no roads lead east
27.09.2007 - 27.10.2007 95 °F
reminiscing about long-lost college days has been a pastime of many alumni. when i meet some university kids traveling, i remember the days of innocence, that ended only three short years ago. in case the images of spring breaks were getting fuzzy, the hedonistic setting of kuta, bali reminded me just how naive college life really was. a night out on tacky legian st. satisfied just about nothing, but gave me a reason to get off the island.
before i left for lombok, i made a stop in ubud, and luckily for me, my stay coincided with a readers and writers festival. the pondok library dealt with my literary needs, while a few warung filled my belly with delicious balinese dishes.
lombok's centerpiece, gunung rinjani (3742m), was an awesome sight from the valley below. the volcano rose up from its green surroundings prominently. the slope of the mountain couldn't rival fuji-san's precision, but mother nature can't be bothered with such details.
roughly seven hours of uphill hiking afforded my group a view of the crater. we set up camp and had a brief nap before leaving around 3 am for the early morning acscent. the loose rock near the summit kept my legs in constant pain, while the stars above shone brightly enough to keep some balance in the universe. the sunrise over the crater was truly majestic. i reached the summit a few minutes before the rays reached over the horizon, and the next half an hour was prime-time for photos. the triangular shadow cast by the conical crater reached out and covered bali in the distance, with its mountain, gunung agung, sending its greetings over the sea. the gili islands, which i visited just a week prior to my ascent, were dots in the shadow, hiding from the early morning sun. all the pain in my legs quickly vanished with amazement at nature's wonders.
the next two days of trekking featured some swimming in the crater's lake and more uphill climbing than i would have liked. although the ensuing sunset was wonderful given our campsite at the top of the rim.
the next week or so i spent on a variety of buses, boats, bemos and motorbikes before i reached flores. the island of sumbawa, stuck in the middle of lombok and flores, was a tough-cookie in terms of travel, but its inhabitants gave me heaps of food, drink and love for the end of ramadan. the eight-hour ferry trip from sumbawa to flores also gave me my first glimpse of komodo and its waters, which gave me more than any diver could ask for.
three days and six dives in komodo and rinca national park was a tiring experiene, but one of the most rewarding on the trip. the underwater coral gardens, marine life and currents made for some adventurous dives. also seeing a few mantas up close was a treat that any diver dreams of. the highlight was perhaps my last dive, which featured a fifteen-minute drift by some beautiful coral and then half an hour of chilling out with friendly fish.
CHILLIN' 20m under the surface
a trip to rinca was combined with diving, and the beastly monitor lizards did not disappoint. they recently devoured a water buffalo so the carcas was still intact when we arrived. for the most part, they did not move at all and a few of them rested peacefully in the mud. with the dry season coming to an end, the flora on rinca was dry as a whistle and shade was selling at a premium price.
the road across flores, gratuitously dubbed a road, leaps up to the mountains and descends down to the sea. the varied landscapes were gorgeous and passed the jam-packed bus rides more pleasurably than others on this journey. my stop in bajawa was highlighted by staying with a muslim family. they opened their arms at the bus terminal and i returned their hospitality with a few guitar tunes. im not sure if they understood my lyrics, but smiles filled the room.
moni, a village at the base of gunung kelimutu, served as a relaxing setting for a few days. i took an early morning moto ride up to the top and saw the three different colored pools of water with my own two eyes. it was a peaceful morning devoid of visitors, and my new peruvian-american buddy jose and i enjoyed the walk back to the village.
flores was the place in indonesia which made a return trip a certainty. the beautiful scenery, friendly faces, and lack of tourists all made my tour worthwhile. the islands of maluku, sulawesi and papua all rank highly for my next trip through the archipelago. for now, im enjoying fast internet in bali, and preparing myself for aus in a few short days. asia has been wonderful to me and i hope to come back in a few years when i've wandered a bit more.