So well I'm coming down to my last few blogs as I am approaching my 2 year mark and the end of my sabbatical and what a hell of a time I've had but it's still not over yet!!
So after postponing my trip to Indonesia for a week I did finally make it to Kuta in Bali in the wee hours! So I haven't been planning much of my trip and also had no accommodation booked so it's now 2:30 in the morning and after negotiating with a taxi driver to take myself and a couple of ladies from the same plane to the city we headed into Kuta. I told him to drop me off at the nearest backpackers and thought nothing of it. With Indonesia I had yet to work out what the accommodation situations were like and thought a hostel would be my best bet!! Oh no, the place he took me was awful, it was a 9 person room but with triple decked bunk beds and I was on the top bunk. Good job I'm not scared of heights as it was bloody high! Also we had no control of our own lights as reception had all the buttons and due to the party nature of Kuta people were coming in at all times of the morning and the light was constantly left on and I gave up going up and down my bunk to tell reception to turn off the light! I'm not even going to go there with how bad the bathroom was, I was scared to even brush my teeth!
So after a few hours of sleep I decided to get up and go and explore. So you have to understand that I had been having quite a relaxing time in Australia, in places that were not highly populated and not busy while living a very casual lifestyle. Kuta was an assault on my senses after a sleepless night, there are people and shops everywhere, mopeds and cars whizzing by and people trying to get you to buy things in their shops or get a taxi somewhere. So I decided to leave Kuta that day till I was more acclimatised to deal with that place and headed that afternoon on a bus to Ubud. I met a French couple and a German lady named Klara on the bus and we managed to find a bungalow accommodation quite quickly. So I discovered that homestays are a really good and cheap option in Indonesia, you rent a room, most with ensuite for about $15 a night and as I shared a room with Klara it was only $7.50 a night plus breakfast which is the norm. In pounds it's about £4 a night, bargain!! Even having a room to myself isn't breaking the bank either and the people who run the homestay are lovely and will help you organise tours and trips.
So I had arrived in Indonesia after the rainy season so obviously it was still raining! However, it is so warm there and it wouldn't rain all day that you didn't mind at all, it's the same as all tropical countries I've been to, it's only the mosquitoes that are bloody annoying as I am still as much a target as ever.
So I stayed in Ubud with Klara for about 6 days, caught up with Alex and Elise from Melbourne while I was there, there was much food to be eaten as its so lovely and cheap in the little warungs, rice or noodle dishes were about a pound, so I thought it would be rude not to try it all out as often as I could.
We did a few trips around the rice fields and to temples around Bali and also managed a sunrise mountain hike to see some outstanding views. We went to a Balinese dance one night and were just amazed by the music and the dancing which is done mostly with their eyes, facial expressions and hands, was wonderful to watch!
We also decided to go for a Balinese massage one day as it only cost about £4. This was a new experience for me as they pretty much massage everywhere, boobs and all, luckily I'm not shy and neither was Klara but I think that it might not be for bashful people as they may leave more tense than when they went in!
The people of Indonesia are absolutely lovely though, they work so hard for hardly any money at all, most only earn an average of £10 a week and they work the longest hours pretty much 7 days a week, this is why I would never haggle too much, I would pay what I thought was reasonable for the item as some would try and rip you off but the majority of the time things were incredibly cheap with what they were asking that I felt no need to haggle, what's an extra 50p to me when to them it means so much!
Also the landscape of Indonesia is beautiful, a lot of rice fields for farming so it's a sea of green and lots of countryside, dotted with random temples everywhere. Bali is mainly a Hindu country so there are fresh offerings left out all over the streets, in front of shops, on cars etc. These offerings are made from palm leaves and have flowers and rice and anything else they want to offer that day and they burn incense as well so it smells lovely. The problem is that they are accommodating more and more for tourism, so they are constantly building more places for travellers to stay, more restaurants, constant tours to be taken. I don't blame the people of Indonesia as they live a simple and hard working life and if money can be made to make life a bit easier they will try and take advantage of it, but it can also disturb the beauty of the country.
So after a relaxing and educational time in Ubud I decided to head back to Kuta to go and meet up with another friend. Well, when I left the heavens opened and it was like a flash flood, by the time I made it back to Kuta the water in the streets were up to my shin and when I jumped out of the bus I lost my flip flop and it started to float down the road, much to the amusement of the taxi drivers all hiding under a shop!
By the time I got to the accommodation the guy showing me my room had to take his shoes off and roll his trousers to above his knees just to get me to my room as the water was so high! Within a few hours thought the water just drains away and its like it never rained, and its hot again and you're out in your shorts and flip flops like nothing happened!
So I met with Steve and his friend Dan and decided to stay in Kuta for a few days, we experienced the night life and the city that just doesn't seem to sleep. Some of the stalls may close about 8 or 9 at night but the bars and restaurants keep going and then the nightlife kicks in as well. It turned into a messy night!
We decided to head to Lombok and the Gili Islands after a couple of days. The transport in Indonesia is really well set up and you pretty much can get anywhere by shuttle bus and boat whenever you really want. As I said, they really accommodate for the traveller. So we headed over to the Gili Islands which took about 5 or 6 hours in total. The Gili's are made up of 3 islands and we headed to the busiest which is Gili T. This has been known to be a party island, but after experiencing Uitlia in Honduras, this place seemed quite tame. Also it helped that we were there on the down season.
As soon as we got off the boat we managed to find a guy with a room a couple of streets behind the main drag which was perfect. So we had all come to Gili T to do some diving as the reef and coral is amazing around here. We did a day of snorkelling to begin with and then trouble struck in paradise. We call got proper ill! At the time we thought it might have been a virus or food poisoning and it lasted for about 3 days for myself where I was unable to move, I was in pain all over and could not be too far from a toilet and could not keep any food in me. We found out it may have been due to the fact that we had a lot of rain before we arrived on the island and a lot of places use well water for their tap and shower water, but as the rain has flooded a lot of things, like the sceptic tanks which then overflowed into the wells and I was using that water to brush my teeth. So basically I was brushing my teeth with poo particles and funnily enough my body didn't like it!!!
So diving was put on hold while I was diving. However on the day we decided to leave the island we got a dive in and I saw the biggest turtles I've ever witnessed, it must have been 6 feet long and 4 feet wide, the diving was spectacular. The Gili's were a beautiful set of islands, people would converge together to see the sun set, there was bean bag bars all facing the water, it actually had a very nice atmosphere and the people were so nice and accommodating. The only issue with all these beautiful places is the rubbish everywhere. As you can't drink the water from the taps you are buying bottles of water constantly but they don't seem to be able to deal with all the rubbish and refuse and it ends up in the oceans when the rain washes it in there and then it washes up on the beaches. There are these beautiful clear, blue seas but they have bottles and plastic bags floating around in them as well.
After the Gili T, we decided to head to Nusa Lembongan which is a little island off of Bali. This is a quiet and peaceful island with mangrove fields and again somewhere to go diving. As I was feeling better we decided to do a couple of dives and was beautiful and experiences my first drift dive as the current can be quite strong!
So after a few days of diving and hiring a scooter to scan the island out we headed back to Kuta as Steve was going back to Oz. I was staying in a place quite central in the city and had only spent about 6 hours on my own at this point when I met Ed, Tony and Justine. On this trip in Indo I had yet to spend a day on my own travelling which was awesome, there was constantly people around to do things with. Funnily Tony was from the same town as Kel in Cairns and when I head back to Australia for a while, Tony would be living round the corner. It's a small world!
So the 4 of us decided to go out again in Kuta and it was another funny night out on the town which ended up with all 4 of us swimming in the sea about 3 in the morning!!
So I decided that I was going to catch a flight to Flores and go and see the Komodo dragons and go diving in the Komodo national park as it's supposed to be one of the nicest diving spots. I managed to convince Tony to join me so after an hour or so flight we were in the national Komodo park.
This part of Indonesia is not as touristy, not as many people make it this way and English is not spoken as much and it is all a little bit more untouched. The first hotel we stayed in was little to be desired and could have been the start of a horror movie but we only stayed one night before heading on a diving trip for a couple of days. We took a boat out to the national park and went for a couple of dives on the way, again drift dives as we were approaching a new moon so the current could get a bit crazy. But the coral, reef and wildlife was amazing! We then came to the boat we would be staying on. It is a permanently moored boat, with a top deck with bean bags and sun loungers which was awesome to chill out on when it got dark as there was no light pollution and the stars were phenomenal and I saw so many shooting stars. The diving was outstanding and we got to experience the Manta Rays which I had never seen while diving before, they are so majestic in the water and also inquisitive.
We also took a day trip to visit the Komodo dragons and see the islands they lived on. The whole of that region is breath taking to view and still so untouched and luckily protected and hopefully it will stay this way.
There was just so much to see and do in Indonesia and again would like to go back and experience so much more it has to offer, but I think I have said that with every place I've been to!!