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April 26, 2017

Same place, different year.

Written by Zach Agerton

I lay crunched up on a pleather sofa to the sounds of a rather rambunctious duo of ladies closing their tiny restaurant for night.

The sounds of a language I couldn’t comprehend echoed off the white walls of the room. My stomach was in hellish knots from the airline food but I was content in my little corner of a wayward airport lobby in Taipei. I sat quietly in reflection of my recent travels. It seemed the others around me were doing the same or possibly buying time for when it would be quiet enough to sleep. As I lay wondering whether I should pop a few tums or not I realized how improbable my last few weeks had been.
Let’s rewind…….
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After barely making the flight my friend Cole and I groggily stepped off the plane in Kona on the big island of Hawaii for part one of my adventure.So we could spend Christmas together my parents decided to meet half way and I couldn’t be more ecstatic. We had a week to explore everything the island had to offer, and by golly we were going to do it. Each day was an exhausting adventure. We watched the sunset on Mauna Kea, body surfed on the green sand beach (Which cost me a week of neck pain and my gopro), jumped off the southern most point of the United States, and rode a helicopter over an active volcanic vent.

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Our first full day was spent snorkeling in the morning and diving with manta rays in the evening. As I sat on the bottom of the sea floor these gigantic majestic animals would glide right above you with their 10-foot plus wingspans. My dad put it well, “They move like eagles under the water.” Later in the week we drove up Mauna Kea to witness one of the most stunning sunsets I have ever witnessed, but the real treat came afterward. When the sun sank below the horizon the stars shown more brightly then Christmas lights on a tree. A man working at the center informed me this mountaintop was the 4th darkest area in the world. The darkness provided a crowd with the show of worthy of a standing ovation. I had never seen the Milky Way shine so bright. It truly was something words cannot describe.

Christmas day happened to be our final day on the big island. There may have been only four of us, but it had the feel of a true Christmas. We all pitched in to make an incredible meal befit for the holiday. We made so much food Cole and I ended up with bags of leftovers to take back to Honolulu with us. Cole got the frisk down because the knucklehead forgot a Coke was in his bag. (Can’t take him anywhere). When evening came we made our way to the tiny airport and boarded our planes. The goodbyes were a simple “see you soon”, as I knew my parents would be making their way back to Samoa in a few months.

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The next couple weeks were spent with my friends Ryan, Cole, and Bentley from college. It had been over a year since we were all in the same room together, which naturally meant I was in trouble.

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As long-term residents of Oahu my friends put me through the ringer of learning how to surf. On my second outing I was thrown onto the corral near Diamondhead. After this I knew I had no option but to learn quick as my friends weren’t going to sacrifice their waves for me. On my fourth time out I was surfing 6-foot faces. I remember thinking, “God help me” as I paddled out, but when I caught a wave that was overhead for the first time the fear sank away. I knew, I knew at this very moment I was hooked forever. The rest of my time was spent at the whim of my friends. We spent New Years over looking the island as fireworks exploded in every direction. We watched pro surfers tackle 35-foot waves at pipe. I jumped off waterfalls, and snorkeled with sharks. I tell you what those two weeks were the time of my life and I couldn’t think of a better way to do it. Thanks brothers!

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My final week on the road was spent in Bali with two fellow volunteers from Samoa, Craig and Tory. We had been looking forward to this for over six months and it finally was happening. We didn’t invest heavily into planning activities. Only our lodgings were set in stone. Our first few days were spent in Ubud, which is known as the cultural hub of Bali. I arrived the day after my compadres, so while they were walking through rice fields and admiring art, I was flying over Taiwan.

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A man who spoke very little English met me at the airport, to bring me to Ubud. Our homestay was nice enough to send a driver. As we whisked through the lawless roads surrounded on all sides by scooters my driver asked if I liked coffee. Well, I happen to love coffee, so I told him yes. His response was a nod and, “we will make stop.” I didn’t quite get what this meant, but I was sure it was harmless. Twenty minutes passed and I found myself at an outdoor coffee tasting room attached to a plantation. This was when I was graciously informed Bali was home to the world’s most expensive coffee. Luwak, as they call it is coffee made from the beans that have been digested by the civet cat. The server made jokes calling it, “cat poo chino.” Personally, I thought it was rather smooth and worth the $5. (Inexpensive in country, but crazy expensive once exported)

Ubud was fantastic. My first evening I settled in and was fortunate to eat some sushi. The next day was one of my favorites. All three of us decided to take an Indonesian cooking class. Accompanied by two others, we were taught the intricacies of Balinese food. Satay, curry, and fried noodles were all on the menu. Even Craig had a blast sautéing the sauce for our fried noodle dish. Afterward we meandered around the monkey forest. The creatures were everywhere waiting to get their grubby hands on some food or pick pocket some hapless tourist. One mistook a pair of sunglasses in Craig’s pocket for a banana and tried to take a bite. This was our cue to leave while we still had our belongings. Upon our departure we decided we should treat ourselves after a long year of teaching, so we walked to a nearby spa. I had never received a professional massage before, but man….I felt like a million bucks after an hour in that building.

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Next, we made our way to a homestay just outside of Karangesam, a town on the Northeastern side of the island. On the trip we stopped at a few places including the Bisehki, the largest Hindu temple on the island. The locals call it the mother temple. Instead of one temple it seemed to be a combination of many temples as we walked the compound. Tourists from all over the globe were doing precisely as we were, gazing at the beautiful architecture and artwork lain before us. After two hours of walking around and another several in the car we finally made it to our lodging. We stayed in a bungalow with an unbelievable view of the rice patties below. The view was mesmerizing; we spent the majority of our next two days admiring it. The night we arrived happened to coincide with the full moon. In the Hindu religion this is celebrated. The owner of our homestay invited us to the village temple to partake in the festivities. As we turned the corner down an unfinished road we walked into a crowd of rather drunken Balinese men who were enjoying a lady boy show. The men we dressed to the “T” in women’s traditional wear. (It was not much unlike what they wear in a Thai traditional dance) Later on we were told it was a dance of comedy and flirtation. I can confirm it was definitely just that. As soon as we arrived the men tried to through us up on stage and we weren’t having any of it. We were able to get back to the homestay all in one piece.

Several days later and couple more temple visits Craig and Tori’s time in Bali had come to an end. I was on my own on the island. What should I do? I planned two things: scuba diving and surfing. It is said that Bali offers one of the best dives int he world so I had to check it out. During WWII Japan torpedoed the U.S.S. Liberty off the coast. Unable to make it very far it was run a ground, where itsat for decades. When the neighboring volcano exploded it sank back into the ocean only 20 feet under the surface. It was a 2-hour van ride to the site and I was pumped. As soon as we entered the water it was teeming with life. In 10 feet of water we ran into stingrays, as we progressed to the wreck there were lionfish, dragon fish, eels, and much more. We took a break and dove once more. This time I was able to explore the ship more. I even swam right through its cargo hold. The memory will be cherished, as it was my first wreck dive.

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The final adventure was rather anti-climatic. Having just learned how to surf my friends were bugging me to go out while in Bali.
If you didn’t know it happens to be one of the best spots in the world to surf. I was staying in Sanur and I needed to get to the other side of the peninsula, I figured a taxi would do. After 20 minutes on the scooter crazed road and I was in the party capital of the island, Kuta. I went there for one reason, and partying wasn’t it. I walked on the beach and rented a board for an hour. As soon as I hit the water I was met with disappointment. The waves were flat and that wasn’t even the worst part. While floating I became covered in trash. I sat for 20 minutes when I couldn’t take it any longer and I headed back to Sanur.

Craig, Tori, and I all plan on returning to Bali. With so much to offer it is impossible to do it all in just one week. The food, the culture, and the scenery are calling me back. The fact I never got to see a komodo dragon is enough for me to want to go back. Bali was fresh on my mind as I boarded my layover flight to Taipei getting sick on the airline food was the last thing I expected to happen. Now, here I lay curled up thinking about how all these wonderful moments have led to this miserable state. Isn’t travel great?

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Last modified on April 26, 2017
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