Posts Tagged With: adventure

Camping in Polihale State Park (South-West Kauai)

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Sunset pineapples are the best type of pineapple.

We live for the untouched, hidden, secluded, end of the road type of places. Sometimes it’s not possible to find those places. Sometimes it’s too hard to get to them. Sometimes it’s just hard enough that it keeps people away and that’s the sweet spot. Polihale is one of those sweet spots. Located at the end of the road on the South coast, next to Na Pali coast, down a beat up road, Polihale State Park has 17 miles of beach, day use facilities, and camping. The water is typically a bit rougher here, although Queen’s Pond is a protected area that is more “docile” and many people swim there.  Most people visiting Kauai want to be pampered and not deal with camping equipment (rental or other) so Polihale makes a great getaway spot for seclusion and reflection.

We had read and heard a lot of different things about Polihale State Park. For example, we read that it’s accessed down a dirt road that is sometimes maintained by the park service and sometimes left alone and unkempt. We read in some books that 4WD vehicles are a must, while others claim that any car can go. Through these varying recounts of Polihale, the one piece of information that did seem to be consistent was that many car rental companies will basically void insurance if you go out to Polihale and get stuck or need a tow. For this reason, we’re going to say check your rental agreements and if you really want to go out here, rent a 4WD vehicle.

To get there is fairly straightforward (that’s what you get on a small island with one main road)! To get there from Lihue Airport for example, you get onto Highway 50 and drive west. In about 34.5 miles (after you’ve passed Waimea Canyon turn-outs and signs for the Pacific Missile Range Facility) you curve right onto Kao Road which quickly turns into Kiko Road. After 0.2 miles, you’ll see Lower Saki Mana Road on your left (across from a gate with a graffiti sign and a Private Property sign). There’s also a sign a few feet before the road (on the right side) with an arrow just in case you can’t find it.

It’s at this point that the dirt road adventure begins. We drove out in the end of August and it was very dry, but I suspect that’s not always the case, so check your weather forecasts before you go. I’ve heard at times, it can flood over and make it a mucky, muddy, mess. The drive is about 4 miles out to the end of the dirt road… you basically end up on the beach. As an aside, while above we noted that 4WD is helpful, we will also backtrack here and say that there were all sorts of cars out there- jeeps, vans, trucks, mustangs even! Just be careful. After a couple miles of bouncing and trouncing you arrive at a giant Monkey Pod Tree in the middle of the road (picture below). The left “Y” will take you to Queen’s Pond, a supposedly docile and protected area for swimming in the Polihale State Park area. I say ‘supposedly’ because we didn’t really find a “docile” area… more of choppy, but not too choppy, all along the Polihale Coast. That didn’t stop us from swimming at Queen’s Pond, nor at Polihale proper. If you do decide to swim, be very careful, don’t go out too far, and assess before you go in. We went in because it didn’t look too bad. However, if the waves are big don’t risk it. This is a very unpopulated area so you’re on your own.

If you continue to the right of the Monkey Pod Tree, you enter the camping and day use area. Camping permits can be purchased online through the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. Permits cost $18 per tent (non-resident) and you may camp for up to 5 nights (nightly capacity is 60). Note that the link to the camping page (hyperlinked above) states $12/person. When you click on the box to be taken to the permit purchashing site, you will note that the actual cost is $18/non-resident tent. Anyway, after the Monkey Pod Tree, you will pass some picnic tables and then as you continue down the sand road, you will notice four “sand driveways” is what I’ll call them. Each one is a “camping area”. They each have a small sign that says “Camping Area XX” (1-4). There also some pull outs that don’t have camping signs. If you continue on to the end of the road, you’ll see a few pavilions and the beach. While we saw one truck drive onto the beach, no one else did. To make life easier, don’t drive on the beach. You’ll need an air pump and a pressure gauge at a minimum and don’t forget that if you get stuck you’re basically screwed.

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Sometimes even small cars can make it out here!

Anyway, if you are camping, you can pull into any of the camping areas. You may be discouraged if you see a car parked and a tent out in front, but don’t be. The camping area is not just the area directly in front of the car parking. It is much larger. We stayed at camping area #3 (picture of parking above) and couldn’t be happier. We parked in the designated area (where there was a tent set up about 10 feet ahead of us). We saw a sort of opening to the left in the trees and walked that way only to wind around and find (in our opinion) the perfect camping spot. We were tucked away from the cars and other campers with our own beach entry point. We could literally see the ocean from our tent and yet we were protected within the trees. Awesome.

We ended up spending two nights in Polihale and in the end, I think we both would have spent 20 more there if we didn’t want to see the rest of the island! It was so relaxing. There was some cell service (in and out), no hustle and bustle… just mandatory relaxation. After the first night we picked up beach chairs so we could spend a few hours out on the beach the next afternoon. When we did, we saw two young friends (the ones with the truck) and some fishing poles… and maybe one other couple. As an aside, it’s important to note the size of the dunes here… easily 100 feet. There’s no easy way down or up– just you and your feet. Going down the dunes is fine, but back up is tiring- just be aware before you embark. Another note is that the sand gets really really hot (especially at mid-day). A few sites and guidebooks we read said that your best bet is to wear hiking sucks (no shoes) to walk on the beach… in fact some people even reported getting blisters from barefooting it. We went later in the day and without shoes and it was hot but manageable… but I’d heed the warnings- always better not to deal with foot blisters and put on some socks! The reason you don’t wear shoes is because you are likely to get sand stuck in your shoes which will be uncomfortable and hot.

We swam for a while in the water, just bobbing along and then eventually sat and dried out… at one point we heard a helicopter and figured it was a tour… Polihale is located at the start of the Na Pali coast, so many tours- boating, kayaking, helicopter, etc. go down this way. However, we noticed the bright red helicopter circling in and out of the same mountain– then it landed somewhere behind Polihale before taking off again, this time with a really long cord with some sort of windsock looking thing tied to the end. After disappearing into a canyon/mountain fold, the helicopter reappeared with a person(!) attached to the end of the long cord! They eventually landed again somewhere behind Polihale before taking off back down the coast the way the helicopter originally came. The verdict- must have been a practice rescue exercise. Still cool and interesting to watch!

Other things to note about Polihale: each camping area is a few feet to restrooms and an outdoor shower. The bathrooms are simple, but they’re bathrooms! Each has two stalls and toilet paper as well as a sink (but no soap). There is also a freshwater faucet by the restrooms to fill up on water. In addition, there is a trash can and recycling bin (the word “recycle” is painted on one of the two cans) by each camping area. Open fires are not allowed, but you can have a grill. We opted to lay out our tent rainfly on the beach and eat pineapple and guava rolls while watching the sunset. Now that’s living!

As another aside for this area, if you take the dirt road back out to the main paved road and turn left (not towards Lihue), you will eventually dead-end (whether you end up weaving left or right) at some giant security gates. What are they?! Oh they’re just gates blocking off mountains that have caves with ammunition and other military weapons hidden and guarded in them. Crazy, right? Seriously though, there are tons of signs and cameras and what not– so don’t go snooping, but you can drive up and turn around if you’re so inclined. You can’t see anything except the signs and gates by the way… unless you run into a raucous herd of goats running all of the place (as we did!).

Two thumbs up and 5-stars to Polihale State Park! If you get a chance to go camping out here, do it! If you don’t want to lug your camping stuff with you on the plane, there are a few rental places around the island such as Kayak Kauai or Kauai Camper Rental or really a whole slew of them… these two I have heard mention in books before for what it’s worth. That’s all for now- we’ll see you next time!

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Categories: Camping, Hawaii, Unique Places to Stay | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Short Hike in Koke’e: Pihea Trail

After an evening of camping in Koke’e State Park, we woke up early, along with the roosters crowing around 5:45AM or so. This was partly due to jet-lag, partly due to excitement of vacation, and partly due to wild crowing roosters! Just so you’re aware, there are wild roosters and chickens all over the island, so if you do happen to have a weird fear of them (Alektorophobia… apparently it’s pretty common), then don’t come to Kauai. Or stay on the manicured resort properties… and even then, you still may see them. Apparently, Hurricane Iniki tore through in 1992, destroying (among many other things) chicken coops. The result was a prolific number of wild roosters and chickens which can be found on all parts of the island. Regardless of our early up and at ’em causation, we packed up our tent and dined on guava rolls, peanut butter, and fruit, before heading up the rode from camp towards the Pu’u O Kila Lookout. As mentioned in a previous post, Pu’u O Kila Lookout is the end of the line on this rode.

There were originally plans to connect the highway here so that a road would circle the entirety of Kauai, but those plans fell through for various reasons and as rumors have it, the locals are happy with that failure. While a road connecting the entire island would be easier for tourists to get around, it would also take away some of the beauty of the Na Pali and Koke’e areas that are more wild, scenic, and less accessible areas of the island.

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The Pihea Overlook trail starts at the Pu’u O Kila Lookout, where a sign reads, “One of the wettest spots on earth”. The picture above (and throughout this post) are a testament to that sign- we had overcast and drizzly weather the whole time we hiked (although there did seem to be some efforts by the sun to try and pierce those clouds, albeit, unsuccessfully). To access the trail, park in the lot by the Pu’u O Kila Lookout. It’s hard to miss, as it’s the very end of the road. As everywhere, use common sense, and don’t leave valuables out in the open in your car while you’re hiking. There is a bathroom there, but you’d be wise to fill up on water before you get here. At the end of the lot there is a ramp leading up to the overlook as well as a sign for Pihea Trail. Walk up the ramp and check out the view (if there is one) and that’s where you will see the sign proclaiming how wet it is here. The elevation is around 4000 feet or so. Before you get up to this “vista” (which is gorgeous when there are clear skies– see below as a reminder of what we saw the day before)…

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View from the previous day.

you will see a sign with the distances to Pihea Overlook (about a mile, but we clocked it closer to 1.5, since we ended up turning around a mile in due to trail condition), Alakai Crossing, and Awaikoi Camp. Alakai Swamp Trail is another great trail that is supposed to be fantastic for birding. Anyway, you will see the sign and directly to the left of it is what appears to be a little trail leading off into the ferns. This is a false trail. You will noticed a little arrow has been etched into the sign (circled in our picture) which points left. Skip this “faux” trail and keep going as the arrow indicates to get to the Pihea Trail.

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Take note of the etched in arrow pointing you the right direction.

The trail runs you across the ridge, up and down, through Ohi’a trees, ferns, Koas, and other native plants. There are also a few boardwalk areas. Generally though, the trail, especially after rain, is super muddy and slippery. Make sure you take your time and even if it’s overcast, enjoy the serenity. When we went, there had been some rain the previous night, which I think exacerbated the slippery and hazardous nature of the trail. I have seen plenty of other pictures showing the trail much drier… so just make sure you are aware of your surroundings. If you do happen to have clear skies for this hike, you will be greeted with a huge number of panoramic views of the valley and not so far off Na Pali coast. There are plenty of boulders to climb up on the sides of the trail in different areas to get a better look, but be aware of your feet- you could easily fall to your demise.

Also be aware of spiders as you hike, especially if you’re hiking early in the morning. I read a few articles about crab spiders which were introduced to the island to try and control a bug problem on crops (it failed) and the result is a large number of small and annoying spiders that will apparently bite you and irritate your skin (no lasting harm). We talked to one local who said the best way to avoid them is to hike with a stick that you can just wave in front of you as you hike. While we were fortunate not to have any run-ins with crab spiders, we did find a gorgeous web that was outlined with water droplets… which we wouldn’t have been able to find if we hadn’t taken our time. About a mile on down the trail (there are small metal mile markers on the right-hand side of the trail as you hike towards the overlook), we realized that conditions were just getting worse and worse. On top of that, we ran into a couple that told us they had fallen three times and getting to the overlook was pretty impossible. So, after hiking a few more minutes, we tucked our tails, called it a win, and turned around.

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Water droplet spider web

On the way back to the trailhead, we ran into maybe 2 other people- one hoping to make it to Alakai Swamp (endemic bird species that can’t be found anywhere else in the world) and another who’s husband had ditched her already because of the deteriorating path. She hiked a few minutes more and then we saw her again as she zipped back up the trail. The hike back to the trailhead may have been a bit slower than the way out because it was mostly uphill and there were several ways to ascend the different rocky areas, but it was great to be outside, the temperature was mild, and the feeling was serene after being cooped up on a plane for the day prior and coming from a summer of work! All in all, we had a very enjoyable hike and would definitely do it again. While it would have been perhaps more rewarding if the weather were calmer and clearer, it was still a nice morning exercise bout.

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The overcast weather gave the trail an eery feel 🙂

Insider Tips: Bring water with you; wear hiking boots (sneakers won’t cut it if there’s any mud or it rained recently); you gain about 250 feet on Pihea Trail (about 100 or so going to the Pihea overlook). It might be helpful to bring a long-sleeved shirt with you if you go early because it was chilly. In addition, to avoid the crowds, go early. We starting hiking around 8AM and stopped to meditate in a big clearing on top of the ridge a little ways down the trail. When we returned to the trailhead, maybe 1.5 hours later, the parking lot (which had one other car in it when we arrived) was full of cars, with people getting ready to hike or check out the overlook. Also, don’t forget to look for wildlife in the parking lot. You might see this little guy:

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Red-crested cardinals have bright red heads and crests. They were introduced to Kauai.

That’s all for now. See you next time for a post on camping in Polihale.

Categories: Hawaii | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Evening Camping in Koke’e State Park, Kauai (Northwest)

After our exciting and action-packed trip from Sacramento to Kauai was over and our Jeep was secured, our first stop was the grocery store to pick up some supplies. We chose to go by Safeway, as we had read it’s a bit cheaper than some of the other stores. Costco was also nearby, but, since we were planning on camping for most of our time, we didn’t want to buy in bulk (especially cold stuff). Safeway is located at 4454 Nuhou Street, Lihue and it is open 24 hours a day. It was a large Safeway and for those of you who have club member cards on the mainland for Safeway, yes, they will work on Hawaii as well. We looked up the circular online before we traveled to get an idea of what was available and we tried to make a plan, but we were hungry and in the end, our eyes and stomaches won out. For lunch we split a cup of chicken noodle soup, a donut, and vegetable sushi (we’re weird, I know). The sushi was probably my least favorite, but only because it had slight fish flavor presumably from being rolled on a counter of fish (!)– I’m not a seafood person at all (weird, I know) so my nose and tastebuds seem to know when they’re being led astray. Andrew thought the sushi was delicious though and the soup, although tasting somewhat different than the Mainland chicken noodle I’ve had, was still good. The donut was awesome. When you go into the grocery store, make sure you spend some time looking around at the items they have because they are different from what you see elsewhere. For instance, the seafood is vast and numerous and ranges from dried to salted to fresh. Anyway, we picked up some hummus, some carrots, some snap peas, chopped pineapple (because we weren’t sure where our knife was at the moment), peanut butter, jelly, and the creme de la creme, 8-pack of guava dinner rolls made on Kauai. They were bright pink!

We then headed on down the road towards our destination for the night: Koke’e State Park. Koke’e State Park is located north of Waimea Canyon (west side of Kauai) and is about 1-1:30 hour drive from Lihue. It is accessed via the southern route only. Koke’e SP is about 4,345 acres in size, all above 3,200 feet above sea level (maximum around 4,200 feet asl). It contains over 45 miles of hiking trails through forests and along ridges, and boasts some phenomenal views of the island. It has a visitor’s center/museum with history of the area and knowledgeable park rangers willing to give advice and it rents out a few cabins that look pretty nice. In addition, you can camp there!

I’ll post more on camping in Kauai in general later, but for now, it’s important to note that Koke’e is a state park and thus, you can reserve spots online through the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. The price is $18/campsite for non-Hawaiian residents. A campsite may have up to 6 persons for this cost ($3/person over 6 people). You can set-up camp at 1:00PM (“check-out” is noon) and you are not permitted to stay more than 5 nights in a row. In addition, all sites are first-come, first-served (aka undesignated)… but again, you have to have a permit to stay there so it works out. There are other camping spots in this area, but most require some hiking (medium to long in length) in order to get to them. In addition, it’s important to note that this area gets about 70 inches of precipitation a year, so make sure you are camping in areas suitable for the time of year you’re traveling. To be on the safe side, we decided to camp at the general Koke’s State Park spot (no hiking required). You’ll want to make sure you print a copy of your permit before you leave home and bring it with you to Kauai just in case you get asked for one (we weren’t but it’s in the rules, so may as well be safe). You should also book these sites as soon as you know you’ll be around Koke’e. There are 20 spots available and while we booked about 2 weeks in advance (traveling end of August) we noticed that Labor Day weekend was already booked- so just be aware.

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Don’t worry, the drive to Koke’e State Park isn’t boring!

Once we arrived at Koke’e, we noticed a few tents set-up on the meadow next to the museum/visitor center. Since there wasn’t a great deal of information on where to camp once you go there online, we figured we’d just set our tent up there. To get to the camping parking lot, you drive past the left turn-in for the visitor center and take the next left. You’ll see the meadow, parking areas, picnic tables, and a bathroom building. The meadow in general is rather large and has scattered trees (and picnic tables). There weren’t a lot of other tents there, so we just found a spot and set-up shop. We later realized that when you walk up to the bathroom building, there is what looks like a grass path heading back away from the parking lot and building. When we followed that we saw that the permitted camping areas were actually back in that area and a lot more secluded. Each spot, although not numbered, had a picnic table, and a nice little clearing to put your tent. Tent spots were separated by tall ginger bushes. Since we had already set-up, we stayed where we were and still really enjoyed our spot.

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Meadow just after the Koke’e State Park Visitor Center and Museum.

The camping area does not allow fires and any cooking must be done on a stove. Trash cans are available as are bathrooms with toilet paper, sinks with running water (no paper towels/hand dryers or soap) and showers, although I would really avoid the showers if at all possible- they were pretty grungy. I wish I had taken a picture, but I forgot- sorry! Make sure you have a rain fly for your tent because it will rain (off and on) and don’t be frustrated if it starts raining. Wait about 5-10 minutes and it will probably stop and clear up. The temperature dropped down to about the 60s (again we were there at the end of August) and so we were comfy sleeping with sleeping sacks and an unzipped sleeping bag as a blanket. Sleeping sacks, if you don’t know, are just cotton sheet-weight sleeping bag liners… we use them for when we’re camping in warm weather (as a super lightweight sleeping bag), but others use them as a liner in their more heavy-duty sleeping bag. It’s something like this.

After we set-up camp, we continued up the road to check out the Kalalau Look Out and the Pu’u O Kila Look Out. In the morning we were taking a short hike that started from the latter look out, so we figured we’d check it out to make sure we knew where we were going. The Kalalau Look Out has gorgeous views (again remember the mantra, if it’s raining, wait 5-10 minutes, all will reveal itself). Sure enough, we were lucky to catch the beautiful view of the Northern Na Pali Coast:

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View of Na Pali Coast in Northern Kauai

Na Pali is the most infamous part of the island for hikers, kayakers, and people seeking to view the rugged untouched, almost unaccessible wild of Northern Kauai. There is a trail called the Kalalau Trail that runs from the last accessible road beach on the Northern coast, out towards Western Kauai. It’s a grueling, physically demanding trek that requires an overnight at Kalalau Beach, 11 miles in (everything online says that a hiker in a good condition will take the full day to hike there). Note: In order to camp there (and in order to go beyond the 2 mile mark, or Hanakapai’ai Beach, you will need a permit and they typically go months in advance. Permits (60 available per day) are again booked through the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and cost $20/person for non-residents (5 nights max). If you are thinking of hiking the trail, check out the Kalalau Trail Website– it has an immense amount of information, including a map and permit information.

In addition to viewing Na Pali from Koke’e State Park or hiking Kalalau Trail, other hard core folks kayak in (about 17miles) from Ha’ena Beach (where Kalalau Trail begins) to Milolii Beach (20 permits available per day, 3 night maximum, $20/person) to Polihale Beach (60 permits available per day, 5 night maximum, $18/campsite up to 6). Again, all of these permits are for undesignated sites and are available through the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Website (print your permits before you arrive). The kayak trip enables you to see the entire Na Pali Coast. The final option for those with less physical beastliness is to take a catamaran or sailboat around the coast for the day. Trips go from the South and the North, although the Northern Route will allow you to see more.

But I digress, I fear I’ve gone horribly off-post with that chat about Na Pali, but it really is awesome. Anyway, the picture above of Na Pali from Kalalau Look Out looks generally towards the Kalalau Beach. Many of the ridges of Koke’e State Park have hunting roads (unpaved) that are used by hunters on the weekends. There are some sources that say visitors can obtain permits to drive out on these routes (on weekends and holidays only) but we didn’t dig into that too much… I would contact Koke’e State Park directly. If you continue on up the road, you’ll eventually run into Pu’u O Kila Look Out which is the end of the line for the road. The overlook again gives you an idea of the beauty of Na Pali and from here a few great hikes jump off, including a “short” ~2-2.5 mile roundtrip to Pihea Overlook and the turn to Alakai Swamp. More on that later since we did that the following morning. For dinner, we dined on guava rolls, pineapple, and hummus and snap peas… and then we promptly fell asleep at 7:30PM (to be fair, 10:30PM body time). A long (this was our travel day) and wonderous first partial day on Kauai.

See you next time!

Categories: Camping, Hawaii | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sacramento, CA –> Lihue, Kauai

Finally, sweet, sweet vacation! It’s been a long year and summer of school and work… getting back on the “school horse” has been a tough uphill climb but worth it. So, now, we vacation… although it’s funny that I say that since I’m writing this post from an awesome coffee shop called, Aloha N Paradise in Waimea on the island of Kauai while Andrew sits next to me finishing up some work. But alas, he’ll be done soon and pure 100% vacation shall begin. More on Aloha N Paradise later in another post… but it’s awesome and that’s the main take-away.

Anyway, the start of the trip. We had originally planned on coming to Kauai for Spring Break this year, but then the pups got in a little tiff and had some cuts and we had to watch them so we postponed. It ended up working out well because I got really sick and Andrew had work to finish up. So, we rescheduled for now… and as an added bonus, my parents, who live in Pennsylvania, decided to come along for a second week on the Big Island. A long story short, my dad unfortunately was diagnosed with an aortic aneurism, had major surgery, and is thankfully doing well. Unfortunately, however, they had to cancel their plans to travel with us… in the end we still get a two week vacation, but the second half is a little bittersweet. The important thing is that he’s doing well :0).

IMG_6417Our flight was at 7:00AM from Sacramento, CA on a Saturday. We left our house around 4:30AM and after searching for a few minutes, found a parking spot in the economy lot (apparently a lot of people are traveling right now because we’ve never seen the parking lot that full)! We took our bags on the shuttle and got them checked (more on that later- we packed too much) and went through security to our gate. We were flying on Hawaiian Airlines. We hung around the gate, holding off on eating since we knew we were getting breakfast on the plane. Hawaiian Airlines is one of the only airlines that still includes a meal in the coach ticket price (sweet!).

Around the time to board, the blue Hawaiian shirt-clad attendant came over the IMG_6419loudspeaker and let us know that while the crew was working on breakfast, they had a short-circuit so they had to call in an engineer to check everything out. Long story short, we were delayed about 2 hours, during which time, the attendant kept us updated and apologized for the delays. Some folks were disgruntled… but we figure, hey, we’re on vacation, who cares!? About an hour in, they brought around cold water and Hawaiian Sweet Maui Onion chips which was pretty nice as well- I’m not sure any other airline would have/has done that for us because of a delay before (airlines at Chicago O’Hare TAKE NOTE!).

We boarded and got settled into our seats. There were rows of two seats on either side of the plane and rows of 4 seats in the middle. The flight was really uncrowded and many people had a four-seater to themselves. The two seats in front of us (we were on a side) were open the whole time. Not bad. Once we took off, they asked us to lower the shades so folks could rest if they wanted to and then they brought around breakfast and drinks. The drink options for coach were plentiful- the usual soft drinks and coffee/tea, water, as well as the tropical juices, which is what we were interested in-> namely, pineapple juice and passion-orange-guava juice. The breakfast included a little container of water, a breakfast sandwich with scrambled egg, American cheese, and a red pepper/small diced potato mix, a small cup of fruit (cantaloupe, honeydew, and grape), and a little Hawaiian cookie shaped like a pineapple (I got chocolate chip, Andrew got pineapple). Although the breakfast sandwich (pictured below) doesn’t look that appetizing– it was actually really really good. Two thumbs up to the gratis and bountiful breakfast, Hawaiian Airlines!

We were told to come up and ask if we wanted additional beverages during the flight and they came around with water at least two times… and they offered us more Maui Sweet Onion chips. They did have in-seat radios with a few Hawaiian music channels and you could rent media players for $17. There were three TVs in view (see above picture) that showed Hawaiian musicians and information about Kauai. There were no outlets for plugging in computers and what not, but my battery lasted through a 2.5 hour movie and about an hour of transcribing for work. When we were within 45 minutes of landing, the crew brought around the drink cart once more and included, was a gratis (free) cocktail made with Koloa Rum (Kauai Rum). Not a bad way to say Aloha.

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Free Koloa Rum cocktail before landing… Aloha indeed!

When we landed in Honolulu (no direct flights from Sacramento to Kauai), we were a bit worried about what to do next- we had definitely missed our connecting flight… but they had assured us in Sacramento that Hawaiian Airlines would have it figured out by the time we landed. Umm is this airline for real? Since when do airlines make things easier?! Anyway, as we were standing up to disembark, the crew came on and said that if we were flying to Kauai, we should head to Gate 53. So, we headed there and awkwardly walked up to the desk and said, “umm, we missed our flight”. The response? “Aloha, did you come from Sacramento? What are your names?” We told them and they immediately handed us two new tickets ready to go for the flight about to board. Well that was the easiest and most efficient process ever! We smiled and went to wait when we heard an attendant come on the loud speaker and say that there was a maintenance issue on the plane- what are the odds? About 20mins later, the same attendant came on and told us that our plane was out of commission and we were to go to gate 50… where there was no plane. About 10mins later, another plane did arrive, and about 30mins after that we were airborne.

Because we had to move our flights from Spring Break, we actually found cheaper flights this time around (our money was kept as credit by Hawaiian Airlines linked to our account). Since it was going to expire within a year of our initial trip, we decided to use it all up on this trip since we weren’t sure we’d be back again within a year. As a result, we got to fly from Honolulu to Kauai in first class. Our flight home in two weeks from Honolulu to Sacramento will also be first class (sweet!). Anyway, first class was nice as you might imagine; good leg room, although I’m not sure it was too different from coach otherwise (except free beer and wine). We had pineapple-orange-guava juice and a bag of rice crackers (see above). Side n0te- maybe we were just on “island mind”, but the POG juice tasted fresher and as if it was made with real fruit on the inner-island flight (it did not taste as fresh/real on the flight to Honolulu). After what felt like 10 minutes (45mins really), we landed safely in Lihue. We waited for our luggage (Hawaiian Airlines seems to always be in baggage claim B in Lihue) and then we went outside to look for our rental car shuttle.

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Flying away from Oahu towards Kauai

There were rental car windows onsite but they were all locked- not sure if they moved or because it’s getting to low season they don’t work onsite. Either way, we found the National Rental Car shuttle waiting and we were the only people taking that one (there were a lot of people trying to fit on budget and other shuttles). We hopped on the shuttle and chatted with our driver about how he moved to the island to help his sister with her horse farm a few years ago. He walkie-talkied ahead to National and let them know that we were coming and an Emerald Club member (free to join and I highly suggest it- it’s so easy and fast). We arrived about a 7min drive later and the manager pulled our Jeep Wrangler up. We loaded our stuff, drove to the check-out window, handed her our IDs, we were both signed on as drivers (no additional cost) and we were on our way. More on that later. Aloha!

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Jeep Wrangler Rental: National Car 

***We got the Jeep specifically because we knew we were headed out to the end of the road in the West where there is a dirty, rutty, pothole stricken path to Polihale State Park. Many rental companies won’t let you take their cars out there, so if you get stuck, you are screwed and two trucks may not help you out. Otherwise, it doesn’t seem like a jeep is necessary on Kauai (although many people rent them and there were other cars, including mustangs driving on the road to Polihale).

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Nusa Lembongan: Another Island Paradise

For the last two nights of our trip in Indonesia, we were scheduled to be on Nusa Lembogan, a small island off the coast of Bali [and a part of Bali]. It is right next to Nusa Penida, another small island. Andrew set this part of the trip up and it was awesome! As you already read, the first day started in Ubud on our rather crazy, hectic, fun scooter adventure around Ubud. When we eventually made it back to Swasti Eco Lodge, we packed up our stuff, checked out, and grabbed our ride to the coast. When we arrived at the ticket office, we talked over our reservations, and then moved to the beach. When the speedboat appeared on the beach, the employees grabbed our bags and loaded them first. Then it was our turn. True to the island life, we took our shoes off, rolled up our pants, and walked through the water to the boat ladder. The boat was small- about 6 or so benches. It was covered on 3 sides with windows. We all sat down and took off. If you’ve never been on a speedboat before, let me tell you, it’s pretty insane. I don’t get motion sickness at all and I love boats, but this ride was crazy. I’m pretty sure I left a dent in the bench back in front of me from squeezing so tightly. The boat “FLEW” over the water, hitting massive waves where water would cover the boat. I don’t think I like riding under the covering of the boat… next time I’ll opt for the open air part. After an hour or so of too much crazy [I think it was actually a 30 minute ride, but felt longer], we pulled up to the coast of a small island. Boats everywhere. It looked awesome. Again the employees carried off our bags and then we followed in suit. We waited a bit until a truck with two long benches in the bed came over. Again we loaded our bags and ourselves up. On this island, there are very VERY few cars/trucks. In fact, I think the one we were on was one of about three. The truck drove us around dropping everyone off here or there on the island. We were the last to be dropped off. We were staying at Alam Nusa Huts and Spa.

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The first night on Nusa, we relaxed. We walked down to the beach [about a 5 minute walk] and enjoyed the sunset. We chatted with the owners of Alam who were so completely friendly and we dined on delicious Indonesian meals and tropical drinks. We also lined up a snorkel trip for the morning. In the morning, we ate breakfast at Alam [can’t get enough of Nasi Goreng!] and then we met up with our boat driver for the snorkel trip. He wasn’t very talkative but apparently knew the folks who owned Alam, so we happily followed along. He took us two different places; one a calmer place for snorkeling and the other on a drift. It was awesome. So many fish and coral. He also brought along bread that he crumbled up and threw in the water to attract the fish– they were everywhere and completely surrounding us. Just an awesomely amazing experience. To top it off, we went in a traditional fishing boat- just the two of us. What an awesome time.

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After the snorkeling trip, we changed our clothes and decided to try another place for lunch that was a few buildings down from where we were staying. Ah island time. We were the only ones in an open-air restaurant that had darts and pool tables. We ordered and were served and then the person working disappeared. As in, we could have gotten up, left, and never returned and no one would have even noticed. It was relaxing and fantastic, but we had sights to see! We paid our bill and then grabbed a scooter to explore the island. We drove all the way to one end and sat amongst mangrove trees, sipping out of a fresh coconut… then we turned around and crossed the bridge between the two parts of the island– only accessible by scooters and walkers. We watched on as workers farmed seaweed [the big economic focus of the island]. We  took pictures of seaweed drying and looked at plots set-up just off the beach using bamboo stakes. We drove by a cemetery where a large platform used for cremations was still smoking from the previous day. We walked through the small road-side shops, talked with locals, and purchased bamboo goods and batik fabrics. We explored every edge of the island under the beautiful sun, shaking our heads and laughing at what an amazingly awesome time we had on the trip. We finished our day with a delicious dinner at Alam. It was starting to sink in that we were leaving. But really, our adventure was just beginning– we were getting ready to fly to San Francisco, California, to embark on an 8-day, 525 mile bike ride from San Francisco to Santa Monica to raise awareness of Arthritis. A bike ride, that we hadn’t even trained for.

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Indonesia is a place of awesome culture and bountiful beauty. It is colorful and vibrant and full of love and passion. I would spend so much more time there if I had the chance. There is so much to see and do. I would recommend it to anyone craving adventure and one hell of a time. Andrew summed it up perfectly– “Never have I felt closer to death… and never have I felt more alive.”

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Until next time, my friends…

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North Bali: The Drive to Lovina and Some Downtown

When we departed from our seaside eco resort of Puri Dajuma [website here: http://www.dajuma.com/en/eco-resort], we headed towards Lovina. We knew that Lovina was going to be at least a bit of tourist trap. It’s a town that is frequented by beach tourism. Andrew had found us a place that was a hidden gem, so to speak, up on a hill with a view of the beach, but not in town. The name of the place was Puri Mangga Sea View Resort and Spa it consisted of rooms and houses and somehow Andrew swung a house with a private pool. The drive there was via Bunut Bolong Tree. Roughly translated, this means hole tree or a tree with a hole in it. It is a sacred tree in Bali- located near the area of Pekutatan. It is related to the Banyan tree is quite simply, a massive tree with a hole in it that is large enough to drive through… there is a clove plantation on one of side of tree [located on a hill of sorts]. In addition to tree, there were also two offering temples. We had requested that the driver go by the tree, as I had a lot of interest in seeing it– it really is quite cool, reminded me of a strangler fig. However, as you might guess, it also has become somewhat of a miniature tourist traps and locals are plentiful, willing to sell you anything and everything… or to take your picture with the tree. We declined and after snapping our own photos, moved on with the trip.

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The drive to Lovina was full of all sorts of great views and picture moments. We saw a ton of rice fields, which really do appear to be placed anywhere there is spare space. Many of the rice fields are in different phases of growth– some fields just being plowed, some with baby rice, some with full grown. Based on what we saw, it would be extremely interesting to do some research on how much water is used each year for growing rice on Bali… and where it comes from.

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We also continued our list of usefulness of bamboo for everyday purposes. On this section of the trip, we saw bamboo being used as a fence, as scaffolding [to hold the building up], and as a billboard sign stand. In addition to the bamboo views, we saw a number of other awesome sights, including massive bunches of bananas, massive bags of rice, street-side stores selling roosters in large woven baskets, statues, and temples, and beautiful architecture. We also saw roadside stands with what looked like homemade dishes in pots and bowls— I’m sure they contained something most delicious!!! Perhaps some Nasi Goreng [fried rice]?

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As I mentioned earlier, we were headed for a house with a private pool. We got there fairly early and it was absolutely gorgeous. I highly recommend Puri Mangga if you want an awesome time away from the crowds [website here: http://www.puri-mangga.de/en/]. Our house was beautiful. Complete with two bedrooms [next time, we’ll have to take a friend!] and two outdoor bathrooms that each had toilets, sinks, and shows. I have mentioned lately how much I LOVE outdoor showers and bathrooms? I’m not sure I have in a few posts– I love love LOVE them. They’re so nice and there’s so much space, and it’s just awesome with the sun shining down. I digress… the pool was also phenomenal. The “resort” itself [I put that in quotes because it’s not like a Sandals resort… it’s much cooler. By that I mean, it’s smaller and remote and just beautiful]. Anyway, the resort itself has a pool and tub that were beautifully sculpted, but we instead, turned our attention to our own rectangular infinity pool that looked down into a valley and you could see the coast. On either edge of the pool was a giant papaya tree and to finish it off, there were lounge chairs to sit in and watch the hours pass by… We swam for a while and read a bit before deciding to head down into the town of Lovina.

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A driver was around almost immediately and told us he would drop us at the Dolphin statue and when we were ready to be picked up, just give them a call and they’ll meet us back there. Easy enough. We stepped out by the “dolphin” statue… I put that in quotes because most of the dolphins on the statue, appeared to have had a run in with the Queen of Hearts [as in, OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!].

We also noticed immediately, that we were no longer in seclusion. We were immediately approached by three different people wanting to sell us things– fruit, jewelry, and paintings. We assured them that we would look again later but that we were looking to get lunch and had other plans. We happened upon a thai place in Lovina called Jasmine Kitchen. I highly recommend it– fantastic fresh dishes and drinks. It was down an alley of sorts and well, away from the mayhem of the beach. We were the only ones at the restaurant and as we found out later, since it was the off-season, we were hit up by all the locals trying to sell goods [fewer tourists to take them on]. Our lunch was amazing… really. We sat upstairs on giant pillows on the ground around a low table and we ate, admittedly, way too much but it was sooo good! They also have homemade ice cream on their dessert menu which a little different from our Western-style ice cream, but still worth the taste. They also will fill your water bottles for a low price, so it’s worth the stop even if just for water [why not grab a snack, too?] After stuffing ourselves, we walked around a bit more [avoiding the beach] so that we could hopefully avoid the sales. Eventually, close to sundown, we decided to head back to the beach because we wanted to watch the sunset. It was worth it. True, we came out of it with some jewelry, a bag of fruit, and a painting that we hadn’t planned on initially… but we also made three locals very happy and took some AMAZING shots of the sunset on the water.

After sunset, we decided to look for a bar with some music for an hour or so before calling Puri Mangga to pick us up. We found an open-air spot [Kantin 21] with not a soul inside other than the bartender and a few waiters. There was a stage and a banner outside said there would be music. We stepped in and were seated at a table with an umbrella. They gave us a MASSIVE drink menu– the second they gave them to us, it became apparent once again that Lovina is not “true Bali”… it is built to appease the tourists– a fact that is made obvious by the multitude of cuisines in town as well as the bars themselves and the extensiveness of the bar menu. Most Bali folks don’t drink at all or at least not a lot. The fact that this drink menu was larger than most American bar menus is saying something. But we didn’t care. We were excited to grab a crazy drink and maybe some food and some music. One of the drinks we ordered was called the Kantin 21 Level 17— 17 alcohols mixed together. We figured, why not, right? I’m not sure the bartender even knew they made that— but they mixed one up for us and we drank it down– bright green, really funky, not sure I recommend it :). We both ended up ordering pizzas [they had an outdoor brick oven]– although I got their special pizza which ended up being a square pizza dough covered in greens and veggies [delicious]. The live music turned out to be a main singer and some back up band. The main singer was apparently a massive America fan– as he kept giving us shout outs and yelling “Obama” and “I love your movies”. Needless to say, we had a great time- as always everyone is super friendly. By the time we left, a few other couples had joined us– representing France, Australia, and Germany. Our driver met us as promised, by the dolphin statue. All in all, a great day and night!

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Summary of Day:
Route: Pekutatan to Lovina [Southwest to North-central]
Breakfast: Puri Dajuma Hotel [included with room]- delicious and fresh, fruit and hot, cooked food
Lunch: Jasmine Kitchen [Thai Food], Lovina Beach; Cash Only; Fresh and Delicious; 5 Stars
Dinner: Kantin 21 [Open Air Bar], Lovina Beach; Small Food Menu/Huge Drink Menu; 3.5 Stars
Hotel: Puri Mangga Sea View Resort and Spa, Lovina; House with Private Pool; 5 Stars

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A Rich Balinese Culture: Offerings and Temples.

As readers, I’m not sure how much you know about Balinese culture and/or religion. Truth be told, prior to Andrew telling me that he was being sent to Jakarta and Bogor for three weeks to conduct training on mapping and forestry for a few NGOs and other partners in Indonesia, all I knew was that Indonesia was relatively close to Australia, it was comprised of a bunch of islands, palm oil is big [from what Andrew told me], and I wanted to go there. I love new cultures and I live for traveling. Naturally, my mom was the first to google things like “Indonesian safety” and “women traveling in Indonesia”. Which, in retrospect, was a smart thing to do– you should never travel somewhere without first conducting a little research on the customs and traditions. The last thing you want to do is show up and make a full of yourself. I mean, would you feel comfortable showing up to a black tie event in pajamas? Would you feel comfortable being throw in jail for missing a curfew? No. So, here’s a brief breakdown on Indonesian and Balinese religion/culture.

Indonesia recognizes six major religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. While all Indonesians are required to carry an identification card that includes a space for one of these six religions, some Indonesians may leave this area blank. Atheism is not recognized and blasphemy is illegal. A census in 2010 showed that the majority of Indonesians identify themselves as Muslim [almost 90%]. Most of the muslim population from my understanding and little research resides on the main island of Indonesia [where you’ll find cities like Jakarta and Bogor]. Here it is still common for women to remain covered up, including a head and face cover. So, if you are going to visit Jakarta, for example, my advice would be to cover as much as possible [ie, definitely NO tube tops or tank tops]. Obviously tourism has brought other types into the mix, but remember, it’s not always fun to stand out.

In Bali, the majority of people [almost 90%] relate to Balinese Hinduism, the remaining as Islam. Religion and culture are very big in Indonesia, and Bali is no exception. As the majority of my time in Indonesia was spent in Bali, I can’t comment specifically on other provinces of Indonesia, but I can comment on Bali. Just about every single home, shop, hotel, and other workplace had at least one small temple. Homes have family temples, intricate and elaborately designed temples with statues and pointed/angled architecture. I could honestly spend months just touring around Bali and looking at family temples. They are gorgeous. Balinese Hinduism includes a focus on local and ancestral spirits and is different from traditional hinduism which focuses primarily on rebirth and reincarnation.

One Balinese guide/driver we had during our trip told us that there are a number of ceremonies that occur for newborns and children and that the child is actually not given a name until one of these ceremonies about 3 months after the child is born. Ceremonies are also big around the puberty timeframe, marriage, and perhaps most importantly, during the time of cremation in celebration of the afterlife. When it comes to cremations, the Balinese conduct an absolutely remarkable event and celebration as we learned through a few Balinese folks and conversations in Jakarta with other native Indonesians [Andrew worked in Jakarta for a few weeks prior to our Bali trip]. Large cremations occur on different time intervals so deceased family members will be buried until the appropriate time. At that point the bodies will be dug up for a proper cremation. Large models/statues of animals are built in which the bodies are placed to be carried to the appropriate temple. Once there, the bodies are transferred to lion or tiger statues for the actual “lighting on fire” part.

During our time in Bali, we were able to catch some set-up for a Cremation, a short parade of a Cremation, and the aftermath of the Cremation next to the graveyard where the platform continued to burn. Our hope is that on our next trip, we will be able to attend a Cremation from start to finish. The Balinese do not seem to mind if you want to go along, as long as you are respectful and have the proper attire [including a sarong/sash].

Another large part of Balinese Hinduism includes offerings. These can be of all shapes and sizes and typically include flowers, some type of food [rice], and incense. They can include a great number of items and depending on the temple or the person, the size of the offering may vary. During your time in Bali you will see the occurrence of people taking offerings to a temple and lighting incense… many times. The offerings are beautiful and as you walk around town looking in little shops for Batik or other trinkets, you will likely also see women working to put together offering trays. The traditional offering methodology so to speak is described below. My understanding is that it varies from place to place and person to person. One many told us they only pray once a day, other people we saw pray more than once while we were in a restaurant [for example]. In some areas there is also a loud speaker that plays a prayer at certain time intervals throughout the day for prayer times. Again, it depends on where you are and how religious the folks are who are near you. For more detail on traditional Balinese Prayer visit the Balinese Prayer Page: http://www.filosbali.net/BalinesePrayer.htm. Traditional Offerings in a day:

1. Family temples are located in the corner of the house plot [or compound or land or whatever you want to call it] closest to Mount Agung [a volcano, the largest in Bali] where the Gods are believed to live.

2. The first act of the mother is to visit the family temple. The gods receive their offering in the family temple while the demons receive their offerings on the ground [Balinese believe in recognizing the balance between good and evil]

3. Women will repeat these offerings at work, in the shop, and at the beach.

4. Husbands will similarly pray and present offerings which are often seen in the taxis or other cars they drive.

In Bali, head covers are much less prevalent as islamic religion is not as widespread. However, it is still respectful and tactful to avoid wearing overly revealing clothing [including short skirts, tank tops, tube tops, halter tops/dresses, etc], especially in temples. In areas of Souther Bali [such as Kuta areas], you’ll find a plethora of Australians and other tourists. I relate Kuta to the “Cancun” of Bali. For Australians, a flight to Bali is often cheaper than flying across Australia so many younger people travel there for vacations, spring breaks, and surfing. We only drove through Kuta and did not spend any time there as we tend to appreciate the “not so touristy, glitzy” areas of the places we visit. This is not to say that we didn’t spend our fair share of time in touristy areas as well. Just putting things into perspective.

So, if you’re headed to Bali, remember- be respectful. Don’t wear overly revealing outfits and clothing. Your world won’t crumble if you actually wear a shirt on a moped and no one will check you out less for wearing a short-sleeved shirt instead of that new halter top to the sacred temple. Enjoy the ride!

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Welcome to Bali: Enjoy Your Stay and the Traffic

Arriving into Bali was something else altogether for me. I flew from Perth, Australia on Air Asia [the plane was comfortable, the crew spoke in Indonesian and English, the flight was pretty short– about 3.5 hours]. When we landed, we disembarked on the runway itself. We then all loaded onto a bus shuttle, crammed in like sardines [but part of the fun!] and the bus drove us about 2-3 minutes to the entry way of customs/border patrol. They drove us right through what looked like doors of a temple. How cool. How different. This, my first experience in Asia, I was extremely excited to see the different architecture and design.

Anyway, on to the airport. When you arrive in the airport there are a handful of people there holding signs. If you have a person waiting for you, you wave and that person sprints to one of the lines for visa payment to make sure that you are first. I did not have such a person waiting for me, so I made my way groggily over to the lines and hopped into one– only about 2 people back! Turns out, waiting to be one of the last people off the plane has its advantages! The visa fee is $25US or the equivalent in Indonesian Rupiah [IDR]. You pay your money, show your passport, and receive a receipt. Then you move on to the customs lines. When you get called up, they look at your passport, look at you, then attach the visa to your passport [a sticker!] and sign it and let you go on your way. Next you grab your bag[s] if you checked them, place them on an x-ray belt where they are simply scanned through [I’m not sure if anyone was actually watching the scan screens to be honest]. Finally, you either walk to the “red line” where you go if you declared anything on your card or the “green line” if you didn’t declare. You hand your card to the guy standing there, or in my experience, you watch people walk by and drop their cards on the table while the guy speaks to one of his buddies and just like that, Welcome to Indonesia!

When I walked out the front doors of the airport,I noticed several things: 1) about 150 people crowded around the doors with signs with different names of people on them [hotel drivers and hired drivers] as well as a handful of people waiting for others to arrive; 2) a bunch of guys walking around offering taxis or private drivers; 3) warm and damp air; and 4) a giant billboard reading, “Welcome to Indonesia, Enjoy Your Stay.” I was actually expecting more of a push for Indonesian language, but alas, everyone in the airport spoke English and it seemed, so did the advertisements in Bali!

I found Andrew sitting under said billboard on the grass. We had actually told our hotel ahead of time our flight information, so the driver came to pick us up. Finding him was a bit complicated as there were so many people crammed around the door, but after a short search, we found him and headed off towards the car [he had parked about a 5-10 minute walk away].

This is where I’ll pause for a moment. I had heard and read about drivers in Indonesia. My understanding was that they were fast, didn’t follow traffic signs, and there were a lot of them. What I wasn’t prepared for is the crazy, chaotic patterns and ways of driving that I experienced on the way to the hotel. First, I think that perhaps there are 5 traffic lights in all of Indonesia. They just don’t exist. Second, Indonesian drivers do not stop or yield or pause when turning left. They simply go and turn and trust that if someone is coming that person will honk their horn. Which brings me to point three, horns are used a lot, but not in a mean way. They are used as a way of saying, “Hey, I’m here, just wanted to let you know”. Next, drivers have no problem swerving around each other and/or driving on the wrong side of the road [and I don’t mean wrong side of the road for US folks, I mean wrong side of the road for Indonesian folks]. Apparently, there is no wrong side of the road. Our driver literally straddled the center line of the road the entire hour-long drive to our hotel in Canggu.

On the insistence of the Infinity Mountain Biking Company that we had been in discussion with prior to our trip, we had chosen a hotel they recommended out in Canggu; a little further away from the Bali Airport because of the traffic. Our plan was to spend our time in Bali biking from place to place [making a loop around the island and also into the middle/central portions of the island where the volcanos are]. The hotel they recommended was the Legong Keraton Beach Hotel. Here, they would deliver our mountain bikes in the morning.

Because of airline delays, we didn’t end up getting into the hotel until around 2:00AM, but from what I saw that late/early, it was beautiful. Situated right on the beach, Legong Keraton features spacious rooms with connected balconies that overlook tropical vegetation and trees. We quickly settled in and caught some rest. In the morning, around 7:00AM, we received a call stating that our bikes were there. We headed downstairs and met with a group of about three guys from Infinity Mountain Biking. The bikes were really nice: One Giant and One Polygon. We were handed two sets of bike gloves, two helmets [not sure they had quite the same padding amount as in the states, but they would serve their purpose], one bike lock [we were a little leery of that], two water bottles, a bike multi-tool, two extra bike tubes, a patch kit, and we were offered but declined a backpack. There was also supposed to be a pump, but I guess they forgot it. Andrew asked if it would be easy to find a pump if we needed one. After some talking back and forth, they agreed that they would return with a bike pump in about an hour. We handed over $600US [well, the equivalent in Rupiah] as a bike deposit. The total for all of the gear and the bikes for 12 days [including delivery today and pick-up at a hotel in Ubud 12 days from now] was $240US. So, when they come to pick up our bikes in Ubud, they’ll return the deposit minus the $240US. Not too bad for a week of traveling.

When they headed out to get the pump, we headed to breakfast. There is a restaurant at the hotel and breakfast was included in our stay. We entered the open-air dining area and were instantly greeted by a woman who offered to cook us eggs. Andrew ordered ham and cheese eggs and I ordered mixed eggs, no meat. My eggs turned out to be: cheese, mushrooms, peppers, and onions. Yum. In addition, there was a buffet style set-up with strawberry juice, water, coffee, tea, cereals, fresh fruit [pineapple, yellow watermelon, and papaya], beef sausage, and nasi goreng [nasi = rice, goring = fried]. The breakfast nasi goreng was vegetarian and had egg, onion, and some chilies in it. Yum!

We dined on a patio overlooking the manicured lawns, palm trees, and beach. While the lawns looked fake, they were still nice and it was very obvious how much time and care was put into keeping them looking perfect. About half-way through our breakfast, infinity mountain bikes returned with our pump and after a handshake and a wave, they were off. We headed back to our room and set about discarding things we didn’t need from our bags and repacking them in an effort to minimize the weight of our packs. At the end of the day, we had about 50lb packs. They were too heavy.

Andrew had also asked if we could store an extra bag at the hotel for about a week [stuff leftover from working in Jakarta for the past 3 weeks]. The hotel said sure no problem and didn’t even charge us! With a few more checks of our gear, we double-checked our maps and headed off down the road to begin our cycling adventure!

Pictures to be added: poor internet connection here!!

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Fremantle Markets and Kings Park, Australia

Good Morning Everyone! Today was my last day in Oz. I couldn’t wait to see Andrew! However, seeing as my flight wasn’t scheduled until the evening, I had to fill my day with other activities. I had a nice breakfast at the Terrace B&B [fruit, cereal, krumpets, coffee, tea, juice] and then finished up a few homework assignments and sent off a few emails for work. I then packed up my stuff and headed to my first stop: Fremantle Markets. The original foundation stone for the Fremantle Markets Hall/Building was laid back in 1897. For many years the site was used as a whole foods market and people would arrive with horse and buggy. Overtime, the building morphed into a packing and distribution center until the early 1970s. In 1975, the Fremantle Council gave the building an overhaul, added it to the National Heritage List and thus the present day Fremantle Markets were born. They provide produce, whole foods, indigenous and local products via a number of stalls. There is plenty of seating and an area deemed “the yard” as well with extra seating and a children’s petting zoo that occurs during mid-day. The stalls in the building ranged from jewelry to produce to large sacks of beans and nuts to clothing stalls to food stalls including sushi, cheese, pretzels, juices, and crepes. It doesn’t take too long to walk around and check out the views within the markets, but it is definitely worth the trip! An additional bonus at this time of year was the large flower display entitled, “under the wildflowers”. Wildflowers are very big in Western Australia, especially after a winter like this one with so much rain. The display runs throughout the market building and consists of a bunch after bunch of Australian “Everlasting”… a paper daisy in pinks, whites, yellows, dark pinks, etc. They are special and called “everlasting” because you can dry them out and they won’t lose their shape or color. The Fremantle Markets have the largest upside down wildflower display in Australia. I included some pictures of the “Everlasting” below, but unfortunately, my phone can’t hook up to wifi so I can’t share images from the markets themselves right now. I’ll post some later! By the way, here’s the website for Fremantle Markets: http://fremantlemarkets.com.au.

After the markets, I walked down to the Freo train station and bought my ticket for 2 zones to head back into Perth. Similar to a previous post, I had researched how to get from Freo to Kings Park on Transperth; a great site [yes, another shout out]. I hopped on my train towards Perth-All Stations and road for about 20 minutes or so until the train got to “City West”. This stop is one station before downtown Perth, so I was a little skeptical, but I went with it anyway. I disembarked and walked across the street to find the bus stop I was searching for [Transperth had also provided me with a stop ID number so I could double check]. This bus was a Green Cat. There are several Cats in the city and they run around the downtown areas. They are always free of charge- how cool! I jumped on the bus and road along, waiting for my stop Havelock Street. When we had driven for about 10-15 minutes, I heard the automated bus system say Kings Park Road. I panicked. Did Transperth let me down? I hopped out of my seat and walked up to the bus driver and asked if I needed to get off here to get to Kings Park. He assured me that no, the next stop, Havelock Street, was the best for Kings Park. Ahhh Transperth, thank you! The bus driver pointed out the walk to the Visitor’s Center [straight across the grass to the path] and I went on my merry way.

Kings Park is awesome. It is actually a park and botanical garden that is visited by more than 6 million people a year. The total area of the park is 400.6 hectares, adjacent to Swan River and overlooking Perth [the downtown area is a mere 1.5km away]. It showcases flowers and plants from around Australia, including a special exhibit on Western Australia. In addition, 2/3 of the park is natural bushland with over 300 species of native plants and more than 80 species of birds. Another great part of the park/botanical garden… they have the Lotteryway Federal Walkway. This is a walkway through the park, along the river that has a large glass suspended bridge. When you walk over it, it is as if you are walking in the canopy of the trees. Just amazing.

After a few hours of exploring, I headed through the carpark to the designated bus stop according to my trusty Transperth [of course I double checked with the Visitor’s Center… after all, I come from Washington, DC, and you can’t always trust WMATA, our online public transport system]. I waited about 5 minutes until a bus popped up. I asked the driver if he was headed to the airport. He said he was 37A so no, he stopped short, but the next bus, 37 was headed there [by the way, this is also what Transperth told me]. About 10 minutes later, I was seated on bus 37, having paid the driver $4.20 for a ticket, on my way to the Perth Domestic Airport. There is no real public transportation to the international terminals and in fact, the domestic and international terminals are not together. So, you take a bus to the domestic part of the airport and then hop on a free shuttle to the international terminals. A little while later, I was seated in a chair at the Perth International Airport, international terminals, filling out my proper paperwork.

Cheers, Australia and thanks for a fantastic time! Now it’s off to Bali, Indonesia!
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Categories: Australia | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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