A Travellerspoint blog

October 2011

Gentlemen, Start Your Razors: Movember 2011

Fighting Prostate Cancer One 'Stache at a Time

So, if you're inclined to cultivate a mustache as a member of the Mitzvah Vontses or want to show your support for the fight against prostate cancer through a donation to the team, please click on the below link(s)

To join the team: https://www.movember.com/us/register/details/team_id/225506

To donate to the team:


To donate to the team VIA my Movember page:


Posted by bucketbath 15:58 Archived in Indonesia Tagged jakarta indonesia singapore travel fun fundraising shave movember mustache cancer beard prostate shaving Comments (2)

On a quest for glory

Joanie and MIcah conquer Bromo and Kawah Ijen

Our "near death" volcano hike started off 2 days prior with a nail biting, 12hr, mini bus ride from Yogyaharta to the Bromo region. The driver started to dose off within the first 3 hours of our trip. Micah and I, along with our 2 new companions, Eric and Anna, spent the remaining 9hrs keeping a watchful eye on our drowsy chauffeur. After a long day of traveling, we arrived at our chilly homestay which appeared to be balanced on the edge of the crater overlooking Gunung Bromo. We settled down for 4 hrs of sleep and woke up at 3:30am to pile into a Jeep to catch the sunrise. There were touts selling T-shirts, winter hats, coffee and horse rides for the less physically fit, along the steep path to the overlook. I was amazed that we were greeted with coffee and t-shirts at 4am! This became the running joke over the next 2 days. You want horse? Only R50,000.00.

Following a stunning sunrise and an all you can eat breakfast overlooking Gunung Bromo, we loaded our packs back into the mini bus to start another days journey to Kawah Ijen. We arrived at our next destination with just enough time for showers, dinner and a four hour nap. We awoke at 11:45pm and spent the entire night hiking to the top of Kawah Ijen, down into the crater, and back up to the crest again in time for sunrise. Just as we were wondering when the T-shirts and horses would show up , we were enticed with miniature, sulfur carved turtles from the miners-as if 100kilos of sulfur on their backs wasn't enough!

Check out the video, dramatic music (as always) is included!

Posted by bucketbath 07:59 Archived in Indonesia Comments (4)

Descending into Indonesia's Blue Fire

Deep in the volcano's spiny caldera, blue flames flared like primordial ether at creation's dawn.

Stars shimmered overhead, teasing the night's inky blackness, only to be obscured as clouds of sulfurous gas poured from fissures in the crater floor.

Hours earlier at a guesthouse set amidst coffee fields and rubber trees, Joanie's alarm started screeching at 11:40pm. We'd gone to sleep a few hours before to rest up for the drive and hike to the peak, then into the cauldron of Kawah (Mount) Ijen, an 8,660-foot volcano on Java, Indonesia's eastern slope.

It was a spur of the moment decision instigated by the temptation of more volcano trekking and blue lava (actually blue fire, but fantasy overpowered reality).

The night before we hiked to the peak of Mt. Bromo, an inactive volcano on a massive volcanic plateau (stay tuned for pix an overhead satellite map). Before heading to the guesthouse on Bromo’s rim where we’d nap before the summit push, we stopped at the tour office and saw pictures of Mount Ijen’s blue flames.

We had to see this. After a bout of bartering that included throwing a stack of cash (880,000 Rupiah – just under $100) on the desk saying, “Here's the cash. Do you want it? I really want you to have it” and watching the salesman squirm as he decided it was enough, we added the second volcano trek to our itinerary.

For the blue fire, the plan was to leave at midnight and begin the hour and a half drive through windy roads canopied in lush jungle. The guide did not appear until 12:30 am and was limping, from twisting his ankle in the dark. (In the previous 2 days, both Joanie and I and the Dutch couple trekking with us had a total 8 hours of sleep and would have enjoyed any extra shut-eye).

We loaded into the van and drove to the volcano, an advertised hour and a half journey that takes only 45 minutes. After arrival, we finalized our packing (jacket and rain shell for the cold and possible rain, snacks for the hike, water, headlamp and a monopod (a one legged camera stand) that I’ve occasionally used as a cane (my ankle is much better but I am still cautious) and headed up the trail.

The path begins wide as a Hummer and flat but quickly charges upward to a 45-degree slope. We hike in the darkness broken by our bouncing flashlight beams, panting from the guide’s breakneck pace and thinning air as the altitude grows.

We continue climbing up, above the tree line into the night’s expansive claustrophobia. The acrid smell of sulfur sours the air and the crater looms. Far below, billowing clouds of sulfur churn skyward, shifting direction as the winds swirl. In the distance, a faint blue glow radiates and small red and white lights dance near the glow, lights of the fiery torches and flashlights of the miners harvesting raw sulfur.

It’s nearly 3:00 am and the guide says 20 miners are working the late shift. It’s a weekend for the miners and the main crew (around 400 people) are off.

We tie bandannas over our faces to protect from the sulfurous fumes and climb over the edge, into the crater’s barren lunar landscape. Rudimentary steps cut into the chalky white rock vanish and reappear at random. When there are no steps, we slide down scree and hop from rock to rock, struggling to keep our balance and ignore the sulfur’s stink. As we descend, miners trod up the path carrying baskets full of raw yellow sulfur precariously balanced on their shoulders. An average load weighs between 175-220 pounds, for which they take home around $13.50.

The blue fire, fueled by alight liquid sulfur, grows brighter but the winds pickup and spit the fuming clouds throughout the crater, erasing everything except for its milky haze. At the bottom of the crater, a miner toils in the noxious cloud, prying sulfur from the earth with a six-foot crowbar.

A bit further, we arrive to the shore of the sulfurous lake that fills the crater; it’s hot acidic water steaming and morbidly opaque in the darkness.


More photos here.

I am in hell or some lost time when the molten earth struggled to accrete. It’s dark, stinking, my eyes are burning and despite wanting to take more photos, our group’s survival instinct seems to have taken over and we begin to ascend back to the crater rim.

Ten seconds later the winds violently shift, trapping Eric (one of the Dutch hikers), Joanie and myself in a malicious cloud of sulfur gas. I crouch down, my eyes shuttered, holding my breath but unable to avoid breathing the fiery air. I gasp, try to look around and see nothing but deadly blankness. Joanie is a few feet away.

Talk is impossible. We can only choke and have been trapped for what seems like a deathly amount of time. Instinct screams, overpowering the thoughts of death tearing through my brain. Seconds, minutes, I have no idea. The cloud breaks. I pull Joanie up and cough out “Let’s Go!”

We see in the distance a light and run toward it as fast as we can. The cloud still hovers but thinner. Our eyes, throats and lungs sizzle and an unspoken singularity directs us to ascend as fast as possible from this murderous place. We climb until the guide takes a wrong turn and we’re stuck at a dead end. A miner nearby sees us stranded and corrects our path. In the dark, we quickly ascend to just below the crater rim.

At the rim, clouds of sulfur continue to billow by, less toxic than in the crater but still saturated with poison. Joanie is gasping, sick from inhaling the sulfuric brew. All of us are coughing, our eyes still tearing.

But we’re alive and survived what may or may not be hell on earth.

It’s either late night or early morning, the coldest, darkest time. Icy winds whip around the crater.

The sky lightens, stars disappear and temperature rises. The crater reveals itself: it’s sides mangled and scarred as if some mythical predator clawed its way from the blue fire, clouds of sulfur churn, yellow sulfur deposits stain its walls. The sulfurous lake no longer looks like death’s ocean, but a tropical turquoise oasis.

The day has finally begun: wispy pink clouds fill the brightening sky and the blue flame’s primordial glow fades into the new dawn.

Be sure to click on the aerial view and zoom out.


Posted by bucketbath 07:48 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia volcano death fire near lava mine ijen toil sulfur Comments (4)

Hostel Lock down

Catching up on videos from China

Micah and I are on hostel lock down in Yogya, Indonesia as we work our way through a travel bug. It's either from food, heat stroke or a combination of both. We rode 20 miles on rented bikes in 90 degree heat to the Prambanan ruins yesterday. The last 24hrs have been spent breaking fevers, sleeping and listening to the mosque call to prayer from a speaker outside our window. On the bright side, I've had lots of time to work on video edits. We're long past China, but here are a few little gems from the first few weeks of our trip.

Tomorrow, we're hopping on a bus to a volcano trek that starts at 3am to Gunung Bromo and then continuing onto Bali. Wish a quick a speedy recovery!


I break down over laundry after a sink washing in Beijing. (Laundry is commonly a stressful situation for me-even with a washer and dryer.)

I came across my "Prince Chow Mein" at the Longman Caves in China. A girl's gotta kiss a lotta frogs...

Watch as we make our way through ancient, Pingyoa, China

Micah receives and official Chinese name from a monk in Pingyoa.

Posted by bucketbath 00:56 Archived in China Comments (6)

The Sweaty Traveler (Joanie)

Staying in shape on the go

The traveling lifestyle has been an adjustment from my physically demanding NYC schedule of dance rehearsals, teaching ballet, Pilates and fitness classes. It amazes me that new blisters are continuously popping up on my beat up, calloused, dancer feet. While 10 hrs of daily walking is great exercise, I haven't yet been able to achieve that glorious, sweaty, post workout high.

I sneak in some pretzel yoga moves whenever and wherever I can. Micah busts out his daily pushups before showering and bends his 6'3'' tower over to touch his toes in the most public displays possible. I prefer to take a more subtle approach and engage my abs and lats (in true Pilates teacher style) while carrying my 30L pack. We're doing everything we can to stay active while on the road.

We got into the athletic spirit while visiting the 2008 Olympic Stadium in Beijing and had the 10 mile hike of our lives at the Great Wall. I've compiled it all into 2 collections of Rocky like footage for your enjoyment.

Bucket Bath Olympics

Great Wall China

Posted by bucketbath 09:26 Archived in China Tagged of china olympics great beijing wall exercise Comments (6)

Coming to a theater near you

Be afraid China. Very Afraid.


Micah and I are both relieved to be out of China. Traveling (and eating) for the last month has been extremely difficult. As soon as we stepped onto the city streets of Hong Kong we felt the difference. There are fines for hawking, smoking and jay walking, the air is cleaner, and the locals don't stare at westerners, just the main land Chinese tourists do, and it feels like civilization again!

While Micah has been writing and taking pictures up a storm these last few weeks, I've been working on some creativity of my own. Unfortunately, the Great Fire Wall wouldn't allow any video posts.

We don't go anywhere without our handy Flip Cam in tow. These two masterpieces are from Beijing and more are coming!



Posted by bucketbath 19:04 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (8)

Even the Dead Have an iPad in Hong Kong

Hong Kong's Chung Yeung Festival Honors Their Ancestors


Today is Hong Kong's Chung Yeung festival, the day where ancestor reverence boils over and the country shuts down to show their respect.

Besides being a national holiday with government offices and banks closed, many Hong Kongers visit cemeteries to clean family member's graves and burn paper replicas of objects the dead might want in the afterlife (such as an iPad).

Stores that only sell these replicas - ranging from air conditioners to dentures that price from around $2.00 on up - line the street in the Sheung Wan neighborhood, one of the city's last with terraced turn-of-the-century buildings just starting to trend upward as hip galleries and glassy apartment buildings pop up.

Fingers crossed, these mom and pop shops survive the neighborhood's change. Where else will the dead (and their families) be able to grab a pack of Marlboro's or six pack of Heineken?

Click the following link for more photos: Hong Kong Fuey!


Posted by bucketbath 07:55 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged beer of holiday day festival dead money paper cigarettes chung yeung Comments (1)

The Sorcerers Apprentice

Before diving into the unknown's velvety ocean, I worked for five years as a photo editor at Cosmopolitan and Seventeen magazines where one of my responsibilities was to hire and train the interns.

I worked hard to expose them to the magazine world and provide a laboratory to learn about the business.

I prodded them to ask questions, take initiative and most importantly to instill the professional values I'd gained from my family, friends, and mentors.

Rewind ten years to Toledo, Ohio.

After graduating college, I took off to South America before planning to start law school that fall. Something changed inside me during the trip and I realized I wanted write and take photos.

So I returned to Toledo and was fortunate to land an internship at the Toledo City Paper, at the time, the city's only alternative weekly.

An iron tough, fire breathing (cue Thin Lizzy "We're Not Gonna Take It") Editor-In-Chief with a nationally syndicated column and talent for coaching writers had recently started.

He taught me how to be a writer and drilled into me the cannon of his bible: The Elements of Style.

He gave me the opportunity to write and take photos for the paper and always had time to sit down and walk through his edits.

I watched him work, absorbed his advice and felt humbled after hearing stories of his rough and tumble childhood (for which I'm still waiting to read in the book he promised - how many years ago was that?).

I went to grad school, taught journalism in Armenia, traveled around Central America and finally spread roots in NYC and boogied in the magazine world.

I moved up and forward, as had my mentor, Michael Miller.

He's now Editor-In-Chief and writes his "Lighting the Fuse" column for The Toledo Free Press, the alternatively weekly in Toledo on the verge of dislodging the city's daily from its crumbling pedestal.

He's a wizard of words and I'm humbled and thankful to have been the sorcerer's apprentice.

Check out his column this week - it's about a few people everyone knows pretty well.

Posted by bucketbath 10:43 Archived in China Comments (3)

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