Monday, September 27, 2010

Temples and Monkeys

We were in Bali for a week but have now escaped t the much cleaner Nusa Lembongan. Good to be back in clear water! In Bali, we moored in the smelly, windy but convenient Serangan on the South of the island. We did the obligatory trip to Kuta and were surrounded by traders the second we got out of the cab. Scott hasn't been to Bali for more than 20 years and recognised virtually nothing. The laneways are still there, crowded with shops and dangerously over-run with motorbikes. Shopping is fun, if you're into serious hard-core bargaining. We didn't really need anything but picked up some clothes and then headed to the beach, where Scott and Seth both had massages. I had a foot massage and bought handfuls of cheap bracelets whilst I was a captive in the massage chair. Scott started chatting to a wood carver named Made who was carrying , and trying to sell the huge head of laughing Buddha. Somehow their discussion about the mahogany and the time to carve it turned into bidding, with Scott carrying the beautiful Buddha away for a seventh of the asking price. It turned out that Made was keen to sell as he had a cock-fight to go to that night and wanted to have money to burn.

Cock-fighting is a very popular male passtime here, with it being taken very seriously and the source of large numbers of rupiah changing hands. We were looking into having some laundry done a few days ago and the man of the house took us into his yard and showed us his roosters that are almost ready to fight. They were stunning birds – huge, glossy, muscular. It seemed a shame to think of what they might look like if they came off worst on the night.

We had a couple of days off the boat exploring Ubud, a beautiful town and centre for Balinese arts, set up in the hills an hour North. We hired a driver with our friends Jane, Andrew and their two boys and headed off. We easily found accommodation with a couple of tiled rooms in a lush garden just off the main street. The boys loved the outdoor shower and the pool and we had lots of breaks on the verandah in between outings. The market was fantastic – colourful, vibrant and noisy, with silks, sarongs, wooden carvings, silver jewellery all piled up. We were very restrained. We walked through the Sacred Monkey Forest and Scott was the brave volunteer who had a monkey sitting on his head.

We were lucky enough to be in Ubud during a festival celebrating literacy and education, so there was a great deal of activity in the streets and particularly around the many temples. Women carried elaborate golden baskets of fruit and flowers on their heads and men carried large platters of rice and other offerings. Our driver took us home the slow way, through rice fields terraced on the hills and to the magnificent Gunung Kawi temple. It was pouring with rain, but we descended the hundreds of steps into the valley, where the temple is cut into the hills. There were young men praying and leaving their offerings of fruit, flowers and incense, all dressed in white.

We'll stay here in Nusa Lembongan for a couple of days before heading North to Kalimantan (Borneo), where we'll go up the Kumai River for a couple of days in search of orangutans. Not sure when we'll next have internet access but watch this space.

Monday, September 20, 2010

For Annabel

Today's blog entry is dedicated to my young friend Annabel, who is a devoted Anui blog follower and so deserves special mention. Hi Annabel!!

We are in Bali now and it is quite a contrast to beautiful clean Gili Air. We haven't been into Kuta yet but went en masse to stop up at the giant Carrefour supermarket. Oh the thrill! It may not be very exciting for you land-lubbers but to have fresh milk and apples and chocolate (Scott bought his own supply as he says that I am too stingy, but I say that is why it has lasted two months!) is excitement aplenty. Tomorrow we will head to Kuta to have a look and find some bargains. In Gili Air, I became rather good at the bartering and had to be dragged away so that I wouldn't practise any more.

Something rather troubling has occurred – Scott has taken to wearing a sarong. I can see the allure of a cool cotton skirt on a hot day but I have been telling him that sarong-wearing, like any skirt, has a certain etiquette – namely, when wearing a loose piece of material, wear it long or keep your knees together! The Armstrong family have been getting rather unexpected sightings and I'm considering hiding the thing or sending him to an Indonesian sarong instructor.

We broke with Motor Indonesia tradition yesterday and actually sailed! We have barely used the sails for weeks because the wind has refused to blow. Across the strait from Lombok to Bali yesterday, however, we flew at 12+ knots and the swell was pretty large. Entering Serangan Harbour there is a narrow passage between the surf, which is a little unnerving with a big sea behind. We will stay a couple of days and then head North to Lovina, where we need to collect our passports with their shiny new visas . We are still considering going inland on Bali to visit Ubud and see the terraced rice fields and monkey forest.

Seth has finished his Term 3 work and will have a few days off before we bring out the next stack. He and Finn swam endlessly with their mates on Gili Air but the water here is not at all inviting. On our last night at Gili on Saturday we had 14 kids from the rally all playing together – they ranged between 4 and 14 and all looked so happy.

Hope you enjoyed this blog entry, Annabel. I am sure mum skipped over the bit about Scott in the sarong......

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hanging in Gili Air

13 September 2010

We last wrote from Labuan Bajo, just prior to heading into Komodo on our hunt for dragons. We went to the island of Rincha, and spotted a dragon before we'd even anchored the boat! They are funny creatures, as you'll see from the highly professional photo – they walk slowly and flip their feet out sideways and don't look as if they could break into a sprint. They are, however, capable of running at speed for a short period and their bite is deadly. With our friends from Suspence and Red Boomer II we spent two afternoons sitting very quietly (not easy with 7 children) waiting for the dragons to appear. There were also monkeys and deer. The anchorage was beautiful and quiet, being one of the few spots where there is no village. We all did plenty of hill walking and kayaking – perfect. From then we went to a fantastic spot called Gili Lawa ('gili' means 'island') where we anchored in the clearest water I have ever seen. The snorkelling was fantastic, walking excellent and we had several fires on the beach, including a late Fathers' Day party for the 7 fathers in the anchorage at that time. It was very hard to drag ourselves away.

After Gili Lawa, at the top of Komodo, we had four days of heading West along the top of Sumbawa before getting to our present stop at Gili Aer, just off Lombok. Sumbawa is an unknown territory, being not on the cruising or tourist schedule. It is a large, somewhat bleak island, and we only stopped for overnight stays. There has been hardly any wind and we've had to motor for most of the time – not our favourite means of travel. It will be the same throughout much of Malaysia and Thailand, so we'd better get used to it. Buying diesel over here is an interesting exercise. The guys who arrive on local boats in every anchorage fetch diesel, water, beer, eggs – anything you need, really. Since the start of the Komodo region they also sell wooden carvings, pearls and sarongs and are fierce businessmen.

We arrived in Gili Air yesterday and are having a lovely time. It is a perfect holiday island, with little restaurants on the beach, dive boats and a laid-back feel. In every other place there have been motor bikes and small trucks but here there are bicycles and horses and carts. There are lots of Western tourists so nobody takes any notice of our entourage, much to the kids' relief. On our first day here yesterday we went in for lunch with our friends and were gone all day. The island has many people offering pearls and jewellery for sale at ridiculous prices. Scott bought me a lovely necklace of offset pearls and we worked out later that it had cost $16 !! Every time we've eaten out up to now we've had nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice) and fish or chicken, but here there are many Western-style foods too and all very affordable. Great pineapples and watermelons too, so both the boys are happy. Today we sat on cushions under a bamboo hut drinking passable coffee whilst the kids swam in front of us. Not too hard to take.