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Indonesia

Cooking at the Bumi Bali

Vegging our way through Indonesia

Here's the last of our recorded memories from Indonesia. Micah and I took a cooking class in the laid back, artsy town of Ubud on the island of Bali. At this point, we had already been eating Indonesian food for 2 weeks and couldn't quite place all the flavors. We quickly learned that taking a cooking class may be what this kosher/veg couple needs every time we encounter a new culture's cuisine. The morning class was full with about 15 carnivores so we got our own, personalized vegetarian class in the afternoon for the same price. It pays to have special dietary needs.

Bon Appetite! Or in Indonesian, selamat makan!

Posted by bucketbath 17:49 Archived in Indonesia Tagged food bali indonesia cooking eating chef class eat vegetarian ubud veg veggie Comments (5)

Long lost Indonesia


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Indonesia- It seems like it was so long ago! Micah and I spent a month traveling through the islands of Java, Bali, Gili Air and Lombok. I finally got around to putting all of our video footage together.

Check out the culture we experienced and the new friends we made along the way!

Posted by bucketbath 06:45 Archived in Indonesia Comments (3)

R&R. Kind of.

Bucketbath presses on

Per our fan club's request...

Here are some photos from the last few weeks hanging out on the island of Gili Air and climbing Mount Rinjani on Lombok Island.

We spent 5 days in a beach front bungalow on the nearly deserted island of Gili Air. My big accomplishment was discovering that I can snorkel. I can't swim, but I can float and since that's all snorkeling apparently involves, I got to check out some amazingly beautiful coral reefs and colorful underwater life. We saw starfish as big as basketballs, an eel, experienced tiny stings from many microscopic jellyfish and even came face to face with a poisonous sea snake. Ok, face to face may have been 15 feet away, but that's heart pumpingly close enough. Micah had a success of his own and went on his first run since his injury around our little 3.1 mile island.

We became a little restless after all that R&R and decided to travel 20 min by boat to the island of Lombok. We did a 2 day, 1 night climb up Mount Rinjani, hiking over 16hrs in 2 days. It was the most physically taxing 2,641meters of my life. Disgustingly, my left big toenail is now black and hanging by a thread because of it! TMI?

After an exhausting 6 hrs up to the crest, we had an picture perfect view of the still smoking Baru, which last erupted from the center of Rinjani's crater lake in 2009. After an early sunset and a hot meal, we snuggled into our cramped tent to rest up for an equally difficult day 2. 6am brought on another welcoming portion of rice, eggs and tea before we hiked down to the bottom of the crater to indulge in a volcanically heated hot spring. We spent an hour resting our sore muscles in the bubbling waterfall before having to hike 2hrs up out of the crater and another 5hrs down the mountain. The journey down was treacherous as we had to endure a few hours of rain. It turned our descent into a slip n' slide of muddy rivers and slippery tree root cobwebs. Our last hour was spent in total darkness as unidentifiable jungle bugs bounced off the light from our head lamps. We reached the bottom covered in mud, smelling like dirty gym socks and too sore to take another step. I've never been more happy to take a luke warm shower in my life.

We sealed our foul smelling clothing in plastic bags and caught a flight the very next day. We're now in the buzzing city of Ho Ch Minh, Vietnam where it's been interesting to take in a biased side of the Vietnam war. It's also provoked a lot of internet research. One of the best parts of this trip is living and experiencing world history through the culture and remaining relics. We're off to explore the Mekong tomorrow.

Check out Micah's Gili Air run as well as some photos below!

Link to Gili Island Run
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Joanie getting off the boat from Bali to Gili Air

Joanie getting off the boat from Bali to Gili Air

Workers Boat on Gili

Workers Boat on Gili

Micah inspecting our dinner on Gili

Micah inspecting our dinner on Gili

R and R

R and R

Snorkeling

Snorkeling

Gili Islands Lounging

Gili Islands Lounging

Waterfall in Senaru on Lombok

Waterfall in Senaru on Lombok

Joanie and Monkey's at Rinjani

Joanie and Monkey's at Rinjani

Looking at RInjani's Peak and the volcanic crater lake

Looking at RInjani's Peak and the volcanic crater lake

The Gili Islands and Bali from Mount Rinjani's Rim

The Gili Islands and Bali from Mount Rinjani's Rim

Joanie and Micah at the Rinjani Crater Rim

Joanie and Micah at the Rinjani Crater Rim

Base Camp at Rinjani - with the ocean in the background.

Base Camp at Rinjani - with the ocean in the background.

A cold night on Rinjani's Rim

A cold night on Rinjani's Rim

Joanie and Micah at Rinjani

Joanie and Micah at Rinjani

The trail to Mount Rinjani's Crater

The trail to Mount Rinjani's Crater

Posted by bucketbath 03:04 Archived in Indonesia Comments (6)

A Breath of Fresh Air

Sun rays broke over the jagged volcanic peaks scattering honey dew light onto the tropical waters and coral beaches.

Joanie and I are on the tiny island Gili Air, a 1.5 km wide island (and 3.1 mile circumference – this I know for a fact – I went for my first run in 6 weeks around the island) situated in the turquoise, coral filled waters between Bali and Lombok.

Today marks the two-month anniversary of our trip – eight weeks of perpetual motion via bus, train, car, shuttle and the occasional moped.

You could say we’re on a break from traveling. Getting some much needed down time before we pick up the pace in Vietnam and mainland South East Asia, where we’re heading on November 10 after – hard to believe – a month in Indonesia.

We’ve experienced the amazing and not so amazing: volcanoes, delicious foods
(snake-skin fruit, Gado Gado), disgusting foods (anything that showed up with meat or shrimp paste), poverty, sand fleas (that left a trail of bites on Joanie), breathtaking sunrises and sunsets (Mount Bromo), indefatigable hustlers and touts (Beijing and everywhere in Indonesia), to name a few.

We’ve watched each other react to our surroundings and the challenges they present. Putting aside spending 24-hours a day with your partner (at times a blessing in disguise), one of the greatest we’ve faced is pollution.

Putting aside spending 24-hours a day with your partner (at times a blessing in disguise), one of the greatest we’ve faced is pollution.

And I am afraid.

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Beijing's Olympic Village and Jakarta, Indonesia

As the cities in the developing world expand and populations become increasingly wealthy, ownership of motorized, pollution spewing vehicles (cars, mopeds, motorcycles) is skyrocketing. In one sense, this is a huge step forward for these countries development. But progress comes at a cost.

The epitome of the pollution (so far) has been Beijing and Jakarta, both sprawling metropolises with unchecked growth and little to no pollution control. At the end of a day of exploring we would return to our guest house covered in grime, light headed and coughing from their polluted air. There is no sky in these cities, only a brown haze hovering overhead like storm clouds on a gloomy day.

I’ve been disconnected from most of the campaign rhetoric flying around in the US right now, but I know for a 15 minute new cycle, the “job killing” EPA was the topic of derision.

Do these presidential candidates want to do what’s best for our country and the American people really think we would be better off without environmental protection? Is the EPA really a job-killing monster as decried?

During America’s balmy summers, who hasn’t experienced an Eco-Action day? I know from living in Bushwick, near cement factories, on a hot day after a run, I’d return home gasping for air – a mixture of pollution and a touch of asthma it likely triggered. And this is with EPA protection.

In other places like West Virginia, with it’s depressed economy and denuded landscape, mountains flatted and water poisoned with the slurry need to process the coal, could it be worse?

An alternative as proposed where anyone can do as they please in the pursuit of profit? Dump chemicals into rivers, spit sulfur into the air or doing nothing to reduce the agricultural and sewage running into the Gulf of Mexico that’s significantly contributing to Red Tide?

I don’t claim to have a panacea, but I do know that our problems need to be addressed through a careful balance of strengthening the EPA and their enforcement abilities and promoting sustainable growth. One could argue that costs will increase (ex. carbon tax) and that business (or the American people) could not afford or stomach any additional price hike.

In the developing world, increasing vehicle efficiency and especially devising a way to make mopeds and scooters less polluting would do wonders to cut back on the noxious haze. No doubt scientists are researching (at least I hope) ways to do this and reproduce the technology cheaply at scale.

One catch phrase often heard is corporate responsibility. If the companies that manufacture these vehicles: Honda and Yamaha, the most common in this part of the world, took full responsibility for the consequences of their product would they remain solvent?

Doubtfully. So it’s a balance that must be sought.

If the candidates with ambition to lead our country and arguably the world (although not in environmental protection even under the status quo) had their way with the EPA, pitting profits against American’s environment and health, who would win?

Actuaries put a value on human life and it seems the candidates have as well.

So much for sunny days.

Posted by bucketbath 06:28 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bali beach indonesia travel china air gili lombok pollution fresh epa Comments (2)

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:

http://us.movember.com/donate/your-details/team_id/225506/

To donate to the team VIA my Movember page:

http://us.movember.com/donate/your-details/member_id/1096236/

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.

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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.

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

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