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September 29, 2005


LOCATION: Yogyakarta, Java

We're in Yogyarkarta a little under half way across the island of Java. In fact you can find out exactly where we are on the new link at the top of the page here. Thanks to Gilles and the Escampette team for putting us onto this handy tool!


April got sick with 'flu-like symptoms' a couple of days back in the town of Ponorogo. A bit of a worry, seeing as the symptoms are similar to many dreadful diseases to be contracted here including malaria, dengue fever and the more recently highlighted avian flu virus that has killed several in past weeks here on Java. But she's on the mend now so it looks like a regular flu virus that she picked up in Malang. Fingers crossed.


The next few days will take us west through more lush green rice paddies on towards the town of Cilacap on the southern coast. Here we intend donning detective caps and going in search of our good friend Mick 'egg beater' Bird's set of oars that were confiscated along with his ocean rowboat by the local marine authorities when Mick landed there back in 2001. An unfortunate end to a courageous attempt to row entirely around the world. His nightmare run in with Indonesian officialdom and subsequent loss of EVERYTHING was one of the main prompts for us to get our paperwork entirely in order for getting the kayaks into Indonesia for this current leg.


Rather than ramble on about it I thought a few more images would best describe the last few days biking through the agricultural region of east Java.






Posted at 12:26 PM | Comments (1)

September 23, 2005

Lack of Mention of Disaster Victims

I need to air some thoughts as regards to what topics and issues, at local and global levels, are intended to be covered by this blog. This follows some fairly harsh criticism from a close friend about the lack of reference (in this blog) to the recent devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina in the southern USA. There may be other regular American visitors who have taken note of the lack of mention and are also (quietly) offended.

First off I very much regret if anyone has jumped to the conclusion that either myself or anyone else associated with this blog feels a lack of empathy for those affected in the Gulf Coast region at this time. We had similar criticism following both the tsunami disaster in Sumatra and 9/11 back in 2001. But just because disasters, whereever they may occur in the world, aren't addressed and at least given line space to, it doesn't mean feelings and sympathies are lacking. I didn't make mention of the recent London bombings and loss of life in my own country either, but not because I didn't care.

In the same time period that over 1,000 people lost their lives to Hurricane Katrina, a child died every three seconds somewhere in the world from hunger or a preventable disease. That's 1,200 per hour! We didn't mention them either. My point?

There are lots of causes the expedition could take up or merely mention/highlight (like humanitarian ones), but the reality is that 11-years ago Steve and I felt addressing education and inspiring young people around the world to live their dreams and become better informed citizens of the world via cultural exchange programs to best reflect our ideology and in turn be the best use of our energies. I realise these idealistic attempts at bringing people together might seem totally inept and pathetic when people are dying in water-filled basements in New Orleans and thousands of families are displaced in Gulf Coast area, but it's a focus we chose all those years ago and one I intend sticking to until the end of the trip and hopefully thereafter.

While this blog does also reflect unrelated (to the expedition) personal thoughts and emotions of team members participating in each leg, it is primarily designed to reflect the very local experiences we have interacting with the people and environment in the particular part of the world we find ourselves in. I could have made mention of Hurricane Katrina, but the truth is we didn't learn about the disaster until nearly a week afterwards (not having internet access in the field) and at that time (on the island of Trawangan, Lombok) we were totally wrapped up in our own life and death experience of crossing Selat Lombok to Bali (and I'm not exaggerating here). And even if we did hear about it sooner we might have chosen to instead highlight the more local issue of reef-bombing around Lombok, being something we'd experienced at first hand and therefore found ourselves to be better qualified and informed about to in turn publish to this blog.

So apologies again for any offence caused. I know my reticence at times on certain 'big issues' will inevitably be taken as being heartless and cold (I've been hauled up for this before) but X360 will never be all things that all people interpret it 'should be'. All we can do in life is our own little bit and for me I feel the need to focus my rather paltry contributions in very specific directions to avoid running around in circles after a hundred different causes and getting nowhere. Again, just because something isn't said or written doesn't mean it isn't felt.


Posted at 10:37 AM | Comments (3)

September 22, 2005

Roach Motels

DAY: 101
LOCATION: Malang, E. Java

I've just walked into an internet cafe, downtown Malang, in a downpour. I haven't seen rain since the 7th of July, but, here in the volcanic foothills of east Java, I guess rain should be expected. My first impressions of Java are quite spectacular after biking through lush, rainforested hills full of coffee plantations. And, believe me, these roads go quite aways UP! They don't call these 'push bikes' for nothing and you wouldn't believe how many people cheer you on as you ride/walk by, huffing and puffing your way to the top of these steep grades. The drivers, whether truck or motorbike, blast you with their air horns in great excitement, hollering questions and greetings as they steam by! "Hello, Missy, where you go? Where you from..." trailing off as their vehicles round the next bend.


What an engineering feat to put these roads in place and maintain them in the midst of all of this traffic. Huge bridges spanning rushing rivers far below and workers repairing sections of asphalt seem to be the order of the day. Transport trucks hauling vegetables, livestock, and bamboo poles, crowded buses, push bikes loaded with baskets of chickens, children, etc., all use these roads at the same time and in all directions! These drivers seem to have the patience of Job, constantly giving way and literally missing each other by inches.

The second day out from Banyuwangi, we found ourselves by the side of the road watching the East Java 'Tour de Java', Chris called it. A tightly packed group of international bike racers came flogging by escorted by bemos, motorbikes and support vehicles. Quite an exciting event for the local villagers, as well, as they all crowded the narrow shoulder of the road for a better look. After the racers passed, I continued on down the road, riding through the locals who were flagging the race. They began waving the flags as if I was one of the racers, then laughing hilariously! I'm sure I've been on the receiving end of many Indonesian jokes, which is a credit to their easygoing sense of humor.


The hotel last evening provided us with another interesting look. It was the only hotel in town and quite welcome after the hard earned miles of the day. However, our room was already occupied with a few unexpected guests. Mozzies buzzed the dingy light in a cloud overhead. But, the giant cockroaches took the prize as the most startling residents! A herd of them ran out from the mandi to greet us, swarming the bikes, racing over the rucksacks, and having climbing races up and down the walls. I'm sure they were competing for our attention. We even had to dislodge one who had taken up residence under Jason's bike seat! It was good to be back on the road this morning.

From Malang, we may make our way toward Agung Bromo, one of Indonesia's most spectacular sites according to the guidebook. It would be exciting to see an active volcano for the first time. In this nation of contrasts, I'm continually amazed by what I've seen and the people I've come in contact with.


The rain has quit, the sun is out, so, if logistics come together, we'll head out to find a volcano!


Posted at 10:10 AM | Comments (2)

September 20, 2005

A Shaky Start - Biking Eastern Java

DAY: 99
LOCATION: Jember, Java

All OK. In the town of Jember, 100kms from Banyuwangi where we left from yesterday morning. Crazy traffic south along the coast road to Rogojambe where we lost Chris for the remainder of the day (he took a wrong turn and ended up taking a longer route to Jember). Basically every motorized and non-motorized vehicle, biped, quadraped, moped, dog, cat, chicken, rat, cyclist all jostling for space on the same minute stretch of asphalt that would classify as a rural 'B' road back home. Scary to begin with, as the driver of these huge trucks spend as much time in the opposing lane overtaking as in the one they should be in. But after awhile you realize they're used to driving on these kinds of roads where missing everything by a matter of inches is considered normal, and perhaps their tolerance for cutting it as fine as they do is higher than the average Westerner would be able to handle driving on the same road.


Roadrage is non-existant here. Whereas in somewhere like Alabama we'd have been sworn off the road by numerous truck/pickup truck drivers using a plethora of obscenities and beer cans, we've had nothing but smiles, waves and the habitual 'Hello Meester' aimed at us from passing truck windows. And no anti-western sentiment from Muslims so far AT ALL! In fact quite the opposite. They really seem to love cyclists here and we're all quite hoarse from returning salutations.

Today we climbed around the volcano Raung which took a few hours of cranking in low gears (and walking!) up to 1,500 feet above sea level, affording us much-needed cooler air and spectacular views of the surrounding coffee and rubber plantations. This is Java as I hoped it would be; lush rainforest and vegetation in abundance - a welcome balance to the congested roads and polluted towns like the one we're in now. April is doing better today after a bout of heat exhaustion early yesterday morning. But her damaged knee from a ripped ACL 2-years ago is now starting to play up. We intend taking it easy these first few days to avoid over-stressing her knee and for all of us to build the cardio-vascular fitness we didn't seem to get from kayaking.


Posted at 6:22 AM | Comments (2)

September 17, 2005

Bike Preparations

DAY: 96
LOCATION: Jimbaran, Bali

The last couple of days has been spent getting things organised for the bike trip across Java. After arriving in Banyuwangi (east Java) late morning on Tuesday we rented a car to drive back to south Bali where we are now. As well as getting the kayaks back to a central location where they can be shipped on to western Java in a few weeks, the road trip also allowed us a glimpse of how Indonesians drive. Interesting. Let's just say that in the next 24 hours before we start biking I think we all need to develop a healthy faith in God or some form of higher power as this will be our only hope in getting to our destination in one piece!

We now have brand spanking new Indonesian bicycles bought in Denpasar. April and I sprang for a 'WIM' cycle that put us back 700,000 Rupiah each (that's about $50 USD). We would have gone for a slightly up-market model but we couldn't refuse the sqeaky cat that was thrown in for free....

Actually it's incredible value for what all you get. The same bicycle back in Europe or the US would run ten times that amount and still come from the same factory in Indonesia. Someone down the line is making a lot of money.

Posted at 12:01 PM | Comments (1)

September 12, 2005

Kayak Reflections

DAY: 92
LOCATION: Bali - Northwest Tip
LATITUDE : S 08 degs, 05.60'
LONGITUDE: E 114 degs,26 .88'

This evening we're sitting on a deserted beach at the top of Selat Bali, gateway to Java. We decided to have one final night camping before crossing the selat tomorrow morning and making our way down the coast to Banyuwangi. That will be the jumping off place for the bike trip across Java.

It's amazing to actually have a deserted beach here on Bali. Since arriving in Amed a week ago, it has been wall-to-wall people and towns along the coast. But, this particular section of the island seems vacant and what a fitting way to end our kayak portion of the trip across the archipelago. (The kayaks will be used to cross from Java to Sumatra, then across the Melaka Strait to Singapore, but the major part of the kayak leg is behind us.)

We've seen this part of Indonesia as few have, I would guess. Travel by kayak over this distance from Timor to Java is the perfect interface between sea and land in this nation of islands and has afforded us an uncommon look at this most incredible country. The unhurried pace, a chance to connect with the local people on each island, visiting schools and getting a glimpse from the students of what is important to them in their everyday lives have created a kaleidoscope of images I'll not soon forget. From white sand beaches to the tops of towering volcanoes, I've often imagined how little this place has changed since first visited by the Portuguese in the early 1500s. It gives me a healthy respect for those early explorers sailing these uncharted waters as we've had navigational aids to work our way through the chain of reef systems and selat crossings.

I'll come away from here with a different perspective of how hard people have to work to feed their families each day. Meeting the basic needs is not always a 'given' here. Their way of life shows devotion to their children and the importance of friendship and communities.

As another firey sunset closes out this day, I can say this has been one of the most rewarding sections of the expedition that I've traveled. Crossing Java, by bike, will be an experience and I'm looking forward to that. But, I will miss 'Queenie' and sitting six inches above these waters which has given me a truly unique experience in human power.


Posted at 3:16 PM | Comments (3)

September 10, 2005

Bali Paradise Lost?

DAY: 90
LOCATION: Bali - North Coast
LATITUDE : S 08 degs, 10.96'
LONGITUDE: E 114 degs, 57.03'

The last couple of day have been slow, sloggy days against a 0.75-1 knot tide. That plus the north coast of Bali turning out to be absolutely jammed end to end with people has made for rather a disappointing start to our last week paddling before the bike section across Java commences next week. I'm not sure what I expected. Small, qaint villages sprinkled along the coast, rather like our first Balinese port of Ahmed that was such a delight, perhaps. Instead the coast has been non-stop village after village after tourist complex after village. Yesterday we ended up paddling for 10-hours straight just to find a 50ft stretch of unoccupied sand we could camp on.

This was slightly precipitated also by being questioned extensively by the police the night before. Every night we stay in Indonesia we theortically have to register with the local police station. For most tourists this isn't an issue as their hotel registration forms are copied and picked up every evening by the local police. We obviously don't fit into the typical mould and we've been really lucky to get this far with as little hassle as we've had (on just one other occasion April and I had to produce documentation outside the village of 'Pota' on the island of Flores). Our situation at present is also complicated by our passports being at the immigration office in Denpasar getting visa renewal stamps (we'll pick them up when we return there Tuesday/Wednesday to drop off the kayaks and pick up bikes). Luckily I had one photocopy of mine which seemed to satisfy them for all of us. But now we're out of copies so tonight we're camped in a hide-out between bushes on a relatively quiet beach hoping to avoid detection again.

It has been great to reunite with Chris though who is sporting a rather dapper hat with a vast brim that doubles as a spinaker sail when the wind is from astern.

Posted at 1:17 PM | Comments (1)

September 8, 2005

Harmony of Amed

DAY: 88
LOCATION: Bali - North Coast
LATITUDE : S 08 degs, 10.55'
LONGITUDE: E 115 degs, 27.91'

We left Amed this morning and I shall miss it. I'd been enjoying a couple of days off in the small village on the Bali coast where we landed after the selat crossing. We'd met up with Chris, who has rejoining us. So, Jason and Chris traveled to Denpasar to complete the visa renewals and I stayed to restock supplies before our trip around Bali.

This quiet village sits on the lower slopes of Gunung Agung and is quite unique compared to other fishing villages we've visited. Balinese culture is reflected in the simplest designs (masonry work adorning the door and windows of the bungalows) to the more sophisticated gateways to the temples dotting the countryside. Even the manicured yards of each bungalow is a botanical garden all its own!

To get a better look at the local countryside, we took a quick ride up the road leading to the hills above Amed. Terraced rice paddies covering the steep volcanic slopes, waterfalls tucked under lush vegetation, thatched roof houses surrounded by bamboo fences create a harmonious picture with the natural beauty of the land. Below us, ornate Balinese shrines depict the Hindu influence of the area and these also add to the feng shui of the place.

Upon returning, we stopped to get a better look at the design of the boats used by local fishermen. This simple canoe supports two outriggers on either side. A lateen, or triangular, sail makes these small boats quite maneuverable even in fairly turbulent water. But, the vibrant colors of these boats is what catches your eye. An array of paint schemes and designs (some with the faces of a fish on one end, Balinese designs on the other) reflect great pride by the owner. The sails offer splashes of color, blues, browns, green in symmetrical patterns, and are visable from a distance when the boats line the horizon at sunset.

This area is an example of feng shui on a grand scale. The harmony created by people in sync with the beauty of their surroundings offers a peaceful lull before we begin this last kayak section around Bali.


Posted at 12:54 PM

September 5, 2005

The Crossing

DAY: 83
LOCATION: Ahmed - Bali
LATITUDE : S 08 degs, 20.26'
LONGITUDE: E 115 degs, 39.50'

We left the south shore of Gili Trawangan at 4:20 a.m. to begin the crossing of Selat Lombok toward Bali. The day before, we had climbed the highest point of the island to look west across the selat thinking it might be a bit less intimidating if we could get a look at what we would be facing. Gunung Agung, the largest volcano on Bali, appeared in the hazy distance. Its eastern edge was to be our destination point, but to get there, we had roughly 25 miles of water that could potentially throw us a curve ball. Jason had gone over the Admiralty chart of the crossing with me, explaining the best and worst case scenario of what we might encounter. He'd studied this crossing extensively as this one was the biggest selat so far and it was alot of water where things could really 'go south' in a hurry. He'd determined that the earlier we got started, the calmer the conditions with current and winds, which really kick up as the day goes on. These selats also have strong tides running south toward the Indian Ocean, which could potentially drag us into areas with whirlpools and ferocious currents.

We left in darkness, using celestial points for navigation, making our way to the north end of the island. As we were rounding the corner, thunderous surf was breaking off the northwest coast. A warning light to ships gave off an eerie glow in the spray made by the breakers. I began to wonder how close we were, but at that moment, a sense of the strong ocean swell beneath the kayak let us know we had left the protected waters of the island. In addition, the lights of a cargo ship were bearing down on us off our starboard bow! Would they notice the nav light we had placed on Queenie? Our little light seemed awfully small in comparison! Luckily, the ship did see us and began to bear away. Holy cow, I thought. All of this and it's still an hour til sunrise when we get to actually SEE what's coming at us!

It was daybreak when the first big wave hit the kayak, washing over the top. Welcome to Selat Lombok, I thought. And, as we continued our westward progress, it seemed as if we were crossing a giant headland, filled with big waves similar to what Jason and I faced on the Coral Sea. Our magnificent "Queenie" rolled with the punches of each passing swell. We were getting hammered and I did wonder if there might be one which would roll her over.

The coast of Bali began to take shape as the definition of landforms became more evident, and luckily, the anticipated southerly current to drag us in the wrong direction hadn't materialized...yet. Our course was staying true and after nearly five hours of full-on paddling, we had made about half of the crossing. Land has a funny way of giving a false sense of security in its closeness. At eight miles out, houses began to take shape and shorelines become clearer. I watched my reference points, hoping that we continued on true course and Jason took continual readings on the GPS to confirm that we were.

With six miles to go, we hit a countercurrent which seemed to halt our forward progress. This was especially difficult as the water had begun to settle down as we neared shore, but the paddling had become a grind. It's at this point when you call on tired arms and shoulders to keep on keeping on. Jason called out, "We're not out of the woods yet!" Then a container ship, that didn't see us, had creeped up astern of us (at 15+ knots they can do that in a hurry if you're not looking in the right direction!) and we stopped just in time to give way. That's when we noticed the two sharks who had come up to give us a look. These were the first I've ever seen and "Crikey! They were enormous!" So, with that adrenaline rush, we pushed on toward the shore!

Nine hours and 25 miles later, we made landing on Bali's eastern shore. We had crossed the Wallace Line, the division between those islands of the east which broke away from the Australian plate and the islands of the western section of the archipelago which belong to the Asian plate. The transition is evident in the flora and fauna here in comparison to what we've seen. Selat Lombok was also a symbolic transition, opening the door to the next half of the archipelago for the expedition. But for the moment, I'll simply enjoy having that crossing behind us and look forward to what is to come.

Posted at 6:31 AM | Comments (2)

September 4, 2005

Selat Lombok crossed OK

DAY: 82
LOCATION: Ahmed - Bali
LATITUDE : S 08 degs, 20.26'
LONGITUDE: E 115 degs, 39.50'

We made it. We're in Ahmed on the NE coast of Bali. Long xing - 8.5 hrs. Big seas, close call with freighter in the dark this morning at 05.45. 2 x visits from sharks later in the day. Very tired, but exuberant at making it to land! I've done a few crossings in the past 11-years with this expedition, but setting the old mince pies (eyes) on the terra firma this afternoon was one of the more uplifting and reassuring.

April will fill in the details tomorrow while I head off to Kuta for the second visa run.


Posted at 12:14 PM | Comments (1)

September 3, 2005

Eve of Selat Lombok Crossing

DAY: 81
LOCATION: Pulau Trawangan
LATITUDE : S 08 degs, 21.23'
LONGITUDE: E 116 degs, 02.57'

Today we climbed the hill on the island, as has become customary before negotiating any tricky water, to view Selat Lombok. It's always reassuring to see the land one is heading towards rather than just relying on the theory of GPS and paper charts. Far off in the distance to the west, rising above the afternoon haze, we could make out the conical outline of Mt. Agung, the highest volcano on Bali. That will be our visual reference tomorrow as we paddle due west for all our worth!

We tried to hire a support boat for the crossing but being a touristy island accustomed to tourist prices, the skippers all quoted us ludicrous sums of 4-5 million Rupiah ($4-500). Not that it's a had price for the life insurance policy it provides (in the event we get into trouble), but that would cut the remainder of the expedition budget to finish this leg to Singapore by half. Perhaps one day before it's finished this expedition will have proper backing so we don't have to cut it as fine as I think we will be tomorrow...

Tonight I have the same feeling as I do before a major ocean crossing in Moksha. That of being quite apprehensive, not least because I am making critical decisions about someone else's life as well as my own. Also, when about to step into the abyss of not REALLY knowing how the immediate future will play out and our chances of walking away intact, I find myself quite reflective and more aware of my physical surroundings than normal: the birdsong this evening is amplified; the colours of the sunset more enhanced. All the subtle reminders of how fragile and transient human existence is resonate with increased intensity when faced with having it (what I know I take for granted on a daily basis) potentially taken away.

Adrenaline will be our friend and companion when we launch 'Queenie' at 4.30 am tomorrow morning and start our dash westwards. It will be a good feeling, that of being pretty much on the edge, of living in the eye of the moment. That's the buzz associated with steering one's life into the grey area between certainty and the unknown. But there's also a feeling that I haven't had before - that of a slight reality check. In little over a week I will be 38-years old and although I am grateful to still be under youthfull illusion of being indestructible and living forever (I doubt I'd still be doing this expedition if I didn't), there's a small part of me that is increasingly aware of the finite limits of the human body, mind and spirit, especially when taking on great odds like we will be tomorrow. It must be middle age creeping up on me and the realisation that Peter Pan has to retire from this tomfoolery some day, ideally before the law of averages catches up with him!

We're both hoping very much to be writing to the blog tomorrow afternoon saying that we're safe and sound and have Balinese turf under our toes.

Posted at 2:04 PM

September 2, 2005

Resting up before the Big One

DAY: 80
LOCATION: Pulau Trawangan
LATITUDE : S 08 degs, 21.23'
LONGITUDE: E 116 degs, 02.57'

Tonight we are beat. The last three days paddling against a 1-knot current across the northern shore of Lombok has taken it out of us. That plus the heat, the insects (which have been eating April alive in particular) and the struggle to get 'Queenie' up above the high water mark for each evening's camp has take a toll. Then yesterday evening I managed to take a 4-inch slice out of of my right hand climbing a palm tree to get a coconut, now rendering it only partially useful for paddling. (Actually, to be accurate, it wasn't a coconut I was trying to retrieve, it was the spear from my speargun that got snagged in the top of the palm tree I was trying to shoot a coconut out of. An embarrassing episode followed when the owner of the tree finally rolled up and I had to pay him 15,000 Rupiah to climb the tree and retrieve the spear!).

So we'll rest here on the island of Trawangan before the big 20-mile crossing of Selat Lombok Sunday. After sourcing local information from local fishing boat skippers we've come to the conclusion that we'll need every ounce of strength we have to beat the southerly current through the Selat and make good a due west heading to the NE edge of Bali. If we leave at low tide at 6am we'll have 6 hours of moderate southerly drift before the tide changes at noon and things really start to head south in a hurry. By this time we'll hopefully be nearing our destination. The main worry is the way the SE coast of Bali slopes off at a 45 degree angle to the SW. What this means is that for every mile we are swept south by the current, we have to paddle an extra mile over an above the minmum 20 to get to land. So with a 3-knot southerly current, against which we can counter perhaps only 1.5 knots with a compensatory heading to the starboard (right/north), we'd be taken around 11 miles south for a 7-hour crossing which would in turn mean a further 11-miles to paddle. What we don't want get into is a situation where we're sucked south down the Selat, and we only have an hour of daylight to paddle a further 10-miles or more to shore. And the further south we're taken towards Selat Badung, the more the likelihood of encountering whirlpools.

Sorry to get all technical on you here, but I'm just sharing what is taking centre stage in my head right now.

Posted at 1:40 PM | Comments (1)