Pokhara – Saving lives, beautiful sunrises and a road trip

Where to begin with this one. I’ve had some ideas, then I had food not agreeing with me, which knocked me out for about 2 days (yay?! Suppose it had to happen at some point) and then I had, rather still have, pagoda and temple fatigue. But no excuses, on with the writing. My future self will thank me to have this to look back on.

Right, so we went to Pokhara in Nepal. We even extended our stay by a few days because we fell in love and wanted to do much more than we were physically and time-wise able to do. I don’t know if it is a competition thing, but everyone in Pokhara said that once you’ve seen the Himalayas there, you won’t enjoy Nagarkot. So we cancelled our stay there much to my disappointment cause I was supposed to cook with the hosts. But it was definitely worth exchanging that with our adventure in Pokhara.

Let’s start at the beginning. It took us a solid 10 hours from Kathmandu to Pokhara, yet it is a mere 200km so that should give you an idea about the roads. After the dust and hustle in Kathmandu, Pokhara is a nice change of scenery to arrive to. Arriving into the city, we saw some clouds in the distance only to realise it was the top of a friggin mountain in the Himalayas. Anyways, Pokhara is mainly for the active, though I would absolutely not mind just hopping from restaurant to café to restaurant, read a book, chill and watch people. It had a very relaxed mood about it with lots of diverse places catering for tourists. Basically, the tourist street was touristy but it wasn’t overwhelmingly much.

I realised I veered off again. Let’s get to the juicy bits. Mind you, it’s something I can say now cause it all ended well. In short, we saved 2 lives on our first proper day. With a paddle boat. On the lake. We were coming back from a little hike to the World Peace Pagoda (definitely recommend renting a boat and going up there as a half day trip) when we heard some yelling. We were the only ones on the lake that we could see as it had started raining (we had a deadline in our rental time) besides those people. The weather changed very dramatically, as it does in the mountains. So where there was only some light drizzle before, there were suddenly strong winds and therefore currents. Two guys struggled to get to their paddle boats cause of said currents and a third friend was trying to help but couldn’t. I don’t think we quite realised the urgency and just slowly paddled towards the bunch. Once closer, it sunk in, we picked up the life jackets from their paddle board, paddled against winds and waves, threw the jackets out to them and picked them up one by one. Phew!

Fast forward a day, the group of friends invited us for dinner to thank us, took us to drinks at their new favourite hotspot (Altitude Bar – convince them of getting more cosy lights) and we had a date with one of them, Nikil, to do a road trip on a Royal Enfield (husband’s dream). Considering they wanted to take us bungee jumping and paragliding, I felt this was a good choice. Though I am not certain my bum and back would have agreed with that 48 hours later.

Off we went on said road trip, first with no aim, then to Tatopani to enjoy a natural hot spring that turned into an overnight stay to give us all a break from propelling through rivers, mud and sand. As I said, for me it was a bit of a challenge (an understatement) but I knew my husband was a happy bunny and enjoyed “motocrossing it” on the roads. And the views weren’t so shabby along the way. Side note, if you know how to drive and enjoy off-roads, don’t be a passenger on the back.

Somewhere in between adventures, we also some some stunning sunrises over the Himalayas and did some smaller treks. The first sunrise was so stunning that we decided to go up to the Australian Camp overnight in a tent to have the mountains even closer. It was absolutely beautiful and worth doing. The hike up there isn’t that long, though I swear I felt like there were more stairs, steeper hills and an entirely different route to get to the camp the first time around. We did a trekking route with a guide cause we didn’t know anything, but with a bit of research and asking around it is totally doable on your own. Also, I find it’s always worth checking these days, if the place you’re staying at needs some breaking out off via kitchen fences and amusement park barbed wires in the early morning or if they’d open the front door for you. It saves you some adrenaline at 5am though I suppose you won’t need the gym or coffee after that.

More photos of our trip can be found on Flickr

Sunset at a Hindu and sunrise at a Buddhist temple

To say that the last two weeks have been a whirlwind of impressions, activities and interesting encounters would be an understatement. Every day there was something new to take in that hardly allowed me to make space for getting photos uploaded, let alone videos edited or writing blog posts to digest it all.

There was one afternoon, much needed, where I captured my thoughts on Wamena in Papua but I didn’t manage to wrap up Indonesia with the last destination – Yogyakarta and the temples we visited. I can’t believe that we’re off to another country, I absolutely loved Nepal, though more on that in future posts. Sitting on planes, thriving on 3 hour sleep, sugar and caffeine sure make a good foundation to get some brain cells on “paper”.

After Wamena, Yogyakarta (or Yogya as preferred by the locals) was a welcome and uplifting surprise. It has a bit of an independent status and staying in Kraton, the Sultan’s city, was fabulous. We loved our Airbnb and the host (Ifa ; I can highly recommend it. Staying in that area makes everything somewhat of a walking distance and there are great places to discover culturally and food-wise.

We only planned 3 days for Yogya, which for me wasn’t enough to explore, but we got the absolute highlights in there.

Getting to the centre from the airport

If you’re feeling adventurous, get the local bus. We got the 1A to Tasman Pintar, which stops opposite the post office and is right around the corner of one of the Kraton entrances/the foot of Marlioboro Street. The ticket was only IDR 3,500 per person and the ride took about 40 minutes (though I suppose traffic can impact that a little).

Rent a scooter

We hired one for 3 days and got a discount. In total it was IDR 180,000. We fuelled up for about IDR 35,000 over the three days and we drove to both main temples and one of the beaches in the south. There is a tourist area (Jalan Prawirotaman) with lots of restaurants offering western inspired food and there are a lot of scooter rental places.

Prambanan Temple

We did both temples independently as much as we could, i.e. we didn’t book any special tours or guides. Prambanan Temple is known to for great sunsets, so that’s what we did. It took us just under an hour by scooter. I suppose it helps having a I-want-to-be first-at-every-crossing driver, so it’s best to plan about an hour. There is parking on site for a fee. Not sure what happened but the people at the ticket counter gave us a huge discount when we left. Maybe it was because we were literally the last tourists to leave the grounds.

Entry is a bit steep compared to the general price-value ration in Indonesia, but also cheaper than other touristy things we’ve done on other islands before. The prices tend to change, not sure based on what, so best to check in a current leaflet or at a tourist info centre. We paid IDR 362,500 per person.

By the way, the Prambanan Temple is the whole complex. It is a collection of quite a few temples and the main one everyone is swooning over is actually called Roro temple. There are also 3 other smaller ones and the Sewu Temple was rather stunning as well.

Borobudur Temple

If the sunrise is something you want to experience standing with a few hundred of other tourists on top of the stupa of Borobudur, there is only one way to do it. Manohara hotel has monopoly over providing the experience though I have to say it was worth it. We got up at 3.20am as it’s a bit of a longer drive than to Prambanan to get there. Still, we made it in a little over an hour and arrived at 4.45am in time for our torches and badges. Note to any future travellers, check the location for entry; it’s not the one that pops up on google maps.

The ticket per person was IDR 450,000. You’ll have to bring a passport (we had copies on our phones) and you’ll get some decent snacks and drinks after you’re done doing the rounds of the temple, and also a little souvenir.

Regardless of the many tourists popping up in your photo shots, the view is absolutely stunning. Colours changed by the minute, the two mountains (volcanoes) in the distance looked majestic and the fog far below made it all look mysterious and jungle-like. It’s worth going around the upper levels to see the intricate carvings and stories being told.

Food

A typical local dish to try is godek. It’s some kind of pulled jackfruit cookies in something delicious with rice and usually duck or chicken with a black egg. If you don’t eat meat, just ask for it to be served without.

Milas Vegetarian is a bit off the beaten path but once there, a lot of happy tourist faces await you. Shouldn’t deter you, cause it is actually really nice in both the atmosphere, place and food. For us it was a nice dinner out compared to cheaper options on other evenings.

Talking about cheaper options, Avocado within Kraton is a nice little Warung type place. They have a short menu or noodles and rice, some fried vegetables and we’d like to think it was actually prepared by the Mama of the house. Very delicious.

We were lucky to have access to a kitchen, so we also cooked at home. The supermarket Super Indo is good for fresh fruit and veg and anything else you might fancy.

If you fancy having a look at photos, check out my Flickr, or have a watch of the video below I did of our time in Yogya.

Waigeo – Seeing the bird of paradise and discovering underwater beauty

It’s been a while, hasn’t it. We’re now on our way to Nepal and there is still so much to share about our last few weeks in Indonesia. I haven’t written or posted anything cause, one, of non-existent or very slow internet, and two, I have been focusing on getting the videos done instead. It always takes longer than you think and as I have limited tools to get it done, it just takes more time than it usually would, if I had a laptop, unlimited storage space, internet, etc.

But here we are, on our way to Nepal, with so many thoughts and images in my head from the recent weeks. Our stay on Waigeo, to date, is still my favourite despite being at the height of a cold there. It was just dreamy. The food was amazing, the people were friendly, the sounds of exotic birds in the morning added to the jungle feeling, the beach and water was just stunning. Did I mention the food? We didn’t realise that when booking on Raja Ampat Homestay, that it was full board. It makes sense because you’re not close to anything really to quickly grab something, let alone have a kitchen available to cook yourself. Though I did get to cook on the last night with Christine, the owner, in their kitchen.

Cooking with Christine at Warimpurem Homestay

We stayed at Warimpurem Homestay, about 30 minutes drive away from Waisai, where all the boats and ferry arrive and some leave for the other islands. The airport doesn’t seem to work anymore, a local said that flights were unreliable and people ended up going by ferries in the end. It only takes 2 hours from Sorong, so it’s quite alright considering the time you’d have to wait at the airport.

Sunset at Warimpurem Homestay, Waigeo, West Papua

Back to the homestay. It was basic, clean and everything you needed. The day slows down here, starting with the sounds of birds and waves. Eventually, we strolled over to the common dining/dozing-off-on-a-hammock area where we had breakfast and pondered what we’d do next. The first day we picked up our lost luggage at the harbour on a scooter driving over bumpy roads (I think people’s bums here become conditioned at a young age. I’m afraid mine will not get used to the pain) and learning that Sundays here really are Sundays. Everything was more or less closed and we could only fuel up with an overpriced bottle from a street vendor. The second day we went on a hike early morning (read before sunrise) to see the Red Bird of Paradise, which only exists on Waigeo, and the Wilson’s Bird of Paradise. On the third day, we went snorkelling around islands nearby and I got a sunburn on me bum. On the last day we explored the local village. Our stay there honestly felt so much longer than four full days. It was the right kind of activity-relaxation-ratio considering I also tried to get over a cold.

Saporkren Village, Waigeo, West Papua

What also helped with slowing down was one of their cats, Manis. I called her Meryll, cause her meowing reminded me of one. She rendered us immobile by wanting to snuggle or sleep on our laps all the time.

Seeing real life dragons

One of the main reasons we came to Labuan Bajo was to go to the Komodo National Park and see the Komodo dragons. They only exist here and are very old as a species and seem to be gifted with the genes for survival. They can swim, but not far, which is why they only exist on the islands in the National Park. They can be fast, if they want to, have a poisonous bite (killing their prey slowly), young ones can climb trees, smell each other, trace blood from kilometres away and they just look impressive. They can’t fly however, but that might be just a matter of a few thousands of years.

We went on a combo snorkelling and trek tour to see the dragons on Rinca Island where there are the most dragons and you have the best chance of seeing them. We were lucky enough to see all age ranges, male and female, with a bit of action from one of the older male dragons wanting to claim his spot next to a female. I got it all on video and let me tell you, once you see them make even the smallest move, you’ll happily stay behind your local guide who is equipped only with a forked stick.

Not sure how effective the guide and the stick would be, if a dragon would decide to launch towards you. Overheard someone saying that there is no warning and they could be happily dozing away (or seemingly so) and start and attack.

Mating season just finished more or less and females have now hoarded loads of eggs in one hole with multiple decoy holes kindly dug by some kind of bird which used it during their hatching season before. The females eat some of their own eggs for a couple of months, so in the end, if I understood correctly, about only 10% hatch. The young ones then climb trees and eat their smaller kind, lizards for breakfast, lunch and dinner. How lovely!

Check out the video below. It has a few bits in from the days before we went to see the dragons as well.

A few days in Brighton before our big trip

Oh man, I had no idea it was going to take me this long to get the video on Brighton edited and uploaded. It always takes about 5 times longer than you think!

But I did it! Yay/applause/pat on the back and thank you to lovely husband for making lunch.

Last summer, we’ve been to Brighton for a weekend and it was a lot colder than it is now. It is currently gloriously blue and sunny outside and it’s been amazing getting to know this city a little more.

Of course we had to go back to our favourite food places, explore some new ones and got a bit of a sunburn (who would’ve thought).

It was definitely the perfect few days before jumping on a plane to Indonesia tomorrow morning. Husband called it the calm before the storm. Let’s hope that this figure of speech isn’t becoming reality after all the horror show posts of boats capsizing and all I’ve read.

On that cheery note, enjoy the video. Again, bloody pain to get that together on an iPad but totally worth it. Maybe next time I’ll figure out how to get different background music on there besides the standard 6 theme tunes available in iMovie.

Everything is in a box in a box in a box

Today we moved everything into a box.

Which means we’ve now officially switched over to camping-and-living-out-of-our-backpacks mode. I don’t think I’ve properly realised what is happening. For about a month, my focus has been to get everything organised, packed and ready to go and I am very good at compartmentalising, i.e. keeping the eye on the prize in a rational and logical way. Emotions usually hit after I’ve achieved what needed to be done.

So here I sit in our local pub, a baked camembert and a half fish and chips later (didn’t eat all day, see compartmentalising), and start to feel all the feels. It is slowly sinking in that I may not people watch from this corner of the pub anymore, or that our flat is so not cosy enough for this grey and rainy weather. (Reason why we’re in a pub and it at home).

There is still a bit of processing time left; we’re going to Brighton for a few days to switch off and prepare ourselves mentally for what’s to come next. Weather isn’t playing ball so I’ll be wearing everything I’ve packed enjoying the British sea side.

Slight tangent, “our” cat has been in and out these past days exploring boxes and rooms. I wonder, if she knows we’re leaving.