Nepal: The Project’s Future?

The intervention part of the program to create awareness of the need for better health measures to promote better outcomes for pregnant women in isolated and remote villages in Nepal has come to an end. The post intervention data has been collected and it is very pleasing to note that of the 1,656 people who responded to the original data collection, only 50 were not recorded in the post intervention data… they were away from their area at the time. This is an incredible response rate and their responses should give a true indication of the way the program was received by the people. Binod is now back in Newcastle, Australia looking at all his data… and that should be a very interesting read.

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But the other indication of success can be seen on the faces of women visited!

So, it seems, that a very good start has been made in working towards a change in these villages which, over the years, have experienced awful maternal mortality death rates.

But, now that the ‘entertainment’ of the singing and dancing and social interaction of the intense intervention program is over, will the momentum be continued ?

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Binod had prepared for this and, before the end of the program, 1,000 laminated posters were distributed to all of the houses to help the women, and their families,  remember the important steps to follow through the nine months of pregnancy. These are visual in content. They were highly prized and sought after by the families in the villages. Binod has translated them into English for us.

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Months one to four.

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Months five and six

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Month seven.

You may wonder about the comment regarding carrying the woman on a man’s back to get the health post. As there are only tracks, often difficult and slippery, a pregnant woman, especially if not well, would find it difficult to walk down the hills… and up again. You begin to understand the reasons why they often don’t go to the health posts and why more  local health posts are needed.

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Months eight and nine.

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And, if all goes well, a smiling Grandmother with her grandchild.

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And a smiling, healthy mother!

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And a healthy baby.

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So, for the long term hope of better maternal health care, these women need to work together to help each other, and their families; checking the banners that will hang in their houses; reminding each other of the messages in the words of the songs… and, hopefully, the songs will become a part of their village tradition.

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The older women have really embraced these messages, wishing Binod had come earlier when they were of child bearing age… they know only too well the consequences!

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And teachers, mostly men, need to keep reinforcing the messages with their students.

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This intervention is particularly important for the mothers of the future.

These teenage girls are taking intense interest in the messages.

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And so are these young fellows… the fathers of the future.

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Teenagers, like this young man, are the future of these villages.

We hope they remember these health messages and employ them throughout their lives.

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Maybe, by the time these little ones are grown up, the messages of today’s intervention songs will be deeply etched into the culture of their villages and society. Let’s hope so.

And that’s all for our WordPress for the time being. It’s time for us to prepare video presentations to share with others here in Australia and back in Nepal. The goal is to develop this intervention as a model for other isolated communities.

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On behalf of Annie, Roger, Binod and David (photo above), thank you to those who have joined them for the journey to these remote villages in Nepal on their important mission to help abate the maternal mortality rate. If you have enjoyed these armchair travel posts, please pass our site on to others. And for those just joining, there’s plenty to read and enjoy in past posts.

www.dymusings.com

I will add more of David’s Nepal photos to our flickr site as and when I have the time… so pop in there from time to time and enjoy.

More anon when David takes on another travel adventure!

Jennie (on behalf of David and Binod)

                       www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

Binod will be updating his project site from time to time as well:

www.binodbindu.com.np

Our other armchair travel site is

www.jtdytravels.com

Indonesia: Exploring Around Ubud; Bali

The last ‘formal’ part of our whole adventure in SE Asia was a day spent travelling into the countryside around Ubud.

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Narrow, winding roads were encountered for most of the journey.

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The name ‘penjor’ is used to describe these tall bamboo poles.  They are decorated with coconut leaves which have been cut into intricate shapes.  They are used by Hindus in Bali for every important ceremony.

Penjors are the representation of mountains, particularly Mt Agung, the highest mountain in Bali.  The Balinese see them as a symbol of the universe.

Galungan is a Balinese holiday marking the beginning of the most important recurring religious ceremony.  This is the time when the spirits of cremated relatives return to their former home ancestral home on Earth.  It occurs at different times each year as it is based on the 210 day Balinese calendar.  Their living relatives have the responsibility of welcoming the departed back home by saying prayers and making offerings.  Offerings are made up of root crops, such as sweet potato, fruit of any kind, grains, leaves, traditional cakes and 11 Chinese coins

Penjor are erected to show devotion to the God of the Mountain.  The Balinese know that mountains contain forests and that these forests hold a lot of water.  This water eventually ends up in rivers which in turn supports all their irrigation needs.

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We drove to an area of beautiful rice paddies.

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Another view of the terraces on which the centuries old paddies have been constructed.

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The rice was in excellent condition.  It was not far off flowering.  In an attempt to assure a good crop, this small woven bamboo platform held offerings to the gods.

DSC04997.JPGThe paddies stretched off into the distance.  Pockets of land were still covered in forest and coconut palms dotted the paddy bunds.  This method of farming constitutes a very sensible form of agriculture compared to the Western broad acre form of agriculture.  It is, however, very manpower / woman power intensive.

DSC05002.JPGWe came across these demon-gods stored in a covered area attached to a temple.  No doubt they are paraded through the streets on important festival days.

DSC05008.JPGEach family home has a number of ancestral shrines such as these.  They contain the ashes of deceased relatives.

From the rice paddy area we drove on to Lake Bratan.  It is known as the Lake of the Holy Mountain due to the fertility of this area. It is 1200 m (3937 ft) above sea level.

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This out-rigger boat had seen better days.

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On the edge of the lake is Pura Ulun Danu Bratan (Pura Bratan) which is a major water temple.  The temple was built in 1663 and is used to make offerings to the river goddess Dewi Danu as it is the main source of irrigation water for all central Bali.

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The main temple, of 11 stories, is dedicated to Shiva and his consort Parvithi.

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The temple complex is surrounded by very well maintained gardens.

DSC05029A Javan Pond Heron (Ardeola speciosa) wading through water plants looking for its favourite food of fish, insects and crabs.

Next, we drove to Tabanan, about 20 km, (12 miles) from Denpasar.  Here we were to look at the Tanah Lot Temple.

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To get to the temple, visitors have to run the gauntlet of hundreds of ‘tourist shops’.  One, however, had a couple of civets on display.  These were of interest to us as a result of our earlier visit to the plantation where the civet’s scats were collected to produce the ‘most expensive coffee in the world’.

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The pointy-nosed animals wouldn’t stay still for a second for a good photo.

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On the way to the shore we passed this gate to a shrine.

Tanah Lot is actually a rock formation which in Balinese means ‘Land Sea’.  On it is built Tanah Lot temple, one of seven sea temples dotted along the SW coast of Bali.  Believed has it that the temple dates from the 16th Century and that the site was chosen because of its beautiful setting.  It is dedicated to the Sea God.  It is believed that venomous sea snakes guard the temple and that the temple itself is protected by a giant snake.

DSC05067In 1980, the Japanese government gave the Indonesian government a loan of about USD130 million to help with the restoration and conservation of the temple along with other significant projects around Bali. It’s a very popular place to visit!

DSC05064Detail of the top of the temple.  Only Hindus can actually visit it.

DSC05070.JPGPura Batu Bolong is another of the Pura Batu Bolong and is within sight of Tanah lot.  It sits upon on a rocky promontory.

DSC05063.JPGOne of the very ‘touristy’ things to do in Tabanan is to be within sight of these temples at sunset.  It was a partially cloudy day with clouds hanging on the horizon so it was decided that it was not worth waiting until sunset.  It had been a long day already.  We headed back to Ubud.

Unfortunately, I have to tell you folks that this is the last post for my Bangkok to Bali trip.  I hope you have enjoyed the journey as much as I did.

But the good news is that my next adventure is about to begin…. this time to Nepal to visit some hill villages west of Pokhara for a very interesting project.  So,please, keep following my posts for all the latest happenings.

David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.dymusings.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.jtdytravels.com

More of our travel photos are on

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Indonesia: Pura Taman Ayun Temple; Bali

Our next stop for a couple of nights was to be Ubud. On the way, we stopped at Pura Taman Ayan Temple in the village of Mengwi which is about 17km northwest of Denpasar. This temple complex was built around 1634 by the then ruler of the Mengwi Kingdom, Tjokerda Sakti Blambangan. It was significantly restored in 1937.

As well as some wonderful traditional architecture, we were to find expansive garden landscapes that included lotus and fish ponds… plenty of photograph opportunities.

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A small covered pavilion near the entrance.

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A guardian, suitably decorated, at one of the temple entrances.

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One of the decorative ponds that surround the temples.

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The locals leave daily offerings at strategic places dotted around the complex.

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Various traditional building styles are seen within the complex.  The terracotta coloured bricks contrast well with the grey stone carvings.

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Detail of a demon guarding the corner of a building.

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The public are not permitted to enter this sacred area. However, a high vantage point overlooks the complex giving a good idea of its extent.

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Another demon god, this time “protecting” a shop selling tourist trinkets.

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Another gate and ornate bridge over a surrounding canal.

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Towering tiers of thatched temple shrines make up most of the profile of Taman Ayun. This area was closed to the public but there were good views from outside the walls.

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This shiny mahogany-coloured beetle was attempting to get a little closer but…

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…there were steps and walls impeding its progress.

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Another view down the central axis of the complex.

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Yet another view…

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…and another.

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Detail of the intricate stone carving…

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…and some more newly restored carving.

 

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Another guardian.  Interesting but the symbolism of the detailed carving is lost me!

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The gardens are not only protected by traditional guardian stone sculptures… I think you’ll agree that the spiny stems of this palm in the gardens are not very welcoming.

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The garden surrounding the whole complex were very well maintained.  This clump of tall bamboo still retained the sheaths that protected the new emerging shoots.

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A bright yellow Heliconia stood out against its green leaves.

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Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata), is a tropical tree that originates in the Indonesia, Malaysia, and Philippines.  The green flowers slowly mature to a deep yellow with a red throat.

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Cananga odorata is valued for the essential oil that is extracted from its flowers to be used in perfumes and in aromatherapy.  This oil is credited with relieving high blood pressure, easing skin problems and is also considered to be an aphrodisiac. It’s often blended with other floral, fruit and wood scents to produce perfumes such as Chanel No. 5.

Here, in Indonesia, the flowers are traditionally spread on the bed of a newlywed couple. In the Philippines, its flowers are strung into necklaces worn by women. These strings of flowers are also used to adorn religious images.

The plant produces clusters of black fruit which are an important food item for birds, thus serving as an effective seed disperser.

This temple complex had proved to be an interesting visit on our way to our destination for the night at a resort in Ubud, Bali.  More of that anon.

David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.dymusings.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

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Indonesia: Margo Utomo Agro Resort (b); Kalibaru

After breakfast, we went back out into the Margo Utomo Agro Resort’s garden with our guide.  We found several more interesting tropical flowers, fruits and spices… and a rather special animal.

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Hanging from a tree was a local bat.

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It was not particularly worried by my presence. Perhaps it was licking its lips in happy anticipation of some nectar from the nearby New Guinea Creeper.

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The New Guinea Creeper, (Mucuna novo-guineensis), has brilliant pendent bunches of pea flowers. They hang in the shade created by the plant’s own leaves.

Like other legumes, the plant produces it’s seed in pods. They are generally bat-pollinated and produce seeds that float.  The seeds can therefore be spread in streams and by the sea.

New Guinea Creeper has been brought into cultivation, although, at temperatures below about 10 °C ,they must be grown indoors. They’re grown as ornamental plants and, locally, for food. Interest exists in developing Mucuna species as a sustainable, edible green manure crop, dug in after the fruit is harvested.

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An unknown fruit with an attendant ant.

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Ripe, and not so ripe, coffee berries.

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These wonderful flowers, belong to Theobroma cacao, the cacao tree also called the cocoa tree. It’s native to the tropical regions of Central and South America. The flowers are borne directly on the larger stems of the plant. They develop into…

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…these wonderful fruits which, on processing, turn into CHOCOLATE!

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A white turkey wandered around the surrounds of the old home… he “owned” the place.

 

 

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Cattleya orchid, just growing in the garden.  I can’t get them to flower like this even with all the molly-coddling under the sun!

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At a tropical fruit tasting session, we tasted Star Fruit, Longan, Rambutan…

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… Mangosteen , Custard Apple and Dragon Fruit.

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This is the interior of a red-fleshed Dragon Fruit.

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A Custard Apple being cut open.

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A Custard Apple growing on a tree.

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One of the more unusual sights in the garden… Civet cat scats.

The Most Expensive Coffee in the World, Civet coffee (Kopi Luwak), is produced from coffee beans that have been eaten by the Civet Cat or Palm Civet.  In Indonesia these animals are called luwaks, hence Kopi Luwak.

Civet cats roam the ground beneath coffee trees and eat only the ripest of coffee beans.  During the digestion process the red pulp surrounding the coffee bean (seed) is digested during a unique fermentation process.  This gives the coffee its special flavour.  About 24 hours after the beans have been eaten they are passed by the animal and left on the plantation floor.  Farmers collect the faeces each morning.

The faeces are washed, dried, cleaned of any remaining pulp and finally roasted.  Kopi Luwak is brewed in the normal way but it is recommended that it be drunk without sugar or milk as these additives tend to mask the unique flavour of the product.

So… anyone for Civet scat coffee? On cup of Civet Coffee costs between $35 and $100… compared the usual $4.00 to $4.50… a bit of a difference in both taste and price!

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Also in the resort area, we went to a rubber factory. Our guide shows us raw rubber.

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The amorphous mass is rolled a number of times to create sheets of rubber.

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The still white sheets are washed before being cured in a smoke house… and that turns the rubber a very dark brown colour.

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Later in the afternoon we sailed across to the island of Bali. More anon.

David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.dymusings.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.jtdytravels.com

More of our travel photos are on

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Indonesia: Sunrise over Mt Bromo

A very early morning (03.30) enabled us to reach a good view point to watch the sun rise over the volcanos that form the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park. Our mini-buses were not up to the task of climbing the steep road let alone cross the Sea of Sand (read ash flats), so we were loaded into short wheel-based 4WD Toyotas with big fat tyres that were only partially inflated.

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Light was just beginning to lighten the horizon as we reached our view point, Mount Penanjakan 2,770 m (9,088 ft).  We had travelled from our hotel in the centre-middle of the photo.

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The sky began to lighten predawn… Mt Bromo was hidden by cloud but the taller stack of cloud in the centre of the photo was actually ash and steam from Mt Bromo.

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The effort required to get up so early was well worth it… it was spectacular watching the sun rise above some clouds out to the East of our vantage point.

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It turned out to be the coldest morning of our whole adventure. A stiff breeze made it even more so, but, at an elevation of 2770m, it should be expected.

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And then the cloud in the valley parted and we could see Mt Bromo.

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Mt Bromo.

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After enjoying that stunning sunrise, we headed part-way down for a quick stop at another view point. Now we could see how far we had climbed up from the valley floor..

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Wonderful scenery… clouds wreath Mt Bromo on the other side of the valley.  The Sea of Sand is the flat grey valley floor between the view point and Mt Bromo.

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Our next stop was at a staging point for the climb to the rim of Mt Bromo’s crater, a 2km walk with a height difference of 133m (436 ft.).

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It was a gentle walk over ash to begin with.

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The incline gradually got steeper.  Our vehicles were parked at the edge of the green area on the far side of the area with trees in the middle distance.

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Finally, we came to a set of steps that would get us up to the rim.

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A continuous roar came from the volcano, getting louder as we neared the rim.

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Looking down into the crater, large clouds of steam were bellowing upwards. Every now and then there would be silence before, suddenly, there was a huge roar as even more steam burst forth. On these occasions, rocks and other debris was hurled into the sky.

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It was indeed fortunate that the wind was blowing away from us or we could have been in some peril. Even though I’ve been on volcano rims before, this was still quite exciting.

Our guide, Tan Tan, had advised us not to climb to the rim, but not because of safety concerns… no.. because he didn’t think we had it in us to get to the top and back to the vehicles in the time available. This wasn’t the first, or the last time, that we managed to achieve a bit more than he gave us credit for.

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It transpired that Mt Bromo had increased its activity somewhat while we were climbing, to the extent that, according to Tan Tan’s wife, it hit the local news.

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Back down on the ash flats, we had that moment I usually dread… the group photo!

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After all that, we were back in Yoschi’s dining room for breakfast by a bit after 08.00! And by then we were rather peckish. After breakfast it was back into our trusty mini-buses for a seventy-five minute drive to Probolinggo.

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We travelled back down the same road we had traversed in the dark the night before.  The scenery was quite spectacular with many different crops being grown on every arable piece of ground.

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The tall narrow trees look that way because the branches are cut, probably for fuel.

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The road twisted around the steep valley sides.

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At Probolinggo, we caught a train to Kalibaru – a three hour journey.  This was the Station Master’s office which contained all the levers that controlled the station yard points.

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Arriving at Kalibaru, it was just a walk around the end of the station platform to find our overnight accommodation, the Margo Utomo Agro Resort. This hotel had two rows of twin bungalows set in very well maintained tropical gardens.

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Heliconia sp.

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Shrub Vinca (Kopsia fruticosa).

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The resort had a massive swimming pool… a lovely place to while away an hour before dinner… and that was worth waiting for, too. It was a mixed plate of Indonesian cuisine;  chicken curry, chicken satay, sautéed vegetables, boiled egg with Balinese sauce, sweet potato chips, steamed rice and beef floss. We had earned that meal.

And we had also earned an early night after a very interesting, but long, day.

More anon

David

All photographs copyright © DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

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more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

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Indonesia: Petirtaan Jolotundo Dewasa; East Java

At the conclusion of our tour of the Resort’s extensive gardens, there was time for a quick sortie out into the nearby rice paddies and a walk to a village.

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It was just a 15 minute walk along a very narrow path to get to the village. We needed to tread carefully as the path was along the top of an irrigation ditch.

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Even here, beside the path, there were interesting plants and insects to find.

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Unknown but obviously enjoyed the damp.

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The various paddies contained rice at different stages of growth.  Some had not long been planted, while other paddies were nearly ready for harvest.

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This crop was only days away from harvest…

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…a fact that this hungry locust was more than aware of!

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There were some attractive flowers of Mimosa pudica growing alongside the path.  It is a creeping annual or perennial herb belonging the pea family.  Its common name is Sensitive Plant because when touched or disturbed the finely divided leaves close up by folding together, thereby defending themselves from harm.  They re-open a few minutes later.  The plant is native to South and Central America, but is now a pan-tropical weed.

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The small village was paved and very clean and neat.  The narrow roadways were lined with well looked after gardens.

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A covered verandah sported a couple of tables made out of slabs of tree trunks supported by some old tree roots.  Nothing is wasted here!

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Still unsheathed corn cobs, neatly woven into bunches, hanging up to dry.

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Freshly cut and stacked bamboo, prior to being used for building purposes.

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I guess this house belonged to a fisherman.

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Interesting patterns and colours created by roof tiles…

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…and stacked flat roof tiles…

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…and split bamboo.

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Bright yellow cosmos with their heads pointed to the sun.

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Bi-coloured balsam… very attractive.

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A couple of the younger members of the village were obviously interested us.

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…and so was an older lady.

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The whole area was rather wet as can be seen by the plant growth and water damage to the wall of this house.

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Moss and ferns, another indicator of moist conditions.

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Speckled flowers of the Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia wulfenii).

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A busy wasp looking for moist mud to build its nest.

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These lovely orange speckled flowers seemed to be common in the gardens we saw.

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Another plant I don’t know… also enjoying the moist conditions.

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The petals of this waterlily are still expanding after opening for the first time.

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On our walk back to the resort for lunch, four of us decided there was time to continue on to a nearby Temple, Petirtaan Jolotundo Dewasa.It lies on the slopes of the 1653m Mount Penanggungan, a perfect cone that stands sentinel between the coastal plains and the volcanic hinterland.

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 Along the way, we passed this abandoned shelter… the plants beginning to take over.

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Jolotundo Temple is a centuries old Hindu shrine. It was built in 997AD for Udayara, a Balinese King, when he married a Javanese princess.

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Nearby was a mosque.

Over many centuries and under successive dynasties, Jolotundo Temple has been a sacred place. Its still a place of spiritual power even today, long after Hindu-Buddhist Java gave way to Islam. The idea of bathing at this special bathing temple still brings pilgrims.

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The temple precinct contains a series of stone pools filled with ‘holy’ water. These are filled with spring water which constantly runs and so replenishes any lost water. Many devotees travel quite some distance to bathe in the two separate pools, one for the ladies and the other for men. The spring water is supposed to possess ‘healing’ and ‘cleansing’ powers, so, after bathing, many pilgrims take containers of water away for later use.

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A little boy and his dad at the men’s pool.

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In the daytime these pools can appear to be a perfect family picnic spot. But, we were told, as darkness falls and the noise of the crickets rises, pilgrims arrive to burn incense, toss flower petals into the waters and bathe in prayer for healing, energy and good life. They come from many faiths… Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and those who still have ties to ancestor-worship and animism. But, unfortunately, we couldn’t stay until night fell… we still had many miles to cover on this day.

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By the time we made it back to the resort, we were really ready for lunch… delicious.

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 Before we left the resort we watched a demonstration on how to make red ginger tea. After that, we left the resort at 15.00 for the next part of our journey, a nearly four drive to Yoschi’s Hotel near Mt Bromo.

The last part of that drive was in the pitch dark as we climbed up a very, very twisty road to our hotel. It was probably just as well that we couldn’t see much of the scenery that we were driving through… very steep sides to a very narrow road!  But we made it safely, had dinner and fell into bed… we had a wake-up call booked 03.00. The mini bus would leave at 03.30 for us to be in time to watch the sunrise over Mt Bromo… and we certainly didn’t want to miss that! More anon.

David

All photographs copyright © DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.dymusings.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

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More of our travel photos are on

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Indonesia: Seloliman Nature Reserve; East Java

After breakfast at Minggu, we left our cabins to begin a two and a half hour walk around the Nature Reserve guided by the head guy. I was more than happy to have extra time in this delightful area, time to photograph more of the plants. As I don’t live in the tropics, many of the plants and their flowers were new to me… all rather exotic. Any help with the identity of those marked as ‘unknown’ is welcome?

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A sleepy volcano created a wonderful backdrop to the resort.

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Some of the plants were quite common in the gardens that we visited, like this one, the Peacock Flower, (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)… here in close up, a single flower.

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Also in close up, in all its crinkly beauty, is the previously seen Crepe or Malay Ginger (Costus speciosus) with its ballerina like tutu petals.

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This dragonfly was flirting around a small ornamental pond.  Thankfully, it settled long enough for this photo. What a beauty it is!

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Perhaps, the dragonfly wanted to take a longer look at this waterlily, as did I.

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Bleeding Heart (Clerodendrum thomsoniae) comes from Central Western Africa but is grown in many parts of the tropics.

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Droplets of water clinging to a waxy leaf.

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Unknown. Just one of the many that I hadn’t seen before.

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A well camouflaged caterpillar eating its way through the leaves of its food plant. It was close to 10 cm. (4 ins.) in length.

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An unknown member of the ginger family.

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A whorl of spiralled leaves.

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More raindrops on a waxy leaf.

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This leaf has delightful symmetry and texture.  However, some chewing insect decided to upset the balance.

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A large, female spider sits on her silky web while her diminutive suitors look over her larder.  They, no doubt, had other things on their mind, but we know what happens then!

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Unknown… but superb don’t you think?.

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Another unknown but delightful flower.

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The deeply fringed petals of this (Hibiscus schizopetalus) lead to its name.  The species name translates to “cut petals”.  It originates in tropical eastern Africa.

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The trellis supports a vine producing very large passion fruit.

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Unknown to me… but it must have a common name referring to a leopard!

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And yet another plant unknown to me.

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A St Joseph’s spider showing its knobbly yellow ‘knees’.

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I don’t think this spider bites but it looks as though it would at the first opportunity.

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At the conclusion of the tour around the grounds of the resort, we crossed a road and headed off along some paddy bunds to a nearby village… but more of that anon.

David

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