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Old 11-29-2011, 12:18 PM   #61
Sleepy John
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Thanks for taking us along for the ride.
Much appreciated.
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Old 11-30-2011, 03:41 AM   #62
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OK... I'll get to my next update in a while, but here's my public service announcement... seeing how we got stuck into this stuff a few times...

The arak we drank, in both Indonesia and Timor-Leste was most certainly home-brewed... sold in old water bottles. I've heard others say they have seen motor scooters run on this stuff.

It has its detractors, for good reasons. This from The Australian online today.

The results of an autopsy on a promising young rugby player who died in Bali have revealed he was killed by methanol poisoning - likely to have come from an incorrectly distilled local brew.....

Denton's family have urged people travelling to Bali to be aware of the dangers of the drink, The West Australian newspaper reported.

The brew - called arak, which is distilled locally - is thought to have killed at least 30 people in the past two years.

Arak is produced from fermented rice, palm sap and other plants. But if it contains methanol - a by-product of incorrect distillation - it can cause brain damage, blindness and death as it acts as a poison to the human body.

In 2009, 25 people - including several tourists - died in Bali after drinking a batch of arak containing methanol. And a 25-year-old Australian nurse is still battling brain damage and kidney failure after drinking a cocktail containing methanol-laced arak on the final night of her holiday on September 20, just days before Denton died.

Paul Denton said: "We want to warn people travelling to Bali about these drinks. We have heard of past cases of this happening and we want people to be aware of what can happen so nobody has to go through what we have gone through."

Gainey told The West Australian that Denton did not drink any more than his teammates, some of whom had also been drinking a cocktail called Jungle Juice, which contained arak.

About 10pm, Denton had complained of feeling ill and was escorted him to his room.

When checks were made on him less than an hour later he was unconscious. Attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at Sanglah Hospital.

Methanol is normally used for industrial purposes.

University of Western Australia professor of medicine and pharmacology David Joyce told The West Australian: "Methanol is a very potent poison and it only takes the equivalent of one standard drink to blind you and not much more to kill you."
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Old 11-30-2011, 04:33 AM   #63
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Well, I've searched and searched... and I can't find the photo I wanted... so the words will have to do. Damn it, because it was a good one and I had Andras' permission to use it.

So... we choofed off to "the pub" in Bajawa. It didn't open till 8pm... and it turned out that the pub had rooms attached and was more of a karaoke bar than anything else. Well, OK, it was really more of something else than a pub which explained the look back at the hotel when we announced where we were going.

Merni (our guide) had brought along a bottle of Arak in a 620ml Bintang bottle. I had a couple of Guiness mixed with Arak. I was surprised to see Guiness... it was that or Bintang. Arak is that home brew rocket fuel, as mentioned in my last post... and we spent the rest of the night fending off the girls.

It was real dive, in behind a tin fence. Merni and Andras had a dance with one of the girls (and I do mean dance, nothing else). The missing photo is Merni and Andras, with that girl sandwiched in between.... clothes on, of course. They danced rather well actually.
I gave her 15,000 rupiah - call it $1.50, to sing us some Karaoke. Nice girl - working to get enough money to start her own restaurant back on Lombok. Tough way to raise capital.... and I don't mean the singing.

I hate to admit it, but we'd ridden to the pub - which was across the other side of town... and we observed Rule 2 when we rode back to the Hotel Happy Happy. Our mate decided he'd show us how well he could ride when pissed... but we wouldn't play. We rode "home" slowly.

Next morning Merni turned up early because he was due to take Lucia up Inerie... the volcano she'd been perving at all the day before... this one



Anyhow it was clouded in, with a bit of rain around, so we all changed our plans. We decided to hang around another day, rather than ride west in the rain and Lucia joined us. She'd been on Skype with her Sicilian boyfriend overnight... and he'd read the riot act to her about Aussies on motorbikes.... but fortunately she was easily led.

Meanwhile.... Merni suddenly jumped up and said he'd forgotten something... and he'd be back. Twenty minutes later, he was back and we hassled him until it emerged he'd forgotten his underpants.... which meant we harangued him all day about what he must've got up to.

We headed of to another traditional village, Wogo.

Not everyone at Wogo was happy to see us



Maybe he knew I'd eaten cat in Vietnam last year? Bastards of things, cats.

I found this interesting. A couple of guys chopping up a banana plant... the stem, for pig food. They cooked it up too



The locals are quite friendly, really.... this was out at the megaliths near Wogo







It wasn't easy to find - even our guide had to ask directions.... down a dirt track, then through the bamboo forest.

Ahh, bugger it. They look better like this



We found the local geothermal power station too and had a play in the boiling mud







The chook transportation is quite well developed. The ones I really love are where about 40 chooks are tied to a rack out each side of a bike... when the bike leans into a corner, the chooks have to lift their heads to avoid the road.... it looks like a bloody great big feather duster polishing the road



We headed out the other side of town and after a bit of difficulty again, found another volcano to climb, Wawo Muda, which only emerged in the year 2001 - well, blew up really - and yes there was a steepish climb involved after we eventually did a self-preservation call and parked the bikes.





Yeah... she's a dirty girl



Climbing up out of the crater lake (dry this month... wet last month)





The descent... the bit before this was quite gnarly... had to throw Lucia off or risk throwing her off another way.





We headed off from there, out a different direction again to Soa, and the touristy hot springs. Quite commercial compared to the day before.



Lucia reported in via SMS after we'd left Bajawa... she had a motorcycle accident the next morning with our guide, Merni, in Bajawa - he'd been very keen on her I might add. He hit an oil spill.... and given his bike had 2 bald tyres that I'd chipped him about... they came off. She's bruised, but OK. If I was still there, I'd have had a piece of him. I like having a pillion on board when I'm without luggage... as it raises my danger awareness to a new level. Hopefully he learnt a lesson.

Oh yeah... Lucia had told her boyfriend that she was only riding with us for one day... and apparently when she reported back that she'd done another day... she got the silent treatment. Gee... if her boyfriend ever reads this.... its OK mate... we Aussies are gentlemen.
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Old 11-30-2011, 10:57 PM   #64
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Originally Posted by The Bigfella View Post
Well,..........................
Oh yeah... Lucia had told her boyfriend that she was only riding with us for one day... and apparently when she reported back that she'd done another day... she got the silent treatment. Gee... if her boyfriend ever reads this.... its OK mate... we Aussies are gentlemen.
hope he could not understand your signature

an incredible route, rather than cultural. I think to really know the places where you spend, you must mingle with the people who live there and ask them about their culture (that's fine) but also their way of living day to day
awesome RR
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Old 12-01-2011, 12:54 AM   #65
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its good to see the eastern side of Indonesia :) thanks for your journey and report
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Old 12-01-2011, 11:54 AM   #66
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hope he could not understand your signature
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Old 12-01-2011, 07:26 PM   #67
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In the planning and preparation stages for my own travels in 2012 now and stumbled onto your RR. Great journey and great report, thanks for sharing. A Canadian mate and I hired bikes from Jules in Vientiane last year and rode part of the HCM trail, it's a great part of the world and I'd love to get back there on my own bike one day.
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Old 12-01-2011, 09:21 PM   #68
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Thanks guys. I wrote a response last night then had the damn hotel wifi cark it and gobble up my reply.

Lessee how my memory is.

Re the eastern part of the Indonesian archipeligo - I'd love to spend more time there. Justin and Lain (the kayakers I met) went further into the islands east of Flores, and I hope to catch up with them and see what options might exist. I'd love to spend more time in Flores.

Re how people live day to day... yes, its a tough life in some of those places. I spent a fair bit of time talking to people about daily life... and my next post will take us into some students' lives.

Some of the people we met weren't far beyond subsistence living. Alex, the former resistance leader in Timor-Leste that we stayed with was interesting to talk to. He said that in his village, about 20-30 people had paid jobs (police, teachers and a few other government posts) and the others - IIRC about 900 people - scraped together a living as best they could, selling some produce at markets and so on. We asked him what they most needed and he said it was "roads"... to make it easier to get stuff to market.

One guy I spent some time talking to in Indonesia made $2 the day I was talking to him. I had to put together some tenders for work back home, so sat on a beach with my feet up, working on a laptop, while he tried to sell stuff to people wandering past. $2.... and he had a wife and two kids to support.

These guys see us spending more than that on a beer... then another one, then another one... There's no nastiness, but it can't be easy for them seeing us coming through without a money worry.

Another one - We were worrying about tyre wear... my rear tyre was down about 40% after the first 1,000 km or so through T-L and into West Timor. The guy running a hotel (he ran the desk and slept out front at night for security) asked me what it was going to cost me for a new tyre.... (I'd been talking about my daugher bringing one up for me).

"$200, or about 2 million Rupiah"

"F@$k, that's six month's pay".

He may have been exaggerating, but maybe not by much.

Last year, I sat down in a thatched hut with 4 local guys in Cambodia. We got into a carton of beer, and some fried crickets and had a bit of a chat. They wanted out. Big time. They are sick of the government corruption... "you don't see it... the police never stop us if we have a tourist, but when you aren't here, they pull us over all the time for bribes. The government is corrupt and if we speak out, we will disappear" I won't post photos from there btw.

So, yeah.... its a tough life out there.... but in some ways people seem quite content. They just get on with life.
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Old 12-04-2011, 04:10 PM   #69
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Just on that issue of being invited in to people's homes that was mentioned earlier. We'd get introduced to everyone... even the kids



... while the bikes attracted their own crowds



... and from time to time, even the old ducks wanted to be in the photo... if I remember right, the lady in front was blind



Kitchen facilities weren't quite up to what my missus has.




So - after a couple of enjoyable days around Bajawa, we headed west. The plan for the day was to head off to Ruteng, find a hotel and see if we can get to the Hobbit cave. The Flores Hobbit people lived until about 12,000 years ago.


Adults were the same height as our current 3 year olds.


It ended up being non-stop corners all the way for 3 hours... you'd get maybe four nice corners, then an off-camber tightening one... or one with two trucks side by side coming your way, or.... something interesting. I ended up a tad dizzy from the ride..... Brake, corner, accelerate, brake, corner.... and there's about 4 gear changes with each of those cycles. No straights.... just corners. And we got rain towards the end.... nothing like a bit of sideways stuff eh? All these corners had vertical components to them too, of course.




When we got stopped at the roadworks, everyone came over for a chat



We stopped at what we thought was a restaurant on the way... and asked if we could get some food. It turned out we'd crashed a private party, not a restaurant. I gave the main guy there a packet of ciggies.... and indicated they were to share. They gave us a coconut each and wouldn't take payment. They loved it ant took plenty of photos on their phones... and we were away again. I popped a rather nice wheelie for them.

It bucketed down after we got to Ruteng. Coming into town we were having some troubles with the directions, it being a very spread out place, so one of the local guys guided us in. We ended up going for a 4:30pm lunch... and then I got a $1.40 haircut. Lost the beard in the process, unfortunately. Thought I'd kept the goatee part... then, swipe... it was gone too. Kept the moustache though.... Bugger. Its not a good look. This haircut is going to last me for months.

We never seem to get a minute to ourselves to catch up. A couple of uni students talked to us on the footpath as we arrived at our hotel... they are studying English and tourism studies and they've worked on Rinca Island as guides with the Komodo Dragons, so we bought them a couple of beers... and pfft.... another power failure. Not exactly a reliable power supply so far on this trip.

The students invited us back to their place for dinner (they are from an outlying village, so have a rented room in town). It ended up being pretty basic - rice, greens (Col?... reminded me of cabbage) and some vegetarian protein... based on peanuts and tomato by the looks of it... washed down with hot water. They had a few friends around too - well, a whole heap of them actually, from young kids through to their auntie. They have set us up with a guide for the next few days when we get to the next town... which is the jumping off point for the Komodo Dragons and for Lombok.



After we got back, the hotel guy came to our room and strongly suggested we move our bikes to a safer spot up behind the hotel. The ride into there was "interesting" there was no room to turn around. Interesting of course means very steep, very narrow and very slippery. It was an engines off, backwards slide down in the morning to get out.

Here's the Hobbit Cave.... a nice narrow road to get there - and our student friend, who skipped classes to take us there (we met his uni lecturer over breakfast and he didn't mind)... didn't really know the way.



Crappy monument at the cave... with a statue of an adult sized Hobbit. Detail from wiki:

Homo floresiensis ("Flores Man", nicknamed "hobbit" and "Flo") is a possible species, now extinct, in the genus Homo. The remains were discovered in 2003 on the island of Flores in Indonesia. Partial skeletons of nine individuals have been recovered, including one complete cranium (skull). These remains have been the subject of intense research to determine whether they represent a species distinct from modern humans, and the progress of this scientific controversy has been closely followed by the news media at large. This hominin is remarkable for its small body and brain and for its survival until relatively recent times (possibly as recently as 12,000 years ago). Recovered alongside the skeletal remains were stone tools from archaeological horizons ranging from 94,000 to 13,000 years ago.




A local guy who claims to be a descendant, but in reality, he's just a short old bloke - in his 80's.



You can see the first dig areas in this shot... on the right. They found the first Hobbit bones 20' down.




There's a hole there that goes down a bloody long way.... you really wouldn't want to slip.



and some other interesting bits to the cave



The dig program is by no means over. There's piles of stuff there that isn't sorted through yet





While we were at Ruteng, as we were heading off to Labuan Bajo, we headed out to see the spider web rice paddies. There was a steep climb up to see them from a hilltop.... and I got some great photos, but I seem to have finally killed my 8 year old Nikon D100 when I got it drenched in my tank bag later that day. I'll get a card reader and see what I can do.

In the meantime, I've pinched this one from the web...



Coming down from there, I managed to piss Andras off nicely. He'd parked in a tight spot, up off the road, while I'd parked on the road. He didn't hear me ask him if he wanted a hand to get out. Apparently he did... but I was down at my bike trying to make sure a 20 ton low loader didn't crush it... he missed me by about an inch. Anyhow... we both got out and dodged the potholes back to the main road and it was off to Labuan Bajo.

Some riding shots. Had an amazing ride from Ruteng... it bucketed down while we were in the mountains. Andras crashed at slow speed.... I had several sideways "moments".... including one, where I'd just overtaken an ambulance (with its siren blaring)... and I hit oil (trucks here just dump it on the road).... I reckon the save was my best bit of riding for decades.... I rode the slide into the mud on the edge of the road, where I at least had some control (of sorts) and avoided the 40 metre drop down to the next landing - rather than try to get control back on the oily road.

Hmmmm. I decided to take my mucky eyeglasses off at that stage and I could see heaps better.

Some corners look great



then halfway around you get a totally broken surface



This is the ambulance, with its siren blaring, that we eventually overtook 3 times. We stopped to eat and refuel and it got back in front of us.



The road was diabolical in the wet. Water washing over it, oil everywhere, this was a good bit



But the reward was a rather nice setting for a few days at Labuan Bajo

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Old 12-05-2011, 04:07 AM   #70
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Heya Bigfella,

I passed through that part of the world myself a few years ago, but I didn't see it like you're seeing it. Such a beautiful, unspoilt part of the world and your RR's really taking me on a trip down memory lane. Just wanted to say thanks.

Nate.
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Old 12-05-2011, 02:36 PM   #71
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Thanks Nathan. Your trip was part of the inspiration for this one. We met at your book launch at Dymocks in Sydney btw. Yep... an amazing part of the world, with some amazing people there.
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Old 12-05-2011, 03:48 PM   #72
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Thanks for the great photos and storytelling. More, please.

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Old 12-05-2011, 08:02 PM   #73
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Indo dreams

Big Fella,

Just blew the last four hours on this, four hours that I'd promised someone -- well me -- that I'd work during, and pleased to report it was a good deal better spent than working. So, thanks heaps for the memory tweak.

Back in '89, I hitched round Aus (Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin, Three Ways, Mt Isa, Townsville, Cairns, Cooktown, all that. Got a lift with two very gay Germans at one stage who then proceeded to spend 48 hrs. drinking to blindness at the Lion's Den. That place, it was better than the greatest literature. The most committed boozers I've ever encountered, all sharp and funny as hell, with stories better, as I say, than any fiction and the most obscene jokes that went on and on -- never met people quite like them anywhere else on earth. Course they assumed I was a gay German, and then Canadian, by association, which cranked up the absurdity levels significantly. I believe you'd call it a full on palava. Place looks identical to back then. Glad to see this.

After that, Cairns again to Darwin into Kupang. A few days there, then the overnight ferry, the same one I think as you, Kupang to Larantuka, met heaps of great locals, tourists, accommodating Scandinavian backpacker girls, en route to Maumere. There, I shipped onto a Melbourner's local perahu pinisi wood cargo ship that he'd bought for a few grand and fixed up. Spent several weeks with him and his Aussie and local crew, sailing the islands north, like Jampea and Bonarote where he was buying rough teak planks to later smuggle into Broome without all the compulsory fumigation and documentation (he was a bit of a doof) to make a buck. Spent my days diving the reefs, chatting up chiefs and their multi-wives and laughing my ass off nights on the tuak -- quite similar to arak, perhaps less brain-shredding. (A few years later, Maumere got well done by a big tsunami; I saw a pic in the Bkk Post of a six-foot tuna, boiled as it swam, by the undersea volcano that caused the wave, delivered by it to a street in Maumere.)

Loved Indo's beautiful insanity so much I did three visa runs to spent my first six months of Asia there, before heading up to Laos for other adventures involving civil wars and ducking bullets and lots and lots of unexploded ordnance, shenanigans with the KGB, CIA, Viet uranium sellers and many more, different madnesses. Ended up setting up shop in Sing for 7 yrs. till late '98.

Managed to find the only single Indo girl here in Toronto 8 yrs ago and made her mine -- the only way I could really be sure I'd have excuses to get back there. She and her whole family are bonkers, in a good way, so the fun's never really stopped.

All of which is my way of saying thanks shitloads for a wickedly tasty collection of pics and words and attitude. I shall be following.

I know I don't need to say it, but say it I will in my still-crap Indo... hati-hati semua bodoh di jalan raya, dong.

Paul
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Old 12-06-2011, 12:22 AM   #74
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Nice one Paul.

I was going to ask if your wife has a sister in Indo.... but hey, I'm a married man.... and no, I haven't got a hall pass, just a leave pass.

I'd love to spend some time boating around the archipeligo.... especially over east.

Speaking of which... its time to do my post on Komodo.
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Old 12-06-2011, 04:10 AM   #75
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Let's do a quick catchup with a couple of extra photos eh?

This was the guy who grabbed us a couple of coconuts when we crashed a party at a roadside house... thinking it was a restaurant. What I want to know is how these guys keep all their digits? I've been carrying a machete under the seat and the one time I hacked into a coconut, I wasn't game to hang on to it.... and if you think I'm a coward... I dare you...



Here's another shot of Mr Vincent with my bike. His sarong disguises his height a bit. Yep... handlebar height.



... and a shot of the kids who joined us at our friends place in Ruteng. These kids got into the coffee with us and ended up jumping around outside like ADHD kids on red cordial...



This shot doesn't look much without some context



That's a common sight on bridges.... missing road surface - and for that matter, sub-surface. You'll lean into a nice corner onto a bridge and discover one of these 6" wide rift valleys. There's no bottom to that. Put a wheel into it and you are gone. Guaranteed. It pays to pay attention.

Here's another interesting one. I'm pretty sure this is kapok. My grandfather used to have a compressed medical and industrial gases business, back before WW2 (lost it due to the war)... and Dad and his siblings used to have to stuff acetylene cylinders with this.



We saw a lot of those trees beside the road and some of them were dropping those big balls of fluff.... and they'd leave a trail of it floating through the air. Surreal... like being bombed.

OK... enough of the catchup... back to Labuan Bajo. I love typing that town's name, because I was stuffed if I could say it for ages. Some names don't stick with me and that was one of them. Anyhow, we caught up with our pre-arranged guide, Florie.

We "bought" a boat. We must've bought it... its 5 million rupiah for 2 days, 1 night.... about $500. That includes the captain, cook.... and cabins even, or a mattress up top if we choose. We go to Rinca Island first, overnight at Fruitbat Island, and the plan is to raft up with another boat, whose captain I did a pub crawl with my first night in Labuan Bajo along with our guide.

I got back from the pub crawl (more damn karaoke) to find the guide from that boat "asleep" at our table... somewhat inebriated. I convinced Andras that it wouldn't be responsible to wake him up and put him on his bike.... so they'd arranged a mattress for him, last I saw.

Here's "our" boat.





Of course, if we'd had a bit more time, we could have rustled up a couple of nice backpackers to share the boat... it wouldn't have cost us any extra for more heads on the boat.... but we were short on time - we thought. I'd committed to my daughter flying to Bali to meet me.... and to bring me a new tyre and some other bits.... like a new rear disk, as mine was getting very loose.

Oh yeah... the pub crawl. I guess this is publishable. All the girls at this karaoke hall had the same outfit on. Amazing. Maybe they worked there?



Anyhow, the guys like dancing with her.

The next morning, nursing our hangovers, it was downtown, grab a couple of cartons of Bintang and off to the boat.... which by now was floating and tied up to the wharf. We got to the boat and there was another westerner on board... and I was feeling a bit anxsty about the prospect of sharing it, given what we were paying. It turned out he was a Russian guy who owned the boat. Checking that all was OK for us... and he declined our invite to come along.

Looking at the boat next to us, I was feeling quite happy with the condition of ours.



Dry rot on a boat isn't the best thing to have around.

Ours was OK though, and off we went... with a stop for a snorkel on the way.



There's a LOT to cover on the Komodo Dragons... so I'll do that next time round.
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