Bromo revisited

It’s okay, I spouted with a swagger in my step, I walked there before! Same old type of cheap accommodation with the comfortingly super damp bedding. 

Awake! 2.30 or there abouts, up and at it! Stumbling out into the brisk air we were met by a cachophany of noise. Tailing off onto the distance was a column of roaring jeeps. It’s okay, we’ll walk, not like these pampered softies!!!

Through the town and down a steep slippery slope on our way to the Sea of Sand. Lights and sounds pounded past. But we’ll walk!! Down onto the sea of sand and off we went. Mist enveloped us, but no problem for we had my iPhone torch/lamp. Onwards McDuff.

And then from the rear, column after column of jeeps screamed past us. Entertaining it was, look I’m here said my iPhone torch wanly. And on we went. Again and again like The US army in Desert Storm, metal and light flew past us. 

Eventually a horeseman guided us to the base of Bromo, but we hadn’t been too far out. It says here:-) People and beasts appeared wraith like from the gloom but our goal was in our sights. So sad to see rubbish at the base of the final leg up to the crater rim. Guess that’s progress. The light, the view and the atmosphere was amazing. And then a walk back in the daylight and a stop off for food at the Lava Hotel. Ordered tomato soup. Love tomato soup:-) a bowl, two tomatoes cut up and some boiling water. Wouldn’t it be boring if everything was the same! 

To many jeeps and fumes but nothing can destroy the majesty of Mount Bromo. Not even dodgy tomato soup!

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Spice Islands

Eastwards Ho! Equipment purchased, 10 flights booked and off we toddled to Indonesia. We stayed overnight in Warsaw before our flight to Istanbul in a super little hostel in the new old town of Warsaw. Bunk-beds with all the ensuing claims to sleep up or downstairs. The Cannon was perfect for us.

Flight number one. We flew Turkish Airlines to Istanbul where we had a seven hour lay over. I determined to reduce DVT by walking every part of it, and I can attest to the fact that it is big! Very big!! Then we had an 11 hour flight to Jakarta. The flight was great and the service excellent. Never have so few lavatories been serviced so often, by so few, for so many.

Jakarta. Tired and hung down like overdecorated Christmas trees we trundled into full view of the cab touts. Shouts of Hey Mister, Hey Boss and simply hey assailed our ears. We had originally planned to take  a bus from the airport to the station at Gambir. I had travelled down to Bandung many years ago by train and enjoyed the experience. Sadly our visit coincided with Ramadan and so there was not even room for a slimmed down cockroach. This meant we had to book a hotel, the illustrious Dreamtel Jakarta. Thus a taxi, and the first of many haggles. But to haggle one needs an idea of the going rate. We paid 300,000 IDR for a taxi across town. The lovely people at Dreamtel told us later that it should have been 200,000IDR maximum. Guard up! The hotel was clean with a funky glass elevator that Will Wonka would approve of. The room was good, a double shared with the children. Aghhh…The view was a little less pleasing. A brick wall, although painted off white, about 30cm from our window. Breakfast was very good and the guys behind the counter helpful and a couple spoke good English. Heads up with the Bluedird taxis with meters and asking suitable questions about tolls being included in prices and off we went from Jakarta the next day by plane. The flight was about 3 hours late. About 10 staff behind the counter could giggle flirt with each other beautifully, but giving information was not their forte. We flew up to Sumatra, landed, which was eventful and bumpy, waited 20 minutes and set off for Yogykarta. The flight attendant pointed out a few general facts and asked us to pray to God for a safe flight. That was reassuring for one and all. Yogykarta. Little did we know but we were close to the airport. The taxi driver again charged over the odds. The place we stayed was clean and again we shared with the kids. Breakfast was a greasy mess and the coffee so sweet one shot of it would have given a whale diabetes. We valiantly strolled down the side of the dual carriageway in search of munchies. Amazing to watch whole families, babies included, all perched on weaving mopeds and scooters. Grabbing a taxi, with the meter agreed as arbiter of cost, we set off down town. We spent the evening on Maliobor Street. Locals looked at us as though they hadn’t seen foriegners before!

Memories of Mount Bromo

We arrived late at our accomodation. It had been a long bumpy ride in a truly old jalopy. Some call it romantic, others called it uncomfortable. The room was basic, but we would only be there a short while. If memory serves me correctly we rose at around 3am. Even the roosters were snoozing still.The last time I had got up so early was when I was born.

In a comatosed state we shuffled to our guide and were led off sheep like into the murkiness. Dark and cold, what was I doing? Where was my ratty bed? We ascended for a short while and came to the valley floor. The braying of donkeys came out of the mist. I decide to walk as did my partner, but her sister had a terrible disease. Born bone-idle, bless her. She mounted one of these small animals with her feet almost dragging along the floor. We trudged onwards through the mist and gloom. Why am I here?

Our sojourn finished at the base of a steep set of timber steps. Just in case we felt in need of civilization, reminders of it were left in the form of plastic bottles, cans and other advanced detrius near the steps. The donkey was unburdened from its not insubstantial load and all three  of us made our way upwards. The donkey had seen the show before.

At the top we stopped to take in the view of the volcano and breath deep the fumes. Not distasteful after a life time of Mother’s cooking. This was more like it! Then someone shouted and we all turned in near seeming unison. The sun was rising. A huge golden, yellow orb of power and light ascended the farthest horizon. Spilling light across the plain as it rose. One of the most fantastic sights I had ever witnessed was taking place before my eyes.

ahh, that was why I was there!! Magnificent and I carry the polaroid like snapshots in my mind for evermore. Truly breathtaking. Now where was that poor donkey?

Memories of Cameron Heights

Monday mornin’ and raining here. I love the rain. Must be an English thing. Yes, that’s it, an English thing.

Recall making plans to go to the Cameron Heights. Booked tickets on an old jalopy of a bus and had an overnight drive. The road meandered through the forest in the pitch black. Then  a thunderstorm rolled over and accompanied us. The lightning illuminated the soaked forest for milliseconds at a time.

Pulled into Cameron about 4am or 5am. Some ungodly hour. Everything was shut. So thoughtless of Cameron;-) I made my way to a hostel, but it was closed, too. Constructed in an imaginative square. But redemption was at hand. The building had a wide porch running around the font and both sides. How does a porch run? Slowly.

The rainy weather was kicking in again. I settled down on one of the comfy chairs, feet on my backpack, and slipped into my sleeping bag. Remember feelin’ cosy, dry and happy to watch the rain from my temporary sanctuary.

Roadtrip Nice Thru’ to Verdon Gorge

 

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Onwards McDuff. Meandered along the coast to Cannes. I guess we were expecting something a bit cheap, gaudy and classless. Well, that was reserved for Monaco. Cannes was a real delight. Of course expensive, especially as young man had an ice-cream obsession, where can I sell my next kidney? But a place  with a lovely ambience and wonderful streets to peruse back away from the seafront. Wealthy yes, but not tawdry like Monaco. The beach was great for the children, of all ages, with beautiful views along the bay in both directions.

Then we made our way to Nice which was very nice. The horror that would unfold there the next week was unimaginable. Again a wonderful place to spend time and simply take in the atmosphere. This included swimming, splashing and blowing up inflatables until I had cheeks as red as a lobster! All good fun in other words. Monaco was tacky, dirty and seemed to shove its vulgar wealth down peoples’ throats. A large ugly underpass comes to mind and a huge car park that didn’t want us to leave. Some things have passed me by, due mainly to the fact that I want to move onto the Verdon Gorge.

Verdon Gorge. There, it’s easy to say, yes? My wife showed me the map and the route. Assuring me it wasn’t the Alps and the way to Chamonix. Not ‘too’ high. So we headed to Moustiers-Saint-Marie. The Gorge  is 700 metres deep, or high and about 25km long. On I drove, upwards and upwards. The drive was stunning, my hands were wet and my eyes so focused they could have bored through rock. The road is narrow. Very narrow in places. As we rounded corners one could only see blue sky ahead, and still blue sky and then back online. Only to twist outward again. Tunnels wide enough for one vehicle at a time added to the fun. And still upwards. The view down was impressive. But a view I tried to avoid. A two brick high barrier marked the edge of the road. A barrier that couldn’t stop a sickly mouse.In some places nothing along the edge of the road apart from gravity. We stopped at a viewing point. Took pictures, had a look around, wrung out my shorts, that sort of thing. My wife spotted a twisting, switchback, extremely narrow drive down to the canyon floor. Super I said as we clambered back into the car. The way out of the Gorge is stunning and teasing. Just as you think you are going down, upwards swings the road again. I don’t do heights well and so felt proud of myself when we came out on the other side. A side with fields of lavender, wonderful trees and FLAT roads. Flat is good.

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Spontaneous Camping

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Finished cycling in Sweden. Cycling around Gdynia, Sopot and Gdansk finished. So what next? On the spur of the moment camping and Malbork came up. Visit the largest castle in the world by area, wallow in history and watch a reenactment. What better?

Where to stay. Hey, let’s try camping! But we have no tent. No worries, we’ll buy one. And the sleeping bags, the mattress and the air pump, too. Out of the shop heavier with goods, lighter with money and full of determination.

Arrive at the site. The weather is not great in Malbork. Upshot. The campsite is half-full. Loved how the owner sucked on his stubby pencil, scratched his ear. He simply didn’t know how to fit us in. Wonderful stuff!

Allocated a spot. Open the new packed tent and instructions. The clouds are looking ominous. Having not put up a tent since my teens, and my wife possibly never, we went about our business with nervous bravado as the seasoned neighbours next door looked on.

Does this carbon rod go here? Why is that short? Does this go in the ground? What we have no mallet/hammer! Then a kindly gent with the same tent came and offered some help, and one end of the tent was taking shape, and the rest we could manage. Thank you, sir!

Done and dusted and quite comfortable (it says here). Next day we were packed and ready to leave. An older man and his grandchildren looked at an identical tent in confusion.

To his aid we went, and up went his tent. From near novices one day, to experts (nearly) the next.

It’s evolution baby, evolution.