Saturday, February 22, 2014

Just because it's social media doesn't make it OK

I'm going out on a limb here. I'm going to be freaking frank and I'm going to totally put you and yours squarely in the picture.

Because it's not OK.

It's not OK for you to spread your lack of compassion about fellow human beings over the inter webs.

It's not OK for you to agree and propagate racist attitudes towards others, which are merely based on your fear of difference.

I't's not OK for you to share stuff that talks about killing and maiming fellow human beings who through birth and circumstance ended up with a different life trajectory to you, yet seek to emulate yours.

I can't do anything about your narrow-mindedness, your tiny little intellect and your lack of compassion for those less fortunate than you.

You have a right to your opinion, and I'm not going to begrudge you your right to that opinion.

But if you share your petty mindedness on social media, you can kiss goodbye to my opinion of you.

I won't be your friend, I won't be your Facebook friend, and I certainly won't value your opinion.

Call me a leftist pinko, a blackfella lover, a disillusioned socialist, I've heard it all before. Personal attacks are merely a refuge when the intellectual argument doesn't stack up.

I'll always listen to people's stories before I judge, I'll always try to "stand in their shoes" before forming an opinion,  I'll try to empathise with their situation, especially if it comes from a place so foreign from my own experience. How can I know how it is for people if I don't even try?

Compassion is a core value for me. It personally defines the person I am, the career I've chosen, the friends I've made.

And I've decided I'm not willing to accept lack of compassion, particularly when it is publicly shared on social media. It's not OK to share privately, it's even more unacceptable to trumpet it to the world.

Not that you may value my friendship, but if you're one of those who trumpets your bigotry, consider me no longer your friend.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Volcano madness

They are rather addictive. Once you've climbed one and seen the power of these beasts they are strangely mesmerising and you want to visit more. Let's visit some of my past conquests.

First cab off the rank is Mt Merapi near Bukittingi in West Sumatra. I almost didn't make it up this mountain, due to a combination of poor fitness, a heavy pack and a minor gastrointestinal upset the night before. But I made it, and was awed by my first sight of a crater spewing hot gases into the air above me.

Mt Merapi crater, 2008

Next up was Mt Kerinci, the tallest mountain in Indonesia outside Papua, which was very active at the time, and in fact officially closed to climbers. Here the bushes were covered in ash from frequent eruptions, and the climb was a lot more daunting up to the summit. The views were worth it.

Kerinci crater, 3800ASL, 2008

And then a couple of days later it did this

Ash cloud from minor eruption, Kerinci 2008

Next up was Mt Sibayak near the town of Berastagi in North Sumatra. An easy climb but a very noisy active volcano with numerous gaseous vents. Spectacular in its own way.

Fumaroles, Mt Sibayak, 2008

I decided not to climb Mt Sinabung, a little further away from town, but I did visit a pretty lake near its base on a rainy afternoon. This volcano began erupting last year and only recently killed 14 people  in nearby villages and remains on high alert.

Sinabung in the background, from the summit of Sibayak

Back in Java in 2010 I went chasing more volcanos. I visited Mt Bromo, along with everyone else, and attempted to climb Mt Semeru but it was still closed due to rain.

Bromo crater, 2010

I was awed by the bubbling mud pools in Dieng

And the sheer beauty of Ijen blew me away

But the one that scared me the most, that made me realise just how powerful and dangerous volcanos are was Mt Kelud.

This is a smoking cone of lava which appeared in the crater after an eruption in 2007. Before that it was a lovely pretty crater lake, like Ijen, which you accessed via a tunnel into the crater itself. Access to the lump was via the tunnel, but blocked about 20m from its base by a wire fence. You could, however, climb up steps to a great lookout over this smouldering thing. It was ugly, quite obviously alive, and brooding. 

On Thursday night it erupted. Luckily they had warnings over the previous few weeks and had a two hour evacuation warning on the actual eruption, which spewed ash into the atmosphere which is still falling up to 500km away. There have been 3 deaths from ash laden roofs falling in on victims, but thankfully no more in an area so heavily populated as Java.

Indonesia is on the Ring of Fire, a huge rift in the tectonic plates where volcanic activity and eruptions are part of life for people there, especially on Java. It allows them to grow so much food in such fertile soil, but it also means they are at the whim of nature. They know that the earth can give prodigiously, but it can just as easily take it all way.

I don't think Indonesians have forgotten this, but I sometimes think we have. Visit a volcano and you will always return humbled by both the power and beauty of nature and the earth.

And thank your lucky stars it didn't blow up in your face.

Friday, February 14, 2014

February Garden Update

Haven't I been blogging madly through January? It's actually been a really busy couple of months since I last gave you updates regarding house and garden, so here goes.

First, the fig tree that I pulled out of the ground and planted in a pot which then grew 300% in 2 months in a weird "Little Shop of Horrors" way, has been planted over Hazel, who shall indeed be feeding the fig for some time. Perhaps I should call it Audrey!!

It's over two months since Hazel's passing and I've been going through some of my photos and found a great one of her which I have printed, framed and hung in a prominent place. It was taken in July 2008 just before I left for 7 months travel in SE Asia. She was 10 years old and in peak condition. Her personality really shines through.

The garden has been getting lots of TLC. We are yet to receive any rain and I have had to drain the top water tank for the first time since I bought the third tank. Usually we get a big thunderstorm event in January which replenishes supplies through to the start of the seasonal rains in May, but absolutely no precipitation of note has eventuated. We've had dark clouds and filthy humid weather, but no relief. And we are now half way through February...

February in Geraldton is the living embodiment of hell on earth. Those eastern staters got a taste of our usual February conditions for a few days in January. Lucky for us February only has 28 days!! 31 days would be unbearable!!

Not a lot happens in the garden over the summer months. Daily hand watering seems to be a much more effective way of ensuring vegetable survival than reticulation. Hopefully I'll have enough rainwater to get me through the next four months, but if not, there's always scheme water..

I created a grey water pond in late December, which is planted with dwarf papyrus, Vietnamese mint and kangkung. I installed some hydroponic vertical planters in which I've planted herbs, strawberries and watercress. I'm also using grey water to grow my seedling trays. So far, it is performing brilliantly, including my coriander growing trial. I harvested a huge bunch of kangkung the other day and have heaps more coming on.

The grey water comes from my laundry, mostly from the washing machine and I installed a diversion tap so poisonous waste can go into the sewer. Because I only use laundry balls, and no detergents of any sort, the grey water is pretty good quality to start with. The water pump and fountain aerates the water and the plants filter it. I've even put three goldfish in the pond and so far they are thriving.

I've been harvesting eggplant, lettuce, parsley, capsicum, passionfruit and 3 million chillies from the vege patch. I've made more hot chill sauce and thai red curry paste, donated the frozen chillies to work colleagues, and I still have more...I am so far rather disappointed with my okra plants - there is one fruit on one of the plants, but some of the other plants may do better and I've planted some more seeds to try again. I've also been planting climbing beans every couple of weeks to try and get staggered crops.

My Geraldton tomato plant has died. It's my crappy water repellant soil of course. It didn't live up to its bullet proof reputation, whilst the new tomato cultivars are doing fine. I have foolishly tried growing some more cucumber plants after losing the last lot to a hot spell mid December. I continue to delude myself that February isn't really hell on earth....

In house news, I'm in the middle of getting a new hat. More on that soon...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The computer and other gadgets - Seven Kilo Challenge Part Three

This trip will be my first ever backpacking trip in which I take along a laptop. A few years ago I wouldn't have even contemplated lugging around such a heavy and valuable piece of equipment, but times have changed. Not only have laptops become lighter and cheaper, but Wi-Fi is everywhere. This equates to easier internet access than having to compete for a computer at an internet cafe. My smartphone with an Indonesian SIM and data package will work as a mobile modem and give me internet access almost anywhere, at least in the bigger towns and hopefully in smaller ones as well.

I've also streamlined my photography workflow.  I import photos from my camera into Lightroom, sort and edit them, then create a folder for publishing on my chosen photo website. This can all be done on my computer anywhere, and only when I wish to use the Lightroom plugin to upload the pictures onto my Picasa photo site do I need to access the internet. Indonesia has very cheap data rates between midnight and 8am so those photos can be happily uploading whilst I'm sleeping.

Coming travelling with me is my Macbook Air, now more a middle-aged boyfriend than a sexy new love affair. These days he's got a double chin, namely a couple of external hard drives.

One of the downsides to the MBA is a miserly 2 USB slots. With one slot taken up with a CF card reader there's only one other slot available for a hard drive. I have a 256GB SSD and it's almost full, so all my photos are stored on an external drive, plus I need a second drive for backup. Enter this little dude, soon on its way to me from Korea via Japan - the smallest most compact USB hub I could find. Problem solved.

I bought a beautiful laptop bag a couple of years ago which is made from some high tech foam and protects my computer from serious trauma. But it's a little heavy and too bulky which prevents me from slipping it into the sleeve in my backpack. So I made up a handy little bag from a postpak bubble envelope and some velcro fastenings. Works a treat!

MBA 1360g in home made postpak case, hard drives 424g in their case, including cables.

AC chargers are a nightmare. Reducing the number of transformers and power cables required can save a huge amount of weight. My MBA charger has a little plug which slides in to the transformer. This plug also fits my new camera battery charger. My external drives are USB powered, as is my phone and Kindle. I can therefore use USB cables, much lighter than power cords, to charge all my devices from my laptop. Damn pity there seems to be a different plug for each different device. MBA charger 201g,  Kindle 351g, iPhone 181g, plug adaptor for Indonesia 38g. These all include their respective USB cables.

To cut down on bulk I recently heard about the Griffin USB mini cable kit. These little beauties are very short, so no tangled cables. Plus they sync data, which many cheaper cables don't do. I've found a supplier in Perth so will be purchasing a set when I go down to the big smoke in a couple of weeks.

I could probably pick up a USB wall charger in a store in Indonesia at little cost should I need it.

All this paraphernalia adds up to 2623g. I haven't included the weights of the USB hub or Griffin cables as yet. Add that to the 3kg already accounted for,  throw in the tripod and 50mm camera lens (1189g) and we are at 6812g. We've almost hit the weight limit, and I'm yet to pack my clothes and toiletries.

No, I'm not going nude trekking, or living in one set of clothes for 2 months. I'm taking a couple of changes of clothes, and some cold weather gear - the trek to Semeru is said to be the coldest place in Java with overnight temperatures well below freezing. And it's all got to fit in carryon.

That's where the trickery comes in. You'll have to read the next post for that!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

There's so much out there to see

Take Java. Said to be the most crowded real estate on the planet, and also the most geologically active island in the world just in the sheer number of lava belching volcanos. Ring of fire indeed.

So there I am doing my best to get as much information as possible about all these mountains and volcanoes and national parks that I'd like to visit. Because I'm a wee bit obsessive. Because I like to work out whether I really need a guide for something or if it's perfectly easy to do solo if the path is unambiguous, the route defined, and the place not excessively dangerous. I can communicate adequately in Bahasa Indonesia. I am past the beer ordering phase, but not beyond it!

I like to start with a guidebook. Lonely Planet actually does a sterling job of describing quite a few options beyond the well trodden path of Bogor, Bandung, Yogya and Bromo. It manages to provide information on a staggering number of volcanos, craters, and volcanic lakes besides the Bromo, Ijen, Merapi, Krakatau quartet.

The on line world isn't up there with a researched guidebook yet. It's quite a job plugging in keywords and trying to find blogs and other sources with the sort of information I'm looking for. My smattering of language and the good old services of old friend Google Translate helps a lot, and I've just started lurking on some Indonesian backpacker sites too.

I don't even bother posting a question on an international travellers' forum. I guess with limited vacation time most people concentrate on visiting just a few famous, and usually the tallest, mountains and leave the smaller ones to the locals. On every trek I've done in Indonesia I've met groups of Indonesians camping out and enjoying the sunrise from the summit. It's those trip reports I'm hoping to find by trawling the webs....

I've been to most of the main tourist destinations in Java in 2010, so this time I plan to explore further afield, as well as revisiting a few.

This trip you can look forward to seeing and learning about some less visited (by foreigners) parts of this fascinating island and culture. I've decided to start with an exploration of Jakarta, because this city gets a lot of bad press yet if you read between the lines it's actually got quite a lot of things to see and do. I'm not going to stay in the city, because budget accommodation is poor value for money, but will be doing day exploratory expeditions into its underbelly. Nah, it's not gonna be that exciting.

There will be a National Election on when I'm there though....

From Jakarta I'll head west to Banten and the west coast and from there I'll be making my way slowly eastwards. Just how far I'll get is anyone's guess. My rough itinerary finishes with round 2 Bromo sunrise then a flight from Surabaya to Bali and home, but who knows where I'll actually end up.

I will be guided by my map. All those little roads heading somewhere interesting...

Now you know the reason this blog's called What's Next.

I don't even know