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The "Banana Pancake Trail": 1st stop Indonesia

Bali, Gili's, Lombok, Bali, Java

all seasons in one day 30 °C

Goodness me!! One month/ 30 days/ 4 weeks/ 730hrs of indo madness! I guess semi-irresponsibly I arrived in the heat of Bali (from Sydney) after a delayed flight at 10.30pm, not having booked any accommodation, or having an address of a hostel, just a name I figured I could give to a taxi driver, or be offered an option on arrival... Once you land you pay a $25, and then once out of the airport there is a taxi rank which pretty much charges 95K rupiah ($9.5AUD/7 quid)...I would however recommend walking straight out the terminal to the taxi's outside the airport for a metered taxi and it'll be about half the cost! I didn’t, I went straight to the rank, had an old man come and ask me about accommodation in kuta (bali's clubbing capital) to which I replied I had no idea as I was staying in Sanur (on the east coast) in a hostel called Big Pineapple (the only thing I knew about bali at this point!). Anyway the old man past and I turned around to a 7ft Russian who said, "Big Pineapple?...you come with us?" He and an American chick were catching a cab to the Big Pineapple and she had maps, directions, address etc...Love it how things work out sometimes :-) So Anton (the Russian) and Cara (USA) and I rocked up at the Big Pineapple at 11.30pm ish, no one was there to take a booking, so we just found ourselves some beds..sooo good to be in a bed!

Next morning I had every intention of getting myself organised and on top of life (I know, so much to do when unemployed ha! but really, blog, diary, postcards, planning what’s next, photo uploads, time consuming stuff!) I went downstairs, got my lappy t out, all my notes, papers etc, then an American chap walked past and introduced himself and asked if I fancied a wonder...um yeah sure!...(I massively suffer from FOMO...Fear of missing out!) So Mick (another dutchy, get everywhere!), Justin (the yank) and I headed to the beach and for a little exploration. The beach was nice, but not what I imagined tbh. Was expecting white sands, tropical looking beach. Bit scruffy. There are luxury resorts all along the top of the beach (which if you are white you can just walk in a pretend you’re staying there and enjoy a day in a pool, no questions asked ha!), then these boats which are like wooden boats with stabilisers, then a grainy yellow sand beach, and merkyish water...awesome volcano's though in the backdrop! Perhaps it because it’s the wet season? Anyway, walked back via the streets, uneven hole ridden narrow pavements, with wafts’ of amazing bbq and spiced smells and decaying trash and offerings (which the women put everywhere, these little palm baskets with flowers and other bits and bobs). They also have these travelling cabinets with shelves of vodka bottles...at first I thought they looked like home brew vodka coz it’s a yellowy colour, then when we asked, that’s a litre of petrol for Rp 5K for the scooters to fill up! and they are everywhere!! next was lunch, a mie gorang (fried noodles, veg & egg), which turns out nasi (rice) and mie (noodles) became our staple diet! Back to the hostel for a dip in the pool, bit of mingling and next thing I know, having vowed not to be going out on the town for a while after the boozy Sydney month, I was in a leather seated SUV with 5 others to Kuta!! We met an Indonesian, Harry, who was hanging out with a girl (Lucia) at the hostel and invited Ria (English chick), Justin, Anton, and I to join them. So off to a local haunt for dinner then onto the madness of Kuta. Kinda like any strip on the Greek islands, rows of bars, flashing lights, loud music, crazy traffic and drunken ppl. It was good fun for what it was, but once was enough haha!

Next day, Harry invited us to join him to go see his boss's house (where he is a chef) and then he'd give us a little tour...back into the SUV and off to Tananuh Lot where Harry works in this ridiculous house accessed for them by helicopter, with their own area of sea?! and accessed by us via a single lane unsealed, rocky track surrounded by paddy fields. I'd originally planned on just hiring a car in bali to get around as its only a small island and it had been so easy cruising around oz & petrol was super cheap....but one trip with harry at the wheel and it is mmmmmmeeeeennnntal!! no way you're getting me on those roads! scooters whizzing in and out everywhere, no rules, but seems to work for them!?! Anyway on our way back Harry let Justin drive...1st time on the left hand side of the road, 1st time driving abroad...1km up the track whilst maneuvering past another vehicle we slide off the road to the point where the whole of the underside of the carriage was resting on the edge of the road and the wheels weren’t touching the ground down the gully that channels the water around the fields. We then spent the next 2hrs working together with the rice paddy field workers (harry as our translator) to get the car out! It was an awesome team building sesh! Be a good thing for businesses to do to build team building skills..right guys, go get that out! ;-) anyway, up to my thighs in mud, with no shoes in waters known for water snakes pushing and pulling, we finally made it out....200m up the road it happened again ha! this time we nailed the technique and were out in a matter of minutes! All the kerfuffle meant we missed out on the Uluwatu temple in the cliff (supposed to be spectacular) and arrived in dark at Blue Point up in Pecatu, which is a surfer spot with great views over the cliff... Successful day ha, but actually good bonding day :-) We'd heard blue point had live music on Sunday’s so the next day we got a crew of 10 from the hostel to head back that way and spent the day at this place...stunning! whole load of cafes and surfer spots at this cliff, then live music till the wee hours of the morning! We did a little walk (20mins) down to Padang beach too, bit dirty but saw some monkeys!

Met up and stay for a couple of nights with Tim Caston (friend from Uni) who's now living in a sweet place in seminyak (above Kuta on the south west coast) and working as an architect! His housemate Derek very kindly took me around town, did a bit of surfing (still useless!) and got my vaccinations (again, was lacking on the organisation front doh!) 18th arrived and Amy landed in Bali. Amy (a friend from Sydney, who I met 3 yrs ago) and I will be travelling until china (May 16th). So weird seeing someone after so long and then it just being like normal haha!! I didn’t really give her much time in Bali before we were off to the Gili's (islands off the north west of Lombok, an island east of Bali) with Tim (a new Aussie recruit), Justin, and Teemu (Finnish guy). Ride up to Padang Bai to catch the Eka Jaya fast ferry at 8.30am (Rp450K return) Gili Trawangan bound! This was more what I imagined...an hour and a bit boat ride and there was turquoise waters, white sand, palm trees, no cars just horse and cart and bicycles...so much less hectic! They say you plan to stay for a couple of nights and next thing you know it’s a couple of weeks! I can see how it happens and 3 nights later we nearly got lured into the same trap! There's good snorkeling north east of the island, saw a turtle! then did a cycle around the island (bit tricky in the sandy spots), pit stopping for a dip and then for a Bintang and to watch a spectacular sunset, before cycling back in the dark (luckily Justin and I had head torches otherwise it would have been pitch black, although we did mix it up and do strobe cycling, quite entertaining!) again stopping at a few watering holes before heading to the market for some cheap food and what can only be described as God's gift to the universe...Terang Bulan....hear me out...kinda pancake with a crumpet texture and thickness which is doused in chocolate sprinkles, indo milk (condense milk), peanuts and ....cheese! it gets folded over and melts into this gooey goodness!!! perhaps avoid it if you don’t want to be thinking about it 247, and if you suffer from high cholesterol tee hee! yummmmmm! It was then onwards to the Irish pub (the least Irish pub I’ve ever come across but nice) and got introduced to these shots...a sachet of this energy power (nothing illegal I promise, like red bull in powder form) which you empty into your mouth, wait for it to bubble, put the vodka shot in your mouth, swill, wait for it to explode then swallow! highly entertaining! Luckily the next day was a rainy day, so only had to concentrate on cards and updating diary and talking rubbish :-)

Over to Gili Air (via the shuttle bus, a boat for Rp 26K, think there is a public boat for cheaper Rp 8K) which is a lot quieter. Stayed in these little bungalows on the beach, went for an awesome Mahi mahi bbq kebab dinner at Zippies (Rp 45K) before watching distance lightening storm on the beach. Ran around the island, smaller than Gili T, then great snorkeling north of the wharf and a cafe with free inflatable’s haha! Couple of relaxing nights here then over to Lombok to go climb Mt Rinjani (Rp 450K for transport to Sanura (2hrs), trek and camping and transport to Senggigi (2.5hrs) after, pretty good value!) 3.30am breakfast (the standard banana pancake and tea or coffee...I will like bananas by the end of southeast Asia!) 4am leave, 5am start hike in pouring rain!! arrive drowned at 10am!! Turns out it’s closed during wet season and so we have to get up early to sneak in to the National Park ha! so 6 of us spent the next 11 HOURS in a SMALL 2 man tent whilst there was a howling gale and rain and no views outside...some cool monkeys, looked like they had a French moustache! actually good fun...apart from the fact the wild dogs outside ATE MY HAVIANAS!! that was the 4th pair in a month grrrr! little terrors! ha! stuck with some blokey indo flip flops now ha! Next morning we were supposed to be up at 5am to walk up for sunrise but still pissing down, so kindly they waited till 7.30am then we trekked up, gets pretty chilly and windy up the top! again, no view! I suspect in dry season it is stunning, views out to the gili's, over the crater, lake and whole island, but we could barely see 5m in front of us! Oh well, good to get some exercise. We ran down, just for fun, and paid for it the next 3 days!! Senggigi was great. We were supposed to be there for just a night, but due to big swell the boats were cancelled for the next 4 days, so we hired some scooters to go see 3 waterfalls at gondwana. 1st time riding a scooter and it was funnnnn! so much less crowded and beautiful coast line! the waterfalls were awesome, 1st not that impressive, 2nd you can jump off the rocks and third (turn left at the bottom of the concrete steps, down the side of teh paddy fields to the river and walk back along the river towards teh waterfall to a bamboo ladder into a waterfall cave! awesome!!). Then it was back cruising along the coast to stop at a point (where again, a lot of monkeys resided) and watched the sun go down, gorge! Lombok reminds me of tracy island (you know, the one you made after watching blue peter, out of thunderbirds), so many palm trees and hugely undulating topography! The next day we spent enjoying free watermelon and pineapple sticks at the Sheraton (getting a taxi to drop us off there and strolling in, shhhh), pure bliss! We did another scooter trip, not so successful! Going south this time, way more hectic, not really clear how to get south, went to go to the south western tip, however should have gone to Kuta (Lombok kuta) a surfer town. Instead we had a day of scootering with little rewards and then in the final leg, whilst trying to pass over a busy junction I took a tumble and scrapped the right side of my body :-p wasn’t going very fast luckily, no broken bones and survived to tell the story and got back on the scooter, so all good! After a 3 day and then a 2hr wait for a 10.30am fast ferry back to Bali to explore!

First stop Ubud (Rp 50K minibus)…not what I expected but I like! Lots of tourists, tours, markets and touristy shows but it was interesting after the quiet relaxing island of Lombok. Stayed just off Monkey Forest Road (100K for 2, the main street, leading to Monkey forest funnily enough) and went to Legong dance at the Ubud Palace the first eve, nice to see something cultural (80K). Next day a stroll around the market (pretty good, practice your bartering skills and take my advice, don’t buy anything heavy – cost a small fortune to send home!!). Next Monkey forest (careful of sunnies, water bottles, basically anything grabable). Its an awesome forest with temples in it, feels like something out of the Jungle Book entering the Monkey kingdom, buy some bananas and be ready to run at any time, even when you think you’re getting along swimmingly! We organized a day of temples (which we happened to time perfectly for Barong Ceremony which is every 6 months and everyone gets dressed up, plays music, the men make these Penyours – a male offering, and the temples are really beautifully decorated!) Went to Goa Gajah (elephant cave – ok, cool garden!), Gunung Kawi (really cool, lot of steps down to this temple with two cliff facades chiseled out and rushing river through the middle), Tirta Empul (a big temple, with the most ceremony activity, heaving, got this geothermal looking water area too, bubbling away!), quick stop at a coffee plantation to see the Luwak Coffee (the most expensive coffee in the worlds as the beans are eaten by this cat that only eats the best coffee, they collect the poo, clean the beans then roast then, 400K a small bag!! Taste ok, but im no coffee expert!) and try a whole range of teas and coffee. then Kintamani (for a view, but don’t bother if it is rainy, you wont see a thing!) and finally Besakih (the largest temple in bali, also very cool and good views to the sea). Next morning, climbed Mt Batur (another volcano, leaving at 1.30am from Ubud up to Kintimani for another banana pancake and tea before walking up for sunrise). Unfortunately another disappointing sunrise. Pretty easy walk in comparison to Rinjani, and more views as well, could see the crater, lake, one volcano and a bit of colour in the clouds. Back down and onto Lovina! Lovina had recently been hit by a mini tsunami so a tad scruffy and the volcanic sand (black) didn’t enhance the views, however one eve there, finished with a terang bulan at the market on the main street (10K) was perfect! Next morning we woke for a 6am dolphin ride (60K, in a boat with the stabilizers, got a tad wet!). It was funny actually, there were so many boats, and it was like everyone cruising along at a normal speed, then someone saw a dolphin and every boat in the area raced towards it! If you have time I’d recommend someone who’ll take you out at like 8am. We carried onto Menjanga island in the north west corner of Bali for my first introductory scuba dive!!! I was a little apprehensive about my scooter injuries going into salt water, but excited to be trying diving! Paid 950K for 2 dives, we went straight into the sea & practiced for about 5/10mins cleaning my mask and taking your respirator in and out then we were off ha! It WAS AMMMMMMAAAZZZZING! Went down to 15m for 54mins the first dive, saw heaps of small colourful fish and stunnnning coral!! Then lunch and the 2nd dive, down to 18m along this 54m high wall of coral, saw 3 little sharks under a rock! Was just incredible! Knackered we caught a local bus to Gilimanuk where we stayed (for an extra 50K) in an aircon, white sheets, western flushing toilet, TV room, before catching the ferry across to java and a 7hr train to Probolingo. At Probolingo we had to ride a bicycle rickshaw to a travel agent who put us in a minibus up to Bromo for a 3.30am wake up to climb Mt Bromo (yep, another volcano!). When going up this windy hill, in the rain and cold wind (amazing how the temp fluxuates with height, go from hot humid lower land to cold, windy hill tops!), think Amy was thinking, not again! Mad mackie’s dragging me up another volcano for another disappointing sunrise…..however! our luck changed! We stayed in a pretty basic homestay (cheap), then got in a jeep and taken up to Mt Penonjakan, where you climb a hill and some steps to a lookout point, watching the sun rise over Bromo and the other volcanoes, beautiful!! And you can get tea and snacks up the top! Next we drove across the sand flats to the base of some steps to the rim of Bromo. About a 20min walk, and 200 steps later you are looking straight into Bromo volcano (a big muddy puddle at the bottom) and have 360 degree views around you! Stunning! Back to Probolingo after some breakfast (no pancake this time, mie gorang!), then a 7hr mini bus to Yogyakarta, which was in fact 12hrs!!

Yogyakarta was great! It was good to be in a city with modern shops, malls and (very exciting to Amy) Dunking Donuts  We stayed at lotus Losmen (we even had a sink, which seems to be a rarity here, bathrooms are just like wet rooms) on gang II, off Sosrowijayan (where all the backpacker places seem to be) just off the main street Malioboro, Went to the markets for food, celebrated Chinese new year and my 100th day of travel since the beginning of Oz! saw the water castle, sultans palace (one of the sultans had 11 wives and 75 children!!), some student batik market (don’t get suckered into the Batik Exhibition like I did – was informative, but a rip off), beringharjo market, ha and went to the Sono Budoyo museum in the eve after a 4am start again for a day trip to Borobudur and Prambanan (awesome temples! Get a guide, makes it so much more interesting!!) to see the puppet show. Its cool to just pop in and see how they are made out of buffalo skin, and its only 20K, but its for 2hrs and put it this way, we left after 1hr and that was just out of politeness! There is another volcano that is good to do (Mt Merapi) but by this point we were a bit volcanoe’d out ha! So hoped in a night train to Jakarta…

HA!! Night train, business class (which basically means with fans – but the fan didn’t actually hit us, but you can only get business class in the city, economy is 3km out or something), leaving at 6.30pm (go the day before or 1.5hrs in advance to get your ticket as there is a order form system), arriving 3.45am – really bloody convenient! Anyway, got in and you have quite a lot of leg room, but it was pretty warm and the seats are plastic (so you stick to them, lovely!) and they are upright (making it difficult to sleep). I’d recommend a blow up airplane pillow (my best purchase actually!). But after several hours of trying to sleep and being hot and uncomfortable, I take a look around to see how everyone else is managing and I see feet! People are sleeping on the floor! I think about it, it’s pretty dirty floor, ppl come in every stop selling food, calling in these monotone voices what they are selling (including OWLS!! Like something out of harry potter!?! Didn’t ask what they did with them :-p) and there was food and bottles rolling around, but after much contemplation, I was like, just do it! So, being slightly larger than the average indo who easily slides between the chairs, I lay the sarong down on the floor, and with the grace of an elephant crawl onto the floor, awkwardly slighting my gangly legs under the seat and maneuvering around bags and the debris, with our indo neighbour and amy in fits of giggles…well im glad someone was getting some entertainment out of the ordeal! Sore hipped, grubby and not much more successful on the sleep front we arrive in Jakarta to sleep in the station until a semi sociable hour to get a motorized tuk tuk thingy to the Jaksa area to stay at Hotel Tator (don’t be fooled by the name, but actually good location and def liveable, again a sink! Love it! Cant describe how weird it is brushing your teeth and spitting onto the floor!) Next day we get on the Transjakarta bus (3.5K, a great new system) down to Taman Mini Indonesia Indah which is a park of Indonesia, with all the island and their culture. They also have a waterpark, which looked highly appealing in the dirty smelly Jakarta heat, however for the girl that always wears a bikini for the just in case scenario, I was bikini less! It was interesting park, but nothing special. Back to the centre for some aircon and coffees with a free donut at J.Co (starbuck equivalent – though they have 24hr starbucks here too! And loads of massive malls!) Dinner was on Wahid Hasyium for the street food followed by a bintang on Jaksa street. Next morning over to Kota (the old town) and Sunda Kelapa (the port)…firstly ended up in China town (hectic, but you could get anything I think that you wanted), the heat is a real energy sapper, drains you! Managed (actually using my camera which extraordinarily has GPS, and yes… a new camera, 3rd “Tough” one, and I believe camera no. 10) to head north, walking besides the old canal system…woah! The stench! I had to just breath through my mouth to stop the smell and me retching! Up to the port (pelabuhan sunda kelapa), and the boats were cool, massive bows, kinda pirate looking, but not a lot else. Next tried to find the fish market (Pasar Ikan), which we either failed to find or it was not worth a trip. Drained and dirty we jumped in a tuk tuk to Taman Fatahillan (a museum – one of 6, that’s about all kota is good for, though we didn’t go in, so can’t comment on quality). After several hours of walking around with little reward we decide to head back, shower and change and give the infamous, nonstop nightlife a crack! Showered changed, a bintang at Melley’s then a couple on jaksa road, before catching the transjakarta bus to M…something (a couple of stops before Glodok – where china town was) and cross the road to head into Stadium – a club which apparently opens on Thursday and doesn’t close till Monday! We headed in and up to the 4th floor, the discotheque! 50K in (which we managed to avoid), and 187K for a pitch of beer – that is astronomical! Being a muslim country alcohol is expensive comparatively to everything else! Tbh, Jakarta wasn’t our fav place, and I think I locals knowledge would be good to find out where its all going on, it’s a massive place and I think one for a one or two night business trip and a company card!

All in all though, Indo is a great place and the start of our “banana pancake trail” as we recently discovered it is called (bit like the gringo trail for those who’ve travelled south America). There’s lots to see and do, and a great start to Amy and I’s tour to China! Just on the flight to Singapore to meet Hils (friend from home), Raspal and Nina (friends from Sydney)…oh and airport wise, it cost 140K for a ride to the airport (we opted for the metre taxi 127K with a 7K and 5K toll it came to about the same), then 150K for tax, and of course, my third flight, third trip to an airport and third issue…this time, I cruise up to the security desk thing and the guys talking to me, then he goes “Yes!” (as in, score, awesome), so I’m thinking ooo goodie, have I won something, 100th lucky customer? Free flight back to indo? Course not, “Yes!...you have to pay a fine!” oh hoorah!! …having had to get jetstar customer service to book my flight out of bali from Sydney airport to allow me to go to bali in the first place, they booked it on the 31st day that I’d been in Indonesia, hence had to pay a fine of 200K for staying longer than my 30 day visa…im avoiding flying from now on, 3/3 track record for Unsmooth travel! I guess I’ve still managed to get to my intended destination though…perhaps I shouldn’t count my chickens, currently at 20,000ft flying across open waters….touch wood! Gunna feel weird to step outside Singapore Airport, having spend soooo long in transit from SA to Perth!

Posted by ljmackie 18:54 Archived in Indonesia

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