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Archive for the ‘Indonesia’ Category

Great marketing job and I have to admit, the view was stunning indeed.

It’s all about predictability, regularity and consistency – with bowel movements that is. What might seem like a rather crude topic to those of you sitting behind your work PC, steaming morning coffee in hand, is a regular agenda item for backpackers. Especially when the predictability is affected, the stakes in the daily treasure hunt for the right toilet at the right time become immeasurably high.

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Weightless, we are propelled along by a forceful current, 18 meters below the water’s surface. Beneath us, the deep blue fades into an almost black, never-ending void. In front, the equivalent to a towering, vertical cliff is covered in a kaleidoscope of colorful coral and creatures of the sea. Above, below and behind and sometimes stuck together I see Caleb, Michele and Sabrina.

The idea of this ‘drift dive’ is to descend, maintain a depth of about 18m and allow the current to naturally and effortlessly guide us along like a conveyor belt. We ‘just’ recline and watch the production unfold. (more…)

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Psyched for the battle ahead, we march into the Mataram bus station. Our aim is clear, our strategy well rehearsed and the target, well…that’s generally us. It is a lesson I have learned the hard way: prices in the tourist areas of Southeast Asia are flexible – on good days; on bad days, they stretch like gum into infinity. Equally open for interpretation are the deliverables. You never quite know what you are going to get.

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 As a former military analyst and interested student in international politics and development, I have been conditioned to think about a country as a political and economic entity, as a developed or underdeveloped nation, as an ally or as a potential ‘threat’. My understandings of a place comes from T.V, books, articles and, often, biased or western-centric media analysis. As a result, I put greater emphasis on personal and national ‘threats’ than is deserving. Opening my eyes and mind to images and personalities beyond these parameters is challenging.

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It is 2 am and Michele, Caleb, Ryan and I, all in a state of delirium, stumble onto the street. We just spent 30 hours in a vehicle that remains a sorry excuse for a bus. Having passed through various cycles of pain and numbness, impatience and resignation, I find myself surprisingly composed and despite the late hour, capable of one last ‘rational’ thought.  It’s decided, this time for real:  I’m finished with buses! This resolution, like its predecessor, of course doesn’t stand a chance. In fact, adding it all up I have made and broken a version of it some 47 times – after every one of our travel days in the last four months.

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Michele receiving a kiss from an Albino Buffalo.

Tana Toraja, I’ve been there, but I’m not sure it actually exists. Centrally located amidst small mountains inland from the expansive coast of Sulawesi, Indonesia, Toraja captures my imagination like no other place before.  I am enamored by a well irrigated garden-like environment full of butterflies fluttering from orange to pink flowers, dragon-flies of extraordinary size and eagles soaring just above the peaks of pine trees. The rich coffee and fresh fruit juices might as well flow down the countless rivers dissecting the countryside. Pink buffalo pierce me with their aqua-blue eyes as I stand in the shadows of the towering boat-shaped roofs of Tongkonan. (more…)

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With map and compass in hand, we are determined to complete our self-guided trek through the enchanted hills of Tana Toraja, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. As we walk along deep green rice paddies, a couple waves to us from a balcony. They ask us where we are going and gesture for us to come in and have a drink. But we are eager to make some headway, so we thank them and indicate that we will continue on. (more…)

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