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Indonesia

Indonesia – Komodo Boat Trip

Dragonboating

sunny 30 °C

Komodos most famous resident, the Komodo Dragon has remained pretty much unchanged since the days that the dinosaurs were roaming around eating Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum’s ancestors. As the guides told us on the trip, they have 57 different types of bacteria in their saliva which has been responsible for 4 deaths on Komodo in recent times. Just what you want hiding in the bush as you are walking through in your flip flops!

The boating trip started off with a few hours on a bus as we headed for the east coast of Lombok. We picked up some snacks on the way before arriving at the port and boarding the vessel that would be home for the next 4 days. This trip is a very basic budget option, with the only luxuries being the coral filled waters that we would be swimming in. We had 14 of us on our boat which had an upper deck housing mattresses as thick as a newspaper and pillows only slightly thicker. This open air sleeping area was protected from the elements by a tarpaulin strung up over the top. The deck at the front of the boat was just an open space covered by more tarpaulin with a small sun deck at the bow of the boat. As simple as she was she ran like a dream, albeit like a loud wartime gun battle of a dream.

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We started off to sea as the sun was setting behind Lombok. As we continued, we witnessed another great sunset followed by a sky full of bright stars as all other light pollution vanished. A thunder cloud flashed away in the distance and whilst we all sat on the sundeck getting to know each other satellites and shooting stars darted overhead. This was a great first impression as to what to expect over the coming 4 days. We moored up in a bay around 10pm and enjoyed the silence with the engine being off. We were warned though that we had some distance to cover the next day, so the boat would head off at 2am. Nicely into a deep sleep, the whole boat was awaken when the engine roared into life and we set off.

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The call for breakfast got us up in time to see the sun rising as we pulled into a bay at Moyo Island with some amazingly clear water around the boat. We abandoned ship to swim over to the shore of the island to walk inland to a waterfall. This was the only bit of fresh water we would be getting for the coming days so people were keen to have a final shower

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A natural infinity pool

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We left the bay and sailed further around the island to a spot that was supposed to be great for some snorkelling. This lived up to the reputation with more crystal clear water and abundant coral and fish.

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When the boat fired up the engines after the swim, she would not stop until we got to another swimming spot the next day. Needless to say getting to sleep on a rocking boat with a less than finely tuned engine wasn’t the easiest and staying asleep was even harder.

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Another sunset on a day at sea

First stop after the long night was a completely deserted island somewhere along the Indonesian islands. We dropped anchor in the bay and went for an early morning hike up the hill to overlook the islands. Stunning views over the water greeted us at the top! It’s hard to believe that there is all this untouched paradise down here.

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Next stop was pink beach with its red coral sands. We had some more snorkelling time here and before heading around to the landing jetty at Komodo ready to see some dragons

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Arriving on Komodo Island, we got a safety briefing from the park rangers who would be showing us around. Basically, watch out for dragons and snakes. Fair enough. On the way to the watering hole the guide gave us the facts about these prehistoric reptiles
• They are now only found on 3 Islands, Komodo, Rinca and Padar in the wild
• Grow to 3 meters weighing up to 70kgs (130kg if full from a meal)
• They can run at 18km/hr
• They can smell blood from 3kms away
• The 57 different types of bacteria in their saliva will kill its prey (usually deer) over a few days
• There have been 9 incidents on Komodo island – 5 people survived and 4 died including a Swiss tourist who was never found except for his camera
Good to see that we basically have a 50% chance of surviving then! As we approached the watering hole, there were two large adult males just lying around. One of them got up and started to move towards our group. The guides kept us at a safe distance before we got some photos of them from only a few meters away.

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A couple of people got a bit spooked by the dragons and needed to go back to the boat. Admittedly, they do seem rather fearsome at first. However while the rest of us waited for the second guide to return after taking the others back, the dragons just seemed to laze about more than anything else. We left them in peace and walked further inland for some views before going back to the peak entrance where there were deer and more dragons hanging about.

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Deep into dragon territory

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We anchored in a bay a short distance away and swam around the boat as another beautiful sunset closed out the day.

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The following morning started off with a great sunrise before we headed around to Rinca Island for some more dragon hunting. The dragons on Rinca are supposed to be more aggressive than the ones on Komodo. Jeff spotted a lone dragon out in the tall grass along the walk that we did, but when we came through the village at the end of the walk, there were a lot of them hanging around there warming up in the morning sun.

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To complete the 4 days experience, we pulled up to one final small island with a little hill and a sandbar beach on the south side. It was a beautiful deserted island that we enjoyed along with the sister boat that had been following us around the whole way. We got out our ball to throw around in the water and make the most of the final hour around these amazing waters.

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Bounce

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Goes Up

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What a catch...

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The port of Labuan Bajo on Flores Island was our finishing point of the trip but we could stay for free on the boat as it was staying in Port that night. After a few drinks with everyone at a nice place overlooking the bay we all loaded up on the free buffet (free if you purchased a drink) and continued well into the night. I was in an especially happy mood having seen that Chelsea FC had won the champions league whilst we had been out on the boat!

Everyone went their separate ways the following morning but us three had decided to stay an extra night. We didn’t do much except go for a bit of a walk to find a beach, however it didn’t compare to the beaches we had been swimming at on the past few days.

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Avocado and Chocolate shake, not as crazy as it sounds

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Hmmmm

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A short plane ride took us back to Bali where we spent our final night as a threesome indulging in a fish feast down at Jimbaran Bay. An appropriate way to end another great few weeks with Jeff. In the morning we headed up to Singapore and then on to Bangkok. Breakfast in Bali, Lunch in Singapore and Dinner in Bangkok – such is the life of a backpacker!!!

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FINAL THOUGHTS
Jeff – As if Gili Air was not relaxing enough. I was a little apprehensive about the sleeping on deck and lack of showers and limited rations of fresh water, but I needn´t have been. Magical sunsets, superb snorkelling and of course the Komodo dragons made for an excellent four days. Hard to see how the Komodo dragons are that dangerous when they just sloth about like giant lazy lizards?

Tanya – Sure the amenities were basic, but regardless we remained much cleaner than we would have done at Glastonbury and all in all had a fantastic trip. There was plenty of time to relax and read and when we needed a stretch, there was always a hike or snorkelling on offer. The komodo dragons were incredible to see!
Thanks for the awesome photos Jeff, especially underwater!

Daniel – Someone else said this, that so many people are looking for deserted idyllic islands around Thailand all the time and rarely find it, yet you come down here to Indonesia and you don’t even have to look for it, it’s just waiting for you everywhere. Being as though Indonesia is our closest destination from Perth, this will not be our last time around these amazing waters. I hope they stay relatively undiscovered for some time to come as everyone sticks with what they know in Bali.

Posted by dbgomes 08:46 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia round_the_world Comments (1)

Indonesia – Gili Air

A breath of fresh Air

sunny 33 °C

Take some sand, add a few trees, bit of coral, beachside accommodation, a good dose of fresh air all in an area no more than 3km squared and you have the ingredients for one hell of an Island. Replicate this three times just off the coast of Lombok and welcome to the Gili Islands.

Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air are some Indonesian gems and Gili Air was our chosen destination. We arrived into Dempasar Bali after the bus episode from Bromo and shared a taxi to our hostel with a couple of other guys from the bus. Jeff was waiting for us when we arrived and it was good to be reunited again for the 5th time on our year long jaunt after Jeff’s few days of luxury in Singapore and Hong Kong. We didn’t intend to stay in Bali as its somewhere that we can easily come back to from Perth at any time in the future, and there were less touristy places beckoning us to the East.

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Gili Trawangan, Meno and Air as seen from our plane ride later in the trip

We started off with a couple of hours back on a bus to get to the east coast of Bali for a fast ferry over to the Gilis. One thing we noticed in Bali was how much the tourist dollar (especially the dominating Aussie dollar) has pushed prices up in comparison to the rest of Indonesia. Accommodation, food and transport were all easily 2 to 3 times the price of what we were paying in Sumatra and Java. We opted for the fast ferry which although expensive got us to Gili Air in 90 minutes rather than the days travelling that the public ferry takes.

Getting to the island it was pretty clear that it was nice and basic. There was no landing at a big jetty or anything, it was straight off the boat into the water with your bags. Then on the dirt track that is called a road, the only forms of transport are these horse and cart arrangements that they have. All really simple and makes this place a paradise away from the big resorts.

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We headed on a search of a place to stay and after walking along the beach, in coconut plantations and up dirt tracks, we settled on a 3 person room in the backpacker part of one of the dive places which was nice and cheap, but without air-conditioning. The rest of the day was very relaxing as we pulled up a spot at one of the many wooden pergolas along the beach and watched the world slowly rotating.

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After a relaxing afternoon we headed off for a walk along the beach to see what we could find. As the island is so small though we were already half way around it before we realised so we figured that we may as well continue even though it was getting dark. We ended up seeing the red sky over Gili Meno and Trawangen as the sun set and then walked the last quarter of the island in darkness. As we were walking along the beach in the darkness I spotted something glowing in the water, then another and again. At first we thought it was fish or something but looking closer there were florescent green dots in the water that seemed to be leaving a fluorescent trail behind them before fading away. We thought maybe we were seeing coral spawning, what ever it was it was pretty awesome to see just as the 3 of us were walking along the deserted beach. It turns out that what we were seeing is algae
‘Bioluminescence an amazing natural phenomena that occurs when a type of planktonic algae (microscopic free-floating algae) has high densities of excess nutrients. The glow appears when the algae is disturbed by motion.’
We didn’t get any photos of this ourselves without a tripod being handy, so if you want to see what its like this website has a few damn good examples... http://philhart.com/content/bioluminescence-gippsland-lakes

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The next day we hired some snorkels and flippers and walking just a couple of meters off the beach were swimming amongst the coral and tropical fish.

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Considering the walk around the island the night before wasn’t too strenuous, we decided to see it in daylight hoping to find another good snorkelling spot but halfway around the island, there was a menacing looking storm cloud rolling our way. Just as we were completing the circuit of the island the heavens opened. Seeking refuge in the closest bar, we waited out the first rains before making our way back to the guesthouse, constantly stopping for another drink as the rain started up again.

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We finished off our final day on Gili Air by doing nothing but enjoying the forced relaxation. We messed around on the floating things that were outside one of the restaurants, read books, swam in the pool and ate good food.

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The taxi boat to Lombok left early the following day and we enjoyed the bus ride down the Lombok coast to the town of Senggigi where we spent a night before heading off on our boat ride to Komodo. We had a great seafood feast down on the beach for dinner whilst overlooking Bali as the sun set behind its volcanic peak and surfers caught the last waves of the day. A great end to some great days in Indonsesia.

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FINAL THOUGHTS
Jeff – escaping the hustle and bustle of Kuta for another bout of Koh Tao like paradise. Such a simple little island which can be walked around in a minute, it has not been overdeveloped and so was a very relaxing few days. Lots of pineapple juice, nasi goreng, cocktails and the odd bintang. Magic.

Tanya – Great stop again, just in case we hadn’t been recharging the batteries enough lately!

Daniel – After the Thai islands where it’s almost impossible to find some beach to enjoy by yourself (even on our favourite Koh Tao), you come to Indonesia and just a short boat trip from Bali there are islands like this. We will definitely come back here in the coming years, lets hope that the winds of change from tourism do not sweep through too heavily.

Posted by dbgomes 08:36 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia round_the_world Comments (0)

Indonesia – Gunung Bromo

Destination Middle Earth

sunny 22 °C

Looking like you have just stepped onto some distant planet, Bromo has a distinct otherworldly feel to the place. An ancient supervolcano that has given birth to some smaller active volcanos is pretty interesting to see, and doing it as the sun rises completes the experience perfectly.

So we gave ourselves a good day of travelling again by taking a morning flight from Medan down to Surabaya where we got a bus up to the town of Probolinggo. It was already dark by the time we arrived there and we were expecting to have to stay the night before getting up to Bromo. A tour operator was at the bus station though and said that we could get a private transfer (with other people of course) up there that night for only 50,000rp each ($5) rather than the 25,000rp public bus. No brainer really!

It was almost 10pm by the time we rolled up the final hill into Bromo so we didn’t get any sneak views of the landscape which was all the better for the morning. The alarm rang at 4am and with head torches ablaze we set out for the hour walk up to the sunrise viewpoint. Personally, I hate getting up in the morning I’m just not a morning person, but it’s all worth it when you have rewards like this...

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We ended up spending about 90 minutes watching the landscape turn from darkness to the massive vista below us. Within the big outer rim, there were the smaller peaks with Bromo puffing out a few clouds of steam and then in the distance the big volcano of Semeru also puffing away. Looking to the east, down the valley back to the lowlands, there was misty clouds that completed the picture nicely.

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Google maps lets you appreciate the old and new volcanos

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The vista below us

We walked back into town enjoying the changing views. The town sits right on the rim of the old volcano and even from there you get some great views of the inner rim. We had some breakfast and then headed back out to walk to Bromo to peek into the active volcano.

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Our original plan for our time here was to take a Jeep tour which takes you for sunrise then takes you out to Bromo. Because we got in so late we couldn’t book on a tour, but in hindsight this was great as the walk up for the sunrise was not overly strenuous, and then walking out to Bromo was even easier. Certainly no need to spend money on a Jeep which doesn’t even take you all the way to the top of each lookout.

Walking out to Bromo, the landscape turns from the fertile tree lined rim to a desert landscape full of volcanic ash. The final walk up the stairs on the edge of Bromo then gave us the chance to stare into the gurgling guts of the planet. Down in the crater is a pool of steaming, hissing, bubbling water that lets out rumbles and clouds of steam just to let you know how insignificant you are in comparison!

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Having completed our two walks for the day we caught up on the lost sleep from the morning with an afternoon nap before relaxing for the evening. The following morning we got another mini bus down to Probolinggo and then a 13 hour bus/ferry/bus combination over to Dempasar Bali. The bus ride turned out to be an interesting trip as the bus broke down a couple of hours into the journey. After an hours wait on the side of the road we got picked up by another passing bus that was almost full before we got on. The result was that we had to sit in the aisle for the remaining 3 hours to the port... Not the most comfortable journey we have ever had!

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The local milk truck...

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Broken down, what could the problems be?

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Maybe the tree growing out the engine bay might have something to do with it

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The next 3 hours

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – Well Bromo was pretty spectacular, and i think it was even better that we arrived when it was dark and got our first views with the rising sun. Getting there and away relied on a bunch of long bus rides but it was worth every minute of the bus rides.

Tanya – This is a must see. I missed out on hiking around the volcanoes at Beristagi in Sumatra, but this well and truly made up for it. Walking across the surface of an extinct volcano somewhat resembling the Sahara and then pushing on up some steps (yes steps) to find yourself literally a step away from a bubbling cauldron is something else. We had the volcano to ourselves which was great, it was best not to be here at sunrise (id be too scared of falling in).

Posted by dbgomes 20:18 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia round_the_world Comments (1)

Indonesia – Sumatra

Getting close to our ginger cousins

all seasons in one day 30 °C

Orang-utans share 96.48% of our DNA, and staring into their eyes makes that seem more believable. Like there is some long lost connection there between us. To be able to share the jungle with these primates was an amazing experience that almost became our last experience of our trip... but more on that later.

We subjected our self to a torturous night by getting an evening flight from Phuket to Jakarta. This meant we landed around 11pm and then had our flight from Jakarta to Medan leaving at 4.40am the following morning. It was hardly worth the effort of going into the city just to sleep for a couple of hours and then head back out to the airport. We found a nice little cafe that was closed up which had long sofa’s to sleep on. I had just dozed off when a security guard came along and told us that we had to move outside as the airport was being locked up! What!!! What kind of airport is this? So we headed outside to where the experienced Jakarta airport passengers had already secured their seats for sleeping on. We managed to find some seats and ended up with a broken couple of hours sleep before getting back up to check in for the early morning flight. At least it was really warm outside and this is all part of the backpacker experience. Right?

When we landed in Medan it was straight onto a taxi to get us to the bus station where we had to negotiate for a minivan to take us out to Bukit Lawang. That ended up being a gruelling few hours on a cramped van with 4 people to a seat which should only really house two peoples butts! We were really lucky though as one of the young guys that hopped onto the minivan lived in Bukit Lawang (BL) and his cousin was the owner of the hostel that we wanted to stay at. We spoke with him for a while and it turned out that he was one of the guides at BL. The final transport of the day ended up being a scooter with sidecar attachment that took us two, our bags, our newly acquired guide and the driver into the small little town of BL.

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Thanks to finding Asain on the bus, we were shown the way to the guesthouse and after checking in agreed to go out on a jungle trek the following day with him. To pass the rest of the afternoon though we went out to a feeding platform that is set up in the jungle. Orang-utans are highly endangered and are only found in two places in the wild - Sumatra and Borneo. There are a number that get rescued from poachers, illegal animal dealers and other unscrupulous individuals as well as orphaned youngsters. The best thing to do with these guys, is to rehabilitate them and release them back into the wild. As there is a decent sized wild population around BL, there is a sanctuary set up in the national park where these semi wild orang-utans are nurtured and then integrated back into the wild. The feeding platform acts as a half way house for these released individuals, providing them with basic food and water needs but keeping this simply to bananas and water so that the Orang-utans have the desire to search out more tasty treats in the jungle and become less and less reliant on the platform.

Its a short walk and river crossing to get to the sanctuary where we watched a video on the rules about being in the presence of the primates before following the handlers up the mountain to the platform. We passed some other monkeys just sat in the trees watching the people pass by. There were a few Indonesian tourists in the group of us up at the platform as well as a handful of other western tourists and as soon as we arrived, swinging through the upper branches of the trees a mother and baby orang-utan appeared.

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We were allowed to spend up to an hour at the platform and were mesmerised just watching the orang-utans. There were 3 orang-utans, 2 of which were carrying babies, and the way the handlers dealt with them it was clear to see that they really had a good connection with them. The handlers would get a good look at the children to make sure everything was alright with them while the mothers were feeding and drinking from the buckets. They would grab a bunch of bananas and then take them high into the trees to eat them. There were some little monkeys around which were quick to snap up the discarded banana peels to look for any traces of banana that the orang-utans missed. After the orang-utans had eaten enough they just wondered off back into the jungle as secretly as they had arrived

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It was really amazing to be up close and personal with the orang-utans and the playful young children that they had. The expressions on their faces at times are so human like that it’s easy to see our evolutionary connection with them.

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We got back to the guesthouse and immediately crashed from tiredness after the limited sleep and long travelling. I didn’t even bring myself to get up for some dinner, preferring the extra time in bed.

We were up the following morning for our jungle trek with Asain. There were also two Slovakian guys that had been up at the feeding platform the prior day in our group. We set off into some hot and humid jungle walking in search for some wildlife. Asain was really good and knowledgeable about the jungle telling us about different plants and the medicines that can be made from them. Unfortunately we only managed to find a couple of true wild orang-utans deep in the jungle and then we could only see them up in the canopy above us. At one point we ended up walking past the feeding platform and there were 2 individuals hanging around there which we watched for a little while before heading back out into the jungle.

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The little town of Bukit Lawang

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Rubber trees outside the national park

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Kids playing around

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We stopped by a stream and waterfall for a swim and lunch stop. The swim was so refreshing after sweating our way around the jungle for a few hours. And for lunch Asain pulled out 6 parcels of palm leaf from his pack and revealed some Nasi Goreng with fried egg. When he gave it to us, he said that we can eat it Indonesian style... with our hands. It was still warm, tasted great and way better than we were expecting. After the lunch stop the rest of the trekking wasn’t too eventful just a lot more sweating and walking.

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The final part to the trip was a bit more eventful however. We knew that we were going to be tubing back down the river to the town and we had seen a number of people floating by when we were walking the prior day. Asain said that we would instead raft down by tying our tubes together. Fine sounds safer I guess. About 30 mins before we finished our trekking the heavens opened and we were saturated within seconds. This probably contributed to the river looking a lot more menacing than it had before. We put our backpacks and shoes in a big plastic bag and secured them to the raft before hopping in ourselves. There were 4 tubes, the driver (with his long straight stick for paddling) and backpacks in the first one, Tanya and I took the second one, the two Slovakian guys in the third and Asain and the assistant guide in the rear.

The ride started off fine enough, although we should point out that there were no life jackets or helmets. After a few turns the water looked to be getting a bit more interesting and we went down a rapid heading straight for an exposed tree stump. The driver tried to push us away from it, but the stick just slid off the slippery surface. Before we knew it, one of the Slovakian guys had been flung from the ring and the rear tube was next to Tanya and I on the other side of the log.

The guy managed to swim to the bank not too far down stream while the 3 guides tried to wrestle the tubes free. All the while Tanya and I were being submerged by the strong rapid, so we jumped ship and swam over to the bank. It took a good ten minutes for the guides (and a random passerby) to free the tubes as they were fighting in the current. The rest of the ride went without a hitch and we got a story to tell from our river rafting adventure.

The following morning we were up bright and early for a mini bus to take us over to Lake Toba. 9 hours later we crested a hill and had views of the massive lake and island in front of us. Thanks to a large ancient volcano the caldera filled up with water leaving an island in the middle the size of Singapore. From the ferry port the island just looks like the opposite side of the lake it is so big.

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We only had one day on the island so we hired a flash new scooter in the morning to go for a ride. We stopped at a tribal gathering place on the way out of the main town of Tuk Tuk and then knocked up 100kms riding to the north and back. It was good not having any specific goal, just cruising around and taking in the views.

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We caught another minibus back to the main city of Medan where we spent a relaxing night. We went to a little cafe/bar which had this young band playing live music. We gave them some applause when they played some good cover songs and when they took their break, they came over to speak to us and say thanks. There wouldn’t be too many westerners staying in Medan, so they seemed to enjoy talking with us. They were really friendly, much like all the Indonesians that we have met so far!

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – Seeing the Orang-utans was a memorable experience. Just sitting there looking into their eyes was something special. Their facial expressions are so emotive and the little children orang-utans look so funny with their frizzy ginger hair. Lake Toba was also a worthwhile excursion just to have a relaxing day exploring the island.

Tanya – Sumatra has been a great introduction to Indonesia. It wasn’t the easiest to get around initially but we soon got to know how the bus system worked. Unfortunately our limited time here meant that we could only make 2 stops although there was so much more to see. The orang-utans and other monkeys were very amusing!

Posted by dbgomes 10:28 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia round_the_world Comments (0)

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