I am a 24 year old guy from a town called Linlithgow found between some hills near Edinburgh, Scotland. And I am about to spend a year in Australia and New Zealand.
I do not know what I will be doing yet. All I know is I arrive in Melbourne at 06:45 on 17th August and there I will be met by my friend Amy. The rest will follow.
I am writing this mainly for my own benefit and my own enjoyment. Anything else is a bonus, albeit a welcome one. So read on! I may even do something exciting.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The journey home.

Bali glides past in the gathering dark, cloaked in cloud. Mt Agung rears its broken head above the sea of grey. The sun sets in a nimbus of gold.

It is dark when we dock, and Tania has sent someone to pick me up on a bike. Driving back to the house it is immediately obvious how much more developed Bali is than Lombok, and how much less rural. Despite this, I am very glad to be back.
The next morning Lempot gives me a ride up to Ubud where Tania is running a four day cob building course in a school, and building an oven and another Earth Bench. I arrive on the second last day to help out, and camp by the school with Tania, her daughters, and some guys from England who are on the course. The Welsh girls who I left not a week before are here too, with the aim of building their own cob oven when they return home, so it is great to catch up.
It is a lot of fun, we spend the days jumping around in the mud (at one point I even treat myself to a mudbath) and the night is spent around the camp fire talking about the Lord of the Rings. Well some of us spend it that way. Rarely do I find an audience so interested in the history of Middle Earth, but two of the English guys couldn't get enough, and I was of course more than happy to oblige.
It's amazing to see the process of building the oven. The base is made entirely of bottles and cob, then a layer of brick forms the floor of the oven. What will become its hollow interior is built from sand then covered with a layer of newspaper, after that the structure of the oven itself is made from three different layers of cob. The inner layer has no straw at all, as it will be against the flames; the middle layer, the insulation layer, is almost entirely straw, but coated in wet clay; the outer layer is standard cob. A chimney is built by sticking a bit of a banana tree into the sand and cobbing around it.
Once complete the whole structure will be left to dry for two weeks before the sand is scooped out of the interior, it will then be left to dry further before a fire is lit within it to burn away the banana trunk and any newspaper stuck to the inside walls. Then it is ready to use, simply by lighting a fire within it until it is hot enough, then removing the burnt wood. True, it requires more effort than a standard oven, but it is also more fun. This is the sort of oven that Tania has, that is used for bread every few days and I used to make pies and pizzas when I last stayed. It really can do anything a normal one can do.
But the best thing about the whole experience is the atmosphere. A great group of people, working together to achieve something tangible, backdropped by palm trees and summery music. Not to mention good conversation (anyone want to know any more about Galadriel?).

At the end of the course we go out for a final meal together in Ubud. We are all exhausted, although the rest of them have more excuse than me as I only turned up the day before, but we don't feel quite ready to part ways. We get a local who is hanging out on a street corner to take a photo of us all together, then Tania carries the sleeping kids into the car and we head off, leaving the rest of them to make their own ways to their respective hostels through the empty streets. Empty only for the reason that the thousands of people here are ALL watching the world cup.

My last couple of days are spent back at Tania's, swimming in the sea, grouting the benches and sleeping in a lot. I have a very nice surprise in that the German girls who I spent a few days with in Kuta Lombok are back for their final night before we fly. We go for dinner and catch up, discussing how much we miss our favourite restaurant in Kuta (they did the most amazing vegetable nuggets!). Then it is time for them to leave, and before I know it it is time for me to leave as well.
Tania drives me to the airport, and I won't deny that I am slightly glad to go. I feel ready to move onto something else. If I had a bigger budget I would happily let that something else be other parts of Indonesia, or other countries nearby. But I am just as happy to let that something be the journey home.
Tania has been brilliant, she genuinely just wants everyone to have the best time they can in Bali, and she does everything in her power to see that happen. She cares about the environment and actually does work to make positive changes in her society. She is also completely mental. I mean completely. One of those 'the world is run by shape-shifting Satan worshipping reptiles, led by the British royal family, who prolong their life by drinking children's blood' sort of people. And she'll come out with things in normal conversation that are just so bizarre that you really don't know what to say. And don't bring up the complete lack of any sort of, legitimately scientific, evidence because obviously all the worlds scientists are in on it too. But really, she is lovely.
On a side note I'm fairly confident that the vast majority of people who believe all these conspiracy theories, and there are a lot, also happen to smoke a lot of weed. I wonder if there's any connection?

I arrive in Melbourne and almost instantly any animosity I had previously felt towards Australia or Australians crumbles away. I had forgotten just how much I liked Melbourne. It is a crisp autumnal afternoon, leaves are turning a thousand shades of gold and all throughout the day long the sky is lit with the beauty of evening. In reality it is mid winter here, but it feels and looks exactly like September or October back home.
I am staying in a part of town I have only visited once before, and never fully explored, and I think it might just be my favourite area so far. The buildings are old and worn, the air is crisp and clean, the shops that line the street are either charity shops or small, independent stores. Fantastic and interesting street art abounds, and the posters that plaster empty walls all either seem to be promoting trains or disparaging roads. My sort of place.
I go for a walk to a park nearby as the sun is setting and I can't help but fall in love with the city once again. As I do so, Goldfrapp's 'Monster Love' provides the perfect backdrop. The beautiful, gentle music matches the beautiful, gentle evening. And she sings my feelings for Melbourne right back at me.

“I never thought that I would return, to be consumed by you again.”

And I didn't think I would, I thought that I was 'over' Australia. But I am glad to find, even though I am going home, that I am not. At least I am not over Melbourne, and I don't think I ever will be. This is a wonderful place, with friendly and welcoming people, and one day I do hope to return.

“Everything comes around, bringing us back again. Here is where we start, and where we end.”

The next day I continue much of the same, taking my wanderings farther afield to the banks of the Yarra river, the reason for Melbourne's existence. It is another cold autumnal day. I have missed this brisk weather so much, I almost don't want to go home back to summer. At least I know that I will appreciate it all the more when it comes.
In the evening I visit my friend Mark and collect various items of clothing I had left at his. We go to the pub and somehow, at some point in the night, I manage to make it back to my hostel. When I return I find that almost everyone there is awake and having a great time in the kitchen, and I spend the night doing what I love best, meeting new people and making new friends.
My hostel in Melbourne, although not having the greatest facilities, is exactly what I wanted. The people are varied and friendly. It is friendly and comfortable, if a bit dilapidated. Admittedly it is cold, personally I don't mind at all, but I am alone in that regard. It reminds me of places that I visit at New Year back home with my friends, and my excitement to return home grows a little more.

My last couple of days are spent in much the same way. I wander the city (which is gradually getting more rainy), and I spend time with my new friends. It is all very relaxed. On my last day I decide to treat myself to see the new X-Men film. I book my ticket online, then on the way to the cinema go into by bank to close my Australian account. Once this is done I proceed to the cinema and try to claim my ticket from the machine. All I have to do is put in the card that I used to buy the ticket and the ticket should come out. Put in the card that is, that only half an hour ago got cut up and thrown in the bin by the nice man in the bank.
I manage to deal with it, and get to see the film. I walk home from the cinema through the dark, listening to my favourite music (Laura Marling obviously), and thinking about all the times I have spent here. As enjoyable as the walk is it is also mildly stressful, you see I have two thousand dollars in my pocket and really, really don't want to get mugged.

So the day has arrived. As I write this I am sitting on the plane from Melbourne to Sydney, the first leg of the journey home. This was the fifth time I had been in Melbourne airport in my time here (two arrivals and three departures), and no doubt it will be the last for a very long time, perhaps even ever.
I'm not really sure what I'm feeling just now. I listen to music that I remember listening to on my journey out and it makes me feel sad, and yet when I think about seeing my family and friends I am filled with excitement. I think I have discovered the truth behind the phrase 'absence makes the heart grow fonder', for right now everything about rings true. So all in all I am glad to be going home, it is just a shame that Australia is so far away, and therefore so hard to come back to visit.
The landscape fades below me. The patchwork of green could as easily be England as Australia. The sky that started clear starts to dot with wisps of cloud. The further we go the thicker they become, blending into a great blanket that lies just above the ground. I know what I will be like underneath; dim, overcast skies and cold, bitter winds. And yet from above it is a sculpted sea of frosted glass, glistening in the strength of the sun unveiled.
First Aid Kit, who so kindly provided me with not only a blog title but also a soundtrack to my journey out here, have stepped up again and released a new album just in time for the journey back, and it tides me on my way into the sky. On my way home.

At one point I considered whether I would end up staying out here for good. It was always a vague possibility in the back of my mind, but now I can't even imagine it. I think love would have been the only thing that could have changed my mind, and it would have to have been a strong one, to overbear my love of my friends, my family, my country.

For truly, in stolen words once again, how could I break away from you?

Tuesday, 24 June 2014


Our boat speeds away from Bali and bright offerings burst from the stern, trailing behind us through the infinite blue. They disperse and float upon the wind, a flash of colour, then they are gone. The Island of a Thousand Temples diminishes to a pale line of distant hills, then it too is gone.
I stretch out across a whole row of seats, making up for being parted from my music for four whole days. Nia and Lowri (the Welsh) nap nearby. We are on one of the many Fast Boats out of Bali, and Fast is certainly the correct word. Not an hour and a half later we dock on the island of Gili Trawangan, one of three tiny islands, collectively known as 'The Gilis', that are situated just off the North-West coast of Lombok, the next major island along from Bali in the Indonesian archipelago. The Gilis are small and beautiful, three coral fringed idylls of white sand and turquoise sea, none of which it takes more than an hour or two to walk around.
We disembark, and I instantly like the feeling of this place. We are in a small town that consists of one earthy high street that runs along the shore, with houses and accommodation making up the many back streets that lead towards the islands centre. It feels relaxed and friendly, and there are no scooters or cars in sight. The only methods of transport across the three islands are bicycle and horse which, on the face of it, sounds fantastic. And there is no police presence either, which no doubt contributes to the chilled out atmosphere.
After some searching we find ourselves accommodation that seems decent and ,more importantly, fun. It is run entirely by a group of guys,who do everything from the cooking to the cleaning, a situation I do not think I would ever have seen in Bali, and a situation that I see quite a few times during my time in Lombok.
It is obvious that the main reason for settlement on the Gilis is tourism, and I see many more white people here than almost anywhere else I have been, and yet despite this I don't find myself hating it. Often the touristy places, like in Kuta, bring out the worst of both peoples, the ignorant foreigners who care nothing for local culture and local people, and the locals driven to theft and violence by all the wealth they see around them. But here, thankfully, this doesn't seem to be the case.

We spend our first couple of days exploring the shops and shores of Gili T. This island has a large collection of boutiques and craft stores that far exceed, in both quality and variety, the usual tat that pervades anywhere on the tourist trail. We find a brilliant jewellers that runs silver-smithing courses, Lauri and Nia had been planning on doing one later in their trip and decide to sign up for this one, with me, instead.
One day we hire bikes and circumnavigate the island, stopping off for snorkelling breaks on the way. We follow shaded earthen paths and traverse pure white beaches, pushing our not particularly sturdy bikes through soft sand that slips and slides beneath the wheels.
We hear of a particularly good area for snorkelling so we set ourselves up beneath some trees for the afternoon. Once again, getting in and out of the sea turns out to be the biggest problem. Due to the endless supply of sharp rocks and long dead coral you pretty much have to, for the sake of your feet, wear your flippers from the moment you enter the water. You then have to walk for a good twenty or thirty meters in the flippers through water that is too shallow to attempt to swim in but just deep enough to make walking in flippers nigh on impossible. And again, of course, are the regular and frequent waves that always seem to have just enough force to knock you off balance.
Anyway, we make it in, and it is instantly obvious how strong the current is. Unless you try very hard to stay in one place, by swimming directly into the current, you are quickly pulled farther round the island. This means you can just float face down and watch all the wonders beneath you as you are pulled over them, which is great as long as you don't mind walking back to your starting point when you come out.
The first time in is not particularly amazing. It is a lot of fun, I don't think I can go snorkelling and not have a lot of fun, but it is nothing extraordinary. The water upstream seems to be a lot clearer, but moving in that direction at any great rate is nearly impossible, so instead I spend a lot of time and effort getting out of the sea, I walk further up the coast then spend a lot of time and effort getting back into the sea.
This time it is amazing. I see huge bulky fish, a good couple of feet long and wide as a football, slowly feeding on the coral. I see clouds of tiny fish clustered behind rocks, swaying and pulled as one by the current. The sea floor opens up beneath me into craters and valleys, amphitheatres and towers, and every one is teeming with life. A group of long thin fish that appear almost like eels swim past, many feet long and as thin as my wrist. A then I see what I have been looking for for so long, since first snorkelling in Australia over nine months ago, a turtle. A huge, beautiful, majestic turtle.
It glides beneath me, slow and graceful, uncaring of my watchful eyes. It looks vast, though size is distorted by the water and my goggles so it is hard to tell, but I think it is almost a meter and a half. I dive down and run my hand down its patterned shell and it turns its head and fixes me with its piercing gaze.

I do not know how long I follow it, watching it feed, diving down with it after it comes up to breathe, but I could have continued forever. Then I see another, of the same species (Green Turtle I think) and a similar size. They swim by each other, taking only a mild interest in each others doings, then pass and continue on their way. Torn, I follow the new one, but it seems more wary of my presence so I return to the first. At long last the turtle heads out into deeper water and I decide to return to land, satisfied.

There is one aspect of island life that is not at all the great thing it at first seemed, and the more time we spend here the more apparent it becomes. This is the treatment of the horses that live and work here. As I said, there are no cars, so the transportation of tourists and goods is up to these massively overworked and massively underfed and under-watered creatures. They work all day in the baking heat, pulling carts piled high with, for example, boxes of beer, without a moments rest. On the rare occasions when they stop moving they simply stand, shaking and foaming at the mouth, staring into the distance, offering no response to a friendly touch. And trying to give them water often just makes their handlers angry. Once we saw one collapse at it attempted to pull a cart piled with goods and people into the central market. It just lay on the ground, panting and spent. The gentle chiming of bells that signifies their approach, a noise that when I first arrived inspired joy, has become sinister and vile.
There are organisations that are hard at work to fix this. The problem lies, as so many do, in a lack of education. The people that work these horses the way they do not see them as living beings that should be cherished, and they do not realise that if they were to care for them properly they would end up with a stronger, more effective work force, that would live longer. The horses would be happier, they would get more work done, and the people would be happier as a result. And the sound of bells would be joyful again.

On our last full day we attend our silver-smithing course. We are given five grams of silver to work with, and can create, under instruction, whatever we want. I design a pendant of an English Oak leaf. The process itself is not really as hard as I had thought, I cut the shape out of the plate of silver, and hammer in the indentations, using the blowtorch to soften it. I do admittedly make a small hole through the middle, but then again I believe it is the flaws not the perfection, that make the greatest works of art. After this there is a lot of filing to perfect the shape and round off the edges, and then it is a case of sanding and polishing, and it is done. The whole thing takes about three hours and is a lot of fun. If only I had the tools available to me, it is the sort of thing I would love to do more frequently.

The next day it is time for me to move onto mainland Lombok while the Welsh continue to the other Gili islands. Another farewell, another new beginning. I get the local boat across to the mainland, a short but beautiful journey, and from there manage to barter a pretty good price all the way down to the south coast, where some of my friends are staying, and learning to surf.
The drive through Lombok reveals twisting green mountains, steep and towering, and far, flat plains dotted with glistening rice fields. It is instantly obvious that it is more rural than Bali, more untouched.

The town I am staying in is called Kuta, though it is very different to Kuta Bali. It is small but slightly sprawling, and a haven for surfers. My two friends from Germany, Hannah and Johanna, I met when first staying at Tania's, and they have been here learning to surf ever since. Luckily I made it just in time to spend their last few days with them before they leave.
They show me to all their favourite bars and restaurants, and at the full moon we go to an all night party on the beach. The surf shop they use is across the road from my hostel and we spend a fair bit of time drinking arak with the group of Indonesian guys who run it.
I hire another motorbike and when they are surfing I spend my time exploring the beaches and coves nearby. The landscape here it, in a word, vast. Lombok is a much smaller island than Bali, but the landscape is larger and wilder. The south coast is made of huge, sweeping bays surrounded by great towering hills that tumble down onto windswept beaches and churning seas.
When it comes time for the Germans to leave I too head off. I drive north on my bike, with the aim of visiting the mountains to the north. After driving for about half an hour I am pretty confident that I am on the right track, until I find myself driving past the hostel I had just left in Kuta. Take two is much more successful.

I drive north through tilth and town, altitude slowly increasing. At last I come to the entrance of Gunung Rinjani National Park that contains Mt Rinjani, the second highest peak in Indonesia, and my path twists towards the sky. Settlements fall behind until all that surrounds is layers of deep valley, verdant and bursting with trees. As the land gets more fruitful my view is obscured more and more until I am driving through natural tunnels, occasionally getting glimpses of the lofty peaks I am among. And then it starts to rain.
It rains with the vehemence of the monsoon. A sudden, extreme downpour. I pull over and put on my raincoat and the waterproof cover for my bag. Anything not well protected is instantly soaked. I drive through the rain and it fees like the canopy above offers no refuge. It cascades through the trees, driving and cold. I wonder if I do miss the UK so much after all.
At last it stops, and the world is left a place of fog and mist, with air fresh as ice. The foliage to one side of the road drops away and a valley of cloud and tree soars above me. Clouds roll over the heights and snake down the walls to pool at the base. They spread and disperse over the forest, bathing the trees in icy water.
My path winds upward further still and mountain tops and ridges reveal themselves, similarly swathed in blankets of mist. At last I come to a pass, and before me stretches the Sembalun valley, the road plummeting into its depths. A collection of small towns dot its floor, ringed by a series of hills and mountains that form the rim of a great caldera. I make my way, carefully, down the wet road. The world is saturated and alive, resounding with the noises of life, a celebration of the cleansing rain.

I drive into town and check into one of the few places available. It is expensive and offers little, but I don't have much choice. The rest of the afternoon I spend exploring the sodden landscape, and have my tea at a small family warung (a place that serves food), and the daughter, Ayu, takes quite a shine to me! I'm sitting eating my fried rice when she sidles up to my table and asks if she can 'company' me. I eventually work out what she means and invite her to sit down, and proceeds to ask me all about Scotland and what I think of Indonesia. I think she's about fourteen or fifteen, and I'm not sure how old she thinks I am but she definitely thinks the age gap is appropriate. She is very surprised, and pleased, when I tell her that I don't have a girlfriend, and she invites me into the garden and makes me taste the family blackberries (very different from blackberries back home), then gets my name so she can add me on Facebook.
At one point, when discussing food, I tell her how much sugar everyone uses in Indonesia, and how sweet all the food is, and how I'm looking forward to not having sugar when I get back home. She thinks I'm calling her sweet and proceeds to blush and giggle while thanking me profusely. I promise to visit again on my way past the next morning, then I return to my accommodation before I am made to stay the night.

Unfortunately chained :(

The blackberries in question...

The next morning I step outside to a world transformed. The sky is clear and bright and the valley that I am in is lit in the pure light of morning. The hills rise around as emerald mounds, vast and glistening. The hills are ridged and coiled and their roots extend out to the valley floor like the limbs of the leviathan.
It is so beautiful that I have to return to the places I visited yesterday, and so I once again drive the length of the valley and back. It is as impressive as, and yet the complete opposite of, the untamed and secret beauty of the day before with its masked hills and draped fog. Today the world has been torn open and laid bare, the grand reveal at the end of a magicians show, and it is spectacular, not to mention immense.
After re-exploring my haunts of the day before, I set off to my next location, Senaru, further round the mountains. I drop in to see Ayu on my way and am coerced into staying for tea. Her mother brings us a tray piled high with little packets of cream crackers, and one tiny bag of fried sweetcorn kernels (nope no idea either), and she makes comments about Ayu's Scottish boyfriend. I haven't the heart to tell her that the chances of that happening are slim to none.
I figure out that Ayu actually stayed home from school today to wait for me to come and see her, and she phones her brother who is in school and tells him to come home early to see me. I spend a while convincing her that I'm not going to stay and spend the day with them, or stay overnight, so the family find out where I'm going and start to plan an impromptu outing to the town next to it. I realise things are getting out of hand so I tell them I am just visiting that town, and not staying, then carrying on around the coast. She's not happy, but doesn't have much choice in the matter. I eventually manage to extract myself, and hit the road only an hour or two later than planned.

In a similar vein to this experience, it is extremely common to be asked by locals to pose in photographs with them. The Balinese don't seem to do this much, but in Lombok it is all the rage. In Bali it did happen, but normall with people from Jawa visiting Bali. The askers range from the ridiculously embarrassed, and disbelieving if you say yes, to the quite controlling. In the latter category was a man who wasn't at all happy when I merely stood next to him smiling. Upon seeing my chosen pose he turned to me with a frown and said “No, no, no! Put your arm here!”, then grabbed my arm and put it around his shoulder. In the former category was an entire class of teenagers from Jawa who all wanted photos. Their teacher asked for one first, and once that was done asked me if I minded some of the students getting involved. When I said yes and he told them to come closer, they were all hovering around in a circle at this point, one girl said “I don't believe you, I don't believe you”, as if I was some sort of con artist who came to Indonesia just to lure locals into trying to take photos of me, only to vanish as the moment the shutter clicks.
I'm not going to lie, it's nice to feel wanted, and I don't want to be rude by saying no, but it is a sad state of affairs where a photo of yourself with a white person is considered a status symbol. And apart from that it can be downright annoying.

The drive to Senaru takes a few hours, down the mountain, around the mountain then up the mountain. And, of course, it is lovely. I arrive and see that, though the landscape doesn't quite possess the same wild drama as it did in Sembalun, it is the sort of place I could stay for a while. In Sembalun there was little in the town itself, and it felt quite dirty, not to mention expensive, whereas here the town is clean and pretty, arrayed along the side of a valley, tiered rice fields building the view from a thousand layers of green.
That afternoon I go for a walk to a waterfall nearby which is one of the few places you are allowed to go without a guide. In Lombok, despite how rural it is I have found it very hard to find any decent walking trails, and many of the ones that do exist you aren't allowed on without hiring a guide for the day, which I really do not want to do.
The waterfall itself is two tiered and mystical, but the 'viewing area' is covered in people, mainly locals offering guides to other waterfalls. I climb down to the creek itself and find a spot that is completely secluded, not a soul in sight. The water pours from heights at least forty meters above me and falls in two silken ribbons to a small natural platform then continues down to the forest floor, rainbows bursting into the air as it lands. Further downstream more crystal streams soar free of the sheer green cliff face, and the high land is cut with slashes of silver. Trees tower high into the air on either side, and vines drape from their branches to trail all the way to the glistening water below. The stream is perfectly clear, glass melded over smooth stone.
I explore some unmarked paths, guide free, and follow a small irrigation canal along the side of a cliff. Occasionally it vanishes into the stone and I pass dark carved out hollows, the noise of flowing water echoing out of their depths. That evening I watch the sun set from my balcony, illuminating the rice fields in a citrus haze.

The next day I primarily spend relaxing. I briefly visit a traditional Sasak village which looks quite nice, but there isn't really anyone to talk to, then I spend most of the day sitting on the balcony writing and enjoying the view, and expecting Ayu and her family to appear at any moment.
I drive out of Senaru in the morning and follow the coast past white beaches and jungle filed coves. The road winds up and down over endless headlands, flanked by eternal seas, each more beautiful than the last, and the Gilis form pale blue lines on the horizon.

I reach my destination of Sengiggi, a tourist resort really, and not that exciting, but it is just down the road from the main city of Mataram, where I hope to do some shopping. Mataram has nothing much to offer, but I eventually manage to find the small artist / craftsmen’s village just out of town that I am looking for. Here they primarily make furniture, but also masks, table settings, decorations, pretty much anything you could imagine making out of wood. Most of what they make is beautiful, but I feel that they sort of ruin their furniture in the process of making it. The wood is naturally a beautiful pale brown, but they stain it so dark that it becomes almost oppressive. The result is very impressive, and it is attractive, but I wouldn't want it in my house.

I find a Hindu temple!

And like that my time in Lombok is pretty much at an end. I drive back down to Kuta where I drop off my bike and arrange transport to the ferry terminal for later that day. I decide to take the pubic ferry back to Bali to save money, but I get ripped off on the way there so I end up saving extremely little, if any.
I had heard horror stories about this ferry, it's hot and smelly, it's so busy you can barely move, it can take up to nine hours, you will be pestered by touts the entire way. I arrive and am immediately let on, the ferry is really quiet so I get a whole row of ocean view seats to myself. I need to deal with a few people trying to sell me super noodles but their extremely friendly and not at all annoying. And then we are off, and I have a nice, cool quiet journey lasting about four hours.

Lombok slowly fades behind me, stunning and wild. It was wonderful, but despite its remote beauty and its swathes of untouched land, I prefer Bali. There is more happening in Bali, I found it to be friendlier, and I felt safer, not that I felt particularly unsafe in Lombok. And Bali is Hindu, which means temples and brightly coloured sarongs. Despite my feelings about offerings taking up the vast majority of both the time and the money of the average family, I like being surrounded by a religion as exotic and fascinating as Hinduism. Lombok, like all of Indonesia except Bali, is Muslim. I love spotting the patterned domes of mosques protruding above the towns and the trees, the temples of Bali are often hidden from afar, but I have a serious issue with getting woken up at five am every morning and having to endure an hour or so of increasingly tuneless calls to prayer. When I'm already awake these can actually be quite nice, but when I am most definitely meant to be asleep, there is nothing worse.

As the ferry approaches Bali I find my excitement growing, I have only been away for ten days and yet I have really missed it. I feel like I am going home. Home to Tania's for six days, then home to Melbourne for six days, then I truly am going home. And then what will I write about?