Monday, September 7, 2009

Indonesia- Sumatra

Im really enjoying this travelling business! REALLY VERY MUCH!!

On the road now almost a year!!Time flies!...indonesia is the 21st country of this trip!



Indonesia first impressions are certainly of a country a little more edgy than civilised Malaysia! After the boat journey from Melaka, Malaysia to Dumai, Indonesia we bundled into a mini-bus for the 10 hour journey across the country. There was a lovely irish girl on the bus and we chatted for the whole 10 hours without a break! We both admitted that it was excellent to chat in our own lingo without having to worry about being misunderstood. She was from Cork and i had picked up a raging cork accent by the end of the 10 hours!



The road was so bad in places there was actually a truck that fell into a pothole and was stuck!! Many times we stopped for a minute and the driver handed out money to people at the side of the road who seemed to either work repairing the road, people who put bundles of rubble on the road to make you stop or just beggars with nothing to do with road repairs standing there with open hands. At one stage in the middle of the night we were stopped by a group of boys with headscarves on covering all but their eyes looking in at us!! Jeesus i was a bit worried!! The driver gave one boy money they argued a bit, he gave him a bit more money, then eventually we were let continue....phew!


Its very exciting waking up the morning after arriving at a place in the dark....i had no idea what was out there!! It turned out to be a lovely little mountain town on the very west on Sumatra. It was nice to be a little bit chilly at night....arctic temperatures of late twenties! Chilled out in this town for a day or two with the lovely Irish girl Rae and also the excellent Sam who i met in Melaka the day before leaving Malaysia.


Rae is a teacher for deaf people and at one street food place we went to she noticed that one of the little fellows working there was deaf and it was amazing how easily she communicated with him, he was so delighted that someone could communicate with him properly, and Rae was quite upset to see that he never learnt sign language, he just communicated how i do in some situations with actions and pictures often not getting the point across.


It was possibly the first time he came across a digital camera and had great fun taking pictures of everyone and everything. It was a few days later while he was playing with my camera that he managed to press the 'delete ALL' button. I managed to grab it off him just as it said..'deleating 95%....96%....97%....' ahhhh i almost cried....every picture since i arrived in Bangkok in May gone and sure i could hardly strangle the little fellow he had no idea what he did. Anyway sure i cant take them with me when i die....... im more over this than the dog stealing my good shoes in Dharmsala, India!!

Local characters...

Bukkitinggi, a very eclectic town, everyone just builds what they want whatever style they think of...very nice!



Just off Bukkitinggi (which means tall-tinggi, hill-bukkit) there is a lovely canyon and foresty jungle surrounding it. Of course i had to explore this!!


All through the canyon there are miles and miles of caves built by the japanese during WWII. Not very interesting tunnles but nice and cool!


As i was heading into the canyon a friendly local fellow decided he was going to accompany me, and he turned out to be the best free guide ever! His grandfather lived most of his life in the canyon and taught this guy all about herbal remidies from plants and whats edible in the forest. I really love all this stuff and every 5 minutes he was pulling something off a tree or out of the ground for me to smell. He gave me a flower to chew that made my whole mouth numb...it is used for toothache....i do prefere the more irish method of a few whiskeys!



This is a friendly bark-eating beetle its the male that has the...eh hem...horn



Such a great day walking for hours, there are plants that when you touch them the leaves fold up like a manuscript and in one place when he started whistling the sky became full of hundreds of bats!!

We took a little break when we reached the top of the valley. There were some very curious water buffalo about that came to have a look at me! I explained to the guy that this is what its like a lot of the time being a foreigner, he found this quite funny! Its very true though especially here in indonesia and in india...cant sit down for 1 minute without having an audience! (see Jaipur blog entry!)

After a few minutes they got bored and headed back to more important things like eating grass and well....eating more grass!


View from the top of the canyon.


After Bukkitingi i caught a bus to Mananjau where a beautiful lake had formed inside a volcano crator. Amazing that millions of years ago this was a big volcano spewing out lava!

I had a feeling i missed Mananjau village but thought i'd just wait and see what happens! I was completly right, i had passed the village by about 10 miles. I hopped off the bus in the middle of beautiful nowhere and wondered what to do! I decided i just start walking the direction of Mananjau and im sure somebody will give me a lift.



A man sitting at his porch started shouting 'Hey where you going!!' mmmm what to answer.....im walking to Mananjau 10 miles away?? This guy had excellent English and it turned out he was the chief of the village and i ended up staying with him, his wife and son for a few days. This chief guy was so cool, he had such random knowledgable facts and knew more about Irelands history than i did! He reckoned i must have spent about 10 million dollars on my trip so far....mmm Im not sure my bank would be so generous!!

As it is Ramadan (the month where muslims fast during sunlight hours) there is no food available during the day. This can be a total pain in the ass but the chief was not taking part in this, he informed me the gods will be angry but he cant be bothered fasting! I was well fed! He also didnt like hot rice so would stand for about 20 minutes with his plate infront of the fan to cool it down..funny man.


One day while walking in the area i met a friendly local girl called Joana that invited me back to her house for tea. She had about 5 words of English but with great enthuasiam to learn and we got on very well with the help of a dictionary! She invited me to stay so i moved from the chiefs house to hers for another few days!


Had an excellent time there with her and her husbund Mr chon, such lovely people. She lived in a really basic wooden house, cooked over a fire out the back and the toilet...well this was so funny! It was in a little wooden shed that was built over 'fish swimming pool' as she called it. So you squat down over the hole in the floor and ohmygod loads of fish practically jumping out of the water to get 1st orders! Their big mouths wide open, sticking out of the water...so when you finally did 'feed the fish' they go mental splashing and thrashing about in the water until there is no trace left! I loved this! I miss the fish swimming pool...





I caused a big stirr in the village that there was a 'christian' in town!! Well i didnt want to go down the path of explaining athiesm! I assured them that i like muslims and i have a very good muslim friend at home....they thought i ment i want to be a muslim...which is fine also whatever makes them happy!

It was great to have Joana as a translater for me...as we walked around where she lived the locals were asking all about me, most importantly am i married (yes) where is my husbund (working in Jakarta) religion (christian) children (no but soon) give them money? (no). Everybody asks these same questions and soon i was able to pick up the words to answer myself which resulted in big hugs and sloppy kisses on my cheeks from the locals!!

The locals also have no idea about banks or ATM's so they presumed i have all my money with me (10 million dollars!) they asked was my bag...ie backpack full of money!.....i wish!!!



This lake is so beautiful imagine 360 degrees of mountain with fluffy clouds resting on the top, a sparkling blue lake in the middle and the land all around was rice fields with a few little houses. The water was almost too warm to swim in!


I learnt a lot of Indonesian with Joana and it was the best thing i ever did! Its an extremly easy language to pick up the basics for example verbs dont have tenses and me, i, mine etc is the same word also...so for i went, i go, i will go....Saya pergi...all the same....excellent!

The first evening, to make sure i was comfortable, Joana insisted i wear the local womans dress, it was indeed very comfy. We went to visit her husbunds mother such a tiny cute little lady about 100 years old, sitting on a bed, just a little wrinkly face popping out from layers and layers of white headscarf material. She wondered how much money i was going to give her. Its tough not to take offence at this...they believe all westeners = millionares and probably always asked any westerner they saw for money. Joana was mortified and was worried i thought she wanted money also. The old lady took no offence when i said no and continued grabbing my arm and squeezing my cheeks as 100 year old ladies like to do!



After a day or two here it was time to move on, i was sad to leave 'hotel Joana' no way to keep in touch...no email, phone or address for post! I took a few pictures of Joana in my rainbow dress and some of the two together and printed them out for her to keep.

This was so different to couchsurfing as the people i stay with from couchsurfing are at least clued in on modern things like internet....joana and chon live a very simple life and although we were the same in many ways also so very very different!

I headed back to Bukkitinggi that night to be ready to climb mount Merpai in the morning with Sam that i came with from Malaysia, and a friend of a friend...Arius. Had terribly little sleep that night due to sitting in an internet cafe for hours trying unsuccessfully to restore my pictures and running around trying to find some food for the next day as yes thanks to Ramadan there was no chance of getting breakfast!

Here we are full of energy and ready to go! Merapi is an active volcano about 2850 metres high....ive never really climbed a big mountain before was hoping i would be able for it!


I LOVED IT! It was very much like all the trekking ive done myself in forests over the last few months.



The first few hours was pretty straight forward climbing up steps made from roots while listening to monkeys going crazy!



Fair play to Sam such a sence of adventure and persistance and excellent to chat to someone about the joys of eating fruit and feeling healthy!


Now and then we had to crawl through little tunnles...





A few hours later the climbing got a little harder, roots turned into mossy rock made from a previous lava flow.



After about half an hour of this we were eventually near the top hurrah!! Mossy rocks turned into loose rocks.


Quite a view!


And after about half an hour of scrambling over loose rocks i finally reach the top wooohooo!!!

I had to stop myself looking down! Without the cover of the forest it felt like i might 'fall off' the mountain if i didnt hold on!



Unfortunatey Sam and Arius didnt make it right up to the top so i was up there on my own, complete silence just the sound of my breath and the rocks moving when i walked. Really eery! I clambered along on hands and feet looking for the crater that was up here somewhere! At this point it may have been useful to have a guide with me! Anyway all of a sudden the wind picked up and the clouds swept in very fast. Within a few minutes i couldnt see even a metre in front of me. I was going as fast as i could along the top of the mountain but the crater could have been anywhere, in the end i decided it was best to head back down and find the others it was a big pity not everyday i have the chance to look into a volcano crater but there will be others!




I was so full of energy the whole climb and even on the way down i didnt feel tired. I think it was my apple and chunky peanut butter supply! I did however realise yes i was a little tired when i sat down for the first time! We ended up climbing down for about an hour in the dark with just light from fireflies and supercool glow in the dark mushrooms!!

This is the view from the mountain we were climbing to the mountain directly opposite. They are both roughly the same height.


I was really an excellent day, im so proud of myself for climbing a big mountain and not finding it too difficult.

Bright and early the next morning i jumped on a bus to take me to south Sumatra where Krakatoa volcano was hopefully erupting a little bit!

I was told the journey will take 25-30 hours! Well thats not too vague is it?! During the day on the bus i started to feel the aches in my leg muscles from the climb and being so inactive for the long journey everytime we stopped for a break i was like an old woman getting on and off the bus...big problems!!

When i finally got to Bander Lampung there was a taxi waiting, and i thought oh i definately deserve this! The local transport to where i was going costs 2,000 rupies, the taxi man said 'lima' 5,000....no worries, well worth it. Anyway a few minutes into the drive i though mmmm this is not as big a rip off as usual, this is too easy...just thought i'd double check...Mr taximan you mean Lima-5000 or Limapulu...50,000....of course he ment 50,000!! Leg ache or not this was a total rip off for a 2 minute journey so i shouted stop stop!! He wouldnt let me out and i told him i'm not paying 50,000 so he said 'ok police!'. Fair enough Mr....lets go!

I was so tired and hot and sweaty and painfull legs that when i saw the policeman in his 'village people' style uniform...big beer belly, wearing a one piece way too tight suit with knee high boots....ha! Couldnt take him seriously at all, just laughed and laughed. I was not worried in the slightest as the policeman knows this is a total rip-off but of course sided with the taxi man. Fumbling with my dictionary i tried to say....you greedy man just want money because i am tourist! Well a big crowd was gathering so enough is enough i gave him 20,000 and hopped onto my bus....in the most dignified way possible considering i could hardly bend my legs!



I stayed in Kalianda a lovely little village on the very south of Sumatra just a stones throw or 3 hours on a little fishing boat away from Krakatoa volcano...how exciting!!! All the little kids here say 'hellooo Meeeester'! I had a gang of cute kids following me around, a homeless man come up to kiss my hand and the kids erupting with laughter and many 'are you married, where is husbund, what religion' conversations!

The next morning i headed off in a little boat with two lovely south african fellows. We chatted a lot about south africa...sounds like a fairly dangerous place to live! They live in a special compound for white people, surrounded by huge walls and had big security. You cant just go for a walk at night unless you dont mind it possibly being your last, about 20 people murdered daily!! You have to be so carefull 24/7 i asked why do they choose to live there! But as they were born there they said you get used to it....no not for me!


Krakatoa in the distance. (of course) the boat men assured us smoke was pouring out of Krakatoa but...emmmm....do you see the smoke? Anyway no worries we cant control nature!



I have to say i found this a tough ole climb just due to still having aching legs from climbing mount Merapi. The ground was roasting hot and just loose black sand with some stones thrown in.


Look at that! A stone that had been fired out from the volcano during a recent eruption! Maybe its a good thing the volcano is all quiet...although it would have been some experience!!


This is Krakatoa in the distance, the active one we climbed is called Anna Krakatoa....a little volcano that was made from one of Krakatoas eruptions in the late 1800's.


EXTREMLY hot here my god!! Not allowed to climb to the top



Gettin me a souviner rock!


One of the south african guys was wearing sandles and couldnt make it up the volcano as the black sand was THAT hot it just burnt your feet. We stopped and had lunch under some trees at the base of the volcano and laughed heartily at some tourists just arriving in a fancy speed boat from Java wearing flip-flops, bikinis and speedos!! good luck to ya!!!...serves you right anyway wearing speedos in public!!


Hopped on the boat again and after an hour or two we reached a lovely little unhabited island and dived straight into the water to cool off! Oh it was so lovely! The island was so clean and untouched with shells like this just lying around!!


The fishermen boys found some coconuts and chopped them open so we could have a little drink


I was WRECKED when i got back to Kalianda, i had to go to an ATM and the young boy working at the guesthouse offered to take me on his bike...yeah ok why not! Took me all around first, giving out cigarettes to anyone he knew so that he could 'show off' the foreigner girl on his bike. After the ATM we went to eat...he spoke no english and kept repeating some word to me....repeating it didnt make me understand it any more than not repeating it! He presumed i would pay...and pay for cigarettes for him....ok its not the end of the world but i dont like people presuming because im a tourist...etc.etc....

I was wrecked so i told him i wanted to go back to the guesthouse. I knew he wasnt going the right way but what could i do...i looked up at the clear, starry sky as the bike wizzed along. Next thing he stops at a little shop to buy some sweets and a candle. Mmmm ok so maybe he has no electricty in his house...too tired to care. He gives me a few sweets and puts the rest in my pocket. Any touching like this is seen as very sexual over here so i had a feeling his intentions were not pure. I starting insisting we go back, he turned around the bike and instead of heading guesthouse direction turns down a little lane and stops outside a deralict house. In front of the house was a big room filled with about 50 woman standing straight, dressed head to toe in white cloaks and chanting away their prayers...i knew if worst came to worst i'd run over there.

He opened the door of the house and walked into a room in the back...there was a bed there and he set the candle on the ground...ahhhh ha haha!!! Really what did he expect!! He was about 16 years old, about 5 foot nothing tall and i couldnt have spoken more about my lovely husbund. I made a 'peure show' of him (as we say in mullingar!)....ie embarassed him by shouting I AM MARRIED!!! all the women turning around looking at him.

Bloody indonesian men!!! you cannot even slightly be friendly and they think you want to hop into bed with them! Anyway sure wont i miss it when im no longer a celebrity!



Alright off the next morning to Java....Indonesia's most populated island!



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