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.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A day of travel

3 Nov. 2009

We are currently sitting at a pool side bar in the airport inn in Darwin drinking margaritas and xxxx gold beer (the Australian preferred) waiting for our flight to Bali.  It is super relaxing.  We are so excited about the Bali adventure.  I can’t wait to eat the food and stay in the hotels.  I definitely intend to SHOP! The items there should be exotic and different.  I have a plan for the luggage (it involves Spud’s things). WE would love to share this adventure with you. Because of the time difference we leave at 7:30 and arrive at 8.30.   Think of us tonight walking on a beach and swimming in an infinity pool.    

Diving on the Great Barrier Reef

Nov 1 2009

.Well I was the only one dressed for Hallowe'en.  I wore the classic dagger thru the head . It was a big hit.  We had to explain the NA fascination with the holiday.

We did go on a shark dive against our better instincts, but when in Rome! We went down and sat on the sat on the coral in about 50 ft of water.  The guide, wearing the chain mail gloves, signaled for the feed bucket to come down.  The bucket was filled with tuna heads on a steel chain.  The sharks started circling immediately.  According to the guides, they were”only white fins and reef sharks”, ferocious enough for me! The sharks started attacking the heads, using the classic head thrashing motion to get the food off the chain.  I looked around for a sacrificial victim in case the sharks swam at me.   My adrenaline was running.   It took a long time for the sharks to get all the food off the chain. Potato cods and lots of little fish were swimming around waiting for scraps.   The potato cod even managed to get some away from the sharks.  I scanned the horizon for the big ones – hammerheads and ocean sharks, but they didn’t turn up.  The guide was crouched against the coral head keeping his head down and all appendages out of sight.  But the video photographer was swimming in the midst of everything.  We bought the video.  You will have to come to dinner for the viewing.  I don’t intend to repeat this adventure.   
Then we went on a regular dive. We definitely found Nemo.  The anemone fish are so pretty nestled in the frilled anemones.  

Monday, November 2, 2009

Back from the Boat

We were incommunicato for a few days because we were on the dive boat.  But we are back in Cairns and emailing from Macdonald's of all places.  Who knew they had free Wi fi, something to be grateful for!

We boarded the boat and were greeted with champagne and snacks on our arrival. There was a really mixed group of all ages, thankfully.  There were three couples from Canada, including us, a couple from Paris, people from the US, Germany and some from Australia.  An interesting group all in all. We moved overnight as soon as we got on the boat.  The first crossing left a few people sleepless and green in the am.  We were a little the worse for wear, but determined not to miss any dives.  We had two dives the next morning and 1 or 2 in the pm plus a night dive.  We lived a lifetime in the short time we were aboard.  Everyone was in bed early every night.  Not at all like the dive trips I remember from when we were young.  Then we drank and danced and talked all night.  Not that I could do that now! Every night almost everyone was in bed by 9:30.  But the first dive of the day was usually at 7:15 am!  Then we had breakfast.  It was great.
The diving was great.  We had about 50 foot visibility.  We saw more tropical fish than I can believe.  What variety. The coral heads and soft corals were magnificent!   Take a look at the pictures to get an idea of the wonderful sights we saw.

Some places the current was strong and we really had to use our skills to move along.  The diving was challenging and easy at the same time.  It was great having the instructors along.  You could choose to go with them or go on your own.  the dive briefings were really detailed. We went with a guide at night and saw octopus, peacock spotted skates, anemonies - just tlike Nemo!  There's me behind the staghorn coral and the black sea star.  The large spotted fish is called a potato cod.  They were very friendly and inquisitive.