Alan and Alison's Trip to Indonesia

Off to hotter equatorial climes we head out on a two-day long plane trip to Bali—Washington, Chicago, Tokyo, Bangkok, Denpasar.
We flew to the far eastern islands of Rinca and Komodo to see the world's largest lizards in the wild. It is not a given that you will see them but we found over half a dozen Komodo Dragons on each island.

View from the crater rim of Mt. Rinjani on the island of Lombok. Rinjani at 12,225 ft is the second highest volcano in Indonesia.
Almost 3,500 feet from the summit we are already well above the clouds.

Dawn on the summit of Mt. Rinjani. We woke at 2:30 am to make the 3,500 ft scree slog to the summit a half hour before dawn. All told we went from 3,000 ft to 12,225 ft and back down in less than 24 hours. Oh, we slept a few of those hours.
Our boat for three days. We arrived in the fishing villiage of Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores. We had no Indonesian and the port inhabitants had very little English. Nonetheless in an hour we managed to strike a bargain and charter a boat with captain and crew. Off we went to Rinca and Komodo for ecotouring and spectacular snorkling.
Our house in Bali. In a small villiage just outside of Ubud. (well actually its Alan's mother's house.)
After a refreshing outdoor shower, Alison takes in the morning view from her bedroom's balcony over looking rice paddies.
A small mobile shop on the way from our house to the town of Ubud, the cultral center of Bali.
Day 1: Touring Bali. A roadside rice field on the way to see a temple.

Gunung Kawi: These are candi (shrines) of the chief concubines. Ishtri, Alison, is in front. They are 11th century and carved directly from the rock face.

Bridge to the other side of the river canyon with the royal shrines and the priest's complex.
The royal candi of the, king, queen, and their sons.
These terraced rice fields are in the temple complex. If you walk out across them (not at all obvious) you arrive at a hidden temple complex thought to possibly be for the king's prime minister.
Yeh Pulu: a 85 ft long carved cliff. Possibly depicting events from the life of Krishna. The elephant headed statue on the far right is Shriva's son Ganesh.
A typical street scene. The major mode of transportation: the ubiquitous 125 cc motorcyle. We saw families of four on them. Father with small child in front, another child behind and finally the mother holding a huge basket of goods. More people and stuff than we would put in a passenger sedan.
Snorkel 1: We drove north to the small coastal fishing villiage of Cemeluk. We hired one of these small fishing boats. The fisherman paddled us out to the reefs and followed us as we snorkeled along.
The locals call these grey monkeys. We saw hundreds of them in Lombok as well as larger and noisier black monkeys.
Children on the way to school. How many boys in the US would love to get to school like this? BTW, the sensible girls sit inside.
Climbing Mt. Rinjani in Lombok: We started out in the small farming village of Sembalu Lawang (elevation 3,000 feet) and walked out across garlic patties before getting to the predominant grasslands of the lower slopes. At 1:00pm most of the mountain is already shrouded in clouds and mists.
Our first rest stop. Our guide is holding on to the post. We picked up our four-legged friend we dubbed "Rinjani" in Sembalu Lawang. He made it all the way to the summit with us. The other men are local fishermen coming back from fishing the crater lake.
Our hero. Stop number two, and we are already into the mists of the lower volcano.
We cleared the clouds at the crater rim at about 9,000 feet on the first day.
The clouds briefly parted and we got our first look at the misty summit at 6:00pm. On the equator you have light until about 7:00pm. By the time we reached camp, a mile further along the rim, everything was socked in. We couldn't see the crater lake just below us.
6:00am and we are at the summit with our guide Pahay. Butt of Rinjani the wonder dog in foreground. Pahay, used to warm Indonesian weather, just about froze to death. Alan loaned him a jacket.
Crater lake deep in the shadow of the summit. The shadow extended to the island of Bali over 50 kilometers away.
All mountains in Indonesia are sacred places and Indonesians treat them with deep respect. A fellow guide leaves a dawn offering at the summit. Our guides also made an offering before we started to climb the mountain.
Alison heads down to base camp along a knife edge scree path.
Nearing the starting point of Sembalu Lawang. Rinjani the wonder dog still faithfully escorting us.
Porter and summit. Note the high tech "backpack" and mountain ready footwear. Puts fancy western gear to shame. The sleeping bags and tent are balanced by fresh food, water, dishes and two full size steel woks!
Post hike--time to relax in our favorite swimming pool at the elegant, but discretly posh Maya Hotel.

Off for another adventure. We head to the beach town of Senur. We had great scuba diving and snorkling on the islands of Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan. Its been a while since we've dived to 90 feet. The drift dives along the coral walls were spectacular. Here local fishermen and fisherwomen catching fish in the shallows while we drink fresh papaya and pineapple juice.

A local Senur resident keeps a bonsai garden in the back of his restaurant, the Bonsai Cafe.
We find superb gelato in Senur and proceed to eat it twice a day. Hazelnut was our favorite.
We rough it by staying on the beach in Senur (we paid full price though, $25/night). This is the view from our breakfast table.
From the beach to our room, you walk through immaculate gardens. Alison is quite pleased with herself as she just had a productive 20 minutes buying a wedding dress (see bag in hand).
A mid-flight stop between Bali and Flores on a scary Merpati airline. They had to herd the cows off the runway for us to land. Every part that's broken has been replaced with a handmade one out of alumimum or plastic. And, yes the ladder under the wing is to work on the engine. This happened every stop. Fuel cart on the other side is pushed by people and the fuel hand pumped. These planes are ancient. Amazing, but the planes actually work.
Our first look at the harbor of Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores. This was our jumping off point for the Rinca and Komodo islands. The boat we chartered is on the far left. The construction is a new dock for, gasp!, cruise ships. It's not long before this small fishing village will be swamped with sunscreen slathered tourists and fancy hotels. Believe us, it isn't that way now!
Alison waking after our first night on the boat. The open air bedding on the deck made for a peaceful night's sleep. The crew kept the boat immaculate, washing it each morning as we did the ecotour thing on the islands.
Pirate Alison on the lookout with a cup of hot tea. She only agreed to go on the boat if we had 24 LARGE bottles of fresh water. Our Captain next to her.
On the island of Rinca -- a smaller female Komodo Dragon. The males outnumber the females four to one. This is a breeding problem for what is already an endangered and scarce animal.
A wild water buffalo. Where else but at the watering hole? The islands of Komodo and Rinca are very dry and water almost non-existant. And yes, the Komodo Dragons do eat water buffalo.
A typical view of the hot and arid islands we visited. Alison on the slopes of Rinca. It's 8:00 am and already over 100 degrees.
Another wild water buffalo.
A male Komodo Dragon rests in the shade during the heat of the day. Alan may have been a bit too close to get this picture.
Pirate Al back on the boat and getting ready to anchor at Komodo Island.
Life is good.
Sunset over Komodo Island. From the mangroves next to the boat, thousands upon thousands of giant fruit bats "flying foxes" flew out at dusk in a continuous stream towards the horizon. They have a wingspan of over 6 feet and resemble pterodactyls more than bats.
7:00 am at dock entrance to Komodo National Park.
Our first animal of the day. Some sort of orb weaver spider. Very large.
A wild boar. Also a Komodo Dragon stalking on far right. We saw wild boar on both Rinca and Komodo.
A very old male Komodo. They start to get thin as they near the end of their life. Their skin gets less supple too (or so Alison says).
Trying to free our anchor. All hands on deck (that means you, pasty white tourist!).
View from balcony of our bedroom in Bali. Freshly planted rice paddies.
The crew back at the house in Bali. Were sitting at the edge of the house's inner courtyard with our feet in the fountain.