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Thursday, April 3, 2014

as i've said before...better late than never

this could be my life's motto, however, i have been working rather hard on being more timely.  having improved in many areas, i seem to have neglected getting my act together when it comes to this blog. over the course of the next few weeks (at first i thought days, but let's be realistic here), i plan to share our most recent adventure, get caught up on all our travels since the road trip, and keep this platform updated more regularly.  here we go...

from bali to lombok:  winter adventure in indo (an abbreviated version of the journal i kept)

less than a week after arriving in bali, pete and i arrived yesterday to our third destination in bali, ubud, a cultural hub nestled among rice paddies and nearby volcano.  our copy of the lonely planet is bunny eared and bookmarked as we have been seeing where the wind will blow us on a day-by-day basis.  i'll start at the very's a very good place to start ; )

scrambling to leave nantucket before all boats and planes were canceled, pete and i made it off island, enjoyed a lovely morning on the cape, and made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare.  the flight to los angeles was smooth and warmed us up for the 14 hour one the next day. with a twelve hour layover in taipei, taiwan, we spent the night in a cool boutique hotel, minutes from the airport.  there is nothing like a good shower after a long flight and it was such a blessing having full 26 hours broken up. early the next morning, destination:  bali.

arriving in depensar in the early afternoon, we waited an hour to get through immigration. from the airport we took a taxi to a seaside town of sanur about 25 minutes away.  we made the decision to head there first on the flight to taiwan based on it's proximity to the airport, beach access, and it's offering of transportation to the gili islands off the coast of lombok.

sanur is a bustling and hustling (maybe haggling is the right word) fishing village on the southwest coast of bali.  over the years it's benefitted from tourism and the resorts, souvenir shops and mediocre restaurants are there to prove it.  making the best of our time, pete rented a surfboard and got a boat ride out to a reef break and caught some killer waves, i ran the 8k beach walk, did yoga, and stumbled upon a great cafe with yummy fresh squeezed juices, smoothies, and traditional indonesian fair made with whole, organic ingredients.  lastly, we enjoyed an hour long massage for $4!!  amidst the resorts and the hagglers, we were introduced to the genuine smiles and friendly greetings of the local people, the daily offerings of palm bowls full of colorful flower petals, crackers, and insence. 

described as "the bali that everyone strives for, but rarely finds", nusa lembognan was only an half hour boat ride from sanur.  with surfing and diving, it seemed like a logical next destination.  crystal blue water, white sand beaches, and a laid back attitude greeted us. the island is such a brilliant mix of dive shops, surfer dudes, beachside bungalows, a few high-end resorts, and seaside cafés and bars.  there are no cars, just thousands of motor bikes that wiz past you on the streets.

feeling ambitious, we rented a scooter and made our way around most of the island and took a closer look at the seaweed harvesting. whole families participate in the collecting, drying, and transporting to the boat where it will be turned into gel for beauty products and thickeners...the monthly income from this is more than 5 times more than average. our last day we went for a dive that was incredible and full of beautiful fish and turtles. we soon came to find that the boat wasn't running to the gilis and wouldn't be for a few days. after weighing our options, we decided to do our trip backwards and head to, ubud (bali's cultural hub) via sanur, and then make our way lombok.    

in ubud we had a perfect balance of activity and relaxing mixed in with delicious food. after a bit of schlepping, we ended up with quite the bungalow with a gorgeous pool perfect for cooling off after the morning's adventures, and the property was just stunning and removed from the traffic.  

we attended a traditional balinese dance at the palace.  the costumes were vibrant and the dancers theatrical.  

pete tried his first yoga class with rave reviews!  the monkey forest sanctuary was quite entertaining as the monkeys climb on you to steal things if you're wearing a bag.  they pulled our sunstick out of our backpack pocket!  pete was much more at ease with them climbing on him where i preferred them climbing on the trees. one morning we went on a white water rafting adventure down the ayung river. the rapids were fairly tame and halfway through we stopped at a gorgeous 25-30ft waterfall before ending with a stunning and steep hike through levels of rice terraces.  our last day we stumbled on an organic farmers market and lunched on garlic and sea salted cashews, melt in your mouth strawberries and chili seasoned homemade potato chips.  then we went to the ARMA museum which boasts the largest collection of balinese art.  

with the ferries still not running, we made our way to highly recommended amed, on bali's northeast coast, for great snorkeling, diving, and peace and quiet.

once to amed and checked into our beach front hotel room, we enjoyed a tasty lunch over looking the unusual wave swells.  and then the rain began...and then it stopped...and so it went for the short time we decided to stay there. whenever we would venture out via foot or motorbike, we would get blasted with rain!  the good snorkeling spots were murky because of the wind and waves.  we decided to head out of there a day early and inquired about getting to the gilis.  being the closest boat access to the gilis, we thought we would have no problem getting a it turns out, the boats were shut down by the government and would possibly be running in three days time.
needing to make a decision, we sat down with a couple bintangs (the local beer) and narrowed our options down to:
1.  stay in amed, but move to a new bungalow, one that with decent snorkeling right out front and that offered yoga.
2.  hire a transfer to the harbor with the slow passenger ferry which is 5 hours long and waits until the boat is full to leave. this boat would take us to a port in southwest lombok which would put us closer to kuta, lombok, a surfer's paradise.
3.  hire a driver to the airport in denpasar (a 3hr drive) and take a 40 minute flight to the capital of lombok, mataram which is still closer to kuta so we would go there first.
although amed was nice, we were tired of the weather inconsistency and just ready to leave bali.  we ended up choosing the third option and made arrangements to leave the next day.  
on our plane, we sat next to a woman born in java, living in lombok and working in australia. she spoke english well and was full of information for us.  we got on the flight with intentions of heading to kuta and got off the plane with plans to go to senggigi, lombok where we could catch a boat to the gilis.  not only did our new friend drive us to senggigi she also arranged our transfer and boat the next day and got us a good deal!

the boats were not running out of senggigi so we drove in a shuttle bus stuffed with other back packers trying to get to the gilis.  we made our way to bangsal, a smaller port that was under construction. where the shuttle bus dropped us was a reminder that third world countries operate successfully with non-western standards. here we waited, watched as our tickets were handed from one guy to the next, and made sure we stayed close to them as we made our way to the water and onto the boat. from here we headed to the destination we based this trip off of, gili trawangon, the largest of three sister islands, off the northwest coast of lombok.

the water in the gili's is the color of sleeping beauty turquoise and so refreshing.  there are no cars or motorbikes on the gilis which is quite relaxing as traffic in bali is painful and the driving a bit terrifying at times! moving from gili "t" to gili air, a more chill and less inhabited with western touches, we spent a total of 8 days enjoying their beautiful  
and chill paradise.  both places we stayed in clean and comfortable bungalows across the street from the beach and snorkeled, when diving, bike riding, exploring, did some yoga, and managed to surf a little.

after the gilis, we headed back to the big island of lombok and drove 2 1/2 hours south to kuta, a not knowing what to expect, we changed accommodations a couple times and ended up getting quite comfortable with our motorbike during our stay. overall, we LOVED kuta, lombok and felt it was our favorite place we visited.  the actual town was a dump but the beaches to the east and west were what we had been looking for the whole trip...and the backdrop is just stunning.

the views from the back of the motorbike were breathtaking. pete surfed the entire time and caught the best waves of his life. i took a great lesson and gained more confidence. we went on phenomenal bike rides along the coast, down bumpy dirt roads, dipping into lush jungle villages and overlooking wondrous crashing waves. one day we took a break from the beach and trekked a waterfall.

it really says something about a place when crazy, stressful things happen and there is still a fondness in your heart for the place. here's a look at some of the things that happened to us our last week...lost ATM cards: one was recovered and made for an excellent adventure, lost cell phone, and injuries:  shoulder pop out and back in again, sprained wrist, major jellyfish stings resulting in a clinic visit and a black eye.
for our last night, we headed back to bali and stayed in the kuta beach area there. what a drastic difference! it was so outrageous and crowded...we did quite a bit of people watching! while enjoying our last moments of tropical paradise, we took the time to reflect on the adventure and created a list of the lessons we learned:
  • roll with it.
  • calculate the options and go with what your gut is feeling.
  • make mistakes and enjoy where they take you.
  • even though it's the most recent addition, it's important to check how long ago the last revision was on a travel book.
  • respect a budget, but don't stay some place just because it's cheap.
  • when in uncomfortable situations, pay attention to what is happening.
  • notify the bank when leaving the country...whoops, rookie mistake!
having been home now for almost two months, it's nice to finally share our adventure.  this journey brought us far from our comfort zone, blew our mind culturally, and warranted an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the life we have.


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