Into Indonesia

Oh Indonesia…where to begin? Just when every country seems to present something so new and awe-inspiring, you appear out of the big blue bali sea and blow us away. Forgive me if this becomes long-winded but to put this magical, exotic, wild, friendly and loving part of the planet into words may not be feasible but here we go…

Having left Singapore with heavy hearts and a broken tooth, we landed in Jakarta without a clue. As the capital of Indonesia and the 6th largest metropolitan area in the world, Jakarta is a traffic-choked conglomerate of a concrete jungle that attempted to swallow us whole. There are few highlights of which to report, with the exception of Dr. Ruby who seamlessly repaired Megan’s broken tooth for a shockingly budget-friendly cost of $60. As Megan said on our way out ‘Dr Ruby is quite a gem’…heyoooohhh. It took every drop of concentration to navigate the decrepit sidewalks but we made our way to the train station and after waiting in a sweaty line we were booked on a train out of town. Thankfully.

The 7hr train from Jakarta to Yogakarta started off uneventful but slowly climaxed to a fantastic landscape of villages and loveliness, and by the time we arrived in ‘yogja’ we were once again wide-eyed and eager. After checking in to our painfully aged and molded room at the Angela Guesthouse we set to exploring the touristy district in which we were based. Marloboro street is quite the trip – chalk full of horse-drawn a and batik ‘galleries’, this place emanated tourism and we were quite fine with setting our course northward to the hills of Borobodur.

Ok, not to brag, but my birthday is kind of a big deal in this part of the world. The locals have all year to gear up for it, but not to be out done, Megan knocked it out of the park. She took the helm on this leg and I sat back to enjoy the ride…and what a great ride it was!! I have had many a memorable birthday in my time but this ranks right up there with the best of them. My lovely gal had booked us a place in the most serene of settings in a village just outside of the temple area and I’m pretty sure we had the honeymoon suite…unbeknownst to me. My 41st birthday went something like this…baileys n coffee>sunrise over borobodur temple>wandering the largest buddhist structure on the planet>songs and photos with local school groups>nasi campur and biintang for lunch>heavenly nap>sunset>dinner at swanky resort (where I ate a whole duck with my hands)>happy birthday sung by local staff>banana split desert>big time goodnight smooches…what more could a fella possibly ask for?!?! Nothing, if you ask me. Wonderful birthday.

Ok the rest of this update is taken from an email to our families. Sorry to cut corners but our remaining time is now precious and limited and will not be spent using a computer…

ok hopefully this works…severe lack of internet access which means we are in a remote and beautiful place but i know this update is overdue so we found a bit of connection and will give it a try. indonesia just keeps getting better and we are now on the island of sumbawa and based in the southwest on rantung beach. the island is comprised of volcanic ridges and deserted beaches with more goats and cows on the road than people. as we’ve been heading east from java things have become more wild and the hardest part has been choosing where to go. we feel really good about our decisions thus far and just wish we had more time and rupiah. after the mega-city of jakarta and my birthday in borobudur temple we took a train across java to the volcano region of bromo. this was a wild and lunar looking place high in the caldera of an active volcano. we got up at 3am for a steep climb to watch sunrise over the crater rim and were rewarded with outstanding views of the primal landscape. on our way up we met another couple who happened to be from mpls and live near megan in uptown! crazy because we have met very few americans at all so to meet some from our neighborhood was a nice sense of familiarity. they are on a 9 month stint around asia and we quickly became good friends and travelled together for the next week or so. after bromo we took another train to the eastern tip of java and ferried accross to the island of bali. we had intentions of staying on bali for a while because of the visions it has always stirred in our minds, but after a few days on the north coast we began to realize how touristy and populated it is. we had a nice time with the mpls couple (will and sarah) snorkeling and chatting, but when it came time for benny to arrive from colorado we decided to change plans. we crossed the interior of bali (which is gorgeous) in the early morning and arrived to meet benny in a little town just east of the airport. all of our coordinating worked out well and after a joyous reunion (and a morning beer) the 3 of us boarded another ferry east to the island of nusa lembongan. we had done some research and it proved fruitful because when we disembarked on the white sands and blue waters, the hassles and hecticness of bali were nowhere to be found. the bulngalows we had booked in advance sent a truck to pick us up and rolled us across the island to our new home on dream beach. benny had his own bungalow next to ours and we enjoyed quite luxurious accommodations for the next 4 days (at only $24 per night). the island turned out to be quiet and beautiful and easily explored by motorbike…and dream beach is appropriately named. after that we took another ferry northeast to the gili islands just off the coast of lombok. they are 3 tiny islands completely surrounded by beaches and reefs and we chose to stay on gili meno which is the smallest and quietest of the 3. will and sarah met us here as well and the 5 of us spent the next 4 days taking in the natural beauty of the island and just as much time underwater snorkeling with sea turtles and countless other marine species. the water was bathtub warm, crystal clear and marvelous…exactly as advertised. the only drawback came from neighboring gili trembowngan which has taken a page from bali and blasts techno music until dawn while twenty-something australians disregard all respect for culture and serenity – our earplugs proved useful. from gili meno we took a ferry across to lombok and chartered a car to reach some unspoiled islands off the southern coast. we arrived at sunset on gili gede and checked into our dilapidated little house at secret island resort. this place may have been nice 10 years ago but is now in a crumbling state of disrepair. we decided to at least make the most of the beautiful area and rented kayaks to explore the calm waters. after rounding the northern tip of our tropical isle we spotted another island off in the distance and decided to have a closer look. upon further inspection we found a tiny little resort on an otherwise deserted beach and it was a paradise. we spoke with a worker there and learned that they had just opened for business after 2 years of construction but surely it was out of our price range. wrong. for $35 a night we could have our own swanky bungalow, on our own spectacular beach, on our own private island…done. benny had to be back in bali the following day for his return flight so megan and i made arrangements to be picked up in the morning by boat for our impromptu stay on gili layar. it was sad to see benny leave after such a nice time together, but we quickly readjusted to some heavenly solitude and quality time. it turned out that we were the very first guests on the island and were subsequently treated like royalty – almost too much so. every meal was specially prepared with fresh seafood and the local spices and flavor we’d come to love, and we were waited on hand and foot. the staff were wonderful and after 3 days it was very hard to leave our new friends and the most beautiful place we had been as of yet. but alas, our visas were expiring and we feared growing accustomed to the pampering so it was time to move on. they boated us back to lombok and we took local transport (painfully slow and uncomfortable) to the provincial capitol of mataram. we headed straight for the immigration office to drop off our passports and applications for permission to stay in this wonderful country beyond our current 30day visas. everything was in order and they told us to come back in 4 days for a decision…ugh. mataram does not hold anything even remotely interesting to us so we travelled south to the beaches of kuta lombok while we waited for our visas. this turned out to be a wonderful surprise and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there. kuta is comprised of several world-class beaches separated by soaring volcanic headlands and every time we thought we’d found the most gorgeous beach on earth, the next one would up the wow factor even higher. we rented a motorbike and explored a different direction each day, returning at night to our cozy and welcoming guesthouse on a hill overlooking the bays. on our last day there megan got to try surfing for the first time and i may have created a monster because she instantly loved it and it quickly became a priority when deciding where to head next…just fine with me. back in mataram, all went smooth with immigration and we were granted the coveted 30day extension on our tourist visas – good thing because our original ones were set to expire on the following day. updated passports in hand, we resumed our easterly course and set off for the harbor in libuhaun to catch another ferry across to the island of sumbawa. in attempting to do some prior research on sumbawa we found shockingly few details regarding transport and lodging, just a lot of blog posts regarding great surf and deserted beaches – perfect. we managed to contact the proprietor of some beach bungalows on the southwest coast and she arranged a car which was there to meet us when we got off the boat. soon it became apparent why there is so little info on this place – there is nothing here but miners, surfers and mosques. jungle covers the jagged volcanic ridges in a lush green that is indescribable and the beaches run for miles without a human in sight. truly wild. we arrived at our beachfront bungalow ‘resort’ with no idea what to expect or how long we would stay but the fact that we are still here, 7 days later, should tell you all you need to know. we are the only ones staying here and have once again found our own little paradise. there are a couple other little surfer shacks scattered around but other than that we are alone and loving it. breakfast is served on our front porch looking at the waves and life moves by at a wonderfully slow pace – including this hopeful Internet connection. we rented a cheap motorbike for the length of our stay and use it every day to explore this part of the island and to access surf spots. we have been waking for sunrise to have coffee and then going surfing, or at least attempting to surf. i have always said it is the most difficult sport i’ve ever attempted and now megan is realizing why. it takes so much work and strength just to paddle out and be in position to catch a wave that after an hour our bodies are exhausted. there are some monster waves around here but they are for experts only so we have found a nice little section of friendly waves to learn on – though they still manage to leave us weak and humbled on a daily basis. we took today off to let our bodies recover and hiked a trail through the dense jungle to a raging waterfall where megan had to come to terms with her fear of snakes but she did exactly that. so there you go, a nice lengthy update to bring you up to speed. tomorrow is our last day here before some lengthy travel back to bali for our flight to mexico next week. we are in a state of shock and denial that this incredible adventure is drawing to a close, but the sadness of it ending is accompanied by a real feeling of accomplishment and enlightenment. it has been fantastic expanding our horizons together and has given our relationship a foundation of stone on which to build and build and build. we have absolutely nothing negative to report and will return an even happier couple than when we left – if such a thing is possible. we hope everyone there is in good spirits and that you had a nice easter with family – we celebrated with a total eclipse of the full moon which was pretty spiritual in itself but could never trump family. give big hugs and kisses all the way around from us and we will see you soon. much much love!

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