Shoemans Trail

The quest for liberation

Category: Indonesia (page 1 of 2)

Amed – diving adventures

Going to Amed seems like an adventure, 2 hours on the scooter, and this in the midday heat, we were prepared, but didn’t eat much. The first half of the way is going direction Padangbai, I already knew the way so easy. We ate some cookies and had some nice drinks on the “highway”. Then short after Padangbai Google took us left and the roads got smaller and smaller, up hill in the lush jungle. And then, road works, the road just turned into a gravel road. Nope, we won’t go this way, not with a heavy loaded scooter and 2 people on it, so we went all the way back to the main road and took the longer way. Our butt already started to hurt at this point and Google said 53 minutes to go. Alright we can do it, we just took turns in driving as te back seat of the bike is less comfy. The landscape was beautiful, nice green rice fields and the way we went was also quiet adventurous, the river crossing over a small narrow bridge, no cars could fit, only scooters. After the rice terraces and winning our way down from the “most beautiful hills in the area”, we finally arrived in Amed.

A one street village, parallel the ocean, business is thriving, mainly diving, still bustling even in off-season. We went to Evolution divers, a French dive school, registered and checked for a place to stay. 3 Brothers directly with beach access and a nice big room with air con should do for some days. It was very hot and humid that night. Still felt like 35 degrees for me, even Maria was tired and felt the heat this day all the driving we did in the sun. Our bodies needed some rest.

The next day we went diving, 1st dive for Maria, 3rd in the season for me. She was a bit scared, of breathing, her ears, the ocean and so on. We had a chat with our instructor David from the States. He was very relaxed and just the best that could happen to us, he made diving very attractive for Maria. Even though he took her taxi most of the time as she was a bit frightened. It was him that made her feel confident, so confident she decided to do the open water certification, 2 more days of diving, yeah. I felt her with respect but also curious and also she said without me she wouldn’t be doing it. But also I made sure I didn’t push her into it. So we both agreed and weren’t for it!

We didn’t do much in Amed, well there is also not much to do except snorkelling, diving, swimming and relaxing. Maria was studying for the exam and passed with 94%! I was going with Serge another instructor and Dave an English diver, already in pension but very nice follow to talk and have a laugh with. We went for some deep dives, Drop off and the Liberty wreck again, same as the previous day, but this time more visibility, it was just marvellous. The first dive my regulator was broken, a bit of sea water I was inhaling, not nice but also not too serious, yes I could have switched to my octopus but I didn’t. It was the second day diving with Maria and David again, doing all the safety measures again, that should have been done in my refresher that made me realize it’s all about safety and feeling safe.
We had again some nice food at our favourite Warung Pantai, next to our new how for the last 2 nights Sunrise Cafe, ocean view and breakfast included.

Going back was a bit of a mission again, we left very early this time, just before 8 in the morning. And already quite hot. Maria not feeling very well, having a bit of a fever which already started in the night, still we wanted to go back to rest in Ubud in the new place. So we went the shortest way possible again with google, I was doing the driving with maps open in my phone and being guided by voice with earplugs in and something must have happened, we didn’t take took the same rout as going there but went to the mountains instead, the roads got smaller and the hills steeper, sometimes even so steep the small scooter had a hard time going up with both of us and the luggage on top. I was just thinking, please let ther be no road works we don’t want to go back all the way again. It was small villages and some rewarding lookouts we were granted instead of roadwork. So all good and we managed to head back to Ubud in three and a half hours including breaks.

So we closed this chapter with being close to the sea, dealing with some fears and rising above. Being aware is the beginning, understanding and accepting the harder part we all need to master in life.

On Monday we shot the video with Dirga, carving and talking about himself, he was very exited and a nervous when talking to the camera. We made it happen however. It’s interesting even a man like him, self assure, very spiritual, always reflected, knowing about the ancient Sanscrit language and is able to read and to understand, always having an answer to our deep questions regarding religion, God’s and everything, even him was very nervous in front of the camera. We are all one!

It got very hot the next day, I stayed home and rested a bit, maybe also the coffee I had in the morning was too strong, but I needed to stay out of the heat, jo matter what. Maria came back around lunch with dragon fruits, yummy. She used the time of this week to get into carving again, her plan was to take back home 3 masks, and it’s a huge process, I tried a bit on my own, you need to be skilled and patient, for her it’s also a bit like meditation, I respect that and I also felt she needed to be in her element together with her spiritual and guiding master.

I also went diving again, a German dive school in Padangbai, one hour drive away from Ubud. I went early in the morning, the Refresh started at 9 am with 2 dives. My guide Komang was very nice and made the reintroduction very smooth for me. Visibility was great, we saw lionfish, octopus, shrimp, sepia, giant makrel, Napoleon fish, big frogfish, moray and many more. A shark also, but well only the guide did see I was busy with checking the depth and then it was gone.

The driving to the other town made me more comfortable being on the local road, you can be a bit pushy and go past the cars with the small scooter, also being on your own makes you more agile. 1 hour however in dense traffic is tiring and also the diving takes some energy, so I had a fast and long sleep for 9 hours.

We went to Dirga instead and then for a random drive together, found a sweet spot for the sunset. In the evening we did some relaxation and our Peaky Blinders watching.

The next day we packed, Dirga came quite early, like 3 hours, to help us with the moving, as the current renties of the Dewi house, the Russians, came back. We found a similar but more close to the city spot with a beautiful view. We just packed, and had a nice picnic with Dirga around lunch time and we moved. Togetherness and friends being there helping that’s what’s important and that’s how we move on to our next adventure.

Bali – behind the mask

Maria was up early after our late night arrival into the nice countryside home we chose for 2and weeks and already took care of getting the motorbike so we can move around freely. I was still so tired and fell asleep again after she left. Very slowly I got up later, when Maria came back from town fully energetic to start the day.

We went to Dirga, the master wood carver Maria was learning from in the 2 years she stayed in Bali. We directly talked about the project arthouse Berlin. A summer school with mask carving, Balinese dance and a final presentation.

A lot to be organized, so first we went to a dance teacher, but he was not speaking any English so we decided to not go any further with him although he might had the skills. We found a very well known English speaking teacher not so old as the other and still in business. We have a very good feeling with him. He can also organize costumes for the students and musicians and instruments, perfect!

The next days we went to organize a location for the workshop and also accommodation for the students. We found a nice resort and they ask for a fair price to support the project. We also went to check prices for the tools we need, like axe, hammer, chisels and so on, the paint, brushes and finish. All are scattered across the area, little shops specializing in that so we went out and explored together with Dirga, always good to have a local with a plan.

After 4 days we also adopted to the local time, the jetlag was a bit annoying, especially Maria was effected, not being able to sleep at night. When moving east it’s harder for the body to adopt as you “loose” time. Generally per time zone you can calculate half a day to adopt for the body, with 7 hours ahead of Berlin time you can do the math.

We have a great time and tried not to push too hard. We went to the beach on the way to the tools and also to the pool in the afternoon for a swim, with being the only guests it felt nice. We went to relaxing places to eat with a beautiful view of a rice field and relaxed at night in our house with garden view and the beautiful sound of nature.

The one day however it was a bit too much for me, as we also need to move our house and we’re searching for another one, going from place to place and the mid day heat is heavy here I suffered bit. I was also exposed to the sun too long I think.

On the weekend we went to Made Cat and filmed his dancing skills, pretty amazing and it all looks so easy and seamless. We med an Indian American lady that is studying music and dance here in Bali at his house, she was dancing then as well, you could really see the difference, although she is studying since some time already. Maria shared her process with her, which was an eye opener, for both.

Sunday we took our time off and visited a nice little waterfall some 30 min away from Ubud, lots off locals, not many foreigners, we had an amazing and refreshing swim and finished our first week like this, being around waterfalls always makes my spirits rise, might be the positive neutrons or just water being my element, who knows, main thing is to be happy and to spread the happiness around.

Ubud – Art capital and temple area

The last days I spent in Bali, but not south, this time I went further north to Ubud, the art capital of the island, a lot of painters, sculptors, wood carver and artists live close by. The whole area is surrounded by rice fields and a lot of temples can be seen. I went to the most important ones and was templed out after a long day, it was a bit touristy but not as bad as the Uluwatu temple

First I went to Tirta Empul  with it’s hot springs and dating back some 1000 years. It was too crowded with tourists but a perfect start, the next temple I visited is called Gunung Kawi, the Poet Mountain Temple, some pretty good rock carvings can be seen plus an older temple completely carved out of the rock – quite impressive! The Goa Gajah elephant cave is carved in the rock too with a nicely lit lingam and a Ganesh Statue inside. But the quietest, slightly off the beaten path was Pura Kehen with its big 11-tiered meru towering the inner courtyard.  Chapeau for all the rock carvings in the area, of course a legend tells the story that most of it has been carved out by a supernatural being called Kebo Iwa within one night…

The best experience I had at a smaller non touristy temple 2 minutes from the resort I stayed. I first discovered the place in the evening when a group of musicians was rehearsing special Balinese temple style – I never heard before, check this out: http://youtu.be/0IglFlEUc7E   The main ceremony was on the day of my departure and I managed to attend for 2 hours, men in white wearing sarong to cover the knees, a sash around their waist and a typical white hat. Women were wearing colorful dresses and carrying donations – mostly on the head – each of them very beautiful. Children accompanying their parents, behaving, everyone showing grace.  Priceless !

I also checked out the local chocolate factory Big Tree Farms, all organic with coconut sugar, no milk and a perfect tour with tastings from raw cacao beans to the final product. the tour was very informing and changed my view of chocolate!

I really liked the slow pace and restfulness of Ubud and its citizens, going around in the country side with loads of temples and rice paddies is so relaxing on its own. The only stress I had in traffic – an hour before sunset, when everyone wants to go home and the roads are jammed for 2 hours.

It’s been a sweet ride the last months I look back half sad and with pure joy, but more looking forward to returning home, meeting all my family and friends, eating the good cheese and breathing the slightly cooler air of Germany again. Indonesia you’ve been a blast!

Labuan Bajo – Last days in paradise

For my last days in paradise I didn’t plan anything I relaxed totally not doing much, just some hours exploring the area with a bike every other day or swimming. From my sweet home I had a pretty good view over the bay of Labuan Bajo, the gateway to Komodo National Park. Life could be worse…
Lots of tourists walk the main street but as soon as you get further away it gets quieter and the typical Indonesian hospitality takes over again 😉
The peninsula is the most beautiful spot around town I could find, the locals also know that and I had a couple of chats and photo sessions 😉

Komodo – Dragon tales

I went for a daytrip to Rinca island to see the Komodo dragons, I also wanted to see the flying bats in the evening and as this is not a typical tourist program I ended up chartering a boat for a day- felt good to be in control of the trip and not depending on the tour operator!
The biggest lizards on earth belong actually to the monitor lizard family and without any natural enemies on the islands in and around the national park they could get that big, as usual in the theory of island gigantism, the largest male measured 3 meters and weighting 70 kg!
The animals are only active during the cooler hours of the day, the other time they lay around pretty lazy, so it’s hard to track them down in the wild after say 10 o’clock, that’s why I only got to see them near the ranger station.
The snorkelling at Tempe island was nice, of course I’ve already seen the marine life during diving but considering it a normal snorkel session without prior experience, it was pretty sweet! The best was the beach walk though, especially along the rocks. Some goats are also living on the island and they were checking me out as I was dancing on a rock when the sun reappeared behind the clouds and kicked the rain away.
The best moment of the day was just after sunset when hundreds of thousands of flying fruit bats return to their sleeping place on Flores and leave Kalor island one after the other, a lovely spectacle. I was climbing on the roof of the boat, laying down and gazing at the sky as batmen were flying right above, whhooohooo!
On our way back I was playing with the light over the waters and plenty of fish jumping looking for the light and trying to catch it.

Komodo Nation Park is just a lovely piece of land, so many thing to do and see, I loved every bit!

Komodo – World-class Wicked Diving

I always wanted to go to Komodo to see the dragons and since I’m addicted to diving now, the area is even more interesting as the tropical waters host some of the world’s best dive sites. The Pacific to the north and the Indian ocean to the south are actually at different heights, so the flow of currents from the Pacific to the Indian during tidal exchanges makes the currents among the strongest in the world and creates a rich marine diversity!
Staying on a Live aboard within the boundaries of the national park makes more sense as it’s a day trip for the best spots from main Flores.
Wicked Diving has the perfect budget option and offers great service, safety and knowledge for the money, no I don’t get paid commission but I really liked my stay on the boat called CB, it was the good people and the sweet energy they spread. So cheers Marcus, Connie, Mike, Katie, Becky, Rod, Sarah, Marcel and all the others that made the time unforgettable!

The second site we dove the first day is called “Makassar” or “Manta Point” and that is exactly what we saw, so many manta rays gently floating in the currents that we lost count, maybe it’s been 40 to give you an idea. The currents although at medium strength – for me full on ;).  At one spot we just hold on to the rocks and watched the spectacle, unbelievable! The giants came so close and circled just some centimeters above my head, so impressive!

The most spectacular dive site the next day: Castle Rock!
After fighting again with the strong currents and hanging on to rocks we got to see an incredible amount of white tip reef sharks swimming past and getting cleaned, maybe it was 30. Also big schools of fishes were playing with the current.

Another great spectacle out of this world was diving at “Batu Bolong” or “The Fish Bowl”.  A rock in the middle of the ocean, strong downward currents on each side – this is what the fish cherish!  And already when entering the water I couldn’t believe what’s going on down there. Such a high concentration of fish, sometimes it was hard to spot the big fellows due to the massive amount of small ones swimming all over! Again we saw white tip sharks, sea turtles, colorful hard and soft coral and a lot of shit while zig zagging our way up. Such a great way to start the day!
When finishing the dive my eyes were wide open with a big smile on my face!

The other dives were also great with awesome hard and soft coral, turtles en masse, moray eels, unicorn fish, pygmy seahorse, frogfish, stingray’s, sea slugs, nudibranchs, sweetlips, napoleon wrasse, scorpions fish, puffer fish and the typical reef suspects – simply an unbelievable amount of marine creatures,  such a colorful world down in the Komodo waters. In the evening a dugong mother with his child was even swimming in the bay where the CB is anchored!
Together with Raja Ampat I had the time of my life diving in Indonesia, best diving ever, simply WORLDCLASS!

Don’t worry there will be a video, I just hadn’t had the time yet, so stay tuned, there is going to be an update to this page soon!

Bajawa & Ruteng – The Flores highlands

Perched high up in the mountains above 1000 meters, Bajawa is the Ngada trading outpost, the climate is rather chilly and it’s a welcoming change to the hot & humid lowlands. The little town is framed by forested volcanos, the biggest being Mt. Inerie at 2245 meters. Traditional villages, home to the Ngada people, are just close by and make for a good daytrip. So I went out exploring the area with a scooter.
On a small road close to Gunung Inerie I drove past small villages, was greeted by the friendly locals and school kids gathered round my bike when I made a break, begging for pictures.
Later I arrived at the traditional villages Luba and Bena, with characteristic huts, a distinct layout and friendly villagers. Normal village life can be seen, women’s weaving the Ikat and livestock is being held in the back of the huts. At the northern end of the village I discovered a brilliant lookout next to a small chapel and paid respect to the place for some time.
Further along the Malanage hot springs, hot volcanic waters mixes with the cold in a river, by carefully choosing a spot I sat and laid in the river enjoying the warmth, it smelled a bit sulphuric though.

Some hours along the curvy mountain road Ruteng, a market town – even less touristy than Bajawa, is situated at the base of a forested mountain range, actually a cloud forest with rain every afternoon. I didn’t walk the streets alone for a long time, young locals approached and asked if they can accompanying me and practise their English. I got to meet 5 different youngsters within 1 hour all asking the same questions 😉
Again the scooter is the best way to explore the area of rice fields, caves and traditional villages.
The cave in Liang Bua literally meaning cool cave is pretty huge but not very deep and stalactites in different sizes and shapes hanging from the ceiling. The remains of the Flores Hobbit have been found here in 2003. Further reads: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_floresiensis .
All around the city rice fields are cut in the mountain slopes, some even in the shape of a spider web.
The traditional village of Todo is a 90 min ride away from town through beautiful green and hilly landscape, the last bit of the road was a rough ride as pieces of the road were missing. The iconic cone shaped houses used to be the kings residence overlooking the ocean at 750 meters above sea level. 4 traditional houses are left and have been renovated not too long ago, but the whole place is pretty commercialized, they ask for 50.000 rupiahs to see the village and try to sell you more clothes, you get the 20 min “tour” with one of the village elderly, speaking Basic English and that’s it, I was a bit disappointed.

All in all the highlands gave me the right energy I needed for the rest of the trip, I enjoyed the cool climate and the friendly people, looking forward to the next encounters…

Mt. Kelimutu and around – Volcano diaries

The island of Flores is boasting with volcanic peaks and the main attraction being Kelimutu with its 3 crater lakes that change color during the day and due to its mineral composition even during the years, blue, grey, red, black, you name it.

Moni, a small village at the gates of the national park is the place where all tourists linger, basically it’s a street with houses to the left and right stretching along for half a kilometre, beautiful perched in the mountains and surrounded by rice fields. I found a room with a pretty sweet lookout and decided to relax for a couple of days, enjoying the different light throughout the day in the rice fields and surrounding hills, gazing at village life and the football and volleyball games in the afternoon. A concrete canal is being built and school finishes round midday. Everyone is greeting and the children are asking for pens and books – it’s not a good advice to give it away as long as you don’t give every kid something! Otherwise all are jealous of the one who has the valuables.
Krysia from Georgia moved in the room next to me and we got along pretty well from the first time we met, both being travellers we had enough stories and spirituality to share. Together we went up the volcano the next morning to check out the sunrise.

We drove up the mountain in complete darkness, my first night ride, I loved going up the bends. From the carpark it was an easy 30 minute walk to the top called Inspiration Point. Once reached the sky got light up and the sun was about to rise soon, we could just guess where all the lakes were, the greyish one we saw right in front and we could also smell the sulphur being emitted. Some orange light fell through the clouds for seconds before they completely took the place, totally misty and mysterious a great spectacle in the morning.
At exactly seven minutes to seven all of a sudden the misty clouds vanished clearing the view to the surrounding valleys, in the distant some peaks above a layer of white clouds were now visible and also all of the 3 lakes, one completely forested and in a dark blackish color, the main greyinsh one we saw before now was more of a blue lit by the sun beams and just next door the 3rd lakealso is some shade of black was visible.  We went to some more lookouts as the sulphuric air really made us cough and our throat became sore, it smelled like new year’s though and the Thai new year was just about to end that day, what a coincidence! Or was it meant to? 😉 The people from Flores belief the spirits of the dead decent in the lakes, which spirits goes where is not clear though.

Going down we properly saw where we were, the national park is lush green with multiple fern and even fern trees, just like in New Zealand! The smell though reminded me of the woods back home in the Dresden area! Magnificent, I inhaled completely!
Slowly we went down the curvy road and straight jumped in a natural hot spring for relaxation, the best hot spring I’ve been so far, right in the middle of a rice paddy and all natural with the best temperature ever! The perfect thing to end the gorgeous morning!

The other day I went along the street to explore the area, rode up and down the hills, through small villages and past lookouts of lush green rice paddies and volcanic peaks in the clouds. A lot of tall bamboo plants on the way as well as construction sites. The area is prone to landslides and the workers clear the debris to allow the constant flow of traffic on the islands main road.

I left on a Monday, which is market day, I was so reminded of India, strolling across the busy place early in the morning, locals from the surrounding villages came to sell their goods or to make a bargain, it felt so authentic to stroll along although some villagers hadn’t had their smiley face put on.

Flores is a beauty to the eye and this was just the start, more volcanoes will guide my way…

Southern Bali – the Australian Mallorca

I heard and read some stories about Bali before even getting there, those stories lowered my expectations. And it is really touristy especially in cities near the airport. The beach is crowded and surfer wannabes ride the waves. I met a lot of Australians and there are plenty of restaurants, bars, t-shirt vendors, hotels, hostels and home stays.
On the narrow streets of Kuta every 100 meter you get offered a massage – of course not for free… Or people shout “Yes!” to look at the shop or change some money, or “Scooter?” followed with a gesture of the right hand that cranks up the gas handle. Everyone rides a scooter here and that’s the only way to get out of the mess for cheap.

So I rented a two wheeler for half a day and went south to Uluwatu an ancient place of worship. But first I needed to find a way out of the maze of narrow one way streets and heavy traffic in the heart of touristy town, damn! Some 20 minutes later I rode the two lane highway south, past the airport, where a plane just flew right above my head. The rest of the way was easy to find, up on the hills passing buses and vans on the narrow road. Once I arrived I understood, this place isn’t used for worshiping anymore, well to be fair the small temple compound inside still might be. Lord Ganesha acts as the bouncer at the door but a more effective mechanism are the locked gates 🙂
The beautiful compound is restless filled with hordes of tourists, busloads of them – I never saw that many westerners at a holy site in India…
The place is still spectacular as the temple sits right above the mighty cliffs overlooking the ocean and big waves roam in, crushing ashore – a magnificent view and sound. Wandering a couple hundred meters south, high above the ocean floor and out of the compound I escape the hordes and inhale the place properly.

Hinduism in Bali is different to India, when the religion swept to the island the new influences were simply overlaid on existing practices. Temples can be found in every tiny village – they look different to the Indian counterparts, what mostly catches the eye is the significant gate.
The gods might be the same but the way they are honored differs from India, incense sticks are burned and offerings brought every morning and placed on the ground to placate the bad spirits. The people believe that spirits are everywhere, the good in the mountains, giants and demons lurk beneath the sea and bad spirits haunt the woods or empty beaches. So the Balinese live either in the cities or up in the hills, leaving the beach to the tourists 🙂

It was a short intermezzo but just about right. I’m happy to leave, seeking for a tranquil place further east…

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