Sufferfest

This trip has found us in some interesting situations.  Shortly after landing in Indonesia we realized that if something was worth seeing, we were almost guaranteed a misery-filled journey.  We also became aware that traveling throughout this marvelous country is pretty difficult as everything is spread out and the infrastructure is very poor.  There have been three instances in particular that started out as downright miserable but soon became a highlight.  

First, there was our terrifying trip to the Gili Islands.  We had a one hour ride to the port of Padangbai, where we boarded a fast boat.  We had read all of the horror stories but still had an urge to go.  It didn’t take long for me to say, “What are we doing?!” The boat was PACKED, folks were seasick all around us, and water was pouring in through the windows.  At one point the seas got very rough and we both thought our boat was going to capsize.  By the grace of God our boat didn’t sink or blow up and the Gilis were all we had imagined them to be.  Gili Air was a calm retreat from bustling Bali.  

Terrifying experience on a Gili fast boat.
Bungalows where we spent the majority of our days in Gili.
Our second experience was our Komodo Island tour.  After hours of searching we finally decided on which company we would use.  (We later found out that it didn’t really matter which one we chose because all of them work together to fill the boats.). Again, we had read the reviews and knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into.  Our little boat didn’t surprise us at all.  It was ran down, filthy, and cramped.  It was also the slowest boat I have ever been on.  (However, I didn’t really mind this because the slow pace kept me from getting seasick.). Sleeping was something that I had to forget about as they had over-sold our boat so there wasn’t enough room for everyone.  Our ‘beds’ were tiny, soaked mats lying side by side on the floor of the boat in a semi-enclosed upper deck. There’s tons more that could be mentioned regarding this boat however, the main point is that it was horrible (I endured my worst night of ‘sleep’ ever).  Despite our less than ideal arrangements, we all had a magnificent time.  We shared meals with people from all around the globe and laughed during our many games of UNO.  On this trip alone we gazed at colorful sea life and examined starfish and coral reef.  We swam with a sea turtle and enormous manta rays.  We marveled at fruit bats as they flew over the ocean at sunrise.  We observed komodo dragons and listened to their evil hiss as they became angry.  Each encounter only adding merit to this grand excursion!

Our sleeping quarters on the boat. Because of overcrowding, we slept two to a mat.
Labuan Bajo sunset.
Komodo dragons.

Our final and probably most spectacular misery filled trip was Sumatra, our last stop in Indonesia.  In order to get to the tiny jungle town of Bukit Lawang we had a very extensive day of travel.  We took an hour taxi ride to the airport, three hour flight to the island of Sumatra, two hour bus ride to the town of Binjai, fifteen minute Tuk Tuk ride to the Binjai bus station, three hour mini bus ride to Bukit Lawang bus station, fifteen minute van ride to the village, and ended with a twenty minute walk through a downpour at night to finally arrive at our hotel.  This wasn’t as ‘easy’ as it sounds.  The language barrier and the sense of the unknown made the day even more of a struggle.  We were exhausted upon arrival but were blown away at how cozy the town instantly felt.  The following morning we saw that we were surrounded by the jungle and the rushing river waters cold be heard all around.  Monkeys leapt from tree to tree and playful kittens were begging for attention.  The people of this village were some of the friendliest folks I have ever met.  A chill and relaxed vibe was evident as soon as we stepped foot into this tiny town.  I cannot say enough good things about this place.  I’ll never be able to explain what we felt upon arrival but this area will forever be in our heats.  And to top off all of that, we went jungle trekking and gawked at orangutans and other monkeys all day!  For me, this was the most remarkable experience I have ever had.  To be in a jungle watching orangutans in their natural habitat (that is quickly disappearing), was life changing.  It rained the entire day while we were trekking.  We were filthy and smelled horrendous, yet it has been my favorite day on this adventure, thus far.  

Mini bus at Bukit Lawang bus station.
Ultimate photobomb by Mena the orangutan and her baby.
As you can see, there have been some rough spots, disgusting accommodations, terrifying transportation, and less than ideal situations.  But I mostly hope that you notice that even through the misery, there can still be marvelous.  There’s a life lesson in there somewhere.  


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