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[ 27 Oct 2016 | 4 Comments ]

‘Geological time includes now.’
Looking up at the looming cracked dolmens, precariously balanced boulders, perching promontories and other formidable formations from the gulch I was tracing it wasn’t easy to shrug away Edward Abbey’s artful caution. That they had been like that for most part of millions of years is exactly what prompts – and tempts – you to walk among them and even try a hand at bouldering while there. Soloing myself up, no fancy highballing, I looked up again … More»

[ 13 Oct 2016 | No Comment ]
Enter colour - a karaoke bar

“When I invite my girlfriend to an evening in the karaoke bar she is aroused and anguished at the same time,” says Alitt Susanto taking deep drags from a fancy cigarette atomiser. A fruity flavour wafts around us.
“She doesn’t know whether I will be singing about love and longing. Or leaving.” The silver haze is quite atmospheric, something like what Rhett Butler might have stepped out into after the famous ‘Frankly…’  Alitt, a bestselling author and vlogger from Indonesia, cloaked … More»

[ 30 Sep 2016 | No Comment ]

A hunt in the deep forest where I vanquished a wild boar with my bare hands followed by the martial Caci (pronounced ‘chachi’) dance when I leapt and brought the whip down on my opponent from a jaw-dropping sky-angle. It didn’t take any of these for the Manggarai tribe of Kampung Melo (‘kampung’ is ‘village’ in Indonesia) in Flores island and their headman to declare me the chief from the visitors’ side for the day; guess they decided to settle … More»

[ 16 Sep 2016 | 2 Comments ]
Regan lump-locked me

Magical and empowering stories from the fringes of the largest archipelago.
Ayo Mandiri Foundation
“When even the physically fit and mentally sound finds it difficult to land a job these days it is better to write off the prospects of the handicapped,” says Kasim Mambut, owner of Ayo Mandiri Massage Centre. Then this is exactly what Kasim refuses to do – write them off. His centre in Labuan Bajo in Flores trains the moderate to the extremely challenged people to be … More»

[ 10 Sep 2016 | 4 Comments ]

An adventure was easy to conjure: Manto the captain of the bowrider confessed to a non-functioning GPS. Everyone wore dark glasses, cigarettes were chain-lit. An Indonesian actor who was also a secret political activist held forth on the Machiavellian machinations that led to Sukarno’s, the first president, ousting from power and the rising spell of the Contra. Cans of Bintang beer sweated lustily in the icebox under the canopied stern. The sea shimmered all around, a galaxy on earth. Somebody … More»

[ 3 Sep 2016 | 2 Comments ]

“13,466,” said the UN.
“17,504,” claimed Indonesia.
The 4,000-odd in between were mostly atolls and a concatenation of minor cays which disappeared during high tide, countered the UN, basing its findings on a GIS survey conducted in 2011. Hence can’t be counted as islands proper. Take these few thousands, Indonesia still remains the largest archipelago in the world. And come high tide or low water, there are around 7,000 islands inhabited round the year. But for most who actually live here these are just … More»

[ 12 Aug 2016 | 4 Comments ]
4. Taking in sights and signs

Pigeons traipsed in circles and trilled in distress over smoke-blackened rafters at the ongoing intrusion. We had stopped for lunch at Karumbalai, three kilometres out of Salem, ushered in from the main drag by a friendly blancmange in uniform drenched in summer sweat. It was the kind of place where your burp was acknowledged as appreciation. Everyone burped before leaving their tables – met by delighted nods of approval from those around. Soon it was me and my dad’s turn … More»

[ 5 Aug 2016 | No Comment ]
Booze-some buddy

Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now. Steven Wright (wit, writer, actor)
A mat was placed and the lady, tall, dark and easy on the eyes, motioned me to sit. I looked around the small courtyard, trellised out of view from the neighbouring huts and sat close to the opening – a clump of bristly branches held together with hemp working which required laborious joggling. The livestock in the corral peered at me through moist eyes, eerily calm … More»

[ 21 Jul 2016 | 2 Comments ]
Delish Deepika

The sloth bear had turned in for the night, that too stoned, so it was alright our Gypsy had stalled. I and the tracker returned to announce breathlessly that we saw it disappear between a set of boulders not very far away, a mound of fur trundle clumsily in the fast falling dusk. It’s rather long nuzzle nearly upon a thicket or trunk before it retreated and changed directions. My forest tracker, whose marijuana-induced misanthropy had limited our conversation till … More»

[ 17 Jul 2016 | No Comment ]

The ‘From the Middle East to the Mount Everest’ part is over half way into the book with the climactic final assault of the Everest taking up maybe a page. The perils posed naturally by Hillary Step, the last real challenge along the Southeast route, take up a chunk of the narrative. No falling ice or avalanche, shifting glaciers or nail-biting crevasse crossing. The only suspense here is the author hurrying despite frostbite wanting his summit to coincide with Jordan … More»