Indonesia: Ayana Resort & Rock Bar

13 Sep

After a couple of days of sleeping on a boat mattress and manually flushing the toilet, James and I were ready for some luxury. So at the last minute we decided to stay at the five star Ayana Resort for our final night in Bali.
IMG_20160526_181401And it was heaven.

As soon as we got out of the taxi we were greeted with a frangipani garland (there were trees all over the grounds so everywhere you went it smelled amazing). We had a delicious welcome cocktail as we checked in, and our bags were waiting for us when we got to our room.

We were pretty tired from the flight so we decided to try out the aquataonic pool before we turned in for the night.

aquatonic_pool

image from Northstar Travel

According to Ayana’s website the aquatonic pool contains 700 million liters of water directly supplied from the nearby Indian Ocean and has 12 hydromassage stations containing over 60 individual therapeutic jet streams, micro-bubbles and geysers. So basically a fancy, massage-y hot tub.

In the pool we warmed up by walking/swimming down a lane with a strong current that pushed against us. Then we swam to different stations with jets aimed at different body parts – like one would deal with shoulders, then the next our middle back, then our lower back, etc.

I don’t know how busy it is normally but we went right before closing so there was only one other couple there and we could spend as long as we liked at each station (though they recommended 2 minutes). It was super relaxing and exactly what we needed after the plane ride.

The next day we embarked on a quest to try out every single pool at Ayana, because why not?

We woke up early and headed straight to the Ocean Pool because we’d heard it was really popular. It was overcast and raining, which was a bit of a bummer, but that meant we had the pool to ourselves, so hooray!
IMG_20160527_073431 (1)
We hung out here for ages just looking at the water. =)

The next pool we tried was the River Pool.
IMG_20160527_084216Pretty cool, huh? I was taking photos and one of the maintenance guys showed me this vantage spot and said it was the best for photos. He was right!

This was a weirdly shaped pool at the sister hotel, Rimba. It was still raining on and off so again we were the only ones there.
IMG_20160527_101618
That pool overlooked several other pools. The lower pool was pretty huge – it wrapped around to the right and had a bunch of cabanas around it.
pool2To the left of the bridge there was a hot tub nook and a bar. The hot tub was great but the pool water was freezing immediately after! James had a soak right before he swam over for a morning coffee.IMG_20160527_095630We explored a couple of other pools (all the other pools!) but those were our favourites. James tried to go down the kiddy waterslide but they wouldn’t let him. =(

By the time we hit the main pool at Ayana the sun was out and it was pretty busy. The upper pool had a gorgeous view of the ocean and the hotel grounds but was super packed. We took this photo at the lower pool which was completely empty, probably it was really deep and looked more like a lap pool. In the photo you can see a bunch of people lounging at the upper edge.
IMG_20160527_115423We also dropped by the hotel’s private beach which looked nice, but no beach can really compare after the Komodo Islands. We did see some monkeys though, which was pretty cool.

And one last visit to the Ocean Pool!

IMG_20160527_121157

Then it was time to check out and have lunch.
IMG_20160527_135622We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around and exploring.
IMG_20160527_153010Until Rock Bar opened. =D

It is built on a cliff face, looking out to the ocean. And insanely gorgeous!

The Rock Bar

image from Ayana

It’s accessed by a funicular which is also pretty cool. Right before the bar opened the staff used it to transport all the ingredients and ice (soooo many bags of ice).
IMG_20160527_080758Here we are inside it earlier in the day. I think this was after our second trip to the Ocean Pool, which is why we’re looking a bit damp. Though it was super humid, so who am I kidding – we were constantly looking a bit damp. =(
funicular2There was a long line for the funicular, unless you were a hotel guest in which case you had priority access. You could get there faster via some stairs, but I guess the trip down is half the fun!

This is the other half of Rock Bar taken from near the actual bar. Our waitress said that the fancy area across the bridge was for people staying at the villas (the super premium rooms).
IMG_20160527_155819She also said that all the good seats are reserved for hotel guests and visitors get the seats at the back, so I’m glad we didn’t go at the start of our trip when we were at a different hotel.

Look at the crazy waves!
IMG_20160527_162608Some of the tables closer to the water couldn’t be used because they were soaked. I got sprayed several times trying to time the waves for a photo, which wasn’t terrible considering how brutally hot it was.

When we were seated our waitress gave us some cold towels and an umbrella to keep the sun off. They came in very handy.
IMG_20160527_160725
And then we sat there and drank aaaaaalll evening. =) To be honest the drinks were pretty bad, but everyone was there for the ambiance anyway.

Our waitress was lovely – she offered to take a photo for us. Then she insisted on taking a billion pictures with us posing at different places around the bar which was very sweet but also very unnecessary.

I felt bad telling her that we didn’t really need that many photos so just went along with it. And then I felt bad just deleting them so here they are (or like, 1/20th of them anyway)!

At our seats (sorry, everything looking into the sun is just super washed out – but how great are those seats??):
IMG_20160527_171018Left of the bar:
IMG_20160527_171147At the bar:
IMG_20160527_171241Right of the bar. Our waitress/photographer told us to hold hands and look into each other’s eyes. And then we had to stand there for several minutes staring at each other while she took sooo many photos, which cracked us up.IMG_20160527_171435
It was really sweet of her. And it is nice to have (200) souvenir photos of us at Rock Bar. =) Though I was a bit photographed out when James tried to take a selfie later:
IMG_20160527_180116 (1)
From memory, the giant, dark hand underneath is me trying to take the phone away and the curiously pale hand on top is James trying to stop me. We may or may not have had a few by then. Good times.

And here is the bar, all pretty and glowy at night!
IMG_20160527_183043There wasn’t much of a sunset to see which was disappointing. =( But we still got to drink and admire the view until it was time for us to head to the airport, which was not a bad way to go.

I wish we could have had a couple more days at the resort to soak everything up. When we got home I told James that I don’t want to go back to Indonesia when there are so many other countries to explore, but I really want to go back to Ayana! Everything about it was perfect – the hotel was gorgeous, the restaurants were great, everyone who worked there was amazing – and it was a wonderful, luxurious end to our holiday!

Indonesia: Adventure Tour of the Komodo Islands

18 Aug

James really wanted to see the Komodo dragons while we were in Indonesia. There are heaps of tour companies offering multi-day trips but we ended up going with FloresXP because they seemed like a decent compromise between the overcrowded budget tours and the $10,000 luxury tours. The owner Max was great to communicate with, the website was easy to navigate, group sizes were small (ours was 6 people), and the reviews were great.

The sleeping quarters were pretty basic. This photo was taken before they put sheets on the mattresses, but you get the idea – we were all sleeping in the same room together.
IMG_20160521_081612

And the combined shower/toilet room was a little offputting. Think of those teeny tiny powder rooms with a toilet. You had to manually flush the toilet by pouring water in (there was a tub of water with a scoop floating inside), and the toilet paper was disposed of in a bin. There was a handheld shower at the opposite end and when you wanted hot water you had to let the captain know so he could run the generator. The toilet was so close to the shower I was worried it would splash all over but the water pressure was so low that it wasn’t a problem if you were careful.

I’m not going to lie – I was bloody worried. This is not the Diary of a Deprived Housewife. But wow, was it worth it! The trip was packed with trekking and snorkeling, and the physical exertion and crazy natural beauty made for a memorable four days.

Day 1

We were picked up from our hotel and taken to the boat. The crew introduced themselves, explained the itinerary and boat rules, then we headed to Rinca Island to check out the Komodo dragons.

A pod of dolphins escorted us part of the way. Awesome.

IMG_0575

photo from Justin

We went to the park office to pay the fees allowing us to trek and snorkel the national park that day. This was easily the most unpleasant part of the trip (yes, I’m including using the marine toilet).

The fees are ridiculously high but hey, whatever, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, they need the money and rich foreigners can afford it. But it was insult to injury that if you didn’t have exact change the staff (the fat old guys in the office – not the young guides working outside) would keep the extra for themselves – they called it a “tip”. Ugh. I think it’s just one of those things that’s really annoying but you have to learn to let it go because ultimately it’s a few dollars and just what happens to tourists. =/

The Komodo dragons mainly lazed around the office so you didn’t need to walk far to see them.

IMG_0461

photo from Justin

We also did a light hike (maybe 45 minutes?) around part of the island where they showed us some dragon nests. It was soo hot – no wonder the Komodo dragons just lie around all day.
IMG_20160521_125506We had lunch and did some snorkeling afterwards to search for manta rays but no dice. =(

We couldn’t linger too long because we had to go to Padar Island for a hike to see the sun set. Here we are at the top:

IMG_1850

photo from Ciara

Our group was James, me, Ben, Ciara and Justin. We are missing one member because even though he was a strong hiker he didn’t like the height and the tiny ridges we had to walk to get up there. He missed this gorgeous view.

Padar Sunset II

photo from Ben

It was actually a pretty short hike distance-wise but it was very uphill – remember we started at sea level! Going up was fine – just a matter of cardio and leg strength – but going down steep hills in the dark was pretty dicey and I kept skidding on the dirt/gravel and making our poor guide very nervous. But I made it back to the boat in one piece and we had dinner before showering and going to bed.

Day 2

I didn’t realise this at the time, but we had signed up for the 4 hour adventure trek on Komodo Island (in hindsight it’s obvious – it’s the name of the tour!). There were no bullshit “tips” to the office staff this time but the fees were doubled because it was a Sunday so we were all a bit unthrilled with that. =/

Like with Rinca Island we saw a lot of Komodo dragons at the start, but we were also fortunate enough to see some more about 30 minutes into our hike. We asked the guide how he could tell the males and females apart and he said that the females were smaller and had “a more beautiful shaped head”. So I think this one was female?

IMG_0456

photo from Justin

I checked the weather and it was 33C but apparently because of the humidity it “felt like” 45C which sounds about right. It was one of the most challenging hikes I’ve ever done. We didn’t have enough water – maybe 1 litre each – and had all pretty much run out before the halfway mark. I actually left my second water bottle on the boat because like I said earlier, I hadn’t realised we were going out for 4 hours!

I think the head guide told us that the distance was 10km and we went up about 200 meters (it’s been awhile so I might have that elevation wrong). We were all in reasonable shape but humidity makes weaklings of us all.

Check out James’ intense torso sweat:IMG_20160522_110754(I was no better. I looked like I’d been swimming in a pool.)

This next photo was about the halfway point – lots of downhill to go. The sweat has reached the crotch but James still has some pep left in him:
IMG_20160522_110345Our two guides were machines – they barely broke a sweat, shared their water with us, plus after we reached the boat pickup point they had to turn around and do the hike again in reverse. We all did the super American thing and tipped them heavily because they deserved it way more than those desk guys did.

It sounds weird, but the experience of pushing through the dehydration, tiredness and humidity was one of my favourite parts of the trip. Or maybe my favourite part was getting back to the boat and drinking my bodyweight in water.

After lunch we set off to Batu Bolong for some snorkeling. James and I were still exhausted from the hike and almost decided to just stay on the boat, but the crew told us we’d be missing out if we didn’t.
underwaterWhoa.

From the surface it looked like nothing special – just a giant rock in the middle of the ocean – but underneath it was a watery paradise! There were so many species of fish and all this gorgeous colourful coral. I also saw some eels and a turtle.

I think it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Every direction we turned it was unbelievably gorgeous; we were giddy swimming around just staring at everything.
jamesfish2
This black brainy thing in the bottom right was one of my favourite things. I don’t know what it was (I found it in the marine life guide afterwards but it’s slipping my mind now). You can’t really tell from the picture but in real life it was glowing like crazy and just so, so pretty.
prettyseaurchin2So yeah, that was pretty amazing! I can’t remember what we did afterwards – I think we might have gone somewhere else to snorkel and then we docked at Gili Lawa for some swimming while the crew prepared dinner.

Day 3

We woke up early in the morning for a hike on Gili Lawa to see the sunrise. It was nonstop steep uphill, but because the sun hadn’t risen it was a cakewalk compared to the day before.
IMG_20160523_060115Steep gravelly path – my downhill nemesis!

Again we were treated to gorgeous views where you felt like you were on top of the world. IMG_20160523_061242In the photo below you can see the sun rising on the left at the same time as the moon setting on the right. I think it’s kind of cool that James is lit from the sun and I’m still kind of in shadow.
IMG_20160523_062054
I felt simultaneously wholesome for hiking before breakfast but kind of gross from the dirt and sweat.

After breakfast we went on another search for manta rays. The captain went looking for one of their feeding channels so we could see a lot of mantas without expending too much effort. And this time we hit jackpot!

You might remember we saw some manta rays in Hawaii and I fucked up with the GoPro and didn’t have the camera running. This time I wasn’t taking any chances and gave the GoPro to James. Afterwards he was super excited and was like “I got some awesome footage!”

I couldn’t believe how close they got to us – pretty much within touching distance.

Here is a manta ray, a whole bunch of fish, and even a jellyfish. We got stung a couple of times by jellyfish in the water but it wasn’t too bad. Totally worth it to see the mantas!
mantafishandjellyAfterwards it was time for lunch and then snorkeling at Sebayur Island. It was this protected little area with really calm water.

There was a lot of cool stuff to see – lots of fish (including a barramundi!), sea cucumbers, coral, a couple of eels, an octopus, and a cool blue starfish.
starfishjames
I got separated from James and started following a trigger fish around. I must have gotten too close to its … I want to say … nest? – do fish have nests? Anyway, I got too close to where it didn’t want me, so it full on attacked. (FYI: mute the video if you don’t want to hear a LOT of shrieking)


What a mean fish.

(Also I showed this video to James and he laughed and laughed. James, you are no better than that dickhead fish.)

No wait, he’s OK. Here he is getting revenge for me. It’s probably not the same one, but it’ll pass on the message.

m4oc6plpz8ahg

After all the excitement at Sebayur it was time to head to a pirate island to spend the night on land. On the way we saw more manta rays and some flying fish.

The island had a separate shower and toilet – luxury. And a hammock!
IMG_20160523_173054These were the sleeping cabins which all had ocean views. The building on the right was the kitchen and communal eating area.IMG_20160523_173511The hills behind the camp had goats. Goats! (I don’t know why that excited me so much since we’d probably seen hundreds of mantas that day)

We were climbing before dinner and heard some bleating which we all thought was one of the other group members. So we kept bleating at each other until we figured out we were actually having a conversation with the hill goats.

And this is where we watched the sun set.
IMG_20160523_173534James getting some meditation in before dinner (also you can see our boat in the background!)
IMG_20160523_180340

Surprisingly, sleeping in the cabin was less comfortable than sleeping on the boat – it was much hotter (it took me forever to get to sleep) and I missed the ocean breeze. But still, it was still a fun experience and a nice way to end the day.

Day 4

The next morning we did some more snorkeling and saw some more manta rays. They are so chill and graceful in the water – I could spend all day watching them! In the video below there was just one manta to begin with but he lead us to a big group.

Then it was time for lunch and off to Mawan Island for some free time. Look how gorgeous and secluded it was! We were the only ones there the whole time.
IMG_20160524_130614Ben was off scuba diving and the others were resting on the boat which was their loss because I saw a freaking shark. It was just a little one, but still really cool.

We spent the next hour or so relaxing and exploring the beach. James is wearing Justin’s spare pair of bathers because he left his on pirate island. =(
IMG_2901
Also at the top of my leg where it meets my bikini you can kind of see my original skin colour to get an idea of how dark I got! The backs of my legs were another few shades darker than the front since that was where the sun hit the most while I was swimming.

It’s a bit hard to tell from the photo but the wet sand has a slightly pink hue from the mix of the white and red coral. If you grabbed a handful of it you could see the individual flecks of red that gave it the pinkish tint.

IMG_2885

photo from Nicola

After our beach time we visited Rinca village and did another short (but so hot and so humid) hike to visit a bat cave. Then it was time for our Komodo adventure to come to an end. =( We sat on the roof of the boat in the dark, watching the stars and and flying foxes as we headed back to Labuan Bajo.

So yeah, it was a pretty intense few days. I’m pretty sure we stank at the end of it. I’m definitely not used to the humidity and lack of mod cons, but the FloresXP crew took such wonderful care of us that the boat felt a lot more luxurious than it actually was. I can’t believe how much amazing stuff we got to see in just a few days and what a beautiful world we live in.

Indonesia: Bali & Ubud

3 Aug

To kick our holiday off in style, James and I splurged on a business class flight from Melbourne to Bali. It was only a few hundred dollars more expensive than economy, and totally worth it.
IMG_20160516_140829
You can’t really tell from the photo but the chairs fully reclined (which we took advantage of later on for super comfortable naps).

When we arrived we were not prepared for the horrible humidity – it was like being inside someone’s warm, wet mouth. We’ve been spoiled by the temperate climate in Seattle and San Francisco and anything outside of that has us flailing around in a panic. In every photo you see, just picture me quietly dying from the humidity.

We got to catch up with all our friends which was great. =) My favourite activity (“activity”) by far was getting spa treatments. They were so cheap – something like $15 for 2 hour scrub/massage treatments. Massages every day – living the dream.

There was a restaurant down the street that we quite liked, so went there a couple of times for Balinese feasts.
IMG_20160516_202608
They also had these lemon iced teas that were so refreshing. James said he didn’t like the drinks in Indonesia because they were too sweet, which probably explains why I liked them so much.

We also had suckling pig! It was delicious but enormous (you had to reserve the whole pig in advance rather than ordering a la carte). We had to gather a giant group to eat the pig together and we only just managed it. I think it was pretty much my favourite meal in Indonesia; good food, good friends – what’s not to love?
IMG_20160517_194143 (1)

The day of the wedding was a bit of a worry because it was bucketing down in the morning. Thankfully it cleared up and the humidity even dropped down a bit for a gorgeous ceremony. =)

Afterwards while family photos were being taken, we all nicked off to explore the beach and take our own fun photos and pre-game before dinner.
IMG_20160518_173206

The reception was lovely – right by the beach! We ate, drank, danced and sang lots of karaoke.

The next day Chi Kai had organised a group tour of Ubud, which was super thoughtful of him. We all piled into a van that drove us to all the tourist attractions, including …

Monkey Forest

Admittedly touristy trappy, but it was quite nice walking around the shaded forest looking at monkeys. This one kept trying to groom her kid, who was not having any of it and kept trying to run off.IMG_20160519_131058_1 Ubud Market

I think only the girls ended up buying stuff here! Madeleine picked up some singlets, Quincy bought a handheld fan (smart), and I picked up a metallic saarong. I bargained it down from ~$20 to under $4, which I’m sure means I still got ripped off, but it’s $4 – how much cheaper could it possibly have gotten?IMG_20160803_125953Tegalalang Rice Terrace

We just stopped briefly here for photos.
IMG_20160519_125532We also had lunch overlooking a volcano which was pretty cool.

Kopi Luwak Plantation

The next stop was a coffee plantation to check out kopi luwak, where the beans are harvested from civet poo. That stuff sells for like, $30 a cup in the US, so $5 is a comparative bargain.

They gave us a brief tour and showed us the harvesting and roasting process. Here James is, roasting some beans and earning his keep.IMG_20160519_152737

They also had generous samples of other teas and coffees for free. They were very sweet though, so James didn’t really enjoy them.IMG_20160519_153736And as for the super expensive kopi luwak …

Bleh.

I thought it was super sour and was not a fan at all (though I don’t like regular coffee so I am a poor judge). James didn’t really like it either, but he thought maybe it was how they prepared it so he bought some beans to take home and experiment with.

We also went to see a temple and finished the long day with a seafood dinner at Jimbaran Beach. You’re really paying for the ambiance, but seafood on the beach is pretty cool.IMG_20160519_194539The next day I went for one last massage while James packed (I know, what a sweetheart). After the previous day driving around in a van it was heavenly and it felt like she worked out every knot in my body. Here is a dramatic reenactment:

auzfvla0z68w0

We said goodbye to our friends and took a flight to Labuan Bajo, ready to begin our Komodo Island adventure. As an aside, I am sooo daunted at the prospect of sorting through my Komodo Island videos photos. We had 4 days and 3 nights of gorgeous hikes, snorkeling and wildlife – it is definitely going to be a media-heavy post and I’m scared I won’t do justice to how utterly gorgeous everything was!

A Visit Back to Melbourne

18 Jul

Since we were going to Indonesia for Chi Kai and Quincy’s wedding it was convenient to add a trip back home instead of making a separate one in December. And now I know that off-season is the way to go – as fun as it is to spend Christmas with our families, for nearly twice the price it does seem like shockingly poor travel value.

We caught up with family and friends every day which was awesome. Klene and Ray even came down from Sydney so we could have a full cousin reunion. I always forget how much fun I have hanging out with them.

Cousins united! =D
received_10154265961935086 (1)Another important part to being in Melbourne was eating all the food we’d been craving (flake! Dainty Sichuan eggplant! Nhu Lan banh mi for me! Melbourne coffee for James! Rose Garden chicken ribs!)

Oh! Rose Garden now has outdoor seating! They still do brisk business even outside of traditional eating hours, which is always a great sign. My expectations were super high – we didn’t get a chance to go last time we visited, so that’s four years I’d gone without and I’d been freaking vibrating with excitement.

And oh, they were perfect. The crunchy/shattery batter, the moist chicken, the salty/spicy/little bit sweet combo, that amazing chicken (duck?) juice broth that they drench the rice with, and even the stingy broccoli florets (aka the polite fiction that I’m eating a balanced meal). After every bite I’d swoon with mouth-happiness but then be a little bit sad because I lack regular access to Rose Garden chicken ribs. And then I’d take another bite. It was a meal full of conflicting emotions.IMG_20160514_112046 (1)

James had some Seven Seeds coffee and was intensely disappointed. He said the coffee was really shit compared to what he remembered, so at least he was spared my rollercoaster of emotions. He said he had excellent coffee elsewhere though, so maybe the barrista was bad or that location has gone downhill. Next time we visit we’ll probably make a pitstop just to confirm.

We walked around our old area checking out what had and hadn’t changed. The CBD is fantastic and James and I agree we didn’t appreciate it nearly enough while we were here. It’s so dense and full of restaurants and shops; more so than anywhere in SF.

And in other news my mum is a beekeeper now!
IMG_20160508_135830 (1)Mum and dad have been harvesting lots of fruit and veggies from the garden and mum has been harassing Cat to give her some of her chickens. Mum has a coop ready and everything, but Cat is understandably attached to her chickens.

I’m trying to think of what else there is to report on from our trip. Shopping was pretty good because of the exchange rate. Lululemon is even cheaper than it is in the US, and James stocked up on his favourite Bonds undies.

We missed out on a couple of things that would have been nice – Vic Market donuts and boreks, Beatrix in North Melbourne, seeing Pat, etc. I imagine once we’ve come back a few more times we’ll have a set routine of people to see, food to eat and things to buy. But after a week and a half in Melbourne it was time to move on to the next part of our holiday … Indonesia!

 

A James Related Update

29 Jun

James has been promoted to Staff Software Engineer. =) It was made official at the start of this month and he’s pretty stoked (partially because he doesn’t have to deal with the promotion cycle for a couple of years).

We’re also heading off to NYC next month, so that’ll be another travel-related post to add to my backlog (Australia, Indonesia, Big Sur and Napa). Sorry for the laziness!

Jetlag!

4 Jun

Ugh, jetlag has really hit me hard this time round. I’ve spent all week getting up at totally random times and feeling totally useless. I haven’t sorted through my photos and videos yet (but I will!)

So in the meantime here is some stuff I bought recently that I love.

Lululemon All Tied Up Tank
c1b6db0eaea3f708c9bab4a0690d6c7dIt sold out on the same day so I’m really glad I impulse bought this while I was in Australia, even though I had to wait almost a month to get back and pick it up! I kind of regret not getting it in the grey as well.

I also bought that sports bra because it looks so cute with the top. =D

Gorman Basic Leather Tote

James hardly ever has opinions on things but he hates this bag – “it’s gaudy”. Unfortunately for him that’s the reason I love it.
gwfg120401f_gold
Gap Panama Hat
cn11024080I wore this hat almost every day Indonesia and it was perfect – kept the sun off my neck/face/shoulders and went with pretty much everything. Plus I crushed it in my bag a couple of times and it sprung back into shape.

Manolo Blahnik Peach Heels
s-l1600I’m slowly easing myself into them in anticipation of the next time I need to wear heels (probably the next Christmas party!) Even my guy friends admit these are super cute and they never notice shoes.

Dell Chromebook
Chromebook 13 NotebookThis was a birthday present to replace my old laptop. The keyboard is a dream, it has an incredibly long battery life, and I’m surprised at how much I can do just using web apps (though I would really like something that could properly edit GoPro videos).

I have also gotten mildly obsessed with frangipani since the hotel we stayed at in Bali on our last day had them all over the place and they smelled heavenly. The best candidate seems to be Ormonde Jayne’s Frangipani but I hesitate to buy a full bottle based solely on reviews.

I’m now sleeping 2-11am so I reckon by Monday I’ll be functional again. I’ll aim to get my blog post up by next week because next Saturday Nixi is coming to visit! Yaaay! =)

A Week on the Big Island

9 May

In March this year we went to Hawaii for James’ aunt’s wedding. We stayed on the East side of the Big Island which is the volcanic side versus the beachier West side.

We did drive to Kona our first day, which was 2.5 hours (each way!) to swim with dolphins and manta rays. Unfortunately I am a GoPro noob and it turns out the times I thought I had the video running I, um, didn’t. =(

We did get some dolphin footage, though not the pod of hundreds of dolphins that we were right in the middle of. Gah. Gah! But anyway here is a tiny fraction of the dolphins we saw.
Frame-09-05-2016-11-05-49Sometimes you could hear the dolphin echolocation before you actually saw them. You can hear it in the (unfortunately shitty – sorry!) video below of James swimming alongside them.

 

Whenever the dolphins felt annoyed they would just dive down (or speed up) so it was pretty cool they let James swim with them. (Dear Diary, today the dolphins accepted me as one of their own). James said that he was kicking frantically to keep up the whole time.

I was more bummed that I didn’t have any usable footage of the manta rays. We went at 8pm so our group was the only one out there and we had all the manta rays to ourselves. They were so big and so close and doing loop de loops right underneath us!! They swooped about 30cm away from our stomachs and I kept hearing James exclaim through his snorkel mask.

It was an incredibly memorable day – definitely two experiences to put on your bucket list! It was also a super long day (something like 4am-midnight!) and we didn’t even get to sleep in because the next day because we went on a hike to some active lava flows. After a long hike we emerged from a forest to see this: IMG_20160229_141641The ground was lava that had cooled and become hard but was still emitting lots of heat; the newer the crust was the hotter it was – and some of it was just a day old! James was wearing his hiking vibrams and if he stood still for too long on yesterday’s lava his feet would get uncomfortable. Later he had the bright idea to pour water over his feet to cool them off, and when the water hit the ground it sizzled, turned into steam, and burned him. =/

Even moving around was challenging because we were carrying long, awkward sticks, trying to move quickly across uneven terrain, and if we fell we’d land on a hot, brittle surface that would basically cut us like glass while it burned us.

At times we had to hop over lava (the floor is lava!): IMG_20160229_141617While dead trees burned on contact with the lava. IMG_20160229_133112You can see the lava wasn’t that molten stuff that sprays everywhere like in the movies. The black stuff was old and the light silver stuff was the active flow but even as it slowly oozed it was already hardening.

We poked the lava with sticks – really long sticks because it was crazy fucking hot (it’s hard to tell from the photo but that stick is almost twice my height). IMG_20160229_130023The outer layer would be like thick, viscous honey and the molten lava inside was more liquidy, and much hotter – every time I poked a hole I’d get a burst of intense heat. Even a fair distance from the active flow it was like standing next to an open oven and nobody could stand next to the lava for very long. I tried at one point and it felt like my ankles (which were exposed) caught on fire.

James had a pretty hard time because he really doesn’t like heat and had to keep his feet moving because of his shoes. One guy in old hiking boots had his sole detach from one of his shoes because the glue melted. Luckily this happens a lot so the guides had duct tape. After a couple of token lava pokes James retreated to a safe distance. I think this photo is of him telling me to hurry up. IMG_20160229_125931His loss though, because he missed out on making lava marshmallows. IMG_20160229_132325They were weird and crunchy.

The next day we went with James’ family to the Volcanoes National Park. The crater (the bit in the middle right with the steam) was cool but we missed the lava being 20 meters from the rim by one day. =( PANO_20160301_102837 We explored the museum and walked through some cave-like lava tubes. This is us in front of one of the steam vents. The steam was super humid (obviously) and smelled like Chinese food (less obviously).IMG_20160301_101743 And here we are again after the wedding a couple of days later, in the same pose and both still doing the same hang loose gesture. IMG_20160303_183656 The day after was our last full day and we’d planned an open door helicopter ride but it was cancelled because of the weather. Pro tip: never leave anything you really want to do for the last day. The manta ray people told us that 20% of their trips don’t see any manta rays, and those people get a free do-over, but a lot of the time they’ve left it for their last night and can’t go.

Instead we did a bunch of snorkeling with James’ family where we saw some turtles fighting underwater (OMG it is like seeing a fight in slow motion. A turtle bites and smacks sooooo slowly that the only thing that can’t avoid it is, I guess, another turtle).

Frame-10-05-2016-08-41-51This turtle was unrelated to the fight but he swam right up to the GoPro camera!

Then in the late afternoon/early evening we headed to Mauna Kea with James’ parents. Like Haleakala it was cold on top (apparently they get snow in the winter!) so we made sure to rug up.

It was super overcast and looking really dire on the drive up. It was still cloudy at sunset and I was worried we wouldn’t be able to see any stars. Everyone kept looking up at the sky worriedly. At least we got one more piggyback in. IMG_20160304_181528Mauna Kea was chosen as the location for a bunch of observatories because it is hardly ever overcast. Luckily that night was not an exception, and as the sun set the sky slowly but surely cleared.IMG_20160304_182520And we saw sooo many stars! The stargazing volunteers brought out a bunch of telescopes that people could look through and they gave a talk about the different constellations that were visible. The highlight for me was seeing a shooting star through a telescope and being able to see two of the moons of Jupiter.

It was a gorgeous way to spend our last night. The Big Island wasn’t on our must-do travel list and we mainly went to see James’ family, and I’m really glad we did! We got to do some really amazing stuff – swim with hundreds of dolphins! Look down the throat of a manta ray! Poke lava with a stick! – and it was all super amazing. =)