Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Beautiful Bali

When we left Gili Air on Friday morning, June 16th, our plan had been to sail across the Lombok Strait to the NE corner of Bali, to Amed, and anchor in Ambat Bay. This would have been a relatively short sail, and we had planned to do some snorkeling there, as there are two wrecks: the USS Liberty and a Japanese shipwreck. However, the guide did state, and we could see on the charts, that the anchorage is not particularly protected, and in certain wind directions can be uncomfortable, or not even safe.  We had to dodge multiple FADs (Fish Attracting Devices) along the north coast of Bali.  We had read that there were many, but I was quite amazed at how many that actually turned out to be!  Navigating here at night would be dangerous, as these devices are not lit, and if you hit one, you'd be in trouble!  We were also amazed how the devices differed from island to island.

This is a FAD found along the coast of Sumbawa

This is a Balinese FAD

And this is how close we came to them!

Mount Agung, Bali's highest mountain dominated the skyline the whole way.  We could even see it from Gili Air

The day started off with no wind, but as we headed into more open water, and out of the protection of Lombok and the Gili islands, the wind and current picked up, and soon we had 20+ knots of wind and white horses on the water. As we got closer to Amed, we decided that staying there would not be pleasant, so we decided to skip it, and continue to Lovina, which had been our next day’s destination.  It made for a long day, and we arrived at Lovina after sundown. Luckily for us, a kind fisherman came along side us, and said he would guide us in. He did so, and we anchored safely in a huge, calm bay. We gave him Rp50,000 for his assistance and his gas. The next morning he was back with 2 fish. He said we gave him money, so he wanted to give us fish! It took a while to convince him that we wanted to give him the money because he helped us, and that he should keep his fish for his family. How nice it was to encounter friendly locals again!!

Sunrise in Lovina

Sean and Kate on s/v "Popeye", that we had met in Flores, had given us the name of a local taxi driver in Lovina, whom they had used to get diesel, and to tour. His name is Nyomen, and Sean and Kate had given us his phone number. We called him on Saturday morning, to see if he could assist us with getting diesel. He was very responsive and said he would meet us at 1:00pm at the dolphin statue, which we could see from the boat. He was there waiting for us, and promptly helped us load our 8 jerry cans into his car! Our expectation was that he would take us to get diesel, so what a nice surprise we got when he said he would take us on a bit of a tour!

Soon we were winding our way out of Lovina, and along narrow mountain roads through little villages. Our first stop was “GitGit” where Nyomen wanted to show us a waterfall. We all thought, “Oh, that’s nice…we’ve seen waterfalls, but may as well check it out”, and wow, was it worth the stop! We walked along mossy paths, with small, sparkling pools of water, then the first falls that fell into a stony cavern below. Soon we were passing little shrines where you could leave an offering to the Hindu gods and crossing bridges to get to the main falls. It was a very spiritual place, and maybe because it was so unexpected, we enjoyed the experience so much!

An unassuming sign showing the way to the waterfall

Family shot at Gitgit waterfall

A shrine along the way

The main Gitgit waterfall

After the waterfalls we drove through more villages and saw beautiful, green terraced rice fields. At one of the fields we stopped and were able to plant some rice in the soft, muddy ground. Nyomen also took us to see local artisans carving intricate wood sculptures, ornaments and frames for temples and other works of art. He then took us to his village, and his home, where he introduced us to his wife, Budi. After getting us kitted out in sarongs, Budi took us to the village temple, and explained some of the Hindu customs, ceremonies and rituals. Bali is the smallest province of Indonesia and has a population of about 4 million. It is the home to most of Indonesia’s Hindu minority, so there are many, many Hindu temples on the island.

A small shrine at GitGit

The green of the rice fields is so beautiful

More rice fields

Newly planted rice

Some of the intricate wood carving - all done by hand

A door that was on display in the little workshop

The men sit on the floor and work with a hammer and chisel

Budi tying Gaby's sarong

The door to the temple next to Nyomen's house

At the entrance to the temple

Inside the temple there are numerous different buildings that have different functions

Statue of a Hindu god

The carving at the entrance is just as ornate as what we saw the woodworkers create

Beautiful red and gold dorrs


In our sarongs at the entrance
The temple is right next to Nyomen’s house, and while we were there (at the temple), we heard beautiful music playing. We didn’t realize at the time, that the music was coming from Nyomen’s house, where his father was playing a musical instrument. We later learned that his father is the village master musician and teacher, and, after being invited into Nyomen’s home, and being introduced to his father, what ensued was possibly the most special experience we’ve encountered to date. Nyomen’s father invited Benjamin to come and play the “Gender” with him. The closest instrument I can think of for comparison is a xylophone. He was the most patient, kind teacher I’ve ever encountered, and Benjamin was totally enthralled! We spent about 2 hours there, both kids getting a chance to play and learn the instruments. Then out came drums, and bass drums and Nyomen’s son also came to play. Soon we had this whole band going, Budi was clapping, and even the granny came out and listened and laughed. It was really very special, and something I think the kids will always remember: I know I certainly will!

Benjamin learning the Gender

Our own little band:  Me on a bamboo instrument (drum type sound), Gaby on drum, Grandpa on drum, Ben on base drum and Anon, Nyomen's son on the Gender

The sign outside Nyomen's family's house advertising the music lessons

Saying goodbye to our new found friends:  Nyomen waving in the background, his wife Budi with her back to us
After we said our farewells to Nyomen’s family, with hugs and kisses on both cheeks`, it was back to reality and finally getting 8 jerry cans of diesel filled! Fuel in Indonesia is subsidized, so they are very strict on how much you can buy and foreigners are not allowed to buy the subsidized fuel. We can buy non-subsidized diesel, but it is easier to do that with a local who can explain to the security why we want to buy 8 jerry cans worth. We drove a fair distance to a “Petromina” (gas/petrol station) to get the diesel, but Nyomen assured us that this was the only one where the diesel was good, so we were happy to do the extra drive (although it was terrifying!) to get it. So all in all, a very productive day, and so much more than we had bargained for!

We paid over a million bucks for the diesel!  OK, Rupiah, that is!!

The next day (Sunday), we headed out at sunrise, to sail over to Banyu Wedang in the very north east corner of Bali. It is on the edge of the West Bali National Park, and is remote even by Indonesian standards! This is another place “Popeye” had told us about and the bay itself is called “Teluk Mimpi” which means “Dream Bay”. And a dream bay it is. It is totally protected and calm and we were happy to drop our anchor, even if it was in 60-odd feet of water! Also on the edge of this bay is a new resort called the Menjangan Dynasty resort, which Popeye had also told us about. No sooner had we entered the bay, when Dave got an email from the F&B manager at the resort, saying “Hello Mr. David, I see a new boat has just entered the bay. Is that you?”. Dave had contacted him after getting his contact info from Popeye to see if we could perhaps get a deal at the resort…

Ben helps raise the sails as we leave Lovina


Arriving in Banyu Wedang - the resort is nestled on the hill

Inside the bay - nice and calm!

We headed ashore for some lunch and were treated like special guests! Kama, the F&B manager showed us the different “rooms” at the resort. I put rooms in quotes because they are, in fact, all tents! This resort markets itself as a “glamping” resort! The tents are beautiful, and we learned that they actually come from South Africa, where they use them in the upscale game reserves. After a discussion over lunch, we decided that as a reward for making it half-way around the world, we would treat ourselves to 2 nights at the resort! The kids were beyond excited!! But before we could check in, we would have to spend 2 more nights on the boat, as we had already arranged for Nyomen to take us on another tour of Bali on Monday, so we decided we would check in to the resort on Tuesday. But more on that later…

Nyomen picked us up early on Monday morning, and we had a long, full day of touring Bali. We didn’t actually realize how far away we were, so it took us almost an hour and a half in the car before we were back in the Lovina area, and within striking distance of any sights. Had we known, we probably would have been better off staying in Lovina and doing all our touring from there, but we didn’t know, and so we unfortunately ended up spending a lot of extra time in the car that day.

This map taken from our tracker shows the marathon drive we took that day.  The blue line is our boat track, and the red is our rough driving track.
When we looked at a map of Bali (above), we drove almost to Denpasar, on the other side of Bali! North Bali is very mountainous, and our first stop, after winding our way through very narrow, windy mountain roads was a coffee plantation. Here we learned and saw how the coffee is picked, roasted and ground. We also learned about Luwak coffee, the rare and expensive coffee that is made from the feces of the civet cats. In the wild, these animals will eat the ripest coffee beans, and then their feces are collected, and the beans in the feces are washed, dried, pounded to remove the skin, sorted and finally roasted. Consumers pay a premium for Luwak coffee, but Dave and I declined, and chose to sample Bali coffee instead!

Luwak Coffee Bali

Coffee Beans

The kids get a chance to roast and grind the coffee!

After the coffee plantation visit, it was a long drive to Ubud, Bali’s center of arts and crafts. We visited the Ubud Palace, which is the official residence of the royal family of Ubud. We marveled at the ornate stone carvings and traditional buildings. More information on the palace and Ubud, if you are interested, can be found on their official website: www.ubudpalace.com, or just google Ubud or Ubud Palace.

Palace entrance

Walking around the palace grounds

Ornate stone carvings




Market at Ubud.  Look at all those scooters!!
After our visit to Ubud, Nyoman took us to a local Warung (restaurant) for some suckling pig! It was delicious, but I unfortunately mixed everything on my plate together, and somewhere amongst all the deliciousness was something very, very spicy, so my mouth was on fire!! But all in all, a great local lunch!




Now it was time to start the long journey back to the north of Bali and to where our boat was anchored. On the way, we stopped at the famous Tegallalang Rice Terraces, but it was so crowded with cars, tourists (we are not tourists, of course!!) and tour buses, that we couldn’t actually get out! And we didn’t want to. The rice fields we had seen on the first drive with Nyomen were just as good, if not better, and free! You had to pay to see these, along with a million other people, and from what we could see from the car, they were not nearly as nice! So we were quite happy to give that a miss.

Gaby managed to snap these pics of the Tegallalang Rice terraces from the car



From there we drove on to the rim of Mt. Batur. Mount Batur (Gunung Batur) is an active volcano located at the center of two concentric calderas north west of Mount Agung on Bali. The south east side of the larger caldera, which measures about 10 × 13 km, contains a caldera lake. The inner caldera (about 7.5km wide), has been dated at about 28,500 years ago. The first documented eruption was in 1804 and the most recent was in 2000. You can still see the black of the lava flow.

You can see the rim of the outer crater in the distance, with the black lava flow in the foreground





Another temple snapped along the way home

We didn’t get back to the boat until about 7:30 or 8:00pm, and after having left at 8:00am that morning, we were all exhausted, most of all Nyomen, who still had to drive an hour and a half back towards Lovina where he lives. However, we were very grateful for his time and for sharing his local knowledge with us. Although we spent a lot of time in the car, I think we saw a side of Bali that not a lot a people see. We saw the villages and its people. We saw their family temples and farms and windy roads and crazy driving! We saw, we learned and we loved it!!