Probably I will always remember 2011 as the most exciting, weirdest and most surprising year of my life. I started the year as far as I could be from my hometown: in Gisbourne, New Zealand; I ended the year as close as I could be: in Barcelona, Spain.

I keep a text that I wrote the first minute of 2011 to remember that we didn’t start the year dancing Eurythmics, Ina and I went further dancing a catalan sardana while Shihad were playing.

This year I’ve been through all New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia and I came back to Barcelona. Not bad, don’t you think? But it wasn’t only travelling, it was also growing, learning about myself and meeting all sorts of amazing people on my way.

Guys, thanks for making this year unforgettable.

 
 

#5 Fujiya & Miyagi – Knickerbocker

Vanilla. Strawberry. Hoky Poky Glory.

Singing this song, Ina and I drove more than 4000 kilometres along New Zealand. Half of it with Marty. Every single meter was worth it. Every single minute was worth it.

 
 
#4 Antònia Font – Icebergs i Guèisers

I don’t know why, but I became obsessed with this album and this song. I think it’s the most beautiful way of saying how much you miss someone. And this might have been a travelling year, but it has also been a year of missing people: the ones that I left home, the ones that I keep leaving as the trip went on. But missing is not bad, it just means that someone went through your heart. Missing people is just a sign of the amazing people I have met in my life.


 
 

#3 El Guincho – Bombay

This song is Melbourne: roast chicken, parties, dancing and realizing that nothing lasts forever, you just have to enjoy it on the meantime.

 
 

#2 George Harrison – My sweet Lord

The hippiest hippies in New Zealand were definitely us.

 
 
#1 Talking heads – This must be the place (Naive melody)

This must be the place. Not a physical place but an emotional one.

 
 
 

Thanks for sharing another year by my side. Wherever you were, wherever you are, Happy 2012!

So yes, week 41 was the last week travelling. Last week in Indonesia and last week with Marina. Although it seemed a pretty sad week, I wasn’t sad at all. I kept on thinking on the good things that happened to me the last months, and I can’t feel luckier. It all has been so amazing!

Anyway, last Sunday we headed to Pangandaran, in the west of Java. To go there we took a bus for 8 hours. 8 hours in the worst road I’ve seen in my entire life. Are you picturing it? It’s even worse.

Pangandaran is a touristic area for Indonesians, so there were not many western tourists. That meant that Ramadhan was way worse. But anyway, it seemed a nice town to spend a couple of days.

On Monday we did the Green Canyon tour. First we went to see how they do the coconut sugar and we saw a man doing the Wayang wooden puppets (different to the leather ones of the center of Java). We felt like japanese tourists a bit, but well, it wasn’t for long….

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clothes and coconuts
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Wayang puppets

After that we went to the highlight of the tour: the Green Canyon. That was pretty beautiful. We swam on the canyon and saw some local animals. It was really nice. Then we became japanese tourists again, they took us to the beach, to eat and we ended the day visiting a Turtle Recovery Center. The turtles were SO CUTE! I want one!!!

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little turtle

Me with a super cute turtle (not as little as the other one!)

On Tuesday Marina took a surf lesson. I just took pictures expecting her to fall every time. But damn it! She did it really well! She stood the first time she tried!!! After that, it was time for a massage. She deserved it and well, me too! 1 hour massage with Andy for 4 €. Awesome!

Later we went for a walk to town. Pangandaran is the area that was devastated by the tsunami in 2006. All the town is filled with alert signs and evacuation exits. Besides that, is a fisher’s town: really quite, pleasant, nice, and with an amazing beach.

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Tsunami evacuation

But we had to go back to Yogyakarta. This time we took the train instead of the bus. And as soon as we arrived we saw that the usually (because of the Ramadhan) empty Yogya was crowded with people and street restaurants and more people and thousands of becaks all around. What was that? Indonesia’s Independence Day. I’m sure there was a massive celebration in Bali. In Yogya was nice, but I guess if August 17th wasn’t Ramadhan, they would have done a way bigger party.

Oh, before I forget it: after some weeks analysing the food, Marina and I realized that Indonesians eat pigeons. And pigeons’ eggs. I don’t want to make any comments about that fact.

On Thursday we went to the other temple that we had to visit: Borobudur, a massive 8th century Buddhist temple in the north-west of the city. The excursion was at 5 am and we went to visit the temple before having breakfast, so it was exhausting. But anyway, the temple was incredible. Borobudur it’s a World Heritage Site for UNESCO, and it’s totally understandable. No matter how hard I tried to take pictures, it’s something that you should see with your eyes.

With nine platforms that represent a buddhist mandala when viewed from above, has more than a thousand panels with reliefs, 504 Buddha statues and 72 stupa with Buddha statues inside. It’s just impressive.

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Borobudur’s stupas

And well, the rest of Thursday and all Friday, what did we do? Nothing. We were tired and it was too hot to move. We just moved to get some food, and spend the rest of the day in bed under the fan. Hell yeah!

Despite Ramadhan, despite all the hassle, I have to say that Yogyakarta has something pretty special. Indonesia is amazing because every single place you visit is similar but completely different to the next one. With their languages, their religions, their different cultures. A huge country made of small little countries. So much to discover!

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Yogyakarta’s becak

And what I’ll probably miss more of Indonesia is the sound of Gamelan, a traditional musical ensemble that has accompanied me all around Bali and Java: in their temples, in their dances, in their puppet shows. It’s hypnotic. Everytime I’ve seen a Gamelan orchestra playing my mind has blown away. That sound just takes me to another dimension.

By the way, although I’m going to miss Indonesia, I can’t wait to eat CHEESE and drink MILK. And I’m never going to eat rice again.

Barcelona, here I go!!!

Last Monday, 8th of August, exactly 9 months after starting travelling, Ina and I met again. Yeah! I think the best way to end my trip is exactly how I started it: with her. So my last couple of weeks in Indonesia will be with her.

We met in Ubud, my last time in that amazing city. It feels like I’ve been there forever, with Yasmin, with Ade, with Matthias, with Erwin, with Björn. My Ubud friends! So we had some dinner together once again. We drank arak and, like always, life is nice if you are surrounded by the right people.

On Tuesday I took Marina and Björn to do a tour on the main highlights of Ubud. Having been there already 3 times I had become an official tourist guide of the city! So Monkey Forest, drinking avocado juice and my beloved temple Samuan Tiga. I also had my experience with the local police: in Bali police are totally corrupted, so they stop random westerns (I’m not really sure if locals too) with the aim of giving them a fine. No matter what you do, no matter what you have, they just want money. As a good Spaniard that I am, I sorted out the situation just paying 2 Singapore dollars (the equivalent of 1 euro) when the normal fine is between 10 and 15 euros.

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rice fields in Ubud

After a really nice day, we had dinner all together for the last time. I even had a guest star from Spain: finally I saw Yolanda and Simon, who had been almost chasing me for the last month in this part of the world but with a bad timing that didn’t allow us to see each other until then. It was a perfect day as a last day in Bali.

Bali! That island will always remain in my heart. I know it’s damn touristic, but I think it’s still totally worth it a visit. Their culture, their villages, their beaches. Bali is a little piece of paradise. It’s just a matter of finding your own spot in that island and forget about the rest of the world. I would have spent the whole month there, but I was curious to visit another island, and I know that I’m coming back to Bali someday, so on Wednesday Marina and I took a bus direction Java.

And here starts the longest day ever: we left Ubud at 14h. We first went to Ubung and from there we took a bus to Probolinggo, where we arrived at 3h (in the morning!). If you are ever considering going there: don’t. We went there with the idea of visiting Bromo, but it turned out that it’s way easier if you just hire a guided tour with all included. Doing it yourself will just take you longer and cost you twice as much. We left with the tour towards Bromo at 3’30h, so we could see the sunrise from Mount Penanjakan, viewing Mount Bromo and Mount Batok.

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Sunrise from Mount Penanjakan
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Mount Bromo

The sunrise left us speechless. Smoking Mount Bromo seems from another planet. After seeing dawn there, they take you on a jeep to Laotian Pasir and you can even go up Bromo. It’s just stunning. The pictures don’t make justice at all to the beauty of that place.

After that, what? Yes, another bus. 10 hours in our way to Yogyakarta. In total, it took us 30 hours from Bali to Yogyakarta. Longest day ever.

We woke up on Friday and we finally understood that we were in Java instead of Bali. One word: Ramadhan. Java is mainly muslim. And in 2011, Ramadhan is in August. So during day the whole island seems almost asleep: shops closed, almost no people in the street (considering the population of more than 100 million people just in Java, it’s pretty amazing to see empty streets!!). We went to visit the Kraton, which was (or maybe still is) the Sultan palace. Kraton is boring, empty and totally not worth it, but well, we had to visit it. The city looked like a desert! I just kept on thinking of what people told me about Yogya, and I couldn’t see any of that. No street life, no musicians, no food on the street. Nothing at all until 18h. As soon as the mosques called to pray and fasting was broken, the city came back to life. Suddently everyone was eating, drinking, smoking. We found an amazing food market in a hidden street with food to die for. Yogya has to be so cool during the rest of the year!!

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Food market in Yogyakarta

On Saturday we took a bus to Prambanan. One of Yogya’s must-see. Prambanan is a Hindu temple from the ninth century that has more or less resisted several earthquakes and human disasters. It’s just impressive. Massive. But also weird because now it’s surrounded by mosques.

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Prambanan temple in Java
Me in Prambanan

At night we went with some friends to see Wayang Kulit, a leather puppet performance, at Sasono Hinggil. It took ages to find the place, and there we were the only foreigners. I would like to say that it was worth it, but it was the most boring think I’ve seen in my entire life. The puppet performance lasts around 7 hours. We only stayed 1. It’s a puppet show in ancient Javanese with just one man speaking. We thought we didn’t understand it, but the truth is that the locals didn’t understand it either: they were just eating, chatting, smoking. It was sort of social event for them. But well, we had the chance to see it and I’m glad for it.

You know what? In a week I’m back in Spain. The trip is almost over.

Back to Padangbai, for the last time though. After having dinner in one of my usual restaurants, on Tuesday I ended up talking with a british guy in love with diving. And guess what? After three hours talking I was totally convinced about trying it. Me! Diving!

On Wednesday I took a bus to the north, to Lovina. Where I had to meet Matthias again. On the way, the bus stopped at my beloved Ubud and I had the chance to see again Yasmin. I won’t stop saying it: her energy is contagious, her spirit is just a blessing. From Padangbai to Lovina I used again a Perama bus company, I’d rather sit slightly comfortably and pay a bit more than going with those old shuttle buses. It took me around 5 hours to get there in total.

But once in Lovina: we had a hotel with a swimming-pool! And in front of the beach. A proper beach! Again, it was sunset time. When it was dark, the stars were just gorgeous! It looked like they were about to fall over us!

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Lovina Beach

On Thursday we did some exploring of the area. We went to visit Air Terjun Gigit (i.e. waterfalls), Danau Buyan and Danau Tamblingan (i.e. lakes) and Air Panas Banjar (i.e. hot springs). The road was beautiful again. And the whole area was not touristic at all.

During the weekend we wanted to stay in Pemuteran, far north-west. So before leaving, I wanted to see some more temples (I never get tired of them!). Trying to find Pura Beji and Pura Dalem I could just find Pura Madawe Karang. But man! So amazing! The carvings were just impressive! Probably one of the most beautiful temples I’ve seen so far.

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Pura Madawe Kadang

From Lovina to Pemuteran it took us 1 hour by motorbike (although a girl at a bar told us that it should be 3 hours…) and there we stayed at Kubuku Resort. It was pretty expensive, but the whole area of Pemuteran is overpriced due to isolation. Don’t expect the same prices as the rest of Bali.

On Saturday was my day: DIVING! apparently the little island of Menjangan is one of the best spots of Bali (of Indonesia? of the world?) to dive (as the Liberty ship wreck in Tulamben, east coast). So this was my introductory dive.

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me! diving!

So weird! My ears hurt heaps, and I had a serious headache. But once I got adapted to the whole thing and I looked around I got shocked. Being under water is the closest thing to inner peace. Every single creature is graceful under water. All is quite, all is calm. I saw fishes of colours that I couldn’t even describe and, guess what? I SAW A TURTLE! Oh my god, I remember it and I still get goose bumps. She (clearly was a girl) was the most elegant animal on earth, swimming following the currents. I was trying to chase her, but I don’t control distances under water, so when I thought I was close, apparently I was more than 3 meters away…

Bad things of diving? Sore ear and bleeding nose as soon as I went up. I’m not really sure if there’s something wrong in my ears or I didn’t do the decompression thingy properly. Whatever, was totally worth it. As soon as I get checked by a doctor, I will try it again.

I left Pemuteran on Sunday to go back to Lovina. On a different area of the city this time, less touristic, with more locals. And I ate the best fish ever at Warung Rasta, wrong name for a restaurant, I know, but ignore that fact and try to go there!

Me and my bike

After visiting the north of the island, I went back to Ubud again. To spend the last days in Bali with my balinese gang: Yasmin, Ade, Erwin, Matthias. Everything is better if you’re surrounded by the right people! 🙂  But that’s another chapter of the blog!

Where was I? Yes, I was in Padangbai. My “comfort zone”. And I left Padangbai on Monday to meet Matthias in Amlapura. I met this guy when I was couchsurfing at Yasmin’s place, and during the whole week he has been my travel mate. Being in this country is way easier if you have a man next to you!

So I took my motorbike and after meeting him in Amlapura we headed to Ujung, our plan was to arrive to Amed through the coastal road. And it was amazing. We passed Ujung, Seraya, Aas, Selang, Lipah, Bunutan, Jemeluk and after that Amed.

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Beautiful Bali

The whole road is impressive. Probably the best road trip so far in Bali. Almost no tourists, just little spread out towns with locals waving their hands to us. The views were just impressing: dramatic cliffs, beautiful black sand beaches, mountains behind. It took us around 3 hours to do those 10 kilometers because of the quality of the road (not that good) and because I had to stop every 10 minutes to take pictures. Just stunning.

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Amed Beach

In Amed we had a bit of real beach life: swimming, sun bathing. Life is good mates! And after an amazingly beautiful sunset, we went to have dinner with some new friends.

Despite being as tiny as it is, Amed has a quite impressive night life. It was monday, but we still got the chance to experience it. We went for dinner with a french guy named Fabian who introduced me to a girl named Laura, from Barcelona. We were 2 Laura’s, from Barcelona. After eating fish with obviously rice, we went to “the club” of the town: Pacha. Pretty original name, Laura and I said. There, Laura introduced me to another girl and… oh surprise! Her name was Laura and she was from Barcelona. So we were 3 Laura’s from Barcelona.

In Bali (not sure in all Indonesia) the kids are named according to their order. So, I’m Laura Komang (Laura third) from now on.

Anyway, we had fun, we drank beer, we drank Arak and me and Matthias headed home early. He had to wake up early in the morning to go to dive the Liberty Ship Wreck, apparently one of the most beautiful and special spots to dive in Bali. But it wasn’t my time for diving, yet.

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Gamelan Rehearsing

As soon as I woke up I meet the two other Laura’s and I had one of the most interesting mornings in a long time. In around 4 hours I knew absolutely EVERYTHING about Amed and it’s surroundings. All the gangs, how Balinese guys behave and how they treat white girls. It was hilarious! I really hope I can meet both Laura’s again, in Barcelona, I have the feeling that I’d love to hang out more often with them.

After a nice lunch with them, I headed again, for the last time, to Padangbai.

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Views from Amed 1

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Views from Amed 2

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Views from Amed 3

Four days were enough to visit Ubud, and Bali has so many things to visit that I had to move. So after saying Yasmin and Amelia goodbye, I took a Perama shuttle bus to Padangbai. This country is amazing, it’s so crowded that even the shortest distances take ages. To do the 26 kms that separate Ubud from Padangbai it took almost an hour and a half.

So I arrived to this little fishers town and stayed at Topi Inn, which I recommend for the price and for the vibe. Padangbai is just a harbour from where the ferries to Lombok leave, but I don’t know why I like it. There’s nothing to visit here, but I think it’s a nice starting point for the east coast of Bali. However, I couldn’t resist the temptation to take a ferry to Lombok, and I stayed there just one night.

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Sunset in Senggigi

The ferry to Lombok is an interesting experience. The ferry itself takes 4 hours, but the whole trip to Senggigi takes like 8 hours. It’s a long journey! But the journey includes a bus from Lembar to Senggigi, so when I arrived to that city, I had already seen half of the island (probably the ugly part, though).

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Kid playing at Padangbai beach

Senggigi was quite overwhelming for me. Maybe it was the long journey, maybe it was the bus trip that showed me a part of Indonesia not touristic at all. I don’t know, the fact was that I left Lombok the morning after. I didn’t visit Gili Islands, but it’s just a beach. And I’ve been to Cook Islands. So I thought I didn’t want to “loose” 2 days when I could visit heaps of things in that time in Bali.

It was nice visiting for a short period Lombok. I learnt a lot about myself and my boundaries. I was trying so hard to avoid all the touristic points that I almost forgot the whole point of travelling: visiting a place for its inner beauty, no matter if there are tourists or not. So I went back to my “comfort zone” in Padangbai.

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Petrol station
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Woman making the offerings for the temple

From this little town I have rented a motorbike for three days with the idea of visiting the east coast of Bali. Today I saw the south-east. Driving with a motorbike here you feel totally adapted. You’re part of the mess, of the mass. Of course I got lost but thanks to that I saw really nice villages (with no tourists at all! yeah!) and, obviously, more temples.

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Sort of priest at the temple
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Men playing music at the temple
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People praying at the temple

It still surprises me how Balinese people live their religion. It’s impressive how their entire live is around that. No matter what, no matter when, there will always be offerings somewhere in every town. And sometimes you get lucky and you can also see ceremonies inside the temples. In Pura Goa Lawah I was lucky. This temple is of big importance for the Balinese culture and apparently the cave leads all the way to Besakih (the most important temple in the island, and probably the most crowded too), but no one has confirmed it. Anyway, like all the others in the island, the temple is amazing. And the trip there was a pleasure too. The black sand in the beach was amazing.

After that I went to Candidasa, a town without anything special, but with nice beaches around. Tomorrow, more!

Me at the beach

My arrival to Indonesia was a bit of a shock. I flew from Singapore to Denpasar airport, in Bali, and I got stuck nearly three hours in the airport trying to get my temporary visa and to pay the fee. But I did it, and my couchsurfer Hendra came to pick me up and took me to his place in Denpasar. Then I realized that yes, I was in Asia.

Denpasar is a massive city crowded as hell with scooters and cars. It takes ages to drive from any spot to any other one. For a while I even considered if I had chosen wrong my destination, maybe I wasn’t strong enough to handle this by myself, maybe I couldn’t handle a country like this.

After sleeping in Denpasar and having rice for breakfast (welcome to Asia, Laura!), my couchsurfer drove me to Ubud. And thank god he did!

Ubud is a small town in the heart of Bali. It’s a touristic spot like Kuta, but it’s not a party place: Ubud is famous for its art and for having a really nice atmosphere. Here I have spent the last four days. And I’ve decided that I’m already in love with the country.

temple at night

Temple at night

On Sunday, after having a walk to discover the town, I slept at the Frog Pond Inn, in the main road of the town. On Monday I walked to my next couchsurfer’s house: Yasmin. She’s just awesome. A really smart and mature girl who made my stay in Ubud just perfect. Hanging out with her and her friends has been a pleasure. I’m really thankful for that.

On Monday I visited the Ubud Palace and I started visiting some of the numerous Pura (temples) in town. I also visited the Antonio Blanco Museum, an interesting artist considered the “Dalí of Bali”. I just think he was a lucky guy who became friends with the king of the area. His paintings are not bad though. Actually I liked some of his work.

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Ubud Palace

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working for a cremation ceremony

Yasmin, besides organizing workshops in the area, also teaches to do massage. So on Tuesday I was the model for his student Nick. I got a 2 hours massage that left me like floating in space. It was amazing!! After that she cooked some Nasi Goreng for us. Nasi Goreng is basically fried rice with whatever you have (always spicy, of course), so yummy!

In the afternoon I went to visit the Museum Puri Luksan with Balinese art. Some of the paintings were really stunning and I particularly liked a lot the wooden sculptures. After that I went to see the famous Balinese dancing. I wanted to visit the Padangtegal Dance advised by Yasmin, but it was cancelled due to ceremonial issues and I went to Gamelan Nrita Dewi, next to the football field, instead. Soo beautiful! Is amazing what those girls do with their eyes and fingers!!

dancing

Balinese dancers

Wednesday was my day to rent a scooter. Without having any kind of driver’s licence and paying the equivalent of 2 euros, I was driving the whole day in the surroundings of Ubud. Obviously I got lost, but I visited lots of pretty cool things too:

Sacred monkey sanctuary: totally filled with macaques. Better go there in the morning before the monkeys have gone crazy with so many tourists.

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sacred monkey forest

Goa Gajah: the elephant cave. Of big importance to the Balinese culture, this hindu and buddhist temple is almost a thousand years old.

Me at Goa Gajah with, yes, a borrowed leopard print sarong (thanks Ida!)

Pura Samuantiga: thank god Yasmin told me about this temple, because it was the most impressive I have seen so far. I was totally alone in the temple and it was impressive. I totally felt like in the lost island.

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Pura Samuantiga

After so many temples I deserved a nice meal: nasi ayam kedewatan & jus avokat. So, rice with chicken and avocado juice. Avocado juice!!! Just delicious!!

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Nasi ayam kedewatan & jus avokat

And… what else? Well, just pointing out how important religion seems to be in Bali. There are offerings and ceremonies at all times of day. Some temples just allow you to enter if you are properly dressed with a sarong. I find the food amazing too. So spicy but so yummy! And people here are really nice. I find really annoying having to bargain no matter what you do, but besides that, they are really gentle.

Oh yes, I can’t finish this post without saying that I SAW A SNAKE. In the middle of the road. Soooo disgusting!!! This is the only part of Indonesia that I think I can never get used to. No picture though. I was so scared that I just started literally running away from it.

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Women going to the temple ceremony

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rice field