844 days, 20,256 hours, 1,215,360 minutes, or 72,921,600 seconds. That is the approximate duration of my world tour. I never wanted it to end and now, in a manner of speaking, I suppose it never has to. If you wish to go by country do so by clicking on one above. They are numbered in the order I visited them, more or less. If you enjoy reading about it even a tenth as much as I enjoyed living it then you will not have wasted your time. Grab a refreshing beverage, settle in a comfortable chair, and make a journey across the world, experiencing it as I did. Then get off your ass and check it out for yourself. You're not getting any younger.

Mt. Batur - Part One (Bali, Indonesia)

For an updated version of this post, go here.

Another day, another volcano. This time it is Mt. Batur, an active volcano on the northeast corner of the island. The current volcano is actually at the center of two much larger, older concentric calderas. From the air (i.e. aerial shot) it is possible to appreciate just how massive the older volcanoes actually were. The lake of the same name is located within the boundary of the biggest. In comparison Mt. Batur is just a little guy (or girl if you wish). I cannot fathom the type of geological event that gave birth to its ancestors. Welcome to Indonesia and its portion of the Pacific Ring of Fire.

A government organization controls all guided trekking on the mountain. If you hire a guide he/she must be a member of this organization. From what I have read some of its members can become a little ‘old school Sicilian’ with those wishing to make the hike sans guide. Apparently, they can show up at your hotel, wait by the trail to see if you are guideless, or even threaten people who refuse to hire a guide. I am not sure what they threaten you with as causing bodily injury would ensure no need for their services.

As if according to a script I was approached by a guide in Kintamani (small town on the edge of the larger caldera) before I even made it to the village closer to the mountain. I sought cover from the rain and was in the process of suiting up (rain gear) to continue the last leg of my journey on the motorbike. A gentleman rode up beside me and gave me his pitch. As it turned out he was a decent fellow (No cheap suit. No concealed weapon.). He directed me to a decent budget hotel and set me up with two women (French and German) going on the same hike the following morning. I figured it would be nice to have some company so I accepted his offer. He even gave me a $10 discount, although I found out later he gave the girls an even steeper discount ($25). Damn chicks and their powers of beguilement! It was probably the French accent that did it.

As far as I could tell I was one of the few tourists on the mountain actually prepared for the hike (raingear and decent footwear). My little Agung excursion prepared me for that. Helen The French did not even bring raingear for fear of overheating and her German pal was sporting white Ked-like footwear. It’s a volcanoooooooo…Helllllll0000000!

We just had to be up at 3:30 am so we could get to the top in order to experience the sunrise we had absolutely no hope of witnessing.  It rained…a lot. I brought a few extra items of gear and shared these with the ladies. It made the journey a bit more bearable for them but had it not finally stop raining they would have been miserable. It appeared most folks were in the same boat, just like the defeated crew of Russians I met retreating off Mt. Agung two nights previous. Luckily, this hike was much less arduous so most made it, although there was still a few that joined the ranks of the vanquished. I realize it is not exactly a three week trudge through the jungle but a little dash of common sense never hurts.

This time I was not so fortunate with the view, or more accurately, the complete lack there of. We could not even see inside the craters. It was not a total loss as the trek went up and through the different areas of the volcano making for an interesting walk. Everything was shrouded in mist and had a distinctly eerie quality, somewhere between otherworldly and horror movie. It is an experiencing worth having but so is one that includes a view of, well, anything. I knew I had to return.

Demon monkey? Ever seen the film Jacob's Ladder?

That's enough to make you poop a little.

After the hike I chose to spend some time soaking my aching muscles at the local hot springs. It is organized like a resort with two hot pools fed by spring water and an Olympic-size swimming pool. It is basically a nonstop revolving door for tourists but it was relaxing none the same.

I then went back to my accommodation and had bizarro Indonesian massage experience part two. To compensate for this the owners beseech you to buy meals, artwork, massages, etc. One of the women there kept asking me if I wanted a massage (about eight times in two days) so I finally relented. An hour massage for less than four dollars? I’d have to be an asshole not to accept. I entered the message area (an empty hotel room) to find two women and a small child. Not quite what I was expecting. Although this piqued my curiosity I’ve experienced enough strange shit to avoid being phased by this turn of events.

Why not just invite the whole extended family to watch or, better yet, participate? I proceeded to lay face down on the bed and be massaged simultaneously by two women while the small child of one of them sat quietly on the other bed. Uh-huh. I was impressed with the kid. She (or was it he?) actually spent about twenty minutes in total silence before going batshit. I could almost hear the kid ticking. The Balinese women, while working out the knots in my back, arms, legs, feet, and ass, carried on what I can only assume to be an everyday type of conversation. It was kind of like when someone is talking on the phone while ironing. In fact, it felt a little bit like they were attempting to iron my skin with their hands. For the most part it was decent but there were a few tense moments in the feet and chest area. I believe I was just a few units of torque shy of having my toes broken. And when you massage someone’s chest without enough oil you might as well just sandpaper the hair right off. Luckily, those were short detours in an otherwise decent massage experience. I mean hey, what the hell do you want for four dollars, right?

I befriended another employee by the name of Made (pronounced Mah-Day) that turned out to be quite a character. He speaks a bit of English and wants very much to learn more. As it turns out I am trying to learn a bit of Indonesian so we had a fairly fruitful linguistic exchange. We sat there with our respective dictionaries and asked questions about meaning and usage. He really had me giggling because he was constantly asking me about some of the more obscure or high level English words. His retinue of vocab included acumen, abloom, effeminacy, and kibosh to name a few. Now even if by some miracle I could explain what these words meant I sure as hell would not be able to point him in the right direction grammatically. Who the uses the word effeminacy? And how often do you hear abloom? Imagine if he was speaking to someone and decided to throw kibosh into the mix. I might as well have tried to teach him the meaning of transmogrify. Yes, Made. That’s right. The caterpillar transmogrifies into a butterfly. Excellent. Tomorrow we will discuss somnambulism. Sleep on it.

As Made was departing for the evening he thought it vital to inform me that he was going home to make ‘boom boom’. Earlier, when I was typing away on my computer he asked if I had any pornography. He was sorely disappointed to find out I had none.

I also met another local by the name of Nyoman who works part time as a guide. He frequently hangs out at the hotel restaurant. He speaks English well enough to have meaningful conversations about a variety of topics. One of the more colorful subjects revolved around mushrooms. Yes, those mushrooms. Nyoman is also a farmer and informed me that there are wild psychedelic mushrooms growing all over the area. Apparently, they only grow on ‘shit from cow’ (direct quote) and only after a thunderstorm. Huh? Only after a thunderstorm? I found this intriguing but no explanation was forthcoming. I assume he merely was referring to rain. And though drugs are a serious no-no in Indonesia (you can get the death penalty for selling heroin), mushrooms apparently don’t count. Nyoman is not against taking the occasional ‘trip’.  He has had numerous conversations about shrooms with the local police, conversations that end with them asking him where he found them. Most of the locals have no idea they are sitting on a mushroom bonanza.

And then there were the two young German males that turned up and struck up a conversation with Nyoman. Frankly, they were a couple of space cadets. One of them walks into the restaurant tore up a bit from a motorbike mishap, feet and hands bleeding. He got some antiseptic liquid from a hotel employee but was not concerned enough to accept my offer of a bandage. When they entered the room they were carrying large bottles of beer but claimed the accident was due to slippery roads. Hmmmmm. I don’t know his real name so I will just call him Deter. Well, Deter ‘The Wounded’ proceeds to sit down and tell us how he thinks his dream about the end of the world may be coming to pass (2012?). While at a temple today he noticed how the horizon looked exactly like the doomsday vision he’d had two months before. He was in Mexico (somewhere he has never actually been) driving around trying to get to a certain unknown destination and was forced to turn back. When he arrived at wherever the hell he was going he saw the end of the world coming, so on and so forth blah blah blah. It was hard to pay attention while trying to stifle laughter, made all the more difficult by how serious he was about the whole thing. He also informed Nyoman (who would, coincidentally, be their guide the following morning up the volcano) that he might not be able to put shoes on account of his injury. Oh, and his personal philosophy includes something along the lines of, “I believe in nothing so I am open to everything. Sex is good. I love sauerkraut.” Okay, I made the last one up. Stereotypes save time.


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'Love me or hate me, but spare me your indifference.' -- Libbie Fudim