Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Photo Bee hives

Photo Who needs lorries?

Photo Kelimutu

Photo more Flores

Photo Ferry office!?

Ship hunting

It's Wednesday now and one common thread amongst all the here say about the ferry was Friday and Larantuka so after an easy mornings drive to Ende when the harbour master told us that it sailed from Larantuka at 0700 the following morning and that Larantuka was at least 9 hours away we weren't immediately over the moon. After much deliberation and confirmation the time was 1530, nobody wanted to do an overnight drive especially Adam and Nicky whose head light lens didn't have a diffuser so only lit a small spot ahead of them, but we really had no alternative if we didn't want to be on Flores another week let alone the visa problems it would cause. Also it would mean missing out on one of the highlights of Indonesia, the three coloured crater lakes of Kelimutu. Scientists still aren't sure why but all three lakes are different colours even though they all sit in the same crater, not only this but periodically they all change colour! Bugger.

As we're packing up the car to hit the road for a not so pleasant drive the harbour master comes back. He's just had a phone call to say that tomorrows sailing has been cancelled due to the weather and it was now sailing Friday. Now whether this was genuinely fate helping us out or some old duffer getting his days muddled up and being too embarrassed to admit we will probably never know but bloody hell it was good news. Kelimutu was indeed awesome again photo's do it more justice. Two of the lakes were similar in colour but hey they were still bright and we had the place completely to ourselves. In fact with the exception of the mad Irish, surfers and a handful of tourists for Komodo we haven't really seen many foreigners at all since Lombok. A leisurely drive to Larantuka took the rest of the day but again the scenery made us glad we didn't have to do it over night. On arrival we drove straight into the port and confirmed that indeed the boat was leaving tomorrow at midday!? Inquiries as to whether it was supposed to sail today were met with a blank. Inquiries as to the length of the voyage brought between 12-18hrs, it was 22.

There were no seats only two levels of racking for sleeping on. We commandeered one whole section that was right on the edge of the open sides of the boat and would hopefully let a breeze through. No sooner had the boat left dock than the Indo rock ballad favourites came booming through the speakers. 10 o'clock at night we were told it would be turned off. We'd spotted two other foreigners on the boat a pair of young lads and after a local guy had tried to persuade us to fit more people on our platform we persuaded them to join us. James and Simon more Brits! Not only that but Simon was from Bridgewater only 7 miles from our home town of Taunton. Yet again small world. All was going well, too well. The music had ceased but the effects of the local hooch on four young guys adjacent to us clearly was only just kicking in. The rest of the passengers did the usual Indonesian thing and resolutely pretended it wasn't happening, not Kym. We asked them to turn down their radio, we asked them not to shout then we asked again over and over for the next 45 mins until Adams eyes turned white, his clothes started splitting at the seams and he changed colour. He leapt from our platform told them all to SHUT THE FLIP UP pulled ones hair then took their remaining bottle of arak and threw it overboard! Not content he then took their ciggarettes and told them "these are bad for you if you're good you can have them back in the morning". Regaining his natural colour he climbed back onto the platform to an eerily silent boat. Unfortunately morning in Indo starts at 0430 and being on a boat makes no exception, rock ballads in a different language pre-sun up anyone?

The lack of sleep made the decision to stay in backpackers for the night an easy one so we agreed we'd head on into Kupang to a place we'd read about in the LP. Sometime later when Adam and Nicky still hadn't arrived we called them to find they were still at the docks and the starter motor had gone on the bike. Picked them up and checked them in then went hunting for parts/repairs. Adam hopped on the back of a scooter with a local and I changed brake pads on the truck. The starter repair man couldn't do anything till monday (saturday now) so Kym and I said we were heading off in the morning for the two day drive to East Timor and we'd keep in touch.

Pretty uneventful drive really, pleasant enough country side and great road the best bit though was the local houses. Thatching is still predominant as are woven bamboo/wooden walls. Also these great little beehive houses that look like cousin "it" from "The Adams Family". Good little camp site for the night in a kind of recreation area on a beach near the border but a little bit shocked when they wanted $3.00 for letting us stay there, we got them down to $1. By 0830 we were at the border to our first new country since October! Of course nothing was open.

Photo Village drive-by snapshot

Photo Hot/Cold springs

Photo Bena

Photo Bena

Photo Bena

Photo Bena

Photo Bena

Water buffalo skulls and jaw bones are a sign of wealth.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010


What a road! Amazing in the fact that it's perfectly surfaced and smooth and even more amazing that it clings to the sides of volcanoes, precipices, snakes through jungle, climbs to cooler heights and skirts the beach all in 10 mile stretches. Not so amazing is that the fastest you can hope to go is about 15mph. It was infinitely more suited to a nimble bike that a hulking 4x4. At lunchtime we caught up with the bikers in a small losmen on top of a plateau and joined them for a quick tea. Whilst sat in a little room quietly discussing the road and how beautiful Flores was there was a sudden burst of activity and a random Irish bloke came bursting in exclaiming "feck, where's have you's come from, I tought I'd come along way" bearing in mind this is in the middle of nowhere on a much less visited Indonesian island. Then his wife came in "feck, it's hot, oim fecking soaked". I think our collective response was to look at each other with our mouths open. They continued to question us over the top of each other without pausing for response for about another minute before it seemed they'd exhausted them selves. After picking out random questions that we could remember and establishing what and how both of us had arrived here (when I refer to us in this context I mean both couples) and then managed to get their story. Originally from Cork they now live on their yacht in Biscay and charter for the summer season. Halfway through what we're lead to belive has been a bit of chilly winter in Europe (irresistible, sorry) they decided to "fly da feck outta der". Bali was a little busy for them so they hired a moped and had done the same route as we had and were now on their return to Bali... on a moped! We thought they'd seen the vehicles but no it turns out that on the outward journey they'd mapped mentally all the places that sold beer and we just happened to be in one! We set off after handshakes (no introductions!!) feeling slightly shell shocked, just another random happening.

We made it back down to the coast just before dark and camped next to the beach by a big concrete pier in the middle of no where but close to Aimeree. Peaceful night just a few curious locals who explained that the jetty was for the ferries. We surmised from this and the complete lack of infrastructure any where nearby, that it must be a work in project only to find out a few days later that this was indeed Aimeree's dock! There wasn't even a hut! Next days drive over more ridiculous vistas that literally could only leave you shaking your head trying to think of words that don't exists to describe them, and lunchtime ish we got to Bajawa. This is home to the Ngada people whose bent on Christianity would leave most missionaries wondering where they'd gone wrong. We often ponder how on earth those guys managed to convince races of people who have been ingrained with their own beliefs of variously ancestor worship, animism, totemic and idol reverence etc to give that up and worship some tall white guy with long hair and beard. Let's face it their first meetings with westerners didn't really bode well what with us lot turning up with alsorts of horrible diseases let alone alcohol and guns. They had they work cut out for sure but all the statues of the afore mention hippy we keep seeing (not always great ones I have to say, the cross eyed Charles Manson look alike one example) are testament to the fact the they had some success. Bajawa is a relatively modern town and it took an excursion into the jungles to find the traditional Ngada villages. Bena has since 1975 been protected and with the exception of piped water has changed little for hundreds and hundreds of years and it really feels it. And it doesn't feel in the slightest way contrived. Important people are buried in front of their family homes in the common ground that the huts surround. Amongst the graves are stone.. monuments I guess you'd call them, kind of like mini Stonehenge's but with pointy rocks. These, guessing again really as there are no nice little plaques with descriptions, seem to have stopped being built and simple wooden crosses now mark the more recent graves. Every night candles are lit on every grave. For an inhabited village it seemed really quiet until we discovered it was food time and everybody was outside one hut all get stuck into a communal dinner. The only obvious concession to tourism was a visitors book and a donation book. Well worth a look if you happen to be at a loose end on Flores sometime.

Hot springs where two streams, one hot, one cold converged were close enough to tempt us so after passing backwards and forwards past it a few times then being escorted down through jungle to the confluence by a smiley local, we jumped in. The hot was hot, way too hot straight out the volcano hot but the cold was cold enough that if you positioned yourself in just the right place where the currents converged it was perfect. All to soon with darkness coming we had to get back and hopefully find a place we'd seen earlier to camp. Adam and Nicky were staying in Bajawa so we waved them off and then set off ourselves. About 20 mins later we saw them again, they'd run out of petrol. A 45 min round trip to Bajawa and they were on their way again. We just made it to our camp spot in time for it to get dark, cold and start raining. Early to bed then.

Photo Lunch time.

Photo Bena

Photo Doesn't look real does it?

Photo Fish!

Photo Random Irish people!

Photo Labuanbajo

Photo Tea anyone?

Kym back Mum gone, I'm sure she enjoyed herself and am certain that she learnt new things about friends and of course it was a great moral boost to have her travel with us for a bit. (thankyou so much for spoiling us with treats from home and helping me through my cold by letting me put the medicine on your room bill, even if you weren't convinced that beer cures colds). Ferry to Sumbawa 1 1/2 hours and no arrests. It would have been nice to have spent more time exploring the South West of Sumbawa but by now we are starting to be a Little pushed for time not only with our Indonesian visa but also arriving in time for our Australian visa. So we headed straight to the surfing mecca known as Lakey Peak. Such a good surf spot, remote, exposed to the swells from the southern oceans and about 7 different breaks all more or less within walking distance. Not to mention half of Cornwall camped out there! We lucked into a fantastic camp spot right on a break called cobblestones. An investor had built a complex there and had put in all the infrastructure but then either ran out of money or lost interest, which ever, the little man (really little) that was caretaker told us to help ourselves to the water tank and toilets and to park up right next to the beach. Bliss. Obviously the truck became a bit of a talking point amongst the Cornish/Devon posse and we got engaged in one conversation with a guy who was sure he recognised me (this actually happens alot in surfing circles as you spend so much time in the water you inevitably bump into the same people at different surf spots), after a bit of past reconstruction and name exchange it turned out he was this little grommit whose parents used to camp at Croyde each summer back in the early 90's and the slightly older guys (me, Luke, Jools, Julian, Q etc) used to use him as our go-fer. We'd send him down to the post office in the village to fetch yoghurt's and lardy cake and reward him with the change! He remembered! all to soon we had to leave fantastic waves and keep going, so we hit the road and aimed for Sape where the ferry left Sumbawa for Labuanbajo on Flores.

We got to the port as evening fell and confirmed that the ferry sailed at 0700 the following morning. We couldn't buy a ticket in advance but found out that the ticket office opened at 0600. Off to find a camp site then. After a drive round the headland we came across a prawn farm with a track that followed the sea water pipes down to a secluded little beach. We made sure with the workers that it'd be cool to stay there and even confirmed with them that it was a quiet spot. Dinner on the go, sun below the horizon a cool breeze whispering off the calm sea and they crank up the generators. Might as well have been camped at the coal face. Didn't take too long to pack up and move! Dawn and back at the port. Already more vehicles there when in the distance i spotted a bigger than normal motorbike arriving with two Brits aboard who, it turned out, had left the UK 12 days after us but had more luck with Iran so had come a different route. So we got the kettle on and got slightly excited about the prospect of what would have been a very dull 8 hour ferry now being an 8 hour travelogue and general chitter chatter. Brilliant. Well it would have been if the bloody lorry in front of us hadn't taken up the last place on the ferry. Of course Nicky and Adam (from Tadcaster) managed to squeeze on and felt terribly guilty about it (how British!). We were in luck though. Normally once a day 0700, for some reason there happened to be an extra ferry there and because there were enough vehicles still waiting to fill another ferry we set sail in pursuit of them only 2 hours later. And because all the foot passengers and poxy little motor bikes had squeezed on the first boat we had a grand total of 30 passengers!

Because our boat had lees people on it was also faster so we actually docked less than an hour after the first boat. This one had rows of plastic seats and behind them a kind of carpeted stage area that you could lie down on so we spent most of the trip dozing and reading. Labuanbajo is quite a cool little fishing port with it's main claim to fame being that it is a jumping off spot for the islands of Rinca and Komodo. Adam and Nicky were keen to visit one of them and check out the 'dragons' the over sized monitor lizards that live there, but over dinner that evening worked out that they too had a schedule to meet in order to avoid overstaying their visa. Our excuse was we just can't afford it! So the Komodo dragons will just have to wait and hope they get to see us another time. One thing we needed to do was find out where and when the ferry from Flores to Timor sailed as we'd read conflicting things on the internet. There are three potential ports Aimeere, Ende and Larantuka and only one road on Flores that takes you through the first two and terminates at the last, best bet was to hit the road and find out then.

Photo Sumbawa Local

Sat talking to this guy for about an hour, he was hilarious, didn't speak a word of English.

Photo Our fire didn't last long.

Love the little guy with his arm around Kym but too polite to touch her!

Photo Hitcher

Photo more washing!

Photo Lakey locals, thanks for lunch!

Photo Lakey peak sunset.

Photo Cheaper than bicycles!

Photo Sumbawa

Photo Road sign?

Paintings part 2

We headed straight down to the South coast of Lombok and didn't arrive until after dark. Kym and I had been before so new the lay out and had made great friends with a local couple, Linda and Adi and their two little un's, Radit and Olea; so first stop was Linda's house. House needs a little clarification, it's actually a bamboo hut with two rooms one of which is Linda's sarong shop and the other the bedroom/kitchen. We certainly weren't expecting the welcome we received! We pulled up outside and Kym opened her door and was immediately spotted by Linda who leapt to her feet and ran over shouting Kym kym kym before throwing her arms around her! After promising to be back in the morning we checked Mum into a backpackers/hotel right on the beach and very kindly accepted the offer a room for ourselves. The next couple of days blurred into excursions, beers by the pool and catching up with old friends Bill and Gail who were on Lombok last year and who have given us tonnes of information on the Northern Territories, thankyou) and meeting new ones one of which lives in the village that Kym grew up in, Burlescombe! This idyllic mini holiday was abruptly disrupted 4 nights in by a text from Mum's friend at the villa on Bali saying that the police had been to the villa looking for Gary and the air hostess!!!

Yep, I know, Kym and I asked exactly the same question.. How did they know where the villa was? Turns out that all the women were complicit in their silence when I had said that the artist has no addresses. The air hostess had in fact given him the villa's address to bring the money to. Balls. Well what the hell. Through a number of texts it appears the police have no information other than mine and Mum's friends name and the owner of the villa told them we were only friends of friends and that we had left. They didn't know anything about the car and had no idea where we were. The only shitty bit was that Mum's friend told her that she wasn't welcome back at the villa!! The following day we all agreed it was probably best if Kym flew back to Bali with Mum just for moral support. So for the first time in a very long time I found myself alone in bed on Lombok.

Hysteria is how best to describe the reaction of Mum's friend. Storm in a tea cup and all that really. The artist had obviously given a much slimmed down version of the truth to the police and when told they quickly lost interest. This didn't stop the friend telling Mum that they were checking borders and the airport (for what exactly? Some bloke called Gary?). Mum wrote a letter to the villa owner explaining that neither Kym nor I had any idea that they had told the guy the address and that they should have spoken up and he graciously accepted this and that was the end of that, until a week later (now 3 weeks after the event) when I got a text from the artist saying "dear Mr Gary where can we meet for me to take back my 5 paintings?" I replied "hang on I'll fly from Sumbawa tomorrow and get them DHL'd from London and meet you at your shop in two days".. Yeah right!

Photo Great smile

Photo Radit and Friend

Photo Olea

Photo Sasak kids on Lombok

Photo International tramping

Photo Cornish surfers!

Photo Sky Garden

Saturday, 20 March 2010


After 5 or 6 days Mum's best friend found herself in a bit of pickle. She'd commissioned a painting from a bloke after seeing one of his paintings that was way too big for her house. She'd negotiated a price she was happy with and agreed a new size for the picture. 3 days later on return to the shop she paid the balance and took the picture (all ready rolled) back to the villa where upon measuring it discovered it was exactly the same size as the original (which had mysteriously vanished from the wall of the shop). The next day the artist himself was very apologetic but when Mum's friend said that she had no longer enough time to wait for a new painting and could she kindly have her money back and draw a line under it, he said no. Funny that. Actually that's not strictly true, he said he didn't have the money but he would tomorrow. Mum's friend returned tomorrow and surprise surprise he wasn't there and after a phone conversation confessed he still didn't have the money. At this point the story was told to Kym and I and after asking if she'd been to the tourist police ,not yet, I popped down and saw them. They said that if he hadn't paid after a further visit from me, they would go with Mum's friend the following day. I should have left at that really but whilst at the shop I said to his staff (he still hadn't made an appearance back at the shop) that if he hadn't returned the money to either me or her by telephoning either of us and arranging to meet, that the following morning I would come back to the shop and take 5 paintings.

The next day I went to the shop and after a brief telephone conversation with him in which he asked me not to take the paintings but also that he still had no money, I took 5 paintings. He had 3 contact numbers. Later at the villa sat around the table with all Mum's friends and the owner of the villa I explained what I had done and only the owner had some reservations in that he lived there and didn't want any trouble. Fair point, but I explained to him that the artist had no way of knowing where he lived and that I had walked to and from the shop so they had not seen our car and they didn't know where I lived, not only that but the artist had in fact never seen me! Remember that bit. The days went by, the women, as is their wont, shopped some more ate at some restaurants they didn't like and ate at some they did (One they all liked was a seafood restaurant on the beach at Jimbaran with fish about as fresh as it gets, a sunset spread with a mixture of everything went down a treat until Mum was persuaded to pose by the tank with the live crabs in and point at them for a photograph, the brother of the one they had just eaten saw his opportunity and leapt at Mum's finger clamping it in his claw causing Mum to scream and flail her arm about successfully removing the crab but not it's arm which remained on Mums bloody finger. The restaurant let her take the claw home for free. I promise you I couldn't make this up!!!). With only a day to go there was still no news from the artist so it was decided that the paintings would return to the UK with Mum's friend. Fair enough.

Air hostesses back where they toil (don't know if I mentioned, two of the three of Mum's friend are stewardesses) Mum was left with one friend who stayed at the villa while Mum elected to have a mini adventure and hop in the car with us to Lombok. No two ways about it Mum was excited. Until she saw the ferry. To say Indonesian ferries have a poor reputation would be somewhat of an understatement and all the ones we've ever been on have done nothing to alay this fact, this one was again no exception. In it's defence it sat upright in the water and left on time. Comfort, I'm not sure if there is a word for comfort in Bahasa Indonesia. Wooden benches, and remember those metal framed chairs covered with a kind of crocheted plastic string that pinched bare legs and were everywhere in the 80's? Well they're now chained to the decks of Pelni ferries. But it was only 4 1/2 hours so no real drama, and judging by the noises Mum was making whilst flat on her back, the benches couldn't have been that bad!

Photo Villa resident

Photo The Villa

Hello again!

Oh my goodness, where were we, where are we, what have we done! I'm typing this sat in a converted container in a yard that with no modifications needed could be used in "Mad Max 4" (beyond the UN Enclave). The newest country in the world is where I'm sat. Timor Leste or to us Brits plain old East Timor, and what a place but more on that later.

I promised tales of larceny, misinformation and stewardesses and now I shall explain.

The last true update saw the final few days of Julian and the future arrival of Mum. Julians last few days were great and I know he would have loved to stay longer but it was not only his wife and children twanging his emotional strings (he wished they were with him) but being bestman at his brothers wedding the day after landing. Something he couldn't really avoid, though after his speach I wonder if he would have been happier to miss the plane. I'll leave the telling of that one to Julian for those who know him and for those who don't it'd only make you cringe. So he was gone and Mum and one of her best mates plus two others all arrived. One of the others has a friend who has a villa on Bali and believe me when I say this villa is luxurious. It comes as no suprise I'm sure, that they decided to stay there instead of our lovely little house (with no aircon, pool, en-suite, bar, wi-fi and staff). As is a womans wont on holiday they shopped, then they shopped, then they shopped a bit. In the small spaces between shopping we got to see them. Some wanted our help with local knowledge, language and logistics, others didn't.

Photo Made, Wayan and Nyoman Padang x2

Photo Kym and Fi Jimbaran

Photo Fatima Bali

Photo Mum Bali

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Fear not....

We're still here and still moving. On a bit of a schedule now as the boat for Australia leaves Timor on 16th March and we're still on Flores at the moment (having hopped from Bali to Lombok to Sumbawa to here. Also picked up two Brit's on a motorbike that are on the same trip as us and left UK only 12 days after us!

Hopefuly will have a bit of time and internet access on Timor to do a pretty interesting update of the last few weeks including amazing surf stories, old acquaintances, international art theft, becoming unwitting fugitives, millionaires villas and dodgy air hostess's.

Keep watching..... love ya.