Monday, September 19, 2011

Surf mouse 101

Last week of our adventure and we've decided to ditch the backpacker vibe and and scrub up a little. 5 nights in a a spot where aircon is standard and you get bath towels AND pool towels. Eating brekkie watching the waves break on Legian beach, just up the coast from the famous (infamous?) Kuta. First surf lesson got me up on a board and grinning like a monkey to the shore. In the last week all things come to and end. But in a sense the journey has only just begun. What remains. . . .?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Too much Gado-Gado gives you a long tongue.

Helpful advice is easy to come by in Bali

Relaxing at our favourite restaurant, Kafe. A world of delights for anyone into organic, steamed, vegan, raw, or just plain old healthy and tasty. Oh, and they serve cocktails.

Bali station wagon. We've also seen 10 year old sitting asleep on the front, slumped against his dad, with mum and toddler squeezed into the back. And a 4 year old standing on his dads knees, driving himself along some pretty busy roads. Girls in skirts get lifts sitting side-saddle, and texting while driving is standard practice.

The beautiful Water Palace in Ubud. Right next to Starbucks. Hey, at least it's not a MacDonalds.

Famous lotus wheel bike carved into the side of a temple to Dewi Sri - goddess of fertility.

Mmmmmmm. Hottie.

We slipped through despite no. 6

Beeeeg bamboo

What's in an offering? A little bit of flowers. A little bit of fruit. A little bit of rice. And some processed sugary treats you've found at the local K Mart. Obviously.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bali solo

We needed, and loved, the downtime in Ubud before tiring of yoga, good food and the perfect weather. The deep called... so we hired a little Suzuki jeep and hit the backroads on our eis, destination Amed and Aas, the dry and comparatively deserted east coast.

Mastering the rules of the road here took a little time, but was well worth it - we had our own go-anywhere transport for about R150 per day, fuel included. Mastering the roadmaps not so successful. The lonelyplanet offerings are best described as "illustrative", the official roadmaps disagree as much as not, the both reduced us to a mixture of navigation by altitude, road size and condition, and sign language with locals.

Aas greeted us with quietness, lava beaches, perfect grilled tuna, and spectacularly colourful reef.

Before we realised it time had jostled us on to Munduk, in the mountains, surrounded by cinnamon, coffee and cacao, scattered amongst marigolds, citrus, hydrangea and vanilla. Bali highlands are steep, and the villages cling to ancient (and not so ancient) ridges stretching down from the semi-active volcanoes that stand astride the centre of the island.

Our route took us around the coast, through spectacular winding roads in the highlands, fascinating temples and village life, and eventually back down to the reef, this time offshore in the Bali National Park where we dropped off 40m coral walls, grinning like mad water rats.

Cremation ceremony ... and so it ends, with the ashes committed to the ocean. We watched this shrine floating past us the following day as the fishing fleet returned in a red dawn, the waking sun summiting Mt Rinjani on distant Lombok, across the straits

Cremation ceremony: ashes packed into a parcel with coconut flowers, money, flowers, banana leaf (one of the three Balinese magical plants), then packed into a yellow coconut for final rites. I spent most of my time with the young trainee priest who admitted to "young man's desires" and looked aghast when I suggested he would one day succeed in becoming fully ordained. He had a fascinating personal story...

Cremation ceremony: gamelan looks on as final prayers are made...

... with non stop gamelan accompaniment, the same hypnotic tune over and over, for hours... Relatives and bystanders would take up a simple instrument as the orchestra members flagged in the heat

Cremation ceremony: first phase of life as a human, final phase (of reincarnation) is as bamboo. Everything of the deceased was burned, including a little plastic chair and his new thermos flask

Cremation ceremony : coffin was accompanied down to the beach, amongst the boats, and placed beneath a sacred grove. It was insanely hot, and everyone was exhausted from prayers and singing all through the previous day and night

Cremation procession with gamelan. I was fortunate to join a cremation ceremony for 5 hours in Aas, meeting many interesting folks & learning more about Hindu customs.

Good memories: our climbing gang at Crazy Horse, Chiang Mai. Pic courtesy of great Roman Eric Chiri...

The flower industry here is not to adorn a dining room table or woo a love. It all goes to make up the offerings placed at family temples, entrances, on motorbikes...just about anywhere.

Racing home to first pizza in months!

How cool are those ears! Buddhist Lions protecting forest temple

Wandering through magical sacred forest at Dunau Bratan

Returning from morning fishing. Hundreds of black specks on the horizon get larger and more colourful as the sun rises behind mnt Rinjani across the Lombok Strait.

Our little Chariot of Freedom for 8 days. Onno's mastered the art of driving in Bali. Rule no. 1 Always stay cool

Friday, September 9, 2011

Gunung Kawi, surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside in Bali, which is a pretty place to start with

Walkway down into Gn Kawi

East coast beaches - parking space for your boat is at a premium! Some beaches are double and even triple parked, jam packed side by side. Each boat has its allocated space and unique sail...

Fishing fleet would leave the rock strewn beach we lived on, noisely, at 4 every morning to chase after tuna, mackerel and mahi-mahi

Bali east coast -dry, and poor. Fishing economy. People here are very lovely.

Nemo SomaliFish on the east coast, all washed up. Is it a sign, we wonder?

All at work preparing for upcoming ceremony at Gn Kawi

Impressive 11th C candis at Gunung Kawi - carved out in four sections within the sides of a river gorge, surrounded by beautiful terraces

Beautiful temple grounds at Goa Gaja, complete with ancient baths unearthed not so long ago, and waterfalls tumbling over shattered edifices of ancient temples ... all fall down, eventually, as Ozymandias should have known

Beautiful 700 yo carvings -by thumbnail, supposedly, can you believe it- at Yeh Pulu, also near Ubud

Goa Gaja- Elephant Cave Temple. Into the demon's mouth...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

... while warded by Ganesha

Yoga at the YogaBarn. Sweat! And bliss..

... with final product, a front door and architrave; scenes from the great Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana

Apprentice carver at work...

Still Life of Gamelan and Dog

Hanuman, Ubud, rising over a small, eponomously named, shop. No expense spared for fine statues and sculpture in Bali!

Rice paddies in front of our rooms. A peaceful oasis amid the bustle of Ubud, which can get pretty busy.

Barong, resembling a cross between a giant gold-plated yak, or yorkie, and an enraged jaw-snapping jabberwocky. Barong is slow to anger, but impressively tramples The Dead, Hanuman, and various other nefarious types, aided by bulging eyes and a serious overbite.

Barong and Legong dance- a riot of colour, haunting Gamelan accompaniment

Afternoon kite flying. At times we can see hundreds in the sky- kite flying is fun but also a way of speaking to the Gods.

Weeding in the paddies, lands to the north of Ubud are one series after another of stepped terraces. Beautiful!