Monday, 14 January 2008

BALI A land of beauty and colour!

An exotic tropical island that they call PARADISE.

Well, I finally jumped ship here in Bali. A combination of extreme tooth ache from a tooth split down the middle and a few clashes with the skipper saw me give up the chance to sail all the way to Thailand. I was not looking forward to the next leg anyway as the Trade Wind had now all but died, it was hot and humid living in the boat and we were expecting some monsoonal rains as we neared Singapore.

That was enough for me. I said my goodbyes then bargained with a Bemo driver and ended up in Kuta beach. As soon as I could I hired a motor bike - my first time riding one - then took off to Ubud, the cultural and arts centre of Bali, located up in the hills and set amongst the Island's famous rice terraces.

I had been told that my Aussie licence would be sufficient for Bali but it was not long before I was pulled over by a policeman and told I had broken the law. I then entered into a bargaining fray with this young fellow much like in the markets settling on an agreed bribe to let me off the hook. After that it was down the back streets, quite an experience with a basic map and millions of roads and tracks. I settled for riding through the rice paddies and past numerous small Kampungs (villages) which turned out to be well worth the detour.

Here I saw rice being dried on matts laid across the trails needing careful manoevring from me on the bike, and even passed a Pagan sacrificial slaughter altar still being used.


I had heard that white magic and black magic was still used in Bali and this was proof enough. I soon mastered the motor bike and got quite adventurous riding on tiny elevated walking tracks through the terraces and weaving in and out of heavy traffic in Denpasar, the capital of Bali, which I had vowed to avoid. Heaps of fun but pretty damn scary until I learnt the unofficial rules of the road.
Bali for me was the highlight of my travels. Here I experienced magnificent Temple celebrations by the colourful Hindu fraternity, trekked through wild remote tropical jungle searchimng for hidden waterfalls and exploring for canyons to descend. I learnt the language and was able to buy my meals off street vendors and got invited into many homes. I was taught how to climb coconut trees with just a vine around my ankles and I came across stunning native Balinese women bathing naked in the rivers who just laughed and beckoned me to join them rather than tell me to piss off as would have happened in Australia.

I discovered secret underground earth tunnels built during World War II to hide from the Japanese which I explored with just my mobile phone screen for light and i crossed raging rivers high up on rickety bridges made of a few bamboo poles lashed together with vines.

At night I would rest or chat with other travellers or head to a Balinese Massage centre for some truly blissful relief from my days exploits. I found it easy to make friends and was soon leading others along on my adventures. Everywhere I went I would be asked "do I want transport" by the same people each day and still they could not understand that I WANTED to walk.

Bali is so cheap that I felt like a Prince sometimes. Enjoying some of the best food and experimenting with cocktails a pleasure i cannot afford back home. My room cost just $2 .50 per night and that included breakfast. Meals were less than a dollar and I could hire a motor bike for just $3 per day. Sometimes I would hire a mountain bike and ride through the fields and forests. I visited the mountain area of Kintamani experiencing mountain mist and cool refreshing air just like in my home town of Katoomba. There too I met up with locals and went back to their homes for Balinese coffee or Nasi Goreng traditional style. In the rice fields local farmers would climb trees, pluck me a young cocnut then skillfully slice it open with their machete just millimetres from their fingers.

But Bali is best portrayed through images so here is a collection for your visual stimulation: