Monday, 20 April 2020

The world's gone weird; Covid19, hunkering down in Northern Tasmania & nude Jenga.

What a crazy ol shit-storm we're rolling through this year.

According to the calendar hanging over my side of the bed, today I should be kicking off my Northbound hike of the Centennial Trail in the Black Hills, South Dakota.
After a week of stomping around in Dances with Wolves country I was planning to camp out for a while in Badlands National Park to the East.
Sounds like a marvellous romp to begin my annual trip to the USA.  Or it would have been right...


I bailed on this years mission to Colorado, South Dakota and Florida (sorry Uncle Gary) at the end of February after progressively twitchy information regarding the coronavirus signalled a no go this year.  With all respect to my American relatives and hombres, the States is not the location I would want to be jammed in during the panic and shelter in place antics going on.

As the Covid19 monster gathered size and made it's way around the globe I first I looked at changing my travel destination to Peru... then that didn't look like a great place to get stuck in either so I tentatively planned a hike on the Heysen Trail in South Australia then the shit hit the fan on Thursday March 19 and everyone was designated to 'hunker down and keep the hell away from one another' status.  I got off easy- full refunds on tickets and cancellations.  1000's of travellers are still going nowhere in remote locations all over the globe even now a month onwards.

Life here for me in Launceston has been surprisingly, well... business as usual. If you still have a business.  Or employment with one.
I am fortunate to be working on a farm in the primary industry sector and am very much isolated whilst located in a rural area and our processed products are in heavy demand.  So that's that.

There isn't a true lockdown situation in Tasmania however our State government sealed the borders which means no one in, no one out.  Same for Australia as a nation.  For the first time in my life international travel is prohibited and all citizens are banned from exiting the country.  Add to that an almost complete shutdown of the airline industry and Safari isn't going anywhere anytime soon.



National Parks and public lands managed by  Parks Tasmania are closed which kinda sucks big time as all the few remaining dog parks and river side trails around Launceston are jam packed most days with families and mountain bikers and walkers pushing past each other...short sighted but I get why the decision was made.

Ree & I are fully supportive of the stay at home order and keep the fuck away from everyone else.  We're getting on with it as usual by going to work, doing badass workouts, walking and running the same 3 walking trails over and over and over again.... Definitely want to see Australia and New Zealand come out of this as soon as possible and with minimal life lost.  The economic damage is already truly horrible but as I have alluded to; we are in a better place than most and fortunately I held off on pulling the trigger on my cheap & cheerful cafe business idea last year.  Phew!

Have I been baking?  Actually, yes.  Not because I have extra time or am bored or following the herd (not me!), more to do with continuing a habit I started up when up on the cattle station I worked at last year as a cook.  Banana muffins and bliss balls baby!  Oh yeah, and nude Jenga.
We know no one is going to rock up these days so that's safe.

Am I planning an adventure or 2 for when this piece of shit virus abates?  Kind of.  Everything is so fluid and changeable at present I'm being a bit corny and twee and 'living in the moment' for the first time in yonks and not really worrying about the future.
It'll happen. Time rolls on.

'beware those who seek constant crowds for they are nothing alone' 

Charles Bukowski

Meanwhile there are movies about hobbits and Italian/ American boxers and old Kelpies that need walking to distract me and my job absolutely wears me out physically on top of all the road running I'm doing so again, being a tad corny; feeling grateful for my lot in life and good health.


Big thanks to anyone and everyone who has messaged me and positive thoughts to all reading this.  It's not the zombie apocalypse but shit I wash my hands an awful lot now. 😀 

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Jakarta to Lombok- November 2019. 12 day Journey.




Jakarta to Lombok overland through Java was an easy sounding, no brainer journey I had on my to-do list for a few years.  Loads of travelers have paved the way on this route.

I'm a serious train enthusiast when it comes to getting around whilst travelling internationally and I knew Java is criss crossed with train tracks leading to towns and cities I have never heard of. 
Game on.

The opportunity popped up after working on a remote cattle station in the middle-of-nowhere Pilbara region of Western Australia. 
I figured I could grab a cheap flight from Perth on the way home to Tasmania and play a while in an easily accessible part of South East Asia... Well this plan was jumped upon and what resulted was a safe, touristy and yet somewhat diverse experience, heading East from the crazy concrete strewn metropolis of Jakarta to the sleepy green volcanic isle of Lombok over 12 easy days.

Image sourced from: Google Maps.


Jakarta to Yogyakarta (Red) Train

Yogyakarta to Surabaya (Gold) Train

Surabaya to Lombok (Green) Flight

Lombok to Bali (Purple) Ferry

FLIGHTS FROM AUSTRALIA TO INDONESIA AND BACK AGAIN:


Perth to Jakarta direct with Garuda Indonesia. 5 hours duration. I paid $300 AUD one way via the Traveloka website.
Free Visa on Arrival at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport for Australians and citizens of 168 other nations.

Denpasar to Perth direct with Air Asia. 3 hours, 45 minutes duration.  I paid $150 AUD one way via the Air Asia website.


JAKARTA.





We slammed down into the steamy, gritty city of Jakarta on a rainy Sunday evening.
I somehow, inadvertently, chose the most expensive taxi service possible to get to our lodgings which involved a brand new Tesla and a kamikaze driver hellbent on reaching the afterlife that very night.


After a long ride of stop start, stop start and being in the crush of 20 million other cars and scooters flying around, we were thrown out in the Cikini Raya area outside 6 Degrees Hostel.  website
I totally recommend 6 Degrees- it's been around for yonks, there's plenty of eateries scattered nearby and the rooftop bar gets you up, out of the chaotic craziness with some good city views and very cool, helpful staff.









It was the first time in a long time I have stayed at a hostel but for $30 AUD a night for a self contained, air con room the price was right and breakfast was tasty and filling.  It seems most of the other travellers buried themselves in their mobile devices at all times so socialising was minimal but that's the way it is these days.
We stayed 2 nights and hopped on the train from the nearby station to check out the Old City.







To be honest there isn't much to do in Jakarta apart from revel in the traffic jams and seek respite in the shiny air con shopping malls but it was a solid starting point to scoot off on a train East to Yogyakarta.
You can change money, get orientated and learn a bit of Bahasa.


At the time $1 AUD was about  9,500 Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)
At the time $1 USD was about 13,700 Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)


Grab is the default crowd sourced transport go to option, similar to Uber but you just order a motorbike or car and there's no prepay.
Cash after the ride concludes.
Super cheap and these guys work their arses off for very little, I urge you to tip as well. 

Grab app here


YOGYAKARTA.



We shimmied onboard the train to Yogyakarta at the Gambir Station which is a kilometre or 2 from the 6 degrees hostel. Although we shared a Grab ride costing $1.70 AUD with an American backpacker it is easily walkable and once there you scan in your pre bought tickets (we used the Traveloka app and had it approved to take an Australian credit card, website here)


2 seats in Executive Class cost $60 AUD, the trip takes around 8 hours.  

It's not the lightning fast Japanese/ Chinese/ Taiwanese train service but reliable, with air con, an eatery carriage and the scenery across rural Java is fantastic.






We stayed at the Hotel Neo Malioboro opposite the train station for $30 AUD a night. New decor, friendly staff and kick ass buffet breakfast.  Recommended.







I have to admit I dragged us down to Yogyakarta for the express purpose of visiting Borobudur Temple.
I first heard of legendary Borobudur 20+ years ago and always meant to make the effort to swing by...however when I got to Yogyakarta (which is an expensive yet fun city chock full of things to do) I couldn't be bothered ponying up crazy money to join a crowd of dickhead tourists in maddening heat to see yet another jam packed temple (yes I've seen quite a few in the preceding 20 years since hearing about Borobudur) so we slunk out of town on a cool little village bicycle trip and Ree had an eye opening afternoon during a one on one cooking class.










The bikes were rough, the lunch at a genuine local warung was delicious and our guides were rock stars!
Touristy yet fun riding around rural villages just outside Yogyakarta bopping into markets and various businesses.
Bicycle tour website


The cycling morning is recommended, however Ree's cookery afternoon was so so.  So I won't elaborate.  In her words: 'Don't look behind the curtain'.  Wise words!


Eating in Yogyakarta: there are loads of great eateries in the city.  We had a blast stuffing ourselves silly.
We sampled everything from pub food to grab and go off the street but mostly family run cheap and cheerful backpacker restaurants/ guesthouses/ tour agencies whose menus reminded me of travelling Thailand circa 2001.




Takeaway booze isn't easy to get in Yogyakarta due to draconian government restrictions but most hotels have a bar and there are a few pubs and clubs scattered around.


SURABAYA.


For this leg of the journey we opted for 'Business Class' train tickets which to be honest were a bit of a disappointment.  Cheaper, similar shabby carriage and seating but absolutely no air flow or air conditioning.  Super stuffy and difficult to relax.  Maybe it was just the carriage we were in but we were elated to run out into the frenetic madness that is Indonesia's second city and check into the Max One Hotel at Tidar.  $30 a night and scrumptious breakfast.  Outside dance floor and bar on the roof if that's your thing.

We grabbed a cab to the airport next day and I crossed my fingers and clenched my arse muscles as Lion Air swung us up up up into the sky for the 50 minute flight to Lombok.


LOMBOK.


We prearranged a transfer with our accommodation and after prayers (yes, I kid you not) and a quick dash through the main town, Mantaram, it was 3 days of bliss exploring the Western side of the island and hooking into fried fish and cold beer.











Absolutely recommend Cozy Cottages in sleepy Mangsit.  

Situated around 5km North of Senggigi where most travellers stay and party, the beach is black and shaded by palm trees.  Lots of eateries and bars nearby serving Indonesian and Western stuff.  Cozy Cottages is owned and run by a British guy, there are only 5 stand alone villas and the swimming pool is lush.
Website here

I rented a newish Honda Vario scooter from a local outfit via Cozy Cottages for 60,000 IDR a day and we hopped on and blitzed around the coastal roads.  Fantastic fun!  It was off season so few if any other tourists and little traffic on the surprisingly very well maintained roads.  






The highlight for me- and if I'm being honest, the underlying reason for visiting Lombok- was the incredible seafood on offer.
Loads of beachside dive bars serving up cheap rice plates.  Ree found eating vegetarian fairly easy throughout Java and Lombok too.





















So few travellers mooching around meant there were some desperate bracelet sellers and empty beaches.  Rubbish abounds on the coastal sands fringing Lombok and the interior roads are worth a fang on the scooter if you feel adventurous.  

However the locals are friendly and we never once encountered the slippery scam.


BALI.


Ah, Bali.  Bogan shithole of the South Pacific.  Yet cheap and accessible port of entry to explore Indonesia.  

We ran the gauntlet of  wanna be con -men and touts at the wharf North of Senggigi at Bangsal and took the speedboat direct to Padang Bai on Bali's East coast. You can also head to the Gili Islands on a similiar route.

There we ran the gauntlet hustlers and touts to crawl stop start in a crowded van and experience grid lock traffic for 2 hours before being dropped off in Legian, backpacker central.  



The journey was arranged via Cozy Cottages on Golden Queen and it was actually quite well run.
Price includes pickup from Lombok accommodation, ferry service and transfer to Bali hotel.   

$30 AUD per person.

website



2 nights at Grandma's Plus Legian scoffing a scrumptious buffet breakfast (yes, breakfast is massively important to me) and utilising the free bicycles for a ride along the beachfront was enough for us. 


Day trips around the island are expensive and many travellers rent a scooter and have a pants browning experience escaping the built up congested Kuta area. 


I usually avoid these types of over developed party places in Asia.  Saying that it WAS my 3rd visit to Bali over 20 years so seeing the crowds and crazy pricing for drinks and activities first hand- since my last time there many years ago, I used it as an entry point to travel to the Komodo Islands around 2005?- reinforced why it was important to experience Lombok NOW before it is quickly turned into another Bali.


Food is good!  Can recommend any of the cheap Warung's in the side streets around Legian, just keep an eye out for the fat drunk Aussie's staggering around.  


3 on a tiny scooter each clutching a Bintang was the most we saw one hairy night complete with burgers and warm beer, but people watching is always good value when you're seeing your fellow country men and women fighting each other and puking up in the gutter.








That's it.  


Java; fun and shambolic.  Just the dose of craziness and noise and urban landscapes I wanted after 4 months in the Great Sandy Desert. 


Lombok; gorgeous, laidback and green.  Worth a journey and on the cusp of big changes.


Bali;  Because there is an airport with budget direct flights many times a day to Australian cities.  Not my cup of joe but I'm in the minority.