Travel

A MADAGASCAN ADVENTURE: Part 3

Part 3: Conservation and the Vezo

I promised to talk more about the Vezo people, whom I lived amongst for three months, in my last post, so here we go…

The Vezo are known to be the best fishermen in Madagascar. The name ‘Vezo’ translates to, ‘ROW!’ (Literally the imperative form of the infinitive verb ‘mive’, so it’s the command ‘ROW!’), which is apt, as they may well be the best seafarers in Madagascar as well!

Readying the pirogue

Readying the pirogue

Local fisherman. Photo by Sandy Maksimowska.

Local fisherman. Photo by Sandy Maksimowska.

(See more of Sandy’s beautiful photos here)

Living a hand to mouth existence as they do in Andavadoake, is a hard life. It begins before sunrise and ends when you have enough fish to feed your family, and on a good day you might have a little left over to sell as well.

The ocean and the seafood it provides is vital to the Vezo as the main source of protein in their diet and a crucial source of income. The sandy soil that surrounds their homelands make agriculture near impossible, so the sea really is their food bowl and therefore, needs to be managed in a sustainable way. Not to mention the inherent cultural value that the ocean represents for the Vezo.

Who are we, coming from rich, developed countries, to tell these subsistence fishermen what they can and can’t fish and what sizes they should be? The people of Andava (and beyond) don’t have the luxury of being choosy when it comes to their catch. They don’t have the luxury to be able to afford to throw things back if they don’t meet our conservation standards.

However, with a booming population (the village of Andava doubles in size every 10-15 yrs) comes increasing pressure on the once abundant food bowl; the sea. And what about the national and international (Europe and Asia) fleets that fish these waters as well? This has amounted to huge pressures on the inshore reefs and eco-systems that feed so many.

Blue Ventures (BV) recognized the challenge facing the reef and its people and seeks to engage and educate the community not only on the issues of overfishing and destructive fishing practices, but also to assist in developing strategies that will help fishers fish more sustainably (BV’s efforts are not solely focused on the marine environment. Take a look at their website to learn more about their integrated approach to conservation, incorporating community health and education programs! I simply cannot cover it all here). This has seen the adoption of temporary and permanent Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMA’s) and the development of aquaculture projects such as sea cumber and seaweed farming. Aquaculture is growing rapidly, generating alternate incomes for families and also getting women more involved in income generation and importantly, management of these industries.

Seaweed farming in Tampolove

Seaweed farming in Tampolove

Seacucumber pens in Tampolove

Seacucumber pens in Tampolove

BV’s establishment in the area came via an unlikely hero… Octopus! They’ve had incredible success with this lucrative fishery, which I believe, cemented the relationship between BV and the wider community. After the first temporary closure of the octopus fishery on one small section of reef in 2004, the community saw amazing results with unprecedented catches, and an increase in number and size of individuals. This strategy has been reproduced up and down the coast over the following years, and has now gone countrywide with communities in the northwest and northeast of the country using the same model, and Madagascar’s government establishing an annual national closure!

On the back of this success, many of the fishing communities saw the benefits of marine reserves and created their own network of reserves called the Velondriake (means ‘to live with the sea’ in local Vezo language) which comprise 640 sq km of protected area. It encompasses 25 villages and representatives from these villages establish and protect their marine reserves under the LMMA structure. BV volunteers collect data on both reserve and non reserve locations to help with the decision making and build a stronger case for the implementation of marine reserves.

Sustainability is key to the Vezo’s survival – what more of an incentive does one need to protect the Great Reef? And coupled with the adoption of aquaculture projects and other alternative income activities, such as eco-tourism, are showing this community that there is hope for their future.

President of the Velondriake stating the rules on opening day

President of the Velondriake stating the rules on opening day

Octopus reserve opening day on Nosy Fasy

Octopus reserve opening day on Nosy Fasy

My experience in Andavadoake told me that yes, conservation is a luxury, and yet it is necessary for the survival of fishing communities, not only in Madagascar. It was amazing to see so many people in this community willing to make sacrifices in order to mitigate the challenges they face with food and income security. It’s inspiring to see a community so focused on a common goal, which will not only benefit them as a people in the long term, but the environment upon which they rely, as well. Win, win!

So what did I learn/what have I taken away from the experience?

I’ve learnt to appreciate living a day-to-day existence, rather than always looking to the future for the next big thing – though whether I can maintain this back in the fast paced, developed world, remains to be seen. I’ve learnt to be more mindful of our oceans, what we’re taking from it and what we’re doing to protect it. I was inspired by many of the staff and volunteers I met along the way and am grateful for having made some great connections with people I know will be my friends for many years to come.

People always ask me, “what was your favourite part?” This is such a difficult question, but I guess my answer would be: Having the opportunity to live with the people of Andavadoake. Learning (sort of!) their language, listening to their stories, meeting their families, observing and participating in their way of life. Having that sort of context overlaid on the volunteer work we were doing, was for me, the best part. I wasn’t just counting fish, I was contributing to building a sustainable future for the people I met along the way.

On the whole, it was eye opening, enriching, challenging at times and a whole lot of fun. It gave me an appreciation for what it is to live in a remote community and the challenges they face each day and it gave me perspective on my own life.

Beautiful Andava Rock

Beautiful Andava Rock

And I saw the boababs and lemurs that had lured me here in the first place!

Boababs!

Boababs!

Brown Lemur in Parc National de I'Isalo

Brown Lemur in Parc National de I’Isalo

Ringtail lemurs in Réserve Park

Ringtail lemurs in Réserve Anja

Magical Indri in Parc National Andasibe

Magical Indri in Parc National Andasibe

Simporna (Silky Sifaka) in Parc National de Marojejy

Simporna (Silky Sifaka) in Parc National de Marojejy

Misaotra Bevata!

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A Madagascan Adventure: Part 2

Part 2: Life as a volunteer

Picking up from where I left off in the last post, after our sojourn through the Madagascan countryside, our initial culture shock somewhat subsided; my fellow volunteers and I were finally in Andavadoake – our home for the next 6 weeks (for some of us, the next 12 weeks). Following that first hypnotic sunset, it was time to get stuck into life on site. Our living conditions were basic but comfortable, with huts situated right above a small cove called half moon beach. We’d wake to the sound of the waves and passing pirogues (wooden sail boats) heading out for the day’s fishing.

Beach Huts

Home in Andava

Our diet consisted of mainly fish, beans and rice, with a few variations on the theme from time to time, including the delicious Malagasy beef equivalent – zebu; The mighty zebu is also used to draw carts, plough fields and buy wives and is a precious commodity for many tribes in Madagascar. I couldn’t get enough of the fresh seafood, though we did miss the abundance of fresh fruit and veg we’re used to back home.

But basically, we were living in paradise!

Zebu

The mighty zebu

mackerel

Freshly caught lunch

A typical day consisted of 2 dives in the morning, many with whale sightings on our ride out to site, a stroll to the village for a cup (or five!) of peanuts, study/hammock time followed by duties, lectures, presentations or language lessons then dinner and ‘tantara’. Tantara roughly translates to ‘story’ in English, and we all took turns to tell a story, run an activity or game, show some pictures etc. for our evening entertainments

A typical week was diving Monday-Friday, Saturday land based activities like visiting mangroves or learning to cook samosas and boko boko (deepfried dough filled with chocolate – yum!), followed by a night of shaking our butts Vezo style in the local bar, Dada’s… the Malagasy’s put us Westerners to shame! Those guys can seriously move. Sunday was our day off where we got to go exploring! We embarked on baobab walks, whale watching, spear and lobster fishing, island picnics, snorkeling trips and even an overnight camping trip on a nearby island. One of the highlights of the trip!

making samosas

Making Samosas. Photo by JD Toppin

(for more adventures, check out JD’s travel blog here)

camping

Camping at Nosy Ve

We were assigned English partners and spent three sessions a week imparting our knowledge of the English language onto them with varying degrees of success. During the expedition my English lessons consisted of the pleasure and delight of trying to decipher then reinterpret the PADI divemaster manual for one of our boat drivers and dive master in training, Patty. Challenging? Yes. Poor Patty. I think I successfully confused him rather than enlightening him! If you’ve ever read a PADI manual, you may understand my struggle.

But back to my reason for travelling to Madagascar – the marine environment. I was here to count fish! As a volunteer, I had to learn 150 fish species along with 36 benthic and invertebrate species. Thank goodness our coral ID was limited to 11 hard coral formations and simply, soft coral. We didn’t have to be species specific. Those scientific names may have killed me! As it was, when I closed my eyes at night, I would see fish and corals flying at me and I’d be chanting names over and over in my head!

Luckily for me, I’ve been plaguing my brother with fish questions over the years of diving together, so I had a basic knowledge of some fish families before we even started, which was an advantage. But when it came down to species level, I still needed work, especially as not all the names were the same – moon wrasse became crescent wrasse, leather jackets became filefish, bullseyes – sweepers, flutemouth – trumpetfish…

Benthic on the other hand, was a bit of a struggle. I’ve never been overly enamored with benthic life, accepting kelp and sea grass, sponges, and corals as an important part of the ecosystem, but indifferent to their actual role and avoiding invertebrates such as sea cucumbers like the plague (ick!). However, our passionate field scientists were somehow able to convince me that benthic was cool and I subsequently looked forward to a bit of benthic surveying.

Goniopora

My fav coral species, Goniopora; despite it’s appearance, this is a hard coral! Image from Wikimedia Commons

I even overcame my fear of sea cucumbers one spring tide, when we helped the aquaculture farmers with their data collection. I opted to be the weigh-er, thinking it would be the best job to avoid handling any squishy, slimy, boneless creatures. Turned out, I had to pick up every. Single. One. Not once, but twice! After a few girly squeals, I managed to get into the swing of things. I can’t say I love them as a result, but I don’t have that fleeting moment of panic when I see them now.

seacucumbers

Zanga! (Seacucumbers)

The sites we dived ranged from healthy to pretty destroyed. The ones that didn’t look so great were affected by a combination of cyclone and storm damage plus destructive fishing practices and overfishing. Education and subsequent dinas (local laws) are in place, to outlaw destructive fishing methods such as poison fishing and beach seining. This has improved the health of the reefs in many areas, which is encouraging to see. Most sites were populated with small to medium reef fishes such as schools of snapper, fusilier, parrotfish and many species of wrasse. But the best part was diving in the protected areas and seeing HUGE fish, such as blue spined unicorns, often in schools, which seemed to be a sign that the protection zones were working! Win!

snapper

School of snapper. Photo by Niki Boyer

Diving with species knowledge really made it such a rewarding experience. It was always exciting identifying something you hadn’t seen in the water before, or something you struggled with! And I had some really special encounters including seeing a turtle – turtles are rare as they’re hunted as a coming of age ritual – hearing humpback whales sing quite regularly, a myriad of new nudis (colourful seaslugs), schooling, yes schooling Moorish idols, and even a sailfish!!

nudibranch

Some kind of Halgerda Nudibranch. Photo by Niki Boyer

Expedition life was an incredible existence for me. So far removed from my everyday reality in Australia. It was refreshing to be learning again and to be immersed in a culture and way of life I never knew existed. I will talk more about the people of Andava in my next post…

THINGS I MISS…

Being in or on the water every single day!

The infinite stars at night

Watching pirogues sail by

Constant sound of the ocean

The pace of life

The vazah and vezo friends I made

My hammock

Kids yelling ‘Salama’ everywhere you go

The dancing!

 

THINGS I DON’T MISS…

Sand in my bed

 

hammock day

View from my hammock

hammock sunset

Sunset from my hammock

stars

Stars! Photo by Ben Large

A MADAGASCAN ADVENTURE: Part 1

Part 1: Discovering Madagascar

When my older brother, asked me to write a guest blog I was at first excited and then terribly daunted. I should preface this post with the fact that I am not a scientist, so the following is purely based on the observations of an amateur!

I have been diving since 2005 and have a passion for all things ocean. I also love to travel. After spending the past 6 years behind a desk, I decided to temporarily abandon my Sydney life to spend some time indulging in some underwater delights and a slower pace of life.

So, I’ve recently returned to Australia after months of diving and travelling, including three months living in a remote fishing village, Andavadoake, on the south west coast of Madagascar. I was volunteering with a UK based marine conservation organization, Blue Ventures, who have been working in the area for over 10 years.

01 Madagascar-map-02

I have wanted to visit Madagascar for many years after seeing an image of the Allée des Baobab in a travel magazine as a teenager. And who doesn’t want to see lemurs in the wild?! However, it was with naivety that I embarked upon this adventure knowing very little about the country and its people, not to mention the extensive reef system – one of the largest in the world! All I knew was that I would be diving everyday (win), and would learn some science to help monitor the local reefs (win)… AND I would be there during whale season (WIN).

Humpbacks passing by. Photo by Sam Blyth

Humpbacks passing by. Photo by Sam Blyth

What I quickly learned was that Madagascar is not a country filled with primordial rainforest and troops of lemur bouncing around, but a country of varying climate and terrains. I drove through endless rice paddies and farmland reminiscent of my travels in South East Asia; vast rocky scapes that hold minerals and precious gems; the desert spiny forests full of the famous octopus tree; and finally, the turquoise, sparkling ocean. It was surprising and sad at times, knowing that much of this land, in fact, used to be primordial rainforest, but that’s perhaps, a discussion for another time.

Farmland in central Madagascar

Farmland in central Madagascar

Rocky scapes

Rocky scapes

Turquoise waters of Salary

Turquoise waters of Salary

I arrived in Andava with my fellow volunteers right on sunset, having travelled four days overland. We were a little disheveled yet full of excitement from our first experiences in Madagascar, which involved descending from the central plateau by hazard lights as our headlights didn’t work; a crazy Chinese hotel where we struggled to find our rooms in the labyrinth of corridors; lemur, chameleon and scorpion sightings; a flat tyre; hiking desert canyons; swimming in freezing pools in small oasis’; our first taste of Malagasy rum and dancing; incredibly rough ‘paved’ and unpaved roads; and more lemurs!

Hiking the canyons of Isalo

Hiking the desert canyons of Isalo

But finally, we were standing on the beach and gazing at the sun as it dipped into the ocean for our first (of many) Andava sunset. I rarely missed a sunset after that, as my thousands of photos suggest. This would become one of my favourite parts of the day.

First sunset in Andavadoake

First sunset in Andavadoake

In my next post, I will delve into my time as a volunteer diver in the village of Andavadoake…

I won a competition!

Woohoo! Just thought I’d share this great news. I don’t win things very often, usually because I don’t enter, but this time I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring and now I’m the proud owner of a copy of Aaron Wong’s new photobook, “The Blue Within”. I din’t win the big prize of a free trip on board one of the Siren fleet boats, but my photo took out the month of May competition. I’m pretty chuffed 🙂

49842005

Back in May this year, my partner and I went on a live-aboard dive trip in Indonesia on board the SY Indo Siren. On board I saw that they were accepting photographs for a competition. I only have a GoPro, which I’ll admit doesn’t generally take award winning photographs. I’ll also admit that I am a complete hack when it comes to any sort of photography. I know the photos I like and dislike, but otherwise words like “composition”, “F-stop”, “aperture” and “focal length” are pretty lost on me.

But, I liked this photo. So I submitted it and apparently the lovely folks at Worldwide Dive and Sail also liked it. Thanks guys!

Lea Tonga (The language of Tonga)

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In 2010/11 I was lucky enough to take part in an Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development volunteer program in Tonga. I had a wonderful time there and met an amazing variety of people. Whilst on assignment I decided to take Tongan language lessons. Learning this Polynesian language taught me far more about the English language than I’d ever learnt in school (let’s brush aside the fact that I scored less than 50% in HSC English…). But what I really loved about learning Tongan (aside from using the prefix “faka” in just about every sentence), was that the language provided a whole new insight into the Tongan culture.

Atenisi Institute, where I learned lea Tonga.

‘Atenisi Institute, where I learned lea Tonga.

I am certainly no expert in the Tongan language, so if there are any native speakers out there, I’d love for you to jump in here and correct me on any mistakes I might make.

At first glance, Tongan is a relatively simple language, comprising of only 16 letters and being phonetic. i.e. the words sound exactly how they’re spelled. This simplicity, however, leads to a beautifully complex language where words are often made up from smaller components.

For example, “Malo e lelei” the Tongan greeting, would be the equivalent of “Hello” in English. The actual break down of “Malo e lelei” would be “Thank you for being well”. The prefix “faka” has no English translation, but the closest would be “like”. For example, a meeting or gathering is “fakataha” – “like one” – many people coming together to be one. One of my favourites “fakasuva” – “like a Fijian” meant lazy (there is a deep running rivalry between Tonga and Fiji, thankfully, mostly in jest).

Fakasuva? or just making the most of the fact that you caught this ferry at 4 am and you're onboard for the next nine hours ...

Fakasuva? or just making the most of the fact that you caught this ferry at 4 am and you’re onboard for the next nine hours …

One of the most intriguing insights into Tongan culture for me though was that almost all words referring to time were derived from English words. Anyone who has travelled to an island nation is most likely aware of “island time”. It is often misused as an excuse for something being late. It means that something will happen when it happens. Personally, I love the concept, but it’s difficult to implement in a western society where time is so important us.

But back to the Tongan language. “Time” translates to “Taimi”. The days of the week are:

Monday – Monite
Tuesday – Tusite
Wednesday – Pulelulu
Thursday – Tu’apulelulu – “at the back of Wednesday”
Friday – Falaite
Saturday – Tokonaki – I think this meant gathering food for the Sunday feast?
Sunday – Sapate – “Sabbath”

The months of the year are:

January – Sanuali (There is no “j” in the Tongan alphabet, it’s usually replased with an “s”)
February – Fepueli
March – Ma’asi
April – Epeleli
May – Me
June – Sune
July – Siulai
August – ‘Aokosi
September – Sepitema
October – Okatopa
November – Novema
December – Tisema

I find this interesting because, to me, it seems to indicate that in Tonga, there wasn’t much of a concept of marking the passage of time until Europeans arrived. Even nowadays, time almost feels like something that has been imposed on Tonga by the encroaching influence of the western world. Ferry schedules and flight schedules are common place these days of course, but try calling a 10 am meeting. People will begin to trickle in around 10:23 and continue to arrive up until well, basically whenever they arrive.

The villagers of Ta'unga are called to a meeting at... whenever the Chief calls a meeting

The villagers of Ta’unga are called to a meeting at… whenever the Chief calls a meeting

It was something that I found challenging when I first arrived in Tonga, but as time passed by, I embraced it and I grew to love it. Now I really miss it. Some people may think that it’s “fakasuva”. I think that it’s actually a lovely way to live life. To just relax about time and let things happen when they happen.

My supervisor in Tonga. Possibly waiting for a meeting...

My supervisor in Tonga. Possibly waiting for a meeting…

 

 

I’m Indo It!

The SY Indo Siren

I’ve just returned from an excellent diving holiday around Raja Ampat in Indonesia on board the SY Indo Siren. The Indo Siren is a beautiful wooden boat. Her creaking timbers and gentle rolling were pretty effective as a sedative after three or four dives and a Bintang or two.

The holiday actually began in Perth, meeting up with my partner who was staying with her friends there. We had a lovely time coffee tasting (the wine tasting had been taken care of by my partner and friends the previous day), dining and learning to play 500. We also met up with one of my friends who took us to Freemantle for lunch.

From Perth we flew to Denpasar. We spent the morning doing the obligatory bargaining and shopping in Kuta. The highlight for me, was finding a lady with a tiny store down one of the many back streets selling fresh fruit. We were introduced to Salac or snake skin fruit. The skin is very much like snake skin, but once peeled away, the fruit resembles garlic. The taste is hard to describe, but dry and sweet. not like garlic at all.

I must admit, Kuta was not my cup of tea, and I don’t think that it’s a good representation of Bali. But more about Bali later.

Indonesia Map

Click to zoom

In the evening we met up with the rest of the dive group, including my sister, who we were to spend the next 14 days. The following morning we all departed Denpasar and flew to Makassar, the main city on Sulawesi where we spent the night. Unfortunately, we didn’t get much of a chance to look around Makassar or Sulawesi, and again, I don’t think that our hotel was much of an indication of the rest of the city.

From Makassar we flew to Sorong, on Western Papua, where we finally met our tour director, Jan (that’s the Dutch name, pronounced Yaan).

We boarded the SY  Indo Siren at the harbour and set sail (or motored, if you want the boring true story) that evening for Waigeo where we started our diving.

Click to zoom

Click to zoom

We spent the next ten days cruising around the islands of Raja Ampat, diving three or four times each day. From Waigeo we sailed (motored) south to Misool, then rounded the cape at Koon, down to Banda and then north west to Ambon. The water was a balmy 28 degrees and that spectacular clear blue colour. We did a lot of wall diving and current diving and even a couple of exploratory dives. The diving stand outs for me were seeing the pygmy seahorses and the ghost pipefish, an animal that I’ve been trying to find for over a decade! We also did one dive at Batu Kapal, or Ship Rock, where the visability must have been approaching 50 m!

Most of the reefs were carpeted in very healthy coral and sponge communities, and there were massive schools of red-tooth trigger fish fluttering above the many of the dive sites. We often caught sight of schools of jacks and trevally harassing schools of baitfish and the odd dog-tooth tuna or rainbow runner or barracuda coming in for a look. It is too difficult to describe all of the diving we did here and photos never do it justice, but I’ve tried to give a glimpse in the photos at the end.

Kayak race

Kayak race

Above the water, we made landfall in Arborek village, in Waigeo, where we went for a walk through the village and along the shoreline. In Misool, we went for a ride in the dinghy through the spectacular islands of Farondi and swam in a beautiful lagoon surrounded by steep jungled peaks. We did a historic tour in Banda where we saw the old Dutch forts and a nutmeg farm where we were treated to breakfast made from the fresh farm produce. In Nusa Laut, we delayed the diving program for a canoe race with the local children from Akoon village. Rich (one of characters in our dive group) and I managed to almost capsize our kayak, which happened to belong to the village chief and had his keys and cigarettes in it! but we bailed out just in time to stop the kayak from overturning. Phew!

crew

The Crew

We finished up our diving trip in Ambon, where we said our farewells to the crew, who had shown us an excellent time.

A special thanks to our dinghy driver, Fendi and our chef, Ishmael, who put in the extra effort to get to know us a bit more. You guys made our trip that much more memorable. A big thanks to all of the crew for keeping the boat running, the dive deck functioning and the beautiful warm towels and refreshing drinks after the dives! I’d also like to thank Bill and Julia of Dive Jervis Bay for keeping the trip running smoothly and getting the whole group through the many airport transfers. You guys made it look easy!

At the conclusion of our diving trip, my partner and I decided to spend a couple of days on the north coast of Bali in a beautiful little fishing village called Tejukula. The three hour drive to the north took us through Ubud. The stone carvings and wood works of Ubud soon gave way to rice padis and thick groves of tropical jungle as the road began to wind up into the mountains. At the top of the range, we took a break to admire Bali’s highest peak, Kintamani. Then it was all down hill (literally speaking, not figuratively) to the black sand coast line of Bali’s north shore.

We stayed at Cili Emas, a nice secluded retreat right on the beach. Cili Emas was a beautiful relaxed resort, with only six villas. The German owners, Nicole and Yohan, made us feel very welcome and the staff were lovely. We especially enjoyed having a chat with Komung who made us feel right at home.

Local market

Kuday showing us how to prepare banana flower at the Singaraja markets

We took a day tour around the local area with our driver, Kuday, who gave us a much better insight into Balinese culture, than what Kuta gave us. We visited several temples and drove up into the mountains to Gitgit waterfall. We explored the local market in Singaraja and the botanic gardens in Bedugul. We visited the Banjar hot springs and the twin lakes. My favourite parts of the tour were the local markets and also stopping for coffee at Kubu Kopi plantation on the narrow mountain road where we tried some spiced coffee and cacao coffee with local treats.

On our last day in Bali we had planned to hire scooters and explore the local area.  But unfortunately, my partner succumbed to a bout of Bali belly. Not wanting to slow the team down though, my partner instructed me to get out and about and report back on what the area had to offer. So off I went on my scooter.

I decided to head up to a nearby waterfall. I rode my scooter as far up the path to the fall as I dared and then walked the last couple of kilometres up the narrow windy dirt track. Several times I had to jump into the bush to let the local kids past on their scooters! The walk up to the waterfall was beautiful, but I was a little saddened to be walking along a path with a flowing aqueduct on my left and a bone dry creek bed to my right. At the fall, the natural flow of water had been completely diverted into the aqueduct. Despite this the waterfall was beautiful and the water was very refreshing after walking through the 30 degree heat.

Pande

Pande and friends

After checking in on my partner I decided to head in the opposite direction. I took a small road leading up into the mountains. By this stage my faithful steed was in need of a drink, so I pulled into a local store selling petrol in vodka bottles. The store owner’s son, Pande, was sitting outside with some friends playing a guitar. I pointed to the guitar and asked what they were playing. In response I was given a big smile and asked “you play”? I ended up sitting and playing a few songs with them. Though our spoken conversation wasn’t very successful (despite their decent English speaking ability and my terrible Indonesian) it was one of the most memorable events of the trip. The international language of music and a good laugh is just as good as any spoken communication in my book.

After leaving Pande and his friends to their guitaring I continued along the mountain road. It was a very scenic drive, winding along the narrow road surrounded by lush jungle and steep terrain. Riding through several small villages was fun, smiling and waving at the kids, dodging chickens and trucks and being chased by dogs. After climbing the mountain for about half an hour, I still wasn’t even close to the top, so I decided to head back down.

That afternoon, it was time for us to leave Cili Emas. We wound our way back up the mountain pass and down through Ubud and back into the hustle and bustle of Denpasar.

We had a fantastic few weeks in Indonesia. I feel like we’ve only just scratched the surface of this little corner of the world. I can’t wait to head back to see what else there is to discover.

Diving Photos

Batu Kapal

50 m Viz!

Morey eel

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Huge seawhips

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Lots of fish

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Under Arborek Jetty

Exploratory

Exploratory dive at Madorang