Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Bali to Lombok and back to Bali

Off to Lombok by fast boat (from Amed, Bali). A rough and gas/exhaust-fumed event, but short – 1.5 hours as opposed to 4 hours by regular (cheap) ferry. We did, however, opt for the slow ferry back to Bali and while slower it was much more comfortable in the VIP air-conditioned section (and much cheaper: $9 vs $40-$50).  

In the "VIP" section of slow ferry (an extra $1.50 each!)

Lombok is a beautiful island -- white sand beaches, big palms, and azure waters. We stayed in Senggigi -- a small resort town midway between Bagsal (near Gili Islands) and Mataram. We stayed in the Sunset House, which was a lovely small hotel right on the beach. Although more expensive than we were used to, the food was excellent and the room nice (best bed of the trip so far). More importantly, the people were so nice and friendly. The restaurant staff were all young and they liked to practise their English with us. This led to a small altercation on the first day when a young waitress referred to David as "Papa," which is an honorific in Lombok, and David immediately responded: "I'm not your papa!" This led to a little upset followed by many apologies from David. Once straightened out we were humourously referred to as “Papa David” and “Mama Meeschel” – EVERY time they saw us!.

One of the Gillis (small islands off Lombok)
Beach in front of our Senggigi (Lombok) hotel
A "cidomo" -- horse & cart taxi common on Lombok (they're fast!)
Our time on Lombok was relaxing. We even rented a motorcycle ($5 per day), David, fancying himself as Dennis Hopper, and spent a hot morning touring. We had planned to fly from Lombok to Surabaya and then to Kalimantan to see the orangutans but, due to logistics and not being able to get confirmed flights (while in Sanur, we also tried to book a ferry to Kalimantan, to no avail), we decided to give the forest fellows a miss this time. Instead, we will make a donation to one of the Rehab Centres, which in the long run will be more useful to our friends (which according to research may only have a mere 40 years of existence left if something isn't done to save their habitat). Perhaps, we will pay them a visit sailing on Pelagia in future.

OK, not quite Dennis Hopper...

We are now back in Lovina, Bali at Villa Jaya, our second home, relaxing and eating well, mirroring Rasi, the hotel mascot. Rasi hates the papparazi, but David surreptitiously captured her on film.  Michelle caught a bad cold and re-hurt her ankle, but these are now well on the mend.

Rasi (hates being photographed and is afraid of thunder)

We head to Ubud (Bali) tomorrow for two days, then fly back to Thailand December 2nd (from Bali to Bangkok – we changed our flights).

We have a few photos of Bali & Lombok on FLICKR:

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Bali is beautiful (and HOT!)

Dance in Bali
Bali rice terraces
After a couple nights in Thailand (great food!), we headed to Bali. First, to a lovely new-to-us small hotel in Sanur. We enjoyed its pool and the excellent Balinese food of restaurants nearby. We didn't specifically go for the beach -- luckily, as the beach at Sanur never seemed to be deeper than just below the knees!

Entrance to our Sanur bungalow
Pool at Sanur hotel
 Sanur was a little too busy for us, plus our hotel had some negatives (too much smoking by the European owners...; an exceptionally busy street we had to cross -- literally taking chances with our lives -- to get to restaurants etc)...

so we decided to head to north Bali to our 2011 favourite "Villa Jaya" in Lovina.
That's where we are now. Wonderful place.

Pool at Villa Jaya

Villa Jaya, Lovina

We will be here for a few more days. Trying to decide on next destination. It's all good :-)

P.S. Temperatures are 32 degrees C (in the shade)

We have a few photos of Bali & Lombok on FLICKR:

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Trail to Gosainkund: Panoramic Himalayan views

Views on the trail to Gosainkund are among the best of any trek we have done (although lodges were among the worst...).

Here is a brief video of the panorama high above Laurebina Yak (>4026m*), where we could see mountains of the Annapurna, Manaslu, Ganesh, Tibetan and Langtang Himalaya as we panned the camera.

Gosainkund (4321m)

At top of Laurebina Pass (4600 m)

Looking back up to Laurebina Pass (pass is notch on the left) from Tharepati

A couple days later, in Helambu on the other side of the Laurebina Pass, we had superb views of Langtang, Dorje Lapka and the Jugal Himal, Gauri Shankar and, finally, the mountains of the Khumbu  (including Everest and Makalu).

View from Tharepati (3700m) in Helambu

Helambu view of Khumbu Himal

* Many trekkers simply don't take the risks of AMS (acute mountain sickness) seriously; nevertheless, most of these are lucky and do OK. But many ruin their trek, and, each year, a few die. 

For those wondering, we had no symptoms of AMS on our trek. To be sure, we were out-of-breath at times, but this is normal. We have trekked many times -- this is our 11th (!) trek --  and are careful about our daily altitude gain. Even supposedly "mild" AMS symptoms make you feel pretty miserable, so why ruin your trek? This means we sometimes take a day or so longer than others. But we personally have seen many people mildly and some even seriously ill from AMS, and know of trekkers who have died. On this particular trek this year (Gosainkund), we came across two persons suffering AMS (one so serious he was passed out and was being carried down) -- in both cases they had come up in the opposite direction and had gone too fast.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Nepal 2012: Our two treks (route maps)

Below are maps of our two treks:

Trek #1: Short Annapurna "Panorama"

Trek #2: Langtang to Gosainkund to Helambu
Photos of these treks are posted on FLICKR (see "Photo Sets" links on upper right)


Heading up to Gosainkund

Sometimes we wondered!

We are now back in Kathmandu, after completing the 15-day (plus 1 travel day) Langtang --> Gosainkund --> Helambu --> Kathmandu trek. 57 years of age, carrying our own packs -- we had many days of reasonably strenuous trekking. Bedtime was 630pm, or, on a late night, we stayed up to 7pm :-)

We prefer to trek independently without guide or porter (on teahouse treks such as this, guides really are not needed -- despite what Nepalis say). *

Yes, we often called ourselves "crazy" (among other stronger terms), but we feel a true sense of accomplishment (on this 11th, and perhaps last, trek).

On our last morning of trekking, we chanced upon two young Israeli trekkers, who stopped us and asked (in a nice way): "Excuse us for us asking, but how old are you two? 57!? We only hope, but doubt, that we have the ability to do what you are doing when we reach 57!"

That's how we feel. Then we got down and off that g-d trail and back to Kathmandu! 
End of trek (Sundrijal)

Photos of our Langtang-Gosainkund-Helambu trek are posted on FLICKR:

We head off to Thailand November 7th, then to Bali on November 9th.

* This is not to say we do not like guides. Indeed, we have done several enjoyable treks with guides, including the previous two treks with guide (and friend) Dorjee. Nevertheless, on "teahouse" treks where, usually, routes are clearly marked and lodge staff easy to communicate with, we prefer the freedom of being independent.