Monday, October 28, 2013

A Lil' Update

So, when we set out on this round-the-world Eurasian odyssey on February 26, our then-unplanned return seemed a nebulous event in the distant future.  Well, now we are looking at eight more weeks of travel before our flight home to Vancouver, B.C. from Seoul, South Korea.  We will visit only three more countries (frown face) and apply for zero more visas (ecstatic face!).  We will soon be settling into some semblance of "normality" in North America....

You may wonder how, or if, after more than eight months of travel, we are still "getting anything out of our trip".  While we are certainly exhausted and homesick for everything from Mexican cactus salad to the cold British Columbia tap water, not to mention our friends and family, this trip continues to be incredibly enlightening and rewarding, sometimes in ways that we have yet to fully appreciate.  The inspiration, joy, bewilderment and challenge continues!

Nearing the end of a 10-day escape to the home of some wonderfully hospitable friends near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, we are gearing up for our upcoming visits to Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea and enjoying our last few days of tropical weather....   As I review our more than 10,000 photos, plus hours and hours of video footage, I think about how, thus far, I have provided but a glimpse of our travels, and to those of you who are enjoying the blog: there will be more where this came from! steps.  

I must not let any more time pass without sharing with you our recent stay on Pulau Weh, a tiny island off the northern coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.  In a journey filled with incredible, perspective-altering experiences, this week was a little piece of tropical paradise, with a few twists thrown in to keep things real :)

Taking the ferry from Banda Aceh, Sumatra to the town of Sabang on Pulau Weh.  We were the only foreign tourists on board, and the happy recipients of many curious glances and questions :)  Pulau Weh is an island famous for world class diving and snorkeling, and sure enough, we were spotting all manner of neon-colored and whimsically-patterned fish before we had even disembarked!  It's a good thing I've been having so much fun, or else my lack of clothing options (as evidenced by this photo...) might bring me to tears.

Ah, yes, the Babah Alue, a.k.a our living room in the village of Iboih, where most of the best snorkeling is to be found.  They do a mean curry, you can set up a table and eat on the beach, and they have excellent wifi, which served me well when I was briefly ill and unable to enjoy the swimming and fish-viewing.

The down-to-earth little village remains a less-frequented stop for tourists in southeast Asia.

Fishing boats on that calm, crystal-clear water.

A family wades in the water.  There is no bikini-clad sunbathing in this strictly Muslim province, which is governed by sharia (Islamic) law.  

Beautiful Iboih sunset, viewed from the balcony of our budget-friendly waterfront bungalow.

Our idyllic bungalow porch; our home for a week.  It was so hard to leave, and yet after resting up, we yearned for another adventure...

Part of our front-porch view, when we weren't observing the myriad of tropical fish swimming below.

Los intrepidos buscadores del peligro!  Taking a break from snorkeling and lounging, we rented a motorbike to explore the island's villages and landscapes.  

Harold stops at a local "gas station" to fill 'er up.  This gentleman couldn't believe a Mexican was staying on the island, and typified the generally friendly, perplexed welcome we received in Indonesia.

Country house.

One of the many new, elaborate mosques in the province of Aceh, largely built with the oil revenue of this relatively wealthy region.

Empty beach!

Incredulous at the pristine, clear waters, I proceeded to run into the sea clothed as photographed (without my camera!), in adherence to the local dress code.  

A little beach house and bench painted in the pattern of the provincial flag of Aceh, a region that harbors some separatism.

A village coffee shop.

Harold takes off!

Finally, a sign for the little volcano we were looking for, in the middle of a jungle on the island, swarming with angry mosquitoes!  Good thing we were taking malaria medication :)

  Sumatra is a place where you can do ridiculously dangerous things like stand on top of an active, smoking volcano.  At least we stayed away from the most active one on Sumatra, which recently released ash all over the island's largest airport.

No bikinis + no beer + remote Indonesian location = no crowds!

Another lovely mosque.

The view from a little restaurant where we had instant noodles for lunch.

Sumatra's roads being how they are, many a truck's brakes give out on the steep declines.  This situation was remedied by a mad rush for some large rocks, a coffee break and a motorbike run to town for some parts.

We sped through another incredibly mosquito-y jungle populated by monkey bandits in order to reach the westernmost point of the island to see its famous sunset.  

A couple of young men had built this motorbike-based vehicle and driven it to see the sunset as well.

That night, we headed back to our Babah Alue to have some delectable barbecue fish and avocado salad!  Yummers....

One more shot of that florescent blue water, in which we found Nemo, and his mother, who bit Harold!  That situation was documented only on video, to be shared at a later date.  Until next time, thank you for reading and may your days be blessed :)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sumatra Primate Fest

Warning: This post is for people who want to look at a LOT of primate pictures!  Those of you who know me are familiar with my primate obsession, which was beyond indulged on this visit to Sumatra.  The following pictures are of free-roaming, "wild", primates in the surroundings of the town of Bukit Lawang, in Gunung Leuser National Park.  Quite simply, this visit was a lifelong dream of mine come true :)

Thomas leaf monkeys.

One of the first orangutan sightings on our two-day trek through the national park.


One of the few males we saw; crept through the trees to pose for us!

Macaque family.

Love these macaques- so much personality!

The first mother-baby pair.  Amazing!

Saying "haha!  I got your pineapple!"

Here comes a mother-child pair.

Living life on the wild side, this macaque prepares to leap from the electrical cord to our bungalow's balcony, as part of the troop's twice-daily raid of the village for food and other appealing items.

This orangutan mother takes advantage of the bananas offered at the supplementary feeding platform on the edge of the national park.

Baby is rubbing his eyes, still waking up for the early morning feeding :)

What can I say?  Really.  Primate paradise.