Silversmithing in Yogyakarta

I’m not sure if silversmithing is a legitimate word, or if smithing silver is the verb form of being a silver smith. Grammatical concerns aside, I returned to the workshop of Agus to attempt making another silver ring. I managed to come up with a design on the spot that I had high hopes for.

Here’s Agus laughing while inspecting the hole I accidentally hammered into my ring. This mistake was easily fixed under his expert guidance.

I must have spent an hour tying little knots into silver wire. Little did I know my design would be so tedious to make.

The coolest part of the process is soldering the different parts together. It’s also the trickiest as I learnt when I watched my fine wire melt into a glob of silver instead of attaching itself to the ring. This was a bit of a disappointment, but it still turned out quite nice (as long as I have it turned a certain direction on my finger).

By this point, everyone else had finished their projects.

The super attentive to detail, slightly anal, and occasionally slow side of my heredity was starting to show at this point. I still had to bend my decorated metal bar into a ring, file it, and polish it.

In the end, I made a ring that I think is pretty cool. Plus, I got to play with fire in the process.

Bicycle tour of Yogyakarta

Joya and I signed up for a bike tour of Yogyakarta. We toured around small villages stopping wherever we spotted someone doing something interesting.

Our guides did a fantastic job of breaking the ice for us and opening the door for us to try our hand at whatever home industry was at hand. Joya did most of the trying while I did most of the photography. In this case, she’s making Krupuk or flour puffs that have the texture of styrofoam, but since they’re deep fried are actually quite tasty.

The krupuk maker invited us into his home and introduced us to his family, including thier newborn daughter.

Along the way, we saw some beautiful scenery.

My favourite stop was meeting a couple of women who were wrapping tempe in banana leaves. Tempe is fermented soybean paste. They prepare the beans and then wrap them in individual banana leaf packets. After spending a few days in the leaves, the beans have grown enough mould to be a solid mass of white fermented nastyness that is absolutely delicious when cooked.

We spent a long time chatting with the two women who grew up together, helped each other raise their children, and wrap tempe together whenever they can. The tempe is sold for 100 to 200 rupiah per packet depending on the size, which is just over a penny or two. The woman in the photo below has been making tempe every day since she was a teenager, and raised her children on the small proceeds. She still rides her bike into town every day to deliver the tempe to steet vendors.

Joya tried out rice farming for a while.

The hunches in the backs of many of the farmers are permanent remnants of spending a life bent over planting rice.

With two crops of rice and a third alternative crop being planted per year, the work is never ending.

There was also some mud brick making during the tour.

A key part of any tour is, of course, eating. Gorengan (anything fried) is always a favourite, as were the chocolate and banana flavoured serabi served on mini banana leaf plates.

A Balinese funeral

I learned today that certain days on the Balinese calendar are good for weddings, some are good for cremations. Today was a day for the later. En-route to a market to buy tacky souveneirs we passed a field full of cremations in progress.

Typically in the morning, the whole community gathers to carry the body to the cremation site and make offerings. By the afternoon, it’s only the close friends and family that remain. As the pyre burns down, the family gathers to pray over the ashes, douse them with water, and gather them into an urn. Eventually the ashes will be thrown into the sea, which as I understand it, is the taker of life in comparrison to the volcano which is the giver of life.

We were a little skeptical of hopping out of the car, cameras in hand, to play the role of gawking tourists at a funeral, but our driver encouraged us. A couple of things struck me while I was sitting on the curb watching the proceedings.

First, despite being an island overrun by tourists, we were still welcomed at a funeral. Everyone was proud of their traditions and wanted to share them with us.

Second, my conceptions were further twisted when I realized that, while my reaction to a group of tourists wishing to invade the private moments of a funeral would be rather hostile, the idea of a funeral being a private affair is a completely foreign concept to the Balinese.

Growing up in the west, we have a certain way of dealing with death that is captured quite well in Six Feet Under. In general, we hide ourselves away with our close family, only receiving curt generic phrases and awkward handshakes as condolonces. Instead of having to touch the body ourselves, we pay an undertaker to return our loved one to us made up to look like they’re sleeping. The response to this is that our community expects a grieving family to bury themselves away until they’re able to return to society, acting as if nothing ever happened.

The Bat Cave Temple

Of the stranger temples in Bali, the “Bat Cave” Temple definitely ranks highly. It’s a typical Balinese temple except for the fact that it’s at the entrance to a cave filled with bats. The whole premise is pretty strange to me.

Joya insisted that the bats were, “Si minion.” I don’t quite havea vocabulary to describe bats, but “cute” would definitely not be an adjective of choice.

Back on the road, the sight of this truck lumbering down the highway amused me. When I took a photo the driver inquired if people ride on the top of trucks in Canada.

Flowers

I liked these flowers that were growing by the side of the road in Sumatra.

It’s not the greatest photo ever, but adequate for a test post.  I’m trying out a new program called Zoundry Raven that allows you to prepare posts offline, save them, and upload them all when connected to the internet.  It seems ideal for all the quality time I spend sitting on airplanes.

A phone call in sunny Bali

Kyle called to say happy Easter, and it seems to complain about the weather in Canada. I took the opportunity to brag about being on the beach in Bali.

An aborted paragliding trip

We spent the weekend at the bungalows in Puncak with the grand intention of going para-gliding. By the time we managed to gather the energy for the adventure and arrived at the top of the pass, there was absolutely no visibility. The tea plantation was actually quite beautiful in the fog.

Instead, we ate some corn and piled 10 people in the car for the ride home.

Pulau Macan (Again)

Joya and I spent a weekend another weekend on Pulau Macan and had a very relaxing time. I brought my computer to do some work and a book to read. In the end, absolutely nothing was accomplished, except for some snorkeling and the usual wait for sunset.

If you’re smuggling drugs, please raise your hand

My Air Asia flight from Kuala Lumpur is about to land in Jakarta. The steward made what he called a special announcement that said, “Air Asia would like to remind passengers that importing of narcotics into Indonesia is a serious offence that is punnishable by the death penalty. We ask passengers who might be carrying illegal narcotics to identify themselves to a security official upon arriving at the terminal. We thank you for your cooperation, and enjoy the rest of your flight.”

I guess this is one step above saying a prayer for a safe landing over the PA.

I have plenty of photos from recent adventures to post, hopefully this week.

Climbing Gunung Kerinci

What started as a, “wouldn’t it be cool if…” actually turned into a cool last-minute trip to climb the highest volcano in Southeast Asia. When we saw it from the air on our way to Padang, it certainly looked intimidating.

From Padang, we spent six hours riding through narrow roads passing busses and logging trucks. To those not from Jakarta, it was a series of near death experiences. To the rest, it was driving as usual.

I’ve seen my name spelled in creative ways by Indonesians, but “Richat Bernard” is by far the most creative.

The night before, our guide explained the route. We’d camp the next night at 3,000 m, wake up early the following morning to summit just after sunrise, and return to the village by sundown.

It was a pretty intense climb, and would have been a nightmare if it rained. Thankfully, the weather was beautiful. Parts of the climb were pretty steep.

Yes, that is a Starbucks mug hanging from my pack. My one luxury is to slowly enjoy a hot cup of coffee for the first few hours of the day, and it’s absolutely fantastic!

The first part of the journey was through forest, and made for beautiful hiking.

I don’t think I’ve ever pulled focus and zoom on a still camera before, but the effect certainly seemed to work well to show Chris’ effort in hoisting himself up.

Eventually we broke through the forest cover to see the vertical progress we had made. The view was pretty spectacular.

The original campsite that was proposed for 3,000 meters was actually not that nice, and since we had made such good time, we decided to climb another 100 m to another site completely above the tree line. The guides didn’t want to, as they said it was windy and exposed. They were definitely right, but it was worth it.

That’s my new tent looking like it’s going to fall off into the crater on the far left.

We woke up before dawn the next morning in the hopes of catching a beautiful sunrise. Unfortunately, we were completely clouded in, and it was very cold. It was a long, hard climb up slippery scree.

After reaching the top, we went back down a few meters to shelter ourselves from the wind and wait for the rest of the group to reach the top.

It was well worth the wait, as the sun started to burn off the clouds, and eventually we were treated to a spectacular view.

The way back down from the summit was a nice climb, but very slippery. I’m actually glad we couldn’t see anything on the way up; seeing the steepness and distance would have been very discouraging.

Weekend in Puncak

It was another typical weekend at the bungalows…

… some ping pong

Adam playing ping pong

… buying some fresh potatoes at a roadside stall

Chad at the potato warung

… board games

Risk at Puncak

… laughs

Howie and Haviva

… great food

Vanessa & Richard cooking

… and a big group dinner

Group dinner

Umbrella Boys

Umbrella boys hang out in parking lots whenever it rains.  For a small tip, they’ll keep you dry on your way in and out of buildings.  Mostly, they just seem to get wet playing in puddles.  I have no idea where they all come from or what they do when it’s not raining, but they come out in droves at the first sight of clouds.

This boy was doing his best to keep me covered.

Chad and an umbrella kid

Jakarta Sunset

For a few days the sunsets have been beautiful.  I shot this from my balcony.

Jakarta Sunset

There’s an apartment building nearby called “The Da Vinci.”  It’s gaudy, but I like it for not being a concrete block.  I’d take a unit in it any day as long as I don’t have to wrap everything I own in matching gold leaf.  Here’s what the penthouse looks like.

Sunset from Tulamben, Bali

I spent a weekend diving, but only took a couple of photos in the evening.  Here’s one of a sunset with Mount Agun silhouetted.

Gunung Agun Sunset

Krakatau erupts!

I’ve been meaning to write this post for several weeks, but haven’t been able to for a number of reasons. Besides being busy, the biggest hindrance was the fact that I took 400 photos in a 2-day weekend that needed to be sorted through. As a result of my indiscretion with the camera, this might be my longest post ever.

Krakatau

We had planned, for quite some time, to visit Anak Krakatau by boat with the intention of hiking it, and doing some snorkeling in the area. For a bit of history, Krakatau is a volcano that erupted in 1883 in a spectacular way. The volcano blew several kilometers of itself into dust that blacked out the sun for days and changed weather patterns in Europe for several years, caused a giant tsunami that wiped out 30,000 people and travelled to the other side of the world, and made a bang that was heard thousands of kilometers away. It’s worth checking out the Wikipedia article.

Anak Krakatau literally means ‘child of Krakatau’ and is the name for the volcano that has been growing at a rate of 20 feet per year since it first popped its head above the ocean surface in 1927.

A few weeks before our trip, Anak Krakatau started venting.

Jakarta Post Front Page

By the time we were scheduled to visit, the government had imposed a 10 km radius restricted zone around the volcano. The front page of the Jakarta Post had this on the cover the day of our departure.

Jakarta Post Front Page

In response, our captain and guide came up with a plan to take us snorkeling elsewhere.

Richard the Dive Master

Howie and Haviva

On the Cecelia Ann

While we all agreed that this was the wise thing to do, we weren’t satisfied. After some negotiation, we managed to convince the captain to take us to the edge of the 10km radius — just for a look.

Chad in front of Krakatau

The view, even from that distance, was spectacular. Giant mushroom clouds were clearly visible in the overcast distance.

Krakatau

Chris and Danielle at Krakatau

After a thorough search with binoculars for Navy patrols, we crept closer. Slowly, the outline of Anak Krakatau became clearer on the horizon. We were approaching from the opposite side from where the eruption was occurring, but were still able to see huge rocks being thrown into the air amidst the clouds of dust. At one point, we passed under the plume and were coated with a nice light gray layer of dust.

Krakatau

Krakatau

Krakatau

Kastan

All the while, our dinner was cooking on the barbeque. Who knew that it was possible to roast a leg of lamb on a barbeque in four foot seas. The cook succeeded magnificently at his task. I had forgotten how great of a job they do with the food.

Leg of lamb and Krakatau

Richard the Dive Master

Krakatau

Krakatau

We anchored out of sight of the volcano for the night and took a zodiac out to see what it looked like in the dark. We couldn’t get a decent photo while bobbing around in the waves, but all agreed that it was worth getting up before sunrise to take the ship around and see it in the dark.

After a stormy night during which we were blown off our anchor and slightly stuck in the sand, we woke up at 4:30 for a much caffeinated sunrise spectacle.

I’ve realized that my generation overuses the word awesome, for that’s truly the only way to describe what we saw. Without a shortage of dramatic flair, Krakatau was spewing flames in front of us.

Krakatau at dawn

Krakatau at dawn

Krakatau at dawn

Krakatau at dawn

By the time the sun was up, we were hungry and the bright coloured flames were once again hidden by daylight. While finishing breakfast a couple of journalists who were camped out behind our boat for sunrise asked to board our boat. This cover of the Jakarta Post is the result.

Jakarta Post Front Page

Jakarta Post Front Page

The Reuters photographer’s shot below became a Time Magazine photo of the week.  That’s our boat, the Cecelia Ann with us sitting on deck watching the sunrise spectacle.

Reuters / Time Photo of the Week

Here’s the photo that I think really should have made the front page.

Chad swimming at Krakatau

The water was very warm, and tasted very acidic. If sulfur really has rejuvenating properties, I should be about 17 years old right now.

Krakatau

Well, if swimming 2 kilometers away wasn’t good enough for us, we decided to get up close and personal by sailing right up to Anak Krakatau. Here’s the new crater that has developed on the side of the volcano.

Krakatau

Krakatau

Krakatau

Krakatau

Krakatau

Fisherman at Krakatau

It’s weekends like this that make me remember why why I signed up for this transient life, and why I love Indonesia. This might be the highlight trip of my posting here.

Krakatau and Indonesian Flag