Twelve hours by bus and 6 hours by ferry from Mount Bromo's Volcano, I managed to arrive at the beautiful Lombok Island.
I rented a motor scooter to cruise around Lombok Island, and what amazed me was the innovative people. I was watching kids use cows, lambs, and goats to graze the futbol fields instead of traditional lawn mowers. They put stakes in the ground and tie the animals to them. As they graze the full circle, the people move the stakes till you end up with a perfectly manicured lawn and a fantastic soccer game. The women used banana tree leaves as rain hats while picking rice in the fields. It was pretty cool.
While I was cruising along the upper parts of the island, I captured this beautiful view overlooking the ocean with the tiny fishing boats and the foggy Bali Mountain with its reflection in the water.
I have to say that the incredible archipelago of the Indonesian Islands gets prettier the further south you travel. Of all of them, the Gili Islands are the best, because it's truly tropical bliss. No cars, no electricity, no smog, or deafening urban noise on the islands. A few small generators for the essentials (e.g. blenders for the essential tropical cocktail) and voila! Paradise.
When I was planning my 6 months across Asia, I heard that India was a tough place to travel through. Since I was making my exit from India via Karkavita into Nepal, I decided to spend a month in northern India. Ive got mates who have tried to travel through India for months as well, most of them have left within weeks instead. Their explanation to me was it's just too much to handle. Being the seasoned traveler that I am I neglected their advice and still went into India for the month.
In the process of planning the temples, cities, etc of the things I wanted to do and see, Varanasi came up as a must do. Being told by friends, travel guides, coffe table books etc. Hearing how beautiful the Ganges river is, with the floating ghats, the burning candles in the water, I was hooked. Deciding to spend 3 glorious days in this cultural mecha of northern India.
To my surprise it is probably the most disgusting city I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying, if you can say such a thing in such an environment. This photo is a man who makes his living collecting the running raw sewage from the ground level aqua-ducts that run into the river. He then makes little hamburger style patties out of it, sells it back to the people to burn so they can generate fire to cook food, and heat their domiciles. Imagine you walk out to explore these banks of the river, you cannot really step on the ground safely. It's full of a sludge that is slimy and discolored in neons, from centuries of raw sewage running down these path's. It's smelly and hard to breathe. Then as you continue to walk down the riverbank, you will find people who bath, wash clothes, pray all in the same water that has raw sewage pouring into it from this bustling city night and day. Add to this experience the bodies floating along the river. It is not uncommon to see bodies floating by within feet of the same places people are bathing, cleaning, and praying. I myself was sitting along the banks drinking chai and trying to eat something local, when to my surprise a decapitated head floated by me and about 15 other locals who were in varying stages of this Ganges river life. I was even privy to seeing a bird sitting on a leg eating it. Quite a nice lunch view, last thing I ate in that city.
As a public service announcement for anyone planning on going to Varanasi, or any part of India for that matter please do not accept anyone attempting to put flowers in your hands or boarding your ghat with floating candles in their hand. Once they light the candle and place it in the water they will be very aggressive in making you pay for their candle even if you didn't ask for it. In some cases they won't even let you off the boat until you pay. Even though it is a private chartered boat and they just walked on it without asking you. Likewise for anyone walking up to you handing out flowers. If you open your hand ( for in my case I didn't realize they weren't free) and accept this flower from some monk-like dressed person they will become quite irate if you don't pay for it. They will not take the flower back. My advice to you is never turn your hands out to anything in India. This advice was given to me by my driver who took me to Rajasthan for 16 days. He then asked me not to tell anyone that he told me this information. Apparently the backlash to him would be intense.
I took a 4 day camel trek, through a part of Rajasthan, India. It was 48 degrees at 9 a.m. It didn't cool down until 4 p.m. We weren't allowed to ride them between those hours just too hot for the camels. So we would ride them around from 7 a.m. until 9 to 9:30 a.m. and then, relax for a few hours. Make lunch, get out of the sun, and relax. Then, we'd ride them until 7 or 8 p.m. During the day you had to find shelter from the heat, when the only offering is a thick bush that leaves with these small spiked prickers on the ground. Those prickers were absolutely impossible to get out of cloth, and they made your skin bleed. The other problem was that I had developed saddle sores on the morning of the second day. They began to bleed on the 3rd day. Oh, what fun. It took more than 3 weeks for them to go away. Try keeping them clean and healthy while you have dysentery so badly that you lose 32 pounds of weight in 28 days. Plus the Northern India doesn't general promote healthy and clean living. Not fun.
The reward for all of that: During my 4 days across the desert, I watched the fool moon come up every night just after the sun went down. Zero light pollution and a full moon on the second night. At my request, we slept on the tops of the sand dunes every night. It was magnificent. Having been to Turkey and the Grand Bazaar, I couldn't help but let my mind drift away full of imaginary camels majestically moving the princes across the land toward the Bazaar leaving a wake of permeating fragrances and colors. One could easily drift away on a slice of that kind of beauty. I feel truly blessed to have been able to experience this moment in time.
My camel was a young boy name was Shiva. At night, to keep the camels from running away on us, they would tie their front feet together with a braided rope. To get away, the camels would have to hop like kangaroos, and they could never hop farther than we could walk. The last night we rode past a small desert village that was raising female camels. I noticed Shiva was impossible to control while we were near the village. When we woke up, my camel was nowhere in sight. I suggest the village as Shiva's hiding spot. My guide sent his baby brother, who was also my cook, to find Shiva. He was 4 kilometers away playing with the girls, right where I told him he would be. Truly funny. Men will ALWAYS be men.
Welcome to Istanbul, the secular land of religious architecture. In the photo above, you can see not only the breathtaking Blue Mosque but also an obelisk in the center of a hippodrome. Looking back on my travels, I feel very privileged to have seen the inside of this building. Despite the fact that mosaic art has been banned by Islamic Law, the entire inside of the mosque is covered wall-to-wall by beautiful delicate and colorful tiles. However, as much as I enjoyed being inside the Blue Mosque, the adjacent church Anaya Sophia is more spectacular on the inside. The funny thing about man of these buildings in Istanbul is the ostrich eggs hanging from the ceiling to ward off spiders (the decaying smell undetectable to humans AND keeps spiders out).
The other really amazing thing about Istanbul and her architecture is the Cistern. Across the street from Anaya Sophia, there is a small bus stop / office building. Go inside the building and purchase your ticket to go venture down into the depths below the roaring city. Once you walk down a few flights of narrow stairs, which are very dimly lit, you open up your eyes to an underground water cistern that was built in the 4th Century (aka over 1700 years old) to protect the city from invasion. This giant source of water allowed the city to still clean, cook, and generally function while under siege. Extremely useful, since the city has been invaded many times.The cistern has 220 columns that are at least 20 feet high. Each column is 20 meters apart in all directions, making for a very large water cistern underneath the city. Awesome.
The tiered architecture of the buildings and the style of churches constructing hippodromes on top of each other, makes for unimaginable views and a fantastic place to visit. Today, we drive cars through arches that used to carry water from the mountains far away into the city. This view of automobiles driving under each archway holding up the aqueducts is surreal. Each archway is big enough for one lane of cars. Too funny is my mind. It is one of the top 5 things/places to see in the world on my list. To be quite honest, I find it more majestic than the pyramids of Giza.
Ladies and gentlemen! There is no electricity, fresh running water to bath in, or running water at all in your bungalows on this side of Kho Chang Island in Thailand. However, when one has the time, passion, and ingenuity, you can make a couch to sit on and enjoy the afternoon, complete with coffee table to rest your island weary feet. No need to use the remote to change the channel. It's always beautiful. I highly recommend getting off your couch before the tide comes in. We don't want you to get swept away.
Typical Indian market. Welcome to the local Stop n Shop of Varanasi. I find it cleaner than the markets in Delhi. What is interesting to me is that the people still rummage through not only many different markets but also the individual consumable items. I wonder what they are looking for... I mean a bean is a bean right?
A volcanic cone on Java Island in Indonesia, the smoke bellows out all day long 24/7/365. On the stairs walking up, the smell of sulfur was so strong that I was breathing through my shirt. You couldn’t keep your eyes open for more than a few seconds, because boy, does sulfur burn.
I have explored 76 countries, no hand holding, no tour guides just a drive to see, smell, taste, experience, and enjoy the earth. I have been on Reality Television and spend much of my time giving back to the community. From a unique perspective of sports, adventure and travel.