Sunday, 30 August 2015

A Yacht of Love

Day 44- After another series of taxi and boat transfers we arrived on Gili Trawangan. This was our second visit to the island and it still had the cool vibes we'd enjoyed so much on our honeymoon. We checked into a hostel on the north west side of the island called Gili Klapa. The layout of the hostel is like nothing we've ever experienced and we literally had around 50 roomates in the dorm. The dorm room took over the entire second floor and only curtains seperated the rooms into sections of four. We also had a few mice join us on our second night and they made the cutest squeaks at night. Our first day there we did our research and found a great blog (which I can no longer seem to find) that recommended affordable restaurants on the island.  We had some business to take care of while on the island so we spent the next few days making arrangements and plans for the arrival of our buddies, Kassie and Chudi. 


Day 45/46/47/48- We also took this opportunity to recover from Rinjani, chill out and live as cheaply as possible. We tried every restaurant from the blog and every single one was an ace! I wish I could share the blog but as I cannot find it I will at least share the names of the restaurants for others.

Green Beans: They make an amazing bangers and mash! 

The Roast House: Delicious roast chicken with fries and gravy! Super affordable. Large portions

Kayu Cafe: Great breakfast and lunch menu, the red quinoa salad is very tasty.

Regina Pizzeria: Best pizza on the island by far. Run by an italian chef, the pizza's are hearty and great for sharing. 

Le Petit Gili: Open 24 hours, they serve delicious burgers and fries.

Thank You Bar and Resto: If their wifi password (cheapest food) doesn't give it away, the menu will. They really do have the cheapest food and great wifi.

The Night Market: Came here twice for dinner and ate at the first booth on the right side near the entrance from the main strip. Tried the tuna and beef skewers! Soooooo good! Also went to the nutella cake cart next to this table 4 times. Yes, 4 times and had their nutella banana peanut pancake. My favorite!!


In between all of our food research and excursions, we spent a lot of time hanging around the pool and beach.

One night while on our way to dinner we heard the tinniest little meow. When we looked at our feet a hangard little kitten walked over to us looking for help. We picked it up off the main road then heard more meows. We found 4 new kittens sitting in a pile of garbage on the side of the road. The mother was no where to be found and it looked as though they were hungry and two of them were hurt. We made it our duty to find a safe place for them. We found a cat shelter on the island run by a woman who owns a hotel. She agreed to take them and find them a home. We were so relieved to be able to help, we couldn't live with ourselves if we had to just leave them there.

Day 49- Wooohooo Kassie and Chudi finally arrived. It was a crazy feeling to actually have them with us after talking about this trip with them for so long. 

They checked into our hostel for one night before moving on to bigger and better accomodations, for the rest of their stay. You can't come to Bali and not stay at a villa at least once in your life!  We had booked a boat trip for the next day, so we enjoyed our first night with our buddies and introduced them to the chaos of the Gili T night market.

They LOVED the nutella pancakes as much as I did so we made sure to eat as many of them as we could!

We finished the night off with a movie on the beach preparing ourselves for a busy next day.

Day 50- We took a fast boat from Gili Trawangan to Lombok where we had a car waiting to drive us  for 2 hours over to Gili Gede, the Southern Gili islands. These islands are much more secluded than the Northern gilis. Other than knowing we were going on a "boat" trip, Chudi and Kassie knew very little about what we had planned for the day .... or did they?  We got in a small boat, which drove us over to our beautiful 55 foot private Yacht named Basilea. We immediately settled in at the bow of the boat with drinks in hand and music blasting out of the speakers. 

Our captain took us to a snorkelling spot where Mike compared the colors and brilliance of the coral to that of the Great Barrier Reef. It was spectacular.

It was time for lunch, which Mike and I also kept secret. We had prepared a little spread of deli meats and cheeses (very VERY hard to find on an island by the way) and we got to pretend for a couple of hours that we were not just budget travellers sleeping with mice but that we were world explorers showered in extravagance... we made sure to leave the boxed wine out of the photos! haha

The wind picked up and the sails were lifted to bring us to a deserted island. Once the deserted island was in sight, we all took some photos jumping into the ocean. For those who know Chudi...he is not the best swimmer, not to say that he can't swim but he can be fearful sometimes around large bodies of water. So he took photos of us for the first two jumps. 

When we climbed back on the boat Chudi decided he wanted to jump with Kassie but he was putting off an energy that suggested he was scared to do it. This time Mike and I stood by to take the photo. After they jumped in, Chudi seemed to be "struggling" and asked Kassie to hold something while he brought himself up the ladder. It was obvious that she was concerned for his well being. As Chudi got himself up the final step of the ladder, he positioned himself on one knee. Then Mike and I were blessed to witness Mike's friend and sidekick of 15 years, who has also become one of the most important men in my life, who I have also known since junior high, propose to my beautiful friend and former swim suit slanger of 12 years. It was by far one of the most magical moments I have ever been a part of and it meant so much to Mike and I to be able to participate in such a life changing event. 


Oh and I know my jewellery store friends have all stopped paying attention to anything I've written past the part of Chudi asking Kassie to "hold something" as he got himself out of the giant vast blue ocean that he had just jumped into...... yes, you've assumed correctly, Chudi had the ring in his pocket while he jumped!!!! It's funny because before he jumped in, he gave me the signal that it was about to happen and I turned to Mike and said "he better not have the ring in his pocket!" All is good in the diamond world folks, the Hearts On Fire box is a bit tattered but it did it's job to protect her ring until it made it safely to her finger, where it belongs.

The journey home didn't seem as long on the way back and we made it back at a decent hour. We went to Pizzeria Regina for some of the islands best pizza as well as some celebratory drinks. It was nice to finally have the cat out of the bag and be able to talk about Chudi and Kassie's future as husband and wife. Also, although we made it look like the whole day was planned by Mike and I, that was just another ploy to throw Kassie off the scent. The yacht, the food, the drinks and the location can all be credited to Chudi's genius and smooth romantic ways. They don't call him Smooth C for nothin. 

Day 51- We had a lazy day enjoying the luxury of Kassie and Chudi's villa. The boys bought snacks and drinks and we chilled pool side. The afternoon was spent playing games and listening to Chudi's playlist. 

Before dinner we split up and Kassie and I went to get our nails painted. Mike and I have a saying, when you're in Asia you never know what you're going to get. This seems to hold true to many of our endevors and it was no different when getting our nails done. The price listed said that a manicure and pedicure were around $8 Canadian. Then we chose our nail polish and when it was all over, we paid approximately $22 bucks each. Turns out the original price doesn't inlcude nail polish but it didnt't matter, Kassie's nails needed to match her beautiful new ring. 


After dinner we went to the beer pong spot on the main strip. Mike and Chudi have demonstrated their beer pong skills before in Asia and became champs in Loas. We are still surprised that people aren't stopping them in the streets to get their autographs, even when they continuously find reasons to dunk ping pong balls everywhere we go. Their celebrity aside, they were off their game and we lost our four person challenge against a group of dutch travellers. Hopefully no one saw this defeat, we wouldn't want it to sour the names of the great beer pong champs of Asia. 


Day 52- We took our bikes to the north end of Gili to do some snorkelling. As you can see below, Chudi is a great bike rider and Kassie is really good at multi-tasking, especially while taking pictures as she rides. Oh wait... no she's not. She managed to hit the one large rock in the road. I heard her scream and turned around to see her flip over the handle bars of her bike. Poor little Kassie cut herself open and bruised herself badly. We had to go home to bandage her up before we could return to our original plan of snorkelling.




We made it to the beach after our second attempt and rented some snorkel gear. Kassie gracefully got herself into the water to explore the underwater world. The coral was not as brilliant as the southern gilis but the fish were plentiful and colorful. 

Kassie really wanted to see some turtles but we were not lucky enough to find any in the ocean. So, we made sure to stop by the Turtle Conservation center and show her all of the baby sea turtles being cared for, preparing them to be released into the wild.


We took a little too much time getting ourselves from point A to point B and we realized that we were running out of time to catch the sunset at sunset beach, which Gili Trawangan is famous for. We hustled our way through the busy street on our bikes to the southern part of the island. We made it there at the last possible second and ran to the beach to capture some sunset photos. 

After, we sat by the ocean for or last delicious meal on Gili Trawangan. 

Now off to Thailand for some sun, sand, neon paint and outdoor activities. 



Thursday, 20 August 2015

Keep Your Spirit

We arrived in Canggu for one more night before making our way over to the island of Lombok. We had to complete the last step of our passport extension, eat some more good food, then arrange for transport to the next island. All of the above was completed... and then we ate some more Canggu food... did I mention the food in Canggu was good?

Day 41- Another crazy day of travel to get from Canggu to Lombok. We took a 2 hour taxi to the harbour where we caught a 1.5 hour fast boat to Lombok. On the boat ride over we were lucky enough to sit up top and enjoy the sea breeze and sun rays. We met some new friends on the boat who shared our goal of climbing Mount Rinjani. They informed us that the town of Senaru is the best place to book and begin the trek. So, we combined forces and our rupiah to take a taxi to Senaru. We had nothing booked for the next few days and our only goal was to find a way up Mount Rinjani. With our new backpacking Belgian buds, we bargained with a bevy of different trekking companies to find the one with the best value. We settled on Lenk Trekking to take us up the mountain for two nights and three days, for $140 bucks each. (Crazy to see how little money the people live off of)

We were set for takeoff. When Mike and I climbed Mount Baldy in Canada, he had experienced significant pain in his left knee, unfortunately, when we summited Mount Merapi in Jogja, the pain in his knee was still present and much worse. We had heard the overnight summit portion of the climb, consisted of scree. This was the same as Mount Merapi and proved to be particularly difficult on Mike's knee. Therefore, we knew we wouldn't try to summit Rinjani.

Day 42-  Mount Rinjani is the second highest mountain in Indonesia and sits at 3,726 meters. We met the rest of our group before taking a flatbed truck up to our starting point. Climbing Rinjani with Mike and I, was; our Belgian friends Elena and Jasper, first time British hikers India and Suzy and a girl from Singapore named Jasmine. Here we are in the first hour of our climb. 

This was a very tough trip. The terrain wasn't as difficult as Merapi but the amount that we were hiking each day was insane. To start, we did 7.5 hours of climbing and made it to the top of the crater rim by 5 pm. We stopped a few times for snacks and lunch but otherwise it was a straight shot. Along the way, if we showed any sign of exhaustion, the porters would say "keep your spirit", these words were just the little boost I would need to keep me moving. 

The hike up to the crater rim was quite steep for the last 3 hours and when combining this with the incredable heat and insufficient provisions of water from our company, it was exhausting. When we finally arrived we were so happy and relieved to be "there"!

In this photo you can see the summit behind us. By the time we got to the rim Mike was in a lot of pain with his knee. We had made the right decision not to hike to the summit. Getting to the top of the mountain would be an additional 4 hour hike on scree, which our guide described as 2 steps forward, 1 step back. Sliding on the scree was inevitable. Also, it being a night summit, it would mean almost no sleep for our companions. Our guide had such a tough time getting to the crater rim that he got one of the other porters to take the rest of our crew to the summit. 

As the sun set, I got the view I was hoping for. The caldera at the top of the mountain is filled with a lake, approximately 200 meters deep. We were also able to enjoy the luxury of a pee tent on this excursion. This was a new experience for us, however appears to be designed for travellers less vertically inclined, as Mike demonstrates below... It covered the important parts, that's all that matters.


While we climbed the mountain it was impossible not to notice the garbage that blanketed the beautiful  landscape. It truly took away from our experience and the experience of the multiple other climbers on the mountain. The mountain is completely covered in filth and unfortunately, it is not left by the tourists. Most of it is tossed aside by the guides and porters. It was so bad that our group discussed starting a petition to encourage tourists to refuse climbing Rinjani until the government pays to clean it up as well as educates the locals on the importance of proper garbage disposal. I am still seriously considering it. Very sad that such an incredible place in the world will eventually, if not already, succomb to the effects of human waste. 

As the lights went out, the tents lit up the night. It was very cold, so most people were huddled inside their tents to avoid the intense gusts of wind. 

We were frozen and starving until our lovely guide brought our food to us. It was so nice to be able to eat a hot meal out of the wind. It is crazy how little the porters have for themselves while they climb the mountain. I felt guilty sleeping in my tent with a sleeping bag, while our 8 porters and guide all slept together under tarp and blankets, completely exposed to the elements. For both of our nights on the mountain, the wind was intense and we would be blanketed with dust by the time the sun came up in the morning, making it difficult to breath. I can't imagine how uncomfortable our porters must have been. Below is a picture of them cooking dinner under their tarp.  

Day 43- I woke up early the next morning to catch the beautiful sunrise and await the return of our four members that attempted the summit.  They started their climb to the summit at 2 am. We knew how they would be feeling by the time they descended, so we had "we are the champions" ready to play on our speakers as they trickled into camp. They were thankful for the warm welcome and were absolutely exhausted. So much so that they all sat on the ground while we helped remove their shoes and clean the dust off of their faces. It is a huge accomplishment to reach any summit, especially when it is as hard as this. They all agreed that it was the hardest thing they've ever done. After a short rest and a hearty breakfast, we continued to the lake and hot springs to wash and clean our dirty bodies. We had another hard day of hiking, it would be another 7 hours of hiking before we'd make it to our next camp.

When we first arrived at the hot springs we were disgusted at the site. It was home to a whole new degree of garbage, human feces and waste around and in the water. It was a true cesspool. The area designated for the tourists was cleaner but notably downstream from the landfill used by the locals... We were all a little sceptical to go in the water. Scepticism didn't stop us from taking a dip, to wash off the layer of dust caked onto our skin. Although, we were all wondering what new layers of bacteria we'd replaced it with. It is amazing what one deems acceptable conditions when pushed to their physical extremes. Mike ate a bug that went in his soup noting its nutritional value while I celebrated minor dust behind my contacts as a huge success!

After leaving the hot springs we realized how little daylight was left. The sun was not far from disappearing and we still had 2 hours of climbing ahead of us. There was no time for breaks.

Well, maybe a quick one for a photo. This is a view from the other side of the lake. On the left you can see the summit and the rim where we'd slept the night before. It was crazy to see how much ground we'd covered in one day. There was also a new volcano forming in the center of the lake that can only be seen from this side of the mountain. Although we were all working at full capacity to make it to our camp before dark, the sun left us and we were in the dark once again. Only this time we were alone. We made sure the six of us stayed together as a group and continued the climb with frequent calls out to one another to make sure we were all still on the right path. Our guide was more than an hour behind us with one of our crew who was struggling to make the climb. It was difficult to see the path even with head lamps and the last hour required actual rock climbing, testing us even further. We had no idea how much further we had to go when we finally climbed over a ridge and saw tents sprinkled around the mountain side. We were all so relieved and the sense of accomplishment far outweighed the stresses of the day. The sun was still setting at this point on the mountain and I was able to capture the crescent moon in the distance. 

The wind at this camp was worse than the previous one so, once again, we all ran to our tents to take cover for a windy night. 

Day 44- I set an alarm for the next morning to catch the sunrise. It meant us climbing a little mountain to see it but once again... it was worth the view. 

Here is our crew. We were all dirty and tired but happy all the same. :) They say it's less about where you go and more about the people you're with, in this case it was true. We met a great group of people on Rinjani and I hope to enjoy a beer with them all again one day, either in our home or theirs. 

This is a view of our camp from the top of our sunrise viewpoint. Our tent is the one on the far right.

For our third time on Mount Rinjani we got to appreciate the feeling of success when we reached the finish line at the bottom. It was a proud moment for all of us and although Mike's knee soured his experience, I would do it all over again. We all made sure to cheers a bintang at the bottom.