i got life!

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“…I’ve got life,
I’ve got my freedom
I’ve got the life…”

i ain’t got a lot of things, but what i got i love and i’m thankful for

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Of toy bikes and bridges and beautiful beaches

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After the diving debacle of my first day in Nusa Lembongan I switched from diver to explorer mode, earth-bound explorer.
My friend and I decided to rent a bike (got a toy bike, more on this ahead), get to the “pier”, which is actually just the beach, leave the bike there and get a boat to get us over to Nusa Penida. So off we went.
Even though Lembongan has developed into a diving village with everything you might need in hand, the roads didn’t keep up with the growth: they suck. Road signage is pretty much non-existent, so adventure was awaiting. We started our journey to the pier/beach taking the wrong way. So we had to turn around since basically there are no roads that would take you across the island, just around it. After a few ups and downs through hills and astonishing views, we got to the beach near Ceningan bridge. We parked our bike next to the beach and hopped on a boat. The trip to Nusa Penida took about 20 minutes. I wish it took longer since the surroundings were absolutely beautiful; emerald-green ocean reflecting the trees, smooth little waves glittering thanks to the sun, fishermen boats sprinkled across the horizon.

In Nusa Penida, we rented anooooother scooter for the day. We had been told there was a temple in a cave and we decided to head there first since it was a bit far and we didn’t want to miss it. It was scorching hot so we had to stop for hydration at a lovely spot.

Lounging locals

Lounging locals

A recurring image kept popping up along the way: seaweed farms in the ocean. We learned that 85% of Nusa Lembongan and Penida’s population makes a living from these farms.

Lovely seaweed farmer. She was shy and tried to hide, but we got her and her great smile!

Lovely seaweed farmer. She was shy and tried to hide, but we got her and her great smile!

After a while driving through the coastal road up north we got to the cave temple, Goa Giri Putri. We climbed some stairs and looked for the way in. Nothing here, nothing there… until one of the men there pointed a very narrow hole in the ground: that way. Hmmm… Ok… I sent my friend in first, cause I’m a coward and a horrible friend and went after her. You have to crawl a couple of meters and suddenly you can see this huge dark cave filled with bats and dripping water. A path has been built, so we just followed it and after a few meters we saw a temple inside all that amazing craziness. This is the only decent picture we have. Light was scarce and we couldn’t get a proper shot. Christie managed to get this one though!

Temple in Cave

Temple in Cave

Chatting in the shadows on our way out.

Chatting in the shadows on our way out.

We spent the rest of the afternoon driving around and stopping for pictures and a quick dip in the ocean.

We decided to leave the island when the threat of the perfect storm showed up in the sky. We left the bike behind (just there, on the road, cause the owner was not there! I love that aspect of small and tight communities) hopped on the boat and prayed for our lives. We managed to get to Lembongan on the dry side. That didn’t last long since it started pouring as soon as we got on the bike.
The driving was so stressful (I need to find some kind of excuse!) that we indulged in a massage, my first full body massage ever actually. Yes, I swear. I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on this!!! Freaking awesome, super relaxing and your skin glows afterwards. If you hadn’t had one yet, put everything down and GO! Yes, NOW!
We had an early night with wine and friends (this sounds very wanky, but it’s actually true!); I was out to explore Lembongan itself and Ceningan the next day.

Hopped on the toy bike again.

Toy bike: Red, tiny and fragile motorbike that made rattling noises every second it was in use. Brakes not working, mirrors moving, horn not making a sound unless you reaaaally pushed it. I’m kind of tall so the whole experience felt weird.

Started off looking for the bridge that allows you to cross to Ceningan, a little island between Lembongan and Penida. Got lost a couple of times, no biggie. Eventually got there and crossed the bridge; I felt like Indiana Jones or something. Cool and scary.

Ceningan is small and beautiful in a rugged kind of way. The roads are one big pot hole and that made it a little stressful for me to drive around, specially on the toy bike. But it offers great views of Lembongan, fishermen and seaweed farmers. I think it’s totally worth going.
I went back to Lembongan and attempted to visit the mangrove forest. I was wearing flip-flops and was on my own… suddenly it didn’t look like such a good idea, so I skipped it. Visited Mushroom bay, dream beach and sunset beach, all of them are gorgeous, little intimate stretches of white sand and turquoise sea.

Mushroom Bay

Mushroom Bay

Dream Beach

Dream Beach

cute dog living the beach bum life

cute dog living the beach bum life

Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach

I kept driving around and stopped to take a picture of a temple surrounded by trees when it happened. A loud noise. Before knowing, I knew. The bloody toy bike screwed me over. That little bitch fell to its side while being parked. One of the mirrors came out. Fuck shit fuuuuuuck! Ok, crisis management, need super glue! Got it, tried to stick it back, no luck. I let it be and confessed my crime to the owner of the bike. She made me pay for half the cost of the mirror. I hated her back then, but I recognize I over reacted. I think I got a fair deal. Note to self: never accept a toy bike again.

Snapshot: Monkey business

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November 2013, Phuket, Thailand

6 de la mañana en el Gran Buddha en Phuket. Somos las únicas ahí. Privilegiadas. De pronto notamos que no estamos solas. Vemos uno. Otro. Ok, son 3, No, son 4. 5. 10. Los monos que viven en los bosques que rodean el monte donde se sienta la estatua aparecen en busca de comida antes de que lleguen los visitantes. Recorren los tachos de basura en busca de tesoros abandonados. Bingo! Uno de ellos encuentra oro rojo: una lata de Coca. Y se la toma!!

Naturaleza + industria

6 am at Big Buddha, Phuket. We are the only ones there. Privileged. Suddenly we notice we’re not alone. We see one. Another. 3 of them. 4. 5. 10. The monkeys that inhabit the forest surrounding the hill where the statue sits show up looking for food before visitors arrive. They go through every trash bin looking for abandoned treasures, Jackpot! One of them finds red gold: a can of Coke. And he drinks it!!

Nature + industry

ph: Julia Cohen Kichic

Diving 1 – Anto 1

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I did my open water diving course while in Koh Tao, Thailand. It was one of my biggest challenges and achievements. It was stressful and I wanted to quit several times. Each day.
I was born in a city by the ocean and from early on I was taught not to fear but to respect the ocean. And so I did. I never had issues with water and to this day, being 31 years of age I sometimes pretend I’m a mermaid every time I’m in the ocean. Furthermore, I believe I developed a kind of spiritual relationship with the ocean; its vastness, the immensity. I believe it cleanses every soul that needs something washed away.
But the breathing underwater thing scared me. I knew I would have equipment and instruction, but it just sounded weird, unnatural. I was lucky to have an amazing and crazy instructor who just wouldn’t let me quit and basically pulled me down the water the first time I jumped in and immediately freaked out.
This was 3 months and a half ago. I knew I had to get back in the water, fast, or all my previous fears would come to get me again. So, Nusa Lembongan sounded like the perfect place to go and dive again. I’ve heard amazing things about it: you can see turtles, manta rays and incredibly colorful ocean flora (I’m not sure it’s said this way but it sounds science-y). So off I went.
I travelled with my housemate, Christie. She arranged for us to stay at the diving resort where she did her open water course. She was going to do her advance course. I just wanted to do some fun dives. We gathered Saturday morning, 8 am to get our equipment ready. I was a little anxious, but nothing major. After 30 minutes, we got to our first diving point. We could see the different currents in the ocean but didn’t make much of it. I got all my gear on and went in the water by sitting on the side of the boat and letting go backwards, first time for me, had done it jumping forward or backwards but never from a sitting position. So far so good, I put the regulator (the breathing thingy) in my mouth and started deflating my BC (floating device) so that I could go under water. Nothing happened, I couldn’t get down! The other divers along with the instructor were way down and I was still there, floating, trying to get their attention. I didn’t have enough weights on my belt so I just floated there. The dive master guiding the dive urged me to make a decision, “up or down?” The situation made me panic and I decided to sit this diving out. Got back on the boat and waited for everyone to come up. Turns out the currents where crazy down there and I was better off not being there being I only had 5 dives under my belt.
So off to the next diving site we go. I put my gear back on, definitely sure I would get it right that time with the correct weights and all. Back on the water, I started going down and as soon as my head is under water I started hyperventilating and breathing like a maniac. As Dr Gonzo very accurately puts it in Fear and Loathing in Vegas:

“I hate to say this, but this place is getting to me. I think I’m getting the fear.”

I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. Again, time was against me, “coming or staying?” Panic was back. Are you, my dear reader, hoping for a sudden courageous epiphany? Not gonna happen. I chickened out and got back on the boat, frustrated and disappointed at myself. Sad, just sad.
I snorkeled and was happy to see purple starfishes for the first time ever. But the feeling of failure still haunted me. It took me a couple of days to let go of that feeling and actually appreciate the fact that despite the fear I went back in the water to try again after the first time didn’t quite work out.
I’m gonna have to get my little panicky lungs back to Thailand and do some dives there in the pool-like oceans and with a patient instructor to take me step by step again. I am not giving up, not yet, at least!

If anyone out there has any diving stories of overcoming fear, or not, I’d love to not feel so alone!

At least I got a picture in the water!

At least I got a picture in the water!

Snapshot: Invitation to sea

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Langkawi, Malaysia, November 2013

Caminando por Langkawi encontramos ésta oferta pegada a un árbol.
El dueño de un barco a vela buscaba tripulantes para sumarse a su viaje comunitario.
Sudeste asiático para 2013 e Indonesia, África y Brasil para 2014.
Los costos y las tareas se repartirían entre los participantes.
La vida tiene esa capacidad de sorprendernos en cualquier momento!

While walking around in Langkawi we found this offer stuck to a tree.
A sail boat owner was seeking for crew to join him on a community trip on board of his boat.
South East Asia for 2013 and Indonesia, Africa and all the way to Brazil for 2014.
Costs and chores to be shared among travelers.
Life can always surprise you!

Nice to meet you, Malaysia! Pulau Langkawi

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After my torrid affair with Thailand ended, I fell into Malaysia’s arms, merely because it was on the way to somewhere else, to be honest. “Un clavo saca a otro clavo” would be the Spanish expression, which basically means that Malaysia was my rebound country. So we’re off to a bad start.

I got there with an ear infection and wounded feet, all scars that Thailand had given me, scars that didn’t bother me while being with my little turquoise jewels in the Andaman sea. That had changed. I couldn’t get in the water, I was on antibiotics and pain killers and had to put year drops every 3 hours. I was cranky and my energy was low. So my perception of Pulau Langkawi was tainted already because of my former Asian lover.
Langkawi is an archipelago of 104 islands in the Andaman Sea, some 30 km off the mainland coast of northwestern Malaysia. It was also my first encounter ever with Muslim religion, which was a bit rough for me and took me some time to get used to since I knew very little about it. The hostel was an open space where people wandered around non-stop, it was hot, the bathroom was icky, mosquitoes where little ponies, eating me up. And food was weird. That was bad. Very bad.

However, Pulau Langkawi is so pretty that eventually none of that matters. We left Pantai Cenang mid-morning and headed towards the 7 pond waterfalls, Telaga Tujuh. After going up what seemed like a million steps we were at the top of the hill, having amazing views of the ocean while resting our feet in refreshingly cold and extremely transparent water. It was heaven. We laid there for a while and headed down to the waterfall itself. It was a great place to just be there and get kissed by the mist of the falling water.

Top pf the waterfall & ocean view

Top pf the waterfall & ocean view

Down the road from the waterfalls and after a 20 minute walk we reached the cable car station. Went all the way up to the gate of the sky bridge, 650 above seal level, WHICH WAS CLOSED! Bummer. Anyway, we got to enjoy beautiful views of Langkawi, not only Pulau Langkawi but the nearby islands. We walked around staring, amused. Then we got back down alone, the whole cable car to ourselves cause a couple refused to ride with us. Yes. They were Muslim. We made the best of it and between Julia’s screams of terror due to the height (finally! Something she’s scared of! Hahaha) we took some crazy pictures.

View from the entrance of the Sky Bridge

View from the entrance of the Sky Bridge

Beautiful overview

Beautiful overview

While coming down, we spotted a little white sand beach sitting on a little bay called Burau Bay. We had to get there! So we headed that way. Turned out the beach was owned by a huge resort. We put our rich girls faces on and just walked in. As soon as we got to the lobby, it started raining, so we just stayed lounging in one of the beach chairs under a couple of palm trees until it stopped. The beach looked amazing but there was a jellyfish warning sign. Boo hoo. Here’s a pic I found online for you to see the beach and the resort. We researched it later and the cheapest room is almost 400 usd. Yeah… bye!!

Berjaya Resort Langkawi

Berjaya Resort Langkawi

Alcohol in Malaysia is expensive! So, good-bye beer! Luckily we found a Falafel and Shawarma food stall run by a lovely Syrian guy so we became regulars there. Julia got her Henna on, I got my hiking shoes on a duty-free shop and then, we were ready to get going. Gotta keep on moving!

I knew Malaysia didn’t stand a chance against Thailand even before getting there. Thailand was my first in SEA, how can you compete with that? However, I will always keep fond memories of my time there and Malaysia had some trick up its sleeve that I was not expecting!

Sunset in Pantai Cenagan

Sunset in Pantai Cenagan

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