Wednesday, May 30, 2012

indonesia - flores - maumere 2012

Flores 2012
I left Lombok with a connecting flight to Maumere Flores that afternoon. The flight from Lombok was four hours delayed. It was a fine line but I went through domestic customs and back through for my flight to Flores with ½ hour to spare. I made a mental note never to book interconnecting domestic indo flights again.
The flight to Maumere was on Lion Air. No problems. At Maumere airport my driver Mathus was there to meet me and off we went for an hour or so to Ankermi Guesthouse. We were pretty close to the guesthouse when the road was blocked by bamboo being cut. This is was something that occurred a few times with the loppers asking for money - 2 000 rupiah - to move the bamboo to let you pass. Once we passed the bamboo was placed across the road again. Mathus explained they do this to get money to buy arak. Very enterprising!


Ankermi's was great! Six rooms close to the water with nice gardens and restaurant. The views over the bay were very pretty with a small jetty to walk along to get clearer views. The room was nice. It had a comfortable bed, fan, mozzie net and an outside shower. NICE!
The rooms were 254 000 rupiah per night with breakfast. The meals were tasty and you could order from the menu and sometimes they had a small smorgasbord.
The place gave of the ambience of tranquillity and calmness.
Kermis was an Indonesian born in Java and he moved to Bali and later Flores. He is a nice pleasant guy. His wife Claudia is from Austria. She came a few days later with her mum and son. She was very pleasant.


While in Flores I had a number of local walks and snorkels, caught boats out to the islands, had a day trip around the area, checked out Maumere and talked with heaps of locals and tourists.
Well, this is the background and my plan was to stay a few nights at Ankermi, then Moni for volcano climbing then on to Ende for a flight to Sumba. Sometimes, plans just don’t happen. Usually, there is a good reason that comes out after time.
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Mathus was a good driver so I hired him for the whole of the following day to take me on a day trip around Maumere and Sikka.  ‘What do you want to see?’  he asked. ‘Surprise me!’
It cost 600 000 rupiah and was worth every cent. His English was okay and he was heaps of fun and he went out of his way to show me what he thought was worthwhile seeing.
We drove along the main highway with Mathus tooting his horn to get people’s attention which made for good videoing. Our first stop was arak making. He went on ahead to check it was okay to watch. We got the okay and I watched the older guy drink six glasses before he declared the brew drinkable to perfection. I was feeling woozy smelling it. He was obviously an experienced brewer and drinker.
Next stop was a school where the camera caused a mini riot.
After that, the next stop was the seminary, which was calm and very quiet.
We stopped along the beaches on the south coast on the way to Sikka. The surf was wild with onshore winds.  There were also a number of friendly people around ready for a chat and a photo.
Sikka was at the end of the road. The car was park at the bottom of the steps leading up to the church courtyard. I walked up the steps and eventually someone came to open the church for a donation and a promise to look at their weaving later. The church was old with huge timber supports. Nice!


Outside the church I was greeted by the friendly ‘you promised to buy lady’. She led me down the quiet stairs that  were lined with about 40 women holding their weaving in silence.  I looked at them and they looked at me. I took a deep breath and walked down the stairs. I saw the weaving and bought a nice piece of ikat. I handed her the money and she handed me the ikat and then all hell broke loose. The walls were echoing with the catch cries – you buy from me, you buy from her you buy from me, that ikat no good, my ikat good, buy, buy, buy!!!!! Ah! I put the blinkers on and made a bee line for the car. Ah!!! Where’s the car? It was now at the end of the street and the road was lined with more ikat sellers. The crowd that was following me was now three to four deep with sellers.
Suddenly, one leans over all the rest, and with a ‘sexy’ look, meaning glance and wink says in a voice not unlike ginger from Gillian’s Island‘s ‘hi, you must buy from me’. This was a different sales pitch and I was stunned and so was everyone else. But only for a moment then they all charged at me with an even greater ferocity. I got to the car, closed the door, then saw a very pretty ikat that my daughter would like. I leaned over and got it but before I could pay the lady, she was swept aside by the crowd. I cried ‘’who do I owe the 50 000 rupiah to?’ A lady lunged over the top of the crowd and said ‘me’ and took the money. I wound up the window and told Mathus to hit the speed.
Once we were a safe distance and the world became calm, I asked Mathus ‘why did you move the car way down the road?’ He told me that a group of the women surrounded him and in a threatening manner ordered him to move the car. Mathus was afraid! I understood.
About ½ hour along the road, we were stopped by the ‘bamboo across the road for arak extortion scam’.  This time they were swinging around machetes and were totally pissed. Mathus paid 2 000 rupiah and some guy on a motorbike who didn’t want to pay was persuaded to when two of them started dancing in front of him swinging their machetes in a friendly not manner. Good move bro!
The next part was amazing, we went up and up a number of small narrow roads and eventually came to small car park which was the beginning of the’ stations of the cross’. A small path leads across the ridge to an amazing statue of Mary that changed colours in the light and as one changed position. Not unlike RIO. The view from the mountain edge was inspiring.
On return to carpark, we met the caretaker who was a lovely lady who emanated serenity and oneness with the universe. She collected parking fees and sold trinkets from a small shop. She lived up there all year on her own in one of the small boxed rooms reading books.  She had no family but was very content with her life. I don’t know why but I felt I had met someone that was unique and a friend. On speaking to Mathus he said he felt awed by her.
The second last stop was the waterfront at Maumere.  It was now raining but the guys in the boats were friendly and put on a bit of a show for the camera.
The last stop was a late but delicious lunch at a small restaurant owed by one of Mathus’s relatives.
Back at Ankermis, and I asked Mathus if he wanted me to pay him now or add up all the drives and pay in one lot. He said pay in one lot. ‘Good I said ‘as I haven’t the money on me now as it was in the hotel safe’. Mathus went white… ‘you have no money’…’yes I have money but it is in the safe’…’oh’.  10 minutes later and back in my room and there at the door is Mathus with Kermi. Mathus wanted to be paid. Obviously, 'oh' is indo for - you have no money so I’ll get someone to sort this out.
An excellent day!!!
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On the following day, all started well, I hired a boat to the islands for a snorkel trip (450 000 rupiah). The boat motored over the calm waters to the distant islands. Once there, I had some reasonable snorkelling and wandered around the deserted island. All pretty cool. We then motored to another snorkel spot. The current looked strong but the captain said it was fine, I said ‘ if I raise my hand you come and get me’... ‘Mengerti? ‘… 'Ya, mengerti'.


Well, in I jumped and within a short time, I was a long way from the boat and I could make no headway back. I drifted very quickly further and further aay. I raised my hand and he waved back. The boat didn’t move. I waved again and he waved back gesturing to me to return to the boat. I waved more frantically as I was now off the reef and floating over the abyss. Finally, the boat started to move in my direction. I wasn’t very happy when I boarded but his cheery words ‘good snorkel?’ and my answer that ‘ya, good snorkel ‘ made me feel better.


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This is when plans changed… I was walking just a short distant from the hotel, took a small jump onto the sand and bam!!! I hurt my foot and I hurt it badly. This is a long story so I’ll write in short form.
Ring insurance… need medical advice… need to get x-ray and see doctor… arrange car and drive to Maumere hospital… road nearly washed away due to river flooding… just got the car through..three hours later in hospital have had x-ray, saw doctor and it would be okay in a few days… stop at supermarket for chocolates,/chips… road back only wide enough for motorbike…Mathus arranges a bike to take me across… back in hotel… indo pain killers and two bottles of red wine...life is good
The bone was bruised above the heel and it took three weeks before I could walk on it without pain.
My plans had to change. I was booked to fly from Ende to Kupang West Timor and the following day to Waingapu in Sumba. No way I could do that as Sumba is a rough but beautiful journey and not to be attempted with injuries. As it was Merpati, had cancelled the flight from Ende to Kupang so if I hadn’t of hurt my foot, I would have driven 5 hours to Moni, said goodbye to the driver, have no flight, would have needed to get back to Maumere to get a flight to Kupang.


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There guesthouse had a number of interesting and very different people staying.  I met a Swiss couple on the first night and shared the table with them for dinner. They were very nice and we had a pleasant night chatting. This was their second visit to Ankermi and they had stayed for quite  number of weeks just reading, relaxing and unwinding from the stresses of euro life.
On the second night, another fellow arrived and joined us at our table. He wasn’t very happy and was rather grumpy. We ignored his grumpiness but after awhile he began to relaxed. As he became relaxed he grew quieter and seemed to be withdrawing into himself and thinking. At one stage he slowly raised his head and said ‘ I’m an empty shell. I feel nothing. Why am I here. I planned to do this trip with my young daughter. I am always so busy working. This was to be our time together. My wife and I had split. She changed her mind and would not allow me to take her. So I went anyway. And now I am here, where I don’t want to be without my reason for being here. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to do anything except stay in my room till I need to go home.  I am an empty shell.
To say the least, we were all stunned! What to do! What to say! Was there anything to say? We said nothing and he talked for a long time until he had no more to say.  I felt compelled to help, this was a sad, sad story and I didn’t want the ending to get any sadder.
I felt this was probably the reason I had hurt my foot so for the next week. We talked heaps, we snorkelled, we walked and eventually, he smiled and started to talk about the positive things he was now going to do to set things right. That smile made my foot saga worthwhile.

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I went to Flores last year and loved it. This year I loved it again. There is no much to see and do - people to meet, experiences to have and adventures.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

indonesia - Lombok - ekas 2012

Lombok 2012


We arrive at the ‘wherethefxxkarewe’ wharf at Lombok from Sumbawa. There were a number of locals standing/sitting around the end of the wharf as the car from tropical took the remaining guests from the boat to the new airport. It was pretty quiet after they left and we sat there for awhile before the car from ‘Heaven on the Planet’ (HOTP) resort turned up.
The drive to ‘Heaven on the Planet’ was excellent. We drove along quiet roads and through small villages until we finally reached the dirt/mud/quagmire road that turned off the bitumen to HOTP. It had been raining a few days ago and the road was wet, slippery, and muddy rutted with pools of water. The car slid this way and that with mud spraying everywhere.  To me, a great car trip!


We arrived and settled into our rooms then went for surf. The waves were excellent. Later, we met the other four guys staying there. Amazingly, the four guys were the same guys from Melbourne that I had met there two years previously. They had arrived the day before but the road was unpassable when they came so they were shipped in by boat.
We/I spend the week, surfing, walking and cycling. The weather was very ugly for about four days with the wind blowing ferociously.
Commenting on the week, I decided that dividing it into the dark and bright side was the best way to describe my experience at Heaven.

The dark side of HOTP
The owner Kerry wasn’t there when we arrived. He stayed a few days then left again for a few days. Consequently, nothing actually got fixed or worked on while he was gone or not watching.
There were a lot of things to be fixed as the resort had been closed for the last few months. The beach was strewn with rubbish. This was partially cleaned up and the rubbish burned sending a plumb of smoke over the resort.
The pool was filthy with a resident frog population living there happily. It was worked on partially each day but after a week it was still unusable.
As time drew on other problems beset the place.
No water – water tank had a crack – so a water truck had to deliver water…remember the road!!!
The staff went on strike just before breakfast was ready for Paul and I so we had to cook our own breakfast. The only time I ever get seriously pissed off is when food is involved.
We asked for mountain bikes and they arrived after ½ day with no brakes on one bike. More bikes arrived the following day but Paul had left.
I asked for the windsurfers but they never arrived.
The roofs partially blew off a number of buildings.
Local repair work was hopeless and caused more mess/problems.
Certain foods ran out.
The usual spiders, scorpions and centipedes were in the rooms.
You had to firmly ask and persist for the boat to take us out to the breaks as the boat guys preferred to sit on their arse all day.
The laundry took a few days to come back and when it arrived it was still damp.
Okay, okay… what was I doing there if it was so bad??? Well that was the darkside and every darkside has a brightside

The bright side of HOTP
The owner, Kerry is a really nice guy. I like it him and despite the problems I consider them to be part of the indo experience. Kerry had me in stitches the way he would go off at the workers and later talk so fondly of them. He loves the place, his staff and locals. He treats them with the respect of a father-figure and they treat him like disobedient naughty children. I liked the way the good, the bad and the ugly blended together so well. Though I was pissed off about breakfast!!
The scenery at HOTP is very, very beautiful. The coastline, beaches and jungle are so pretty. There are so many paths/tracks leading all over the place. The walks along the beaches and through the jungle are an adventure.



When the mountain bikes finally arrived, I went on a long cycle ride through fields, villages, along the coastline and over flooded roads. It felt so remote yet safe, adventurous and fun.  Early in the ride, I nearly tipped over and fell on a local lady. Her friend was laughing but she was clearly unamused. She called me ‘bodoh’ ‘idiot’ and gestured for me to go far away from her. I was very apologetic but I think it lacked true sincerity. At once stage, the road had disappeared under a lake. Luckily, an enterprising local solved my problem with a raft.  He swam the raft with myself and the bike on top across the water for 10 000 R to where the road continued.  At this point, I had started to have lots of talks with locals (not many people around for the first hour) – where are you from, why are you here, etc. I also had three marriage proposals. My wallet was very attractive, I think or am I wrong and it is just my natural charm and babe magnet techniques… nah it’s the wallet.



The surf can be okay to really good and lots of fun. The first two days were excellent – glassy with sizeable sets.  There were only 6 of us surfing there in total. At the other break, there were only two of us out and when everyone had left there was only one out (moi). On the last day, the surfing was big and a bit scary with drowning a possibility. It was that big that the boat that normally motor out in tranquil waters barely made it through the shore break! The boat peaked over one wave at a 45 degree angle and landed with a thump that I thought would break it in two. They sit on their arse but they did a good jog ‘kerja baik’ that day.


There were people there for a while but most of the time I was there by myself. I quite enjoyed that time. It gives one time to be introspective and do the things you want to do when you want to do it.
Kerry gave me two free nights at a later date due to ‘problems’ that occurred.


This was my second time at HOTP and despite the problems ‘I’ll be back’. The first time there were no dark side problems. Luck of the draw like anywhere. The time on my own gave me the time to start feeling the Indo experience and adventure - talking with the locals and doing things that were different.
My trip was changing!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

indonesia - West Sumbawa - tropical 2012

This part of the trip was surfing, walks and looking around the area.

We booked ourselves into Nomads Tropical Resort. Not cheap but I hadn’t stayed at a surf camp before so it looked good on the net so we gave it a try.


We flew from Bali to Lombok, where we were picked up by car and driven to a jetty somewhere in east Lombok. From there, we boarded the speed boat which took us to west Sumbawa. We were met by another car which took us to Tropical Resort.


The resort was large, had pool, restaurant and bar. There were a number of other facilities e.g. gym but I didn’t use them. The rooms were good with plenty of room and a bathroom.


Straight in front of the resort were two surf breaks. The right didn’t really get any good the time we were there so we mainly surfed the left which was fun. The waves varied in size to ½ head height to double head height. It was a bit out of control when it got bigger. The reef is flat and I only hit it three times. One time hard which cut my foot though not badly. The crowds varied from just a few to way too many.


We looked at the other breaks in the area but they looked too intimidating to me.
One day, when it was small, we took a speed boat to a right hand wave down the coast. I really liked that wave though the paddle back out after a wave was a bit heart pumping. The waves broke sort of in three sections. When you pulled off the wave you were sort of in the impact zone of the next wave section if a set was following. I got caught a few times but it wasn’t too bad.


There were three of us surfing. One of the other guys got caught inside for ages after a drop in/fall off in front of me. Karma!!!
We snorkelled at the reef at Tropicals but the currents were strong and it wasn’t that good.



On a number of occasions, I went for walks along the reef and beach at low tide. These times were quiet and enjoyable. The scenery was very pretty and the hills of the point were high and covered in jungle growth. The beach was white sand fringed with thick jungle growth.



We went on a number of road trips to check out the surf breaks and local villages. The area is generally well off compared to other spots in Indo. The nearby mines provided well paid work and the feeder industries provided services for the local communities.
The resort is by itself so the people we/I met were on the beach or visiting the resort.
The people working in the mines had very interesting stories on the mines dealings with the local people. Most problems between the two seemed to stem around money. In one instance, problems arose due to the job interview process. The locals didn’t like it that they didn’t get the jobs after the first interview.



Most conversations were small talk. Some people did some interesting things. One guy travelled around Indo as a sort of intermediary between locals and companies. Another guy worked in the mining school. There were few western girls. One group of American surfers had hired a car and were travelling throughout Indo – the car must have been crowded when fully packed.



The hotel staff were locals and nice. The management positions were mainly westerners from Portugal, South Africa and Australia. One of the owners was from Indonesia with an Australian husband who built pools around indo. The husband was a quiet, interesting and nice guy.
Well, it was an enjoyable experience being at Tropicals but overall it wasn’t the place for me.

SYDNEY, COOKS RIVER KAYAK - 11 OCTOBER 2017

At Sydney again so I decided on a kayak along a part of Cooks River and Wolli Creek. It was a bit difficult finding a place to launch...