Hello friends and family! Well sorry for the long delay, but we've been having far too much fun to spend an hour sitting at a computer, which I'm sure you'll agree is a good thing. Soooo we arrived in Jakarta (Java) at the beginning of December. After the dirt and extreme poverty of Kathmandu this city with it's skyrises, sidewalks, paved roads, stop lights, and amazingly effective bus system left us in awe. We kept saying things like "wait, what? Holy crap Thomas there are LINES on this road, like for lanes!" or "Wow, I just bought us TICKETS, and guess what they have on them? Just guess! SEAT NUMBERS! We don't have to sit on the roof with the goats!". The fist day we spent wandering the streets ( that had names and where labeled!) we fell in love with the Indonesian people. Often while contemplating which way to go some one would approach us and say "you look confused, can I help you find something?". They would then proceed to give us detailed instructions that didn't in the slightest way resemble the characteristic Nepali "over there" 180 degree wave. We where so surprised by the friendliness of these people that at first we were wary of their help, assuming wrongly that they just wanted money. But we have learned to be more trusting since then, while of course still being aware of the dangers of traveling (don't worry mom.).
After leaving Jakarta we quickly traveled across Java, stopping to boogie board at the beaches of Batu Karas, and see some beautiful batiks and temples in Yogyakarta. We also spent a few nights at the base of Mt Bromo, a volcano that sits nestled among others, in a gigantic sandy crater. One morning we woke up around 3'am and hiked with a new friend named Norah the steep 1 hr climb to the top of Gunung Penanjakan, which overlooks the whole 10 km wide crater and encompassed volcanos. The view at sunrise was brought to life by the ever changing glow of red, pink, and orange tinted mist that curled it's self around the volcanos and settled in the crater. This all would have been the most epically relaxing and zen experience had we not been beaten up there by 100 other tourists in jeeps. Complaining of how early it was they spilled out of 4'wheelers and proceeded to shove their way past each other and the 10 or so looming cell towers that so gracelessly perch on top of this mountain. whipping out their SLR's like they where in a picturing taking quick draw showdown, they proceeded to snap away all the magic of the morning. But, after a bit of wet bush whacking Thomas and I found a relatively peaceful place to watch the sun rise. On the way back we had plenty of time to talk with our rather chatty friend Norah due to the fact that we got fairly lost, adding about an hour to our trip. During that extra hour we where hilariously hassled by a couple of ojek (motorcycle taxi) riders. This is how our conversation went-
Where you going?
You want ojek
Ok get on
Um no thanks
Ok how much you want pay?
I want to walk
Ok for you only 80,000
Ok ok 75,000
Really we like walking
Ok ok best price 70,000
You get the picture...
After this lovely adventure we made a b-line for Bali arriving late one night in grungy and bustling Denpasar. We decided to go see what all the fuss was about and stay close to Kuta which is the commonly ragged on party spot that is popular among Australians. It seems to be like a very cheap version of Cozumel or Kabo. Our first night we went out on the town and after a lot of wandering stubbled into a bar that literally had strippers hanging from the ceiling. That night was a weird, fun, and alarming experience that I don't ever care to repeat, but wouldn't take back either. People often criticize Kuta for not being the" real Bali", but I wouldn't say that, I'd say it's not the "real world." mushrooms are offered to you every corner even at 7am, and literal every age and weight of guy is wearing an awful "bin tang pilsner" singlet, and trust me some guys should really not wear singlets. But we stayed one more day to try surfing the famous Kuta waves. We started out stoked, ready to rage the waves, to shred the knar, and ended...er less enthusiastic. Let's just say we think we'll stick to snow where we don't get continually pounded into the sand and smacked in the face with our own boards. After this traumatizing experience we dicided to treat our selves to an 8 $ massage. We where put in the same room with two tabels. The young lady who was the "masseuse" came in and told us to "take off clothes, you boyfriend girlfriend right? Ok no problem you see every day.". Laughing after she left about her getting so personal so fast we undressed and covered our selves with blankets. Little did we know it was about to get WAY more personal. I won't go into details but I can tell you that a few times I wondered what kind of massage we had just paid for. We have since learned from other travelers that this is just how massages are done in Indonesia, they just have a different sense of person space I guess.
Seeking some relief from the crowds and tourism we headed to ubud, where unfortunately we found neither. We did however find some beautiful farming land out side of ubud, and some pretty decent mexican food when we rented a scooter for a day. Our rolling rural landscape and nacho cravings satisfied we moved on to spend a day doing some of the best snorkeling I've ever experienced in Pandangbai. Right off the blue lagoon beach we where abel to see the neon stripes and spots of countless overly friendly fish. Floating effortlessly in the salty turquoise water, admiring the hundreds of different critters and corals, I thought of how much faster the theory of evolution would have been realized if only Darwin had had a snorkel!
From Pandagbai we headed east to Mataram the capital of Lombok to get our visas renewed. With the aid of 15 extra bucks we where able to get our Visas in under an hour instead of the usual 3-7 days. After admiring the "co-operation" of the government we headed on to Gili Air, one of 3 tiny islands of the coast of Lombok. We spent a wonderful Christmas week there losing track of time and collecting seashells to put on our "Christmas tree". Feeling the need to do something to get into the Christmas spirit we had cut this tree out of green paper and taped it to our hotel wall. Being short on cash and access to presents we bought each other Oreos, beer, sunglasses, and other mostly useless things leaving them under our tree wrapped up like more respectable gifts. This being out first Christmas away from home, and with out our friends, family, or snow Thomas and I where both feeling a little home sick. But we had a nice time opening our gifts anyway and had a very nice dinner together. After dinner we stumbled upon a Christmas party which consisted of many Hindu and Muslim locals wearing Santa hats while drinking bin-tang beer and dancing to American pop. Odd, but fun.
Many sun soaked and sandy days later we made the trip back to Bali to catch a flight to the k shaped island of Sulawesi. We arrived with some new friends to the Togean Islands after many long days of traveling on new years eve. We spent a very strange night in Katadiri drinking some of the local alcohol called arak. Arak tastes more or less like rubbing alcohol so it is needless to say we didn't drink much of it. The next morning we went with our new friends Judith (pronounced udith) and Arian, a very sweet Dutch couple, to a tiny island called Malange. We spent a very peaceful day laying on the amazing beach, talking with our dutch friends, and watching the sun go down. The next day we saw a boat coming towards our beach and hoped that it was a very nice german couple we had met earlier who where hoping to join us. But as the boat drew closer we realized it was in fact a very annoying British man we had met in katadiri. He was a greasy, long bearded, chain smoking, arak drinking, all around creepy dude who never shut up and had a strange habit of winking after nearly every sentence. Our days on malange where still really nice, but this newcomer defiantly put a little kink in the otherwise perfect scene. After about a week we said a sad good bye to Judith and Arian and headed to a tiny island close to the town of Bomba. This island had only a small hotel on it called PoyaLisa. It was amazingly beautiful with little bugalos scattered along the white beach, and one open air dining room where we ate meals and played cards. Every day we where given 4 delicious meals (breakfast, lunch, tea time, and dinner) consisting of things like sweet breads, eggplant or pumpkin coconut curry, and the catch of the day fresh fish. The staff was incredibly sweet and helpful and captain 9 often took us out on free snorkeling trips. Most nights we would play a game called mafia during which the colorful personalities of our new friends where exhibited. Sj from china would only take a break from smoking to yell "you stupid people I am not de killer!". Fankie a German dietitian would calmly reply "'your making me nervous" while holding a cigarette in one hand and his 4th glass of arak mixed with coffee in the other. Our slow days at PoyaLisa went by fast and soon it was time to move on to the next adventure. After 3 days and countless hours of winding vomit inducing bus rides we have arrived in Rantepao. From here we hope to make our way to a small farm where we will work for the last few weeks of our trip.This first month has been an absolute blast, getting to know the locals, the food, and the beauty of this large and diverse country. We are always laughing at the silly things Indonesians say like "no money, no honey". Or when trying to get your attention they yell "yes please!". Very polite, but it really makes no sense. They also love to roll their R's which adds some hilarity to a taxi cabs soliciting "misterrrr. Transporrrrrt?". Well that's all we have to report for now! Hope your all healthy and happy!
Thomas wants you all to appreciate that he is the tannest he has ever been (which is to say he doesn't glow in the dark anymore). Yay thomas!