Gagabber

Adventures living as expats in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

New Zealand - Hiking the Routeburn Track and Queenstown

When you compare the island of Java to the South Island of New Zealand you  really can't get much further in contrast.  Java, the most populous island on Earth, has 143 million inhabitants with just over 128,000 square km, while the South Island has 1 million residents and takes up about 151,000 square km.  To put this into perspective, Java's population density is around 1,120 people per square km while the South Island hosts around 6.5 people per square km.

Before moving to Jakarta, Jeff and I loved hiking and backpacking during the warm summer months in Oregon so the first booking we made while travel planning for New Zealand was the Routeburn Track, a 20 mile hike featuring incredible views of the Southern Alps and surrounding valleys.  Considering that our fitness levels have been on a steady decline since moving to Jakarta, I was a bit apprehensive and convinced Jeff to do the hike in 4 days rather than the typical 3 days the most able bodied people opt for.  New Zealand has an amazing set-up for all of the Great Walks which includes huts to sleep in and cooking stoves to use.  Its was so nice to have a cosy bed and warm dinner to look forward to after a day of hiking.   You're sharing the huts with about 50 other people so earplugs and eye masks are a must, but it sure beats carrying a tent and thermarest.

Our first day of the trek was the shortest segment and a great starter to ease ourselves into the hike.  We were dropped off at The Divide and took a small detour up to Key Summit to enjoy our picnic lunch and get our first taste of the scenery we would enjoy for the next 3 days.

Our picnic view at the top of Key Summit 
My handsome mountain man 
Our reward after all the "strenuous" hiking
View of Lake Howden - where we stayed our first night
The second day brought us past a lot of waterfalls including Earland Falls where we stopped for lunch.  Jeff spent a lot of the hike today filming his documentary using his new gadget - a generic Go Pro camera and selfie stick.  After expending all of my patience stopping every 3 minutes for the first few miles, I threatened to sabotage his camera when he wasn't looking.  He really picked up the pace from there on and after seeing a sneak peak, I'm glad I put up with the endless videos!  The video is in final edits and I'm hoping to post it on the next blog post.
Jeff had his selfie stick and camera ready at all times
Earland Falls

Lake Mackenzie - Jeff couldn't resist going for a swim in several icy lakes including this one.
Our hut the second night.
It started raining that night and continued on the next morning so we bundled ourselves up in our rain gear and kept our fingers crossed it would clear up.  Luck was on our side and by the time that we got to the top of Harris Saddle we had clear views with just a few clouds rolling through.  Jeff convinced me to take a side trip up to Conical Hill which provides panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.  Even though my fear of heights kicked in half way up, I was glad he convinced me to make the extra effort.

Beautiful rainbow as the fog cleared.
On our way up Conical Hill
New Facebook picture? 

We took so many pictures along this section of the trail - if I had to choose a favorite, this would be it.

The view from the Routeburn Falls Hut - just a few days back in nature and it seems like we both get our sparkle back.  
After finishing up the hike the next day, we headed back towards Queenstown only to be delayed by a herd of escaped sheep running every which way.  After a few minutes, the sheep dogs came along and set them straight but it sure provided some welcome comic relief during the drive when all we could think about was what we were going to eat once we got back to Queenstown.   We picked up our home on wheels that afternoon, grabbed some lamb shoulder take-out at Pedro's House of Lamb, settled into our campsite, and cracked open a bottle of Pinot Noir.  The next day was filled with lunch at the famous Fergburger, wine tasting, and a bit of sightseeing around town.

Jeff and I found the sheep crossing hilarious.
Our campervan for the rest of the trip. 
Burgers the size of our heads.
Cheers!
Vineyards in any country always make us nostalgic for Oregon wine along with friends and family back home.

Our first week in New Zealand was exactly what we had hoped for - nature, scenery, relaxing, and wine tasting.  We had a dramatic change of plans the second week due me getting appendicitis.  Since this post has become way too long, I'll write more about that in the next installment.



Sunday, January 25, 2015

Christmas Down Under 2014

I realized today that its been over a month now since we left for our Christmas trip to Perth and I have yet to update the blog!   I can't seem to stop procrastinating.   Since we weren't able to go home for the Holidays, this trip was all about unwinding and enjoy the things that we used to take for granted in America but rarely get to do now in Jakarta.

We flew into Perth a few days before Christmas and opted to stay just outside of Perth in Fremantle – a smaller town with great food, an outdoor lifestyle, and one of Jeffs favorite Australian breweries, Little Creatures.  Fremantle is a very walkable town with cute shops, great cafes, and beautiful parks and beaches.  
Courtyard outside our AirBnB
Jeff getting his fix of IPA
Cool art in Fremantle
On Christmas day we tried to distract ourselves from missing the family by taking a ferry to Rottnest Island.  We spent the day racing bikes around the island, playing on the beach, and snorkeling in what felt like subzero water for these 2 tropical island inhabitants.    

Can water get any clearer than this?
One of the many beautiful beaches on Rottnest Island
Bathurst lighthouse on Rottnest
Next we headed down towards the famous wine region of Margaret River.  Instead of fighting the Christmas crowds, we stayed at a cute farm outside of a small town called Manjimup – home of the pink lady apple and one of the biggest producers of black truffles.  Wine and truffle tasting was absolutely a highlight of the trip and now we know why people love these these spendy delicacies.  
One of our favorite stops for wine tasting
Based on a recommendation from our AirBnB hosts, we headed south to check out the walk amongst the giant red tingle trees.  Theyve created a series of walking bridges at about 40m up so you can really appreciate just how massive these beautiful trees are.  We were cautioned by the staff initially that only 20 people could be on each section at a time.  I had a bit of a panic halfway through when a large group of non-English speaking tourists (I'll let you guess the nationality) came piling up behind us making little notice of the weight limits.  Jeff thought my overreaction was quite hilarious and continued to tease me for a few days afterwards.


These bridges really start to swing around with people walking on them!
Safely on the ground again under a giant Red Tingle tree
Jeff was pretty pumped when I told him he could change his nickname to "Red Tingle"

The 6 day trip seemed to really fly by, but getting a break from the pollution and traffic of Jakarta is always well worth it.  Next up we're on our way to Middle-earth in February, let the count down begin.  See you there Frodo Baggins!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Under the Sea in the Maldives

It's not very often that Jeff and I go on vacations where we completely unwind and don't give a second thought to sightseeing or our next restaurant adventure.  On the contrary we usually schedule a few too many places and activities, never wanting to miss anything.  For this trip, we stayed on a small island that you could walk around in 30 minutes so missing anything was nearly impossible.  We spent 5 full days snorkeling, reading, napping, pondering our future, sipping wine, and overdoing the bacon a few times at the buffet breakfast.

When Jeff announced that he wanted to go to the Maldives for his birthday, I first laughed it off then discreetly looked it up online to figure out where it is.  I'd heard of it before, but always assumed it would be too difficult / expensive to get to.   Luckily a budget airline, Tiger Air, flies direct from Singapore so we booked our flights impulsively and soon started daydreaming about the pristine white sand beaches, clear water, abundant sea life, and brightly colored corals.


Where are the Maldives?
Our whole trip can be nicely summed up in this video that Jeff created.  After he posted it I've been a bit unmotivated to update the blog because you can't beat Jeff's video skills.  If you're interested in the trip narrative then read on!

It took us a few days to get used to completely relaxing, but this view sure helped!
Our first time on a sea plane!

On the second day we went on a whale shark snorkeling excursion and spotted 5!  This was the highlight of the trip (possibly the year too).
We were lucky to be the only boat swimming with this guy
We saw 1 HUGE whale shark; unfortunately, it was along with 3 other boats full of people.  The middle of the pack was a free for all fight, and we weren't quite ruthless enough to go in for pictures.  Two members of our boat got out of the water yelling at each other because one lady kicked a guy several time in the face.

We weren't so lucky with the Manta Ray excursion and only ended up seeing a few from the boat.  The current was really speeding along and every time we jumped in the water, the Mantas were out of site.  We did see few turtles on the trip though!
One of the friendliest turtles we've seen.
Reef shark swimming around our island 
Our resort had an amazing infinity pool.  There were several many times at the pool when we pretending to read but were actually watching people take hilarious selfies.  One photo shoot lasted about 20 minutes and involved the wife directing high fashion poses and taking 100's of pictures of her husband.  Jeff had to get in on the action as well.
New Facebook photo?
Double thumbs up for diving
Final view before we hopped on our departing plane.  
We came back to Jakarta feeling rejuvenated for another few months in the Big Durian!  



Thursday, August 21, 2014

America 2014

The longer we live outside of America, the more we appreciate just how lucky we are.  Until we tried living without, we were guilty of taking for granted the clean air, blue skies, drinkable tap water, parks, sidewalks, safe food, fresh berries, great health care, functioning free-way systems, and the fantastic beer and wine. During a 3 week trip its easy to notice only the wonderful things, and to us it absolutely felt like we were honeymooning with America.  Arriving back in Jakarta left us both with a lump in our throat after facing the reality that our next trip home would be another 12 months away.  Before I send myself into tears, I'll move on to the fantastic trip summary!

Our adventure started with a week in Carson City to spend some quality time with the family and enjoy the fantastic summer weather.  As always, we were amazed by how much our niece and nephew have changed.  Morgan is such a grown up girl - learning how to swim, starting 2nd grade this year, and taking care of her little brother.  The highlight of the trip was spending 2 days camping at Fallen Leaf Lake where we used to camp with all the neighborhood families when I was a kid.  Tropical beaches are beautiful, but for me they can never beat a pristine mountain lake.

Gorgeous views, just before Jeff dunked his head in the chilly water
Best pals
Next up, we headed to Oregon for a short stay in Portland.  When we lived in Portland, we would count down the days until July rolled around every year.  What a special treat to be there during the summer without having to brave the rain for 9 months.  Our 4 days were filled with catching up with friends, seeing a concert with Jeff's family, an epic day of wine tasting, and generally eating and drinking to excess.
Best day of wine tasting EVER!
Concert on the lawn Mcmenamins with Dalena and Ivan
We were a bit nostalgic leaving Portland after such a short visit, but were soon in awe as we arrived in Yellowstone.  We spent 6 days campervanning around the park and soaking in as much fresh air and nature as possible.  We spotted amazing wildlife including a mama black bear and 2 cubs, 100's of buffalo, elk, and a big horn sheep.  There were a few times we felt like we were on another planet while viewing the bright, multicolored pools and geysers in the park.

Our first stop in Yellowstone - Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces 
This buffalo walked right through our campsite.  They are HUGE up close.
First elk
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone 
Our awesome campervan and best picnic spot around 
Mystic Pool - truly felt like we were on Mars
Our favorite geyser, you can see the car to the right
Jeff's first try at grilling buffalo steaks
We continued our camping trip and headed south to the Grand Tetons for four more days.  The views we jaw dropping and the crowds were thankfully much smaller.   After pestering Jeff for most of the trip, he finally caved in and agreed to go horseback riding.  Once he got over his initial nervousness, he couldn't refrain from yelling giddyup every few minutes and bouncing along at a trot.  He claimed that his horse was slower and he needed to catch up, but I peaked back a few times and witnessed his victorious expression as he sped up.

Stress free and loving the scenery
Frame worthy shot!
Beaver spotting
Whoopie ti yi yo, git along little dogies!
We searched for a bull moose for days and finally spotted one our last night
Views from our dinner cruise
Although we love the opportunities living in Jakarta has given us, there truly is no place like America and we're counting down the months until our next visit!