Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Bali - Kuta (2nd ed)


Wednesday 13/08 - Friday 15/08

As we only arrived at 12 the night before, we had a lovely little lie-in in our pod like compartments.  Even though we were exhausted, we did notice a certain lumo pink water-proof bag that we suspected could be a certain Miss Kimmy's, who we had met on our last visit to Kuta.  Alas when we checked the bed nobody was to be found and we resigned ourselves to solving the mystery in the morning...
As we were enjoying our complimentary tea and toast for breakfast, our suspicions were confirmed and who came waltzing through the door - but Kim herself!! We were delighted to meet up with our Scottish friend and might have had a very extended breakfast and chat up session after that...

In Jogja the hostel's internet and computers were always down and as it was such a jam-packed few days, we had severely neglected the blog and desperately needed to uploaded our millions of temple and volcano pictures onto the cloud.  So even though we were excited to see Kim and hang out on the vibrant (a euphemism for over-crowded) Kuta beach, we had to stay strong and boring and spend the whole day doing admin (in our pajamas) in the hostel's lobby.  We didn't even go out with the girls that night despite them getting all dressed up with pretty face paint as well.  Well done us:) 

Even though we had always thought of Kuta as a soulless place, with only debauchery and no culture, one of the girls at the hostel told us about the Bali Sea Turtle Society. It is a non-profit organisation that protects sea turtles in the area.  They even had a centre right on the Kuta beach that looked after turtle eggs until the babies hatched and were ready to be released.  Part of the centre's effort to raise awareness about the conservation of turtles was to allow tourists and locals to help release the newly hatched turtles back into the sea every day at 4pm.  This was definitely an initiative we wanted to be apart of. 

As we arrived we were given a turtle helper sticker and stood waiting for the action to happen. 
We were then addressed by the face of the programme, affectionately known as Mr Turtle.  He told us that in the wild usually only 20% of the turtles actually make it out of the nest alive and of those turtles only one out of hundred will make it back to the shore one day to reproduce. The centre greatly heps to increase turtle numbers, as 80% of the eggs that they rear hatch successfully.  

Mr Turtle 
After our educational talk, we were each handed a plastic bowl and the centre's volunteers put a turtle in each of our bowls from the newly hatched turtles which were all testing their flippers in a bucket of water.  

Bucket of little ninja turtles 

Rox's turtle in the plastic bowl 

After we had all been given a turtle (and named them) we all headed onto the beach, where we once again lined up as the turtle races were about to begin...

Joy and Rox at the starting line with their respective turtles - who is going to win???? The tension is tangible! 

Rox's turtle has his eye on that finish line 

On your marks, get set, GO!!!

And they are off...

                            Rox giving her turtle 'Martin' encouragement 

The crowds had gathered to watch the races 

As one can see from this video clip, Mr Turtle is very passionate about turtles and uses his microphone to send them off in style.  


Joy's turtle 'Denzel' making his way (slowly) into the waves  

After we were satisfied that we had given our little turtles the best send-off possible, we headed back to the centre to return our plastic bowls.  Once there we were shown were they keep the turtle eggs buried in the sand before they hatch.  The programme sources the turtle nests from the wild, where volunteers and locals report when a mother turtle lays her eggs.  They then carefully excavate the eggs and relocate them to the sandpit.

The Sand Pit 

It is in this sand pit that the baby turtles are born, break through their shells and burrow to the surface. 

A nest of turtles hatching 

The reason the centre has a much greater success hatching rate than the turtles left to hatch in the wild is that once the turtles start to hatch, the volunteers carefully help to dig up the sand and make it easier for them to make it to the surface.   

The volunteers also help to increase the survival rate by helping some of the weaker turtles to break free from their egg shells.  

This one is going to make it 

They even let us help to turn the little turtles that had fallen over to get back up on their feet 

Joy doing her part to save the environment 

Once all the turtle have hatched and made it to the surface, they are placed in a bucket overnight and will be released the following day at 4pm to the delight of many adoring fans. 

While we were at the centre saving lives, we met an infectious little girl from the UK called India.  Her and her parents had taken off a year to travel around the world and support nature conservation projects.  She even had her own little blog going.  At last we had a kid around to pretend that all our childish photo antics were her ideas! 

Crazy pic (Joy clearly didn't get the memo) 

Cute pic 
And of course we couldn't resist posing next to the giant turtle art piece
Kim and India 

Rox and India 

Joy and India 
              Kim and India holding up the heavy head

What a friendly creature - he likes being scratched 

We eventually had to let India get back to her serious blog and home school homework, so us 'adults' hit the beach for some fun sunset photos.  

Kim coaxing Rox to get into the mood 

Jazz hands 

All together now

Joy and Kim playing catch with the sun
And now the best individual shots 


We finally took a picture of this memorial because for days we had been seeing all the other tourists to this (we still don't know what it was there for)  
We had heard from the centre that as it was turtle breeding season that if we came back in the evening and went on a patrol with one of the rangers, there was a good chance that we would get to see a mother turtle swim up onto shore and lay her average of a hundred eggs.  We were keen!! However, we had planned to go out that night, as this would be our last time with Kimmy, so we got dressed up before we hit the beach that evening.  

In Indonesia turtle soup and other turtle meat is a delicacy amongst the locals, which is one of the reasons that the numbers of turtles in this country had dwindled in the past.  But this programme specifically sets out to educate the locals about the importance of conserving this creature.  It is for this reason that the programme employs local rangers to comb the beach for the turtle nests and trains them in the art of successfully excavating the eggs.  These rangers then in turn also work closely with their communities especially with regard to the reporting of turtle nests.  
Our local turtle patrol ranger  

We first started by combing the beach in search of mother turtles.  Whilst walking along the seashore we came across a group of people trying to light a Chinese lantern, which didn't seem to be working so we swiftly moved on in search of real awesomeness.  

Chinese lantern 

Once we had walked about 2 kilometres down the beach, we decided this would be a good spot to wait for turtles to swim to shore with the in-coming tide.

Our search party consisted of Yen (from Vietnam), another Kim (from Whales), Rox and Joy 

We sat down and let the professional ranger carry on to the next point, which was another kilometre away.  Even though it was really peaceful to watch the tide come in under the stars, we unfortunately never got to see any mother turtles coming to shore to lay her eggs. We quickly got over our disappointment as we went back to the hostel to fetch Kimmy and then hit the town...

Girls' night out 

Duck faces 

We headed for a little bar that we had spotted on the way to turtle scouting, which had drinks specials and a choose-you-own-tunes sounds system.  After that we headed to our favourite club (M bar) and then headed to the more commercial and hip hop and dub-step club Eikon until 4am.  Needless to say, it was an apt last night in Kuta.    

Joy and Kimmy showing the sign some 'Love' before they were chased away by some security guards for violating the hotel's prim and proper image (can't take these girls anywhere!) 

 Then it was munchie food time and tea at the hostel and then bed time.  We had to wake up early the next morning for our pick up to the ferry. However, Rox put off her alarm in her sleep and instead of being ready for our lift at 7am, we overslept until 7.30am!! Luckily as most things in Asia, our transport was late.  So in a flash we got dressed, packed, paid and check out and even managed to make a 'pad kos' breakfast to eat on the way, by the time the driver arrived at 7.45.  That was really cutting it close!  

We then drove for an hour to the port where we then boarded the fast boat ferry to the Indonesian Island of Gilli T.       

Monday, 11 August 2014

Mount Bromo

Mount Bromo 

Monday 11/08 - Tuesday 12/08

After a very stressful morning of returning our motor bike, collecting the late washing (that was supposed to have been delivered the night before) and then checking out of the hostel, the pick up car finally arrived two hours late.  We then met up with the other people in our mini bus (with no aircon) and we embarked on our 11 hour journey to Probolinggo. On our mini bus we met Helen (from Scotland) and four others from Spain (Catalonia).  We stopped on the way for a local lunch.  After a long and hot day, we finally arrived at Probolinggo where we were confronted with what looked like the Indonesian Mafia.  We had heard from Helen that it was better to view the volcano from the mountain opposite it and then climb the crater once the sun had already risen, so we decided to upgrade our package.  Helen had a pamphlet that showed how much the upgraded package was suppose to be, but the Mafia were wanting to charge us more than double the normal rate (as it was a 'last minute' booking).  We had been forewarned about all the scams associated with the Mount Bromo tour but since the man collecting the money was a one-eyed bandit, we didn't want to press the issue.  We finally got to our accommodation at about 10.30 pm and basically went to bed straight away - we had to be up at 2.15am to leave by 3 am sharp.  It was freezing at that time in the morning, especially at that altitude, so we put on everything we owned (it was Mount Kinabalu all over again) and got into the Jeep to face what the Volcano had in store for us.  Another hidden cost of the tour was that the Mafia wanted us to pay 217 Rupiah extra for a park entrance fee.  We had heard that this was also a scam and that there was no entrance fee to the Mount, but since these characters looked so dodgy, there was no other way into the park and we still needed this company to get us back to Bali, we had to suck up the taste of being ripped off and pay the agent.  We knew it was a scam because our receipt was typed on a computer with no date specified, was issued by the company and not the park's office, was given to us the evening before we were to enter the park and the agent said we could just pay 200 and not the specified 217 Rupiah.  Lastly, as we weren't prepared for this additional hidden cost and didn't have the extra cash on hand, the gent told us that he would 'pay' for us and then he would drive us to an ATM the next day so that we could pay him back. We shared our jeep with three other German girls as we headed through the dust and the dark...        

We arrived at Pananjakan, the mountain view point of Mount Bromo.  We were frozen and dusty and huddled together to draw some sort of warmth for this harsh terrain.  At least the moon was still full and offered us some visibility.

And then at about 5.15 we saw the first break of dawn and the light outlined the magnificent contours of the surrounding mountains.
First break of dawn

As the light began to fill the sky, we caught our first glimpse of Mount Bromo which was surrounded by a sea of white clouds.

Mount Bromo 

Blanket of white fog

On the right side of Mount Bromo was another active volcano in the distance, which we could actually see the sulphur bellowing out of the Earth.  

Evidence of the harsh terrain and contours of the landscape 

Looking particularly 'spritely' at about 5.30 am 

Joy admiring the sheer beauty of this arid place 

Many of the other tourists were just admiring the Mount and had all their fancy camera stands set up to take photos from this viewpoint.  However, we were more flexible and preferred to explore the area- and it was a good thing we did, because behind lay this breathtaking view of the full moon, pink skies and a mountain on a bed of clouds- SPECTACULAR!


As we were waiting for the sunrise we were fooling around a bit using the 'erupting' volcano as a background.

But our bubbly personalities didn't go unnoticed and pretty soon we had a bunch of young Asian guys all queueing up to take pictures with us- normal normal!

Just as the sun was rising 

And finally at about 6am the sun began to rise...

Joy eating the sun 

Blurry sunrise selfie 
Rox has a glowing stone on her head!


The sun and the moon were up at the same time for just a few minutes 

A few minutes after the sun had risen we were all herded back into the jeeps to make our way to the bottom of Mount Bromo's crater. 

View of Mount Bromo from within the Jeep on the way down the mountain

Once we reached the foot of Mount Bromo we were engulfed in the fog/ cloud of sulphur dust.

We were told by our driver that we had an hour to view the Volcano, which we thought would be plenty of time, as it didn't look like such a strenuous climb to the top.  However, we hadn't been warned that the sulphur pumping out of the crater was a highly poisonous gas that would burn through our nasal passages and lungs.  We had seen locals at the bottom trying to sell masks to the tourists, but we had thought that these were just meant for the dust and obviously we (being tough South Africans chicks) didn't think this was necessary...we were terribly wrong. Even though we were stupidly stingy, in hind sight, we don't think these basic masks would have done much to stop the piercing fumes from entering our bodies (a person would need one of those heavy duty bio-hazard air-tight masks to be able to be properly protected from these gases!)  It also didn't help that on that particular day, the wind was blowing the gas in our direction.  In any event we tried our best to cover our noses with our tops and started the ascent.

Joy looking brave at the foot of Mount Bromo (face unmasked - the smell hadn't hit us yet) 
Rox starring back at the flurry of locals trying to offer tourists masks, flowers (used as offerings) and even donkey rides to the foot of the Volcano 

It was a mist of thick dust and gas at the foot of the volcano 

A shadow selfie 

And so the age of the make-shift masks began...

It was only a 133 metre (including 250 stairs) to climb to the rim of the crater, but the smoke inhalation was so suffocating that we couldn't breathe and so we started hyper ventilating and panic-attacking about half way up the stairs.  We felt like death was certain and were almost ready to give up.  But then we bumped into Helen (the Scottish girl from our mini bus ride). She was really battling to keep going and getting emotional.  We encouraged Helen to push through the pain, go back down a little (where the air was clearer) and calm herself down and then join us at the top.  By helping our friend to calm down this actually forced us to take our own advice and persevere to the top.  All that suffering finally paid off and we made it to the top of the crater. 

The smoke was thickest at the top, as the sulphur fumes were pouring over the rim of Mount Bromo   

Even though it was an incredible sight to be in the eye of an active volcano, the fumes were so bad that it was extremely difficult to keep our eyes open for any photos. 

It took lots of effort to take this make-shift mask selfie pic 

And miraculously Helen made it to the top to join us for this flattering pic 

And then we got really brave... we would hold our breathes, quickly take off our masks and pose for a very 'natural' photograph...
Epitomises the not forced-smile-look 

Can this stranger hurry up and take our photo ASAP!!!

While we were up there we witnessed many locals throwing various foodstuffs (like cabbages, rice and chickens into the crater).  There were other scary-looking hooded local men who waited on inside of the crater and collected the foodstuffs in their nets. 


As this video portrays, we first thought that the food was collected in the nets to be re-thrown further into the crater as a sacrifice to appease the mountain gods, but upon closer inspection its became clear that these men collected the foodstuffs that were 'symbolically' thrown into the volcano, but in actual fact the food is salvaged and eaten by the local people at a feast held at the foot of the Volcano.    


Place where the locals gather for the offerings feast 

Similarly, many tourists and locals alike throw bunches of flowers into the heart of the Volcano.  These make for better throwing than say a live and bound chicken and since they are inedible, the local men leave them to actually fall into the vast depths of the crater.

We being our normal stingy selves didn't buy our own offering of flowers, but instead happily encouraged other tourists to hoist theirs into the hole, as can be seen by this video. 

Since we had distracted ourselves with soaking up some of the culture and history of the place by watching a few offerings and hatting to some more 'know-it-all' tourist, our lungs seemed to acclimatise to the harsh vapours and we decided to break away from the crowds and walk a bit around the rim of the crater and soak up the sights (and not just the poisonous gases).  

Joy enjoying the outward view 

Getting down and dirty with the Volcano ash - No wonder they call Mount Bromo 'The Sea of Sand' 

The rim of the crater 

Just before we had to leave the top of the crater (our hour was running out), we decided to be really daring and take some photographs right on the unprotected edge of the rim. 


Notice the green limestone deposits on the inside of the crater 

And now to face our favourite flight of death stairs on the way back down  

Since our lungs had gotten used to the burning sensation, the trip down was easy peasy compared to the trip up! 

The three German girls and Rox posing next to out jeep (Yay!! We all survived the trek up the deathly Volcano)

After the jeep delivered us back to our accommodation we quickly had a sub-standard (but miraculously included) breakfast, a quick shower (to wash off all the volcanic ash) and then set off to Probolinggo to catch our bus to Bali.  We waited quite a while for the bus to arrive and once again since the one-eyed bandit was 'overseeing' the whole process, we couldn't complain (even though we had to pay for the 'public toilets').  Once on the rickety bus, we discovered that even though this was going to be an overnight trip, the Mafia had installed an extra make shift bench to squeeze more people onto the bus.  On top of that, they even further overbooked the bus by making eight additional local Indonesian people sit on little stools in the aisle of the bus.  To add even further to the claustrophobia, we had two really tall Dutch boys in front of us, who needed to push their seats all the way back just to fit into their little Asian spots.  After a 14 hour bus ride, some really interesting toilet facilities and a ferry crossing, we finally made it to Denpasar.  We quickly negotiated a cab ride for ourselves and Helen and even though the driver tried to take us to a 'much better' hotel that he 'independently' recommended, at last by the strike of midnight had made our way back to our trusted CX Hostel in Kuta, Bali and were keen to take refuge in our cosy pods.    

On the Ferry crossing from the Province of Java into the Province of Bali.