A sunrise trek up to the top of (still active!) Gunung Batur volcano seemed like a grand idea, so we continued on to the (hole) town of Toya Bungkah (too lazy to look up correct spelling) at the base of the volcano and signed up for a 4 am trek for the next day. Not sure if we’re just gluttons for punishment, or what. But the expensively-guided trek was a total bust. There we were at 4 am, precariously clambering and scrambling our way up the slippery and deeply-creviced lava in the pitch black.Gale-force winds, cold, pounding rain and fog so thick that I could barely see where I was walking let alone any scenery or a sunrise. When we finally made it to the top, we huddled shivering and wet in the bamboo lean-to while a woman (who started the trek about 30 minutes after us and reached the top about 45 minutes before us, and in dollar-store flip-flops) made us coffee and tea. The guide steamed our breakfast (eggs and banana sandwiches) in a litlte naturally boiling hot crevice in the volcano (kind of neat). We saw absolutely nothing, but had to laugh anyway. Heck, we were at the top of an active volcano. In Indonesia. Having coffee. And who could be upset with a guide that states “Sorry….nature controls the weather, not me”, in such anapologetic tone that we almost felt bad for the guy. We climbed back down, checked out of our ****** guesthouse (yet another one where Fab saw a cockroach but didn’t dare tell me) and got out of Dodge. Half an hour of waiting for a bemo on the side of the road produced zero results. Just as we were getting very discouraged (and very wet), a good samaritan pulled over his minivan and drove us all the way to Ubud. For free. He absolutely would not take any money from us. It gave me the shivers. Locals just don’t normally act this way towards tourists. We were touched. Ubud is a lovely, lovely city, and the cultural centre of the island. Big, touristy, busy, but somehow still very authentic feeling, if you can make sense of that. We had no trouble getting off the tourist track and into the middle of local life – rice paddies, etc. The selection of restaurants, shopping and accommodations is dizzying, but not like Bangkok-dizzying. It’s quite intriguing to examine the work of all the different artists – painters, wood carvers, sculptors, dancers and the like. While ostensibly geared to tourists, it was charming to be in a place that felt steeped in and close to its cultural roots. Also, I kept an eye out for Elizabeth Gilbert (the author of Eat, Pray, Love, who spent 4 months here while writing her book), just in case she was in town and needed me to help her with her next novel or something. Didn’t see her. If anyone hears that she’s looking for me, let me know, ok? After several days in Ubud the call of duty brought us back to crazy Kuta Beach. We both had flights to catch. So here’s the update on that: As has been but one of the common threads running through the tapestry of this adventure I am on, the best decisions are rarely the easiest ones. I made the tough decision to skip New Zealand and instead stay in Indonesia for another month, alone, and to end my travels here, alone. I am at the end of the road. Many factors played into the decision, money being a big one. I’m pretty much out of it, and NZ is pricy. I was so taken with Gili Air that I decided a day after we arrived there that I would end my travels there. It seems like the perfect place to try to process all that has happened (so much!) and all that is about to happen (I have no idea, but I hope something) when I return home a few weeks from now. I will live in my little bungalow, read, write and fish for my dinner, and let my thoughts bob about like buoys on the sea. I am even considering using the time to try to get back into shape a little bit. (Considering.) I will try to re-centre all of the scattered feelings I have about going back to the real world. I don’t know what I feel about it, but I promise to write about it when I do. Fab should be almost back to France by now and has his own big plans to make for his year travelling and working in Canada (felicitations!) If anyone across the country has work or accommodations they can offer up, please let me know and I’ll put you in touch with him. Bonne chanceFab, et continue bien! As for me, I’m on the road again. I’m taking off tomorrow at a very unreasonable hour to head to the island of Nusa Lembongan, to once again take a chance on snorkeling. Maybe the ocean is in a better mood by now? I’ll see. From there, on to my mini-life on Gili Air for a while. For now, I’m off to stock up on reading material at the used bookstore. You know, for the days when the fish aren’t biting.