For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to explore new places and experience new things, meet new people. Even from the backwoods of the small town of Bellingham WA, that I grew up in to the various countries I’ve had the opportunity to visit. It’s with that curiosity for adventure that I’ve decided to go out on an around the world trip. Accompanied by my wife Jacquelyne, we will travel to eight countries on four continents, the first of which is Australia where we are headed to meet my best friend Jordan and his wife Candace, who reside in Narabeen Beach NSW. We Left Los Angeles last week for Honolulu just to get our feet wet literally, and figuratively, so we could enjoy a nice climate and settle into a life on the road or boat or plane.
We hit our first snag as there was a problem with my Australian Visa and I wasn’t able to board our flight, but the issue was just a mistake that was corrected by the awesome staff at Jet Star and we had to stay an extra day in Waikiki (we were devastated).
So why the wanderer you ask? Everyone I think has a bit of wanderlust in them some more than others. It’s even become trendy to travel and be an Instagram Influencer. Millions of people liking one photo that someone who had the guts to go there and take the photo themselves, or get there early before the millions of tourists do. Really this trip has all been inspired by my father. We lost him last September to Cancer. In the hospital he exclaimed to me how he always wanted to be the wanderer and I was able to record some of our conversations about where he had been, and what he had hoped to see. I felt a calling that I must go to loosely steal John Muir’s words.
I quit my Job and set out with the thoughtfulness and organization skills of my lovely wife, whom without this trip wouldn’t have been possible or at least I wouldn’t have made it very far. I write to you from a Jet Star plane somewhere over the pacific and I have no idea what time zone we are in on our way to Australia, a place I’ve never been. When we arrive we will meet our friends who are fellow and experienced travelers themselves having caught the bug and seen most of this world already. I am excited to see and spend time with them, hear some places they’ve enjoyed that are on our path. I’ve brought just about all I can carry camera wise in order to make pictures along the way and who knows what lies ahead for us as we wander the planet in search of adventure.
THE LAND… OF OZ
NARRABEEN BEACH NEW SOUTH WALES
After a short, nerve racking delay in customs due to a formality check of my visa, Jacque and I were in the land of Oz. (I introduced myself as Brandon, which I had not done in a long time to avoid confusion) We took the windy tunnel roads to the Northern beaches, where when we arrived we were greeted by my long time friend Jordan. Hw was running to catch up with our shuttle van as he had been anxiously awaiting our arrival and was at the beach checking the surf. I gather this is a common occurrence since they only live steps from Narrabeen beach. This is a place of beauty for sure, despite everyone trying to apologize for the weather and wondering why we decided to visit in the southern hemisphere’s winter. In truth, I’d compare it to the the Organ or Northern Cali beaches in climate for late June. The beauty is impossible to compare though almost as if you were in the positive upside down.We borrowed warm clothing from our hosts, knowing we wouldn’t need any for the rest of our journey. They took us around the headlands of the Northern beaches, West Head look out where I flew the drone a bit, and then down into the basin where we saw Wallabies. We had a nice lunch at a place in Palm Beach called “The Boat House.” Which I was told we were overlooking and drone flying several Km away.
After the tour of beauty, we took our feet to Manly Beach and walked along the boardwalk until we took the ferry into Sydney Harbor. Manly was probably my favorite it has a lot to offer for wanderers. It had a Fremont Seattle, Santa Cruz, with a dash of Big Sur vibe… Write that recipe down and pin it on your fridge.
When we boarded and departed on the ferry towards Sydney, I couldn’t believe the similarities of the Pacific North West, as we porpoised the waves. Right until just off the horizon I spotted the famous clamshell opera house roof. I had seen it a million times on TV but its a little different when you imagine the expanse of ocean between that and the Santa Monica Pier. We wound up the evening with rooftop drinks at “Blu Bar” on the 36th floor of the Shangri La Sydney. The sun was setting over the continent of Australia and with such good company the experience was unforgettable.
When it became time for us to be on our way, we had a nice breakfast at “Ocean’s Narrabeen Bar and Restaurant.” Candace is the manager there and she introduced us to so many awesome people that gave us a sense of belonging in their tight benevolent community.. It also happened to be her birthday and when we had finished our coffees we wandered out to the beach just steps away, we were welcomed by a beautiful rainbow. We hugged, not wanting our visit to end but knowing we all will be back together soon.
Signing off from day one, in Bali Indonesia!
BALI, INDONESIA - PT I
CANGGU, NUSA PENIDA
The cabin doors were waiting to be opened and I had already grabbed all of our stuff from the overhead compartment in anticipation of stepping off in Bali Indonesia. The just under six hour flight from Sydney went quickly, I watched two movies when I should have been working, but I was excited like the night before you go snowboarding or insert anything you get excited about.
We walked around the many taxi drivers outside of baggage claim holding up signs and we started to get a little worried because we couldn’t see our name at first. We had booked a shuttle to the hotel for a stress free arrival but somehow we were stressed trying to find our driver go figure. We eventually found our guy and we departed Denpasar airport to our hotel in Canggu, a town about 40 minutes due west from the airport and recommended to us by Jordan whom we just left in Australia.
Canggu was described to us as the hip, low key part of Bali and it didn’t disappoint. Full of Cafe’s and shops it reminded me of a “Fremont Seattle” or an “Venice Beach L.A.” but on the other side of the Pacific. Motorbikes beeping and passing you on a sidewalk not quite big enough for me, let alone two people. We went straight for the beach to a place called La Briza and had a cocktail in the treehouse style beach restaurant and bar. The waves were pumping on the black sand beaches and I still hadn’t been in the water to surf. I felt the urge to but opted to walk further down where we found a nice meal water front for pretty cheap and later I wandered to catch the Sunset to keep my streak going of photographing either the sunrise or sunset everyday of the trip. As I’m writing you now I’ve stayed consistent through 16 days. We rented a motorbike and cruised around shopping during the day waiting for the Sun to be in position to visit the famous “Tanah Lot Temple.” I must admit sometimes the motor bike felt a little sketchy in traffic especially with Jacque clinching my mid section when I would make a decision to pass or have to hit the brakes hard. We spent the evening walking around the stunning Tanah Lot tourist attraction and then when the Sun had set it was time to drive 35 minutes back. . . In the dark. . . Those that know me are aware I have undergone cornea transplant surgery in my left eye; the ailment has prevented me from driving and especially at night. Despite having a nervous wife on my back who by the way was so awesome and supportive and my inability to see 100% I rallied through instinct and got us home safely earning myself a beer from Jacque who applauded my good driving.
We booked a bus that included a speed boat transport to Nusa Penida, a separate island due east of Sanur on the east coast of Bali. The seas are rough and a few times, even I got a little worried when the boat pitched and struggled to catch back on plane and the waves smashed over the bow. These speed boats seat about 50-80 maybe, and have six 200 HP outboard engines. It was a wild ride about 45 minutes to calmer, beautiful clear blue green waters where we jumped off to a corral sand beach. We hopped on a taxi to our bungalow where we were greeted by the sweetest care taker. We think she ran the place with her mother, only four rooms on a dirt road seemingly off the grid. We had read stories and heard from locals that it was dangerous or even impossible to drive a scooter on the roads to the places I wanted to see and it was recommended we should hire a driver for 800k. We rented a bike anyway for 70k about $5 US anyway and went down to Crystal Bay near our place for the sunset. Credit to Jacque again she hopped on the back of the scooter and said “I trust you, let’s go!”
My mission the next day was to wake up and depart in the dark to catch the Sunrise over Kelingking beach. I was a little apprehensive not knowing how my eyes would cope driving in the pitch dark but I mustered up the courage and I let Jacque sleep comfortably and I took off in the dark no one else on the windy jungle roads. Thankfully there aren’t many roads so I kept telling myself I had to be going the right way. The road does get pretty gnarly in spots for long stretches. Comparable to old logging roads we used to mountain bike down in the Northwest. With deep pot holes and large rocks that you constantly have to weave to avoid, I made it to Kelingking and almost dropped the bike down on it’s side I was so excited. I was the only person there (except for the monkey’s.) I snapped some photos and immediately put the drone in the air just as the sun started to kiss the island with the most beautiful light blues, pinks and yellow oranges. After I got my fill of shots I hopped back on the bike and raced home with more confidence knowing the way and also daylight. I picked up Jacque after breakfast and we went back to the area this time seeing Angel’s Billabong which is breathtaking, as well as Broken Beach. The tourists were out in full force and you have to dodge the parade of selfie sticks and wanna be Instagram hero’s. No joke some put on full costumes and did full on photoshoots. They even have spots where people stand in line to take their photo and pay the locals, 5,000 RP to take a picture with their cell phone. I chuckled inside that I got there all alone not a sole in sight and I got to experience the magic with out having to deal with the circus. The circus I suppose is part of the adventure though and the tourism defiantly drives the local economy which I’m all for. Jacque and I made the climb down to the beach at Kelingking which I did’t do when I was there early in the morning and it’s incredible. Not many people have the nerve to scale the rickety bamboo staircase that is more like a 90 degree ladder in some parts. When you reach the bottom it feels like your own private beach. The waves were hectic and powerful, sounding like two trains banging together when they crash against the rock walls. After taking it in we went back up the face of the cliff which is a pretty strenuous climb and that combined with the work out of driving the motor bike off road through heavy tourist traffic we were wiped out when we finally made it back to the bungalow. The next morning we had plans to hop on a speed boat back to Sanur Bali with Ubud next on our Agenda.
See you out there…
BALI, INDONESIA PT II
UBUD - KUTA
Bouncing along the giant waves back to mainland Bali after having a wonderful time on Nusa Penida, we were excited for our next generation - Ubud. Located interior of Bali it’s more a jungle vibe as you get further from the coast. I downloaded an app called “Blue Bird” which works like Uber or Lyft. It’s really nice because you don’t have to worry about getting ripped off. Later, come to find out, the locals hate ride share apps for obvious reasons. Tourism is one of their primary economic pusher and these ride share apps cut into that significantly. When we arrived in our nice, safe, inexpensive Blue Bird car, we saw signs all over Ubud that had symbols of the apps with crosses through them saying that it was a ride share free area. We stepped up to our accommodation I had made a mistake in thinking three nights was 1.2 million Rupiah total. It turned out to be per night but it was a welcome mistake, this place was amazing called Puri Gardens Hotel and Hostel. Everyone we spoke too said it was nicer than some hotels and it was. Always bustling with young travelers, free breakfast and the room was very nice. Highly recommend if you’re planning your trip to Bali. Even the dorm stye rooms sounded nice from the few people I heard from staying there. On our second night they threw a party with free food, traditional Bali dancers, and a Bob Marley cover band.
The next day I rented a motor bike and we headed out to a waterfall not too far from our hotel. We wanted to take it easy as we had booked a sunrise hike to the top of Mt. Batur for the next day that left at 2:00 a.m. The roads weren’t too bad and I handled myself in traffic. I only got turned around a couple times on the way back. Thankfully my GPS is international. A lot of the roads look the same and aren’t well marked. Kampo Lanto Waterfall isn’t a jaw dropper of a waterfall but it’s plenty beautiful and refreshing to cool down in. Very easy to access, you park your motorbike for free and walk down a few steps to a creek that the falls pours into. Local kids were playing and and splashing and for a few bucks guys will take your cell phone and direct you in your own Instagram photoshoot which I politely declined. We took the motor bike back to our hotel and spent the rest of the evening walking around the core of Ubud looking at shops and having dinner where I finally succumbed to my cheeseburger needs and it was actually quite good.
I was a little skeptical about how Jacque would handle the 2:00 a.m. departure but she handled it and we set out in the dark towards Mt. Batur, a still active volcano that I was told last erupted just three weeks prior. The hike itself was a little strenuous up a narrow volcanic rock trail with a snake of flashlights winding to the top from trekkers who came out in droves. Once you arrive at the top you sit there, the locals will make you hot coffee (which I highly recommend because it’s cold up there even for a cold weather person like me.) They offer blankets and can even buy beer and candy, it sort of removed the glory of hiking up the mountain, but once the sun came peaking over the island of Lombok it was all worth it. Not the most thrilling sunset I’ve ever seen but definitively a contender. We came off the mountain through farmland where local farmers grew tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and other food and headed back to the city where our next stop awaited - the Sacred Monkey Forest. This was by far the most recognizable attraction with many of our friends having been before. It’s a must see but it sounds exactly like it is, lots of cute monkeys and then you’re done. I rented another motorbike for the next day with the thought in my head to go to the Tegalalang rice terraces for sunrise the next day. Even more impressive, that was Jacque’s second sunrise wake up call in a row. Except this time it started raining down on us hard five minutes into our motor bike ride and I was having trouble seeing the road with the drops in my eyes and the lack of light in the streets so we decided to bail. It’s a shame we missed out on it but I was ok having not seen it and it was time to move on.
We packed our bags and I negotiated a taxi to take us to Kuta where we planned to stay just because it was close to the airport and we had an early flight the next day. Our driver was very nice and asked if we had seen the coffee plantation. We said we hadn’t and he insisted on taking us for free and dropped us off where we were met by a nice young gal who gave us a tour of the coffee and tea plants and described the process. The most interesting is the process of gathering the beans that are preserved in the poop of an animal called a Kopi Luwak. Their stomach enzymes don’t break down the bean and this coffee is considerably more expensive and quite good actually. Their shirts have “poo” jokes on them like “Cat-poo chino” the cat in reference to the animals face that is similar looking to a cat. We bought some coffee and tea which our driver probably got a commission on and was likely why he offered to take us for free. We then headed to Kuta, a place known for its marketplace and haggling, we walked along the beach where there are “beach bars” (people with coolers selling drinks) and vendors every five feet. Sometimes they spoke to me in an Australian accent assuming I was from there. At night we did more of the same just strolling around and seeing the sights as we waited to jet off to Bangkok, Thailand the next day where we were going to meet with one of Jacque’s best friends Christie and her boyfriend, Rob. Next stop, Pattaya City to see friends again and another new place to experience new things, until then.
See you out there…