Archive for January, 2010

Hello Thailand

It feels so good to be in Thailand. I can wear tank tops and shorts above knee-length, beer is cheap, and the food is delectable. We are on bit of a beeline trail up north to Laos. This morning we arrived in Bangkok after a 21 hour train ride from Georgetown, Malaysia. It was a breeze in contrast to any of our Indonesian travel terrors. As JT would say, as paid for by McDonlads: “Ba da ba ba daaaaaa! I’m lovin’ it.”

Loading the ferry

Three nights ago we left the peace and quiet of Lake Toba to head for Medan, a large city on the northeast coast of Sumatra. The plan: to spend one night in Medan recovering from the 5 hour bus ride (this one had absolutely no leg room, a nightmare for me especially) and then to catch the fast ferry to Penang, Malaysia on Sunday morning. Our time in Indonesia was nearly up, and we were feeling ready to leave.

As it turns out, Indonesia wasn’t quite finished with us. We discovered upon arrival in Medan that the ferry only left on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. A warning to other travelers — the Lonely Planet guide is wrong on this one, at least the 2008 copy we have is. They were also wrong about the price. When we did buy our tickets they ended up costing nearly twice what the book said. I guess it’s important to learn early on not to trust the guidebooks implicitly. We’re usually much better at avoiding things like that, but we missed this one. As a result, we suddenly had three days to spend in Medan.


wewander updates

Some of you may have noticed a couple of new little icons in the navigation bar at the top of our site. That’s right — we’ve added new stuff! During our delay in Medan, we made some improvements and updates to our site:

1. Check out the new and improved About Us page! That’s the new little “i” icon up there, by the way. Many of you have been asking us about budgets and costs, so we’ve added a whole bunch of information about the financial side to our travels. We’ve also started to add some links to the sidebar, pointing to sites that we’ve found useful or inspiring as we go.

2. The footprints icon will take you to our Breadcrumb, were we’ve added some cool new stats, as well as modified the map to focus more on the most recent legs of our travels. Now when I write about a nightmarish 14 hour bus ride, it’s even easier to zip over to our Breadcrumb to see where exactly it took place.

3. Our main page now has two new items in the sidebar: “Recent Comments” and “Featured Posts”, to make it easier to keep up with the latest activity on the site, and to make our most popular posts even easier to find.

4. In the update category, we’ve posted two new albums on the Photos page: Sumatra pt. 2 and our Christmas in Singapore album, which we’d somehow overlooked until now.

We’re pretty excited about the evolution of There are more changes on the way soon, so be on the lookout. We’d also love to hear what you think of the new content. So leave a comment or send us an email directly using the new “Contact Us” section on our About Us page.

Help us get to Africa

africa question mark

Hello friends. Mark and I have no idea how to get to Africa this April for our overland journey. Nothing is panning out. We’ve been in touch with several freighter ship companies, cruise companies and have even spoken to several experienced freighter and cruise ship officers to no avail.

We are trying to get from Asia (HK or Singapore) to South Africa sometime before April 14th. The most viable options we’ve found are:

1. MOL Wish, freighter, leaving Singapore April 10, arriving Durban April 27.
Too late + too expensive

2. P&O Cruises, cruiseship, leaving Singapore March 17, arriving Cape Town April 4.
Too expensive + fully booked

So dear readers, any other ideas? Ya ya, we know we could fly, but we are trying our best to avoid that option. Know any talented travel agents or people with private yachts who need a hand on board? Can you help Toto bless the rains down in Africa?

R&R in Sumatra

Danau Toba

Much like the roads twisting throughout this dramatic jungle landscape, our experience in Indonesia has been a rollercoaster. We were starting to think that r ‘n r was impossible to come by in Sumatra. Until we arrived Lake Toba. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh (sigh).

At a mere $5 canadian per night we have our own little waterfront hut with a hot shower and western toilet! It’s the perfect place to recover. And to swim. And to listen to the waves and the rains. And Mark has been able to eat bacon again since Toba is a mostly Christian community.


New photos

Three new albums are up on the photos page. Enjoy!

On the long, long road again

We had a great two weeks at HODR, but life as a volunteer wasn’t always a picnic. Showers were of the cold-bucket variety, food varied in look more than in taste, and cleanliness and restfulness were very hard to come by. We worked hard for those two short weeks, without much luxury to come home to at the end of the day. Kudos to all those long-term volunteers who are there for months. It can really take it out of you.

We felt that we deserved a bit of a treat on our first night on the road alone again, so we splurged for a fancier hotel in Bukittinggi. To be honest, fancy is a very relative term here, but in our case it meant hot water and a double mattress. To top it off, we decided to be really touristy and eat at Pizza Hut. After some delicious cheesy garlic bread, a Super Supreme pizza (sans pork of course — Sumatra is very Muslim) and a pitcher of Coca-Cola, we felt happy and sluggish, and were asleep by 8:00pm. At this point, we didn’t know for sure where we were headed next, and we definitely didn’t know that our next journey would be our worst so far…


HODR volunteers

After nearly two weeks of working in Sungai Geringging, the time has come for us to carry on with our travels. As I wrote before, it was an incredibly inspiring two weeks for both of us. The work that HODR is doing is fantastic, and we are especially appreciative of their approach to volunteer work. Unlike so many other organizations, HODR doesn’t ask for money when you volunteer. Although this creates some operational difficulties, it makes the organization much more accessible to people who might otherwise not get involved. Being on a tight budget as we travel, it’s quite likely that we wouldn’t have shown up at all had it cost us anything. I believe it’s a wonderful approach to take, and I hope that they are able to continue on this way indefinitely. It is a wonderful cornerstone to the approach HODR takes to volunteering.


Hard at work

There are many different facets to the work being done by Hands On Disaster Response in Sungai Geringging, but three areas in particular were being focussed on while we were there: deconstruction of damaged homes, salvage of building materials, and construction of temporary shelters for families in need. After the earthquakes hit, assessments were done on all of the homes in the area by local authorities to determine their structural condition. They were rated as either “green” for ok, “yellow” for repairable, or “red” for condemned. Houses rated “red” were required to be demolished and reconstructed from scratch. Often these homes were left in a dangerously precarious condition by the quakes, and many families were too afraid to enter them even to recover personal effects. It was the job of the deconstruction teams from HODR to safely demolish or disassemble these homes so that the salvage teams could sort through the rubble and recover reusable materials. I got involved in the deconstruction teams on the third day we were there, and stayed involved in that aspect for the rest of our stay in Sungai Geringging. Meghan pointed out the irony that I’d spent nearly ten years studying and practicing to become a designer of buildings, only to come to Indonesia to take buildings apart, and for no pay. Funny how things work out sometimes.


Most days I am part of a salvage team. This means we spend most of our time chinking bricks or river rock from mortar. Sometimes we push down walls. We are always surrounded by hoards of adorable children who should probably be in school. They gather around and stare at the ‘boulays’. Today we had a bit of fun with them.

« Older Entries