West Coast Love – From San Francisco to Santa Barbara

IMG_0996[1]We left San Francisco on a sunny Monday morning to continue South on our big American roadtrip. Just after leaving the city, we passed by the stretch from Palo Alto to Silicon Valley to visit some of the big tech companies, like Facebook and Google, with its colorful architecture full of green lawns, bikes and volleyball fields. After a quick shopping spree, we turned West towards the coast.IMG_1013[1]

Our first stop was cool Santa Cruz, with its crazy beach boardwalk that feels like an amusement park, beautiful tall palmtrees lined in the back and artsy-looking people skating or just hanging out.

It was a long driving day, as would be the next, so our planned stop in MontIMG_1053[1]erey was postponed a day, and, when we got to our cute blue and white AirBnB in Seaside, we made the most of relaxing, doing our laundry and enjoying a home cooked meal and a movie on tv.

The next day, we packed up once again, and headed to Monterey. We only toured it by car since we had a long distance to drive, but it definitely made us feel like we were entering a new region, reminiscent of the Spanish and Mexican History in California, with an architecture that reminded us of both of these countries, and even our own to some extent.

The drive, though long, was beautifully scenic that day. Even though the waves of fog brushed the hilly and dry landscape of the dark cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, driving so close to the sea doesn’t get boring. Especially in Big Sur (with all my preconceived idealized images from reading Kerouak’s “Big Sur”). The sound of seagulls howling, the smell of the Ocean and the salty freshness of its winds – it all just make me feel IMG_1079[1]at home.

On our way we even stopped to look at a beach full of dozens of elephant seals. From a distance, I saw a dark chubby mass playing in the water, and, suddenly, what looked like motionless rocks on the sand started moving, a big snout peeked up and its mouth opened wide, as if the seal was yawning, before tucking its head back into the backs of another huge elephant seal. There were even more people than elephant seal, watching these huge corpulet creatures wobble in and out of the water, or just lay in the sand.

IMG_1126[1]We stopped for lunch at a ranch-like restaurant and continued driving to our destination for that night – beautiful Santa Barbara. We stopped quickly in our motel to drop off our stuff and finally got to go to the beach – a gorgeous beach sorrounded by palmtrees and mountains in the distance, the Pacific at a nice temperature allowing us to swim until the warmth of the sun started fading and the late afternoon wind made us leave the beach and spend the rest of our Santa Barbara day visiting the pier and then having dinner in the city center, which looked like an upscale and well-preserved version of Algarve’s touristic towns.

I dropped like a log on my motel bed. The next day we were heading to our first stop in Los Angeles county – Santa Monica.

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West Coast Love – San Francisco (no adjective necessary)

“[We] suddenly reached a height and saw stretched out of us the fabulous white city of San Francisco on her eleven mystic hills with the blue Pacific and its advancing wall of potato-patch fog beyond, and smoke and goldenness” J.K.

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I had to quote Kerouac when writing about San Francisco – why try to reinvent the wheel? and such a perfect literary wheel at that (I appologize in advance for the clichés but I plan on quoting a lot of Kerouac – because, well obviously it’s Kerouac, and I’m hooked up on “Big Sur” right now, after some “Dharma Bums” therapy earlier this year – so I was super excited when I saw the Beat Museum and the City Lights Bookstore are less than a 5-minute walk away). We crossed the foggy Golden Gate Bridge, after driving through the beautiful Napa valley, lined with vineyards, palmtrees and amazing villas. I saw this beautiful brigh city sitting by a Pacific sprinkled with white sails for the first time always with Kerouac’s words on my mind.

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Today I’m not writing from some cute porch or a breakfast table overlooking a lake, but from the (very literally) beating heart of North Beach, San Francisco, where we’re staying in an apartment over a nightclub, which gives a very different experience than we’ve had so far, complete with banging walls and floors, cigarette smell that seems to creep up the cracks on the floor and city lights which make the rooms brighter at night than daytime. So, after falling asleep to the beat of hip hop rocking the house until 2 in the morning, I have now woken up at 6am with the not-so-subtle melody of electronic music. We knew about the noise beforehand, so I can’t really complain – only thing left to do is just embrace the experience and hope for a better night’s sleep tonight. It is, after all, the home of Jack Duluoz’s all night ragers, so I’ll try to channel him before heading down to the calmness of Seaside, CA.IMG_0977[1]

My poor-sleep-induced cranky mood aside, I have to say San Francisco is so far just as I imagined it, and I had pretty high hopes for it. Colorful townhouses on steep streets, the bustling Chinatown right nextdoor to our apartment, the deep blue of the Pacific at North Beach, the busy cafés and restaurants in Little Italy, even the foggy and windy skies – no complaints here. Just outside our door, the busy day-to-day rhythm is replaced by an equally busy nightlife, on a Broadway filled with cheeky nightclub neon signs.

At the end of day two, I almost can’t remember the lack of sleep of last night. The city’s energy is just reinvigorating, it feels like so much is going on on every single corner of this bright, colorful beautiful city. We started the day with breakfast at the historic Castro (where we ended up going back to for dinner because we loved it so much), every bit as upbeat as I imagined, the beautiful architecture, the friendly people, the soulful music of a free outdoor concert by an all-female blues band filling the air…

IMG_0845[1]We walked around a bit, going into the Mission District, with the almost tropical Dolores street and the San Francisco de Asís mission in the background reminiscent of old Havana, before heading to Haight and Ashbury for lunch in between psychadelic looking shops, full of Greateful Dead memorabilia, or weed-related paraphernalia (and aroma), as well as Woodstock references in rainbow colors and tie-dye.

We stopped to take in the views from the extremely windy Twin Peaks and sit by the Pacific at Ocean Beach, and took a walk down Fillmore to explore the more posh and Upper-East-Side-like Pacific Heights district, and, after returning to the Castro for a delicious Italian dinner, passed by the busy Civic Center and Union Square, before taking our nightly stroll 2 minutes down the street to get lost in the historic City Lights bookshop.

I feel like I could stay here indefinitely, like there is so much to take even in the places we had time to visit, let alone those we didn’t. But we still managed to get a good glimpse into this amazing city, and I have to say it didn’t disappoint me at all.

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West Coast Love – Down the 101

Part I – Portland to Florence

IMG_0389This morning I’m writing on a green bench outside of my motel room on the 101. Behind me, to the West, our cabin-style wooden room overlooks the Siuslaw National Forest, and in front of me the rising sun is still hiding behind the branches of tall spruce trees, making soft light patterns on the tar floor of the parking lot. You can hear some birds chirping, and a tv on in the distance, but the overwhelming sound is that of highway 101, on which we drove yesterday, from Cannon Beach all the way here, to Florence.

There is a quote iby Robert M. Pirsig I kept thinking about during yesterday’s trip: “Sometimes it’s a little better to travel than to arrive”. And this was definitely the case. The 101 swirls up and down along the beautiful, wild and sometimes desert Oregon coast, overlooking either the infinity of the blue Pacific behind tall cliffs or the dense trees of the national parks and forests. It was a clear day, made clearer by the crispy Pacific air.

In Cannon Beach, by the cute small town filled with vacation houses and colorful surf shops, I dipped my feet in the IMG_0502icy cold Pacific, with the enormous Haystack Rock hovering over the soft fog. We stopped several times along the highway, to take in the views, but made some longer stops as well, at several tiny and tidy towns, made up of colorful wooden houses with amazing views, and old style ice cream or nautical sports shops.

First was Tillamooka for lunch, a choice which we regretted, since it is a larger town, not as charming as some others we saw during the drive, and filled with fast food restaurants and big stores. Then the charming Yachats, where we had ice cream by the cliffs, and several stops in the hopes of catching a glimpse of some seals or sea lions (which we only did in the distance at two instances, two snouts surfing the waves).

IMG_0407The day ended where we are now, in Florence, an equally charming town by the water, with a small marina and sweet little shops decorated with string lights. We had a delicious dinner at a restaurant by the water, the Waterfront Depot, before driving back to the motel under a deep dark blue sky and sleeping for almost ten hours sorrounded by our wooden cabin walls.

Now, after a heavy all-American breakfast (i.e. eggs and pancakes), we’re getting back on the 101 direction California.

Part II – Florence to Ferndale

After our delicious and extremely filling breakfast, we headed South on the 101. Again, the scenery is really beautiful, with winding roads along desert beaches and sand dunes, or through woods filled with enormous trees. The Pacific always doing its name justice, with softly roaring low waves washing the dark rocks.

We stopped for lunch at another nice little seaside town, Gold Beach, just before crossing the boarder to California.IMG_0520 Then we headed into the Redwood National Forest, to marvel at the grandiosity of this tree species, and continue on to Ferndale, where we’re spending the night.

Going into Ferndale (population 1371 in 2010), it feels like a set of a movie set in the 1800’s, with its neat streets bordered by victorian houses. Again, AirBnB proved to be the perfect choice. We are staying in a unique and quirky white victorian house, which doubles as a local newspaper’s headquarters. With the cliché American flag on the front porch, there’s nothing bland about it inside. The vintage decoration is full of details such as a stirrup as toilet paper roll holder, vintage cookbooks or a saloon bar in the kitchen. It really has an interesting historic vibe to it, with a mixture of truly vintage and vintage-looking decor. We also found out the house appeared in two movies (Outbreak and Majestic) which is cool to know.

IMG_0581We had dinner in a small restaurant on the main street, after strolling the few streets the town has looking at the architecture, and also found out another interesting detail about it. Apparently, some of the first immigrants here came from Portugal (we thought it was strange there was a “Portuguese Hall Association” as well as a “Silva’s” jewlers so inquired about it). This was a huge coincidence, considering we only chose to stay here because it fit into our itinerary on the way to California, and AirBnB had a nice place available here.

Tomorrow, we’re off to lovely San Francisco, so for now I’m calling it a night.

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West Coast Love – Hip-before-it-was-cool Portland

Portland is one of those places that are much better looking up close than from a distance. Arriving through I5, the clumsy and industrial-looking buildings by the water is a sight that would have never given away the beauty and cool atmosphere of the city’s streets.
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Half a day for such a lively city really isn’t much, but it is enough to get a feel of its coolness. It is full of good looking, hip and stylish young people, and bars, cafés and restaurants to match.

The Pearl District, with its large brick industrial former warehouse buildings transformed into lofts with hip cafés and breweries on the ground floor, makes you daydream about making these streets part of your daily life. The short visit surely didn’t make it justice, since Powell’s City of Books would have been worth getting lost in its corridors of used books for at least a couple of hours.

IMG_0296Again, we’re staying at an AirBnB, a picturesque colorful-and-tastefully decorated yellow house with a porch on a residential neighborhood in the Northeast of Portland, a mere 10 minute drive to downtown.

We basically spent our afternoon and evening, strolling the streets around Pioneer Square, people-watching, catching a free outdoor swing/jazz concert, snacking tacos from the renowned Portland food carts and having a delicious and soul-warming dinner at a brewery.

I would have loved to stay longer and get to know the many secret spots Portland seems to have on every corner, but the road is calling us back again, and tomorrow it’s time to head down the scenic 101 highway down the Oregon coast. Time to leave urban metropolises and immerse ourselves in the wilder side of the region.

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West Coast Love – Grungy Seattle

Maybe it’s because I’m facing East, but this time I’m writing at dayrise instead of sunset,. I have to start this post by saying I really couldn’t recommend AirBnB enough. Today, I’m sitting outside of my bedroom on a green residential neighborhood with charming large houses, overlooking Lake Washington while eating my porridge with raspberries and drinking my morning cup of coffee while the owner’s Boston Terrier and orange tiger cat play around  – I don’t think we really could have afforded this morning if we had stayed in a hotel.

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There’s morning dew softly covering the grass and the fresh morning air under the grey Seattle sky smells of plants and flowers. Yesterday, we arrived by bus at King Station, had some burgers and salads at McCoy’s Firehouse Bar & Grill and ubered to our new borrowed home by Lake Washington.

We arrived at the grungy birthplace of Cobain and Hendrix after a 3h busride plus at least 45 minutes of border control. Not long after the border, a coincidence so corny it couldn’t be made up, a bald eagle to my left and a Walmart to my right – we were in the U.S. IMG_0192

The day was clear, with blue skies and a warm sun, and, distrustful of Seattle weather we decided it was best to make the most of it and take the Bainbridge Island ferry, from which we saw the grandiose Mount Rainier in the distance, its peak covered in snow and it’s foot so pale in the distance, that it seemed as though it was floating, as well as the postcard Seattle skyline, with its impressive tall buildings, ferris wheel and the kitschy Space Needle.

Back on solid land, the streets by the Waterfront were all under construction, so we took a IMG_0218short walk by the piers before climbing the 156 steps by the famous Pike Place market to arrive at downtown Seattle, which we explored a bit before having dinner at a Thai restaurant and calling it a day.

Day two’s morning was spent picking up our car for the next few weeks, which we did by ubering to the airport with an extremely nice and informed driver with whom we talked to whole ride and learned more than we thought we didn’t know about his home country Malaysia and the connections it has to our home country, Portugal.

IMG_0221We headed to the busy, colorful and loud Pike Place Market, with its picturesque lighted entrance sign, to stroll by the fresh produce and local crafts, had some sandwiches while someone played guitar and sang on the street (“Smells like teen spirit”, of course) and passed by the first ever Starbucks (with a line going around the block). After that, it was time to check out the International District, which gave me an idea of another Seattle neighborhood, with more Chinese, Japanese and Korean shops and restaurants, but really makes me feel Seattle is a city built for itself, not showing off to tourists – and it is great that way.

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We rode up and down the extremely steeps hills of the city to Seattle Center,to visit the EMP
museum, a crazy Frank Gehry building by the Space Needle, filled with interactive-type exhibitions about pop culture. It is somewhat weird to see Nirvana and Hendrix memorabilia displayed nicely behind a museum exhibitor, and have so many references lived by me in my short 25 years of life crystallized like this, but it is a fun museum where you can play Indie video games or several musical instruments inside soundbooths and mini-recording studios.

IMG_0223Next, on our way to the Ballard Locks, the plan was to check out the late Edie Macefield’s house, famous for refusing to sell her small house for 1 millions $ for commercial development, inspiring one of our family’s favorite animation filme, Pixar’s “Up”. With a “For Sale” sign on its plywood walls and its fence filled with colorful balloons and messages from around the world, it sort of reminds me of how universal some stories can be.

The Ballard, or Chittenden, Locks were presented to us on some guide we read somewhere asIMG_0227 the “essence of the Pacific Northwest”, so, as good tourists we HAD to check them out. The lock system is interesting to watch, although not really new. What I really enjoyed, as always, was the smell of dock and fresh Ocean air, the sound of water running, the sailboats neatly stored in the marina, while outside of the fish ladder and on an underwater glass panels you can observe salmon swim and jump through the ladder at Salmon Bay. Before dinner at Capitol Hill, supposed to be the place of counterculture Seattle (although in our quick passage through it seemed like a cool neighborhood with a nice vibe but not very alternative), we passed through Fremont, also a beacon of counterculture, and feeling much more like it with its wacky sculptures.

IMG_0234Seattle definitely feels grungy, but a little less grungy than I expected, but, of course, in two days, there’s not really much you can see of a city as large as this and visiting only its “main attractions”. It is a cool city, diverse with its green and almost rustic Bainbridge Island, with the wild mountains and water always looking over it and sorrounding it, and at the same time so urban.

On our last morning in Seattle, Lake Washington is mirroring the grey skies while we, once again, pack our things into our suitcases to store them in our car and head South to hip Portland.

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West Coast Love – Mountainous Vancouver

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Day One

A little over 24 hours after waking up in Porto, we finally arrived in Vancouver thirsty for a good IMG_0050night’s sleep before starting our actual road trip. Of course, having expectations (even if they are as simple as a bed to sleep on for the night) is the first step to getting disappointed, so we were extremely disappointed (rather pissed off) when the clerk at the hotel reception informed us that we only had one room booked instead of two due to some error with our Booking.com reservation. The prospect of not having a place for all of us to sleep, at almost 1a.m. after travelling for 24 hours was frustrating, to say the least, but we ended up finding a solution. Needless to say, it was NOT a good night’s sleep but, still, the excitement of discovering a new city somehow managed to pluck some extra energy from each of us, and, this morning, after moving our stuff into our temporary Canadian home, we set out to explore Vancouver.IMG_0056

We rented a charming little 2-bedroom house through AirBnB in a quiet neighborhood outside the city center, with a dreamy backyard complete with a porch (where I’m sitting at this moment under the golden light of sundown), treehouse, vegetable and herb garden, and plenty of sunlight. It is always so nice and personal to stay at someone’s home, even if you never get to meet the owners, you get a sort of intimate relation with the place that you connect to it better, it seems.IMG_0015IMG_0021

So far, Vancouver has been great. We got off the bus dowtown, near Chinatown, and walked the busy streets filled with passers-by, tourists, drifters, all kinds of different people under a deep blue sky and in the increasing summer heat, filling the air with a brew of smells, from the faint Pacific breeze to exhaust pipes and garbage containers. On the horizon, the water seems to bathe the foot of the mountains from which you can catch a glimpse in between the enormous buildings of the sleeping CBD.

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We had cheap pizza slices and frozen yoghurt on the downtown sidewalks by brick buildings and people-watched, before going to the scenic Stanley Park to enjoy the beautiful views of the city’s skyline.

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We topped the day off with a short stop by the English Bay beach, an urban enclave whose dark and rocky sand was filled with sunbathing locals. As a beach, there is not much to it, but I still find the scenery to be wonderful: the tall city buildings behind, a glance at the seemingly endless Pacific in front, and the grandiose mountain-shapes all around…IMG_0112

Then, it was off to see a bit more of Chinatown, with its food shops’ pungent aromas and streetlamps adorned with dragon shapes. We arrived when it was almost closing time, so it was rather quiet already, but we still managed to go into a few shops and marvel at the amount of products we could not identify.

Day Two

After going to bed at 9pm and sleeping over ten hours, we had a slow drowsy breakfast and headed out for the day. We took a bus to Granville Island – a former industrial area transformed into a cool colorful shopping and restaurant district, sorrounded by water and with a strong nautical vibe paradisiacal for boat-lovers.

The air was freshIMG_0122 even under the warm July sun, and smelled of fresh fish, algae and docks, and, on the horizon, beyond the masts, the tall buildings of Vancouver’s downtown. We had lunch at the public market, its narrow rows filled with shoppers and visitors, choosing amongst the numerous international restaurants or looking at the fresh produce and gourmet specialties.

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We then took a nice walk by the water to the hip
Kitsilano beach, where we finally dove into the refreshing waters of the Pacific, sorrounded by mountains, the city’s skyline.

Our last stop was Point Grey, where we strolled the residential neighborhood before stopping at Jericho beach to unwind, take in the scenery once again, and people-watch, as, right behind us, a folk music festival filled the air with mellow music.

We again took advantage of being in a house, rather than a hotel, and had a BBQ in our borrowed backyard, as the light began to dim and small bugs flew around us.

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Now, it’s time to pack our bags once more. Tomorrow, we’re catching an early morning bus to Seattle – our first U.S. stop in our great American road trip.IMG_0126IMG_0130IMG_0133IMG_0141IMG_0159IMG_0154

WEAST

It has been almost a year since I packed 2 weeks worth of clothing and toiletries into a 7kg bag and boarded a train to Lisbon to land more than 24 hours later on Indonesian soil, and I find myself, again, looking at nothing but intense blue nothingness above and cotton-like white fluffiness below me through a round crystalized window, rocking to the purr of the almost unimaginably powerful machine engines of the airplane.

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I tried to write about my trip to Indonesia as thoroughly and descriptively as I lived it, but inevitably failed, as all attempts at verbalizing (and, thus, intellectualizing) real experiences always do, but I hope my struggle to do so at least collaterally managed to be somewhat enjoyable, interesting or, at least, useful to whomever read my posts.

As I board on another, and completely different, travel adventure, which I also wish to share with all those who are interested in following me around, I feel that my Indonesian diaries still deserve a proper closure, and so do I, in order to begin telling you about my next big trip (I have had the incredible good fortune of having several trips in between, including a delayed –friendly-hug of a trip to Paris, a reinvigorating and sun-drenched stay in beautiful Easter Mexico, and a festive encounter in small-town Germany – all of which were to some extent too short and personal to warrant a public description)

So, here it is, a closure on Indonesia 2014.

Our last nights in InWP_20140822_15_01_25_Prodonesia were spent in Seminyak, the trendy, restaurant and bar-filled touristic center of Bali. As said, part of the group was already there, in a modern hostel close to the beach. Keeping within our tighter budget and general inclination towards more rustic accommodation. We found a hotel consisting of small bungalows, a bit up the same street – clean, simple bungalows built around a small garden, like a small Spartan oasis in the middle of a busy urban neighborhood.

We spent the last two days at the beach, drinking Bintang, eating Mie WP_20140827_17_57_35_ProGoreng and fresh fruit sold by some very friendly ladies with incredible pineapple-cutting skills (mangosteen <3 ), sitting on plastic chairs buried in the sand, rented surfboards for around 3 Euro / day and had some fun in the small inside waves of Seminyak/Kuta. There was also plenty of time for souvenir shopping at the small shops scattered all around town, selling the same kind of stuff they sell in every souvenir shop in beachy places, including really nice and extremely affordable beachwear.

WP_20140901_10_30_58_ProWe left for the Denpasar airport in the morning, for another seemingly endless journey back, with layovers in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Frankfurt, and Lisbon, from where we still had to catch a 3 hour bus to Porto. The trip went more or less smoothly (on the flight to Kuala Lumpur we flew next to the biggest thunderstorm I’ve ever seen), and in Frankfurt we had time to go to the city center and eat some Currywurst and drink some delicious beer at a Kneipe.

I feel like I might be rushing the story about the end of the trip. This is partly because it has been so long I have started to forget a lot of the details from it, and also because I feel an urgency to enter a new state of mind for the journey that is starting today.

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Last year’s big trip took me the furthest to the East I’ve ever been from home. Today I’m travelling the furthest I’ve ever been in the opposite direction. East and West are, obviously, only conventions, concepts we agree on (or make each other agree on) in order to somehow facilitate our grasping of the extremely complex experience that is life. But, still, there is a sort of symbolic harmony when looking at the Western-Eurocentric version of the world map and realizing this symmetry – nothing more than that.

And, with the flickering image of Bilbo Baggins on an outdated entertainment system, and the stomach twirling from light turbulence, I close this chapter on our incursion into Indonesia and open the next one, to the other side, West, which is, in fact, the same side, to the East of the East – bathed by the same Pacific Ocean we swam in in the Gili islands.

We’ll be landing in Toronto in about four hours, and then it’s off to Vancouver to the terrestrial start of our North- American road trip.

P.S.1: The title of this post is not a typo

P.S. 2: I appologize for any high-altitude-induced chaotic writing

Give me Bali beach

After meeting by the turquoise water of Padangbai, we regrouped to enter the minivan that would take us along roads bordered by majestic volcanoes and mountains to the fishing village of Jimbaran, the most Northern of the Bukit peninsula, where we wanted to stay until the end of our trip.WP_20140826_18_15_10_Pro

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Jimbaran dinner

Our driver left os on a busy road from which we had to walk quite a lot to get to the seaside, where we tried to find a hotel to stay for the rest of the trip. We didn’t really have a fixed plan, and everyone’s priorities were rather dissentient. We ended up staying in a great but over-our-budget hotel by the beach for one night, where, at the end of the day, we waited in the lobby while two of us got on a rented motorcycle and drove for hours on the winding, bumpy and dark roads of the peninsula looking for bungalows or hotels more inside our budget.

Their expedition lasted longer than we expected, so the rest of the group went ahead to have dinner at the famous Jimbaran restaurants, where candle-lit tables are set on the sand and you have freshly caught fish with your feet in the sand lulled by the soft roar of the waves interrupted by a band singing on demand to each table for tips. The atmosphere is at the same time very unique and extremely reminiscent of all fishing villages, as if there was some kind of universality in the fishing experience that transcends cultures and borders. It was a great evening (although I really have to be honest, the warm water fish is not as delicious as cold water fish but it was still tasty)

WP_20140828_10_49_32_ProWP_20140829_09_51_49_ProThe next day, we got 5 motorcycles (I had to grow into feeling safe on a motorcycle which only happened in the last days of the trip) and drove down to our new and more budget-friendly hotel, the Surya Home Stay, a bungalow with a seaview in the distance, almost at the Southwestern tip of Bukit, in Uluwatu.

The hotel was nice, clean and had a good vibe – the only problem (and probably the reason we got it so cheap) was that the swimming pool was under construction, so the lower floors had views of the construction site and there was no pool. Otherwise it was great, with a nice little patio where delicous breakfast pancakes and eggs were served and a small convenience store next door.

Bukit’s West coast is all it is made out to be: a surfer’s paradise filled with board repair shops, with impressive cliffs mottled by rustic bungalows cutting into a powerful Ocean textured by perfectly lined waves and a spectacular sunset light. The vibe is really mellow and beachy, quiet and slow.

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Uluwatu

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Bingin dinner

At night, there are some mellow laidback parties and restaurants, and tourists with burnt yellow hair, and burnt red skin, neon tanks and flip flops just hang out outside convenienve stores drinking. This eventually lead to another group division, where some moved closer to Kuta’s nightlife and the rest of us stayed to enjoy the beautiful beaches of Bukit, which we explored from South to North. Each of them would be worth a long description, but I’ll just leave that for now.

We started at Uluwatu, where we had drinks at a terrace with vertiginous views of the surf, before walking down steep wooden stairs and squatting under an enormous rock formation to reach the beach. Next, was the famous and beautiful Padang Padang beach, reachable after going through a sort of tunnel through the rocks and rather crowded with surfers and beachgoers.The most photogenic beach would have to be Bingin, with it’s bright blue water, large swells in the back, bungalows scattered on the cliffsides. Here, we stayed for dinner on the sand overlooking the purple and orange hues of the sunset. Finally, Balangan, bordered by dreamy palmtrees and made even sweeter through the drinking of delicious coconut water.

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Bingin

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Balangan

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Bingin

Before heading North to finish up our trip closer in Legian, we visited the famous and indescribably astonishing Pura Luhur Uluwatu at sunset. The photos speak for themselves on this one, and I’ll just leave it at that.

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Pura Luhut Uluwatu

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Want a trip to the moon?

I can’t really say we were on lunar soil but our brief stay at the Gili islands definitely felt like being out of this world. After a drive to Padangbai, where we took our ferry with a bunch of other travelers, including a group of tatooed bearded cap-and-very-short-and-colorful-80s-style-shorts wearing hipsters who graced us all with the loudness of their exquisite selection of the finest contemporary musical beats, we arrived at the pearl-white and turqoise-blue shores of Gili Air, from which we couldn’t stop admiring the awe-inspiring views of both Bali and Lombok volcanoes and mountains.

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Our group split up in this part of the trip, between the largest island of the three Gili, Gili Trawangan, and the second largest, Air, where we stayed.

We disembarked the ferry in this idyllic, carefree and car-free Eden where your feet are always covered in sand, all the running water is salty seawater, and you gradually feel your skin turn to scales and your hair turn to algae as you transform into some sort of mermaid-like seacreature sorrounded by the Ocean from all sides.

The first few hours in this beautiful island were not so paradisiacal, though. When you’re carrying all of your stuff in a heavy backpack under the tropical sun looking for a bungalow for the lowest price possiblWP_20140823_16_29_08_Proe, even the sights of this magnificent place come second to your need to find a resting place. I have to admit we were definitely way too thrifty in picking our accomodation. We were so afraid we wouldn’t get a nice place, that we chose one without checking out both of the rooms, leading to us staying in a very precarious bungalow – which would be fine, even perfect, except that all of the rustic charm was destroyed by a shitty red graffitti on the straw wall, and a very unstable floor. We were promised a better room on the second day, but ended up not only losing that one but losing the first one as well, and having to put extra beds in one shared room.

Still, one has to remember the best parts of everything, and the truth is we could hear the ocean from the dusty patio around which the bungalows were arranged, and at the entrance of which our very friendly and probably high pirate-like host slept all night in a hammock overlooking the beach bar decorated with Bob Marley posters (Gili Air seems to be divided in two: the Southeast reggae coast and the Northwest trance coast)WP_20140823_15_55_32_Pro

After a delicious lunch on the clear-blue-fake-postcard-photoshop-looking beach we tried to go for a swim – and this was a bit of a disapointment for me because I like to be immersed in water at all possible times – and found out that the beautiful white “sand” is actually coral sand which is very hard to walk on.

We expWP_20140823_16_30_11_Prolored the island, filled with colorful and rustic bars and restaurants overlooking the ocean sprinkled with sailing boats and the amazing views of Lombok, and absorbed the mellow laidback vibe – complete with strangers approaching us offering “a trip to the moon” a.k.a. magic mushrooms (oh, did I mention there is no police in the Gili islands?) and sunset parties to the sound of trippy music.

On our second day we went on a snorkelling trip which stopped just off the shore of each of the islands.

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For someone who would live underwater if only she would be able to develop gills and fins, snorkelling is as close as it gets to home. Time itself becomes liquid as you dive into the deep blue lull and your body eases into the slackening rhythm of your heartbeat. You feel so utterly alone that you almost cease to exist, dissolving in the water, beside all of the stunning creatures you observe, shimerring under the web of underwater sunrays.

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Unfortunately all of that peace was often interrupted by tourists and even guides pestering the beautiful turtles passing by. Still, it was a wonderful experience and we stopped in Gili Meno, the least populated island, for lunch and got an idea of each of the Gilis.

I had heared a lot about the Gili Islands and they really do the descriptions justice, with colors that seem unreal they are so perfect and a laidback atmosphere that makes time stop.

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Cycling Trivialities

como andar de bicicleta.

como equilibrar-se sobre seis centímetros de borracha que fogem por debaixo dos pés e desbastam o asfalto enquanto este nos promete a assolação

é como andar de bicicleta – diz-se com os ombros encostados aos lóbulos das orelhas, com um encolher de pescoço que os ombros até crescem

como andar de bicicleta.

e quando já não sabemos se os tornozelos nos seguram o volante ou os dentes agarram os pedais?

Who cares in a hundred years from now?