travelationship-review-september-2016

Our Travelationship in Review September 2016

By: Heather

We started the month on Gili Meno in Indonesia. It is the more low-key of the three Gili islands, and I’d say for what we needed and wanted we chose correctly. The island is teeny tiny. I walked its perimeter at a very slow pace in under two hours. Our accommodations were probably the most interesting to date. We thought we were staying in a hut. Instead, it was a platform with a mattress, mosquito net, and three non-connecting grass walls. I wouldn’t quite call it camping but definitely, would not call it a hut. It took a few minutes to get used to, but it ended up being a relatively fun and unique couple of nights.

Our Gili Meno accommodations.

Our Gili Meno accommodations.

From Gili, we returned to Lombok Island and beelined to Kuta beach (not to be confused with Bali’s Kuta Beach), possibly the most beautiful beach we have ever visited. The beach sellers were relentless. At first, it was overwhelming and annoying because there were so many vendors and all of them ignored our “no thank you” responses. We decided to turn the situation around and started asking questions of the kids and women. Within minutes it turned into a little party on the beach with a bunch of locals. We learned how the kids made their bracelets, where they go to school, how the women made the sarongs or where they purchased them from, how many children each of the women had and quizzed each other on the hottest singing artists. It was fun, and the kids and ladies kept us company all afternoon.

Kuta Beach, Lombok Island

Kuta Baech, Lombok Island (Not to be confused with Kuta Beach, Bali).

From Lombok, we returned to Bali to get out passports from immigration (we had to extend our visa because our total visit was over the 30-day allowance). It took us four different appointments over two weeks, but we finally got our passports back with our extension stamp. After all the time and effort we put in to get the visa extension we should have planned an additional month instead of a measly extra six days. Lesson learned.

We were only in Bali for the day before heading back to the airport to depart for Labuan Bajo, Flores, Indonesia, which is located East of both Bali and Lombok islands. Our motivation was to see Komodo dragons in their natural environment on either Komodo Island or Rinca Island. We decided on a two-day/one-night boat excursion from Labuan Bajo to Rinca and Komodo Islands. On day one we hiked the islands, and on day two we snorkeled three different locations in between the islands. The trip itself was fantastic. We saw lots of Komodo dragons on both islands, and on one of the snorkeling locations we swam with huge manta rays. I think we ended up seeing and swimming with about twelve different manta rays total. The water current was really strong, and for a few minutes swimming was a bit scary, but our boat captain was prepared and was already following all of us to be plucked out of the water. The accommodations on the boat were fine but not what we were sold. However, overall the boat trip was more than we expected and we were glad we went.

Heather swimming with the manta rays.

Heather swimming with the manta rays.

Our visit to Flores closed our tour of Indonesia, and we headed to Cairns, Australia for two days before flying to Papua New Guinea to attend the Goroka Show festival in Goroka. I don’t know where to start about the Goroka Show. We had waited months for mid-September to arrive. This was the single event we were most excited about, and it did not disappoint. It was by far the best cultural and human event either of us had ever experienced.

The festival is a sing-sing and dance contest between about one hundred tribes from around Papua New Guinea. The tribe members dress in their traditional clothing including elaborate headdresses, drums, bows and arrows and other paraphernalia. The show is three days and coincides with Papua New Guinea’s Independence Day. The three days were overwhelming and emotionally amazing. The people we met and the stories we heard about different tribes and their heritage was absolutely a once in a lifetime affair. We feel honored and blessed to have experienced the show and would like to go back to Papua New Guinea to visit some of the villages we learned about.

For the last two weeks of the month, we flew back to Cairns, Australia. Of course, we dove the Great Barrier Reef, and both of us walked away feeling meh about the reef. I know – what is wrong with us that we thought the GBR was just ok. I think we both had too high of expectations of what we would see, and the reality of the wear and tear on the reef showed much differently than the pictures in our minds. Also, we saw just a tiny portion of the huge reef, and it was a highly trafficked section, so we need to get out and see more of it.

While in Cairns we spent a day above and under the trees of the Wet Tropics rainforest. We took the Skyrail from their Smithfield to Kuranda stops and back. The views of the rainforest, Great Barrier Reef, Barron River and Barron Falls waterfall were stunning. We wished we had planned better and spent some time hiking in the forest. Although, the forest ranger we met only solidified Matt’s reluctance to spend much time in the forest due to all the deadly critters.

While in Cairns, we house and pet sat for six cats, six kittens, two dogs and two full fish tanks. We got in plenty of kitten craziness time. There were two sets of three kitten litters, and the older litter was at the perfect play age. We were in constant laughing and catching kittens from falling off of everywhere mode. The house was located at the base of the center of the Lamb Mountain Range, which allotted us incredible views of  mountains and rainforest all day long. The housesit gave us time to organize our four week Australia/ New Zealand road trip. Matt’s parents will be joining us for the month of October as we drive Sydney to Darwin via the southern and central route.

September was a great month for us. Papua New Guinea and snorkeling with manta rays were probably our two favorite escapades, but the month was full of memorable moments.

The Stops

Indonesia: Gili Meno, Kuta, Labuan Bajo, Bali, Komodo National Park – Komodo and Rinca, Pulau Makasar (Manta Point), and Kanawa
Australia: Cairns, Edmonton, Kuranda
Papua New Guinea: Port Moresby, Goroka, Mondo

The Great

The weather all month even with the rain was perfect. We had it all except for snow.

We started the month off in Gili Meno, Indonesia. I was still on hold from diving because of my ear, so we snorkeled a lot. We easily saw two turtles, an eel, and lots of fish. The waters of Gili and most of Indonesia were gorgeous and full of life. We didn’t feel we missed out on anything by only snorkeling.

A taste of the snorkeling in Gili Meno.

A taste of the snorkeling in Gili Meno.

We can not recommend a visit to the Flores and Komodo Islands enough. We enjoyed our time in this part of Indonesia and will return. We had two days in the waters around Komodo and Rinca islands. Looking back we wished we had booked at least four days. The diversity of the small islands all around and the abundance of wildlife in and out of the water were impressive. We went to see Komodo dragons and left with the memories of seeing dragons, wild boars, deer, monkeys, birds, several manta rays and turtles, thousands of fish of all sizes and lots of birds including cockatoos and eagles. If you are planning a trip to Indonesia, add Flores. I would go as far as to say add Flores instead of Bali. We liked it that much!

Fascinated that the bottom of the Komodo's foot looks almost human like. Thumb and all.

Fascinated that the bottom of the Komodo’s foot looks almost human like. Thumb and all.

See the boars in the background? A moment of everyone living in harmony.

See the boars in the background? A moment of everyone living in harmony.

While on our boat trip to see dragons we were pleasantly surprised with an encounter with bioluminescence. The sun had set, and the stars were out in the thousands. One of the guys on the boat was thinking about taking a swim, but it was cold. He stuck his leg in the water instead, and the waters lit up like a reflection of all the stars in the sky. We turned off all the lights on the boat, and all started splashing our legs in the water. The sight of the twinkling lights had us all in awe. We researched later that the Bioluminescence we experienced were dinoflagellate planktons, which have the ability to make chemical reactions within their tissues to give off light.

The highlight of the entire month was without a doubt the Goroka Show in Papua New Guinea. The experience was straight out of a National Geographic documentary. At times it was so overwhelming and moving, I found myself crying because the pride and the energy of these tribe members were palpable. Talking with and smiling with the locals was more than we expected. The tribe members work hard to carry on their heritage and educate the public about their tribes and villages. Quite a few explained to us that modern times have made it difficult for them to keep on with their traditions. For some, the cultural shows are the only way to conserve and share their history. We would love to return to Papua New Guinea and spend time in the villages to learn more about many of the different tribes.

The Goroka Show, PNG.

While in Goroka, we met a fellow traveler, Kathleen. We spent our entire week with her and had so much fun. Thanks to her we visited a local village called Mondo and had such an unforgettable day. We met quite a few of the residents of Mondo and hiked a small portion of the gorgeous mountains in their backyard. Best of all, we were shown how to cook a traditional Papua New Guinea meal in bamboo stalks. The food was delicious, and I was so motivated I may just try this out sometime in our future (I hate cooking, so this could just be a whimsical pipe dream).

September 2016 Review 19

While in Cairns, we were hosted by Skyrail to ride their cabins high above the Wet Tropics rainforest. The views were incredible and the entire day was relaxing and very pleasant.

Cruising over the rainforest on the Skyrail.

Cruising over the rainforest on the Skyrail.

The Not So Great

As we travel, we make big efforts to be kind to people and the environment. If each of us does not take care of and respect all the life out in the world, there will be nothing to share with future generations. When we witness unkind and oblivious people, we get upset! Off of Gili Meno, there were a group of twenty or so snorkelers who were grabbing and pulling on a turtle so they could take selfies with it. The situation was disgusting. We tried to get the attention of any of the seven boat captains in charge of the snorkelers but failed to find anyone to help. After about ten minutes the turtle did manage to get away and swam deeper into the waters. Unfortunately, we experienced rude and ignorant tourists a lot during the month.

On our two-days/one-night boat trip with Flores Komodo Expedition, we had eight people on the boat including the captain and chef. We were assured we would have fresh water to rinse with and beds for each of us. It wasn’t until after our first swim we discovered the faucet to the fresh water did not work and no extra water was brought onboard. Also, we only had five single mattresses for eight people. I ended up sleeping on a bench, one couple crammed themselves sideways on a super narrow mattress; the captain slept on another bench; three people slept on a mattress each, and the chef slept on the small roof above the toilet. We don’t mind roughing it, but when we pay for certain essentials and don’t prep for otherwise, it can be irritating. With that said, what we did and saw in the two days calmed our frustrations. Luckily, everyone on our boat was easy going, and we all took in stride and had a good time, but it was still frustrating not to get what you paid for.

Snorkeling inside Komodo National Park.

Snorkeling inside Komodo National Park.

In hindsight, we spent too much time in Bali. Indonesia has so much to offer, and Bali is their tourist haven trap. We were glad we visited but would recommend everyone book more time visiting the other islands rather than spending all or most of your time in Bali.

The horrible tourists we encountered at the Goroka Show. At times we were shocked and at a total loss of how to even react to some of the interactions we saw. We don’t understand the rudeness some people display toward others while traveling. Some of it was a superiority type thing where they treated tribe members as servants or people less than themselves. Some of it was observing tourists treating each other disrespectfully over a missed or skewed photo or video opportunity. Plus, watching people rush around for photos only and not stopping to talk with the locals or be in the moment – they weren’t getting the full experience.

I am expecting we are going to get some backlash for our next statement. We were disappointed with the Great Barrier Reef. We completely understand we only saw a very small portion of the huge reef, and we hope there are lots of places within the reef that are still lively and beautiful. What we saw was not what we had read or heard about all our lives. The whole experience was a bit sad. Every day several boats with thirty to over a hundred people each go out and snorkel and dive different locations within the reef. Between the sunscreen seeping into the waters, the coral bleaching from rising temperatures, the wear, and tear from snorkelers and divers touching, bumping into, standing on and killing the coral the reef has seen better days. We wanted to see more of the reef, but the excursions were quite expensive, and the huge boat tours were not our thing. We will return but need to do more research on exactly where to see the reef.

September 2016 Review 03

I ruptured my eardrum again on my third dive in the Great Barrier Reef. My first two dives went well, and I had no issue clearing my ears and no pain. During my descent at about six meters, I started to feel an intense pressure. I stopped, tried to clear and instead felt more pain. I slowly started to ascend to see if it would alleviate any pressure or pain. It didn’t. I returned to the boat, dumped my gear and sulked for about five minutes. Then I returned to the water to snorkel sideways with the hopes of not getting my ear wet. I did fairly well, but only stayed in the water for less than five minutes. I’m out at least another eight weeks from diving. Snorkeling on the surface only should be fine.

At our house sit in Cairns, we encountered some crazy noisy birds. It was our first encounter with Bush Stone Curlews, which are almost prehistoric, weird, brown medium sized birds. At first, looking at one was nothing special but at night hundreds of them would screech and scream all night long. They sounded like someone being murdered. Had our homeowners not warned us, we would have called the police the first night. Just as they would quiet down in the morning, the white cockatoos would fly by in a screeching rage destined for their location for the day. I guess it was all part of the details living near the rainforest.

Our goal was to write a lot of posts while in Cairns at our house sit. Well, of course, that did not happen. Instead, we lazed around and played with kittens most of the time. Plus, our photo editing and organizing program crashed on us, so our photos are in disarray. It takes us way too much time now to find and edit our photos.

The Oops!, WTF?, LOLs – Lessons learned, head scratchers & hilarities

Oops! Let’s not do that again lessons

Our GoPro continues to be the best and worst piece of photo equipment we carry. While snorkeling off of Gili Meno in Indonesia, I saw a huge (about the size of my arm) eel. I was able to hover above it, and it hung out with me for a good 3 minutes. I popped my head up to get Matt’s attention to show him the eel, but it was too late the eel had gone into hiding. When we got back to land to look at the incredible video footage I thought I had captured – it was nowhere on the vid card! I, AGAIN, had thought I set the camera to video when instead it was set to photo. I thought I saw the red light flashing to show me it was recording, but nope, I was wrong! This miss may haunt me forever because the lighting, the eel and the moments were all so perfect.

While in the town of Kuranda at the top of the Skyrail, we visited three small animal parks. We hadn’t planned on visiting any of the animal enclosures, but we were given complimentary tickets. We thought to be objective we would check out Birdworld Kuranda, Kuranda Koala Gardens, and the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary. Had we just visited the butterfly sanctuary we would have left happy campers. The butterfly sanctuary was quite interesting, and the butterflies and moths seemed to have ample space and housing. The Kuranda Koala Gardens broke our hearts, and we wished we had not gone. We watched as people got their photos taken with koalas in the middle of the day. Koalas are nocturnal, so not only were their biological patterns disrupted daily their enclosures were small with no place to hide from tourists snapping photos or yelling at them to wake up. Then there was the kangaroo in the petting/feeding area of Koala Gardens. The poor thing was pacing back and forth on the fence with no escape from the groups of visitors wanting a selfie with him. There was a “chill out” section for the wallabies and the kangaroo but in order to get to the no people allowed section the kangaroo had to get through all the tourists, which it could not. We admit we are biased and don’t care for zoos or places which enclose animals in such a way for profit. We tried it, this was our experience of fifteen to twenty minutes, and it was not for us. We need to stop hoping said place might be different when in our heart we know it not to be.

Travelationship Review September 2016

We pride ourselves on being responsible and ethical travelers, yet we are human and make mistakes. We have to learn to listen to our gut more and stand by our beliefs instead of leaning toward or opting for the benefit of the doubt or staying silent. This month tested us with so many people treating others and the environment poorly. At times, we stepped up and said something, other times we reacted rudely ourselves or kept silent. We need to be consistent, compassionate and informed with our interactions and not let our emotions get in the way of passing on positive knowledge.

We were also reminded we need to trust our research. Not every place or every person is deserving of a second look. We need to stick to our beliefs.

WTF? Did that just happen?

Having to justify everyday WTF is going on in the United States.

As much as we enjoyed the Goroka Show in Papua New Guinea, we also saw some of the most disgusting tourist behavior. There were several times we both were sickened by how we saw total assholes treat the locals so poorly. Yes, the show is a festival geared toward the participants posing for and interacting with the audience, but by NO MEANS does that allow for anyone at any time to treat anyone as anything less than human. We saw tourists push, pull and poke at tribe members with no regard to making eye contact or acknowledging each as a person. We saw people grabbing drums, dance sticks, and other props from participants without even a simple, “May I?”. Then there were the people touching and pulling at the feathers or beads on the headdresses, which are not only family heirlooms to these tribes but also worth a lot of money to them. Worst of all way too many times we saw tourists not even say “hello” or “thank you” to any of their photo subjects.

The guy at the Goroka Show who hit me on the shoulder because I was about to walk into his video shot. I don’t even know where to start on this one. There are so many levels of wrong…do not touch people without permission, don’t hit people, don’t hit people over a video/photo, no man should ever touch any female in any way without permission let alone hit her, no photo/video is more important than someone’s safety or well-being, the list goes on. In that second that he hit me I kept walking forward, and I walked right through his video. In my brain, I was just hit, and I wasn’t going to stop and see what happens next.

He then followed me and slightly grabbed my shoulder to tell me I was rude for walking through his video. I turned around and went off on the guy. I wish my response would have been more clever and calmer, but I was so livid he had hit me and then came back at me about a video. As I was moving away from the guy, I realized my GoPro was still on and had captured the entire thing on video.

Then there was the guy and his two female friends at a local restaurant in Goroka who verbally tore into Matt and our friend for accidentally standing too close to his table. He went as far as to tell our friend she wasn’t worth living on this earth all because she stood for less than a minute between his table and a half wall to the empty dance floor. There was more verbal garbage exchanged between the five of them, but why couldn’t the mean guy have just asked for them to move over five feet or simply ask them to please move? Why are people so effing nasty?!

LOLs our laugh out loud hilarious moments

While in Kuta, Lombok I decided I would buy some bracelets and thought I would bargain for a better deal. I hate bargaining on prices, so this was a big deal that I was going to go for it. I thought I would go for four bracelets for the price of three. Each bracelet was 5,000 rupiah, so I thought I would bargain 15,000 for four. I think the first time I offered my price correctly, but at some point, I lost my math and agreed to four bracelets for 20,000 rupiahs. I felt super proud of myself and walked away and about five minutes later realized I hadn’t bargained at all. I had paid full price. Matt and I laughed for quite awhile at this one.

I finally finished Out of Africa by Karen Blixen. Have any of you read this book? I had the hardest time getting to the end of this book, but I couldn’t give up on it either. I think this is the only time I will say the movie was better than the book…but then I feel like the movie was nothing like the book. Matt can now stop laughing at me for struggling through this endeavor.

It rained the entire night before the first day of the Goroka Show. It was the first time they had rain for the show, and the mud was literally up to our ankles. We decided to wear our flip flops because we only had tennis shoes and they would be too hard to clean. We along with a thousand or so others slipped and slid through the mud. At times, it took us five minutes just to walk a few feet because our flipper would get stuck and we would have to work it out of the mud in a way that didn’t send us falling into the mud.

That is some serious mud.

That is some serious mud.

The kittens at our house sit had us in stitches daily. It was especially fun to see how in just two weeks they went from shy and scared of us to climbing all over and bossing us around by the end.

The Posts

Collaborations and Features

Instagram

Our Ears and Eyes

Heather

Out of Africa by Karen Blixen – I finally finished the damn book! Took me four months.
Cityboy: Beer and Loathing in the Square Mile by Geraint Anderson
Cocaine Trail: Tracing my Bloodline Through Colombia by Stephen Smith
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
I got caught up on a few podcasts. No new ones, but if you have any suggestions let me know.

Matt

Podcasts: “The Adam Carolla Show” & “Nerdist

Up Next

We are road tripping Australia and New Zealand with Matt’s parents. We will meet them in Sydney and make our way to Darwin via Melbourne, Adelaide, and Alice Springs. At some point late in the month, we will fly to New Zealand and make our way through some of their most prestigious places to visit.

Have any suggestions on where we should go next? Let us know in the comments!

Pink Beach Selfie.

Pink Beach Selfie.

See More Photos on Flickr and Please look for us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

Comments 10

  1. An adventurous month indeed! Bioluminescence sounds amazing, I have to say, I admire your ability to make lemonade from lemons I must admit though, that while I would love to see the different parts of Indonesia, I absolutely love Bali. The Kuta part of it is extremely commercialised and somewhat unattractive, but the rest is fabulous.

  2. September has been quite a happening month for you, I can see. It must indeed have been agreat experience from the picturesque beaches and islands of Indonesia to the Komodo dragons and the colour and culture of Papua, New Guinea.

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  3. That was such a great read, its interesting, thoughtful and funny all at once! I really envy that you guys were able to catch bioluminescence, must have been an other worldly experience, would love to see that! I have to say your reaction was absolutely natural for going off on that guy, who has no right whatsoever to touch you, there was no time for calm and clever in such situations, unfortunately some things (as common as basic rights) we still have to fight for. But it does make you appreciate more, travellers like yourselves who cares about people and the environment around them! Do keep travelling passing that positive energy around!

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  4. That was quite the month you had! The experience of the Bioluminescence sounds the most magical. Unfortunate that you met some nasty people along the way, but such is life. There are nasty people everywhere. The key is to try and avoid them so that their negative energy doesn’t rub off on you.

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