Sunday, March 13, 2011

moments of awe captured in time

Off to bed for an early flight tomorrow, almost done the Flores story, and will have a couple posts of catch up to get to today! :) more pics soon!

The Fantastical Finds of Flores continued

After a night spent in Bajawa, we journeyed forth towards Mt. Kelimutu, but not before stopping at Bena Village, where their old school bamboo, and tulu (woven grass) roofs have been standing for about 700 hundred years. Living under a towering volcano, I can kind of understand why some cultures adopted human sacrifice. Wouldn’t you throw a couple people in there to satisfy its treacherous hunger, if it might save your entire village?? It was incredibly picturesque, and other than foreign visitors, and Christianity, hadn’t changed a whole lot since its humble beginnings. The people were so friendly! And I was overjoyed at the opportunity to practice my Indonesian, which has been coming along rather well! I was having full on conversations and understanding a decent amount of what was being said. :D!
The people here also wove their own Ikat, with much brighter colours than we had seen before.
That second day on the road, as we neared Ende, also brought us to a glistening black sand beach; Known by the title of Blue Stone Beach, due to the numerous brilliantly blue coloured stones littering the shoreline.

OOOhhhhh! And there were these unbelievable little crabs everywhere! They had utterly huge eyes that could spot you three meters away! Then they would flee across the sparkling sand like miniature bolts of lighting whipping by! They were so incredibly fast! I was enthralled! It took me nearly an hour, and many peculiar looks, as I darted back and forth across the beach, before I actually managed to catch one. Mostly due to the fact that I saw one get stuck in between two leaves…..

After the beach, we zipped through the Southern port town of Ende, with only a quick stop for snacks, and started the up hill excursion bound to Mony, the base camp town for Kelimutu and the three crater lakes.
Our first night in Mony was quiet and quaint. As our lovely family of five came to the decision to get up at 4.30 am for the sunrise trek, I gratefully contemplated, perhaps the best vegetable soup, ever put before me. I was soooo ridiculously hungry after our days voyage, and they had sure taken their time making it……..but when I had my first taste, all my angst melted away for this petite, but fully satisfying bowl of soup made from scratch to order. All of this lead to a completely blissed out belly, and a long awaited snooze.

Slept through the alarm……. Oops… I guess we needed a little more sleep than we had allotted for. Though only ten minutes late, it felt like I had gained a few extra hours of rest. Big sleepy, half eyed grin =)

I love so dearly being conscious and alert for that transitional vortex in time that is dawn and dusk. Feeling the source of all our energy awaking, and slowly climbing up into the heavens is one of the most peaceful and fulfilling things I have and will continue to do in my life. It fills me with such awareness in those glimpses of timelessness, as though I am again, nothing but ether and air floating around, waiting for the Sun to materialize me into an earthling once again.

And oh my what a mighty daybreak this was! The climb up was rather leisurely, and a great deal easier than I had anticipated. Mt. Kelimutu is a National Park, a rather well maintained, and in fact improved park! There were concrete stairs up most the wait to the peak! I was incredibly pleased about this stumbling around in the dark at quarter to five in the morning. This magical morning, actually the entire day, couldn’t have come together any more perfect if I had tried to plan it myself!
As our star broke through the clouds, it set the milky emerald green lake before us, on fire like a shining jewel. Just behind that first lake was a slightly smaller one, a deep, dark forest green, with only a hint of blue. This petite lake was known to drastically change colour depending on the mineral content. It is usually the red lake of the three, but on this day decided to be a lovely green of intense depth.
The third lake, separated by the viewing point from the other two was the black lake.
It is believed that when someone dies, their soul comes up to Kelimutu through a portal door around the base of the mountain (a ginormous rock, that looked incredibly a kin to a door, that our driver pointed out to us) each soul goes into a different lake depending on age and character. The black lake is where the souls of the bad go, the souls of children into another, and those of the old to another.
As we all stood breathless and in awe, a man offered me a cup of hot coffee. Oh dear me! Mmmmm Kopi Flores!

Back into Mony for breakfast, banana pancakes again, though I opted out for another Soup Sayur (vegetable soup). After filling our now quite appreciative bellies we headed for waterfalls and a hot spring in the middle of terraced rice paddies.

A late lunch and we speedily packed up for Ende before the torrential rains washed out a road, and our only way back to the coast. On the drive out we stopped for possibly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in my life. Five waterfalls in one photo frame!! An absolutely epic end to our Volcano journey!

Up next some photos from Flores and our Cocoa adventures in Ende!!!!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

And we trot off of Bali …… Eastward bound

And we trot off of Bali …… Eastward bound


Our first wander off the lush lands of Bali, and we find ourselves in Labuan Bajo, on Pulau Flores (Flores Island). This quaint fishing town has only begun to erupt with the explosion of development that the impending tourist industry brings. Quiet as it is now, with its barely paved roads and relatively few hotels, there is already a mad rush of luxury hotels being built just outside of town on every square inch of beach front property.
The thing that stands out the most to me here was the people! They’re all so kind hearted, and REAL. There isn’t the same discreet alternative motive that some (not all) folks on Bali have. An island where, we’ll learn later on, that there can even be two different religions (Islam and Christianity) in the same family without animosity or even distaste.

Above all, my heart stops for the seemingly infinite amount of wild beauty here. A change of local flora & fauna has caught my eye every step we traverse. Our first days in Labuan Bajo, we decided to play it safe and take heed to Lonely Planet Indo’s advice on hotels, simply because it doesn’t exactly look like a town with very many affordable hotels. So the Gardena it was! A simple hotel with private bungalows, in a decent price range (the prices had gone up since the L.P.’s writers/travelers had visited) There were “budget” and “standard” rooms, with the only difference being with a fantastic view, or without. We settled on the climb up the hill to the rooms with a view. And oh was it ever spectacular! Through sweeping leaves, rustling in the wind, and an abundance of papaya we could take in the whole town, bay, and the wandering bounty of boats.
After dropping our bags and settling in, we took off to explore the town itself. A few dive shops, the occasional tour guide desk, and predominantly local shops for the local people.
After hearing from a man, we later could not find, about making a trip to a nearby village to see ikat (traditionally woven cotton fabric for sarongs, hats, and other clothing articles) we undertook the task of finding it ourselves. Which we did! Rather easily in fact. So a B-mo (local mini buses, typically decked out with absurd stacks of speakers, LED’s, non-sensical decals, and hilarious looking spoilers) ride later and we were in front of a house where 6 women were toiling away at the endeavor of weaving these fabrics with the oldest, and quite possibly most obsolete method of producing fabric. They were pretty ecstatic to have visitors and we were more than happy to support women in the arts by purchasing a hat. =)

Our second morning on Flores, just as we finished our breakfast (banana pancakes! YUuuuummmmmm!!), we connected with another couple traveling the island; Candi, a half German, half Thai, American raised goddess, and Jay her Dutch counterpart. Russ and I had been discussing what we were interested in doing on Flores the night before, and decided that Komodo and Rinca Island were pretty expensive ($70 minimum per person for a half day trip, the price only goes up substantially from there), and despite being interested in the archipelago’s diving/snorkeling and komodo dragons, that it might be best another time. So when Candi offered that we travel across Flores to Kelimutu with them by hired car, we were totally excited! Russ and I accepted the offer and less than an hour later, begun our 3 Day tour across the breath-takingly magical Island of Flores!

Oh my good goddess!

The roads here are the windiest, up and down, roller coaster like paved way I have ever encountered. If you ever want to take this trip make sure you find yourself a phenomenal driver, with at least 10 years driving experience, and preferably local driving knowledge and expertise! Don’t forget to bring some gravol, ginger, or even just a barf bag. It would be a fantastic roller coaster, but its not, it’s a road. Pardon me, a trans-island highway in fact.
If you’re willing to feel a little queasy along the way, it’s absolutely worth it! This overland ride is by far one of the most magical I’ve ever set my eyes on! Terraced rice paddies surrounded by lush, wild jungle covered mountains as far as the eye can see, roaring waterfalls around what feels like every corner, food forests of banana, cocoa, coffee, cassava, mango, coconut and endless more, jagged mountain and volcano tops shrouded in a creeping veil of warm mist, highland lakes sitting like hidden jeweled mirrors reflecting the sky and surrounding scenery. Every split second of the voyage was a delectable feast for my eyes.

Catch up time!

Catch up time!

Wow! Such a brilliantly, synchronistic circle of life we have found ourselves in here! And though I have been experiencing an enlightening journey, full of new friends, and rekindled relationships with old ones, learning about cultures, their similarities and differences, I have not been near a computer or internet frequently and now have the seemingly, gargantuan task of writing about the last week all at once!

So here we go! =)

Batur and Beyond


Our last day in Bali before we wandered East to the magnificent mountainous island of Flores, and Russ and I opted to mission towards the nearest volcano, Mt. Batur, for another attempt to see it, hopefully without the clouds of smog. The heavens broke open and gifted us a little shower the day before, so we were covered in grins of optimism and motivation.

The motorbike ride itself had been marvelous and rather adventurous! Winding back roads, and isolated farmland for much of the journey. Exploring what we “think” are roads, but end up turning into foot-wide paved paths down steep jungle ravines, edged by treacherous cliffs. However, popping out the other side, we stumbled upon terraced rice paddies as far as the eye could see. Emerald green blades dancing to a soft warm breeze, the sound of rushing water down the irrigation ways, and the odd silhouette of a farmer doing their rounds. It was like barreling through a time machine, and finding your self suddenly imposed in someone else’s life. A life where the daylight barely meanders in passing, and the sound of rushing waterways will always move far quicker. I would say breath-taking moments, but in fact it feels as if your breath simply slows. And you feel no rush to enjoy every last molecule of oxygen in that deep, drawn-out inhale.

The volcano and its crater lake, glistening at its base, guarded by jagged peaks, is encircled by a nice little highway that reaches its arms nearly all the way around the looming peaks.
The trip itself was interesting escapade, to say the least. Our last venture to see the peaks, ended with us turning around due to the thick layer of heavy pollution and smog engulfing the mountain. It was agreed that it would fulfill our hearts a great deal more if we were to wait for a day when the peaks weren’t leaden with the dense, grey haze. This day, the sky hung high with fluffy cumulus clouds that lazily drifted far above our heads. The summits rose, unbounded by any murky fog, from the topography.

Our sights focused in on tracking down some steaming, hot springs that we might melt in. Absolutely necessary in the relatively cold alpine climate up there! But on arrival to the Kintamani Highway (that’s the one encircling the mountain) we were met with the strange vibe of a tourist town that was pretty much empty. It felt a little bit reminiscent of a zombie movie. Show up to an inhabited place and suddenly every living thing starts speedily swarming, running and shouting at you.

“EAT HERE!! EAT HERE!!! JUST LOOK THE MENU!! ........ POSTCARDS ! Please Mr! Just ONE POstCARD!.......... Stay at my hotel? Please sir? Just one night?”

Desperate pleas from a whole mountainside of people who have geared their lives around tourism, and quite possibly have left what they were doing before to cash in on the foreign visitors, but find themselves with no one to sell their wears to during the low season.

All of this has been leading me to take in some rather serious contemplation into what it is exactly I’m feeding and supporting as a “tourist” here.

This contemplation has germinated a seed of confusion in myself. As I’m not sure how to feel about where helping others have a better life ends through economy ends and when feeding greed and corruption through money begins….

Perhaps they’re the same thing, and it’s up to my own being to make the call. The bottom lone there was that I’m not sure how to feel about being a tourist right now.