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Thursday, 30 August 2012

Mountains, Monkeys, and Motorbikes! Oh My!

August has been a busy month with lots of work events, eating out, discovering more of Jakarta and having a nice holiday away from school.

The ending of Ramadan marked the Idul Fitri holiday. Coincidentally, Indonesia's Independence Day fell on the day before holiday, which meant we had six work days off! After school just opened in early July, it seemed very early for a holiday. But like any holiday, it was more than welcome!

This past month I finally left the city limits of Jakarta and got a taste of what felt like more of authentic Indonesia. Myself and a group of teachers traveled to Bogor. Bogor is a small city about 60km Southwest of Jakarta. We left early in the morning and made a pit stop at a friend's family's villa in the mountains. It was amazing how much cooler the temperature was. It was very refreshing to be in cool, clean mountain air after nearly two months of living in a heavily polluted city. We took a short hike from the villa to a tea plantation on the side of the mountain. The views here were absolutely incredible!

Our next stop was Taman Safari. This was easily my favourite thing I have done in Indonesia so far. After a drive through safari, where we had animals popping their heads in our car windows, we then made a visit to the animal nursery. Here we were able to snuggle up close with baby tiger and lion cubs, orangutans, and a fully grown Sumatran tiger. The animals were beyond sweet and cuddly. I definitely wanted to sneak the baby orangutans home!!! However, the lion cub and fully grown tiger were questionably calm. We wondered if they were sedated... which makes me feel awful for supporting this and having my photo taken with them. I'm telling myself they were just really sleepy...

After a great day at the Safari, we then headed into Bogor and stopped at the Botanical Gardens and did a bit of a walk through and toured the grounds. Next, was a stop at a restaurant in the hills overlooking the city.

Throughout August, I participated in the sharing of break-fasting with some Muslim coworkers and friends. This is done each evening at sun down during Ramadan. As I mentioned in my last blog, Muslims do not eat or drink during the hours of sunlight for the month of Ramadan. At 6pm they come together with family and friends to share in a nice meal. The meal always begins with a dessert or something sweet to allow their body to absorb energy from the sugar. Dessert before supper? Works for me!

During the holiday week I went with three friends on a day trip to a volcanic region in the sea off of West Java. Krakatoa was a violent volcano that erupted in 1883 killing over 36 000 people. It was the loudest sound ever to be recorded. It was heard as far as Western Australia and the island of Mauritius. The eruption of Krakatoa was so extreme that it actually changed the Earth's temperatures.
In years to follow the major eruption, the parts of the volcano that were left continued to be active. In the early 1900s Anak Krakatoa emerged (In Indonesian, this means baby of Krakatoa).

After leaving Jakarta and driving roughly three hours across Java through small villages, we arrived at the sea. We took a boat into the Sunda Strait and after about an hour or more on choppy waves, we finally were at the volcanic region. This is very isolated and is just made up of a few remote islands and the volcanoes. It was almost eerie as we pulled up to these huge mountains of destruction.
When we arrived we could see smoke and gasses coming from the tops of both Krakatoa and Anak Krakatoa. When I asked our tour guide if we would be able to hike Anak Krakatoa, he decided this would be a good time to notify us that there had been an earthquake at this exact location the night before. He also said that three days prior Anak Krakatoa had erupted fifty times. Because of all of this activity, he said the volcano is considered dangerous and there are certain areas of the island we wouldn't be able to explore.
After docking at a black sand beach we began our hike into the jungle and then up a steep sanded side of the volcano. I'm not a very athletic person.. I prefer eating and watching movies to working out. So I'm not really sure why I thought climbing an active volcano so close to the equator would be something that would be easily possible for me to accomplish. I had a very rude awakening as I climbed up hot black sand in extreme temperatures. Every steep step I took, my feet would slide a bit back down in the sand. It felt I was barely making progress! The volcano has two peaks. We were only allowed to climb to the top of the first peak, as the second peak is where all of the gases and dangers are. I made it a little more than half way up the first peak, and decided to head back to the beach before I passed out!!! Even though I only made it half way, the views were still so beautiful. I could see Krakatoa and blue ocean for miles.

After having lunch on the beach, we took the boat to the main volcano - Krakatoa. We went snorkeling in the water around the volcano, and then sat on the beach for a little while. This volcano is very lush and full of trees and jungle, unlike Anak Krakatoa which is all sand and sulfur due to it's ongoing eruptions.
On the beach we saw Monitor Lizards running around. These are fairly large lizards that are known to be somewhat vicious.

After a nice relaxing holiday we returned to work to find out from other staff members that the government had put a ban on visiting Krakatoa last week due to the high activity of eruptions. Apparently a tourist was struck with a piece of flying debris from the volcano. I guess we got lucky the day we were there!!

As another month of living in Indonesia comes to an end, I am excited for the adventures that lay ahead in September. Next stop: Bali!

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