Saturday, July 17, 2010

Lombok to Bali to Malaysia

I updated my last post with a story about the rooster fight in Lombock, so scroll down to where you see "***Updated***" in the "Back to Lombok" post if you care to read.  I've also posted a good many more pictures under the picture section for the Gili Islands, Lombok, Uluwatu (in Bali), and my latest pictures of Malaysia.

We spent the remainder of our days in Indonesia in Bali trying desperately to find any waves to surf.  On our last day before we left, the waves finally arrived and the swell jumped from 5 feet to 13 feet in one day!  We got up early and surfed Kuta Reef with around 100 over zealous surfers who had also been waiting eagerly for the swell to show up.  There were some huge waves coming through and many people were getting barrels, but with so many people in the lineup it got pretty dangerous.  Later that day we headed to Uluwatu, the famous surf break, where we knew the waves would be even bigger.

Jed had to leave to go back home and we said our goodbyes before I left for my early morning flight.  Jed has been a great travel partner and an even better friend.  I was lucky to have someone like him to share the adventures with and I wish he could have stayed on longer.  Good luck back home, Jed, and I can't wait to get back and relive our stories!

I've been in Malyasia since July 12 and spent the first 2 days in the capital city, Kuala Lumpur.  The city is similar to Singapore, but not nearly as clean.  The people are interesting and most are friendly, but not nearly as friendly as the people of Bali and Lombok.  I spent my first day exploring the city and checked out the Petronas Towers.  The two massive towers are the headquarters for the Petronas oil company are a truly a sight to behold.  The first 5 to 6 stories consist of a huge shopping mall with more stores and people than I've ever seen in a mall, so needless to say I didn't spend much time there.  I spent most of my first day alone without talking to a soul since there seemed to be hardly any tourists around Chinatown, where I was staying. I ate dinner that night by myself and a local Chinese man sitting next to me began talking with me.  I ended up moving over to his table and talking over dinner with him about the U.S. and where I was from.

After dinner, he invited me for a walk around the town and showed me some areas of interest.  Hong, was a retired economics professor and principal who proudly told me about how he'd worked for 34 years with only 4 sick days.  Hong and I talked about many things like the way children should be raised and how they needed discipline.  We walked around for about 3 hours and I ended up buying him one of the local fruit drinks.  Hong was a nice guy and I'm glad I had the chance to talk with him.

On my flight over from Indonesia, I met a German guy named Sevor, who had been traveling the world for the past 9 months.  He'd lived in Australia, working and studying, and traveled to Hawaii, Fiji, and some other remote islands in the South Pacific in search of surf.  We were trying to figure out what we were going to do in Malaysia and decided we would travel together to Taman Negara, Malaysia's oldest national park, where we hoped to trek around in the jungle and see some wildlife.

The jungles of Taman Negara are a buzzing, leech-infested mass of primary forest over 130 million years old. While we were there we decided to give something back so we decided to give blood to the locals -- and by locals, I mean leeches.  To get to Taman Negara, we took a 5 hour bus ride followed by a 3 hour journey by boat up river to Kuala Tahan, the base camp for Taman Negara.  On our first day, we hiked 15 miles into the jungle towards a hide (a primitive jungle hut) where we would stay the night and try to see the Asiatic Sun Bear or a tapir.

Hiking in the jungle could be compared to putting a wet plastic bag over your body and blowing a hair dryer inside to make sure things are warm enough.  Throw in a few thirsty leeches, about 12 billion finger sized monster ants, 9 different species of ultra-venomous snakes, and some of the most dense vegetation imaginable, and you can picture what I'm talking about.  I counted over 20 leeches around my ankles and legs and my shoes were soaked with blood at the end of the hike.  And I am positive I have never sweated that much in my life.  Every square inch of clothing was soaking wet, but hey, that's what we asked for right? Not really.  On our trek, we scrambled up steep trails, over twisted roots and forged our way across rivers.  I learned that Sevor went to school to be a physicist, but after finishing his bachelors, decided to take a year long break to explore the world.  He was a great guy and we had some interesting philosophical conversations about life -- because what else is there to do when you're trekking through the jungle?

After hiking for about 3 hours and not seeing any more trail markers, we began to get a little bit worried.  Judging by the scale on our map, we should have crossed a river and made it to our hide by now.  We kept thinking we might have made a wrong turn somewhere and the guide at the headquarters (who we turned down because we're men and real men don't need guides) told us to be careful not to wonder off the path because aborigines that live in the forest have their own trails.  What!?  People actually live in this hell hole, we thought?  Sevor and I had to make a decision.  Should we turn back now and walk through the night to get back to the base camp by 11 pm or keep going and try to find the hide?  We decided to walk another hour in the direction we thought the hide was in.  After an hour had passed, there was still no sign of the river or the hide.  Crikey.  I told Sevor I thought we should walk 10 more minutes and if we didn't see any signs for the hide, we'd turn back and make the brutal hike back in the dark.  We really, really, really didn't want to hike back in the dark and we especially didn't want to sleep on the jungle floor after seeing the Jurassic Park sized ants and millipedes.  After 5 minutes more of walking, we finally came across the river and trail marker!  Relief!

We crossed the river and finally made it to the hide where we spent the night with 10 other people.  These other people (we'll call them the "cheaters") had arrived at the hide by boat, which took a measly 2 hours and a lot less effort.  We slaved our way through the jungle for 8 hours and looked ragged and war-torn.  We were jealous of their dry clothes and lack of leech bites.  We spent the night there and saw not one single damn animal.  Ahhhh!  It was an experience though, hearing the jungle come alive as the millions of animals started making their night noises.  The animals were so loud you could barely hear yourself talk.  It was also cool to think about where I was, on the other side of the world in Malaysia, in the middle of the jungle, 30 feet above the ground with 10 other people from all over the world, who I've never met.

The next day we hiked back a different way on the trail that the guide at the lodge told us was the "flat" way.  He must have mixed up the trails because the trail back this day was even worse than the day before.  Up and down steep slippery root-knotted trails for another 8 hours.  After 6 hours, I'd finally had enough and trekked down to the river where I hired a boat driver to take me back to the base camp.  I was done with the jungle!

The next day Sevor and I headed back to Kuala Lumpur where we would split ways.  He was heading to Bangkok to meet friends and I am heading to the city of Sandakan on the island of Borneo to see some orangutans, do some diving, and hopefully climb the highest peak in southeast Asia, Mt. Kinabalu (approx. 12,000 ft.)

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