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July 2008

Rinjani Hot Springs, Warm Bintang, and Lake Fish

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After my way-too-short nap, it was time to explore the vicinity--all kinds of peeps were showing up, kids were fishing, monkeys were diggin' thru the trash--it was a dramatic scene all shaking down at this lake within a volcano. 

Now keep in mind this crater rim is 6k wide and sports a whole 'nother baby volcano in the middle of it (Mt. Baru).   Could you imagine?  A full volcano sprouted up within the volcano.  Royal told me about the time he was there as a kid, swimming in the lake, when the baby volcano erupted.  He ran all the way home (a normal 2 day trek mind you).  There's no--I scraped my knee playing dodge ball, it's a full:  the volcano erupted, so I ran home.

People come from all over Indo for the hot springs of Rinjani.  After a warm Bintang, we headed down there--oh no!  If we go down, we must go up--but whatever, I wanted to get a handle on these springs that throngs of people make this pilgrimage for.  Wellllll.....they were pretty funky (*bathing, cleaning fish, brushing teeth, washing clothes, etc...all happening in one spot), and it turns out that all these folks had trekked in and were camping by the springs.  It was pretty much a total gyspy village.  They were all deep-seeded locals and they practically lived in the hot waters for weeks on end--so they could heal.  Internally and externally.   I was  a little nervous to get in, since it was me and ALL MEN, and on top of that freezing...but after a bit of successful shimmying out of my clothing (I left undies and a t-shirt on) I popped in to the perfectly temperate water. Not quite boiling hot, but hot enough to make ya break a sweat within a few minutes. 

Now, these guys will sit in the springs for hours, hopping from one pool to the next, but I was anxious to go back up and see if Titi and Oggy had caught any fish from the lake (please check out the ingenious can-line fishing "pole" photo).  Plus, there were some strawberry wafers calling my name.  I abandoned Royal in the pool and made my way back up the hill just as the sun was starting to dip behind the crater rim.  I spied my little blue tent across the way, shrouded in fog and was tickled when I rumbled back into camp and the boys had caught 3 fish.  Dinner was on. 

Let me just tell you something--to be camping out in a wee tent at the edge of a blue, blue lake in the middle of a volcano--eating fresh fried fish doused in lime juice that had just been caught and drinking mountain tea AND almost being able to reach up and snatch the shooting stars.  Well, the whole dang journey was worth that long-winded moment alone. 

Another legendary moment was when I hobbled out of the springs and asked this happy old fella to hold up my jacket so I could change into dry clothes and he thought I was giving him my jacket, so he was dead delighted and tossing it on and I was laughing and trying to show him what to do (which was simply hold it up so I could change without the world seeing me naked) and he got a real nice gander at my boobies!  Eeeeeeeee!   His overjoyed, no-teeth smile reached his ancient earlobes.
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The Summit of Rinjani...or NOT...

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I wish that I could say that I woke up at 2 am to cruise on up to the final summit.  I really wish I could.  But, I simply cannot.  Let me once again quote my journal from the night before the Summit (3726 meters).

"I swear to God, the most miserable thing I could EVER think of is to wake up at 2 am and crawl 3+ hours to the summit.  I am fu*king stunned that I have to wake up at 2 am.  If you want to go fully insane, trek a volcano.  I'm sick of this damn mountain."

So, in a nutshell--I went to sleep in my little tent 'round about midnight.  Just as I'd finally let my eyes close forever, it was 2 am and time to get up.  I just laid there, huddled up in my sleeping bag, ready to DIE.  I could hear other trekkers rustling about and see a few torch lights making their way to the summit, but the second I caught wind of others not wanting/or going to do the summit, I was back to bed.  At that moment, after waffling with failure and OMG, I suck, I realized I just didn't care.  I just wanted to go back to bed.  So, I did. 

When I woke up for the sunrise a few hours later, I was freaking DELIGHTED.  Oddly, I had no feeling of remorse, especially when I heard that most peeps had to turn back because it was so windy and they were all close to being blown off the narrow and totally all-gravel trail.  I just supped on some kopi, tucked away a couple of banana pancakes and fed the monkeys.  Happy as a goose!

After breakfast, the boys loaded up and headed down to the Lake (once we passed Titi chillin' out on the trail because Oggy was off hunting for firewood, but of course they soon sprinted past us).  The crater lake, Sengara Anak (2008 meters) was where we were camping that night and thankfully, the path was mostly downhill.  Hell, even downhill I had to take a trillion baby breaks.  It was only a 3-4 hour trek though and compared to the day before, it was cake. 

When Royal and I rolled into camp, Titi was setting up my tent (in what turned out to be a major thoroughfare) and Oggy was cooking up a storm.  Royal had scored some wild mountain/volcanic tea leaves and a pot was just being brewed when I collapsed near our basecamp.  Oggy turned out the most delicious fried potatoes I'd ever had and after inhaling the whole plate, I fully passed out. 

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Day 1 Ends at the Crater Rim of Mt. Rinjani

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We stopped at the strategically placed Post 1 just in time.  These Rinjani route developers knew what they were doing because Post 1 springs up right about the time you are ready to give up and head back down the trail.   Oggy and Titi had moved on ahead to Post 2 to prep lunch, so our short stay at Post 1 was what I like to call a Baby Break. 

Sadly, I started taking these Baby Breaks every 50 steps or so.  Bless Royal for never, ever criticizing me and my baby breaks.  Hell, even he was singing, "Post 2, where are you," every five minutes.  See, it's not just me!

Anyway, when we show up at Post 2, Oggy and Titi are in the midst of preparing lunch and I straight up collapse on my little sleeping pad.  I dozed off into a full half hour nap before the best little lunch ever was laid out in front of me:  fried tempeh, rice (nasi) and noodle soup with a big fat hard boiled egg floating around in the murky broth. It was delicious. 

Then the rain came...and of course I didn't have a rain jacket, since I'd opted not to bring one--that whole hauling thing again.  No matter, it was gone in a flash and I was already filthy, muggy, and sticky.  I welcomed the rain and just wanted it to wash all my misery away (or at least my legs misery). 

When you come upon the crater rim, it's pretty dang majestic, especially since you have just navigated your way through clouds.  Lots and lots of wet cloud whispers.  The boys had already RAN ahead, made dinner (fried rice with shrimp crackers) and set up my bright blue tent (away from the other trekkers, per my instructions).  I also don't like being in the midst of crowds...I guess I have issues, huh? 

We'd gotten up there just before the sun started making its way toward the horizon and it was honest-to-God freezing.  Once again, I was totally unprepared, but I was so happy to be able to lay down that I didn't care.  Royal led me down a path to some fresh springs so I could rinse off, and I came out more caked in mud than when I went down.  My motto had become, "If we go down, we must go up..." and I was so depressed to head downhill to this pool of spring water.  That meant I had to climb again...agggghhhhh!  My boy Royal was chipper as a mountain goat, though,  just leaping across rocks and gleefully scrubbing his face and feet.  Clean as a whistle, that one...and belting Indonesia love tunes the whole time.

I was totally delighted to have made it through Day 1, though. To quote a bit from my journal writings on that lovely evening---written by candlelight in a tent perched on a crater rim watching wild monkey's watch me, no less...

Rinjani impressions:

#1  Holy f*cking sh*t
#2 Holy f*cking sh*t

Enough said.

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The Mt. Rinjani Trek Begins...

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I took this photo the morning that I was to begin the Rinjani trek.  I was already beyond exhausted from the ferry ride, the long trek via motorbike to Sembalun, and then, the no sleep at my adorable little guest house Lembah Rinjani (loved this place).  It was 'round about 7 am.  Now, here I was with my tiny, tiny backback--loaded down with a whole lot of nothing--thinking, OMG, I am straight abandoning all of this stuff at my earliest opportunity on this adventure.  I do not like to haul things (hence my featherweight packing skills)...nothing, nada, zilch ~ ~ I'd rather freeze, sweat, wear the same clothes for a week, not wash my hair, etc...than haul about 5 lbs. worth of life saving elements.

Then, I'm introduced to Oggy and Titi, my two porters.  They were so funny and for real, loaded down with kilo after kilo of food, tents, sleeping bags, water, etc...all the while wearing raggedy old flip-flops.  I know they grew up trekking this volcano, but really?  Flip-Flops?  I later came to realize it was because they weigh much, much less than boots (and who can afford boots anyway?) and these boys straight RUN this journey.  No matter how fast I moved, they were always miles ahead of me, prepping food, setting up my tent, making dinner, boiling water for tea, catching fish, etc...and all that for $8 bones PER DAY.  And, that is the going rate, you know...more on this madness later...

Day 1 starts out all lovely...in a sprawling, flower-filled valley at the base of the volcano.  Just like being in Switzerland.  The heat ain't that bad, the bag doesn't seem that heavy, the waters going down all right...you know, all the good stuff. 

Cut to:  1.5 hours later and Oggy and Titi are long gone to Post 1, while Royal, my guide, has been a real gem and loaded my backpack into his own monster pack and is also now the man responsible for hauling my bottled water.  I just could not lift a finger.  I was literally incapable.  It was all I could do to put one throbbing foot in front of the other.  Meanwhile, I'm sporting my grandmother's striped knee high socks from the early 80's and they have practically disintegrated.  I mean, honest to God, am I really this out of shape?  Who knew...

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Mt. Rinjani, Lombok: It's a VOLCANO...

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For real, when I say I trekked a volcano, I mean I trekked a friggin' volcano.  This astounding image is of Mt. Rinjani, the 2nd highest peak in Indonesia. It's on the Muslim island of Lombok and people come from around the world to reach her summit.  Hell, it even has an active baby volcano within a volcano... 

Making my way up the side of this monster was the hardest thing I have ever physically done.  I went through every single emotion in the book--bad and good.  Rapid fire... 

Like...I wanna die, I wanna hurl myself off the face of this cliff, I abhore every single person in the world, I don't know how to breath, I am gonna throw up, I love everyone on the face of the planet, I need to amputate my legs, I am gonna have heart failure, I am the happiest creature alive, I am one with God, I will never go poo again, I will never again attempt something so monstrous, I am a total loser, I am the champion of the world, I think I can fly, I want to burn my tennis shoes, I will never walk again, I DETEST VOLCANO'S, I loathe nature, I am in heaven, I have walked through clouds, and a thousand others.  And, that was just in the first few hours. 

I did a 3 day/2 night excursion and I'm gonna lay it our for you over the next few posts.  It was epic/hellish/and crushing all at the same time---and when I was done, the cold beer waiting at the bottom was the tastiest thing my tongue has ever had the pleasure of swirling around my mouth.  3 days of no shower, no bath, no poo, no sleep.  God love goals....

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BBQ Ribs at Naughty Nuri's, Ubud

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There is a tiny hole-in-the-wall in Ubud, Bali called Naughty Nuri's.  It's situated on the outskirts of town and has a very loyal expat following.  Since most of the expats in Ubud are heavy, heavy drinkers, they tend to swing by for the lethal martinis.  It sure ain't the service they're coming for...now, the Balinese are renowned for their incredible happiness and world-class service skills, but not at Nuri's.  I'm not sure where they got this litter of locals, but man...it's enough to drive one mad. 

It must be because of the boatloads of tourists that flow thru there on a regular basis.  Each and every one of them--kids and adults alike--has the exact same goal: suck down some grilled ribs.  Table after table is peppered with small bowls of rice, dishes of fresh lime and a mess of BBQ ribs--all slathered with hoison or honey or something else that is wildly sticky and super sweet.  The cooks sling out about 50 lbs of ribs onto the grill right front of the restaurant and anyone who walks by is immediately sucked in by the scent of charred meat.  You cannot get out of the vortex of that sweet aroma no matter how hard you try...it's like quicksand.  Good service be damned.

This pile of ribs will run you about $5 (expensive for Bali) and though I was terrified to swill a martini (I just don't know when to stop), I did slam a couple/few Bintangs while I waited AN HOUR for my food.  I wouldn't usually stop into a place so famous amongst those in the know, but I had to walk by the place every day to get to my little hotel, so I just had to give in once I got a whiff, you know.  Time is just beer, eh?

So, were they the BEST EVER?  Not by a long shot....the flavor was amazing, but the meat was a little on the chewy side.  This coming for a vegetarian mind you.  But, I know food...and though good, hell, maybe even damn good, they are not something I'd daydream about.  No, that would be the 40 cent nasi campur at my favorite warung in Candidasa.  Or the avacado jus at a tiny stall in Mataram. 

I did hear later that the ribs at The Fly Cafe down the road were the best in town (an even bigger secret).  Man, who is one to trust these days?  I mean, look at the pictures...don't you just want some stat?  Allright, when I roll back, I will hit them up for the martini and check out the ribs at The Fly Cafe.  All good things to look forward to.

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Indonesia: I Started With a List~

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Indonesia:  I guess the first place for me to begin is my crazy list of goals.

Before I took this Indo trip, I had a hefty list of things to do.  I figured I wouldn't get to half of them but I made a tidy list nonetheless.  I swear, it took me a good solid 10 days after I arrived to clear my head, and get myself in order.   I spent that "regrouping" time chowing on everything I could get my hands on and drinking alarming amounts of Bintang.   I met a trillion locals and expats galore (keep in mind, this is the very high season in Bali and Lombok).  I avoided most of the tourists as much as I could, since I was seeking silence/locals only.  And, it's so hard to do, especially when you are a single girl running around.   Everybody wants to chat with you, all the live long day and while I up for it most of the time....man, I LOVE being solo and relishing in pure aloneness.  I even busted out a few yoga classes.  By "a few," I mean one.

Right, the list.  In no order, of course...I just wanted to see if I could knock all this out in a matter of 30 days.

1.  Trek Mt. Rinjani, the 2nd highest peak in Indonesia.  And, it's a volcano, mind you.
2.  Get open water certified in SCUBA.
3.  Go visit all the families of the babies that recently had cleft palate surgeries (which I'd raised money for).
4.  Eat the infamous suckling pig---Babi Guling.
5.  Complete research for the NGO I'm busy creating, 4th World Love. 
6.  Find the perfect place in Sembalun to open the first 4th World Community Center/English School--this amazing mountain village will be the home for the pilot project.
6.  Check out various island places where you can volunteer and investigate what their set up is...and see how I could maybe help them out in the bigger picture.
7.  Have a coconut killer at Casa Luna.  The most incredible drink in the world.
8.  Try different versions of nasi campur.  Lots of them.
9.  Visit all my old friends I've made on previous trips.

10.  Get a massage EVERY DAY. Or at least, every couple of days.

That was round about it.  And, I can happily say that I DID THEM ALL!!! 

The first two were doozies, but I managed to seriously do every single thing on the list and added a million things, if you can imagine.  Made a ton of new pals, managed to get some goodies to start a small fair-trade export business, finally went to the traditional village of Tenganan, read two dozen books or more, stayed off the net and off the news, and almost broke records for what time I'd slug back a starter cerveza in the AM. 

Of course, all details and photos are coming up in Toothie posts.  But, for real...it was another epic Indo trip, one that might just trump all past trips combined.  And, dontcha know it, I'm already planning the next one...
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Finally Home From Indonesia...and This is What I Feel Like...

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Yeah, I finally made it home from Indo...after 2 hellish days of travel via Singapore and Beijing.  Brutal stuff, but now I've ordered some Lebanese food and am on the verge of being all good again.  Regular Tooth postings shall resume tomorrow, my friends.

Can you imagine seeing this little buggie on your front terrace here in the US?  Full freak out.  Oh, but, on my beachside terrace in Indo, dozens of photos snapped, baby flips maneuvered, and tiny proddings attempted.

I have a trillion and one stories--all good--and can't wait to share them. 

Hasta manana, mst