Sunday, May 24, 2009

Springtime Balance

Written at Misool Eco-Resort, Southern Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia

DK rolls around madly while the southeasterly lumpy swell enters full-force into our tight current swept channel we are residing in next to the dive resort. The wet gray cumulus clouds hang low and the rain falls intermittently fluctuating between a light pitter-patter and downright squally dumps. It was like this all night. We didn't sleep much.

It sure feels like spring here in Raja Ampat. But wait, we are south of the equator again now, only at 2 degrees south, but still south. That means it's autumn. The SW monsoon is starting in Indonesia bringing squally wet conditions to this area and strong consistent SE trade winds more south where we are soon headed. We don't mind the rain, but what does suck is having to close all the hatches and portholes on the boat so that we bob around in our sticky humid sweatbox of a cabin. Without some good airflow we can really feel the dense moisture-filled air we reside in. But with all the rain, our water tanks are sure happy.

On these days it's difficult to appreciate our world. Living in the present is absolutely my most difficult piece to learn in this life. There is no doubt about it. I am one of those people that wants to be everywhere at once, always itching for that greener pasture on the horizon, almost never content with what is. Maybe that's a good thing sometimes to keep my mind awake and to keep me always striving for new challenges. But it sure is tricky sometimes when we are living a very fortunate life on a journey that most people will only dream about. Don't get me wrong. I am very appreciative of my life, of where we are at, of being together with Nicole, of choosing this path. But this time of year is one of my most difficult because it's spring/early summer back in the western U.S. and this has always been my time for mountain and desert adventures. Man, this year I sure do miss Yosemite. I miss the connection with my climbing bro, Billy, and our dirt-bagging weeks we would spend getting spanked on the granite walls of the valley. I miss the rawness, the gripping fear of potentially taking a huge fall halfway up El Cap, the relief and wonder at the end of the day sitting on our porta-ledge scraping cold beans into our mouths with freshly torn-up hands. I miss the deep fresh green of a wet El Cap meadows and the mighty Merced River cleansing the forest and bringing the freezing cold alpine water down from the snow-packed high country.

Or cragging in Joshua Tree with a group of compadres. Living simply in Hidden Valley campground, telling stories around the campfire while the coyotes howl in the nearby rocky outcrops. The wildflowers are popping and the cool nights are perfect for sleeping soundly under the stars. Sinking my digits into the jagged cracks of Illusion Dweller or having an all day Wonderland adventure out at the Big Horn Sheep Mating Grotto. And, of course, wrapping up the day with some cold Mexican cervezas at the monkey-like Gunsmoke Traverse until your trashed fingers just can't take the sharp monzonite anymore. Oh, J.Tree...what a special place.

It's springtime and just so hard for me to resist California mountain and desert dreaming...

And, lastly, I miss our people. Our little tribe of friends we connect with, sharing adventures, laughs, and stories. Springtime has always been about creating some form of active outing with a close friend or a whole group of rascals---coming out of the contemplative wintertime and rejuvenating our spirits with some form of outdoor camping gathering. Yes, all of you out there are missed. You know who you are.

But this year we find ourselves in southern Raja Ampat, a true gem of a spot as well. Since leaving Sorong harbor and our whirlwind checkout and reprovision process, we took almost a week to make it to this special little eco-resort/conservation center. It seems we left the slicks of trash behind in the northern Raja Ampat islands thankfully, and island hopping down in this area has only brought more gorgeous limestone rocks, dry, yet seemingly jungly landscapes, and more green nutrient-rich water filled with the most beautiful soft corals, huge schools of reef fish and fusiliers, and some very special little underwater critters we have seen no where else.

The parrots, cockatoos, and sea eagles still fly over our mast and have been joined by the occasional hornbill and kingfisher. This area is a special place and it is no wonder why Andrew and Marit, the managers of this little dive eco-resort, have chosen to set-up shop here and help protect this area from all the illegal fishing that threatens to gobble all the amazing underwater world here up. The resort has an agreement with the village who owns these islands and water around them, to build and run this small resort for so many years, as well as to protect the area from the stealthy long-liners that show up at night in the nearby waters. The resort employs over 40 staff, almost all who come from the villages that own this area, so it truly is a very win/win situation for all. For the local people, for the lucky tourists who get to spend time here, for the managers who get to reside and work here, and for the wildlife and fish that now have a chance.

We, of course, feel lucky that we have chosen and have been allowed to hang here for a while, tying up DK on their mooring and allowing us free run of the place in and out of the water. We have slowed down again, spending time underwater blowing bubbles with the critters, chatting and eating delicious Thai food with Marit and her staff, swimming laps over the shallow coral reefs, taking photos, writing, and putting some new coats of varnish on the cockpit teak. We aren't in much of a hurry right now, so it has been nice to just "be" here for a while.

So we find ourselves in the tropics for another spring, I mean autumn, and the balancing act continues...continuing the work of being awake in our present surroundings, yet still appreciating those special places and people back home that we love and miss dearly as well.

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