Saturday, May 21, 2016

Hold on tight!!!

Our final day on the boat started at 5:30 am this morning because Alexi had a "special treat" planned for our first dive. We were going to dive the Batu Tiga site. Apparently this site is very difficult to reach so of course we are going to attempt to reach it since we have not been challenged enough already. It consists of a cauldron that can only be accessed by decending outside the cauldron and swimming through rock overhangs that are almost like caves (yes you read correctly).  The underwater currents are so severe that the only time it's possible to even attempt the dive is during a slack tide (the period between tides) and that occurs this morning at 6:00 am so we needed to be geared up and ready to jump in the water at that time. Of course a negative entry is required and we will be decending to 30 meters again, only this time there is a twist. Once we reach the bottom we will need to hang on to the rocks and PULL ourselves against the current through the rock formations because if we don't hang onto the rock, the current will sweep us away. Does this sound like a "special treat" to anyone else? Certainly not to me. A cappuccino and doughnut would be my idea of a special treat. 

After hearing the briefing Cheryl and I were very uneasy about participating but reluctantly agreed to join the group. That damn peer pressure thing again.  We all boarded the dive boat together for this dive because Alexi would make a "game time" decision for the entire group as to whether the currents would be light enough for us to make the attempt and we all needed to jump in within a few minutes of each other. Doug, Cheryl and I would go last. 

The sun was just peeking above the horizon to the east as we reached our entry point. Alexi jumped in to evaluate the current and gave the group the OK sign that the dive was a "go."  I think I was supposed to be excited we were actually going to attempt to reach this special place, but part of me was hoping we could go back to the boat for that cappuccino and doughnut. 

The first two groups plunged backwards into the water and were quickly out of sight as they performed their negative entry. Our group was now on deck. I remember thinking that the mood on this dive was very business like and each dive guide was much more deliberate in their instructions and it felt like it was "game on."  With our safety checks complete and all equipment working, we emptied our BCDs and our lungs and fell backward, racing to the bottom. I can say without question this was the most intense experience of my life. Once at the bottom, as expected, all three of us were being forced in the horizontal position by the rushing current. As instructed we were holding on to the rocks to stay in position. It was like being in a hurricane but in water instead of air. My adrenaline was pumping so hard and I could feel myself sucking down my tank so fast I was taking the term "air pig" to a whole new level. 

Doug verified Cheryl and I were "OK" and we proceeded to the pull ourselves along the rock bottom with our hands in and around the rocky overhangs until we finally reached the cauldron.  Once inside, the current went to nearly zero and boy what a magnificent place.  I felt like I was with Jacques Cousteau filming an under sea adventure special. The cauldron is like a giant fish bowl with thousands of fish swimming all around.  What makes this site different is the number of large fish in the area which is something special to witness first hand. We saw huge Bumpheads, Sweetlips, Travelly and thousands of smaller types of fish. Since the sun was just rising, it was a little dark as you looked down into the cauldron but looking up and seeing the fish against the light of the morning sky was simply amazing. 

Doug asked how much air we had and both Cheryl and I both signaled we each had 100 Barr which is half our tank. This meant we needed to cut our visit short because we had to make our way out of the cauldron and back into the current to reach the pick up point.  We always do a three minute safety stop at five meters at the end of each dive. This stop was especially interesting as all three of us were clinging to the same rock, completely stretched out with hair "blowing" back by the strength of the current. We all three breached the surface without incident and were giddy with excitement knowing we reached our goal. We looked at our dive computers and noted it was only a 19 minute dive!  Typically, under normal conditions a tank will last 45 minutes (even for me). It shows just how pumped up we were.   

Once we reached the boat and reunited with the other two groups we realized neither made it to the cauldron because of the current. I must admit that I was proud of the fact that as inexperienced divers we did make it. It was intense and I'm not sure I would do it again, but I know I will never forget the morning we visited Batu Tiga.   

After our return to the boat and a hearty breakfast (that did include a cappuccino and doughnut I might add) the group felt like simply relaxing in the lounge area. 
Unfortunately Cheryl and I needed to walk through our study guide questions with Doug. Though we got nearly 100% correct, Doug mentioned that our performance in the dive this morning was already enough to put us over the top so we will receive our advanced open water certification! To think where we started two weeks ago it feels like a miracle (it really is!)

Our 20th (that's not a typo) dive of the trip was at Batu Bolong and a terrific place spend our final hours in Komodo. Brightly colored coral and equally brilliant colored fish. We saw lion fish, puffer fish, a shark, an eel, angle fish, and hundreds of others that I don't know the names of.  Completely opposite of this morning, in that it was very relaxing, almost therapeutic to be out in the water one last time. I'm still in awe of the magical world that lives beneath the surface of the ocean. 

We returned back to the Ikan Biru for lunch and prepared for our departure. 
After many hugs and well wishes with our fellow divers and the crew, we boarded the fast boat back to Blue Marlin where we will spend our last night in Indonesia (see how I captured the Ikan Biru in the window?  Not bad eh?)
When they say fast boat they are not kidding. Three 200 HP Yamahas. Sheesh that baby could move.  
It felt good to be back on dry land and take a long hot shower. We spent some time organizing our clothes and other items we would need for our long trip home which included packing away the flip flops and boy were my feet happy. I treated them to my Roshes.
One final dinner in Indonesia at a nice Italian Resturant called Made in Italy (pizza sounded good OK?) and then it would be time to go to bed and begin the journey back home in the morning. Four flights and who knows how many hours. Ugh!
It truly was a trip of a life time and I have many people to thank for it. First of all, Marv for pushing Cheryl and I to commit to it. I don't remember the specific wine we were drinking up at Whistler after midnight Labor Day weekend, sitting at the kitchen table when we pulled the trigger and actually purchased our flights, but they turned out to be the most valuable bottles of wine I've ever drank. Marv did all the planning for the trip, opened up his villa to us and provided us with the best instructors at discount prices. I can't thank him enough. 

To all the friends and family who put money in the "kitty" at our 50/50/30 celebration for Cheryl and I to take a memorable trip. It was that money we used to purchase the flights to Bali. I would say we met the requirement of a memorable trip. 
To my coworkers back at Nike. Three weeks is a long time to be away and even though I don't do a hell of a lot, I know people filled in where needed to keep everything running smooth. 

Finally, thank you Cheryl for joining me on this adventure. It was amazing sharing it  together and something I know we will remember and talk about forever. 

So there you have it. For those of you who followed this blog to the end (hopefully there are a couple of you out there), I appreciate you joining Cheryl and I as we made our way through Indonesia. It was a blast!!  

Until the next adventure.........

What's a compass?

Our second morning in Komodo began like all the mornings aboard the Ikan Biru, to the gentle hum of the electric generator, a beautiful sunrise and the friendly voice of Alexi "good morning everyone!"  But the rest of this morning was a little different in that we replaced the morning dive with a trip to Loh Buaya Island to do some hiking and view wildlife on land versus in the ocean, specifically the Komodo Dragon. Six of us hopped aboard the dive boat and cruised to the only access point to the park. A small dock in the bay near the entrance. 
It didn't take us long to come across a bunch of the giant lizards. They hang out near the park village not because they get fed by the people, but because smaller animals hang around the village and they eat the smaller animals. The ol food chain thing. They really are interesting to see up close. This particular guy was heating up his body in the morning sunlight. 
Though they usually move very slowly, they can quickly attack an unsuspecting victim and are considered dangerous. It is curious to me that the only protection we have is a two pronged stick that our guide, Ahmed, (who looked 12 years old) carried with him. 

It was a very interesting way to spend the morning. We saw snakes, water buffalo, wild pigs, deer and a massive bee hive about 2 meters long (that metric thing again).  Yes the views were spectacular and seeing the rare animals was a treat, the best part about the trip might have been that I got to put on some shoes. 

The view from the top of the park was fantastic. I really felt safe in this photo knowing Ahmed has his stick at the ready should we be attacked. 
When we returned to the village we saw another dragon and took a risk for the classic photo op. Hey after the Cauldron dive, this is nothing. Besides, we've got Ahmed and his stick. The dragon looks fake but he was definately real.    
After a couple hours, it was back to the boat and some more open water training. Today's lesson? Underwater navigation. My tool of choice when it comes to navigation is asking Siri, but apparently divers still use a thing called a compass. Instead of paces we count kick cycles. Our mission today was to use a compass and kick cycles to head out to a location, turn around and come back to the same spot (did I mention we were 10 meters underwater while doing this?). We found a sandy area which made this even more challenging because there were no landmarks to follow. Remember, our instructor pulled out the sunset technicality rule yesterday so there is no way he was letting us off easy on navigation. From the surface you can see our "playing field."
All that light area is like an underwater desert of sand just waiting for Cheryl and I to get lost in. We get to work as a team on this one which I guess is helpful, but it's not like either one of us is Daniel Boone or Sacagawea. The best part about this is that we have regulators in our mouths which significantly reduces our ability to yell at each other. 

This dive took place right off the Ikan Biru so in we went!  First Cheryl....
Then me......
As if me trying to use a compass for navigation was not handicap enough, jumping straight off the boat threw off my pre dive routine and I forgot to spit in my mask and so it kept fogging up during the dive. This lesson had FAIL written all over it. 

We did OK with the out and back (I know that it's just a straight line, but hey it was a confidence booster) The square was a little more tricky.  We had to do it a few times because during our first attempt I was so focused on my heading that I forgot to monitor my depth and next thing you know, Cheryl and I were near the surface. Strike 1. Cheryl then took over the compass and did a little better but we still missed the mark. Strike 2. The final exercise was for Doug to take us away from the boat and we needed to find our way back. This is one time I was thankful for being an air pig because by the time we got to this portion of the training we didn't have enough air to go too far so we were able to get back OK. Boom!  Though we don't get letter grades during this training, for our performance in this section, I imagine we were hovering around a D. That's passing though!

After the navigational debacle, I was ready for some relaxation and time in the sun with the rest of the guests on the boat. Here we are from left to right. Cheryl, Flo (Germany), Mariah (Canada), me, Patrick (Canada), Andre, (Hong Kong) and Marv (Canada). 
A great bunch of people!

The rest of the day consisted of a "fun dive" at the Tengah site which means we had no training objective and got to just have fun enjoying the warm water and beautiful sea life. We also completed our last night dive since we will be leaving tomorrow afternoon. Komodo treated us to one last gorgeous sunset. 
The one negative of the day was that I stubbed my toe on one of the steps in the boat and either sprained it badly or possibly broke it. As if my feet didn't hate me enough already!
With less than a full day left on the boat, the realization is starting to set in that we will be coming home soon. There are mixed emotions in that our time here has been unforgettable and we hate to leave, but we miss our friends and family and look forward to seeing everyone back in the good ol USA.

But there is one day left on the boat and we plan to enjoy every minute!  

Two birds with one stone...

Life on the boat is different than anything I have experienced before. Cheryl and I are sharing the boat with 7 guests, 3 guides and 4 crew. It is a lesson in international diversity and camaraderie.  On just this boat alone there are people from Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, USA, Finland, England and of course Indonesia. Everyone is here to briefly forget about their any troubles back home and spend a few days experiencing some of the best diving and beautiful scenery in the world. No heavy discussions about politics, (an occasional humorous reference to the current state of US politics of course) or religion.  Our alarm clock is the boats generator. It starts up at 6:00 am (no snooze alarm on that baby) and that is when everyone is expected to get up so we can catch the fish awakening for our morning dive at 6:45 am. Here is the first thing I saw when I sat up and looked over the railing of the boat.  Not bad. This entire area is one massive Instagram post!I
Our first day dive was at the Crystal Rock dive site. What a way to start. I was initially completely overwhelmed by the activity in the water. Literally thousands of fish swimming all around us in every direction. Big ones and little ones in every color of the spectrum. As we began to relax and assimilate to our surroundings we released some air in our BCDs and lowered ourselves to about 20 meters and began to go exploring. It wasn't long and we saw a large group of white tailed sharks swimming back and forth in front of us. Though most were only about 2 meters (I'm getting used to the metric system!) in length, it was pretty creepy. Since I didn't hear any theater music in the background I was confident we'd be OK. As if that wasn't good enough for our first dive, a short time later we actually saw 4 dolphin (porpoises) surface and swim all around us. I didn't see them at first and our guide (Doug) grabbed my shoulders and spun me around (almost lost my mask and regulator) to make sure I didn't miss them.  I'm thankful he did. They came within 10 meters of us. It blew my mind. We were literally swimming with Flipper in the wild!  I was completely blown away. Doug was also pumped and said that was only the second time that he had seen them underwater while diving. OK, I can go home satisfied now.  I'd love to show you pictures, oh that's right, no GoPro. Nice planning Chris.

Our next dive was at the Cauldron site.  Don't worry, I won't bore you with a boring description of every dive we did like a Dad and the home movies of the family vacation but this one is worth mentioning specifically.  

We have a briefing of each dive prior to putting on our gear and heading out. Alexi is the lead diver and typically leads these discussions.  Though I'm all ears at each briefing, we needed to pay particular attention before this dive. 
The Cauldron site is a high current site which requires a "negative entry." A negative entry entails releasing all of the air out of your BCD and fully exhaling to minimize all bouyancy. OK, I understand the air out of the BCD but hello? Don't I need air in my lungs to breath?  On the count of three everyone falls backward out of the boat and begins kicking to the bottom as fast as they can. (Apparently this is when I'm allowed to start breathing.) The reason for this is to minimize the effects of the current pushing you off course and away from the dive site.  During all of this activity don't forget to equalize your ears as you go down or you will rupture your ear drums. Just one more minor detail to keep track of. The bottom of this site is 30 meters below the surface which means we will get two certifications skills checked off in one dive. The negative entry and the max depth. Normally these are done one at a time but keeping with the theme of the trip, LET'S DO THIS BABY!!!!

As we prepared for the entry, we made one last equipment safety check and Doug asked if we were "OK."  Hey Doug can you remind me again on the definition of "OK?"  Cheryl and I looked at each other took a cleansing breath and gave the sign for OK and listened for the magic number THREE!! and back we went.  I honestly don't remember much about the trip down except that I felt like I was back in my competitive swimming days and visualized myself winning the trophy. Faster Chris faster!  Before we knew it, all three of us were at the bottom 30 meters down. No trophy was waiting but we got two more skills checked off!!!

The rest of the day was a piece of cake and we had a beautiful afternoon dive. We even had time for a pre entry photo with Doug our instructor.  
As I mentioned, the food is fantastic.  The cook has one oven, a stove, a two foot counter and a few pots and pans. I don't know how he does it. In addition to the "three squares" a day we get an afternoon snack following the third dive of the day. Here is what we came back to this afternoon. 
The advanced open water certification obviously requires some book work and since we only have two more days we figured we'd better get started (ugh!). So we grabbed a priece of cake and headed upstairs. It's funny how we open the book and started learning about deep diving and negative entries after we already did the application of those skills. Nothing like doing a surgery before going to medical school. 
We expected to make a significant dent in our studies since we thought we were done diving for the day. Then Doug says "you ready for your night dive?"  Uhh, I thought we did that yesterday, but apparently it was a "sunset" dive and it was partially light out when we started. You telling me we didn't get credit for the night dive due to the sunset technicality?  Wow!  No worries, Cheryl and I were both eager to do it since we had such a good experience the night before. We were not disappointed again. What was particularly enjoyable about this dive is when we came up there was absolutely no one or anything around and looking up at the stars from the water in isolation was very cool. 

A warm shower, dinner and a beer and I'm ready for bed by 9:30 pm!  I tried to review some homework and that was like taking a sleeping pill. 

Komodo National Park and the Dragons are on deck for tomorrow. Should be fun!!!  

Friday, May 20, 2016

Did he just say night dive??

The last leg of the trip began with a little NTC at the villa. Running in Bali is a little different than Gili Trawangan. Gili T is an island about a mile in diameter. Even I'm not dumb enough to get lost there (seriously, I'm not). Bali is a different story.  There is no rhyme or reason to the streets, they are not identified (can I please get one Broadway Avenue or maybe a Pine Street) and they all look the same. There was no way I was going for a run. We have less that a week left in our trip and if I went out on my own it might take me that long to get back.  NTC is a terrific back up plan!!  After the workout, shower and breakfast we made it to the airport for the 90 minute flight to Flores island. 
The flight over was like everything else we have experienced over here. It was beautiful. We were told Indonesia is the land of over 15,000 islands and I certainly believe it. We had a light snack on the flight and like so much of what we have eaten over here, I'm not sure what it was.  Always be leery of food cooked in rolls on the local Indo airline.  The "new me" ate it without hesitation (while wearing flip flops of course.) I'm sure the roll was gluten free though. 
We made it to Blue Marlin Dive in Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores. It was the first dive shop in the area 3 years ago and like everything else, the area is growing like crazy and there are 12 shops today. 
We hopped aboard the tender for the one hour trip to our home for the next three days, the Ikan Biru (Blue Fish). 
We barely get settled on the boat and Alexi (the "cruise director") informs us that our first dive will be a "sunset" dive. What comes after sunset?  Night time!  Are you f**king kidding me? Our first dive in Komodo with be a night dive?  What the hell?  I was just about ready to ask for a beer!  I immediately feel the heart rate begin to pick up speed.  

It's all making sense now....  You see, ever since we were in college, Marv has been a thrill seeker and I have been a little more conservative.  He enjoys pushing me to my limits and increasing my "pucker factor" any chance he gets. He surprised Cheryl and I and hired an instructor to join us during our trip in the boat at Komodo Park so we could get our advanced open water certification. So much for the relaxing "fun" dives above 18 meters. We will now go to 30 meters (for you mathematically challenged, that's 100 feet!!), night diving, negative entry dives and strong current "drift" dives and more book work.  Geez Marv, for the one hundredth time, WE ARE ON VACATION!!! 
Here is everyone getting ready for our first dive. Notice how close the sun is to going down as well as the evil grin on Marvs face (far right). As much as I hate to admit it though, if I'm ever going to learn how to dive  this is the place to do it. What a magnificent and beautiful place! Truly amazing. 

After a nervous trip to the bathroom (I did that to avoid going in my wet suit when my panic reflexes set in) we jumped in and had an incredible dive. You can actually relax a little more in the dark because you only focus on where the light is shining and not overwhelmed by all the other activity going on around you. It's really cool seeing the nocturnal creatures that come out at night.  Hearing your breath as you inhale and the bubbles release to the surface as you exhale in the pitch black of night while underwater is a little unnerving. You just resist the urge to imagine that Jaws may chew off your leg as he approaches unnoticed from beneath you.

We made it through with no issues and both Cheryl and I enjoyed our first dive here very much. Now where the hell is that beer!

The food on the boat is very delicious. Again, I'm not confident I know what any of it is and the cook speaks no English so we just dig in. We did see the crew catching fish off the back of the boat so I assume there is some fresh fish on the table somewhere. 
At 9 pm the crew turns the upstairs lounge area into our bedroom for the night.  Pretty unique idea and quite comfortable.   
There are ten of us sleeping up here and it kind of feels like summer camp. I hope there is not too much snoring, but who am I kidding, I'm so dang tired I won't hear them anyway. It has been quite a first day in Komodo.   

Back to Bali

We have finished the second leg of our adventure at Gili Trawangan and of course the trip back to Bali was not nearly as good as the trip over. There is always the depression of leaving all the fun and relaxation(?), but it didn't help that we were all moving a little slow from the dive master party the night before.  I must have got some bad booze because I didn't feel all that chipper the next morning. I can't imagine that it could have been the fact that we were drinking Gordon's Gin all night. 

In describing our Gili experience, I deeply contemplated how to accurately and succinctly sum up our trip and I decided to do it through the use of photos. As they say, a picture speaks 1000 words and these before and after shots taken on the boat to and from Bali don't just speak, they scream at least 2000 words. See if you can guess which is the before and which is the after. 
Editors Note - I received permission from the subject to post these photos. 

To add insult to injury, we drove through a torrential downpour on the water so all 26 of the passengers on the boat were crammed inside the tiny cabin (as opposed to sitting up top) with no ventilation, 90 degree temperature, 100% humidity and with the stereotypical baby crying in the seat next to mine (I'm totally serious). I have a new appreciation for what my immigrant ancestors experienced when coming to America. I did however, get some enjoyment watching the Indonesian version of Caddyshack on a VCR (yes, VCR) they had playing which I doubt my ancestors had on the Mayflower. 

Since we were so spoiled staying in Marvs villa with the spacious rooms and private pool we decided that since we were on vacation, basic hotels were for peasants and we needed another villa.  We were able to snag a beautiful place in Bali for $2.4 million Rupiah per night.  Now before you freak out on the price, keep in mind I get at least 1 million Rupiah every time I hit the ATM here and with my ATM limit, we can all agree it's not much money. 
The reality is that split three ways, it came to about $62 bucks per room. A terrific deal! 
That price includes a chef that comes in each morning to cook breakfast.  Back home I'm super psyched when the room cost includes breakfast in the lobby with powdered eggs, mystery meat sausage and muffins made by Sara Lee.
Our one day in Bali was spent furniture shopping. Furniture shopping you ask? Yes I say. You see, Marv and his friends Patrick and Mariah are both looking for furniture so we hit the furniture section of town. It was a terrific way to spend a few hours. The shops were really cool (as in interesting not temperature!) and the furniture is not only beautiful, it is very inexpensive. Even with shipping, when one considers the quality and uniqueness of the designs, the deals are incredible. 
Of course furniture shopping really works up a thirst so by about 2:30 pm we were craving a Bintang beer and a swim in the pool. 

As is typical with this trip, there is a new experience around every corner.  Tonight's events include drinks at the "Rock Bar" at the Ayana Resort, followed by dinner on the beach at the local fish market. 

The Ayana Resort is a former Ritz Carlton resort and has a famous bar called the Rock Bar that is carved into the rocks (go figure!) and right on the water. It was truly spectacular. ( Of course the drinks weren't cheap but hey I'll just grab another million from the ATM!
Once the sun set, the attraction of the Rock Bar and expensive drinks wore off and besides, I was afraid First Tech might give the ol' no go on another million so we moved on. We headed to the beach fish market where you literally pick out the fish you want to eat from a variety of vendors and they immediately cook it for you, then deliver it to your table on the beach. I was not exaggerating when I said "on the beach."  A couple of tables were closer to the ocean than ours and the tide actually flowed under their table and soaked their feet. No worries from anyone here as you remember, me and my Indonesian pals all wear flip flops. My feet are actually in the sand in this picture. 
Bali was a lot of fun for the second time, but now it's time to get on the plane and head to the long awaited (or feared) trip out to the boat in Komodo!  


Monday, May 16, 2016

To be continued......

We have left Gill (*sigh*) 
and spent a wonderful day in Bali and are on our way to Komodo. I haven't had a chance to update the blog and we won't have Internet access on the boat we are on so I will not be able to check in until Friday. I expect some incredible adventures are ahead of us and I look forward to sharing them all!!!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Last night in Gili!

We are winding up our last couple days in Gili. Our focus was to get a few more dives in to improve our overall skills prior to heading to Komodo, but of course we have done much more than that.  Can't just sit and drink Mojitos all day now can we? (we can, we just chose to drink them while doing things!)

We got three more dives in with our guide Awie dua (I misspelled his name last entry, sorry Awie). For you playing at home, that makes 10 total dives we've made while here on Gili. 10 dives!  It still freaks me out a little to think Cheryl and I have made even one dive let alone 10. 

Though the scenery underwater is spectacular, these last dives I spent less time focusing on the fish and more time focusing on my bouyancy skills and breathing to at least go from an "air pig" to an "air glutton."  I'm getting better because during our last dive I was not the first person in the group to run out of air. Yes! There is hope for me yet! 

Between dives we spent some time shopping (Cheryl does most of the shopping while I do most of the sitting)
and of course eating. We really like The Pearl resort both because the food is amazing (we get the brochetta appetizer every time) and the location is absolutely geogeous. Our table actually sits at the edge of the ocean. I'm trying hard not to take these last moments like this for granted. Geez I'm going to miss this place!
Our last two nights here we stepped up the night time party scene a little bit (wasn't sure that was possible). There is a reggae bar here called Sama Sama that we have come to a few times. We like the view from the second floor (Cheryl and Mariah taking in a few tunes)
I have even grown accustomed to the local "going out on the town" dress code. 
Dirty feet with sand between the toes all day. I am a changed man. 

We decided to save the best for last for our final night in Gili and had a big BBQ at Marvs villa for his instructors and management staff of the dive center. It was a big time BBQ with all the fixins
Being cooked up by some very capable local gentlemen. 
I've learned new things about life on Gili every day and today's lesson was on how to make ice cubes. You see, you can't just ask a friend to pick up a bag of ice at Safeway on the way over to the party for a couple reasons 1) there is no such thing as a Safeway and 2) there is no such thing as a bag of ice. So what do you do? Freeze a bag of water and get out the hammer of course. 
In addition to being a great team building event for Marvs staff, the event included the initiation of the new dive masters. In this part of the world playful hazing is still allowed and it was Ivonna, Marc and Patrick's turn in the barrel. They had a variety of tasks to complete throughout the night (only one I will share here since what happens in Gili stays in Gili). It includes the "snorkel test" where their mentors put together an alcoholic drink (they can use whatever mixture of alcohols and mixers they want) and the new dive masters guzzle the nasty concoction through a snorkel. To their credit, all three passed!  I never heard what the ingredients in the drink were but from the reaction I saw, I don't think this drink is going on the menu any time soon. 
Tomorrow we head back to Bali for a day, then off to Komodo for the last(!) leg of our trip. I can't believe I actually just wrote that!  

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Senaru Falls.

A little break in the routine today. We decided to go to Lombok and hike to Senaru falls. Once we get there, it's about a 45 min walk through the forest. First big decision.....flip flops or shoes? Marv recommends flip flops because we have to walk through streams to get there but as we all know, I am not big on exposed feet so I'm leaning toward shoes. Once wet, my shoes will never dry out which kills my morning running routine.  (hmmmm that does have some advantages!) Then Marv pulls the "I've been doing this for 19 years so trust me" card. Ouch, I have no choice but to fold and slip on my flip flops. 

We have breakfast and get picked up on the beach by a little speed boat that will take us across the water to Lombok. 

Once on shore, it's a 90 minute "drive" to the trailhead. I wish there was something else to call it because driving does not adequately describe the activity. I thought the roads in Bali were crazy, but that was orderly compared to what we experienced in Lombok. Narrow roads with scooters everywhere swerving in between the cars and trucks. There was also the occasional group of kids on the side of the road for the driver to avoid and the stray dog darting across the road from behind a tree.  Our driver continued to engage in conversation with us as he occasionally tapped the horn or narrowly missed a family of 4 piled on a scooter. All in a day's work I guess. 

We arrived at the trailhead and immediately encountered stairs "for days." 
I was mumbling to myself that shoes would feel terrific right about now, but it wasn't long before we were traversing in and out of the water and I quickly realized Marv's 19 years of experience had paid off and he was right. 

Senaru falls was incredible. With the ivy growing on the rocks and water flowing in multiple directions, I felt like I was in a Jurrasic Park movie and that T Rex might come out of the trees at any moment. I was ready. ("don't move Tim, he can't see you if you don't move...")

The falls are about 120 feet tall and you can really feel the power of the water as you approach the impact area.  Of course we had to get a close up look.
It wasn't until after we came back to shore that our tour guide told us that 3 people died last year from getting hit by falling rocks under the waterfall. Oh thanks for telling us now bro. How do you say "no tip" in Indonesian?  That's OK. It was a blast being up close for a brief moment.

On the way black our guide got his tip back and then some when he took us through the irrigation tunnel. Again, not sure how safe it was walking knee deep in water in a pitch black tunnel with only a small iPhone light, but it was so much fun. It was the Lombok version of splash mountain without the mechanical people and the line of people. We even got a bonus when a bat started buzzing us. The screaming women only added to the experience (no mechanical people going on there)  

Of course no trip through the Indonesian forest would be complete without seeing a few monkeys and, of course we did.  They were up in the trees quite a ways but it was cool seeing wild monkeys jumping from tree to tree. 

There is a huge active volcano with a lake within it in this area.  It is called Mt Rinjani. It's sort of like a combination between crater lake and Mt St Helens. We stopped at a resort for lunch uniquely named Mt Rinjani Lodge that was located on a hillside looking up to the mountain. It was a spectacular location and view with delicious food so we stopped for a dip in the pool and a bite to eat (oh and a beer of course)
On the way back, we felt the urge to stop at the local market to buy some fresh fruit and taste some "street food."  Our driver was a friend a Marvs and said he would lead the way and make sure we got good fruit at a good price. I didn't recognize anything except the grapes, limes and pineapple so it's a good thing he came with us. 
The fruit is fairly safe but the cooked battered fish we sampled was like tightrope walking without a net but Patrick and I took the risk. It was delicious but the entire way home I kept waiting for my stomach to erupt like Mt Rinjani but fortunately I lucked out. 

We got home and of course headed to the west side of the island for sunset.  They are so beautiful here (#nofilter)
Only a couple more days here on Gili Trawangan then to Bali and on to Komoto. Time is flying but having lots of fun.