Bali - Indonesia
Trip Start Jun 24, 2008
64Trip End Oct 17, 2009
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An early flight from Thailand brought us over this volcanic isle in the Indian ocean by late morning. The cloudy monsoonal skies of the north giving way to clear blue and crystal seas.
A sweep over the island gave us a good view of the twin volcanic peaks, Agung (3,000M) and Batur (1,700M). The 2nd of the two has a giant 'caldera' (large bowl caused by collapse of a peak after eruption). Inside this depression we could see the lake that has formed over thousands of years.
Towards the south and our destination of Sanur, a long coast with surf crashing over coral beds just off the wide golden beaches.
The greeting at immigration set the general tone for our welcome. A demand for 550,000IDR (£36) before our tourist visas would be issued
I wrestled the bags from them telling them to go find another money machine and we went on. After paying for a taxi at a booking booth outside, more porters took our bags and wheeled them another 200m to our car. After loading them in they tapped on the rear window where we sat and noisily demanded 'tip, tip, tip!' I opened the door and offered them 5,000IDR and they pushed my hand away demanding 'not enough'. If I could have turned round and took off again for England I would have. I threw the money on the ground and told them to 'take it and *!#~ off'.
Welcome to Bali indeed.
The introduction was very severe as the general population turned out to be, thankfully, more reasonable.
Our hotel, the Swastika Bungalows did not turn out to be a secret holiday retreat for german neo-nazi's. The swastika symbol is connected to Indian Hinduism and represents life and good luck. The Balinese are Hindus and there lies the connection. The hotel was really a large tropical garden dotted with small brick built rooms, each with a veranda and wicker furniture
The small town of Sanur is set on the eastern side of the southern corner as the land narrows before forming a peninsula. It is relatively quiet and has lovely views from the beach of the mountains to the north.
The 'manic' salesman style prevails in the shops and stalls along the main road as in Thailand.
Prices here are lower. A meal for two costing an average £13 and a pint of local lager £1/pt.
After a week at our hotel it was not possible to extend so we located another abode and headed down the road to the 'Prima Cottages'. £16pn buys an air conditioned en-suite room with private balcony, breakfast, swimming pool and room wi-fi (hence the writing up of these belated blog entries).
We were advised to reconfirm our flights back to Bangkok so we obtained the desk No. of Asia Air. The receptionist agreed to ring on our behalf but they wouldn't respond. Not wishing to risk it I rented a scooter for a day and set off for the airport.
The journey became a struggle to survive. Cars change lanes on the 10 mile dual-carriageway from Sanur to the airport without signals, carving you out of their path. Other scooters fly past you on any side without warning, people jump red lights. It was a chaotic, biggest comes first, free-for-all without rules
I completed the task in hand, returned the bike and shall not ride on Bali again.
With such a crude and uncivilised road using standard I thought it likely we would witness a collision during our time here. Last night my prediction proved correct. As we sat in a roadside restaurant there was a loud bang. Everyone turned to see a young lad had collided his scooter with a small girl on a push-bike. As she lay nursing her anckle, the contents of her basket scattered about the road, he quickly lifted his machine, cranked the engine then sped off.
To travel safely at all means to hire a car and driver so, in order to see the sights that's what we did. £33 bought a day trip in an 8 seater toyota so we headed for the volcano.
A quick stop on the way, to a hindu temple with a natural spring at its centre (holy water - of course).
We got out to inspect rice fields. Our driver explained how they are built in terraces to allow mountain spring water to flow through each field as it descends thus keeping the rice plants replenished.
The road to Mt Batur brings you up to the rim and offers a good view of one of the most impressive calderas in the world. 10 x 6 miles across with the cone of Batur volcano rising 700m from the middle. Lake Batur fills around 1/3 of the 'moat' around the cone to the eastern side. The caldera was formed during catastrophic eruptions 20-30,000 years ago. Recent activity 4 years ago produced smoke and the last sizeable eruption in 1974 left a carpet of lava several miles square across the southern slopes as far as the caldera rim.
To the east the much taller image of Mt Agung rises to twice the height of its broader twin. Dormant since 1963 when a big eruption sent smoke and ash 10,000m into the air and paraclastic flows and lahars claimed hundreds of lives.
Having studied reports of these volcanoes I notice that, from recorded activity within the last 100 years - there has never been a period greater than 37 years between eruptions with destructive or fatal consequences. It is now 35 years since any such event. At the time of writing these monsters still slumber and we are safe..........
The return journey was broken by a stop at the forest sanctuary of the sacred monkey
We didn't need to buy any since Gail had bought bananas and tangerines for us to eat on the way back. The monkeys smelt the fruit within a minute and jumped on her, climbed up to her shoulder bag and grabbed the lot. It was amusing but Gail didn't encourage any more climbing sprees.
I didn't mind so we bought some more and I let them climb on my shoulder to get it.
The last outing was to Tannah Lot temple in the sea. Leaving to arrive just before dusk we were driven for an hour to the west coast of the island. A wander around this old volcanic rock abutment divorced from the cliffs nearby after erosion through the centuries was quite pleasant. There were several hundred others milling about so we headed to a clifftop vantage point where we settled in and watched the sunset over this dark and holy place.
The use of our laptop for internet access has been, by far the most useful tool we brought with us. This last 2 weeks with email and internet research ability has enabled us to prepare and provide everything we could have thought of or wanted on our return to home
The island of Bali has been very restful after a long and sometimes uncertain trip. On now to yet another country via Bangkok International (our last before we return). We shall leave with some mixed feelings - missing the lovely warm environment, less so the chaos of the roads but yearning now for the excitment of meeting friends and loved ones again and to claim our new life back home to fulfill our plans, after so long away.