Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Six down, six to go

Hi everyone, it's Jenni! Today is our 6 month anniversary when it comes to our travels, so we've still got half to go! It feels like we've been gone for ages and ages, and at times we really miss being at home... Dan misses cooking (I obviously can't say the same), I miss wearing pretty (and clean) clothes, and we just generally have started to feel the weight of having to make constant decisions about which country / city to go to next, where to stay for the night, which restaurant / street stall to eat at this morning / this lunchtime / this evening, what activities to do each day... You see what I mean! But then again, we are so lucky to be here, seeing all these amazing places and beautiful countryside and meeting new interesting people, so we know we really shouldn't complain!

After we left Yogiakarta where we wrote last, we did a hellish 12 hour minibus journey to Gunung Bromo which is a volcano in Eastern Java. What you're supposed to do there is to see the sunrise (in that region the sun rises at 5.30, but we arrived there at an unfairly early time of 4.00!). Although it was fantastically freezing at the altitude we were at, it was very beautiful. Gunung Bromo is an active volcano surrounded by a few others, one of which is a very high cone shaped one, puffing out black smoke every hour.

After the sunrise they drive you down in your hugely over the top, off-road jeep type of vehicle into the crate so that you can walk up the volcano. When we got down there it was still full of mist, and as we drove nearer we were greeted by hundreds of tiny horses and their owners wanting you to hire them to take you the 200meters to the steps up the volcano. It was a great scene watching every jeep driving through the mist and getting surrounded by horses (which is an animal you rarely see around here and then suddenly at 5am in a volcano crater there are loads!).

It's Dan now, Jenni got too hot and had to go outside to get some fresh air. We have done a bit of exploring the countryside in Bali, which is really beautiful, lots of terraced rice fields, lakes, mountains and beaches. We hired scooters a couple of times as this gives you so much more freedom than anything else (and its the cheapest option).

We have been very good at being careful and driving slowly and avoiding all the various dogs and cats and children that are liable to jump out in front of you at any moment. the local bird population has been less careful though on a particularly picturesque road along the top of a mountain ridge a lovely swallow swooped down in front of us and straight into my face! luckily for me I had my visor down so I didn't get bird in my eye, but I think it may have got a bit more visor in his eyes than he had planned for!

A few days later on another bike we got pulled over by the police for going the wrong way on a one way street and driving without an international driving licence, both things we were guilt of but also felt were pretty unfair. We followed a whole group of locals the wrong way down this street, who all seemed to magically disappear just before the policeman! Somehow, we are not really sure how, we managed to first talk our way out of the licence fine leaving just the traffic fine, and then after a couple more minutes of chat and the arrival of some other tourists he could stop he decided to drop all the charges and let us go without paying a bean, brilliant!

We have been very good over the last few weeks at going to cultural things! We have managed lots of temples and historical sites and culturally significant things, we are very proud of ourselves. In Yogiakarta we even had a very long tour of the huge Hindu temple with a guide who turned out to be very into theology and philosophy, we were quite out of our depth but the bits we did understand were great!

We went to a really cool dance the other night in Ubud, Bali. It was called the Kecek fire and Trance dance. It was cool we chose it because it is the only one that isn't accompanied by gamalan music that we have rather gone off over the weeks! Instead it is accompanied by 100 men who sit on the floor singing and chanting and clapping and hooting and things which makes a really cool sound and gives the whole thing a great atmosphere. The actual dance is done by others in fancy sparkly costumes. The story is part of the long Ramanyana ballet story, that we saw in Yogiakarta (aren't we getting cultural!), it is a slightly confusing story that seems to involve various princes, princesses, monkeys and birds going about the forest fighting people, destroying the flower beds and burning things, quite fun really!

At the end of this performance they did the trance dance, when one of the men from the group of 100 gets into a trance from all the singing he has been doing, picks up his hobby horse and then runs about through a big pile of burning coconut husks! He is bare foot and does it until the fire is pretty much out, at which point he goes a bit crazy and the other men have to chase after him and wrestle him to the ground to bring him out of the trance! We loved it, we were in the front row so got lots of embers kicked on us and things which add spice to any dance performance!

If you ever find yourself in Ubud, Bali there is a lovely little place to stay right in the centre called Raka House. It is owned by an old man called Raka (who always talks about himself in the third person!) and his family, it is very friendly and the 4 rooms are like posh hotel rooms, but only cost about 5pounds/7euros a night, they are way, way nicer than anything else in the area so it is worth looking him up. It is next to Sayong house which is in Lonely planet, but the rooms there smell and are a bit grotty.

Well that is all for now, we are off to Gilli air tomorrow which is supposed to be a paradise beach island, off Lombok, for a bit of sand and sea.

Lots of love,

Dan & Jenni


Nick & Ce said...

6 months eh? ... a great landmark for your travels. It coincides with our family being more geographically dispersed than ever before! You two in Bali, Celia in Peru, Sorrel in Banff and me in errr Steyning (someone had to stay and keep guard!) Cool eh?

Kati said...

The Gillies are ( least ages ago were) absolutely beautiful. No cars, just one donkey and loads of relaxed feeling! That is one place I really would love going back so I would not mind changing places with you right now...

John and Barbara Heslop said...

Well, Nick, everybody has to be somewhere!

"In Bali, young men have their teeth filed before they can marry." - Manners and Customs of Mankind - 1932.