- 11 May 2000
We only had one-way tickets and Indonesia has an infrequently enforced requirement
that if you arrive by air you must be able to show proof of onward travel. It turns
out that a US$30 bribe (each) is sufficient proof. In just over a year of travel this was
my first completely overt bribe.
- 12 May 2000
- Shopping/exploring in Kuta, Bali's somewhat seedy tourist center.
Lots of nice surf beaches, and never more than a short stone's throw from
a bar or a souvenir shop.
- 13 May 2000
- Rafting the Ayung river. Only class 2/3 so quite tame compared to the
Zimbabwe's Zambezi or Nepal's Marsyangi,
but a nice introduction to rafting for Tuk (who can't really swim (yet)).
- 14 May 2000
- Bus to Ubud, the theoretical center of "cultural tourism" in Bali.
The frat-boy bars are a bit thinner on the ground, but if anything,
the souvenir shops are packed even more closely together.
- 15 May 2000
- We rented a scooter and headed off in search of the royal temple
Pura Taman Ayun. Without a guide, the temple was a non-event,
courtyards and gardens full of multi-tiered pagodas but no way to discern
On the other hand, the ride there was quite an event. Bali is strewn with
a maze of 1 1/2 lane roads plied by mammoth trucks and busses with size getting
the right-of-way. We negotiated ancient blacktop strewn with glacier class
crevasses and repeatedly dove off the shoulder as another behemoth lumbered by.
On the back, Tuk was blissfully ignorant, driving, I was terrified.
- 16 May 2000
- We took an organized tour.
The sights were mostly non-impressive, Pura Taman Ayun
temple (again), Lake Bratan's Pura Ulan Danu temple, Gitgit waterfall,
and Air Panas Banjar hotsprings. The highlight of the tour though
was just being out of the cities and getting to see some of Bali's beautiful landscape.
Steep volcanic mountain sides lined with coffee plantations and terraced rice farms, all
like scenes from a picture book.
|Air Panas Banjar hot springs.|
- 17 May 2000
- Email day in Ubud.
- 18 May 2000
- Shopping for batiks in Denpasar, Bali's somewhat industrial capital.
- 19 May 2000
- Bus from Ubud to Toya Bungkah, a small town on the shore of Lake Batur.
The town, the lake, and several hundred sq km all sit within the huge outer
crater of Mt Batur. The volcano is still quite active, it erupted in 1917
and 1926 killing thousands of people...
- 20 May 2000
- Trekking up Mt Batur (1,717m, 5,630ft).
Our guide woke us at 3:30 a.m. so we could make the short drive and 2 hour
trek to the top before sunrise. The hike is fairly easy and the views
from the summit well worth it. The volcanic nature of the terrain, imperceptible
from below, is readily apparent from the summit. The walls of the old caldera, several
kilometers apart ring the entire area and cider cones dot the landscape.
Batur's volcanic nature is also obvious, the summit is pierced by a deep crater
and steam hisses out of cracks and crannies everywhere. Our breakfast of steamed
eggs and bananas is cooked by wrapping them in wet leaves and tucking them into
steam filled vent.
|Sunrise from the summit of Mt Batur. That's
Mt Agung (3,142m, 10,300ft) in the background.|
|Tuk on the edge of the caldera.
||Cooking breakfast Volcano style.
- 21 May 2000
- A soak in Tirta Sanjiwani hotsprings and then a bus to the
beachside town of Padangbai, gateway to Lombok.
- 22 May 2000
- Ferry to Lombok.
Bali, paradise or purgatory?
On the road, I'd heard nothing but bad about Bali. Nightmare stories of touts
and hassles. We showed up prepared for the worst, but were pleasantly surprised.
Yes, there were a lot of touts. Walking down the streets of the main towns hardly a
minute would pass (literally!) without someone trying to sell us something.
"Transport? Dancing? Cold drink? Room? You want cigarette mister?" The offers
were incessant, but for the most part they took their brush-offs well, and were
And although Bali is about as on the beaten track as you can get, it's not
hard to get a sense of real Balinese life. A few minute scooter ride out of
any of the main towns reveals small villages with people living their lives
in blissful ignorance of the tourist trade.
And actually, the commercialism makes things cheap and convenient. Door to door
transport between towns and activities never cost more than a few dollars, and
there certainly are a lot of activates.
My biggest complaint with Bali wasn't the crass tourism, but rather that
it just wasn't that nice. The beaches were average, the food and accommodation average, and many of the attractions were struggling just to make it to average. For
me, it was all hype and no bite.
- 23 May 2000
- Explore Senggigi, Lombok's tourist center.
The brochures promote Lombok as "The way Bali was 10 years ago," in theory untouched
and unspoiled, but really the two are quite different. The culture on Bali is Balinese,
while Lombok is 80% Muslim. In 1999 violence erupted between the Muslims and Christians
and the tourists were evacuated. To a foreign eye things seem healed now but the bad press
lingers, and on the brink of the high season we find Senggigi nearly empty. Hawkers outnumber
tourists by about four to one and as we walk through town we trail them like a fox running from
the hounds. Watches, bracelets, food, drugs, transport... No, I don't want any damnit!
- 24 May 2000
- My birthday.
We spent a relaxing day and then went out for what was supposed to be a "special" dinner.
unfortunately at one of the nicest restaurants in town Tuk found live worms in her food,
which turned her stomach and put a bit of a damper on things.
- 25 May 2000
We took a Sasak cultural tour.
|Me, dressed as a Sasak King|
(or so they told me).
The Sasaks are the indigenous people of Lombok and today still comprise 90%
of the population. They follow Islam, but still maintain a their own culture
and traditions. The advertised goal of this tour was to provide a glimpse into
traditional Sasak life.
Stop 1: Banyumulek, Pottery center
The first stop on our "cultural tour" was a major tourist trap. A big pottery
market with a few token artisans about to demonstrate some of the skills. In
their defense, if the hype is to be believed this market is a well organized co-op
providing a steady income from many of the surrounding villages. Despite the
overt commercial nature of this stop it was still interesting to see so many examples
of the traditional (and not so traditional) Lombok pottery.
Stop 2: Kediri Traditional market
A traditional market maybe, but very similar to every other market I've seen
in Asia. Everything on sale, from fruit and spices to truck axles.
Stop 3: Sukarara, Hand weaving village
Sukara was an actual village with weaving actually being done, it was very
fun and interesting. A local guide showed us the entire process, growing the cotton,
spinning the thread, brewing the natural dies, and weaving on the looms.
It's a village tradition that a young woman can not get married until she masters
all parts of the process and weaves her own bridal cloth. Tuk got to try her hand
at spinning, but it would seem her maidenhood is in no danger from Sukara.
The old woman demonstrating deftly pulled perfectly spun thread from wads of
fresh cotton, but no one else could do better than a snarled mass of short, broken
Stop 4: Rambitan, Sasak Village
|A traditional Sasak house.|
We acquired another local guide who showed us around a "traditional" Sasak village.
The houses were like the one pictured here. Inside they are divided into two rooms,
a small, enclosed inner room, and an outer room like a porch. When a couple first gets
married they build their own house and share the inner room until they have their first
child. After a child is born the wife is supposed to move out onto the porch. It's not
apparent how couples end up with more than one child.
Stop 5: Kuta beach
Not to be confused with it's trendy cousin in Bali, this Kuta beach is a quiet little
stretch of sand in an isolated cove on the south coast of Lombok. There is a 5 star
(corruption funded) hotel near by, but while we were there the only other visitors was
a herd of buffalo munching on the sea grass.
Stop 6: Batu Bolong Temple
A Muslim temple that we weren't allowed inside, but it was perfectly situated to watch
the sun set behind the 3,142m (10,300 ft) volcano, Mt. Agung on neighboring Bali.
|Sunset over Mt Agung.|
- 26 May 2000
- Woke up too late to check out of the hotel so killed a day walking the beach in Senggigi.
- 27 May 2000
- Taxi and Ferry to Gili Trawangan a sandy bit of paradise dropped in the Indian Ocean off
the coast of Lombok. Only a couple hours to walk around the entire island, but chockablock
full of restaurants, bars, and diveshops.
- 28 May 2000
- Shopping for dive schools. Tuk needs to finish her open water certification and
I want to take an IANTD technical Nitrox course.
What? More Diving Lessons?
There are a lot of ways to die from going underwater, and given that after the obvious,
drowning, they get less pleasant, I thought I'd take a technical diving course in order
to learn how to safely do all the things I'd always been told not to do (underwater at least).
The air we breath is made up of about 20% oxygen and 80% nitrogen. On the surface, our
bodies happily burn the oxygen and ignore the nitrogen. Once we begin breathing compressed
air underwater the extra pressure makes our bodies begin to absorb more nitrogen than usual.
This isn't a problem until we begin to ascend. If we ascend too quickly the nitrogen forms
bubbles as it off-gasses and this causes "the bends."
The least dire symptom is sexual dysfunction, less popular options include excruciating
paralysis and death. Recreational divers are taught to avoid the bends by ascending slowly
and minimizing their time at depth to carefully control the amount of nitrogen their bodies
absorb. Technical divers go beyond these limits but make "decompression stops" as they ascend
to give their bodies time to off-gas the nitrogen. Skipping a decompression ("deco") stop is
an invitation to the bends so technical divers operate with a virtual ceiling. The cannot
ascend to the surface until after they have made their (potentially length) deco stops.
|About half the gear for a technical dive|
One way to reduce the amount of nitrogen your body absorbs at depth is to fill the tanks
with gas mix containing more oxygen, and thus less nitrogen (Nitrox). Unfortunately in high
concentrations oxygen itself is toxic, and the deeper a diver goes the higher the concentration
of oxygen it receives. Breathing compressed air at 40 meters (130 ft), is equivalent to breathing pure
oxygen on the surface. Breathing compressed air at 65 meters (210 ft), the body receives a
sufficient amount of oxygen to cause toxicity. The typical first symptom is convulsions.
On the first convulsion the diver spits his or her regulator out, and on the second convulsion
he or she inhales water and we are back to drowning.
To go really deep divers blend a mix of gasses that wouldn't support life on the surface
and then wait until they are deep enough before switching to that mix. Unfortunately,
as you go deeper the pressure of nitrogen increases as well and causes a narcotic effect.
So, just as the diver is faced with critical tasks like measuring bottom time, and switching
gasses he or she finds themselves punch drunk! This is why to go very deep divers us a mix low in
oxygen but with the nitrogen replaced with another inert gas (like helium).
I didn't have the time to certify myself to the "tri-mix" level, but while we were on
Gili Trawangan I took an introduction to enhanced air (EANX Nitrox) course and an
advanced Nitrox/deep diving course.
- 29 May 2000
- Theory day for my Introduction to Nitrox course.
- 30 May 2000
- My first Nitrox dives, 42 minutes at 26.3 meters and 55 minutes at 22.9 meters
diving on a mix of 30% oxygen and 70% nitrogen.
Of course, that's the boring part. The exciting part is that on the second dive
we were tucked in a canyon hiding from the current when a school of four
baby manta rays drifted into view and we got to sit and watch them for 10
minutes before we had to move on.
They are incredibly graceful creature, looking like a flying wings with
menacing mandibles as they float through the currents sweeping up plankton
and other tiny sea life. Even though they were small (1 meter across),
a school of four is still a great sighting and this isn't even the season
for them in the Gilis.
- 31 May 2000
- Theory day and pool skills for my IANTD Advanced Nitrox/Deep air diver course.
- 1 Jun 2000
- More theory and skills in the pool.
- 2 Jun 2000
- Tuk used to work in a dive shop and has been through the entire open water
dive course twice (and logged 20 dives). But, she has only recently started
learning to swim, so she is not yet certified. We spent today practicing
for her swim test (200 yds untimed).
- 3 Jun 2000
- The fun stuff-- gear. I learn how to configure my twin nitrox tanks for
redundancy and self sufficiency. I'm ready for the dives.
- 4 Jun 2000
- The first two dives for my advanced Nitrox course, 40 minutes at 30 meters
on 28% oxygen with 18 minutes of decompression stops at the end of the dive.
At 20 meters below the surface I deployed an inflatable bag with a line attached
and then reeled myself slowly up the line waiting for the clock to tick away the
minutes of decompression.
- 5 Jun 2000
- And advantage to doing this course at Trawangan is that you get to do a
dive beyond the limits of recreational diving. Today we spent 30 minutes
at 45 meters exploring a Japanese WWII wreck. In addition to the twin tanks
on my back I carried along a third tank filled with 50% oxygen used to shorten
the shallow decompression stops.
The dive itself is fabulous. It's a small wreck but full of life. It sits
alone the sandy bottom home to a huge number of lion and stone fish.
- 6 Jun 2000
- Tuk passed her swim test and is a certified diver!!!
- 7 Jun 2000
- The final dive of my course, we return for another 30 minutes at
45 meters on the wreck, but this time at night.
- 8 Jun 2000
- I helped Tuk study the theory for her PADI Advanced class.
- 9 Jun 2000
- Tuk's advanced day 1, Deep dive and Navigation dive
- 10 Jun 2000
- Tuk's advanced day #2, Multi-level dive and Underwater photography dive.
- 11 Jun 2000
- a.m.: I did another Trawangan "Tech dive classic." An underwater wall that
starts at 30 meters and drops off into the depths. Deep enough to be
beyond the range of most common reef abuses and therefore pristine.
p.m.: Night dive with Tuk, the final dive of her advanced course.
- 12 Jun 2000
- With Tuk now certified we took a day to do two fun dives.
- 13 Jun 2000
- Transfer back to Senggigi.
- 14-17 Jun 2000
A 4-day, 3-night tour up the 3,726m (12,200 ft) volcano, Mt. Rinjani.
In my book it's never a good thing to be woken at 3 a.m., so for
a while I write off my negativity to general early morning surliness,
but when it becomes apparent that our guide intends to lead us to the
summit by the light of a single candle encased in a carved up water
bottle, even I began to realize we are in a bit deeper than we'd expected.
The first days trekking had been quite pleasant, a gentle climb through the
farmlands at the base of the mountain and then steeper, but sane, hiking
up to the rim of the crater. The entire endeavor endorsed by a cloudless
sky and a warm, gentle breeze.
||Rinjani's crater rim, leading to the summit.
But at 3 a.m. on our summit day, a frigid wind howls over the rim as
we pick our way up the near vertical "trail." Luckily I have a headlight
and we are joined by three locals with flashlights that
light the way for Tuk who has never before been this high or this cold.
We ascend steeply to the final ridge leading to the summit. We're exhausted
from the lack of sleep and yesterdays trek, but the bitter cold makes it impossible
to rest more than a few minutes. We need to keep on the move to stay warm
in our layers of summer-weight jackets.
|Tom, trying to stay warm on the summit.
As a less-dark blotch develops in the sky and then grows to expose the horizon,
I count the minutes until the sun's rays might cut the cold, and swear this is
the last time I'm going to let myself be talked into one of these "up before dawn
for the mountain-top sunrise" plans.
Tuk bears it all well, and our spirits buoy in the post-dawn light. Like most
volcanoes though, this one is a crumbling mass of rubble, and the final
stretch up to the summit is steep scree. Tuk has a meltdown and develops
an irrational fear of tumbling down the loose rock and falling off the mountain.
Guiltily I leave her crouched behind a boulder and go with our guide, Tom, up
the final few hundred meters to the summit.
The views from the top are spectacular, the lake filled caldera with it's ominous
cinder cone one side (title image), and the great blue expanse
of ocean on the other. On a clear day you can see the mighty but lesser volcanoes
of Bali and Sumbawa. It's cold though, and I'm nervous about Tuk, so after a quick
bit of photographer we make our way down, plunge stepping through the scree to reclaim
Tuk and then picking our back down to camp from the summit ridge.
||Tuk copes with a sketchy bit of "trail."
After lunch and a nap we descend from the rim into the crater and finally to the shores of the lake.
The trail here plunges down the caldera walls and it's amazing to watch our two porters fly down
wearing flip-flops but laden with our supplies suspended across their shoulders by a bamboo pole.
We make our way a bit more conservatively and in some places carefully pick our way across the crumbling
trail above large drop-offs.
Even so, the 600m (2,000ft) descent takes it's toll and our legs and knees develop and ominous ache.
|Gunung Baru, the "new" mountain shrouded in the morning mists.
The lake is like a scene from the cover of a fantasy novel, a sapphire blue surface split by
the "new" mountain, a cinder cone raised from the depths by recent eruptions.
We visit the famous hotsprings, but as it's the night of the full moon the area is packed
with local people come for the purported medicinal properties. Outside the tourist
centers Lombok has a conservative Muslim culture, and it isn't really comfortable for
us to bathe. We respectfully soak our feet and then make our way back to camp where Tuk
buys a just-caught fish for her dinner.
|The view back down to the lake
as we climb out of the crater.
Day three of our trek, and we need to climb back out of the crater. What where just mild aches yesterday are
today sharp pains in Tuk's knees. It's a hard day of trekking with occasionally
what might be called rock climbing if you could find any rock under the rain slicked clay.
From the rim it's another steep descent through open fields until we make our final night's camp
just inside the jungle. Tuk's knees have gone from bad to worse and she just barely limps into camp.
Our fourth and final day is supposed to be an easy three hours but Tuk's knees are wrecked and she
needs help to make even a small downward step. Tom cuts her a stick but even so it takes us nine
hours to negotiate the winding jungle trail down off the mountain and back into the gently sloping
It was a fun and interesting trip full of spectacular and varied scenery, but frankly I was
surprised at the difficulty. These treks aren't really marketed as "hard core" but our guide
said that only 1/2 to a 1/3 of people starting actually make it to the summit. Of the five or
so parties we met, two were bailing on their first day. Also, if you are planning a Rinjani
trek, go over the gear and supplies with your agency. Warm clothes and lights are essential
for night summit attempts and this is "local style" camping -- typical provisions include
bunches of pineapples and live chickens.
- 18 Jun 2000
- Rest and recovery in Senggigi.
- 19 Jun 2000
- Back to Gili Trawangan for some (scuba) gear shopping.
- 20 Jun 2000
- An email and writing day in Senggigi
- 21 Jun 2000
- 28 hour bus/ferry ride to Labuan Bajo in Flores.