Sunday, September 25, 2011

The market in Ubud, selling fresh petals for offerings.

She has holy water in the container on her head, she was at the agricultural temple.

A lovely crater lake.

A Balinese dancer.
The hot springs, a very picturesque spot.

The gorgeous water temple.

The serenity of the inner courtyard of the agricultural temple.

Doors on a private temple.

A whimsical wooden monkey.

View from the balcony where we had lunch.
Bali is beautiful, since we arrived a week ago we have been involved in a flurry of visiting with friends and touring to see the sights.  There are over 70 boats in the anchorage, so we have managed to catch up with friends that we haven’t seen since we left Darwin, two months ago.  I had a chance to go on an overnight trip to Ubud the cultural capital of Bali,  Barry choose to go diving instead, he is now only 3 dives behind me, he said he had a great dive on a wreck that was a two hour trip from the anchorage.
I went with six other people and we hired a driver and a car and headed up into the mountains.  We went up a narrow paved mountain road with switchbacks everywhere.  Bruce, it was a perfect motorcycle route, but it was packed with tourist minivans, trucks with produce and the ever present motor scooter. I am really glad we hired a driver because it was nuts, people take such chances over here! As we climbed higher up the mountain the vegetation changed.  The fertile volcanic soil was being used to grow such crops as oranges, grapes, coffee, tobacco, cloves, watermelon, mangoes and on and on.  At one point there was a section of the road that had fruit stands galore with beautifully piled  fruit.  Our first stop was on the ridge at the top of the mountain with a wonderful view of the crater lakes. They actually farm long seaweed that grows in the lake and they make rattan furniture with it.
The people of Bali are mostly Hindu and Buddhism is their religion. It  was explained to us that they believe in one God but there is seven manifestations, the god of wind, fire, earth, sun, water, rice and symmetry, so there are many, many temples. Each family has a temple in their yard which vary with the wealth of the family.  Each village would have a temple and then there are special temples for different things.  We stopped at a temple devoted to the god of water as well as one devoted to agricultural or rice.  The guide at the temple of agricultural told  us that temple had been built in the 15th century and was just used twice a year to bless the planting of the crops and the harvest. The atmosphere in the temple was so serene, you could hear the birds twittering and see and smell the frangipani trees, and I could sense the peace that dwelled within the grounds.  The water temple was much larger and more elaborate, it had beautiful flowers all around the grounds, there were too many tourists for me to get a sense of serenity but the location on the edge of a lake with a mountain arising on the other side was spectacular.
We stopped at spot where they had Balinese animals that you could photograph and hold.  If I had been on my own I would not have stopped because I do not agree with animals being kept in captivity but the group stopped.  I got to experience a python being wrapped around my neck, yikes!  I was okay when she put one around me but when she added the second heavier one I was freaked out.  It started wrapping itself around my leg and then it started squeezing, fortunately they feed them on a regular basis so it was only a gentle squeeze.  There were also flying foxes, or fruit bats on display as well as a beautiful iguana.  The fruit bats had an amazing wing span, I held everything they had but I drew the line at the bats! On we went to a coffee plantation and I got my wish to see coffee beans on a bush as well as cocoa pods on trees, ginger plants growing, clove trees and vanilla plants.  They have a special coffee here, the beans are eaten by an animal that is similar to a mongoose called  a civet and when the beans are excreted the farmers pick up the “ca-ca” as the coffee grower called it, they dry the manure and then peel and process the beans and it makes a very expensive coffee.  I am not a coffee coinsure so I chose not to taste that brand as it was the only one you had to pay to taste.   I bought some ginseng coffee for Barry that tastes like coffee and Baileys without the Baileys, I drank the sample and did it ever give me a caffeine jolt so no more ginseng coffee for me except perhaps on the 0100 to 0500 shift!
Next we stopped in Ubud, which is known for it’s handicrafts.  It was a zoo, tourists everywhere and a gazillion shops selling everything.  I admired the wooden cravings, purchased some unique pottery, and ogled all the beautiful batik silk and cotton fabrics.  We stayed at a budget hotel, but it had a pool and we had our own bathroom, I shared with another single female cruiser and we each had to pay approx. $10.00 CND per night.  We went  to a exhibition of Balinese dancing that night, which took place at the palace of the King. What an experience, the costumes, were brilliantly colored and covered in glitzy gold thread and the style of dancing was delightful. The eyes seem to pop and the head was jerked back and forth sideways on the neck while the shoulders were held still.  The finale was a masked dancer who came out and played an old man.  I could tell by his feet that he was not as young and nubile as the other dancers and when I saw him afterwards his head was covered in long gray hair.
On the way back to Lovina Beach the next day we stopped to have lunch at a restaurant that had a marvelous view of a volcanic mountain that had trails cut through the lava going in every direction.  We did not have time to do any hiking but perhaps that might take place another day.  We saw the marvel of engineering which are the terraced rice paddies.  The hawkers at this location were fierce, we had to shut the doors on the vehicle in their faces to get away from them.  We stopped at the hot springs on the way home and soaked away our tensions.  The pool had gargoyles with warmish water spouting from their mouths so you could sit under them and let the warm water soothe your knotted muscles.  There was a second pool that had the water dropping from about 5 meters and it pounded down on you.  It was a wonderful way to end the trip.
We arrived  back in the anchorage in time to attend the welcoming entertainment and a couple of days later had a wonderful time at the farewell feast.  We will probably stay in Bali for a few more days before moving on.  
Sorry but I am unable to put the pictures where I want them so they will just have to stay where they are for now. 
Python power, yikes!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sleeping under a rock

On alert, not sure what we are going to do!

Check out these claws.

Water Buffalo before an encounter with a dragon

Water Buffalo after an encounter with a dragon.
Very hard to see in the grass.


We spent three days on our own around Komodo Island.  The day we arrived in what we thought was the correct spot to see the Komodo dragons we spent put puting around in the dinghy looking for the concrete dock that was supposed to lead us to the ranger station.  We were a little mystified but then another boat showed up and we thought we must be in the right spot. Well finally I went back over some stuff we had and figured out we were a bay to far over and we upped anchor and motored about 5 miles around a headland and found the spot we were looking for.  The topography of the islands reminded us very much of the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, dry, brown vegetation covering very hilly islands that jut out all over the place, it was just missing the cactus. We went on a 2 hour hike in the Komodo National Park lead by a lad with a forked stick.  The stick was to protect us from the dragons which can be very aggressive. They apparently are very quick and lay in wait in their wonderful camouflage and then attack and bite their prey, which can consist of goats, wild pigs, deer and water buffalo, as well as the odd stray dog that unsuspecting cruisers have let run around loose! They have poisonous teeth and their bite is fatal, a buffalo taking as long as a week to die while a human will succumb in about 2 days.  We managed to glimpse about 6 dragons, one was fast asleep with his head stuck under a rock,  another was lying in the bush checking us out as a possible meal as we jalan, jalan, pelan pelan by (that is Indonesian for walked slowly).  We saw about 10 buffalo wallowing in the water, our guide was very strict about how close we could get to the animals while taking their pictures. Oh, by the way to get into the park we had to pay an entry fee, a fee for the guide, buy a permit to anchor, all not a problem but when they charged us for the number of cameras we had, I thought that was a little over the top! The next day we headed over to the "pink beach" where the red coral has broken up in tiny little pieces so that the sand appears to be pink, we had some great drift snorkeling with the dinghy. The current is so fast that you just hold on to the dinghy and the current takes you along and when you have had enough you just hop in the dinghy and away you go rather than trying to swim against the current away from or back to the dinghy. At the moment we are dead heading it for Bali, about a 3 day sail in order to catch up to the rest of the fleet and participate in the planned activities in Bali. It will be good to see some folks that we haven't seen since we left Darwin 2 months ago. Pictures once we get to Bali.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

We have just finished 2 days of diving, we dove 3 times the first day and Barry did 3 dives the second day while I opted for just 2.  They were all really marvelous sites and we were thrilled with the fish life, the coral was just brilliant, some of the best diving we have had.  The dive masters were excellent as well, humorous, very safety conscious, and pointed out many wonderful underwater creatures we would never have seen.  There were lobsters, scorpion fish, flat worms, nudibranches, turtles, sharks, moray eels, and MANTA RAYS. The manta rays were wonders of nature, gliding through the water with ease and grace. Their wings, for want of a better word, would pulse downwards and would flow beside, above and around us.  The first time I saw them we were diving and they were unbelievable, the second time I choose not to go diving and try and get some pictures.  We had been snorkeling for about 20 minutes and had almost given up on seeing one when I turned around to talk to my partner about going back to the boat and there was one behind us.  It was black above and below, most of them are black above and white below so this one was unusual and she glided  by us and I snapped pictures as fast as I could.  I was just pumped!!! Then we did another dive and it was the highlight, there were so many fish,of all shapes and sizes, great schools and 5k tuna hunting amoung them.  The coral ranged in colour from deep purple to lavender to bright blue, all shades of orange and red, soft feathery types that hid small crabs to hard spiky green stuff, it was magnificent.  Barry was ready to sign on to another dive tomorrow but we need to get moving so we can renew our visa's on time.  
We are headed to Rinca Island today to visit the monkeys and the komodo dragons. 

Friday, September 09, 2011

We sailed here specifically to see these traditional wooden boats that were being built on the beach. We did not expect the industry that we saw. The beach front stretched for over a kilometer and all along were beautifully hand crafted wooden boats of various sizes and shapes in different stages of construction. We were allowed to wander amoung the workers, converse with the few that spoke English and take as many pictres as we wanted. What an experience!The interior of the boat (above) was being finished off the beach in Tanah Biru. It was tied to shore and there was an electrical cord strung along the shoreline, at high tide that was fine but at low tide the electrical line was very close to the water. I guess they didn't have to worry about electrolysis eating away at the metal parts of the boat :)

One of the bigger boats on the hard, we did not get aboard this one to see whether or not the interior was finished at all.
The workers used a combination of hand and power tools. There were saws, drills and power sanders in evidence. For the shaping of the timbers traditional axes were used and much was done by eye without benefit of measuring tapes.
Father and son working on a lovely ironwood boat. The wood is extremely strong and very heavy. The young man could converse in English and was very helpful, pointing out the spot for us to catch the bemo or taxi to Bira, the next village. The day we left he was very pleased because he had sold a piece of teak to one of the yachties. The piece was the size of the timber in the bottom picture and it was sold for about $30.00 Canadian.
This gentleman was using a bent piece of re bar to find a log that would match the curve he needed to fit one of the spines of the boat.
This is the foundation of a craft, It will probably be a good size, note the large prow in the foreground of the picutre.
These were the smallest crafts with saw and were made out of hollowed logs. It is similar, but smaller, than the canoe we took on our seaweed farming tour.

We went to another village, Bira which had a harbour. This boat had been launched and we clamoured aboard, uninvited.
Here is the bloke that was working on finishing the interior. He was a wood worker and you could tell he was living on the boat, he had a rudimentary kitchen with a wok hanging up and a few supplies, his meager clothing had been washed and hung to dry in the back. The engine had not been installed. We wandered around, there was about 3 inches of water in the bilge, three very dark cabins in the lower deck (no windows). The deck of the roof where I took this picture from had been finished off with concrete!!

This is probably teak lumber being carried down the pier to finish the inside of one of the boats.
One of the yachties was a tall ship buff and had heard that a tall ship had come and done a TV series about the boat builders. He downloaded it off the net and made a CD and asked us to give it one of the boat builders. We watched it first and I managed to copy some of the footage. I am hoping to be able to upload some of it so you can see what a fantastic place this was.

Monday, September 05, 2011

My first rice paddy

Bau Bau was a very different experience. When we were in Wangi the police were there, but they were in the back ground. We had many a pleasant talk with them, they said they were there to protect us but we were not overwhelmed by them. In Bau Bau which was our next stop, they were omnipresent . The day we arrived the police boat came along side, we thought they were there to look at our papers, off gets a bunch of police in uniform, then one fellow in plain clothes and two children about 8 and 11, it was the police chief and his children. Ramadan was over and it was a big holiday, rather like Christmas, and he wanted to show off our boat!!!!! The bunch of them sat around our boat and one fellow crept around taking pictures and they spoke Indonesian to one another. The official in charge of our visit, whom we named Mr. Bau Bau, who could speak English made no effort to translate what was being said, he just toadie up to the police chief. We were quite mystified about the purpose of the visit for awhile.
We had chosen to anchor away from the down town area, the anchorage there was busy and there was no place to land our dinghies and one boat had dragged their anchor. We were out of town in front of a small resort which had a beach landing. The officials insisted that we go downtown but we politely tried to explain why we were staying. Then they decided that we needed protection 24/7 so they moved in on the resort. They commandeered a room and would not pay for it and caused no end of grief to the people that owned the resort. With the police sitting about no locals wanted to rent the cabins at the resort. At one point we went downtown and the officials and police had picked us up in vans and they insisted that we go back to the resort. We all staged a revolt and said we wanted to stay downtown and would find our own way back to the beach. A compromise was broached and they allowed us to wander around on our own for 2 hours. I am pretty sure they were following us though because when we went to buy some fireworks and we were arguing over the price all of a sudden one of the plainclothes police showed up and the vendor then gave us a very good price. One of the yachties offered to take Mr. Bau-Bau out for dinner the last night and then he asked if we would include the police and his driver!!! Their presence and heavy handed dealings with us and the resort owners left us with a very bad taste in our mouths.
We did have some wonderful experiences though. We were taken to a cave, when we arrived the generator which was to light the cave did not work so at first we scrambled around in the cave with very inadequate little torches. We climbed out and waited until they brought another generator. It roared away and we clamored down into the cave. It had all your cave characteristics, stalagmites and stalactites, a few bats, slippery floors, and tight holes to fit through. In other words it was a blast making our way down down into the ground!! In the flickering generator run lights we slipped and stumbled about 50 meters to find a beautiful under water pool of fresh water. Mr. Bau-Bau was already in the water, so I decided he needed some company so I slithered in. It being a Muslim country I went in fully clothed, my clothes were already grimy from contact with the walls and floor so a good rinse was needed. The water was wonderful, what a treat!
On Friday, which is the Muslim holy day, we escaped Mr. Bau-Bau (who had to go and pray) and spent a wonderful day visiting a Balinese village. I saw my first rice paddy, we were invited to one of the guides houses for lunch,we were introduced to a new fruit, we examined a brick factory Indonesian style and I got to pick ripe tomatoes from a field. The rice paddies were as green as green could be, there were acres of them on either side of the road and occasionally there would be a woman in the middle bent over planting. I was thrilled to see them and the realization that we were in Asia hit home. The new fruit was called jeruk Bail and it looked like a grapefruit but had a tougher skin, which had to be peeled with a knife and it was very sweet, almost like a grapefruit without any of the citrus tartness. I just googled it and I think it is a variety of orange. On our way around the village we stopped at an Indonesian brick factory. The locals dig up the ground and then shape the mud into bricks, they are then baked on top of a big outdoor kiln, many of the local building are made with these hand made bricks. It was such a treat to wander around a tomato field and pick ripe tomatoes, they were delicious although they were not a variety I had ever seen in Canada, the smelled and tasted like a fresh garden tomato.

The brick kiln.

Late that afternoon we were taken to a fortress that had been built on top of the hill by a sultan in the 1600 century. Bau Bau originally had a king and once the Asiatic traders influence became upper hand the country was converted to Islamic rule and the leader became a sultan. We were not allowed to see the museum (not on Mr. Bau-Bau's itinerary) so gleaned our information from Lonely Planet and Mr. Bau-Bau's nephew who was our guide!! The fortress was massive encompassing 22 hectores. There were no original building left but the houses that were built in that area had to be of traditional design and there were a number of graves that had been found.
We have moved on to Tanah Biru where there is a vibrant boat building industry. That is a whole different blog.

'An Indonesian Bank, any question where the money is??
Maybe here? A mosque in downtown Bau-Bau!

Friday, September 02, 2011

We have been in Bau-Bau for the past 4 days. We have had some wonderful experiences. Yesterday we were driven out to a Balinese village and I got to see my very first rice paddy. It really made me feel like I was in Asia. We are just in the midst of leaving heading further west to a spot where they build large 200 tons traditional boats on a beach. I will give you the low down on Bau-Bau once we have established communications but just be aware there was spelunking involved.
I waited about 3 minutes for the picture to upload and then said I would wait another 2 and my patience has worn out. Hopefully the connection will be better further west.