Tuesday, December 15, 2009

We're baack!

Well, of all the flights we took, and we took about 12 to-ing and fro-ing from everywhere, the flight from Vancouver to Toronto was the worst.  We were delayed for 4 hours in the Vancouver airport, but told to wait in 15 minute increments so we didn't leave the airport.  Because we are readers, at least we can hunker down and pass the time, but apparently we missed the free snacks and drinks because we didn't look up from our books.  It was just juices thought, so we weren't that upset.
We met a woman on the flight who had been to NZ and Australia for about the same time as us.  She was about 10 years older than we are and she had done walking tours of all the places we went. She did a 4 day hike around Milford Sound. She said the food in the huts was great most of the time, but the sleeping arrangement were not that great. She said most of the people were under 30, but she didn't have any trouble keeping up.  She was telling us the Milford Sound hike was an option of her walking tour and only 4 people went on the hike, she did and some one closer to her age and one father and his son. You can never tell by looking at people!  I often thought when we were on the trip, that some of the dive leaders may have had misgivings when Spud and I  asked to go on dives, based on our appearance. But they never showed it, not be even a flicker of a face muscle! And unlike all the young people selling tickets at the attractions, they never asked us if we were seniors!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Cromell, New Zealand

4 Dec. 2009
The fiddleheads are just opening up here, and there are peonies and  columbine in the forests. It's nice to have a second spring.  We stopped in Cornwall and they have a preserved historic section of very old buildings from the town in 1835 to 1880. When they build the dam the flooding increased the riverbed and the town decided to preserve buildings.  There are quite a few buildings.   This town too, was founded on the gold rush, but settlers quickly moved in.  It is still not big, but the wine industry is booming here and there are wineries all over.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bondi Beach, Sydney

Bondi Beach, Nov. 30 2009
A trip out to the eastern suburbs on the train with a bus connection took us to a beach where we could snorkel in the Tasman Sea.  It was a sheltered cove called Clovelly.  As you know Spud has a penchant for gadgets and always seems to find useful (and not so useful) little items he likes to produce when the occasion demands.  For this trip he had bought some "Towtab" towels. They come in a package the size of a gum box. When you wish to use them you simply fill their individual container with the equivalent of a cap full of water. So after our swim in Tasman Sea we added water to the towel tabs and anxiously awaited the results. Spud unfurled the tab and handed me a towel the size of half a J-cloth.  "I think I'll need two."  I said.
 The water in this sea, which joins New Zealand, was just 19 degrees, so Spud opted for a book on the beach while I set out with my mask. He found two cuttle fish shells and saved them to bring home, but when we entered New Zealand we were forced to thrown them in the quarantine bin or face a fine!  The customs officer with dog was walking around the baggage claim area and as we unlocked our suitcase to get the shells and throw them out, I discovered an apple in my purse as well.  I brought them over to throw them out in the 'amnesty bins' when the officer intercepted me and said "Oh that was what the dog smelled."  Ditched just in time!  Kiwis and Aussies treat their island's biodiversity very seriously.
Now back to the Tasman Sea in Australia,  I saw a very large blue grouper I know Don would like to meet on the end of a hook.  It was the most beautiful aquamarine colour, just staying still while the cleaner wrasse did their job of removing the algea and bacteria from him.  In this colder water there was big leafed kelp.  I was looking for some of the fish I had seen in the aquarium, but I only saw ocean bass and some of the more common fish. We then walked along the path that follows the ocean in a version of our own "Great Ocean Trek". This tourist trek connects the beaches in the east.  It was a blustery day, as Winnie-the-Pooh would say and the breeze off shore was cool but we made the walk to Bondi Beach, the super well-know surfers' beach. Just as we boarded the bus back to town the rain started.  But as Spud said, we always have our towels!
Back to the hotel to weigh, repack and reweigh our luggage in order to meet the weight requirements for our flight.  We also had to finish our wine and port we bought in the Hunter Valley before flying out! Oh the stress!
Don't forget. Keep the comments coming.  Oh, here's a picture of the x mas tree made from recycled pot bottles that we saw in Sydney.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Diving with the Manta Rays

Spud is a fin tugger! He almost stopped my heart several times on the dive.  He gives my fin a violent yank (this is not Spud’s version) and I leap to the conclusion that he has seen a hammerhead shark.  But no, it’s a giant sponge or a sea star twirling and pirouetting alone the reef.  We dove with the Manta rays! This has been a dream of mine for some time.  Pictures will have to wait till we get home and get them off the other camera.  Five rays at once were at the cleaning station.  Each under belly has a different marking, from black to white and every variation of mottled pattern in between.  Some of the mandibles are curled and some are straight.  They are curious and gently glide over you as long as you stay still.  The majesty of the wings gently gliding or stroking through the water is mesmerizing.  The soft corals are browns and beiges, splashes of green, violet and yellow. The anemones often have starry tips of sparkling pink.  The feather stars come in all different colours, black and white patterns, or with luminous edges of lime green, yellow or white.  One person said he had never seen the lime green except here.  They cling to fans, coral and sponges.  The sponges can be up to 2 meters high and across.  The sponge is covering in feather stars clinging to it as their temporary home. Damsel fish are all around it. You almost feel you will have to bat them out of the way to swim forward.  Morey eels nervously poke their heads out with their teeth waiting for dinner to swim by. 

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The difference between Ubud and Sanur is as startling as the difference between New York City and Caledon.  We are now in such a pastoral setting it is very restful.  Last night a festival was on in all of Bali and the roads were clogged with an exodus to the beach in Sanur. Our driver had to back down the road to go in the opposing direction. It was amazing to see thousnads of people heading to the beach because it was a holiday.  It had the QEW beat, I'll tell you.  and this town is supposed to be quieter than Kuta, our last stop.   I would never drive in Bali.  It’s a wonder the driver found our new hotel. The drivers travel so far than phone for more directions.  We crossed a stream where the bridge was no bigger than a footpath.  We feel a little conspicuous were sitting in an air conditioned SUV. But once we got to Ubud it was like a different country. It was truly the country, so peaceful and dark.  We could see the night sky with the souther cross.  That  night someone was playing and singing in the house near our hotel the evocative hymns of Bali with the pan flute and the haunting beat of bamboo. 
Hey, remember those lotus blossom pods we put in our fall arrangements?  Well, there are beautiful blooming lotus flowers here.  I will always think of Bali now when I see them.  

I have lovely pictures of the new hotel.  Each place is more beautiful than the place before.  The small geckos make a large sound for their size.  I thought the sound was the call of a large bird, until one night one was trapped in our room and I put two and two together.  Lucky Spud that he takes his hearing aid out at night.  
Tomorrow we tour the rice fields.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Touring the countryside

Nov. 11 2009

I always wanted to swim up to one of those bars in the hotel swimming pool and order a drink, and today I did that.  Unfortunately Spud has a case of Montezuma’s revenge.  Or should I say Ranga’s revenge to use the local Bali bad guy from mythology.  If you have to spend a day at the hotel, this is the place.  It is a poor person’s Hilton.  Everything you need is here, right on the beach with 2 swimming pools, massage, yoga, restaurant, I went snorkeling and have a lazy day reading by the pool. Unfortunately, I got sunburn (Spud feels so sorry for me, from the air conditioned bathroom of our room).
We brought a book each and have traded reading material all along our way.  I have been very lucky because the only English book on the shelf in each place in Bali has been something that interested me.  The book shelf in the hotels is filled but with German books.
I just finished a book called Tallgrass. It is a part historical novel, set in Colorado in a Japanese internment camp.  It followed a 13 year old girl who lives on a farm in the area and her reaction to all that is going on around her. A good read.

I have enjoyed travelling to a new place every few days.  We have had the amazing contrast of the rural and urban.  We would never drive here.  The roads wind and curl up through the mountains and back down to the shore and the only indication of the route is the sign to the next town when you reach a village.  Signs declaring hati, hati  warn the bridge or road is out and the driver has to find an alternate route. The views are spectacular.  We hired a driver for the day and he took us to all the obligatory sights.  We went and saw the herons, with their white bodies and pink heads, nesting in the rice fields in Petulu.  We went to a coffee plantation and had the world's most expensive coffee - the one that is passed through the digestive tract of a civit.  We went to  a silver factory, not John Hardy's, and I got my bracelet.  We saw the Barong dance, the classic fight between good and evil.  We went to the volcano (and the driver left us at the buffet – this is where Spud thinks he got sick.  He always eats the beef and I don’t. ) At least the restaurant had beautiful views of the volcano which erupted in 1917, 1926, 1963. From this angle you can also see the highest mountain in Bali. We went to the Goa Lamak temple – the bat cave.  This temple has millions of bats in a natural cave that the temple has incorporated into its structure.  It was built in the 11th century and a festival was just finishing the day we visited.  Everyone who visits must wear a sarong and a sash. So you make a donation and you rent one briefly.  There are elaborate pagodas made from palm leaf and bamboo.  All the islanders are dressed in their finery; the colours of the sash or sarong chosen are for one of the three persons in the one God, who is never seen.  The sash colours are: Brahma (black and white – good and evil, Vishnu - yellow or Shiva, who brings destruction (I think that colour is red).

Only the priests are allowed into the bat cave. Yuk, who would go there?  It is full of guano.  There are pythons in the cave, which eat the bats.  The presence of the pythons, eating the bats, Bali people feel keeps the balance in nature, the black and white.

Sorry the pictures are out of place.  I need another lesson.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sunset at Lewbongan

Sunset at Lembongan is absolutely lovely.  The beautiful orange and pink glow is not like the tropics, it’s not over right away.  The sunset lingers here not as long as at home, but enough to enjoy with lazy drinks. The seaweed farmers polling their way back to shore are outlined against the sky and all the fishing boats and our dive boat are grounded till high tide.  Saturday is Bali buffet night at our hotel. It is an event anxiously awaited by the expat locals.  Your lips will love you and hate you the guide books said and it is certainly true in this instance.  We had to use only our sense of taste and smell as it was too dark to see at our table in the sand on the b each.  We didn’t know what was making our lips tingle; it was too dark to see.

We watched with interest, as beside our garden villa the locals dug a well and found water in a day.  Not bad for someone digging with a Frisbee.  And our pool water didn’t even go down. 

The world is a beautiful place, if only humans wouldn't mess it up.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Deeper into Bali

 Ubud 9 Nov 2009

The difference between Ubud and Sansur is as startling as the difference between New York City and Caledon.  We are now in such a pastoral setting it is very restful.  Last night a festival was on in all of Bali and the roads were clogged with an exodus to the beach in Sanur. Our driver had to back down the road to go in the opposing direction.  I would never drive in Bali.  It’s awonder he found our new hotel.  We crossed a stream where the bridge was no bigger than a footpath.  We were sitting in a air conditioned SUV. Last night someone was playing and singing in the house near our hotel the evocative hymns of Bali with the pan flute and the

I have lovely pictures of the new hotel.  Each place is more beautiful than the place before.  Tomorrow we take cooking classes – 20 dollars each.  

life in Bali

8 Nov. 09

Thye island of Nusa Lembonga is a slice of heaven.  Poverty yes but lots of industry.  They are constantly buidling. the industry here is farming seaweed.  The whole family is involved and there are rows of seaweed in the ocean like rows of wheat back home. Tfhey sell it in Jakarta.

we rented a motorbike - $7.00 with 2 liters of gas and toured the island.  the village of Lembongan is pure picturesque Bali, temples everywhere.Driving home the village was returing from one of the many festivals and everyone was all decked out with lacy custumes and offerings on their heads.  We couldn't drive forward until the festival was over.  People directed us to Dream Beach.

  What a dream!  This is like a freedom 55 commercial.  Drinks in a bar on the cliff overlooking the beach and pounding surf.  Hemingway would have loved this place.The pace is very slow and we sat drinking and reading our books.

We toured more of the island and came across people carrying a woke with twin baskets filled with seaweed.  They gather it twice a day at low tide.  

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Basking in Bali

We're arrived in this tropical garden.  You will see by our photos that we are indeed surrounded by beautiful flowers.  The bugs are not bad, but they do seem to have the 'no see ems' but the itching goes away immediately.

The weather is especially hot according to the natives.  I'd say about 38 degrees.  The hotel and pool are lovely. It looks like a fairy garden at night.  Robin picked this well.  There are little shrines everywhere like the one in the picture above.  They are made of palm leaves with rice, fruit or flowers in a palm leaf boat.  Every sidewalk has an offering at the entrance to a home, hotel or shop to the god of luck, prosperity, whatever.  

We walked along the beach and were approached by hawkers of every description.  Everyone wants you to 'look please' at their 'art shop'.  Art shops are clothing stalls with beads.  We got a batik shirt for Spud and a bead necklace for me for 6 dollars.  That seemed to calm them down once we had some merchandise.
The food is stupendous and cheap.  These are the first fruits and vegetables we have been served in a restaurant. We got great food on the dive boat.
Tomorrow we leave for Nusa Lembongan to go diving and don't know if we will have internet access, so the blog may be quiet for 3 days.