61181 kms travelled so far
09.12.2009 - 06.02.2010 30 °C
Last night I paid to have fiery coconut shells kicked at me by a man who thought he was a possessed horse. This it seems is normal in Bali, and I have to admit that it was good fun. This happened when we went to one of the traditional religious dances. The first section was a short play, we didn’t have much clue what was going on, but it involved lots of chanting men who were an army of monkeys, two women, and two king monkeys who had a fight. The second part was the burning of at big pile of coconuts, and a horse man running around, kicking them at the audience, trampling on the red hot shells and generally acting a bit like Ozzy in his Sabbath years. After 5 minutes of going mental he was wrestled to the ground by two half naked men, had his hobby horse taken off him and he fell to the ground and sat there with soot blackened feet looking a bit confused about what had happened. Excellent!
As opposed to Korean traditional dances it was quite captivating (sorry Korea, you made me fall asleep a few times) and the chanting and dancing looked almost African and was really interesting. It also had monkeys in it as any good show should have.
We’ve been in Indonesia for nearly a month now, it’s so enormous we haven’t even begun to touch on it, but we have driven all around Bali in a jeep and spent Christmas and New Year on a tiny island off the coast of another island called Lombok so our time has been spent well.
Driving around Bali has been interesting to say the least. As a rule the drivers here try to kill themselves (and you) at every opportunity; blind corners, oncoming trucks and steep hills are the best places to overtake or pull out but they’ll try at any time. Motorbikes undertake and overtake at the same time and we’ve even had motorbikes riding alongside us whilst we are driving trying to sell us a tour or random souvenirs.
Since we have been here we have been back to a town called Ubud three times, we are there now. It’s such a nice town, and after driving around the rest of Bali it’s safe to say that Christy made the best choice to stay here when I go to Africa. It’s very relaxed and I think of it as the Holt of Bali as it’s full of boutiques, nice restaurants, art workshops, yoga workshops and lots more of that kind of stuff. Every house seems to be built like a temple, the people are really nice (we've even been invited to a few weddings) and it also has a main temple which has hundreds of seriously overfed monkeys around it.
We splashed out for a nice hotel for our last week together; it costs a whopping £8 each per night. Our room is really nice and we get to wake up overlooking rice paddies, then jump in the pool, then have our breakfast brought to us on our balcony. Sweet.
During our exploration of Bali we did some really cool things; one morning we got up at 3:30am and climbed an active volcano (whilst we were climbing in the dark the stars were so bright and we saw loads of shooting stars)(plus we had an egg boiled in the volcano too), went snorkelling at an amazing nature reserve and even saw some dolphins. Our trusty jeep took us to do all of these activities with a maximum speed of 10km/hour, up hills it really struggled and it literally didn’t go over 2km/h (in first gear, move it to second and it died!). I suppose for a fiver a day we couldn’t expect much more.
For Christmas and NYE we went to Gili Trawangan. We had 2 choices to get to the island; the fast boat which took an hour, and the slow boat which took 12 hours. Naturally we took the “scenic” (and cheap) slow boat which meandered all over the place. The journey was an interesting one as we got to people spot people, lie around eating noodles and watch men trap their fingers in doors.
We finally reached Gili Trawangan where we stayed for a couple of weeks. Gili T is a tiny island, 3km long and 2km wide, with a native population of 700 and only horse and cart as transport. It has potential to be a perfect island getaway, and some parts of it are idyllic.
We spent most of our time snorkelling and searching for turtles which are abundant around the beaches. One day we went to the next island over and we saw ten turtles in one snorkel, which was fantastic. The coral is fairly good (considering!), and we saw loads of fishes, eels and other animals. In the evenings we went for nice BBQ meals on the beach, drank in the world’s largest Irish pub on the smallest island (although to be honest I couldn’t find all that much Irish about it, but at $1.30 for a double rum and coke who cares?). The manager of our hotel was really nice and we spent some time with him playing backgammon and chess with him.
On Christmas day we opened our presents on the beach, had a beer for breakfast and went snorkelling, ate a lobster (which was amazing, courtesy of Christy and her parents), and drunk lots of rum in the evening with two Finnish people we met. It was a good day and it made being away much easier. On NYE we met again with the Fins, had a great meal, then saw in the New Year whilst in the sea, watching lots of fireworks and drinking vodka. Many vodkas later we wobbled home and then spent the next day regretting drinking that much (again).
The island is frustratingly good; in a way it’s everything that’s wrong with the negative aspects of tourism, crammed onto a tiny island so the effects are felt even more. I could rant about it for hours, but I’ll try to rant for one paragraph only, to make myself feel better!
The island is totally reliant on tourists for an income; it used to be a quiet get away and everything was dirt cheap, but now there’s lots of (over)development and overcharging going on which is slowly destroying what people actually came for in the first place. The island gets through 10 tonnes of rubbish a day, and it appears to be being spread evenly over the island and also in the sea, the beaches are dirty. The coral reef was damaged initially by cyanide fishing and is now being stomped on by lots of stupid tourists, the locals who run the snorkelling trips don’t bother to mention and rules and when I asked the man in charge why he didn’t tell people not to stand on it (it’s his livelihood after all!) he replied “yes, they always tread on the coral” and then for a spectacular finale he threw his anchor into some live coral. It’s all about getting money today and not caring about tomorrow, stupid. Interestingly this year was a bad year for tourism for them, probably because the island is getting a reputation for being ruined! When it boils down to it it’s the locals who need to do something about or else there will end up with a deserted, rubbish filled, coral-less island with lots of empty hotels! Somehow I think that’s what it will end up like which is shame; at least we saw it before it turned into a hot Yarmouth and we can remember the good parts of it! Success! Rant over in one paragraph!
On the way back to Bali we were confused because the ferry did a 180 turn and started heading the wrong way. I went to investigate and it turns out the captain had seen some tuna and there was lots of Indonesian men out the back trying to catch them to sell, classic Indonesian style!
We’re now relaxing in Ubud again where I am securing a firm reputation for being a mentalist with the hotel staff for taking photos of insects. I think the idea of paying any attention to bugs is a bit beyond their imagination! Here are some of my recent shots...
Anyway, that’s about all for this episode. We’re off to Thailand for a short while next, then to Hong Kong for a two day stop over which works out perfectly as it’s their New Year celebration and there will be lots of fireworks for us. After that we head to South Africa for a while and then we’ll be heading overland all the way up to Uganda. Fingers crossed we’ll keep out of trouble for our last 2 months