Shoemans Trail

The quest for liberation

Tag: Ocean (page 1 of 3)

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.

Cape Sunion – Poseidons residence

On our last adventure on mainland we went for a day trip to the temple of Poseidon at cape Sunion a 90 min drive out of Athens.

It is said that the ancient Greek build the Parthenon (the big temple of the Acropolis in Athens) the Aphaea temple on Aegina and the one here on purpose, if you connect the 3 dots on the map you get a isosceles triangle (two sides are equal in length), the so called sacred triangle of Greece.

The temple stands pretty picturesque next to the sea and is a perfect spot for sunsets.

For more information about the cape and the temple: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sounion

And this is already the end of our adventures to the ancient world, we enjoyed it a lot, the friendliness of the people, the good food, although heavy on meat and cheese but the fruits and vegetables so tasty, yumm! Definitely we have to come again, so many more adventures are waiting for us, so many islands to explore and so much more delicious fruits and olives to enjoy 😉

Olympia & the Ionian Sea – Home of the Olympic Games 8.2.17

Casing the sun we travelled to the western Peloponnese to see Ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games. Lots of old stones but not that many intact structures and the old cinder track can be visited. The whole area is on flat ground and beautiful old trees flank the even older remains of the once so beautiful town. Birds twitter and the air smells like spring, warm and full of sunlight.

A short trip to the Ionian see and the empty beach was the 2nd highlight of the day, best light ever, just one hour before the sun went down, pretty picturesque!

To learn more about ancient Olympia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olympia,_Greece

Corinthos, Mycenae & Nafplio – The Eastern Peloponnes

Again we were chasing the sun so after a short visit of the Acrocorinthos a not so ancient fortress and quite big, the next stop we made in ancient Mycenae. Heinrich Schliemann discovered the remains of the old Mycenae culture here in 1886 and started the excavations. The ruins are pretty old and ruined to the ground, just the impressive entrance gate and the tombs have been restored to get a glimpse of its past beauty.

More information on Mycenae: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mycenae

And we did see the sun came out when we arrived in Nafplio, a pretty sweet old city and great fortresses can be visited, as they are already closing at 15h in wintertime we just had a stroll through town, half of the businesses and hotels are closed, definitely the touristy season we’re travelling…

Still we had a good time and a lovely chat with a t-shirt printer and a bartender 😉

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!

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…

Legazpi – home of a perfect volcano

Mt. Mayon looking over Legazpi, wherever you are, you’ll spot the perfect cone shaped stratovolcano. Measuring 2.462 meters in height and being super active with the last eruption just 3 years ago Mayon is a buddy to count on. More info https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayon_Volcano

I went all around with a motorbike, the so called Mayon 360°, roughly 80 km. It can easily be done in half a day with stopping at some scenic spots in between, all offering great views of the mighty mountain that killed 5 trekkers on their way to conquer the summit during the last eruption. Since that tragedy climbs are prohibited. Looking at the perfectly shaped mountain from its base, offers better view anyhow…
I stopped at the Cagsawa Ruins, a former town that was destroyed by the volcano in 1814 killing more than 2000 people and Daraga church, the place where all remaining people moved after the deadly eruption.
Riding on the highway was a bit of a mission as cars, van, trucks, tricycles and people share one lane and the highway is busy as, going all the way north to Manila, the capital city. Dust, dirt and exhaust fumes were 50 % of my air consumption 😉 After I followed the signs for Tabaco City I rode in peace leaving the busy highway behind. The road went uphill in a wide open valley, always the symmetrical Mt. Mayon to the right and Mt. Masaraga to the left, an extinct stratovolcano. The clouds were moving in just in the left of the valley and the wind was pushing through, taking care of the chill. I could even smell the rain but didn’t feel it. Tabaco city itself is not a place to hang around for long; the name is still from the former Spanish era where the area was used to grow tobacco. Humidity levels and temperatures rose again when I went the last leg along the cost.
Finally I have to admit the almighty mountain really had the same shape all around, just the texture and color changed when riding it 360!

The city itself has a small beach boulevard with restaurants and again nice volcano views including the sleeping lion hill, named because of its shape, after a couple of beers one could maybe see the lion in the mountain I didn’t 🙂

Views from the tallest peak within the city limits Lignon hill are spectacular as well. But the most scenic spot I found was the Quitinday Green Hills, a bit out of town, small green hills most of the same shape and a lot of them next to each other. The place that offers the climb is very cautious about conservation. Steps just hewn in the soil, no wood or rock was used, bamboo rails, small bamboo huts with palm leaf roofs! And the way to get there, also a little adventure on its own, the concrete road is getting smaller and smaller until a rough dirt road takes you the last kilometers.

Ecologically green and fantastic, if all the touristy locations would be like that more people would get the idea!

Donsol – Swimming with Whale Sharks

A small rural beach town on the main island of Luzon is in the tourist focus from December to May each year, that’s when the whale sharks migrate through the area. There is also another town in the Philippines advertising whale shark tourism but there the animals are fed and they stopped migrating and just stay in the area, plus they’re not properly treated with too many people swimming around them and boat numbers are not limited, this should not be supported!
In Donsol it happens a more ecological way. A so called Butanding (Filipino word for whale shark) Interaction Officer, a BIO, is assigned to each boat, advising the people and watching that the animals are treated the right way (no touching, no feeding, no underwater flash, max 5 min interaction, one boat at a time,…). The big fish still get a bit distracted and sometimes hurt when multiple boats with tourists venture out every morning, wanting to see the gigantic fish and chasing it, the back fin can get hurt by the boats propeller as the whale shark swims close to the surface to feed or the fish just gets distracted while feeding with some humans swimming close by. That’s why the tours just happen in the morning from 7 to 11. One must decide for his own good if this can be supported. The whale sharks come around this particular area every year though and haven’t chosen another spot that looks as they still like it here and are treated not that bad.

So early in the morning I got in the boat with 5 other guys, hardly 10 min later in the open water Jerry our BIO told us to wear the fins, snorkel and mask and sit on the side of the boat, ready to jump. 2 min later we were all kicking with our fins, following Jerry, heads down in the murky water and yes there he was, the first whale shark, massive in size I could not see the complete fish at once as the visibility wasn’t that great but it was a magical moment swimming along the giant which just dove down after a couple of seconds.
Having a white belly the rest being grey, the skin marked with pale yellow spots and striped, individual to each – it just looks friendly. The largest fish on the planet can grow up to a size of a bus! In Donsol they range between 5 and 10 meter. More info’s on the worlds largest fish: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whale_shark

The second time we were more lucky swimming a minute next to it and getting quite close. We cruised around the area for about 3 hours and got to jump in the water a couple of times, sometimes we missed the giants as they dove down, sometimes we saw them so close almost able to touch and there was that moment where we got into the water as we saw another group already swimming with the fish for some time. We could trace the route of the whale shark got in some 20 meters ahead and all of a sudden the only thing I saw was the fish swimming straight at me with its big mouth wide open – uaahhhh!
They use the area as feeding ground and mainly feed on plankton and grill just opening their mouth and swimming. I knew that fact but still in this particular moment I was a bit scared and swam aside as fast as I could seeing the mighty fish slowly swimming past.
The last one we saw didn’t swim that fast so I could keep up with him and let me fall back, filming the tail, a couple of kicks later I would be back at his mouth investigating the cleaner fish around and checking his teeth and eyes, magnificent, swimming a couple of minutes next to the biggest fish on earth and also the biggest one we saw today, maybe 10 meters in length – just an unforgettable experience!

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