Bali, Day 2-14

Tuesday, December 27, 2011
You know, I've just plain gotten bored of blogging.

Not just writing, either. Reading them too. I logged into Google Reader today and found that I hadn't read any blogs for over a month. And yet it didn't bother me that much.

Talking to a few other people, they felt the same way. Is blogging a fad that is slowly fading? Perhaps.

Here are some random pictures from the rest of my trip because I don't feel like breaking it out into individual days any more.

This is a water palace called "Tirta Gangga".

This is a water palace called ... hell I don't remember what it was called.

This is a war monument that nobody over there really seemed to know about. It was really odd - this huge gothic monstrosity among the nice beaches and such.

The monkeys over there are perverts.

Here are the rest of the pictures:
Bats, more water temples, and flowers.
More of the war memorial
The floating temple (not really floating)(and not appearing to be floating because it wasn't high tide), butterflies and bugs, waterfalls, other stuff
Trendy toilet paper, monkeys

Bali, Day 1

Thursday, November 3, 2011
So here's a little tidbit of info: Sometimes airlines sell more tickets than they have seats available. There are always a percentage of people who don't make their flights, and things usually even out by departure time.

But not always.

Sometimes enough people show up that they don't have seats for everybody. If you're lucky enough to have this happen to you, you can volunteer to give away your seat in exchange for some vouchers for a future flight (plus a seat on the next flight).

We managed to rack up $1600 in vouchers on a trip to Los Angeles back in March. If you have $1600 in vouchers laying around, what do you do? Go on vacation, of course!

We chose Bali as our destination. Bali is smack dab in the middle of Indonesia, directly north of Australia. We booked tickets there, flying via Tokyo and Singapore.

We hired a driver for the first four days of the trip to take us around the island and let us get a feel for it.

The first day started with a trip to Tegalalang, toward the center of Bali. There are some beautiful rice paddies there, and you are welcome to walk among them!

Just up the road from Tegalalang is an organic farm that grows a variety of fruits, vegetables, and spices. More interesting though, is that they produce Kopi Luwak, which is the most expensive coffee in the world! Why is it so expensive? The production process:

1) The fruit of the coffee plant is eaten by an Asian Palm Civet, a small native animal that seems to be a cross between a cat and a rodent.
2) The stomach acids of the civet interact with the fruit.
3) The fruit is pooped out.
4) Yes, you guessed it: The Coffee Crap(tm) is gathered up, washed and dried, roasted, then shelled and ground up into coffee!

There are two layers of actual shells that are removed before exposing the coffee bean inside, so you don't need to worry TOO much about eating actual poop. Maybe.

Kopi Luwak coffee beans set out to dry

From there we traveled onward to Gunung Kawi, a temple built in the 11th century. It features 10 shrines cut into the cliffs surrounding the Pakrisan river, each shrine being over 20 feet tall!

The day we went there they were preparing plates of food to make as an offering. They also had a duck wrapped up in a palm leaf. He seemed blissfully unaware of his fate that would be arriving a few hours later.

Just a few miles away from Gunung Kawi is Tirtha Empul, which is one of the oldest sites in Bali. Sometimes known as Temple of the Holy Spring, Balinese travel from all over the island to bathe in the natural spring waters here.

We stopped for a late lunch overlooking Batur volcano.

It was now time to head back for the day, but with one more stop along the way: Goa Gajah, or the Elephant Cave Temple.

The rest of the photos from Day 1 can be found here.

A public thank-you.

Saturday, October 22, 2011
After an exhausting day of physical work, I need a bit of a relaxer before calling it a night.

I would like to publicly thank Erica for posting about drinking a beer in the shower. Yes, the post was a year ago, or longer, but it stuck in my mind. Tonight I hopped in the shower with a Sam Adams Octoberfest, and it was almost perfect. A blowie at the same time would have completed the trifecta, but I will settle for the beer and shower.

So, thank you Erica for your wise suggestion. I owe you an almond pastry from Gourmandise next time you're down here.

Checking in.

Sunday, August 7, 2011
So I am still here, and every now and then I think about writing something. But you know, you get busy with work and going out and walking the dog and all the sudden it's 1 am and you are way past your bedtime and it gets prolonged even more.

Not only that, I'm not sure anyone can relate. I mean, I think 90% of my blog readers have been busy having babies lately. How can you relate to a single guy who has nothing but Pringles for dinner?

OK, I'm not entirely single - in fact, I am quite happily dating somebody whom I may detail in the near future. Maybe. We are kind of private though, so maybe not. In fact, I think I'm done talking about that for now.

However, the two of us did take a trip up to Oregon with ernl and her Manzilla. Unfortunately I had to ruin the vacation by working half the time which kind of rained on everybody's parade, including my own. That said, I still had plenty of fun and even got a few photos that I'm happy with!


One of the porch lights at our beach house kept arcing.

The rest can be found here and here and here.

Africa Adventures, Day 18-21: Kruger National Park

Sunday, May 15, 2011
I'm tired of trying to describe everything that happened. Yes, even the rhino attack. So here's some more pictures so I can wrap up this trip and blog about other crap.

I love this. A print of it is now hanging by my kitchen table.

LOTS more here!

Africa Adventures, Day 16-17: The Road to Kruger

Sunday, May 1, 2011
After returning to Jo'burg we headed up north to Pretoria, the "Executive" capital of South Africa. The day turned out to be rather rainy, so we didn't go out a whole lot. However, I bought the hottest striped shirt ever and that made up for the rain. It was so hot that when I put it on I had to get my own phone number.

From there it was time to head east. Kruger was a ways away - far enough that we would stop overnight twice before entering the park.

Luckily there are some interesting scenic areas to visit along the way. We took a route called the "Panorama Route", which has some of the best views in South Africa. I was quickly running out of memory on my cards and did not take as many photos as I wanted, so things are a bit sparse through here.

There is a trio of waterfalls outside of Sabie: Lone Creek (shown here), Bridal Veil and Horseshoe. We checked out all three. Lone Creek is extremely easy to access, Bridal Veil slightly more difficult and Horseshoe is a major pain in the you-know-where.

This is a shot from the Mac Mac Pools. A slow-moving stream in this area provides plenty of areas for wading and relaxing.

This looks like something you'd see in Utah, but it's actually the Bourke's Luck Potholes.

One thing I wish I had taken pictures of but didn't was "God's Window" - a wonderful view of the Mpumalanga province. Highly recommended if you're in the area.

We were running out of time and wanted to get to the edge of Kruger before dark so we headed out, only to encounter the worst rainstorm I have experienced in my entire life. I had the wipers on their highest setting and they couldn't keep up. I was tempted to pull over but I had the good fortune to end up driving right behind a bus, so I was able to follow his taillights all the way to Nelspruit. We stayed at a B&B there, where we heard the loudest frogs in existence. I could not believe how loud they were - it was almost deafening. I never saw one, but we were told that they're actually fairly small in size.

Africa Adventures, Day 14 & 15: Namibian Village Visit

Sunday, April 3, 2011
Today we took a boat over to Impalila Island on the Namibian side of the Chobe River - we were going to check out some villages over there.

The villages seem to have become accustomed to westerners coming over to visit, as they had a wide variety of trinkets that you could buy that were identical to the ones you could buy just about anywhere else in Africa.

This is a rather large termite mound.

There was a boat that was no longer in use that some of the village children were playing on. I hopped on one end of the boat and the kids tried to rock me off of it. I played with them for a good hour or so.

Tonight is our last night in Botswana. I was sure to grab a sunset picture over the river before turning in for the night. Tomorrow: A bit of laundry and relaxing before heading off to Jo'burg again.

Africa Adventures, Day 13: Chobe Game Park and River Trip

Friday, March 18, 2011
Today is all about animal spotting. Rather than describe what we did, let's just illustrate with pictures.


Africa Adventures, Day 12: Victoria Falls

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
There are always people who tell you not to visit third world countries like Botswana because of the stereotype of instantly coming down with the trots. This is utterly ridiculous, as plenty of people have come and gone without coming down with the trots. So I looked forward to my stay.

Unfortunately it seems as soon as I arrived in Botswana I instantly came down with a case of the trots. I don't know if it was the water or the food (I had some bread with dinner which I later found had sesame in it, which I am allergic to), but it was with me the rest of the trip. The first night was particularly bad, as I felt like I had a fever and was just sick in general. Still, I had to perservere - Victoria Falls was coming up!

Victoria Falls is the world's largest waterfall (in width). It resides on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border, and you can see it from either side. We chose the Zimbabwe side on the advice of the hotel people (that and the fact that the visa was cheaper). We took a quick bus ride to the Zimbabwe border, went through immigration, and then on another 45 minute bus ride to the city (also called Victoria Falls). Zimbabwe seems to be even more poor than Botswana, but they put on their best show for their main tourist attraction.

Admission to the falls is slightly biased: $5 if you are a Zimbabwe resident, $10 if you're a southern Africa resident, $25 if you are neither. We coughed up our money and went inside. It was a very sunny and hot day, and the heat was not helping my sickness at all. I ended up watching maybe 20 minutes of the falls at a time then returning back for pit stops. The falls were very impressive, and they thundered down so hard that it would be "raining" from all the mist. And this was on the other side of the gorge!

One fun thing about Africa is that a lot of the safety precautions that saddle down civilized placed aren't bothered with her. Most of the cliff edges only had "fencing" consisting of a few branches throw along the side. In some places there was no fencing at all, allowing you to possibly walk right off the side of the cliff. They allow for some fantastic views - if you dare. With my fear of heights - I didn't dare. But others did. I couldn't watch.

After spending several hours at the falls we walked back into town. People all over the place would try to badger us into buying their silly wood giraffe figurines or whatever. It was a bit annoying, but eventually a uniformed guy wearing a "Tourist Police" badge came to our rescue. He walked with us and chatted, eventually walking us to the hotel where we would meet our bus back to the border. After arriving at the hotel he shook my hand (indicating that he was ready for a tip) - I gave him a few bucks for his "protection". That's Africa!

We hopped on the bus back to the border, and about 15 minutes from the border it overheated. Apparently it had been leaking coolant the entire way and the radiator was bone dry. We had some bottles of water for consumption, so we dumped a bunch of them in, hoping to limp it along. Luckily another bus by the same company happened to be driving along and saw us struggling, so we were able to transfer to them and get back home safely.

More Victoria Falls photos can be found here.

Africa Adventures, Day 11: Flight to Kasane, Botswana

Tuesday, March 15, 2011
We were up at 4am to get to the airport in time for our 7am flight to Johannesburg. From there we checked in with Air Botswana for our flight to Kasane, which is in the far northeast corner of Botswana. We arrived at the gate at our appointed time, only to find the pilot was completely missing. Nobody could figure out where he was. We waited around and he eventually showed up an hour and a half late. We were bussed to the plane, which was a scary-looking death trap that seemed to be on its last legs. Combine that with bad turbulence and it adds to being one of the scariest flights I've ever had.

At some point the cockpit door was opened and left open for the remainder of the flight, allowing us to watch the pilots land the plane. It's a bit nerve-wracking to watch yourself approach the airport - I was certain we were going to miss the runway or descend too fast right until the last second where they dropped the plane down perfectly.

I hadn't lined up a place to stay the first night, but there was a driver there for a resort that sounded nice. We hopped into his shuttle to check it out, and it turns out the place was INCREDIBLE. It's called the Mowana Safari Lodge, and it claimed to only be a four star lodge, but I see no reason why it shouldn't have a full five. It gets its name from the mowana tree which is a huuuuge tree that lives for very long periods of time. The lodge was originally built around a tree estimated to be around 1,500 years old. A fire during construction of the lodge destroyed about a fourth of the lodge, plus the tree. A replacement tree was brought in (this one being at the spry young age of around 300 years) and the rest of the lodge was built around it.

In 1992, then President Bill Clinton and family stayed at this lodge for a three day visit. There is a room named after him - and of course it's the most expensive room in the place. I found out about it after we left, otherwise I would have gone to check it out.

The drive to the lodge was very educational. Botswana is obviously very poor, but I felt incredibly safe. I don't think I'd have any issue walking along any of the steets in town by myself. The driver instructed me not to walk at night however - not because of crime, but because hippos tend to roam the area at night due to the proximity of the river. Seeing as hippos are one of the most aggressive animals of the area we chose to heed his advice.

We lined up some activities for the next few days with the office and had a lovely dinner at the lodge (with an excellent waiter named Pono - we would kidnap him home if possible), then off to bed for an early start tomorrow!

Africa Adventures, Day 10: Stellenbosch

Friday, March 11, 2011
Time for a day of rest! We had had a busy week and I was in desperate need of some clean clothes, so I took half a day to do laundry and wrap up loose ends here and there. I finished mid-afternoon which left us plenty of time to drive up to Stellenbosch! Stellenbosch is in the middle of wine country, and has the feel of a small European town. There were plenty of cute shops and cafes, the obligatory church, and plenty of German tourists. We stopped and ate a place called "No. 5", which is now the second place I have eaten at with that name (the first being an ex-pat bar in Singapore).

I ordered a springbok steak - springbok is a variety of antelope here. I was quite pleased, and even more pleased at the South African melktert I had for dessert!

We dropped off the GPS on the way to the airport because we would have a way early start tomorrow. A quick walk to the beach to catch the last sunset we'd see over the ocean capped a perfect evening!

Africa Adventures, Day 9: Table Mountain, Cape of Good Hope

Friday, March 4, 2011
Today was one of the busiest days of the whole trip! On the docket: Table Mountain, driving along the west coast to the Cape of Good Hope, then back up the other side for penguin spotting until we turn home.

Table Mountain is a tall mountain behind one side of Cape Town. It's completely flat up top (hence like a table), and you can take a cable car ride to the top if you are gutsy. I am not gutsy so I let Saskia go up for herself while I took a few cityscape shots and filled out postcards.

On the other side of Table Mountain is the rest of the western cape, with some of the nicest beaches on earth! We decided to drive along the entire western cape.

At the far end of the cape is the most southwestern point in Africa, the Cape of Good Hope! The weather was incredible until you about about half a mile from the cape, at which point it turned into pure fog.

Continuing along the other side of the cape, what can you see? Penguins! You can find them roaming about naturally in the area, and we stopped in for a visit.

The day was exhausting and we arrived back to town starving. We popped into a local pizza chain called "Debonairs. There was a bit of a wait (since it was a holiday most places were closed), and while we were waiting we were graced by some speeches and singing by a guy hanging outside the restaurant. He appeared to be homeless and either drunk, high, mentally impaired, or possibly all of the above. He was ranting and rambling, saying not to let the white man keep you down, among other things. We were slightly uncomfortable at first, being the only caucasians in the place, but I was relieved to see everybody else amused at his rantings. Eventually he broke in to some R. Kelly, singing "I Believe I Can Fly" at the top of his lungs. At some point he was escorted off the premises, but continued his tirade a half a block down. We were sure to cross the street to the other side on our way home.

More pictures can be found here.

Africa Adventures, Day 7: Cape Agulhas

Tuesday, February 22, 2011
After a lovely breakfast (thanks to Jackie) we were off for the final leg of this round of driving: Cape Town! However we decided to make a slight detour (thanks to the recommendation of Jackie) and see the very southern tip of Africa. We drove through endless fields and a handful of tiny towns before arriving to a cold and rainy strip of rocky land called Cape Agulhas. It was a hike of a couple hundred meters before reaching the place where the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean meet, and we arrived cold and soaking wet but pleased!

Yours truly at the southernmost point in Africa. To the left is the Indian Ocean, to the right is the Atlantic Ocean.

There were lots of rolling hills in the Western Cape. It seemed a lot like parts of the midwest United States.

From there we drove up the west coast to Cape Town, which is a busy tourist and beach city. Very popular for vacationers, especially the Germans, English and to a lesser extent the Dutch. We had a three stay booked at a B&B, however due to some poor communications we were double-booked. We ended up at another place run by an retired soccer football player named Ferdinand Keller. He played for the German national team and had retired to Cape Town, running this B&B with his wife and daughter. It proved to be extremely popular with Germans - I was the only non-German speaking person in the whole place! Luckily we were going to be out-and-about the whole time.

Since this was New Years Eve we wanted to see what excitement was going on. We had heard about a fireworks show at the beach, so we wandered down to check it out. Around midnight some semi-impressive fireworks (think of the best fireworks you can get from Wyoming) started going off. It was obviously an amateur show but still enjoyable. Then ... the police showed up! Apparently not only was it an amateur show, but an illegal one too! The cops started chasing down everyone who looked like they had fireworks in their possession. We watched several people running down the beach with pyrotechnics in hand. We got out of there quickly before things escalated.

Some more photos from the drive can be found here.