. Anyway my new friends... lovely Page teaches English in Korea and has being doing so for four/five years, Maren works in retail in Nova Scotia which is their home town (they are sisters). Usual back and forth at first, where are you from, blah, blah, what are you doing, blah, blah, climbing a volcano on Saturday. Really!!!? Sounds interesting!!!! 3800 metres high, oh a challenge! You have porters to help you, fab, I'm thinking how very jungle-explorer-esk, me with my porters as they carry me on my bamboo throne up the mountain, 'Bring me another cocktail my fine man and pick up the pace.' Views are apparently amazing, fab, sunrise, fab, sunset, fab, meals included, fab, price is cheap, fab, camp fire at the top of the mountain, where do I SIGN UP! YES!, YES!, YES!, We are definitely up for joining you both on the trip, sorted!. Pick up at 7.00am the next day, fine, travel to the island Lombok, fine, climb up to the rim, fine, not to the top as we are not allowed to this month, ok that's unusual, hope the bamboo throne has a comfy seat, and then at the rim we then can see the active volcano, fine, eh? hold on, active what?, In the morning and evening you get to see the red lava coming out, Eh? hold on, Lava? Might get some minor earthquakes as you go up the hill, erm what is a MINOR earthquake exactly? I am like "That sounds fantastic!" I am trying to ignore the little voice in my head saying Have you completely lost your mind, lava + active volcano with earthquakes = what? I weigh up the options and decide to go. The thing that tipped the scales was that I get to try out my new hiking boots (so cool) if the experience turns out like Pompei and I am turned into a shell of stoney lava in a flash, years from now they will create a Plaster of Paris model from the shell of me, put it in some Museum and folk will be like "Wow, he had great shoes." Gili Island is a wind swept little island full of cute bars with trance music and cheap beer, heaven. The girls, Adam and I go grab a bite to eat, have a few drinks then go for a walk at the waters edge to check out the stars when we come across a camp fire glowing in the beach
. We ask the two ladies who are tending the fire if we can join them. I am a picture of typical backpacker and loving it, here with my new friends glowing with alcohol and laughter under the stars with a camp fire roaring away. The two ladies at the fire consist of a forty/fifty year old woman from the Netherlands and the other forty year old woman, lets call her Mad ol' Mary. Mad ol' Mary is a flower power woman, rustic, camping on the beach to "avoid the concrete jungle and ways of the westerner", getting with one with nature. She imparts her wisdom to us as the fire glows, then starts chuffing on what seems to be a large cigarette, her earthy wisdom quickly turns to paranoid shite as she informs us of how the government is putting fluoride into the water to control our minds and that the star above us is actually a spy satellite. No Mad ol' Mary, rustic woman of the earth, that 'Satellite' is planet, it is Venus. Spy Satellite. No, it is a definitely a planet. Satellite. Venus, the planet, it is a planet. Spying on us. It's not spying on us because it is planet. You have been affected by the fluoride. Obviously.
The crew and I head off early the next day over to the island of Lombok to climb our volcano, Mount Rinjani. We meet our porters at the base who are lovely Indonesians. They are short, but ripped, they are going to be carrying baskets on a bamboo pole full of our essential items like water, food, tents, cooking equipment and items that the westerners really need
. Yes Mr Porter, these are essential items, of course we will need our hairdryers and wooden clogs at the top of the volcano, you never know when those crazy Dutch folk might through a wooden clog party! We climb the volcano in a big group, meeting some cool people. The climb is indeed a challenge, it is tough going. We reach the top after an eight hour hike, the view takes your breath away, down below in the crater I can see another small volcano oozing red Lava, rumbling and grumbling loudly. Sunset is a magical experience, freezing in a tent during the night is not so magical, Sunrise is a magical experience. We trek down and get chatting to lad from Newcastle (UK), Chris. Chris is travelling by himself for three weeks, he is friendly and funny and has a thirst for exploring new places off the beaten track. Chris describes the white sands of Kuta Lombok, where you can have a beach to yourself and dip in the turquoise waters. Except he won't be by himself, because we all decide to come with him. Coming off the mountain I am pleased with myself, surprised at my fitness level. A lot of people come off the mountain walking like John Wayne from blisters and dodgy joints. Poor Adam's feet have so many blisters that they look like bubble wrap.
Our new expended crew, with the lovely Chris, head towards Kuta, Lombok (not Kuta, Bali). Kuta is everything Chris mentioned, we grab some motorbikes and do some exploring, the beaches are pristine, the food is good, the company is awesome. I recall setting out on this trip wondering if I was going to be that one person who does not meet anyone, my time with this new crew is coming to an end so I am savoring every minute I can. I will be sad to part ways but have found some new friends that I will definitely keep in contact with. As a bonus I have been given a confidence boost with regards to meeting new people. My next leg will be jumping over to Java on an overnight bus, to climb another volcano, (you can never have too many volcano pictures)
It is amazing what you can carry on your back, not my back, other folk's backs (for a small fee), say for instance if you are going up a volcano. Adam and I are at Gili T (the party island without the music, people or .. a party) and we get chatting to two Canadian girls living in the same block of cottages. We compare rooms, Adam and I are in the business class cottages as we have room to swing a cat or at least a large budgie and my bag is taking up most of that free space (fat bag is on a solid diet, no liquids for a week). We get chatting to the girls, Page and Maren (like Karen with an M). Both are quick to smile with a laughter that is infectious, I instantly warm to them both and begin to relax from my recent discovery that Shazza has been staying in the cottage at the end of the block ALL this time, "Hiii eee!", "How are youuuuu John?", "Wow, Hi Shazza, I'm fine, Still mental? How is that working for you?, byeeeeee, kisses, kisses, mwha, mwha". I really need to get me some garlic or a wooden cross or a something