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Published: August 17th 2015
There's a pattern developing with the names of these blogs, isn't there? It's time for a recap of all that we've been up to in Indonesia, during the third month of our trip.
As you may recall, last time I wrote I was in Kuta waiting for Sinéad to arrive. Arrive she did and after I'd collected her from the airport we headed to the south of Bali to a place called Bingin, where we enjoyed a few days of rest and relaxation, whilst devising a plan for our time here (organised, I know).
When the time came to leave Bingin we headed west across Bali, some sea and a chunk of Eastern Java before we were dropped off in a town called Probolinggo at 3am to wake up some hotel staff to ask for a room.
23 hours later we left the hotel room with a 2am start and set off to witness the sunrise over Gunung Bromo, one of Java's most iconic attractions. This was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen, as the light slowly spread over the volcano and it changed colours under the light from the east.
The next morning was an even earlier start, with the alarm set for a preposterous 12:40am start. The confusion that comes with starting your day at bed time took its toll as I managed to lose a big pile of my stuff as we left our accommodation. One jumper, one pair of trousers, two t-shirts and my pen knife, amongst some other bits and bobs. Very annoying, but my bag now weighs hardly anything, which is a bonus.
The point of the early start was to explore a second volcano, with a trek to the top of, and then inside, Gunung Ijen. This was a tough climb in the darkness, but any aches and pains were put into perspective when we witnessed some of the local men at work in the volcano. They carry two baskets on their backs, laden with sulphur 800 metres up the inside of the crater, before continuing down the mountain and selling the rock for next to nothing. They then repeat the journey.
Our next stop was Baluran National Park, where we spent a couple of days surrounded by more monkeys than human brings. Our time here included bites, no toilet, shower or
sink, a complete failure of a snorkelling trip, an abandoned walk, a nasty sting and getting lost in the mangrove forest. It was brilliant. And the two sunrises out across the sea which we roused ourselves for blew us away.
We made our way back across Bali and enjoyed some home comforts for a day before we boarded a boat to Nusa Lembongan, a neighbouring island where we had a snorkelling trip. Two of the four stops were drift sites, the first of which led to me getting overly familiar with a random person in our group and almost drowning myself as the water flooded down my snorkel. The second one was a bit more relaxing and we saw loads of underwater activity as the current carried us along through the sea.
At this stage we had decided to explore a potentially exciting last minute alteration to our plans. This required a lot of research and a high number of emails back and forth between us and a travel agent once we returned to mainland Bali.
Are you intrigued? Good.
In the meantime, as we were waiting for the plans to become concrete we headed back
to Kuta (boo) so that we would be handily placed if things did work out. It wasn't as bad as I'd feared, spending an afternoon learning and re-learning how to surf on Kuta beach. This went pretty well, after some early failures, and Shin proved to be a natural, standing up very early on in her lesson. The only downside to our aquatic activities was a visit to the hospital to get my right ear unblocked, paying £50 for the privilege.
The following day we were driven around some of Bali's sights, visiting a temple called Taman Ayun, a monkey forest and Tanah Lot for a fantastic sunset. We also visited a coffee plantation, where we tried a number of locally produced beverages. This included Lewak coffee, which is the world's most expensive.
It is so pricey because of the production process. Basically, the coffee beans are eaten whole by a ferret-type creature called a civet cat. Once the beans have undergone a natural fermentation in the stomachs of the civet cats they are, err, deposited, shall we say. The humans then get involved, washing, drying, roasting and crushing the beans to create the famous coffee. The result
of the poo coffee? Amazing. Really, really good. And I like coffee at the best of times. I would definitely recommend it.
Anyway, I've left you on tenterhooks for long enough. I'm sure you can bear it no longer. What was so important that we considered altering our plans mid-trip to try and fit it in? The Indonesian name translates to 'People of the forest'. You probably know them better as orang-utans.
After much wrangling over incomprehensible airline websites via terrible internet connections and having adopted an all new 'who cares about money' attitude we flew from Bali to Jakarta, and then on to Pangkalan Bun in Borneo.
Here we were met by Darmin our guide and taken to our 'klotok', or houseboat, which would be our base for the next few days. We had paid for a shared boat, but the news that the other three guests had cancelled meant that we had our own private boat for the duration of the trip.
We were taken into the Tanjung Puting National Park and we visited three different orang-utan feeding stations, spending the best part of two hours at each one staring at the amazing animals
just metres away from us.
We were treated to the whole selection, with adolescents swinging carelessly through the trees, mothers nursing tiny babies who cling on for all they were worth and humongous males with their shaggy coats and huge cheek pads scaring away everybody in their path.
Orang-utans have always been my favourite animal, so getting to see them in the wild is as good as it gets really. I couldn't have enjoyed the experience anymore and could easily have sat and watched them all day long. One of the best things that I've ever done.
At the risk of annoying any British blog readers, we have managed to avoid any rain since we were in Buenos Aires, at the end of the very first week of our trip. This came to a pretty spectacular end as our final orang-utan visit drew to a close and we had to walk 2km back to the boat through the rainforest. The clue is in the name.. A colossal storm broke overhead and we experienced rain like we have never seen before, soaking us to the skin and flooding the pathways in minutes. We were hilariously underprepared, but luckily
Darmin had a waterproof bag with him for our valuables and the walk back was both exhilarating and saturating.
We left Borneo, which is the world's third largest island, once the tour was over and flew over to Lombok where we finally want to begin with our original plan of heading east, something we just never managed to get around to during this month.
Hope all is well with you!
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