Monday, November 30, 2009

Tulamben - USAT Liberty wreck - Scuba Diving

Last week Melis and I went to Tulamben, Bali to do some snorkeling and scuba diving.  Tulamben is small, lonely town known for great scuba diving.  In particular, there is great wreck dive 30 meters off the coast.  The USAT Liberty has an interesting history behind her sinking.

I've snorkeled on and off since I was in high school, but it had been 10 years since last time had a tank strapped to my back breathing through a regulator.  Thursday night we arrived in Tulamben and I stopped by Tulamben Wreck Dive Center to get fitted for my gear.  The next morning at 8 I arrived at the center for my refresher course.  The dive master decided to have a quick refresher course in the open water instead of in the pool.  We walked down the trail (5 min) to the shore and went over the hand signals and equipment.  It all started coming back to be.  We went into the water and for about 10 minutes practiced clearing masks, breathing underwater, balancing with the BC, and purging the regulator.  After that we were off to the wreck.  It only took about 5 minutes to swim to the wreck, which is only 10 feet deep.

The dive master and I spent about 40 minutes exploring the wreck, and we went down to about 40 feet.  I was in awe.  The ship was surrounded by beautiful bright fish.  I swam through a huge school of jack fish and enjoyed the coral and various other life forms growing on the wreck.  Before I knew it our air was running out and we headed back to the shore.  It honestly felt like I was only underwater for about 5 minutes.

I took a 3 hour break and met up with the dive master again and went for a second dive.  This time we went went down to about 55 feet.  I saw a blue octopus, along with more amazing sea life.  I really enjoyed swimming through different parts of the ship.  The dive master even took a picture of me and the steering wheel that was intact. Once again 40 minutes went by in an instant.  As we headed back to the shore I was pleasantly surprised by Mel tapping me on the shouldered.  She was snorkeling above and spotted us coming in.  The dive master took a few snapshots.  After I returned to shore I dropped off my tank, bc, and regulator and snorkeled back out with Mel to show her the wreck.  A lot could be seen from the top of the surface.

The next morning we work up and snorkeled around the wreck.  Even free diving (snorkeling) I was able to swim in-between, through, and under parts of the ship.  Great fun.  I can see why I started diving in college.  I miss it.   Mel is interested in getting certified, so that she can dive in Manado next time we head back to Indo:-)

For the two nights we were in Tulamben, we stayed at the Tulamben Wreck Divers Resort.  We were upgraded to a Villa suite, which was awesome.  It was right on the coast with a beautiful view and lush vegetation all around.  The Villa would be perfect for a family or a group of buddies.  There is good snorkeling right outside the Villa as well.  Just ask Mel about the indigo starfish she saw!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Rafting along the Elo River

Last weekend Melis and I along with our friends Melanie, Jimmy, and Jimmy’s father went rafting down the Elo river in Magelang (50 min from Jogja).  We used the CitraElo guiding service, which had a base camp set up near the Elo River.  We started our 12 km journey down the river around 10am.  After a brief lesson about rafting and how to hold the paddles we were off.  The Elo River is great for first timers.  The river is super mellow, with a few sections of white water rapids of the easiest class.  Needless to say this didn’t mean we did not get wet.  There were about 14 other rafts on the river that morning and each time we passed one we would splash each other.  At times people would pull unsuspecting rafters into the water.  Our guide used his paddle to hook one side of the paddle around the life jacket of an unsuspecting person and yank them into the water.  It was quite impressive and funny.  He must have done this to 8 people on various rafts that crossed our path.  I think we were known as the “bully” raft. 

Besides water wars, we also enjoyed doing the “rodeo”.  When we would approach a rapid section of the river one person would sit at the very front of the raft with their legs dangling over and holding on to a piece of rope in between their legs.  This was great fun; I even got tossed from the raft when doing the rodeo without holding on to the rope.    There were even sections of the river where we jumped into the water and floated down stream.

Along the river there were beautiful streams pouring into the river.  Lush vegetation lined the river and also provided shade for the local people who fished along the side.  We crossed several bridges that seemed too small and weak to handle a car.  One was a nifty little bridge made out of bamboo and rope.

3 hours and 12 km later we reached our end point.  I was thoroughly impressed by how beautiful and lush the Eli River is and its surrounding environment.  It was a relaxing way to see another side of Indonesia.  If there is a next time I would like to try the moderate grade-rafting trip that is on the Serayu River.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ngandong Beach

Last Friday, Melis and I went to Ngandong beach with our friends Ali and Ben.  We set out Friday afternoon and made the trek via our mopeds.  It was a 2 hour drive through beautiful scenery.  We stopped half way there at a look out point and enjoyed cold beverages.  When we arrived, we checked into our losmen (like a motel).  Ben and Ali recommended a awesome place just up from Krakal beach. It was 5 dollars a night.  It was simply a room with a bed and a mandi (squatty potty). We had candles for light along with a nice lightning storm. That night we relaxed, ate at a local warung right on the beach and played cards. 

The next morning Ben and I went surfing.  Ben was nice enough to not only let me borrow one of his boards, he also transported the boards from Jogja, via his motor.  Check out the photos of his surfboard rack on his motor.  The water was refreshingly warm and the waves were overhead.  It was definitely nice to get out in the water.

The rest of the day we relaxed on the beach, reading, sleeping, eating and chatting.  We ate at the local warung again as well.  Around 3 in the afternoon, we packed up and headed out.  We stopped for an early dinner at Kampoeng Baron Restaurant and had a delicious chicken steak meal.  After eating we headed back to Jogja in the pouring rain.  I got absolutely soaked!  I had a rain jacket and shorts on.  Mel faired a little better with a poncho:-)

All and all it was a fabulous one day getaway with great company.  Thank you Ben and Ali!!!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day - Climate Change

As part of a worthy effort, this post is dedicated to the important issue of climate change. Today is Blog Action Day, a day when bloggers unite and blog about a single topic.  This year's topic is climate change.

I have spent the last 2 months in Indonesia.  I've seen how beautiful the country is, from the orange orangutans to the lush forests.  Indonesia, however, is also one of the leading countries in deforestation.  And according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, deforestation accounts for 20% of the world's global warming pollution.  Indonesia has recognized this problem and is willing to combat this issue.  "The Bali Roadmap"  was laid out at the end of 2007 and the countries who participated recognized climate change and were willing, in the next 2 years, to lay out a plan to help reduce global  warming.  It's been two years since then and deforestation is still a huge problem here in Indonsia.  More action needs to be taken.  Incentives need to be given to the people in the surrounding communities to stop cutting down trees.  Deforestation emits CO2, but it also destroys natural habitats for hundreds of animals as well. 

We need to constantly pressure and remind our governments and media outlets that climate change is a serious problem and that by ignoring it or putting it on our "To Do List"  will not be enough.  Action and global agreements need to happen.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cerme Cave - Bantul, Indonesia

The Crew

Mini waterfall

Watch out for the bats!

Last Saturday I went “caving” or whatever you call walking through a long 1,200 meter cave.  I met up with a friend of a friend who was leading a group to Cerme Cave in Bantul, a town 40 minutes outside of Yogyakarta.  We all met up in Yogya and followed each other with our motorbikes.  Driving there, I past breathtaking scenery; lush rice fields, mountains and banana trees.  We arrived 45 minutes later at the village leader's house.  He was in charge of the small mountain village community where the cave is located.  We left our bikes with him and headed to the cave,  it was about a 15 minute walk to the cave entrance. 

Before entering the cave our guide handed us bike helmets.  Walking in the cave I was sporting a bike helmet with a flimsy visor and a headlamp.  Entering the 1,200 meter long cave, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  The water level on average was about 2 feet high.  At times we were crawling with the water level up to our shoulders.  In the two hours we were in the cave we saw a lot of bats, some sort of cricket creature and lots of cool mud/mineral deposit formations.  We even saw a low pressure waterfall.  I guess during the rainy season the water pressure is pretty intense. 

It was a great adventure, there was not technical experience or risk involved, as long as you are not claustrophobic!  You could walk through the cave in about an hour but we took our time.  The water was refreshing and relatively clean.  At times the cave was narrow and cramped, the helmet was a good call.  It wasn’t a necessity, but it let me focus more on keeping my camera out of the water rather than bumping my head. 

When we emerged from the cave (a different exit point than the entry point) we walked back to the village chief’s place and enjoyed  a nice lunch.  We had  rice, tempe, tofu, tea and fresh veggies.  I contributed sour cream Pringles J.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tanjung Puting National Park - Borneo

To celebrate my 30th birthday Melissa and I went on a 3 night 4 day boat trip through Tanjung Puting National Park in Borneo. Tanjung Puting is famous for their orange orangutans. We drove 3 hours from Yogyakarta to Semerang, then took a 1 hour flight to Pangkalan Bun, Borneo. From there we headed to the police station to get our permits for entrance into the park. We booked 3 night 4 day boat trip on the Satria I from Suyono Majit, the boat manager.

After staying the night in PB we headed out early the next morning for Kumai (20 km away), which is the harbor where our boat was docked. Melis and I set sail, well, not sailed but "motored" our way to Tanjung Puting with 3 crew members, a cook, captain, and a guide. From boat it took a few hours to get into the park. Around 2:30 we arrived at Tanjung Harapan, a camp where once captive orangutans get fed daily. Tanjung Puting has 3 camps where rangers put bananas on platforms for the orangutans to eat. Most, not all of the orangutans were once held captive and later released into the wild, however, once they were domesticated with food from humans they had a hard time reverting back to their natural habitat. So, even though they have been released into their natural habit, free from any restrictions they do still depend on these timely feedings. At camp Harapan we hike about 15 minutes to the feeding area. The ranger put a bunch of bananas on a 10 foot high platform and we waited patiently for the orangutans to come. Just to set the scene, these "camps" are no more than a few benches made from fallen trees and slats of wood. There is a platform that is about 100 square feet and a 25 foot section of string about chest high that indicates how close you can get to the platform (about 12 feet). No fences, no fancy signs, no walls or any sort of confinement whatsoever. After about 20 minutes and guides making loud crys to attract the orangutans, they started to appear. First we heard rustling of leaves, then trees started to bend and suddenly we caught our first glimpse of an orangutan. One after the other, about 8 in total swung from tree to tree bending them perpendicular until they got close to the platform. Once in sight of the platform they lowered themselves down from high in the trees and enjoyed bananas left of the platform. Some ate on the platform and some took the bananas back into the trees to eat. Some had babies on there backs and some were shooed off my a more dominant male.

Melis and I were in awe, unbelievable. Yeah, I grew up in San Diego with the great zoo and wild animal park but I had never seen anything like this before. Melis and I snapped photos and were amazed at the beauty of these creatures. After a little bit we both sat on a make shift bench and just watched. The feedings at the 2 other camps were very similar to this one, however, camp Leakey had alot more orangutans and were more domesticated.

After an hour of watching the orangutans we headed back to our boat where we relaxed, read and had soda and wafers. The captain fired up the engine and we left the camp. The sun was going down and the proboscis monkeys started coming out. They were all along the shoreline high in the trees. These odd looking creatures have pot bellies and long shaped noses, they can only be found in Borneo. Once it got dark we found a spot along the side of the river to tie our boat to and enjoyed great food prepared by our awesome cook. We ate all our meals on the boat, fresh fruit, tempe, rice, eggs, chicken, veggies, tofu, toast, crab, beef and more. The crew set up a huge mosquito net and a mattress for us to sleep on every night. Very pleasant. The stars were out and the forest was louder than ever with animals talking. Melis and I took an immediate liking to our choice of staying 3 nights instead of only 2:-)

The next morning we headed up to camp Pondok Tangui to view a 9am feeding. The feeding was just about the same as camp Harapan, a 15 minute walk to the camp and about 8 to 10 orangutans showed up from tree limb to tree limb. Still, an amazing experience. Our guides say they never get tired of watching the feedings and I believe them.

By midday we were back on the boat enjoying a great lunch and heading to camp Leakey, the most popular camp of them all. This feeding (2 pm) was spectacular. There were orangutans hanging out in the middle of the trail, completely unafraid of humans. We literally had to walk past them, no further than a foot away. There were probably about 15 to 20 orangutans around camp Leakey. Some stayed on the platform some sat in the middle of the trail and some relaxed in trees 5 to 10 feet away from us. We even saw "Pedro" mate with 2 different females with in a 10 minute time span!

Day 3 we woke up and went on a 3 hour hike through camp Leakey. We didn't see much wildlife but it was beautiful none the less. At feeding time we went back to camp Leaky to view the feeding in hopes to see "Tom", the king orangutan. Tom is the dominant male who rules the region, he was a no show the day before. About 10 minutes into the feeding I saw Pedro scamper away from the feeding area, here came Tom, a HUGE 200 plus lb male orangutan. Wow, what a sight it was to see him. He mated with someone and then began eating bananas.

After taking a few pictures of Tom I turned off my camera and had a seat next to a local guide. We quickly started up a simple conversation in Bahasa Indonesian. With me able to speak only a little Bahasa I focused completely on trying to find the right words and not sound like an idiot. A few minutes later I hear fellow guides yelling "move, move, leave, GOOO! " I look up to find people fleeing to a narrow path out of the feeding area, then I see Tom heading straight at me! He wasn't coming fast but I would call it a brisk walk. I quickly got up and skirted away to the side. I couldn't make it out of the feeding area because it was clogged with 50 people trying to get out. A few kids started to cry. I got as far as a I could without crushing someone, maybe 15 feet away from Tom. I didn't know his intentions, my heart was beating fast. Tom proceeded to hurdle the bench exactly where I was sitting less than a minute prior and headed back into the forest. Wow, that was a close one. On our hike back we were greeted by a few orangutans that didn't feel like moving off the trail so we carefully walked past them.

Our last night on the boat we parked near fire flies who where lighting up the overhanging plants. It was breathtaking, Melissa and I enjoyed a candle lit dinner watching fire flies fly around, sometimes even on our boat. The next morning we took our time and headed back to Kumai.

This trip was amazing! We had an awesome crew and great weather. Melis even threw me a mini birthday party on the boat the second night. The crew and a few other travelers we befriended had cake and sprite.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Mt. Bromo

Mel, Me, Nancy and Paul
Stairs leading up to the crater
Enjoying the sunrise
Me, Mel and Nancy with Bromo in the background

Last weekend Melis and I, along with our friends Paul and Nancy went to Mt. Bromo.  A bus picked us up from Jogjia around 8:30am on Friday and we endured an 11 hour bus ride to Bromo.  We stayed at Cafe Lava, which is a great little hotel that is right next door to the park entrance.  It has incredible views and fairly good food.  When we arrived we checked in and ate dinner, I enjoyed sate ayam and a Bintang.  Shortly after eating we all went to bed.  

The next morning at 3:30 am we got our wake up call from the hotel staff.  We got dressed and grabbed our packed bags.  We took an hour long jeep ride to a vista point over looking the steaming and very much still active Mt. Bromo.  We arrived at 5am, there were a lot of tourists there so I quickly set up my tripod in the front row in order to get a good view while the sun began to rise.  The view was one of the most spectacular mountainous views I have ever seen.  Bromo is in the middle of a caldera which traps in the morning fog.  Bromo and a few other mountains were jetting out of the fog while the sun began to light up the sky.  Breathtaking!

After an hour we took the jeep back down to the base of Bromo where we hiked up to the crater.  It was an easy 30 minute hike up the path/stairs to the top of the crater where steam was actively seeping out.  After enjoying the views from the top of the crater we returned to Cafe Lava and had a nice breakfast.  The rest of the day we relaxed in the small, hilly town of Bromo.  I was very surprised at how quite and peaceful it was there.  We took motos (see video below) to another hotel Yoschi's and had hot chocolate.  Motos are great, it's a great way to see the countryside.  That night we ate at a the Bromo hotel restaurant, where the food was fairly good but nothing special.  The rest of the night we relaxed and chatted it up over some tea and cookies.

The next morning I got up at 5am and went to a look out point near my hotel.  It was nice to shoot the view from a different angle.  This time I could see both above and below the fog.  The fog was cutting through the mountains like it was trying to divide it in half.  It was quite peaceful and I chatted it up with a few locals who were also taking in the view.  After breakfast, we started our long, long journey home.  I know it's hard to believe this but the 11 hour bus ride was well worth the wonderful weekend in Bromo.

I will soon have more photos posted on my Indo photo blog.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Krakal and Sundak Beach

The swimming hole.  You can barely see Melis and Melanie

Melis, Nancy and Melanie

Locals catching some food

Last weekend Melissa, Melanie, Paul, Nancy and I went to Krakal/Sundak Beach, which is about a 2 hour drive from Yogyakarta.   We visited a few beaches up and down the nice stretch of empty real estate.  The beaches were very clean and the ocean was very choppy with double overhead waves. We saw only a handful of visitors and a few locals.  We basically had the place all to ourselves. When we arrived at 12  we relaxed on the beach, reading, talking and chill'n in the water.  Around 2 we walked down to the only place we found open and had some nasi goreng.  There, we met a guy that gave us a tour of the local beaches.  We wound up swimming in a beautiful swimming hole that was surrounded by bright green vegetation.  Due to the low tide there were many tide pools forming where some locals collected various sea life.  After a few hours we headed back to meet up with our taxi.  On the way we came across an amazing deserted resort up high on a cliff, over looking the beaches we visited.  The views from this place could beat most any beach front property.  We found a guy that was looking after the place to inquire how much it would cost to spend the night there.  Apparently they only open up the resort when a huge party reserves it.  It is not open for first come first serve customers. bummer!  The price was way too expensive anyway.  After that we headed back to the taxi and returned home.  Next time I think Melis and I will attempt to ride our moped there.  Melissa's Indonesian skills are good enough to get us directions if we get lost:-)

Here is a link to an interesting story behind Sundak Beach

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mt. Lawu

The closest thing I could find to a map
In the beginning

Jimmy and Melanie
Merapi steaming
Melanie pondering life
At camp drinking tea
Star trails over Mt. Lawu
Melis and Me at the summit
Me at the summit

Mountain shadow and Melis
Melis and me at camp, behind us is where we slept
This hut/area was made out of bottles and cans

This weekend Melanie, Jimmy, Melis and I set out to climb Mt. Lawu (10,712ft). Mt. Lawu is a spiritual mountain for Indonesians, many go to meditate at the summit. We left Jogja around 8am on Saturday.  We took a taxi to the train station, train to the town of Solo, taxi to a bus station, bus to Tawamanggu, then a local taxi/bus to the trailhead. In all it took us about 4 hours to get there. Once at the trailhead we ate some nasi goreng and noodles at a local eatery. 

With Jimmy leading the way, we started hiking around 1.  The climb was spread out into 5 check points, with the 5th being the summit. This helped keep our pace and provided a good resting spot.  The trail was well worn and easy to follow, it was not as steep as Merapi, however it was longer.  We reached cloud level as the sun was beginning to set.  This made for spectacular views, we even saw Merapi poking through the clouds.  Five and a half hours later with our head lamps on, we reached our camp which is about 600 feet from the summit. 

Camp is a little hut with a metal sheeted roof.  A few locals live up here and provide a place to stay for climbers.  We had tea and nasi goring for dinner and enjoyed a nice fire.  Around 8 we all huddled on the floor to get some sleep.  It was EXTREMELY cold at night and we had no sleeping bags or pads.  We didn’t even have adequate clothing.  Locals said it was around 32 degrees out at night.  Fortunately, a local gave us a tarp to put over us.  It was so cold that all four us bundled up to share each other’s body heat.  Even our heads were under the tarp.  After tossing and turning until 5am we got up and hiked the 15 minute climb to the summit to watch the sunrise.  It was beautiful!  The mountain was creating a pyramid shadow. 

We hiked back down to camp where we ate eggs and noodles.  Around 8 we packed up and hiked down.  We made it back down in about 4 hours.  From there we ate at a local eatery and started our journey home.

Time to give props:

Jimmy – Thanks so much for taking us on this trip.  Jimmy guided us through Indo’s public transportation and on the hike! Oh, and he hiked it in sandals!

Melis- Way to go babes!  Hiking her first 10,000 peak and doing it in style (spandex pants and argyle socks).  The looks locals were giving her were priceless.

Melanie- Continuing to add to her adventure resume of Everest base camp and Machu Picchu.



Elevation at trailhead: 6,400 feet

Summit: 10,712 feet

Time to summit:  5 hours and 45 minutes

Return time: 4 hours

**Sorry there have been no videos lately.  My point and shoot camera died:-(