Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bali, Indonesia, part 2 (2012)

After spending some time traveling around Bali, we returned to the marina to spend a few days aboard Saviah.   We were looking forward to exploring more of the island with our friend Eric, who would be coming out from Seattle in a few days.  In the mean time, we cleaned the boat, caught up on laundry and worked on a few small projects while in the marina.  

The weather can be unbearably hot sometimes in the tropics, and leaving all the hatches open at night to capture every bit of breeze is essential to staying comfortable.  This is especially true in the marinas since the wind is shielded by other boats and structures on shore.   Unfortunately, when the hatches are open, the wind is not the only thing that can get in.  On our first night back on the boat, Andrew woke up just before midnight when he heard the sound of one of the pan lids rattling.  He got the flashlight and went into the galley to find a huge rat staring back at him.   We’ve had a few moments of uncomfortable weather out at sea and long nights in port staying awake to make sure our anchor wasn’t dragging, but this was definitely the low point of our travels so far. 

After waking Di up, we spent almost four hours chasing the rat around the boat.  We tried to herd it towards an exit and then to trap it, but no luck.  At one point it ran out into the cockpit, with Andrew close behind to chase it off the boat.  It ran around the perimeter of the cockpit and then right back through the companionway and into the boat again.  It eventually disappeared down into the bilge, where we could hear it moving around for about half an hour underneath the cabin sole. 

Later it came out of the bilge to make another appearance where we again tried to trap it or chase it outside, and then around 3 a.m. it went into one of the cubbies in the galley.  We closed the door to trap it inside.  We decided it was better to have a rat trapped on the boat in a single compartment and unable to leave than one free to run around wherever it wanted.  Tired and frustrated, we laid in bed for another few hours until the sun rose.

Rats are nocturnal animals, and this one did not budge all day.  We cleaned out everything in the cubby but it stayed put, apparently back on a small shelf that we couldn’t see.  We inspected all the food that we pulled out of the cubby and found that it had eaten through several packages.  Apparently, Asian rats prefer Asian food, and this one got into packages of Ramen Noodles and rice.  It didn’t seem to touch any of the western foods, but we later found that it also ate most of the way through one of the hoses that is connected to the engines exhaust system. 

Our plan was to move all of the food from the galley into the v-berth, which we could then seal off.  After spending most of the day moving food around and disinfecting everything, we decided to make a run to the store to get some rat traps.  It didn’t seem like the rat could have escaped the compartment, but there are all sorts of nooks and crannies in a boat.  We hadn’t heard a peep from it in over 12 hours so we starting talking ourselves into believing that it had just left the boat and wouldn’t be back.  Just in case, we had sealed off most of the other areas of the boat, limiting where it could go.  Before leaving, we opened the cubby where it was last seen entering and put some duct tape down with the sticky side up, right in front of the opening.  If the rat came out of the cubby it would step on the tape, and we would know it was still on board. 

When we got back about half an hour later, the tape had moved, and there were foot prints around the galley countertops.  Fortunately they led outside, but we couldn’t be sure it stayed out there.  About an hour later, there was some squeaking in the cockpit, and Andrew stuck his head out the companionway to see the rat sitting in the cockpit well.  It was a huge relief to know for sure it was outside, but we didn’t dare open any of the port lights or hatches.  Without any circulation, the heat in the cabin was almost unbearable, but not as bad as having a rat on board!

We spent a couple of very long and hot nights on the boat, and then on August 26th, our friend Eric arrived.  We had been looking forward to his visit for quite some time and were also excited to get off the boat and stay in air conditioned hotels for a week.  He had a full week planned, which started with the first night in the tourist hub of Kuta. 

Eric booked hotels at a couple different spots on the island, and after the initial night in Kuta, we moved to Nusa Dua on the south east side of Bali for several days.   This part of the island has some of Bali’s best beaches, and we spent a fair bit of time over the next couple days relaxing at the beach.

On our first afternoon, we rented scooters and made our way to the southwest end of the island.  We had a nice ride over, as this area is less crowded and the roads wind along the tops of the cliffs, offering great views over the ocean.  Our first stop was at Uluwatu, on the southwest end of the island.  This place is a popular surfing spot with world-class breaks, as well as a nice beach and swimming and snorkeling on the reefs. 

After parking at the top of the bluff, there is a long steep walkway that zigzags down the cliff.  There are restaurants and shops along the way, each with panoramic ocean views.   We made our way down to the beach and then up a rickety wooden staircase up to the “Hard Rock Café”.  This is not part of the chain, but just a small restaurant on top of a very large rock that sits on the beach.  We had nice lunch in the restaurant while watching the surfers ride some enormous waves.   This was definitely one of our favorite spots on the island. 

top left: hard rock cafe perched on top of a large rock on the beach.  other pics are views from the restaurant.

After hanging out for a while on the beach and going for a swim on the reef, we headed back out for the short ride down the road to see the temple, Pura Luhur Uluwatu.  We rented the required sarongs, and took a walk around the temple compound, which has a resident troop of monkeys that are known for being quite aggressive.  This temple is not one of the more beautiful on the island, but it is situated right on the edge of a cliff.  You can walk for quite a distance along the cliff tops in either direction from the temple and see some really nice views out over the ocean. 

Pura Luhur Uluwatu

While staying in Nusa Dua, we booked a bike tour that came highly recommended.  The tour company picked us up from the hotel early one morning and after a stop to pick up the rest of our group, we headed north to the central mountainous area of the island. The first part of the tour involved a quick visit of a local coffee plantation.

There were several different kinds of coffee as well as tea and spices that were grown at the plantation, but this place is best known for their Luwak coffee.  This is very expensive coffee that is produced on Bali and a few other Indonesian islands and is made through an unusual process.  The coffee berries, beans and all, are eaten off the trees by the Asian palm civet, which looks a bit like a ferret.  The fruit is then digested, with the exception of the beans, which pass through their system whole.   The beans are then scooped up, washed off and roasted.  The coffee made from these beans is supposed to be really good, not only because the animals pick the best beans, but because there is some level of fermentation that occurs while the beans are in their stomachs. 

At the end of the tour, they bring out a bunch of samples of the various coffees and teas that they produce.  We had decided not to try the Luwak coffee at first, since the ways the beans are processed sounds disgusting.  But then we saw how they were roasting the beans over the fire and decided that probably killed anything.  The coffee tasted ok, but none of us were overly impressed.  We actually preferred some of the other teas and spiced drinks over the coffee.

coffee plantation tour and tasting

After the plantation, we stopped for breakfast in the village of Penelokan.  From the restaurant balcony there were really nice views of nearby Gunung Batar and the crater lake, Danau Batar, at its base.  Gunung Batar is an active volcano that has erupted more than 20 times in the last 200 years.  On several occasions those eruptions have resulted in lava flows burying nearby villages, one of them killing over 1,000 people.  It still erupts periodically, but we didn’t see anything while there. 

When breakfast was over, we piled back in the van and drove to an area where the bikes were waiting for us.  The bike tour consisted of a mainly downhill ride on less traveled roads around the countryside and through some villages.  We wound our way through rice paddies, by temples and cemeteries.  We had a really good guide who would stop periodically to point out certain things and give us information about the island and the Balinese culture. 

During this time, the ten-day festival of Galungan was in full swing, and our tour was on the day before the final and most important day of Kuningan.  The ten-day festival celebrates the victory of good over evil and the ancestral souls are thought to visit earth.  As we rode through the villages, we saw many of the locals erecting their elaborate penjor (bamboo poles hung with offerings) which arch over the road.  Most of the homes had poles up already, but there were a few procrastinators that were just finishing decorating them.

bike tour

The last stop was at the home of our tour guide.  He and his family live in a traditional Balinese house in Ubud.  This is actually a walled housing compound with about 10 small buildings, that all serve a certain purpose are arranged in a special way throughout courtyard.   There was amazing detail in the stone work on the buildings, and the windows and doors were beautifully carved wood.  He introduced us to his family, who had prepared a traditional Balinese feast for us.  It was the best meal we had on Bali, and after lunch, they let us look around their family temple.  The tour turned out to be a really nice way to see the island, and afterword they gave us a ride back to the hotel in Nusa Dua.   

Bali bike tour group

After several days in Nusa Dua, we relocated north to Ubud.  We rented scooters again for the day to do a tour of the rice fields.  There are a lot of rice fields in the Ubud area, but we decided to drive a little further and see the more impressive fields further north at Jatiluwih.  This area is located on the fertile southern slopes of Gunung Batukaru, Bali’s second-highest peak.   Although the area is not a long way from Ubud, the traffic was heavy, and it took several hours to get there.  By the time we arrived, it was late in the afternoon.  Unfortunately, this left us only an hour to ride around and see the fields before we would run out of daylight and have to head back.  Although it was a bit of a hassle getting there, it was definitely worth it.  The views of the tiered rice fields seemed to go on forever, and we really enjoyed riding the scooters through the narrow pathways that wound through the rice fields.  We even watched some of the locals harvesting the rice, which seems like very hard work as it is all done by hand. 

Jatiluwih rice fields

After riding around for about an hour, we were losing light and decided to head back via a different route, since traffic was bad on the way in.  This was a bad decision, as some of the roads were in bad shape, and we ended up getting stuck behind a procession.  Hundreds of people in ceremonial garb were walking down the street for several miles and taking up both lanes of the road so that no traffic could get through.  By the time it was over, it was dark and we still had a long way to go.  We had a hard time finding our way back to Ubud, making several wrong turns along the way.  The few traffic signs in Bali are usually covered by some sort of vegetation, and there are definitely no lights shining on them at night.  We stopped a few times to ask for directions and made it back to the hotel quite late, lucky to be in one piece and ready to park the scooters. 

The next day, we got a taxi out of Ubud and headed west to Sanur.  From this beachside village, we caught a ferry out to the small islands west of Bali.  There are actually three islands that are grouped close together about 10 miles off the coast.  Nusa Penida is the largest and then there are two other islands, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan which are quite small and connected via a bridge.  Our plan was to visit the two small islands and stay on the larger and more developed of the two, Nusa Lembongan.  Shortly after we bought our tickets, we were told to start boarding the ferry.  There are no docks in Sanur, so the ferry boats anchor out and tie a stern line to shore.  You wade out in the water and jump on, which can be challenging when the boat is surging forward and back in the swell. 

colorful boats in Sanur
After a half hour ferry ride, we arrived in Mushroom Bay on the west side of Nusa Lembongan.  After the boat anchored, we got our luggage and waded ashore.  The change in pace was immediately felt.  The small bay with white sand beaches seemed quite laid back compared to Bali.  We checked into our hotel in Mushroom Bay and then rented two scooters to explore the islands.  While paying for the rental, we asked the guy about helmets.  He laughed and told us people don’t wear helmets on the island because the speed limit was only 15 mph.    

Nusa Lembongan

It didn’t take long to get around the island, even at 15 mph.  The roads are not crowded, as there are no cars and just a few pickup trucks.  Mostly people get around by walking, bicycle or scooter.  There are only 7,000 people living there, compared to the 4 million on Bali. After lunch, we rode to the other side of the island, which took about ten minutes. 

 While riding around, we were surprised to run into a kite flying contest in progress.  This was apparently a big deal, and there were some really cool homemade kites being flown.  The contest was held at Dream Beach on the southwest side of the island.  What was more interesting than seeing the kites was watching the participants arrive.  The groups of 20 or 30 people that were involved in making the kites walked to Dream Beach on the road in a procession accompanied by music and holding the kites over their heads on display.  They were obviously very proud of them.  We stayed to watch a few of the launches.  One was the clear favorite, which was a red, white and black striped kite with a tail 5 ft wide and 50 ft long. 

kite flying contest at Dream Beach on Nusa Lembongan

We spent a couple nights at our hotel in Mushroom Bay.  There was a nice beach out front and a fringing reef that provided protection to the shallow waters along the northwest side of the island.  The shallow waters within this reef make a nice area for growing seaweed, which is what many of the local people do for a living.  It was interesting to see the Balinese people harvesting the red and green seaweed, piling it high into their small boats.  After rowing to shore, they load it into baskets and carry it off to spread it out so it can dry.   It looked like hard work.

seaweed farming on Nusa Lembongan

These islands are also known as good snorkeling and diving areas, and we wanted to spend some time in the water while there.  We decided to hire a local boat and found somebody on the beach to take us out for a few hours to do some snorkeling.  It is important to have some local expertise here, as there are strong currents that go around the island.  In fact, earlier in the week some experienced Europeans divers went out and a couple guys were taken away by the strong current and never heard from again. 

Our guide took us to some great spots.  The first one had really nice coral and lots of colorful fish along the steep slopes off the island of Nusa Penida.  Unfortunately, there were also many tiny jelly fish here that were stinging us, so we decided to move.  The next stop was along the fringing reef of Nusa Lembongan.  The current was running here, and we drifted for almost a mile along the reef with our guide following behind in the boat.  It had been a while since we had done any snorkeling, and it was nice to be in the water again.

The next day we set out to ride the scooters around nearby Nusa Ceningan.  This is the smallest of the three islands at about three miles long and one mile wide.  We got to the island via the bridge that links the two islands, which was a bumpy ride over the wooden planks.  The bridge is only big enough to support scooters, which is ok because there aren’t any cars or trucks on Nusa Ceningan.  The roads were a bit rough on the island, but there were some really nice views from various lookouts.  There was almost nothing there in terms of tourist activities or facilities, although we did find a place where they had cliff jumping. 

There were various platforms along the cliff face at different heights and one of the locals was there to collect 50,000 Rp (about $5) from anyone who wanted to jump.  When someone showed up, he dangled a long ladder down into the water and tied it off.  The surf comes in quite strong, and there is also a bit of a current at the bottom.   Eric was the only one brave enough to jump, and he did it from the highest point (43 ft).  You actually have to wait for the guy to tell you when to jump, because he has to watch the waves and time it as a small one is coming in.  Then once you land in the water, he is yelling to swim as hard as you can for the ladder, before the current takes you out to sea. 

bridge between Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan, Eric cliff jumping

After the cliff jumping, we completed our drive around the island, stopping to check out some of the seaweed farming.  It seems that most of the people living on the smaller Nusa Ceningan were making a living by seaweed farming.  Apparently, it is difficult to grow unless the conditions are ideal.  This means a shallow area with water moving over it, but not too much current.  It also has to be just the right water temperature and salt content.  The shallow water between the two islands is perfect for this, and we saw lots of boats out harvesting.  Seaweed was also spread out on the ground to dry around most of the houses near the water.

seaweed farming on Nusa Ceningan

Our week of sight-seeing flew by, and before we knew it, Eric was off to the airport to catch his flight home.  We had a really good time over the week he was in Bali and it was sad to say good-bye.  After a week of living the good life in air conditioned hotels, we moved back into the boat.  Because of the rat incident, we still kept our hatches closed at night, and it was really hot. 

We were ready to get out of there and start our long journey across the Indian Ocean.  As we prepared to leave, Di developed severe abdominal pain and was running a fever.  She went to the Bali International Medical Centre to get a check-up.  The medical care was very professional, with a quick turn-around time on the lab tests.  Unfortunately, the results showed that Di had a parasite, likely picked up from something she ate or drank, and the treatment involved two rounds of antibiotics over the next 17 days. 

We were definitely ready to start the next leg of our trip, but also felt it would be prudent to wait a few days to make sure there were no side effects from the antibiotics before heading out to sea.  We continued preparing Saviah for the passage during the day, primarily stowing things and topping off fuel and water.  We had provisioned heavily in Darwin, but still needed to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables before leaving. 

We decided to check into a hotel near the hospital for our last few days.  The rooms were air conditioned, which gave us some reprieve from the heat at night, especially Di who was running a fever.  It was also nice to be next to the hospital in case her symptoms worsened.   Andrew was also tested, so we didn’t have any surprises while at sea and miles away from help. 

After three days, the boat was ready to go, and Di wasn’t showing any significant side effects from the antibiotics.  We made our five stops at the various offices to clear out of the country and headed out on September 8th.  Our next destination would be the islands of Cocos Keeling, 1,100 miles away.