kuala Lumpur, I was forced to buy some strange sweet bread hotdogs to tide me over until I arrived in Bali. As soon as I got out of the airport I relaxed. The atmosphere here is just what I have been missing in Australia. Busy streets with lots of people on small scooters, small stalls selling cheap food and drinks, interesting building designs and a new language, in other words a culture that isn’t the same as England. My plan was to build the bike at the airport and ride it to my CouchSurfing hosts place, but I was tired so I decided to take a taxi and build the bike in the morning. I might start posting weekly again, so hopefully I will have lots of new pictures and videos uploaded soon.