Garnerbiker's Journey on planet Earth

This blog started as a trip journal for the summer of 2011 Europe trip of 69 days. My wife Katherine, and I decided to use the entire summer break that teachers get, and go crazy. Everything was new to us. I was surprised at the blog's following. It has now become a tradition to travel on our breaks and blog about it. I write mostly as a journal for myself and students, but also give travel ideas to others that might want to travel like us, or go to the places we have seen. Take a look at what's on here. The experiences that I have had through travel are continuously shaping my life. I recommend you get out there and do it!

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Monday, August 13, 2018

LOMBOK


Today we ate at the Liberty Dive Resort for breakfast as usual, but suddenly, the taxi was there!  Michael was able to hang out until 1:00 PM for his ride back to Denpasar.  Katherine, Tommy, and I quickly threw the rest of out stuff in our bags and headed to the port.  Our ride today would take us off of Bali, across the Lombok Strait, through the Gili Islands, and finally, to the island of Lombok.

Once we arrived on Lombok in the port of Bangsal, we were met by our driver, Dan.  The phrase "Dan the Man" could not fit more perfectly.  This guy could drive!  He was fast and smooth, making good time from the North East side of Lombok all the way to the south central part of the island to the small village of Kuta.  We passed through some beautiful countryside and even up and over a big mountain pass.  Up high in the mountains, we passed through another monkey area.  This time, no passports were taken!

That's me at the port of Bangsal on Lombok.

Watermelons were in season with stands selling them everywhere!  I don't think they are getting the $5 price we have to pay in Las Vegas.  

Please secure your passports!

Once we arrived in Kuta, we were happy to find our homestay, The Lazy Inn.  The Sasak Soul surfing lessons we booked is tied in with this accommodation, and it is nice!  We found our rooms clean and well equipped.  The guy at the front desk took care of us and we just chilled for a little bit.  Mopeds were available, so we headed out to see what's in Kuta.  People with surfboards were everywhere!  There was no sign of heavily built up properties, just small surf bungalows and restaurants.  I had not driven a moped up to this point in the trip, so driving on the left side of the road took some getting used to, not to mention dodging pot holes and dogs on the dirt streets.  

Our place was hooked up!  Nice pool and mopeds.

Lombok traditional food with the local SAMBAL sauce.  ATTENTION*** "Please eat with caution!"

Chicken Sambal.  This meal was about $1.50

NOM NOM NOM!!!

We just chilled out for our first night on Lombok.  The next morning breakfast was at the homestay with amazing fruit and pancakes.  Our "surf crew" arrived promptly at 9:00 am.  We were greeted with the most enthusiastic bunch of individuals ever.  Dan was our driver and Wanwan and Ade sat  in the back playing the tunes.  The drive out to the break was crazy, weaving through farms and dodging animals.  We arrived at the beautiful white sandy beach called Selong Belanak.  Our mission: whitewater pop-ups and balance practice.  We got this! 

Me applying the tribal zinc.  Oh, what I would give for neon colors.

Perfect application Tommy, just perfect. 

The crew after our first session.  There were plenty of beachside restaurants to choose from, and the scenery was truly special.

Much of the coastal countryside on Lombok looked like this.

After surfing and cleaning up, it was time for a nap.  Well, I didn't really nap.  It was more of just a lay there and whine about how bad I hurt from doing 5,000 pop-ups on the surfboard.  I was too tired to head out in Kuta, so Katherine and Tommy headed out on a moped to take in the sunset.  And....

ran out of gas!

You need gas to go go go!

Thankfully, Sandy and Helen, the owners of the surf camp, are super awesome.  Sandy got another guy with a moped to let him borrow his bike to "tow" the disabled moped.  That meant Katherine got on the back of Sandy's moped and Tommy and the other guy got on the moped that was out of petrol.  Sandy and Katherine got behind the other moped and Sandy put his bare foot on the rear peg area and pushed it all the way down a very rutted dirt road to a parking area.  Then he sped off and bought a liter of gas and put it in while Katherine and Tommy went ahead up to the lookout to enjoy the sunset.  What a guy!  

Katherine and Tommy made it to the most perfect sunset location on Lombok.

Another day, we took out two mopeds.  Tommy is a much better rider with Katherine on the back.  When I took her, it was all bad.  I think I almost ditched her a few times.

I think this boat has seen some better days!

The next morning, we were picked up promptly at 8:00 am to head to an intermediate break at Tanjung Ann to try our hand and some green waves.  This time Helen was our driver, and Sandy was there with an Australian couple he had been instructing for the last two weeks.  Katherine almost didn't go, since she had been up all night sick, but decided she would give it a go.  When we arrived the guides could not contain their excitement.  The waves were much bigger and more powerful than they had been for weeks.  Katherine, Tommy, and I were about to go from white water stand up practice to attempting to surf overhead waves on a reef break with current.  Oh, and the waves break 3 times, starting pretty far out, so we had to be taxied out by a boat.  What could possibly go wrong?  Katherine didn't last very long since she was still extremely nauseous.  She attempted to catch a couple waves, wiped out, and exhausted herself on the arduous paddle back out.  She caught a ride back in on a fishing boat and chilled on the beautiful beach.  Tommy and I were gluttons for punishment, and were beaten up over and over again for a couple for hours.  I got about 6 or 7 good rides, but got frustrated choosing some dud waves just to watch 3 beauties immediately after with no one riding them.  Tommy described the day as a perpetual exercise in drowning.  

Tommy at the surf chill spot.  

 Tanjung Aan Beach

Helen and Sandy inspecting the board mounting.

That night we ate, licked our wounds, and tried to get to bed early to have some energy to try it all again the next day.  One interesting thing to mention is that World Cup Soccer is currently taking place.  It is always fun to watch matches with people from all around the world while traveling.  Most of the restaurants in Kuta have giant screens set up to project the matches, and many are offering drink specials to entice the tourists into their establishments.  What surprised me is how interested the Indonesians are in the tournament.  The local people gather in the streets to look in and watch the matches.  Most do not come into the restaurants, since many of the places showing the matches are charging tourist prices.  Sandy has been making bets on all the matches.  So far he has not done very well.  He has lost 2 mopeds and 5 bottles of rum!  The first match of the day comes on at 8:00 or 9:00 pm.  If you are a hard core fan, you will need to stay up all night since the last matches are beginning at 2:00 am.  

Tommy's shirt puts it plain and simple.  This must be easy. 

Day three of our lessons brought us back to Tanjung Aan.  The waves were not quite as big and powerful, but the current was a bit stronger.  Katherine was proud to get 3 real long rides in.  These were her first green waves ever.  If you catch a wave at this break, you ride forever.  Tommy and I do not really want to discuss our day.  I started mine with a broken leash and an AWOL board on my first wave, which caused me to get thrown around and smack my foot on some coral, and then things digressed from there.  I did practice turtle rolling under waves, and was pretty successful and will have to attempt in the future when using long boards.  The last 3 days of surfing kicked our behinds!  At least when we threw in the towel for the day, there was a beautiful beach with cheap, good food at Turtle Warung waiting for us.

"The boys" with a giant plate of nasi campur.  They ate it with their hands, which is quite common in Indonesia.



High season has not started, so we had many places to ourselves.  A World Cup match is starting though, so things pick up through the evening.

All good things must come to an end.  After four days on this beautiful little island, we were heading back to Bali for some more scuba diving, and perhaps some more surfing.  We really enjoyed our short time in Kuta.  I am shocked that big resorts have not invaded this place yet.  It was strange to be on the gorgeous beaches with no commercial development.  Kuta is a very small fishing village, with small hotels and home stays, several warungs, a couple small surf shops and mini marts, and not much else.  I wish we had longer to enjoy the area.  Dan arrived at 9:00 am to drive us all the way back to Bangsal so we could catch our fast boat ferry back to Amed.  We arranged a transport through Liberty Dive Resort to take us to the North West part of the island to the town of Pemuteran.  It was going to be a long day. 


 "Dan the Man" arriving to drive us back to Bangsal.

 Horse cart in Mataram

Market day in Mataram.  Anyone need a goat?

 Tommy and Dan in Bangsal

Back in Bali

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Tulamben, Bali


Our departure from Ubud was relaxing.  We leisurely ate breakfast in the courtyard and chatted about our next location.  While eating, we noticed a little photo shoot going on with two young ladies.  This was the second time that we saw "modeling" photos being taken at the guesthouse.  It was more involved than your usual selfie and took ample time, so we all watched and were intrigued.  These were not professionals, and the whole thing seems quite ridiculous to me.  

We were rolling by 10:00 am, and started the 2.5 hour trip up the east side of the island to Pemuteran.  Along our road we could see rice fields and beautiful landscapes.  Mountains were everywhere and in a few places we even saw monkeys along the side of the road. 

View from the taxi taking us from Ubud to Pemuteran.

Katherine enjoying the ride.


When we arrived at the Liberty Dive Resort we were ready to dive.  We signed the necessary paperwork and headed right to the USAT Liberty.  Not to be confused with the "Liberty" class of ships, this is a United States Army Transport ship named the Liberty.  It is a WW2 wreck right off the shore of the resort and is covered with life.

We loaded our gear here into bins that were then put on the truck.

The dive was amazing!  Pics are below.

Lunch with a view of the pool.

Tommy noticed two police trucks.  Not really, but the name Mr. Popo just sounds funny.

Each morning the trees dropped beautiful flowers.  By lunchtime, the workers had swept them up only to fall again the next day.  

Kleine Maus enjoying the local beauty. 

That's me on the USAT Liberty wreck.

 Photo bomb!  Michael was trying to take a picture of us and then this happened.


Right off the wreck, on the return to shore, we passed through the eel garden.

Never seen this nudibranch before.  


More nudis!

Cleaner shrimp


All the diving we did in the Pemuteran area was shore diving.  Diving here was not the same operation as we are normally used to.  We were assigned two guides (Made and Agus) that took us wherever we wanted to go, whenever we wanted to go, and would point out anything we specifically wanted to see.  Each dive cost $30, and included Nitrox.  Our first full day of diving we loaded up and did a four dive day.  That really makes you tired, but with great food and time to rest, it is pretty smooth.

After each dive, we would come back to the resort for an iced tea or water, watermelon slices, and a dip in the fresh water pool.  There were a few other dive groups coming and going and we would occasionally cross paths trading stories about what we saw.  It was easy to change out camera batteries and jot down the info in our log books.  Our guides made sure we knew exactly what we saw and were able to name it.  

One of the things that is interesting about the area is that each dive site is set up with a range of facilities.  Now remember, this is Indonesia, so the facilities have a rustic look, but to have them there at all felt downright fancy to us.  There are fresh water showers, squat toilets, refreshments being sold, benches and shade, and even women that carry your tanks and gear for you and help you don it.  These women are very tiny, and sometimes no longer young, and they strap your BCD with all your weights onto their back and then hoist a tank, or two, onto their heads and then balance it all as they walk through rock gardens to the shore.  Very impressive!


After the last dive and dinner on our first day, we opted to get massages at the resort.  Whew!  We are sure glad that we did.  They had open air massage tables set up on a terrace above the pool which made for a wonderful atmosphere.  This became a "must" at the end of each day we were there, all for the bargain price of $15 per hour.  We might as well take advantage of this while we can since back home there is no way we can afford it.

This dive site was only a gentle sloping black sand bottom with scattered rocks.  But under closer inspection, there were small gems to be found everywhere.  It was so good that we came back a second time, and then third time.


A leaf scorpion fish

 Can you spot the frog fish?


Mantis Shrimp with a clutch of eggs


Katherine descending over the bow of the Kubu wreck.




Anemone fish in his humongous anemone 

 Humphead parrotfish



Two of the days while diving Tommy could be seen doing this above.  Yup, snorkeling like a madman checking out the sea-life in the shallows.  It was exciting to hear his stories since he was seeing new critters everywhere.  We traded information and much of what he saw was blowing his mind.  He was able to get down to a lot of the Liberty wreck and see some of the same stuff as us.  The only bad thing about floating up there is the sun can wreck you.  He had to cover up and watch out.


The Liberty Dive Resort has a huge menu and great food.  They even had three large TV's with World Cup soccer.  Can it get any better? 

Some folks were doing night dives.  Normally, we would too, but sometimes we wimp out since we are so tired. 


The resort at night was quite stunning.  My favorite is checking out the Southern Cross constellation.  It is only visible from the southern hemisphere which is a nice treat. 


Now it was time to say goodbye to the Liberty Dive Resort and say goodbye to Michael.  He had to head back to Denpasar and catch his flight to Singapore and then to the USA.  For Katherine, Tommy, and myself, we were headed to Lombok, the large island to the east of Bali for some surfing and fun.  Diving at the Liberty and surrounding dive sites is something to come back for!  We were very impressed with the macro life.  During Katherine's research for the trip, she read several times that the diving in Bali is not very good, and to skip it and head to one of the other islands.  We were seeing leaf scorpion fish, giant scorpion fish, pygmy seahorses, harlequin shrimp, mantis shrimp, wonderpus octopus, and many more weird and wonderful creatures during a single dive.  If this is bad diving, I cannot wait to see what the rest of Indonesia has in store.  We highly recommend both the Liberty Dive Resort and the sites around Tulamben.  If you decide to skip it though, that will be OK with us, since we like to have the sites to ourselves.  Next time, we plan to drag our other dive pals and make a giant underwater party out of it.