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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Trekking Mount Rinjani

Our trekking trip to Mount Rinjani (a volcano that erupted around 1700 for the last time) started last Saturday at 6am. We were brought to Sembalu Lawang which lies at 900 metres above sea level (masl). First it was a nice and easy walk through landscapes that reminded us of the Savannah in Africa. For lunch we were already at 1600 masl, staying just next to an empty riverbed. But then it suddenly started to pour and the formerly empty riverbed grew to a roaring stream! At this point we had our first doubts about this expedition. Fortunately the rain stopped and a strong bridge led over the river. Now we came into territory that reminded us of Scotland and Ireland. Lots of hills covered with grass. The grass soon gave way to trees and the path got ever steeper. I was in the form of my life ;), but Christian and Nina had underestimated the difficulty of the track, so we made many stops on the way. Nevertheless we made it to the crater rim at 2639 masl. Just before the sun set we glimpsed part of the huge lake inside the crater.

Alin, our guide, woke us up at 3am the next morning to start the climb to the very top. The idea was to reach the top before sunrise. Because of the difficulties that the first day brought, Nina and Christian decided to stay behind. So I started the trip, armed with a torch, alone with En, one of our two porters. The first bit was the toughest, still half asleep we had to follow a path that went from flat to extremely steep within a couple of metres. Fortunately we reached the first plateau after a while and we took our first break. Slowly the path started to become more challenging, first it got steeper and then ever the more gravel covered the way until the path completely disappeared. Slowly it was getting brighter and I could see the top close at hand, or so I thought at first, then after I climbed this hill I saw the top still far above me. On the other hand, looking back, I saw how much ground we had already covered, so turning around was no question. The last bit was the toughest, every step had to be well planed to keep the balance and not to start sliding back down the mountain. But then I finally made it! Sunrise had happened an hour ago but I couldn't care less, I stood at 3726 masl and could see the whole crater, including the smaller active volcano Mt. Baru and the lake. Past the crater rim I saw all of Lombok including the Gillis. The way back down was far easier than expected, at times I was running/sliding down the mountain, boosting my self-confidence with every step, and we were back down in 2 hours.

There I got my well-deserved breakfast. As a bonus, we spotted two gray macaa monkeys in a tree nearby. Because the weather was overcast and rain was looming, we started our climb down to the lake immediately. Even so we didn't quite make it all the way. We were walking in pouring rain for the last half hour. To our shock the shelter at the lack was already occupied by fishermen and the porters of a group of guys from Singapore. We decided to wait out the rain and then start to climb the other crater rim to guarantee a safe and dry return to Senaru the next day. The way was very steep, towards the end we even had to climb up some rocks to follow the path. However, the crater rim was not our final destination. We climbed back down again for another half an hour to reach a shelter. By that time I was almost dead, no wonder, I'd been trekking for 12 hours straight and covered approximately 3300 metres in altitude difference!

Next day we got another early start at 5am to outrun the rain. From here on it was all downhill, first we walked through grassy hills similar to the ones on the first day, then we came into the jungle. There we saw another gray macaa monkey close to one of the shelters. For some time I was walking all alone, Christian and Nina had gone ahead and Alin and the porters were somewhere behind me, that was a pretty strange feeling, especially because the way was very slippery and I lost my footing more than one time. Finally, at 11am we reached Senaru, the final destination of our trek.

The Rinjani Trekking is praised as one of the most beautiful treks in South-East Asia and I wholeheartedly agree, the changing scenery and the challenging way were an incredible experience that I don't want to forget. As for Christian and Nina? They plan to come back better prepared one day and will reach the top. Good luck!

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Cat Island...

... also known as Gili Trawangan. Honestly, there were almost more cats than people around! But I didn't just go there for Cat-Spotting, I went there for diving. The four dives I did were nice but not breathtakingly spectacular. A lot of corals have been ruined through dynamite fishing and the result can be seen below and above water. There are small pieces of coral everywhere on the beach, ruining the experience of relaxing there.
The first dive (yesterday) was a deep drift dive. We went down to 31.4 metres and there were some nice corals around, almost no fishes though. On the second dive we spotted a pygmy seahorse! The third dive (this morning) took place at shark point and of course there were no sharks in sight... but we saw two big turtles. The last dive took place during a heavy storm and went to the Bounty wreck which had an interesting swim-through. The highlight though was the Octopus walking along the reef.
Gili Trawangan was very nice and quiet. There are no cars or motorcycles on the island. The transport of choice is horse-cart, bicycle or by foot. Yesterday I walked all the way around the island within two hours, including me getting lost at first (I walked in a big circle). Another thing that's remarkable about the island is the fact that there's no police and thus drugs are legal. There was plenty of opportunity to buy weed and magic mushrooms, but I saved my money and spent it on pearls grown in Lombok :)

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Like pieces of a puzzle

Trekking alone is very expensive, so I went looking for some people to join. Strolling around town yesterday I met a German couple who wanted to go trekking but were looking for a third person to join! However, they wanted to travel around Lombok for a couple of days first. So I decided to make a detour to the Gilis and do some relaxing there. Getting to the Gilis can be quite a hassle sometimes, so I wanted to find an easy option. This presented itself this morning, when I walked past a dive shop. There I got a very good deal for 4 dives on the Gilis including private transportation.
Finally everything is falling into place and I feel wonderful :).


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stopover in Bali

The plane to Bali had the same entertainment system, so I could watch the end of Miami Vice, followed by Night Listener.
I was surprised how, effortlessly we got out of Bali airport. I received a visa and passed passport control within 5 minutes. And my bag was already waiting for me by the time I arrived at baggage retrieval. The customs officer wasn't interested in the contents of my big bag (which was locked by a security mesh) and just glanced at my hand luggage.
A taxi and a Bemo (minibus) took me to Padangbai. The first place I walked into there was a dive-shop :).
And so I went for two dives yesterday. They were fantastic! I spotted some new fishes and even saw a white-tipped reef-shark! The water temperature varied between 22 and 28 Celsius and it got pretty cold down there.
Bali, however, was not yet my final destination and a ferry took me today to Lombok. Where we encountered heavy rainstorms. Fortunately they didn't last for long.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Made it to Singapore!

I finally made it to Singapore! The flight was uneventfull and I almost maxed out the available time to enjoy the inflight entertainment. I watched:
  • Little Miss Sunshine
  • My Super Ex-Girlfriend
  • Lady in the Water
  • You, Me and Dupree
  • Miami Vice (only 95% though, they switched it off too early ;) )
Now I'm waiting to board my plane to Denpasar (Bali)...


Friday, December 08, 2006

Theoretically I should be close to Singapore by now...

But, as usual, theory and practice are worlds apart. But one thing after another...
I arrived at the airport on time at 10am. Already then we were informed about technical problems which would delay our departure for Singapore. We received lunch vouchers (50.- CHF) and were told that more information would follow at 4pm.
What to do with so much time to kill? Luckily there was a fascinating exhibition by Marc Chagall and that whiled away the first hour. Then I went for Lunch, picking the most expensive item on the menu, maxing out my voucher :D. The food was excellent!
Now it was almost 4pm and there finally was a departure gate for my plane on the information panels. To save time I went to that place. However, once I arrived at Gate E we were informed to go back to the Transfer Desk in Gate A because, as we found out later, our flight hat to be canceled!
After queuing for another hour I received vouchers to go home and the following information:
The delay was caused by a faulty body gear strut. This problem could only be fixed with special tools, which had to be flown in from Frankfurt first! Because the repairs would take up to 6 hours and a departure before airport closure at midnight couldn't be guaranteed...
So I'll go to the airport again tomorrow morning hoping to start my vacation.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Off to Indonesia

After 6 months of preparation it's finally coming true. I'm leaving for Indonesia tomorrow. First Stop will be Bali and neighboring Lombok, followed by a 10-day scuba-diving trip on the Pindito.
I may write about my adventures from time to time. However, my listening habits will go on a hiatus till I return, in the meantime you can see the tracks I've listened to the most during the last 2.5 months.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Mostly Harmless Evening

Rock City Uster was once again the place to go for a cool concert. This time it was Mostly Harmless from Basel supported by Zero-Spin from Winterthur. As usual in Uster, the club was almost empty and just a couple of die-hard fans were present. It gave the whole evening a more personal touch.
First up were Zero-Spin, who replaced Trickshot on short notice. Because of an accident of their front man Trickshot missed this show. The crowd was reserved and the space in front of the stage remained empty. Until Zero-Spin played a cover of Drowning Pool's Bodies. That was my call and I gave everything. Soon I got company and the two of us were dancing for the rest of the set. They play my kind of music and I'll definitely keep an eye out for them.
After a short break the main event took place and Mostly Harmless came on stage. I was dancing from the very beginning, unfortunately I was the only one. It reminded me of the first time I saw Mostly Harmless in concert, where I ended up receiving all their CDs for my effort. Back to the present. Mostly Harmless played many songs from their latest CD Butterfly Effect and I greatly appreciated the move to harder songs mixed with slow vocals. The vocals were the weak point of the evening. Due to Alex's illness his voice wasn't as strong or pure as usual. Another side-effect was that the show was cut short by a couple of songs. Still it was a fantastic experience to dance the night away, furthermore my support was appreciated by the bands (it has to be a terrible experience to play in front of an audience, that isn't moving). I went home with two new CDs (Butterfly Effect and Zero-Spin's latest EP) and a T-Shirt, which I bought as an afterthought. Next I'll have to clear my wardrobe to find more space ;).


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