o the wonders of optimal behavior! why are we always having to turn over new leaves? when you’re a teacher you get two opportunities for new year’s resolutions. luckily, my life tends to be in a state of permanent shamblery—apparently no matter where i am in the world—that my second round of resolutions gets a greater scope than mere teacher-world and tends to include world-world, brain-world, people-world, and being-a-tidy-non-slob-world.
this year’s spotlight shines its coruscating light on the ineffable and glorious mr. bradbury. i am your sedulous champion, bound not by sky nor stars!
“i don’t believe in optimism. i believe in optimal behavior. if you behave every day of your life at the top of your genetics, what can you do? test it. find out…you must live life at the top of your voice.”
and now for something completely different: holiday tales in two parts.
preface: all photos by the beautiful nisha and the monstrous travatops.
part 1: the vessels of dreams and terrors
for the first part of our summer vacation, noel, nisha, travis, and i visited the orang hutans in kumai, southern central kalimantan (borneo). we took a lovely houseboat up a river in tanjung puting national park for four days and three nights, organized by yours truly on the recommendations of diana, scott, and betsy. our guide picked us up from the pangkalan bun airport and drove us to the docks, where we met our captain and crew. the vessel was a tiny klotok, a motorized, brightly-colored wooden boat with a toilet and shower as well as a kitchen below deck. we boarded and set off toward the park, located across a large bay from kumai, pretty stoked about our awesomely badass situation.
even though it was a school holiday, there were only a few boats on the river; the park wasn’t crowded at all, save for the gigantic, hairy, rusty-red and very friendly forest people. we spent the days on the shortest and easiest hikes imaginable to orang hutan feeding sites, watching them scarf down bananas with near-unbelievable alacrity, and relaxing on the boat watching monkeys congregate in the tree branches. we read a lot, played cards (including pre-1987 trivial pursuit), listened to music, chatted with the crew, drank delicious coffee, and ate fantastic food prepared especially for us by the crew (lots of fresh fish!). blackly dark nights were spent staring at the stars and meteorites, beauties rarely visible in the perpetually glaring land of fluorescent street lamps (aka any town or village in indonesia). we had a lovely few days of relaxing quiet, ending our lazy adventures sleeping soundly on the deck of the klotok, tucked away in mosquito nets and wrapped in sarongs against the chill.
we had managed to get a flight out of the city we few into, pangkalan bun, for two days after our riverboat tour ended. we quickly discovered that there wasn’t much to see in town, so nisha and i had a greatly romantic and ingenious idea that would give us a nice, relaxing transit back to java for our next flight to sulawesi and that would save us a decent amount of money on plane tickets: take a passenger ferry from kalimantan back to java.
after a few hours of figuring out how to exchange tickets and book our sea voyage, we ended up with about fifty-five bucks each in our pockets and ferry tickets to java in our hot little hands. we decided that even though the twenty-six hour ferry ride didn’t take us directly to surabaya in east java—from whence our flight would take us to the next destination on our vacation—we could land in semarang, central java and take a bus to surabaya. easy and lovely, we thought, after our four days on a riverboat: another day on a boat, sailing the wide open sea, enjoying each others’ company and only spending about fifteen dollars.
without going into too much depth, the trip was terrible. nisha and i should have done a better job anticipating that this form of public transportation is the same as all other forms of public transportation in indonesia: crowded, smoky, not the cleanest or most comfortable (and, for us, full of gawks and stares). we didn’t have chairs—or air conditioning, or a fan, or an open window—we were economy class, lowest deck. abysmal!* moreover, noel fell asleep before she could give us her dramamine, though really we were afraid to sleep for fear of being burgled. here’s a picture of our platform. those cheery ladies are smiling only because they hadn’t yet been on board for two minutes, mind.
luckily, we arrived two hours earlier than we expected. if we had been a couple hours late, we would have risked missing our flight out of surabaya. thankfully, this didn’t happen. after enjoying the sail into the harbor, we…dismounted? de-boarded?…and hopped an angkota to the bus terminal. luckily or unluckily, we found an expensive, cushy, AC bus in which to tromp our way to surabaya. we made it across the java sea and almost half of the northern coast in about thirty-two hours or so, without really sleeping. granted, we saved fifty-five dollars that ended up being used well during the rest of our trip, but i’d like to take this opportunity to tell you that the flight from pangkalan bun to surabaya is about forty-five minutes. with seats. and snack-boxes. all we got on the boat was some free gray rice with an egg covered in what we could only surmise to be mucus. great.
after our voyage of stupidity and short-temperance, we were in stellar moods and we smelled great, not to mention how we looked (at least we didn’t have vomit stains). if i could describe the voyage in three words, the words would be…malodorous, moist, pitiable. but it makes for a good story. right?
part 2: forty-eight bookless hours, or: how we decided to move to australia
never fear, your weary travelers are about to be greatly rewarded! everything about our trip to bunaken island in north sulawesi was perfect. traveling was easy, our hostel served great food, the snorkeling was amazing, and we met a bunch of neat and friendly folks. plus, we tanned! and slept in! and didn’t have to be on a passenger ferry!
the pictures really speak for themselves. the island was quiet and not very busy, and our hostel was filled with interesting people from europe and australia, traveling in bunaken for scuba diving. one of the most famous places for snorkeling and scuba diving in the world, the island itself is small and beautiful, situated next to another small island that’s really just a giant volcano floating all on its lonesome in the ocean.
our hostel, panorama, is owned by a manado lady and her german husband, sven. he’s the diving instructor. sven! believe it? he even had blonde hair and a tan. they were a great couple. he was sweet and endearingly more excited about small fish than the average man, and she was sassy and fluent in lots and lots of languages (though i especially liked hearing her speak bahasa manado and bahasa indonesia with her staff—their accents made them sound like they were speaking spanish or italian, a remnant from their portuguese colonizers). other guests included two very funny and sweet australian guys traveling with their german buddy, a couple of austrians, some swiss guys (one of whom has been traveling since 2009!), and a few other european-types. of course, our language skills also helped us make friends with the local staff and dive instructors.
during our stay at panorama, the weather was perfect and we snorkeled everyday. we’d go out on the boat to different sites and would snorkel while the scuba divers dove below. the snorkeling was by far the most amazing part of the entire vacation. i was the only person of the four of us who hadn’t snorkeled before and i sure went to the right place to do it. at the risk of sounding cliché, it was like being in a giant aquarium. the corals and fishes were just as colorful and bright, the water just as blue. i’d never seen such blue water…or so much of it. the reefs would end at the drop off; we couldn’t see anything but pure blue emptiness where the reefs ended and ocean began. it was fairly terrifying, but not so much so that we didn’t snorkel multiple times a day. there were so many fish. i wish we had had an underwater camera; maybe we’ll get some pictures from our australian friends who had one, then i can post them here. until then, here are some pictures of other things. enjoy!
*thank you, travis, for not killing me or nisha.