It’s not really an island, it’s actually what geologists call a “mud volcano,” which is caused by the pressure of sediment breaking up out from underneath the seabed. Basically an island of sand and mud, the mud volcano could last for anywhere from a couple of months to a few years, meaning it’s not here to stay long-term.According to local reporter Bahram Baloch, the island is about 250 to 300 feet in length, and about 60 to 70 feet above the water. You can walk on it, visitors to the island have also said that it is emitting flammable gas.
Within half an hour of the earthquake, inquisitive locals flocked to the island, which according to Rashid Tabrez, the director-general of the Karachi-based National Institute of Oceanography, is the fourth in the region since 1945. Geologists attribute that to the continuing process of continental drift that originally brought the Indian subcontinent to collide with Eurasia. In fact, 700 kilometers to the east of this new mud volcano lies the Makran coast, an area characterized by high seismic activity, and home to several other mud volcanoes.
We’ve all faced travel delays before, and things like strikes, bad weather and road closures can wreak havoc on the best-laid plans. But spare a thought for the tourist who found himself stranded on a remote Australian island for two weeks –- not because his flight was cancelled, but because a giant crocodile was eyeing him down.
New Zealander Ryan Blair had been visiting Governor Island in Western Australia on a kayaking trip when he became trapped by the large reptile. A boat had taken him to the isolated island and dropped him off so he could explore, but the kayaker soon realized he didn’t have enough food to last his visit. He tried swimming back to the mainland but was quickly stopped in his tracks by a 20-foot long crocodile.Although the mainland was only three miles away from the island, Blair couldn’t make the journey back without attracting the attention of the presumably hungry croc. After two weeks of repeatedly attempting the swim — as well as setting fires to attract the attention of passing boats — Blair was getting desperate.
“He was about four meters away from me, and I thought, ‘This is it,’” the kayaker told an Australian television station. “It was so close, and if this croc wanted to take me it would not have been an issue. I was scared for my life. I was hard-core praying for God to save me.”
It seems those prayers were heard because a boatman eventually spotted the 37-year-old and brought him to safety.
The first time I meet Rai is at the morning market in Sampalan, the largest town on the Indonesian island of Nusa Penida.
She says hello to me from behind mounds of mangos and bright green chilies at the stall she runs with her mother. Despite the heat, she wears a purple hoodie zipped to the neck. We chat for a while, her brown eyes glowing, her dark hair pulled back from her face.
I see her again the next night, at a dance lesson in her village. After the lesson finishes, she asks, “You come to my home?”
And because I have no other plans on this Saturday night, I say, “Why not?”
Rai sits behind me on my motorbike and directs me down an unlit gravel lane. The farther we go, the more the road disintegrates beneath my wheels. I apologize each time we hit a bump.
“Candace,” she chides, “every day I am taking these roads.”
When we reach her house, her family is seated on their concrete front porch. I’m told to call her fisherman father Bapa, and her mother Meme. Her brother Putu and sister-in-law Kadek are also there. Putu is 21, his wife 20; already, Rai tells me, they have lost two children. One died “in belly,” another at 13 days old.
When I try to find the words to say I’m sorry, Kadek smiles an impossible smile and says, “No problem. It’s okay.”
“Tomorrow you can help me selling in the market?” Rai asks.
Again I say, “Why not?”
“And tonight, you sleep at my home?”
For a moment, I mumble something about my homestay at a modified hostel in Sampalan. And then it hits me – I’ve just been offered an actual homestay.
Rai goes to take a shower, and afterwards asks if I’d like to take one, too. Bapa warns me — it’s only a “manual shower,” and the bathroom is outdoors, open for all to see, its walls barely reaching up to my chest.
Still, it’s far enough from the house – and lit only by the glow of Rai’s flashlight – that I soon let go of modesty and strip down, dipping a plastic tumbler into a bucket and feeling the water cool my sticky skin. I tilt my head back, take in the incandescent sky above me, and thank the universe for this moment.
Because that’s the first gift travel gives me – the gift of discovery, and the thrill of encountering a world so completely different from my own.
We set our alarms for 4 a.m., and I lie beside Rai on a foam mat on the floor. Her parents will sleep in the living room. After they turn off the TV, the only sounds are the occasional calls of a gecko and the ticking of a heart-shaped clock on the cinderblock wall – and Rai’s quiet breathing next to me.
I glance to my side and see that the frangipani blossom she’d picked earlier is still tucked behind her ear. I am slow to fall asleep, kept awake by gratitude and wonder at finding myself so at home here.
Because that’s the second gift that travel gives me – the gift of belonging, and the thrill of journeying so far from home only to find a home in such a new place.
The following morning, we arrive at the market when the chickens are still asleep in the trees. Yet we’re far from the first ones here. Women are setting up their stalls with flashlights held between their ears and shoulders like telephones. They roll back the sheets of blue plastic that covered their tables overnight. Rai complains of moths eating her tomatoes.
Like a pot coming to boil, the market slowly heats up. Sandals begin to slap against the dusty paths, plastic bags rustling as they’re filled with corn and cassava and grapes the size of golf balls. While Rai sells produce – carrots and chilies, garlic and red pearl onions – I stand next to her, helping where and when I can.
For the next three days, I return each morning, until the day comes for me to say goodbye and depart from Nusa Penida.
I’m still in touch with Rai – through Facebook, of course – and every now and then I’ll get a message from her, asking how I am. I smile each time, remembering the market and the manual shower and how it felt to fall asleep in the damp darkness of her home.
Because that’s the third gift that travel gives me, and it’s the reason I’ll never stop traveling – the gift of connection, and the thrill of weaving an invisible web around us as we move through the world, and the world moves through us.
The connections that keep each journey alive forever.
I’ve been traveling vicariously this week through my aunt who is temporarily based in Singapore and exploring Sri Lanka right now. The south Asian country has been on my wish list for years, ever since I learned the capital from playing “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” and imagined it was a place where my bartender might be an international jewel thief with an eye patch. On the less sinister side, part of Sri Lanka’s appeal is gorgeous beaches and interesting temples. Today’s Photo of the Day has both, spying a Buddhist temple on an island off the beach. It looks like a peaceful and inspiring place to pray, hopefully they aren’t harboring any jewel thieves.
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Do you find yourself bored by the typical hotel’s amenities? Butler services, organic mini bars and other bells and whistles just don’t do it for you anymore? Well how about staying in a hotel with a vertical wind tunnel? And maybe after that you can unwind in the world’s first zero-gravity spa? It sounds pretty out there, but those features are actually part of the plans for a Space Hotel in Barcelona, Spain.
The company behind the project, Mobilona, recently announced their vision for the complex, which includes a hotel, private apartments, a 24-hour shopping mall and a marina. All of this would be built on a Dubai-style, man-made island giving guests sea views no matter which way their room faces. A stay in the 2,000-suite hotel – which looks like something out of a sci-fi movie – would cost between 300 and 1500 euros per night.However, Barcelona’s mayor insists he won’t have any of it, saying the futuristic hotel doesn’t fit with his vision of the city’s future. “We have no intention of turning Barcelona into a spectacle,” he told local media. Despite this, plans for the space-age hotel may live to see another day, with the Mobilona announcing similar projects in Los Angeles and Hong Kong.