Shoemans Trail

The quest for liberation

Category: Indonesia (page 1 of 2)

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…

Raja Ampat – One step closer to heaven

The islands are nothing but a natural beauty, a paradise in Papua, above and under the water! I often needed to look twice to check if it’s real; it’s just insane, so sick, incredible and beyond belief!

The spectacle was already starting when flying in from Jakarta to the capital of the Maluku island chain named Ambon, big cloud formations and the sun rose bringing light to the new day in almost all spectral colors. From Ambon the next flight took me over so many small islands, sometimes even just as big as a house, until the plane came down in Sorong the hub for the Raja Ampat islands. All further travels from this point – by boat. In Waisai I met Githa my local contact who put me forward for a nice homestay, that’s the cheapest option for accommodation over here if you don’t want to stay in a resort charging 200 euros a night. Githa also co owns Arborek Dive Shop together with her husband Marcel.
Round about a hundred people living in the community and it takes 20 minutes to walk around the island, which is about the size of 7 football fields and has everything basic you’re looking for: a well with salty water, not as salty as the sea though, lovely bucket shower – living in paradise with the least effort ever, so good…small shops to buy juice, candy or a beer, sunsets and sunrises right at the doorstep, friendly locals & lovely children jumping around asking for your name, enough shade to beat the midday sun, probably the best seafood ever, lovely beaches and an incredible coral reef, made for snorkeling (In an afternoon session I even saw 2 black tip reef sharks and a small marble ray beside the usual suspects and the wonderful coral) – I love it! As the Batak at Lake Toba, Sunday is a pretty important religious day for the community. No one works and half the island in best clothes, holding the songbook or the bible and going to church, singing accompanied by guitar.

This is how a sunset on the island feels…in time-lapse 😉

https://youtu.be/9DxvNnYGl_Y

 

From Arborek I went diving for 2 days with Marcel, felt sweet just going down with one buddy who’s also the guide. The first time we got in the water and it was just insane! Fish everywhere, visibility of 30 meters, coral gardens until get no, colorful as spring flowers so many different species of soft and hard coral living wherever they could fit, just one square meter had so much living organisms I saw in the Andaman’s within one dive! Unbelievable! Everything here is on big scale! We saw turtles, massive schools of different fish, black tip and white tips reef sharks, multiple manta rays getting cleaned in front of our eyes, the biggest one measuring 5 meters! Magnificent animals! Also eels, lion fish, stone fish, scorpion fish, frog fish, marble rays and dolphins. Fuck yeah it’s been a hell of a ride! I gathered the best clips and made a small movie, go check it out…

 

With Githa and our always smiling boatman Baba Saurab we went to Piaynemo the other day, another natural phenomenon of small rocks covered with plants surrounded by clear emerald blue waters – it’s one of those spots in catalogs and we went there early to beat the heat and the crowds, I could even squeeze in a meditation before the first people came up and inhale the place properly.

My spirit rose again, still can’t believe what I saw during those wonderful days – looking at the pictures makes the memories last but the feeling will stay in my heart…

Before I forget:

  1. The music in the videos is from a friend, check out his sound cloud page
    https://soundcloud.com/m-inc-to 
  2. The island I stayed has a website, go check it out
    http://arborek-rajaampat.com

And now go for the amazing pics!!!

Bukit Lawang – Welcome to the orang jungle

We’ve got fun and games! Guns N Roses – that was the soundtrack in my head after arriving here, sitting 10 hours in a car for 250 kilometers, I really wanted to rock out!

And I did, Saturday night was a big one! A pretty good live band played right at the place I stayed Indra Valley. Vivian a lady from Hungary checked in the 2nd room just in time for the party, we got on pretty well together and shared couple of beer and lots of stories & laughs while listening to the sweet sounds of the “The Valley Boys”.

I bumped into the two Dutch girls I shared a car with from Lake Toba the other day in town and we went to the bat cave together. I didn’t expect anything and was just stoked by the natural beauty, a big cave with awesome rock formations and actual bats living in there. It took us one hour to properly explore the whole system and crawl all over, of course without a guide, we brought a torch!

The main reason, all the tourist venture out here to the jungle is the orang-utans. Once created in the 70’s by a Swiss organisation, a rehabilitation center was used to train orang-utans which were held in captivity to survive again in nature. Also public feedings took place twice a day, so tourists could just visit the viewing platforms to see the apes, in the meantime this has stopped and you have to go on a trek to spot them.

Some quick facts about the big primates:

  • Currently only found in Indonesia (Sumatra and Borneo)
  • Live in trees
  • Up to 4 times stronger than humans
  • Among the most intelligent primates
  • Mainly eat fruits
  • Live over 30 years

You got to go with a guide as the ways of the jungle are pretty entangled. We went up and down, through valleys, over lots of roots, we slipped over rocks, hanging on jungle vines and crawled up holding on them, deep in the massive jungle of Gunung Leuser National Park, it feels wild, although we walk along worn out paths. On our trek we could spot multiple orang-utans it’s just amazing looking at them see how they move or chill in the wild. We also saw lots of leaf monkey’s, some snakes, giant ants, a turtle, fish, insects, butterflies, mosquito’s, cicadas, termites and other insects, big trees and massive entangled jungle vines. I came back to the village by rafting in a big tire – local style, so much fun!

Lovely jungle and I enjoyed every bit, the trek was strenuous with steep climbs and descents, the area around the valley just magnificent and exploding with life but somehow I feel more drawn towards the ocean now, times they are a changing!

Lake Toba – the warm volcanic chill

From Pulau Weh I flew back to Medan – lucky to spot perfect clouds that day, hopped on a car, taking me to Parapat, the eastern transport hub of Lake Toba. The ride was just a bit rough with a lot of traffic ahead and our driver constantly breaking and speeding, overtaking vehicles and turning the music up on his favorite songs, we made it in 4 hours though and in the end it wasn’t too bad.
The ferry for Samosir Island, takes 30 to 60 minutes, depending where one wants to get dropped off.
I’m going to a smaller island which sits in the largest crater lake on the planet, the caldera of a super volcano on the island of Sumatra, funny thought!

I found it quite intriguing when I read it, so I’m quoting Wikipedia this time:

Lake Toba is the site of a massive supervolcanic eruption estimated at VEI 8 that occurred 69,000 to 77,000 years ago, representing a climate-changing event. It is the largest known explosive eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years. According to the Toba catastrophe theory, it had global consequences for human populations: it killed most humans living at that time and is believed to have created a population bottleneck in central east Africa and India, which affects the genetic make up of the human world-wide population to the present.”
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Toba

Ok enough of the superlatives now 😉
As usual, volcanic areas after some time turn into beautiful nutritious landscapes, like New Zealand, or Hawaii. The same happened in Indonesia. When I arrived I instantly felt the good vibes even though it was beginning to rain.
2 km away from the main tourist drag a more quieter place called Mas cottages was my home for almost a week and I could really drop everything here, yes I had a bit of food poisoning – finally it got me, after all those month in India, but hey, not the worst place to hang around and chill. Staying directly at the water, overlooking the huge lake and the volcanic hills, I really needed to think back of sweet as Aotearoa, some similarities are obvious!

The water temperature is pleasant and screams for swimming, the cottages even have a rope swing 😉
During my extended balcony sessions I could see boats come and go, bringing tourists to mainland and back, locals fishing in traditional floats wearing typical hats, using an old technique and newer nets, birds fishing right next, insects flying all over and wrestling each other and the ants on the floor busy as usual.

The other days I went around with the scooter exploring the landscape and felt welcomed in Batak territory. A German missionary converted the local Batak people to Christianity and one can see many churches around, on Sunday everyone is dressed in their finest outfits when going to their place of worship. I couldn’t believe the eye! The traditional houses with the distinct high roof also jut out of the lush green landscape, some even feature beautiful decor. It’s a different world over here, compared to the rest of the Muslim dominated country and very interesting to read about the Batak, who once were among the most warlike in the country and gave up eating their enemies 200 years ago. They originated from – Thailand / Myanmar migrating to Indonesia and used the surrounding hills as a natural barrier and were isolated for centuries, if you wanna know more:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batak

Going up the mountain road offers rewarding lookouts over half the lake on clear days and I saw plenty of rice paddies with jungle backdrops. People follow village life, children sitting on water buffaloes, the mighty animals just don’t care, totally relaxed, no fence most of them just roam free, some on a leach but all so friendly – must be in the local water 😉

Properly re-energized I move on to meet more friends in the jungle…

 

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