T-minus 5 Days Until We’re in Nicaragua!

  It’s that time of year again where we say goodbye to Central Oregon winter and hello to Nicaraguan sunshine. This go around we will be adventuring up around Matagalpa and Esteli before heading down to San Juan del Sur. I promise to take LOTS of pictures… Steve just got me a new camera for Valentine’s Day, so I’m super excited to take it out and play with it. This trip is another half play/ half work trip. We will be checking out Finca Esperanza Verde for a possible future yoga retreat then heading down the coast to check out Aqua Wellness just north of San Juan del Sur. This year I will be hosting my second yoga retreat in Nicaragua at Costa Dulce, which I’m super excited about. I love how it feels like you’re at the edge of the world, just you, a handful of other yogis, and the ocean. It pretty much rocks. I hope to post … Continue reading

Nicaragua Yoga and Surf Retreat

I finally get to combine my favorite activities: yoga, water, travel, hiking and food!!! Steve and I will be hosting an All-Inclusive Yoga and Surf Retreat in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua February 28- March 7, 2015. We’d like to … Continue reading

Monkey-ing Around At Sepilok

Steve and I spent a night in Sepilok on our way to the Kinabatangan River. And I’m so happy we did. We stayed at Sepilok B&B which was adorable AND it had AC!!! Not a whole lot of food options … Continue reading

Central America Packing List

On of our favorite places to travel to is Central America and fortunately we get to spend time there every couple of years. It is, after all, where Steve and I met. Sometimes our trips are short ten day trips … Continue reading

A Weekend In Bend

So you’re planning a trip to Bend, huh? Maybe you’re coming for the killer mountain biking,  the brewery scene, or maybe just to get some more Vitamin D in your life. Steve and I have been living in Bend for … Continue reading

Steve Is About To Pop His Nica Cherry

Steve and I had been tossing around the idea of a trip to Nicaragua for over a year now!!! We were talking about it while we were still on our Southeast Asia trip!!! Well ticket prices have been down lately, … Continue reading

Finding the Beauty…

If you follow my blog regularly you’d think that I’m always going on perfect hikes with perfect weather and going on amazing trips with perfectly planned itineraries, but that is not the case. Often times we will head out for … Continue reading

Raja Ampat Biodiversity

We spent an amazing week with Deni, but all good things come to an end. Our friend Maryse had been raving about her stay with Raja Ampat Biodiversity, the amazing dives, and the incredible food. So, Steve and I huddled around our small pile of cash to figure out if it would even be possible for us to afford a stay at Biodiversity. And we could, we could afford exactly one night, paid in Indonesian Rupiahs and US Dollars. But by the time we got back to them they were full. Solution: we slept on the floor of the budget room, that wasn’t even finished yet. Rey and Patricia (the amazingly generous owners) were able to provide us with a sleeping mat, linens and a mosquito net….which honestly was all we needed.

raja ampat biodiversity budget bungalow

Our last minute budget digs… so perfect!!!

This has got to be one of the best places to stay in Raja Ampat! Completely unpretentious, knowledgeable owners, amazing food….and the location on Gam Island is nearly pristine. It doesn’t matter where you are on the property of the eco-resort you’re a mere few feet from the jungle or the reef.

raja ampat biodiversity

When we were there they had two beautiful beachfront bungalows. I’m not sure if they’re planning to buid more or not

The food was amazing!!! They are truly blessed to have such an amazing chef…. so many flavors. I wanted to keep eating well after the point of being full.

raja ampat biodiversity

All of our meals were served here….loved dining in the open air

We went diving at Blue Magic, a wall dive (that I unfortunately don’t remember the name) and their house reef. All the dives were amazing and literally teeming with life. AND they were long!!! I’m talking 85-90 minutes. It doesn’t get much better than that. I’m really hoping Steve will put together a video of our dives.

raja ampat biodiversity view

The view…not too shabby

I’m thinking Steve and I will need to come back here…maybe an anniversary trip???? It would be amazing to be able to spend more than 1 1/2 days with Biodiversity….next time we’ll definitely budget for an entire week.

A Walkabout at Gunung Mulu National Park

We had a little extra time on each end of our Pinnacles trek, so we took the opportunity to wander around the park grounds near the headquarters. And of course we took a ton of pics….here are a few of them. Gunung Mulu is an UNESCO World Heritage site and it’s easy to see why…

Malaysia, Gunung Mulu

Incredible sunset just outside of the park

Malaysia, Mulu walkabout

Gawking at the jungle (Sorry this pic is out of focus, but it’s the only one I took of the path.)

Malaysia, Mulu Giant Fern

Giant fern where I found the stick bug

Malaysia, Mulu Bridge

This is the bridge that you cross to reach park headquarters.

I love finding weird bugs and creepy crawlers and I found a ton….it’s kinda like a scavenger hunt for nerdy adults.

Malaysia Mulu bug

Hello there little bug!!!

Malaysia, Gunung Mulu spider

Giant spider on one of the Gunung Mulu Park signs

Malaysia, Mulu Hammerhead Leech

Hammerhead leech…and yes, that is my hand

Malaysia, Mulu bug

I don’t know what kind of bug this is…maybe a pill bug…or maybe it’s a grub…yum

Malaysia, Mulu moss

I don’t know what this picture is supposed to be of…I thought there might be a very camouflaged bug, but I couldn’t find it

One of the big draws to Gunung Mulu National Park is the mass exodus of bats every night. Each night at dusk millions of bats fly out of Deer Cave to feed. We didn’t have very good weather in the evenings, so we didn’t get a chance to see it. Luckily tripadvisor.com doesn’t mind sharing peoples pics.

ATR arriving at Mulu Airport - Picture of Mulu Caves, Miri

This photo of Mulu Caves is courtesy of TripAdvisor

If you want more insight into a trip to Mulu I have two other blog posts about our trip.

The Pinnacles

Welcome to the Jungle: The Pinnacles (vimeo video)



The Pinnacles

Last year, as I was planning our 6 month honeymoon through Southeast Asia, I stumbled upon a hike in Gunung Mulu National Park called “The Pinnacles”… and I’m pretty much always coming up with “great” ideas that involve doing really stupid s#!t, this may have been one of them. I saw the video, I read the reviews, I even contacted the national park, and yet I still wanted to do the hike. So the persuading began… I may have left out a few of the details when trying to convince Steve and Angie that “yes” this would be a great experience and that “no” we weren’t going to die.

Pinnacles Panoramic

A little pano pic of the Pinnacles

After 6 weeks in Nepal we were definitely craving some beach time, but not before one last mind bending “hike” deep in the heart of Borneo. We took a MASWings flight from Miri to Gunung Mulu (which you can book online ahead of time for about $50-60USD roundtrip). As we descended into Mulu we could see the emerald colored mountains all around us. We stumbled out onto the tarmac and were immediately hit with the tropical humidity. I couldn’t help, but smile and think “finally!!!”

From the airport it’s probably only 1.5 miles to Gunung Mulu National Park and the homestays (although there is a homestay on the airport road and a resort further passed the turnoff to the park). We stayed at the cheapest homestay, duh, we’re cheap asses. It was SWELTERING, but we were right on the river and they had a toilet and shower inside. It was enough for us: it was a short walk from the park entrance and a couple of  restaurants.

Malaysia, Mulu Guesthouse view

The view from our guesthouse…not too bad for $5 or $10 bucks a night

There is NO market in Mulu. All of your food will be had at your homestay, or one of the restaurants (when they are open). Make sure to bring food from Miri to Mulu, or you will live on crackers, cookies and noodles for the three days of the trek. We didn’t know this cucial detail and the only place to get pre-packaged snacks/noodles was the gift shop. Beer is fairly expensive around the park, but we didn’t care. We were slugging down beers and doing shots of rice “whiskey” in no time.

You know a trek is going to be awesome when it begins with a trip upriver in a dugout and your guide tells you that you might have to get out to help push the boat upstream. Part of the Pinnacles “package” includes a trip to a “traditional” village to do some “shopping”…. which was pretty uninspiring, but we also visited one of the caves. I don’t remember the name of it (I know it’s part of the Clearwater Cave System). If you’re into caving Gunung Mulu has tons of options from easy beginner trips to advanced caving trips. I was able to get a few neat pics from inside the cave, but we didn’t come for caves.

Malaysia Gunung Mulu Cave

Thankfully the Malaysians aren’t as tacky as the Vietnamese when it comes to lighting the caves…no neon disco lights here.

Malaysia, Gunung Mulu Cave Stalagmites

More stalagmites

Malaysia, Gunung Mulu National Park, cave

Awesome formations everywhere!!!

Malaysia, Gunung Mulu, Cave Skylight


We continued up the river a bit further to our drop off point and the beginning of our 8-9 km trek to Camp 5. The trail to Camp 5 is well-marked and completely flat, so we had plenty of time to gawk at trees and bugs.

Malaysia, Gunung Mulu Bridge

Typical bridge along the trail…it took a little getting used to

We got into Camp 5 around mid afternoon and had time to take a dip in the very cold river. Unfortunately a storm came in that evening, so our clothes didn’t get a chance to dry out, the river swelled (no more swimming), and one of the couples that was part of our group finished their hike in the rain. Rain in the jungle means only one thing: LEECHES!!!

Malaysia, Gunung Mulu Canopy

A view of the canopy…I was always looking up into the canopy for birds, bugs, monkeys, etc.

Malaysia, Gunung Mulu Dragonfly

Yep, I took this dragonfly pic.

Day 2 is when our little jungle trek got really crazy. Our guide told us flat out that we would know if the hike was for us within 200 meters of starting out (that’s when you come to the first rock face) and that he would turn us around if we didn’t make it to the “little pinnacles” by 10 or 11.

Malaysia, Gunung Mulu Mini Pinnacles

Woohoo…we made it to the Mini Pinnacles before the cut off time… time to stash water for the trip down

Malaysia, Gunung Mulu Mini Pinnacles

Already sweaty, but loving every minute of it.

We started out strong, using our hands to pull ourselves up, trying not to trip or slip on roots. I don’t think you can call this trek a “trek” or a “hike” because half the time you’re using your hands to pull and push your way up. Ropes are available in the tricky spots (which we didn’t really need on the way up), metal beams connect limestone crags, and probably about 15 ladders are in place to assist you on your way up. Don’t expect your guide to help you, he won’t. He’ll wait for you at the top. It took us about 4 hours to reach the viewpoint, and it was totally worth it. The pinnacles look like skyscrapers jutting out through the jungle canopy.

Malaysia, Gunung Mulu, Autumn and Steve


Malaysia, Gunung Mulu, Autumn and Angie

Us sweaty girls pose for a picture….

And now the really fun part…. going down the way you came up. Blah….my heart races just thinking about it…. turning around on top of sharp limestone rocks to lower yourself over the edge, desperately trying to find footholds, avoiding slippery roots and neon pit vipers. Yeah, they don’t tell you about the pit vipers. On our way down we saw one on a ledge just above the trail. I was too freaked out to take a picture…. Coming down from the Pinnacles is about the last place I would ever want to be bit by a pit viper.

I fell…I fell a few times, so did Steve. It started to rain on the way down, nothing crazy, but just enough to make the roots extra slick. I felt like I used my hands just as much on the way down as on the way up, lol. It took us probably about 4 hours to get back down. It was a long, long day…the trail climbs 1.2 km in 2.4 km, it was just silly, but I would do it again in a heart beat.

We stayed a second night at Camp 5 where we met Nye and Mauro, who became our travel mates for the rest of Borneo. This was also our first experience with the Hash House Harriers….drinking and running….sounds like a good idea!!!

Malaysia, Gunung Mulu Camp 5

Made it back in time to enjoy the sunset at Camp 5.

The morning of Day 3 we wished Nye, Mauro and the Hash House Harriers good luck on their climb, while we set off to finish the remaining 8-9 km of our trip as we headed back to our pick up point on the river.

Malaysia, Gunung Mulu River

Off we go…. back to civilization… kind of

Malaysia, Gunung Mulu

Our guides

Our trip downriver was much easier than our trip up river... more water = less pushing

Our trip downriver was much easier than our trip up river… more water = less pushing

I didn’t take any pics during the hike…the jungle was too steamy and I didn’t want to completely destroy my camera, but Steve did take some video…. mostly of my sweaty pants… I’ll apologize now. Steve’s GoPro has been put to work this year. I think about how many times it’s been dropped, banged into trees etc. and it still keeps working!!!

If you’d like to see pics from near headquarters I have a few pics here.

I haven’t written too much about Borneo yet, but it ended up being one of our favorite places on the trip. And I can’t wait to get back!!!


Arborek Island in Raja Ampat

Toward the end of our trip we stopped at Arborek Island to use the phone so we could arrange a stay and scuba diving with Raja Ampat Biodiversity on Gam Island (they have a tower that you can climb to get signal). Our afternoon at Arborek was spent walking around the village and snorkeling around the dock with it’s beautiful coral formations and a GIANT school of fish!!!

We will always remember Arborek. When we pulled up to the dock and peered over the edge of the boat we realized that what looked like seagrass was really a giant school of fish that was atleast 20 feet deep. I’d never seen anything like it. Obviously we jumped in to freedive with the fish. GoPro for the win!!!

Giant school of fish in Raja Ampat from thescubageek on Vimeo.

Our home for the night... we pitched the tents under the awnings and tied tarps to the side to protect us from the crazy wind and rain

Our home for the night… we pitched the tents under the awnings and tied tarps to the side to protect us from the crazy wind and rain

Arborek Raja Ampat

Beautiful little beach on Arborek…

And then a storm moved in….and we were stuck on the boat, rain was coming in from the ceiling, from the doors, the wind was insane and the boat would not stop rocking. By the time the storm “settled” down it was after dark, the staff shuttled us over to the dock pair by pair where we practically had to leap from the boat onto the dock and hoist ourselves up….it was complete madness. And then the staff shuttled our tents, sleeping mats and dinner over to the dock…and we had to time the pass-off of the goods with the waves. It was a rough evening, with a cold dinner. Atleast we didn’t have to sleep on the boat that night and the staff tied tarps to the awning on the dock to block some of the wind. We only had to deal with the dock rocking and the waves crashing down below. Needless to say, we called it an early night and went to bed right after dinner.

Raja Ampat Arborek local boats

Even the locals were bringing their boats in.

Raja Ampat Arborek Storm

At this point the storm was moving in fast, so our island exploration was cut a bit short

The incredible storm made Arborek quite memorable, but the island itself was pretty charming in its own right and I was able to snap a couple of pretty shots and a handful of pics of the kids.

Arborek homestay driftwood and coral

Driftwood and coral at one of the homestays

Raja Ampat Arborek Flowers

I love taking pics of flowers

Raja Ampat Arborek

The kids were playing what looked like a game of “capture the ‘coconut'” combined with dodgeball

Raja Ampat kids

Curious kids took a short break from their game to check us out

This little guy was pulling a ball attached to a string and a stick... easily entertained

This little guy was pulling a ball attached to a string and a stick… easily entertained

Curious onlookers...

Curious onlookers…

They start them young...these kids are fishing off the dock with just fishing line and a hook....no pole needed

They start them young…these kids are fishing off the dock with just fishing line and a hook….no pole needed

So curious about everything we did...

So curious about everything we did…

Someday we’ll get back to Arborek….hopefully it won’t be so stormy next time.

Raja Ampat

What’s a person to do with no money in Raja Ampat? Book a trip with Deni at Raja Ampat Adventures….well you still need money…atleast 7 million rupiah (plus your park fees). I’m pretty sure Deni’s trip is the most affordable trip to get out to the islands. Just bring your sense of adventure with you. Sleeping on a fishing boat and camping might sound romantic, but it can make for a long week of less than stellar sleep. But who cares when you’re in Raja Ampat.

It only gets more beautiful!!!

It only gets more beautiful!!!

We spent a week island hopping with Deni, snorkeling with sharks at Wayag, climbing up limestone formations, snorkeling in secret lagoons and sleeping on deserted islands. Steve and I are used to “roughing it” so using the loo off the back of the boat, sleeping on the ground, and crabs cruising around our sleeping mats just added to the fun.

Raja Ampat Hidden Bay

Twilight at Hidden Bay… the bats were in full swing and the stars were just beginning to come out…

Raja Ampat might be the most pristine place we’ve ever been to. I’m even tempted to call it magical; jungle capped islands sit on top of pristine coral reef teeming with fish and locals that still live a mostly traditional way of life.

Raja Ampat Bat Island

An easy morning on Bat Island

Raja Ampat Wayag

The view from the top of one of the limestone formations…EPIC… look how small our boats are down there.

Raja Ampat Wayag

And looking the opposite direction…

Raja Ampat sharks at Wayag

Our snorkel mates for the afternoon… and I’m not being facetious…check out the video!

Click here for snorkeling pics…

And here are some pics of snorkeling through a cave and in the mangroves.

Want to see more Raja Ampat pics? Check back for my for my Raja Ampat Photo Blog.



Mangrove & Cave Snorkeling in Raja Ampat

Deni took us into the mangroves so we could snorkel with the tide…it was amazing, so much fun zipping along with jungle clad rock formations above the water and a beautiful, healthy mangrove and coral ecosystem underneath. Here are some of the pics we took with our GoPro.

Mangrove snorkeling in Raja Ampat

Snorkeling with the current..

Mangrove snorkeling in Raja Ampat

Here’s proof.

Mangroves and coral in Raja Ampat

Mangroves and coral!!!

Deni also took us to a little grotto that you actually have to swim through a crack in the rocks to get to…it was so cool.

cave entrance

Here we are at the cave entrance…

Raja Ampat cave snorkeling

Here goes Steve

Now that Steve and Deni had gone through already I knew it was my turn and the longer I stayed outside of the entrance the more nervous I was getting. How deep do I have to dive down? How long do I have to hold my breath? The answer is not long and not deep. Thankfully, I stopped trying to analyze the dangers and just went for it.

Autumn swimming through the cave entrance

I followed quickly behind…

Deni cave snorkeling

Here is a pic of Deni inside the cave/grotto




Underwater in Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat snorkeling with sharks  at Wayag

Hey mate….

Raja Ampat Soft Corals


Sharks at Wayag

Another one….

Raja Ampat Wayag Coral

Beautiful coral right next to the pier

coral reef


Free-diving Raja Ampat

Deni freediving next to these beautiful soft corals.

Shallow water snorkeling

Shallow water snorkeling

staghorn raja ampat

Staghorn coral just below the surface

raja ampat coral reef

Raja’s healthy coral reef

We took some video of snorkeling with the sharks on our GoPro….and it turned out pretty great.


Sorong: Gateway to the Raja Ampat Islands

This past June Steve and I were in the final months of our Southeast Asia and were looking forward to spending a week plus in West Papua and Raja Ampat. This part of Indonesia is EXPENSIVE… you feel the money flying out of your pockets as you walk down the street. Our home-base was Sorong, a gritty little town which most tourists never see because they are quickly shuttled out to the islands.

Raja Ampat Pano

Raja Ampat might be the end goal, but why not enjoy the journey…

When we landed at Domine Edward Osok Airport I headed through customs a few people ahead of Steve, big mistake. The customs and immigration guys grilled me like I was a mule transporting drugs. They wanted to know everywhere I had been within the last 6 months and none of my answers were good enough. I was starting to get really upset and irritated with these guys, they were RELENTLESS. I was about to jump across the counter and punch them in the face; luckily, Steve walked up, said he was my husband and everything from there on out was “business as usual.” Why must women always be grilled when alone in this country!!! I learned my lesson, it’s better to go through immigration and customs with Steve than without him. My advice: just smile and keep your answers SIMPLE.

Our plan however was to arrive in Sorong a day or two before our trip with Deni and Raja Ampat Adventures to explore the area. Well, there aren’t any tourist facilities in Sorong…. no tour agencies, no moto rentals, and not much for restaurants. We stayed one night at the moldy, mildewy Hotel Tanjung for $20-25 a night. We promptly decided that one night was enough and moved over to the Hotel Waigo, which at the time was going through a renovation. We stayed in one of the cheaper economy/standard rooms in the older, unremodeled section for about $48 a night. Bonus: Hotel Waigo has free WiFi, breakfast is included and the downstairs lobby gets great light. Just be warned: if you aren’t staying at one of the nice tourist hotels like the JE Meridien (right across from the airport and also the location of the Raja Ampat Tourist Office) the staff at the hotel will speak little to no English, so learn some Bahasa!!!!

There are ATMs at the airport, the JE Meridien (which lets you take out 2.5 million rupiah), and at the supermarkets.

Night seafood warung set up along the waterfront across from the soccer field in the evening and they serve up just about anything from the sea, so there are plenty of options. There are loads of vendors that sell fried snacks and bottled drinks in the same area (Pantai Lido).

The local market is also a good place to grab some cheap fruits…try some betel nut…buy a neon baby chick or to stock up on miscellaneous things that keep disappearing during your travels…ie. sunglasses and flip flops/rubber shoes. And you’ll be treated like a celebrity…complete with paparazzi and people wanting to touch you. I found it charming, but I’d suggest skipping it if you’re weirded out by intimate contact with strangers or simply don’t feel like having your pic taken.

Sorong Salak Vendors

The friendliest Salak vendors in Sorong

Sorong Betel Nut Vendors

Betel nut anyone????


Sorong baby chicks

I don’t think PETA would approve…

Also, if you’re flying Merpati expect your flight to be canceled or delayed. They are notorious for changing and canceling flights. It’s incredibly frustrating, but we eventually learned to deal with it. After our trip with Deni we ended up having a couple extra days in Sorong, thanks to the lovely folks at Merpati, so we called up our new friend Alex, who happened to have the day off and was able to show us the local side of Sorong. I will write up a post about our day with Alex as soon as I can.

Sorong Celebrities

Kiddos on an island just a short boat ride from the Sorong Harbor

Sorong Alex Steve Autumn

Alex, Steve and I went to the beach just outside of town.


Vietnamese Grilled Sesame Beef

When Steve and I were in Hoi An, Vietnam we took an amazing cooking class and this was one of our favorite dishes. If you ever find yourself in Hoi An and have some dong to spare take a class with Gioan Cookery. We ate so much food we were nearly comatose by the end of our class…it was amazing!!! We unfortunately misplaced our recipe book, so this is our version of Vietnamese Sesame Beef…and it turned out delicious!!!

Steve and I with our cooking instructor.

Steve and I with our cooking instructor.

1 lb. top sirloin, thinly sliced
1 T. oyster sauce
1 T. rice wine vinegar
1 T. fish sauce
1 t. soy sauce
1 t. sesame oil
2 lemongrass stalks, cut into 1 inch piece
5 dried red chilies, (more or less to taste)
4 cloves garlic
1 fresh red chili (optional)
3 green onions, minced
1 T. sesame seeds
1 t. sugar
2 t. ground ginger or fresh, peeled and minced


1. Blend lemongrass, garlic, dried chilies and fresh chilies in food processor.

2. Combine oyster sauce, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and ginger in a large bowl. Add in the beef then the blended mixture, sesame seeds and half of the green onions.

3. Allow beef to marinate in the fridge for an hour minimum.

4. Grill in a grilling basket (or cook in a skillet) over high heat for approximately 5 minutes per side.

5. Sprinkle the remaining green onion over the beef.

Voila!!! Vietnamese Style Sesame Beef!!!

P.S. Sur la Table is having a spiffy sale on cookware and bakeware!!!

Veteran’s Day Sale! Save 20% on American-Made Cookware & Bakeware at SurLaTable.com! Offer ends 11/11.