Archive for April, 2006

Under the Sea

April 23, 2006

On nearly an impulse, upon the discovery of a surprise national four-day weekend (these appear unpredicably now and then), and with mom and Claude’s visit next month, we decided to off to the sea and become divers…

So there we were a few days later on Lombok, the next-door polite and quiet neighbor to relatively raucous Bali. We’d spotted a just-about-right in all ways resort on the beach on the Internet, and Julia’d done her magic thing about the prices, and there it was, our bungalow for four nights…At the beachside front edge of this tranquil garden, with only the occasional hawker, a pack of beach dogs, and the crashing of the waves. We didn’t see the sun for four days (will this rainy season EVER end?), but who’s counting anymore now. It’s absence didn’t affect our adventure,
whose hosts we found right next door to our bungalow in the dining room.
Our plans now fixed (Julia did that magic thing with money again, and I played along), we went to the beach to learn about crashing Indian Ocean waves, currents, and crunchy sand in nasty places… Orange shirt courtesy of Hilton Head, NC, circa 1998.

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April 23, 2006

So the next day, after the swimming pool lessons it was on the kit,
Out to the beautiful blue Gilley islands,
Where there are no cars or roads…
Imagine what’s going on down there, then go find out for ourselves with our instructor Pak Lulu…
2 dives later, a little euphoria, and after our exam the next morning, we’re Open Water certified and ready to go diving with Claude next month…

Last Stop in Kaliurang: The Japanese Caves

April 23, 2006

So we were heading back to Jogja in the car when Julia pointed to a sign that said “Japanese caves –>”. Having just finished Neal Stephenson’s fabulous Cryptonomicon, in which a great deal of the story hinges on Japanese caves buried in dense Philippines jungle, I couldn’t resist. We were all a bit tired out after our morning hike, and needing to get home, but a quick stop seemed the thing to do.

The attendant assured us the caves were just a kilometre over that way, and yes, the walk was easy and sandals were fine… besides tickets were only a nickel apiece. Who could say no? We chuckled at the sign below, posted at the entrance to the park:

This sign is a joke. OK, it isn’t really a joke… but yes it is, really a joke. It says “no litter here”, and maybe but I don’t remember for sure, MAYBE there really wasn’t any litter right there. In it’s larger context, however, it means “no litter in this area” which probably meant in the park area. I still haven’t found a way to understand how such a huge percentage of a population can make such a dumping ground of their entire living space — work and office areas, outdoor areas, gardens, driveways, streets… nothing is spared… That’s why the walk in the jungle below and observing the “buffalo soldiers” and “sand haulers” working in their pristine habitat is so interesting… it’s just the city and townfolk who befoul their space…why?

Anyway — on with the the little cave excursion…

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April 23, 2006


Neal Stephenson knew what he was talking about. The trek to the caves was anything but a walk in the park. The three of us were getting pretty bitchy after about twenty minutes in fairly broiling sun sliding around in sandals. We’d already seen the views, after all, and this was just supposed to be a little hop over to some WWII relics to inform my imagination of scenes described in that fantastic novel…

So we took a seat at a thoughtfully-provided rest bench, and, if only she’d taken off her sunglasses, we had ourselves our first near-perfect pic.

Climax

April 23, 2006

And at last, after nearly 30 minutes straight uphill in sandles, following our gruelling sweat-soaked morning hike, our “short stop” on the way back home delivered us here. We’d even stopped to ask a bunch of teenagers hanging out on the path if we’d lost the way, and they pointed us around the corner saying “just over there”.

They were giggleing behind us as we trudged on. When we finally got to the three little holes in the mountainside, and that’s all they were, I remembered the ticket seller in his booth by the smelly neglected pool at the bottom of the hill. It sure had seemed like a nickel wasn’t much to support the upkeep of a local tourist sight.

And there is no support. Absolutely no information up here. No way to know the Japanese blasted these caves, or when. And the truth is, no one cares… here on this mountain of love… among the giggling teenagers as a middle-aged bule jumped the queue trailing two beautiful young Asian women… after taking flash photos in all 3 fully-occupied caves we were back out of there and heading down the hill in a hurry! I even tried to discourage one European family from continuing on their trek to where we had just been led. No success, I fear.

Ziggy

April 23, 2006


This honestly real and as big as my hand tarantula watched the monkies’ return engagement with us from our jungle box seats, and beat the scorpion in the Royal Palace in Ubud last year for creepiness.

To everything a season

April 23, 2006


Can’t begin to explain, but this IS seasonal coloring, or maybe this tree is just sick… but it’s the only non-green I have seen in 20-odd months in Indo. And two weeks ago on our last visit it was green. On that seasonal note — Julia brought a couple of plants onto my patio in December. Soon after that, they were just sticks in dirt, and I figured the leaves had been a tasty snack for our little lizard friends, or for our lizard friends’ tasty snacks. But last month I saw leaves all over these two plants, and a week ago they sprouted honest-to-God roses! How cool is that??? Seasonal plants still know when it’s supposed to be winter even when there is no winter!!! Do they teach that in grade school?

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April 23, 2006


On the return visit the weather was better and I expected a five o’clock monkey show, so I actually scored some almost OK pictures of the tribe that flies through the jungle and over our railing when we visit Kaliurang. This was a newbie, however, and one of a kind. I forget what the hotel staff called him, but the poor guy’s a loner — the only one of his species here (boy, does THAT sound familiar!), and is forever crashing through the trees and dropping to the jungle floor tagging along behind the resident “natives” — who are much smaller but greater in number. The others are further along down the road…

Return to the Mountain of Love

April 23, 2006



We had such rich weekend that we went back for more two weeaks later. Something ominous about all that smoke, dontcha think? Well, hiked up to the vest viewpoint again, and this time I bought one of the pics of the last time Merapi wasn’t feeling too loving: here it is…

You know, it’s hugely embarrassing to admit this, but I’ve had a spectacular view of Merapi from my balcony for the last seven months in this house, AND NEVER NOTICED! You think maybe I don’t need two floors? Truth is, it’s rarely visible because it’s been rainy and cloudy nearly the whole time… but

The tigers and monkies and all the non-male, non-twenty-to-thirty something population of the mountain have fled their homes on Merapi, because she is apparently not feeling too happy. That lava-bed floor in the pics below will soon be covered with a fresh gift, and I may still be watching from my balcony. Here’s hoping it all ends OK. More special sand and other gifts for the local industries…

Mountain of Love

April 23, 2006

A weekend in Kaliurang, at the base of Mt. Merapi, one of Java’s most active volcanoes. Much to learn here, about how many ways this mountain is loved, and loves in return. We watched tourists, mountain-dwellers, and wildlife interact with the smoking beast for a couple of wonderful days. It started here.