Month 7: Travel Summary and Statistics
Greetings from paradise. We are on the tiny tropical island of Gili Air in Indonesia. An island of golden sands and turquoise waters, swaying coconut trees and traditional villages. No cars or scooters, just your own feet, a bicycle or pony and trap to get you around. We’re firmly on island time and a return to the mainland will be a challenge.
But we started the month winding our way along the only road from Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu to Pokhara which promised spectacular scenery and is the jumping off point for many mountainous adventures. Spectacular the scenery may be, but it proved hard to see through the surrounding mist. Nepal was experiencing a drought and dust filled the air, a haze of pollution hovered above cities and farmers burned grass in an effort to clear the land.
Our plans to paraglide and boat out of the lake thwarted, we set off for some fresh air on the Annapurna Panorama trek, which we thought would be a good reintroduction to mountain hiking after 6 months of sitting on Indian trains had left us feeling unfit.
It’s a circular walk with a detour up to Poon Hill (3210m) to view Annapurna South at Sunrise. The hike was very misty and it turned out to be unseasonably cold.
For a large part of the walk clouds confounded us hiding the mountains from view. However after a several heavy downpours and spectacular electrical storms we were treated to some wonderful views of the mountains: Annapurna South, Hiunchuli and Machapuchare. Their ethereal beauty is hard to capture on camera. They appeared almost translucent as they glistened in the distance, like they belonged in another world that we were accidentally catching a glimpse of. It was absolutely magical and we want to return to do the 20 day Annapurna Circuit in future.
Ready for a change of scene so we booked a flight to Bali, Indonesia. Our flight entailed a long layover in Kuala Lumpa airport from 2am to 11am. Ever tried sleeping in an airport? We were so tired that Eliza brushed her teeth with anti-mosquito cream. Not recommended.
Our first impressions of Bali were… “oh wow, the humidity”… closely followed by … “it’s so clean!!”. After months in India and Nepal we’d grown used to litter-filled streets and mangy stray dogs, and the neat and tidy (if traffic-clogged) roads, manicured grass verges and clear blue skies were a welcome sight.
We headed straight to Ubud, Bali’s cultural central . We saw UNESCO status paddy fields on a cycle ride (that also caused us to get sunburnt for the first time in over decade – this sun is fierce!), went to a traditional Balinese dance and gamelan performance, dodged playful monkeys and ate amazing and inexpensive food at the local warungs.
We headed South once more to arrange our visa extension – which took way, way longer than necessary, caught a few waves as we surfed on Legian beach, watched the real pros on Balangan beach and ate seafood at sunset on Jimbaran beach. It took 10 days and 3 visits to the Immigration Office to receive our visas so we had found an AirBnB house, with a kitchen and cats and took the opportunity to cook for ourselves.
Visas finally safely in our passports, we took a fastboat to gorgeous Gili Air though we didn’t see much of it to begin with, as we spent the first few days beneath the waves gaining our open water diving certificates. The underwater world is abundant with life. Colourful corals swarm with even more colourful fish but our most exciting sightings were turtles, a white-shark and a stingray! Another world visited.
In short, we’re loving Indonesia and can’t wait to start writing it in more depth! And on that note, would you be interested in us jumping ahead or would you like us to continue our posts in chronological order?
On to stats for the month…
Stats of the month
Countries Visited: Nepal, Indonesia
Places visited: 8
Pokhara, Bali (Ubud, Seminyak, Denpasar, Sanur, Balangan, Jimbaran), Gili Air
Money spent: £29.43 / $42.42 per person per day
Open Water Diving course: £250 each (we’ve kept this separate from our daily costs as we’d set aside savings especially to do it).
Distance travelled: 5289km / 3286m
Meal of the month:
As you may have seen from our facebook page and instagram feed we can’t get enough of Nasi campur, the Indonesian equivalent to the Indian thali. It’s a scoop of steamed rice served with small portions of a number of dishes, which include meat, vegetables, peanuts, eggs, fish, tofu and tempeh. Each warung (local eatery) has its own specialties and we’ve had a great time sampling them.
Highlight of the month:
Learning to dive!!
Lowlight of the month:
Since the start of our stay in Nepal Chris had been complaining of nausea, a bloated stomach, fatigue and unfortunately for those around him, stinky farts. A chance conversation with a couple on the trek led us to believe he was carrying an unwelcome passenger. We were unable to get a decent medical check up (apparently if you have a serious problem the best advice is to head to Malaysia). The doctor we saw passed it off as not being used to spicy food (anyone who knows our eating habits know how much of it we consume!), so after much research we ended up self-diagnosing him with giardiasis which is caught from contaminated water, swimming pools and poor hygiene (of those making our food, not us!). Three days of taking antibiotics the size of horse pills and he was feeling much better. If the set of scales we found are correct, he lost a whopping 6kgs! Oops!
We’ll shortly be leaving our island paradise and heading to Flores which will be somewhat more challenging than our experiences of Indonesia so far. Tourism is not very well developed here but we’re planning to climb Mount Kelimutu to see its 3 coloured lakes, visit traditional villages, put our new diving skills to the test and seek out the famous Komodo dragon.