Thursday, 24 December 2009

Happy Christmas people

What can I say? We've had/are having an amazing life enhancing trip and I really mean it when I say we have not done this journey alone. You lot have laughed with us, sighed with us, gasped with us and really really put your collective hands on our backs and gently pushed us when we were at our lowest. We still have some miles to go but we feel like the road ahead is familiar and we have, universe willing, left the darkest part of the trip behind us. We have memories enough to last us a lifetime already and there are still more to come so thankyou so much for sharing it with us. Thankyou Thankyou Thankyou and have a brilliant Christmas wherever you are and who ever you are with and I'd like you to try and imagine a huge hug from both of us with all our love.

Updates will keep coming I promise. xxxxxx Gary and Kym xxxxxxx

Photo Me Ed and Kym Wishing everyone a Happy Christmas

Photo Black sand

Photo Bali!


And here we are! We are in the house after a couple of days living on the beach at a surf spot called Balian, and after a a good clean and an empty of the car we have made it our home for a couple of Months. We have two live in Gecko's (actually we have lot's but these are big un's) that have big poos and one mouse that has little poos. It has a washing machine and a telly and is in the far corner of a "Kampung" which is like a big compound with houses all around it with a communal garden area in the middle. Our first human guest in the form of Ed from Perth (by way of Devon) is staying for Christmas and Luke, Steph, Jimmy and Lenny from Lanzarote will be arriving on new years eve. The first few days were a bit weird for me. Having to constantly remind myself to stop. I didn't have to do anything. I didn't have to think about the next days drive or the route or the truck or where to stay or anything and I found it hard. Kym settled in immediately (well as soon as she'd finished cleaning) and I'm pleased to say I now have too. The push bikes are great and the Balinese love 'em. People are already talking about the car they keep seeing around and sometime it actually gets a bit tiring repeating the same thing (yep all the way from England..) but there's been surf and it's been sunny and we have been drinking beer so all is good.

Photo Trumpet flowers.

Photo Smokin'!

Photo Not even Photoshopped!

Photo on the Moon

Photo inside the crater

Photo volcanic farming


Another night on the beach (yet another beautiful one) and a trip to Malang to get some genuine bolts found us driving up the lower slopes of mount Bromo at dusk. We guessed there must be a ticket office at some point to enter the park and surmised from this that there would also be a car park that we could sleep in before driving into the park(crater!) the following morning. Once again the universe looked after us and in the dark and pea soup fog we somehow managed to spot a rest area with toilets, water and a quiet parking spot and had to get the blanket out for the bed to cope with the seriously chilly drop in temperature down to 22c. 5 o'clock and our Indo alarm clock kicked in (waaaayyyyyyyyeeeeeeeaaaaaahhhhhhh,AllahisgreatcometotheMosquenowandbowbeforehim,wwwwaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyooooooooooaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh) and after a bite to eat we headed further up the volcano. We never did find a ticket office (shame) but we did breach the rim of the caldera (you should know what that is if not you haven't been paying attention) and drove down into spectacular surroundings. The photo's do it more justice but they don't give you the smell, phewweee eggs, or strictly speaking sulphur. But real live vulcanolgy actually happening all around us. Awesome.

Neatly we didn't have to re-trace our steps and drove out of the caldera on the far side and descended to Probolingo (great place names around here) did a drive by and went hunting for a beach for the night. Found one and parked smack in the middle of it. At 0400 the following morning the wailing started and when I say wailing this time I really mean it. It was like the Imman had said "Gran I'm not feeling too good this morning would you mind doing the call to prayer?" and Gran had got there an hour early an eager not to disappoint had given it her all but forgotten to switch off her hearing aid which was creating feedback on the PA system.

It might have been this that then encouraged the whole village and all the local surrounding villages to get up at 0430 and come and check out the weird alien craft that had landed on their beach during the night and stand around it talking very loudly and even play guitars. By the time I descended the ladder at 0445 absolutely busting for a pee we were surrounded. The grumpiest fastest pack up took place and we drove off the beach at 0510 with me shouting out the window that they were all loonies and all I want is a piss and a cup of tea like any normal person would in the morning. Then we went to Bali!

Photo Java

Photo more beach life

Photo Jurassic park

Car Trouble

After a peaceful night next to the sea we took off along the coast on roads that didn't exist on our map but using the compass kept heading the right way until on one bend the steering went deceidly weird and aftera rapid stop it soon became clear why. The front left wheel was at a decidely jaunty angle and upon closer inspection the whole steering rocker arm that sits bolted to the bottom of the steering knuckle (ball joint) behind the wheel had come off and was hanging by the tie rod ends!

Rewind a little to a small incident in India with a truck. This was the same wheel that took the brunt of the collision and was also the same wheel that Toyota Hyderabad assured us was fixed. Since then I have replaced the hub seal 3 times and each time have repacked and greased the bearings trying to figure out why the seal keeps breaking. Well it'd broken again but catastrophically and the oil from the exel have entered the ball joint and worked it's way into the bolts loosing all of them until they'd fallen out! I went for a walk back up the raod for a couple of miles and found one of them and also a bloke in a hut who was a mechanic. Between us we dismatled the ball joint and it was here that I discovered the bottom bearing which the ball joint sits on (which you don't access when changing the seal) was shot to pieces. This basically means that they put back in the said bearing instead of replacing it in India. Nice. The mechanic took the bearing and the one remaining bolt hopped on his motorbike did a 50km round trip came back with a new bearing, pot of grease and some temporary bolts and helped me re assemble the whole thing in the dark and asked for £20. Did I mention I hate India.

Photo Java beach

Photo Borobudur

Photo Borobudur

Photo Ohm

Photo Borobudur

Photo Fishing frame

Photo Dinner guest


So we arrived at another surf spot and it was small, slow and full of people. I can't say I was enthusiastic and as such we brought our plans forward and headed inland towards Jogjakarta and the Temple complex of Borobudur. It's the biggest Buddhist stupa in the world but was only "re-discovered" relatively recently by Sir Stamford Raffles (yep him again) who began a process of restoring it. It was completed in 824ad but for some reason no-one seems to agree on, was abandoned as a place of worship not long after. (Some think it might be something to do with the amount of volcanoes close by and maybe a local eruption scaring people away). Any way it was pretty spectacular. We arrived there late-ish in the afternoon and had already surrendered to the idea that we may have to pay to stay somewhere as camping was going to be a tough one. Lonely Planet yet again was our guide and after discounting the hovels that they recommended we started looking at others. They were all very very ordinary and for what you got very expensive, by now it's starting to get dark and we realised that there's a racket going on in the town and there's no way we're going to find a cheap spot for the night, so in the spirit of youngtrippers we drove down onto and across the football pitch to the far corner where it was quiet and stayed for free there for the night!

Early doors before the heat and the tour buses from Jogya and we started our clockwise circumnavigation of each of the ten terraces. This is the Buddhist way and also applies to spinning the prayer wheels. We cheated a bit as you're supposed to walk each terrace 3 times, we did one. The going gets easier as you climb and the terraces get smaller but the workmanship that must have gone in to the 100 years it took to complete is truly amazing. After abusing the free tea and coffee in the information office we headed into Jogya where we knew for sure we weren't going to be able to camp but did find a cheap cleanish place and spoilt ourselves with a beer and a pizza. The following day we intended to do a little walking tour of the city but to be honest we managed an hour and came to the conclusion we don't really dig cities so packed up and headed back to our comfort zone of the beach. Once again the beaches of Java didn't fail, unlike the steering on the truck.

Photo beach life

Java cont

With the crocodile in the safe hands of the Rangers and supposedly on it's way to a safari park not to mention the best surfer in Switzerland (work that one out!?) turning up with a shitty attitude, we headed off. To Garret, Matt and Guy thanks for sharing the stoke and the waves awesome few days.

The South central coast of Java was absolutely beautiful. The land here is incredibly fertile and the Javanese take full advantage of it. Every square inch is planted. Even on the vertiginous slopes of the volcanoes they sculpt terraces for more planting. Coffee, tea, bananas, casava, mango and stacks of other stuff that we have no idea what it is. But honestly no space is spared even under the casava and banana trees there are cabages and and other vegetables growing. It's an up and down and round and round road that suddelnly arrives back at the beach from time to time, in fact sometimes you'd be hard pressed to call it a road and that's by our standards! It was obvious they didn't have too much foreign traffic down that way either. It's so funny, it's happened in most of the countries we've been through at one point or another but you never tire of seeing the reactions to two white people in a huge white car with the wrong plates. Most are just open mouthed gapes, others are loud "hello meeesta" and some are just unbridled excitment! Whoops and screams and not just from the young uns!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Vid howler monkeys (loud so watch the volume)

Photo Crocodile Kym

Photo No kidding

Photo surf

Photo Empty waves

Photo Surf (frame grab)


Blimey I nearly forgot the crocodile! I've seen alot of things in the ocean in my years surfing but at this spot I saw two new ones. First a squid which is pretty rare as they generally hang out at night. It just kind of jetted past me very casually looking all transluscent with fluro spots on it's back; then in response to Kym and Luke (another Ozzie but not surfing) shouting from the beach somthing that sounded very like crocodile, Guy and I paddled in quickly. Sure enough there's a bloody 2.5m crocodile on the beach!!

Now this is just such a typically Indonesian story that it must be true. A power station is being built in a bay about 20km from whwere we were and the company had built a moat around the site and bought 7 crocodiles to chuck in it for securuity. Now as I mentioned previously it's wet season and after a particularly heavy period of rain the moat flooded and 3 escaped. Honestly. One walked up the beach at Cimaja and was promptly shot and eaten by the villagers, another swam on to the beach we were at and the third, well if he's got any sense he'll keep away from the beaches. The locals here roped it and dragged it off the beach and into the garden of the house behind. A little later a bunch of park rangers turned up and asked about the croc. Lo and behold it'd dissapeared. The persuing investigation involving Kym and our lap top and lot's of other peoples mobile pictures eventually found out where it had gone and because the bloke who nicked it cooperated he avoided a 5 year sentence for taking a endangered animal (how did the powerstation do it?). So alls well that ends well and how's that for a story on a day in the life of youngtrippers?

Photo Ujung Genteng

Photo My beer supplier hard at it again

Photo Mini mini bus

Photo Java


A 3 hour ferry trip and we are on Java! We had no real preconceptions of Java, perhaps an idea that it was going to be busier and more metropolitan but we have been suprised nonetheless. It's smaller that's for sure and the same mistake with the Sumatra map hasn't repeated it self, in fact the opposite has been true. We've picked a point to aim for for the day and a couple of hours later we've gone "oh we're here". Which is cool 'cos it means less driving and more chillin'. It is busier as well, the West coast is only a short drive from the Capital Jakarta so it's quite resorty which is a new to us. First night we didn't get too far from the ferry and stayed in a kind of beach car park which we got charged for, first night we've paid to stay since we left Medan in October. We woke to a view of Krakatao which I'm certain your all aware is the famous volcano that made a very big bang. It isn't that scary anymore but it's baby, Anak Krakatao (literally child of) is growing up fast.

Down on the South coast I'd been told of a few good surf spots and the first one we came across was at a place called Sawarna. You can see the wave from across the bay as you round a headland, the only thing we couldn't see was a road to it. When the road got as close as it was going to we realised there was a wide deep river blocking our path and the only way across was via a pedestrian (and moped) suspension bridge. There were guys there offering us motorbike rides out to the point which they told us was 2km. Undeterred and convinced they were just trying to get a buck out of us we attempted to find an alternative route with the car. To the guy who owns the banana plantation, I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to plough it on purpose and I'm sure the one banana plant that I couldn't fit past will grow again. So we walked,and there wasn't an alternative way in and it was 2km and it rained and the surf wasn't that great. Balls.

Cimaja was the next town along the road and is actually one of a series of small towns all joined together in a beautiful bay. It's a real surfer hang out and also very built up so not ideal for free camping so we headed on (the surf still wasn't great either) About two hours up and over through tea and coffee plantations and back down we came to a cool little fishing village at the end of a peninsular called Ujung Genteng. Here we bumped into a very excited French guy whose tongue was "burning to talk" after he'd spotted our car. He was in a mini mini bus (yep I meant it) with his girlfriend and another couple plus three Indo's on a surf scout. After a chat we said we'd follow them down a track to a spot the local knew. Good job for them we did. The track at one point goes through a ford and with the tide coming up I think it was a little ambitious for them. Out with the tow rope and then the wd40 and a grateful mini mini bus was again leading the way. The spot was perfect. Not only the wave but also the situation. It was right next to a national (and protected) park and pretty remote. The two buildings that were there were both surfer losmen and the only people staying were the French guy and his girlfriend and a socially dysfunctional Kiwi. The other couple headed back to Cimaja in the mini mini bus (when the tide had dropped)we surfed that night with the start of a new swell but the following morning was all time. Me Garrett and an Ozzie bloke called Guy sharing amazing waves. It went on like that for 4 days, one other turned up so crowds were never a problem. We only moved once and that was 'cos we had to nip to the local market to re supply. On the 5th day the swell began to wane and two Swiss guys with poor etiquette turned up so we left. One board snapped one damaged, me aching all over with reef cuts on my knees and a huge smile on my face.

Photo breakfast at Lena's

Photo Cheap kids ride!

Photo Market lady

Photo Market

Photo Food (ketoprak)

Photo food

Photo More food

Photo Gajah mandi (elephant wash)

Photo Elephants

Photo Happy?

Photo GBP 1.90 for an hour

Photo more work.

Photo Judo and wife

Photo Yep tea.

Photo Tea!?

Photo Tea?

Photo Lena


So, where was I? Surfing. Met two young smelly South Africans who were doing Indo on a serious budget surf trip, obviously didn't include soap in that budget either. They'd been together so long they couldn't even smell each other so it took us to convince them to have a wash and come on a mini trip back up the road to a right hander (type of wave) I'd seen on the way down. We crammed them in the back found a great campsite and spent the evening hudled under our awning with horizontal rain soaking us and filling up their tiny tent. Fortunately the next day although not dry did have waves so the trip was not in vain. Headed back down to Nev and Ani's and parked up in the coconut grove for another couple of days. This is also where we met Lena.

Next to where we had parked was a fenced of section with new building happening. The lady who owns the land came over to introduce herself to us as Lena. She spoke sedikit Ingriss (a little) but asked if we spoke German, I told her I lived there along time ago and knew ein bizien Deutch. She was Indonesian but had spent 22 years in Germany first studying at then working at the University in Munster which also happens to be one of the places I lived in Germany. She was great, and between the three languages she persuaded us that when we headed to Banda Lampung (we'd have to go through it to catch the ferry to Java) that we should make a small detour to Metro where she lives (the building work is a holiday home/losmen) for dinner.Well we did and it was bloody fantastic. We ended up staying 4 days.

The only weird part about it was that the miserable American was also there with his girlfriend but we didn't let it spoil our stay. (in fact he cheered up a bit and let us have a couple of his beers, but he was still odd. Lena had been staying at his place to supervise the building work and she felt oblidged to offer a room at her's when they had business in Banda Lampung). On arrival in the evening she took us on a quick tour of Metro and bought us dinner then we were taken round to her friends restaraunt and given more food. It was arranged that we would meet the restaurant owner Judo (pronounced yoodoe) at the local market at 0530 the following morning. Kym and the local Immam woke me at 0500 and before I knew it we were deep in the bowels of the market bustling our way around and being introduced to all kinds of new foods. It felt like a weird dream, I still wasn't awake! Judo was great, he was basically just doing his days shopping for the restaurant and we just followed him with Lena telling us what everything was. He then took us up a staircase that Lena confessed never even knew existed. Upstairs was a little tea shack that did a roaring trade in egg tea!? Never ones to shirk somthing until we've tried it.... basically you crack an egg beat it to foam pour tea on it and it floats to the top then gently pour condensed milk in which sinks to the bottom. Give it all a stir and get it down. WOW absolutely delicious. Along with some battered things (?) it did the trick and woke us both up. Lena's turn to shop now so we had to decide what to have for dinner that night. Pork, but don't tell anyone they're all muslims here, so if anyone asks it's kambing (goat) not babi.

Such a great morning, initially I confess to thinking "market 0530 you're kidding" but man I'm so glad we did it. It was one of those experiences you would never have unless you intrust yourself to a local and we picked the perfect one for that. She was such a Mum, constantly feeding us and always coming up with things to do. The elephant park was next. I had somehow become driver (which of course I didn't mind at all, Indonesian ladies don't often drive and in fact most midle class indonesians employ a driver) so in Lena's car we headed off to the park. Most people are well aware that Kym loves elephants and one of the highlights of her life so far was to ride down river on the back of an elephant in Thailand a few years ago, so her only wish now was to wash an elephant and it happened. No sooner had we arrived than the mahouts were leading them into the bathing lake. Kym asked if she could get in with them and after a nod she needed no second invitation. I think the photo's on this occasion definitely speak more than words. You only have to look at her face to see how much it meant.

4 days with Lena variously washing elephants, shopping in the market, driving her around and being introduced to everyone she knew and tasting all kinds of new foods we never would have. There were tears when e left and they were from all of us. The car was creaking on it's springs she'd cooked us so much food. Lena you're an amazing person and we really hope you can make it to Bali in the new year. (she hasn't got a computer but hey someone may tell her!!).

Photo Work!

Photo Southern Sumatra

Just down the road from the coconut grove we were living in is a surf spot called Ujung Bocur so we went and investigated. There are even a couple of surf camps there aswell as a few local losmen (guest houses), we drove past them all and found another great spot in a coconut grove and made sure with the old old guy in the nearest hut (who shouted) that it was tidak apa apa (no problem) to stay there. It struck me that the surf camps may have books and maybe they would do some swaps (most places do a two for one deal) so armed with paperbacks we popped into Karang Niambor camp and were met by a miserable American who said he only swaps books with customers and promptly walked off. Next door is Ombak Indah so we went there. Couldn't have been more different. An older Kiwi guy called Nev Hines and his wife Ani own it and he wouldn't hear of a two for one deal and told me to take as many as I left. Then they offered us a drink and after a good deal of chit chat lunch, and then after more stories dinner (we kindly declined dinner as we felt we would be abusing not only their hospitality but also their other paying guests). Kym found a new kindred spirit in Nev and I found some surfers to talk surf with. Next day we were back, it'd rained all day so I'd finished one of the books, and to cut a long story short we learnt that Nev and Ani have a house on Bali which they were going to stay in for Christmas but have given up for us to rent.

We knew all along that we would be on Bali for a some time and it has been playing on our minds since we arrived in Indo just where we would stay each night. Bali is pretty crowded these days and spots next to the beach with no one near are few and far between, also with so many people coming to the island that we know we decided to bite the bullet and rent somewhere. Then Nev and Ani turn up and serendipitously we have our house. Obviously we haven't seen it yet but we know where it is and apparently it's old but big, has a big garden, enclose car port and television. whoo hoo. We've justified it in many ways, mainly the hard for camping, but also we figure it'd be nice to empty the car and not have drive around every day. Plus a home base for two months will be a real treat (and it's very very cheap(and that's our cheap!))

Photo Tea!

Trying to keep up

Folks I'm so sorry, believe me I have been typing this up regularly but there just ain't no internet cafes no where! We even upgraded our SIM card to get the internet but I can't figure out how to use it as a modem! I've got the Nokia software suite and I follow the intructions and it even has the ISP on the list but for some reason it won't bloody connect. So the phones only really good enough to check our mail and update our face book status! Next time we drive past a Telkomsel shop I'll take the lap top in and ask them how to do it. Any how, quite alot has gone on in our little world since we last spoke. We've met people that speak English, Kym's done some work, I've surfed a lot, we've rented a house on Bali for two months and we've got a new Indonesian Mum, amongst other things.

Photo smelly Saffa's

Photo this is nice.