What’s your best travel experience?
After 2 months on a combined marine/ forest expedition in South East Sulawesi, Indonesia, I spent 4 weeks independently travelling the central islands of the Indonesian archipelago: Bali, Lombok, Gilli Islands and Java. With a friend I hired a motorbike for 2 weeks to explore the magical island that is Bali, starting and ending in Kuta.
We soon became immersed in the flowing traffic, which I had until that point only experienced from the limitations of the carriage of a travelvan. Dodging between lanes, we would cross paths with different characters, my favourites including a smiling family of 5 squeezed onto one tiny bike and a trader submerged under a plethora of market-wares piled on every part of his bike.
On route eastwards toward Ahmed, we got “tourist-knapped” by a Balinese man called Salas; after being offered quick refreshments at his house 8km down the road we finished off staying 3 nights with him and his family in a self-constructed, 2-room concrete house overlooking the cliff top to the black sandy beach below. At some point during that time I believe we were introduced to every man in the small village whether it was for drinks, traditional Balinese round-singing, fishing, preparing and cooking the best fish kebabs I have tried to date, and generally sharing company.
It was 2 days in that we realised the extended visit was more engineered than it had originally appeared when Salas pulled out a collection of postcards from all over the English speaking world, written from other unsuspecting tourists passing along that same stretch of road 8km back, and who enjoyed a similar fate to our own. Salas had a comprehensive grasp of the English language which was self-taught from a book and practiced solely with people passing through his small, out the way village. He was a wonderful and generous host and it was the unexpectedness of the experience that made it so memorable. It was a big lesson for me, highlighting the benefits to be had from going off the speedy tourist track and getting to know the real life bubbling underneath.
What did you take?
For my 4 weeks travelling I still had everything from my 2 months expedition but most of it came in useful, and saw me better prepared than I imagine I would have been had I gone out entirely independently without a kit list. On our shared motorbike we had both out rucksacks slung over the foot rest, so crammed in amongst our luggage we felt like one of the locals.
My best items packed were my headtorch (with rechargeable AA batteries), originally for nocturnal frog-hunts in the forest, but also an invaluable tool for climbing Gurung Batur volcano by twilight; Lush travel shampoo bar which was a once weekly treat aside from my all purpose washing fluid for clothes, food, hands, hair, and without a doubt my collection of sarongs, bough on Hoga Island, which became an essential part of my travel clothing.
What do you wish you had taken?
Really high on my wish list while I was away was a reliable camera. I saw some amazing things that I wasn’t able to capture on camera. I have a collated album of photos from fellow travellers but it’s not quite the same as having captured unique moments for myself.
Which Frontier project would you like to visit?
Costa Rica Forest
What would you take there?
Binoculars so I can look high up into the canopy! My sarongs will definitely be packed, and they double up as lightweight fast-drying towels. If there’s not already one on camp then definitely a Frisbee for free time on the beach.