Friday, May 27, 2011

Alone again but not for long…

Blog writing has had low priority lately with a lot of visits and active days and nights. But we have not been doing nothing, so we will try to catch up some on the posts before the next visit already arrives…in 2 days already ;-) Welcoming Anneloes and two days later Marloes! :-)

Nusa Lembongan
With Sarah we have been doing and seeing a lot. One weekend the three of us went away to Nusa Lembongan, a small island close to Bali. Just for some relaxing, sun and snorkeling. And that we did! It was a slight disappointment at first, we expected a bounty island and came to a not that nice beach with a lot of fishing boats along the whole coastline. Besides that they were drying seaweed all over the place in the sun, and it doesn’t have the most pleasant smell you can imagine. After finding and bargaining on a room and settling on the sunbeds, we took a new look around...and it seemed as if it was nicer everywhere than when we arrived. With the low tide coming the beach turned out to be pretty nice and the atmosphere was good. The water and was clear and turquoise and we had a beautiful swimming pool at our bungalows. Sarah’s conclusion was that Rino and I are spoiled after 8 months of beautiful nature and beaches everywhere we are at any time. Our norm and expectations have grown to illogical proportions, haha! But it might be true, we enjoy every sight, smell and feeling every day, again and again, absolutely. But still we unconsciously get used to all this in a way I guess.
The snorkeling was fantastic and especially for Sarah who saw this kind of tropical waters for the first time. We also hired bikes and saw some of the island. See the pictures :-)

Iris birthday :-)
I was turning 29 a couple of weeks ago. It was a great day to start my last year of my happy 20s! :-)
Sarah had brought colorful flags, which hung in the living room when I woke up in the morning. We started the day with my yoga class and enjoying a couple of hours at the pool there. Lunch was Norwegian salmon on the beach. And later Sarah and Rino surprised me with beautiful banana cake with candles on the beach together with the beach boys on “our” beach. Thank you guys! <3 Later on we went out for a good dinner with Carla and Vincent and I had a wonderful Bali birthday! :-)

Sarah and I did sightseeing and other fun stuff with and whiteout Rino. In stead of more stories of all sorts I let the pictures speak for them selves this time. Enjoy!

Gunung Agung

We had been thinking about climbing the holy mother mountain, Gunung Agung already since we came to Bali. Because of the rain-season we waited until the end of our time on Bali. As a “warming up” we climbed Gunung Batur link to see how we would like it and how fit we are. Rino has no real climb/hike experience and Iris a bit more from Norway, but climbing experience you can barely call it. After Batur we knew that we are absolutely fit enough, Iris is a bit scared sometimes of the hights, but that doesn’t stop her from wanting to climb more.

Sarah had already said yes to the challenge and at a beach party we met Claas, a Dutch guy who also would like to climb with us. Team Mount Agung was formed! We started making plans together with our guide, whom we also used for Batur, but faith wanted our plans to change. A few days before the climb an uncle of our guide died, this makes him (our guide) impure and unable to climb the holy mountain for 12 days according to Balinese Hinduism. What to do...? We made contact with a good rated guide in the Lonely Planet, he replied and wanted to be our guide. He asked for our experience and made the suggestion that we maybe should not take the longest track to the very top, but a little shorter track to a top on the east-side of the volcano crater. 150m lower than the top and no 360 view, but according to him still fantastic view and good view on the crater. This track was 4-5 hours instead of 6-7. It also had been raining on the mountain a couple of days, so we decided to take his advise. Now nothing could stop us anymore.

We were picked up outside our house at midnight so we could start the climb at 2am. We had all been sleeping a little bit earlier that evening and eaten a big meal to build up some energy to stay up all night. With our backpacks and pockets full of snacks we cheerfully started the hike to the top of Bali. The starting point was at 1600 meters, almost as high as the top of Batur. It didn't take us long before we absolutely loved and trusted our guide Pak Gung Bawa. A tiny build Balinese with tons of climbing experience and a open and heartwarming smile and spirit. And smiling he did, all the time, jumping up the mountain with quick and light steps. He referred to the monkeys as our masters, light steps and using both hands and feet for walking up the steep mountain. It did help and made the climb easier. Keep smiling, think about noting else than right now and the goal of coming to the top and feel the energy from the mountain. Hug and embrace the mountain when you climb up a steep part, it will recharge your batteries, he said. We did, and we felt it. “We don’t concur the mountain, we concur ourselves” were his wise words. Especially for Iris, who gets afraid once in a while when its steep, learned a lot from Gung Bawa that night and morning. You have all the power to decide how to feel and think at each and every moment, as long as you’re aware of it. It is all in the mind!

We had brought snack with us for the walk, but at each short break Gung Bawa offered us snacks of all imaginable sorts, bananas, Oreo cookies and all kinds of small energy boosts. The climb was hard but we were in good shape all of us and it actually went very well the whole way up to the top. Gung Bawa had a perfect tempo and was a great motivator and company to walk with. Showing us how the continues smile from the inside and out can help you in reaching a goal. And we reached our goal, after around 4 hours we saw the top and made a monkey sprint up the steep big rocks. Full of adrenalin and out of breath we reached the top of 2890 meter.

Together with other people we watched the sunrise and just took in the impressions of being on the top of Gunung Agung and the breath-taking view. Gung Bawa made a prayer and an offering while the sun was rising. Adding a beautiful extra dimension to the whole experience, considering how holy and important the mountain is to the Hindus.

On the way up as well as the way down, we met a lot of Balinese people, aged teenagers to old men and woman, in traditional clothing and flip flops, climbing to the top to do their offerings. Gung Bawa told us that they also once in a while bring a cow or a goat alive up to the top to sacrifice/offer it into the crater. How do they do it??

After the prayer Gung Bawa pulled more stuff out of his magic backpack, this tiny man carries a lot of kilos up the mountain for his customers. We drank coffee and thee and enjoyed fried bananas and delicious cakes. We realized again that we had hit the best guide we could get, nobody else on the top were spoiled so much by their guide as we were. Besides that we also had a lot of fun together, which made everything feel easier than it maybe sometimes was. Here a short clip from us having fun on the top, Iris explains a song to keep warm from Norway :-)

On the way down, all of us could physically feel it ace more than on the way up, in the knees, hips, shoulders and feet. Gung Bawa kept the spirit high and we slowly made our way back down to starting point. 11am the broken but happy team arrived back at the car to go home, take a loooong massage, order pizza and zzzzzzzz! :-)

Thank you Pak Gung Bawa and thank you Gunung Agung for this experience! And thank you Sarah and Claas for the great company and the shared experience!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Visit continues & shopping

Sarah is here and Mailiss & Erling are back home in Norway. We hope Erling feels better since he wasn't feeling too good after the suckling pig on the night marked in Gyanyar! Luckily most of the holiday wasn’t ruined for him, except the last days and unfortunately they couldn’t join the party we had in mind as their goodbye on Friday evening. We still went out with Sarah and it was a great night. We are not used going out anymore in our easy and slow life, so we looked forward to party ;-) Skygarden is one of the biggest discotheques in Kuta and for our taste nothing worth writing about at all. But we like the beer garden they have: 2 hours with free flow beer for around the 4 euro's, once in a while that’s a fun thing to do. After all the beer we went to a beach party at La Plancha in Seminyak, the best party in the area, it takes place once every 3 weeks and is so much fun! Good music, good atmosphere and good people. We had a lot of fun and felt the hangover big-time the next day, but it was worth it though. We also met a Dutch guy who wants to climb mount Agung with us, money saved and more company found, always nice.

With our hangover we relaxed some hours on the beach with Erling & Mailiss before they took of back to Norway. We on our hand took our stuff and scooters and headed to Ubud for a weekend of shopping, more shopping, some sightseeing for Sarah and another party. The party was for Kadek, old colleague from Sjaki, it was his birthday and it was nice to see and talk to friends again :-)
With our hangovers and big shopping plans we went to bed on time in our beautiful homestay in Ubud.

Time for the shopping we had planed for months, we had saved up money and we were waiting to buy most stuff till the end of our period in Bali. Of course we had seen a lot of the things we would like to bring home, now it was time to buy it. We will ship 1 cubic meter box from Bali before we leave :-) Bali has so incredible much art, woodcarving, stone carving, clothing, silver and all the stuff you can imagine. You could shop beautiful things until eternity! And then for prices that are unimaginable to us back home. Sometimes with a bargain and sometimes they start so low that you just don’t even have the conscience to start to bargain on the price. We came home happily with fantastic things and still money in the pocket.

Besides shopping we also showed Sarah the beauty of Ubud, the center and the surroundings. Iris is slowly becoming a pretty good guide in many places, seeing it for the 2nd and 3rd time, and still enjoying the never tiring Bali nature and sights.

Now it’s far past midnight and its the 5th of May, day of liberation in NL and my (Iris) birthday! I will enjoy the day with yoga and beach with Sarah and diner later on, I look forward to it, so nighty night good folks all over where you all are! :-) <3