RETURN TRIP TO BALI 4TH POST

Candidasa continued

The internet weather is trying to convince me that’s it’s at least 28c right now but, having brought nothing other than four very light summer dresses on this trip (underlayers for the plane) I am SO grateful that after freezing aircon start at Prossie and Brisbane airports I borrowed a long sleeved top to go under a dress. Thanks Jilly! So here I am with black 3/4 leggings and top under summer tunic dress cosy at last! Never imagined this necessary in Bali at sea level! And I don’t believe the weather. info either.

The men, of course, are in shorts and shirts.

Met our first Candidasa Russian today at the pool where I was the only person..probably everyone thinks it will be cold in the water because it’s grey and has been raining a lot. A lovely young woman, not a tattoo to be seen (how refreshing, my god we’ve seen ghastly amounts of them) who speaks excellent English and seems to have travelled extensively with her parents (they made a brief appearance and both looked interesting and cool). They just came up from Kuta today and she described the beach as disgusting, showed me some pics and I couldn’t believe my eyes- the sand looked grey and muddy and was literally littered with rubbish- coat hanger, tins cans, plastic, obviously washed in from sea by the heavy rain. I commented on how perfect and kemp it was when we were there a week ago and she said that even so, if you swim there you bump into such stuff and commented on our polluted oceans.I felt very sad for her generation. And now sitting overlooking the sea, I see her and her mother bobbing through the waves, obviously deemed sufficiently clean.

Looking down the coast toward Padang Bai port, I count at least ten fairly large ferries where on previous days I saw few. Perhaps fewer go out on Sundays or perhaps the inclement weather but I have also learnt that from this port they service not only Nusa Penida but also Nusa Lembongan and Lombok and the Gili’s.

Threatened rain never comes. It’s a huge tease just like at home

Feb.11, Candidasa, No Rain, Village Walk, A Touching Last Supper

I want to do a more extended Sengkidu village walk, Dave wants to join me so wanting to save our energy for the village, we take a taxi to the village entry arch and there the pleasure begins. I notice a narrow concrete path off the village entry road which takes us through banana and coconut plantations, shaded and quiet.The odd person on a motorbike passes us. Shortly, we reach the parallel road which is village proper, accompanied by a variety of dogs, all friendly. It appears to be balinese middle-class, well kempt, not a scrap of rubbish to be seen and varied attractive traditional houses. We join with the original village road which soon becomes rural again. A father clasps a wee child in front of him on a motorbike, neither wearing helmets though generally out on the main roads all adults wear helmets. The children who sometimes accompany them ,however, rarely do.

An excited dog lurches periodically at something moving in the grass alongside a high wall where a chicken runs. We then realise there are two little chicks who the mother is trying to protect. Ibu Bonney takes a stand shooing the dog repeatedly, telling him to go home, having no idea if he understands English or ‘speaks’ Bahasa, Balinese, German or something else.My persistence pays off, he disappears and for now at least, the chicks are safe.

After an hour we head back passing the kindergarten where tiny children wave and call out as I peer over the fence and then pass the primary school near the corner of the main road and take a taxi the short hot distance home.

Breakfast at Loaf with the men and then deal with extreme heat and humidity mostly by the pool. I had the idea of either a little boat trip along the coast here or the Water Palace some 20 km from here but the men weren’t interested and the heat beat me!

Dave and dine together, yet again to Warung Bintang where I try the grilled snapper which is beyond fabulous. Bintang and Loaf are the only two places where we have eaten in our five days here. Seems very unadventurous, my alternative suggestions not embraced but in the end it feels great because we establish quite a connection with owner Ketut, the beautiful young man and girl wait staff, the lads in the kitchen, the female manager and Ketut’s wife, a cast of thousands!

So refined, genteel, graceful, attentive, they gather around to farewell us on our last night, asking after Jon who is a tad under the weather today and absented himself. Ketut’s wife kisses me Bali-style on both cheeks and we are thanked for our patronage.

And so ends a lovely few days here.

Feb. 12, Candidasa- Lovina

Most excellent, careful driver Lomod asks which route we want to take and I suggest going east rather than back and up the centre which we have done many times. Three hours 15 minutes, first climbing the highest hills through dense vegetation, Mt Agung hidden behind clouds. Agung, at over 3000 mts.on clear days is apparently visible from anywhere in Bali.

We pass the famous water palace at Tirta Gangga and then the spectacular Tirta Gangga rice terraces, (see photos) , dog- legging continuously on mostly very small roads, passing through numerous small villages and little markets, one of which is a small wholesale fruit and vegetable market starting at 3 am from which sellers take locally grown produce to others smaller towns and villages in the area. Eventually the sea comes within sight, NE Bali, and we head in through Tulamben, one of Bali’s famous dive sites on the East coast.This side of the island is very dry and all the rivers we cross are devoid of water. The countryside, gently undulating and tree- clad, is still very green from recent rain but no rice or other vegetable crops are grown here though mangoes and some other fruits thrive. Singaraja, the one time administrative capital of Bali and the Lesser Sunda islands, is our landmark indicating that we are nearing Lovina and our family. Twenty minutes later we arrive at Summer Guesthouse, the charming place we stayed at last year, two minutes walk from Wayan’s warung. Ketut, the female owner, lights up when I walk in, Bu, she cries out, short for Ibu or mum, a term of familiarity and affection. So touching. And the identical tiger-striped dogs Domi, the male and Susi the female who had four 6-week old pups last time, are here, beautiful as ever and I think recognise us. The young garden has obviously grown, the building and dark blue pool, as charming as ever.

Walking across to Wayan after unpacking our minimal belongings, it feels as if we have not been apart at all, so familial and loving. Little Elina, her now almost 3 yr old grand daughter, is now a little person speaking a lot and still hanging out with the two darling little daughters of Ilu, Wayan’s best friend and part-time kitchen assistant- Winda now 6yrs and Mesya now 4yrs. They are surprisingly excited to see us and rush over, Winda making the little prayer gesture of greeting before hugging me. The three little girls are like sisters and suddenly I realize I have been remiss in only bringing a present (soft toy koala) for Elina. A new dynamic is upon me so no presents can be given yet- I discuss this with Ilu.Later Wayan lets me know that Ilu didn’t understand the entire conversation and we decide that it will be Wayan who comes shopping with me for the girls. Winda is now of an age that she would prefer something related to school (colouring book, pencils or similar) so it will be fun to do.

Dear reader, the background to our Balinese family is in the Travel Writing section of this website under Lovina, thus I am not repeating what I have already covered.

Ciri, the now 19 yr old father of Elina is here and we are delighted to find a noticeable improvement in his English which was very poor. He is less shy and within a day is managing quite well, certainly his comprehension is good.

We have a delicious very late lunch here and all Jon’s raving about what a great cook our daughter is, is reconfirmed. Better than anywhere!

Four older white women, clad in daggy sun hats and skirts, gather on the footpath reading Wayan’s menu. As they linger, I take the opportunity to see if I can hustle some business for her- I can recommend the food here, she is a wonderful cook, I offer. They are interested in doing her Cooking Class. As I don’t know the cost, I usher the four Australians in and hand over to Wayan. A day later, having bargained the price down a little, they confirm and enjoy the 3-hr class.Wayan need s all the business she can get.

Jon, Dave and I take a sunset walk to the beach, sit with a drink and gaze on the still sea with its little insect- like outriggers and hear a bunch of Balinese boys playing guitars and singing Balinese songs with bikini clad western girls.

Not hungry, Jon’s decides to skip dinner and return home but Dave agrees to checkout an interesting authentic-looking restaurant that advertised Balinese dancing tonight at 8pm. Good choice- a wonderful venue – restaurant/accommodation/museum, it is committed to the traditional. We sit at a little table near the street entry. The decor is of traditional items and funky/chic – a series of glass jars hang at different levels and serve as lights.

Out in our open area sits another long table with Balinese men and two women, one of whom is a westerner married to one of the men with their two very young beautiful daughters. Behind the long table is a wall comprised of brightly painted, traditionally carved wooden panels. section off this eating area is A series of low stone pots and large timber logs containing plants, separates this eating area from the street entry. It is just charming.

I wander through to see what is beyond the space where we sit and find myself in an amazing old timber-framed space which serves as both Reception for the accomodation and a small museum full of traditional artefacts.

Our waiter Rudi, dressed in traditional clothing, arrives with iced water in wine glasses, a bowl of delicious roasted peanuts and a platter with four little bruschetta, oddly and genuinely Italian. We order drinks and after another half hour, a dancer appears in the small space in front of us with a version of cendrawasih, bird of paradise dance usually performed by two dancers. The exotic hand and eye movements,the groundedness, the bare feet, the head movements, the hips, captivating as always. The dance is accompanied by recorded traditional music and live kendhang , (an elongated double-ended drum) played by the father of the little girls who prance around freely, almost touching the dancer. They sometimes attempt to imitate her movements and it becomes difficult to know where to focus, both so entertaining! The kendhang player re-emerges at the start of the second short dance in the role of a spooky old man leaning on a stick, in mask with wig of bedraggled hair. His little daughters are simultaneously thrilled and terrified, pak pak ( dad dad) they squeal as he repeatedly moves closer toward them before retreating again – it’s so funny. The dancer then appears, interacts with him, girls still squeaking, before he returns to playing the kendhang. The dancer invites patrons to join in the dance, starting, oh my god, with me! I set a bad precedent by shyly refusing as do two others before one of the waiters, familiar with the dance and dressed appropriately, joins her briefly.

En route home we pass Wayan’s warung and seeing her, of course walk in. Kembar, Ciri’s twin brother is hanging out to see us so Wayan calls him and in a few minutes he arrives. He is a darling boy, has put on a little weight since we last saw him which, for the first time allows me to distinguish one from the other, so identical are they! What a relief (though as it later transpires, initially this only works if I see them together!). Now his English, which was always better than Ciri’s, is way better than last visit and we can have slow proper conversation with occasional help of Google translate. We had already told Wayan that we will pay for the one year, post- school hospitality training the boys want to undertake but we need to be clear about their motivation. Nonetheless, she has been enquiring about a bank loan to pay for it and has indeed already paid the required deposit. It is this not taking our assistance for granted that we find touching and her integrity has always been unquestionable. However we are cognisant of her stress levels and now Kembar in particular is very tuned in to this and worried about her.Thus it is good to see the effort both boys have put into preparing for the next stage, taking steps forward with English and helping their mum. Kembar is full-time at school finishing in a few months and Ciri is doing 6 mths work with teensy weensy pay, working in hospitality which counts toward school with only exams still to go for both of them. In July they will start a 1 yr certificate which will enable them to get work on cruise ships. Ciri will focus on cooking, bar and waiting with the desire to become a cook; Kembar is more interested in room boy tasks that bring him more in contact with the clients.

Feb 13, Lovina: Two Village Walks, Indulgent Coffee and Cake and our ‘Daughter’s’ Food

Our day starts with what I call the ‘green’ village walk, from our place heading away from the road up the little track, past the vegetable cultivation fields where a few folk are already at work, some cutting grass for sapi (cow), gathering the huge bundle onto their heads from field to path and then on their motorbike, making their way along the narrow path to wherever they keep their few cows. Another ploughs a field with a hand pushed but motorised cultivator; some are constructing a new building – quite a few have appeared since we were here 16 months ago. One such building is a 2-story construction made from unpainted, bright orange shipping containers. All the new buildings I see here are based on the traditional, so this modernist edifice is a first for me. We lunch with Wayan and I have a sweet time with little granddaughter Elina and 6 year old Winda who are riding their bikes on the paved area in front of the Warung, well aware to keep away from the busy main road from which it is well recessed.

We have already seen two motorbike accidents there in three days! Unlike last visit, Elina is now comfortable around me, smiles and plays and interacts.

Late afternoon the three of us head down the main road to the only air-conditioned place we know, a great coffee shop and Jon and I share a first’s class, european-style vanilla slice. Our little table faces the street, at the intersection with Lovina’s only traffic lights so a fabulous place to people-watch and snap endless close-ups of the motorbike traffic banked- up at the lights- four on one, a tiny kid standing in front of dad who is driving, another in mum’s arms or a baby on dads knees as he drives, no helmets on the kids of course, unbelievable. I worry about ‘ours’ out in this dense traffic. Tomorrow Putu will ride her motorbike 2+ hours from the hospital in Bangli where she is on placement, her day off to see her family and us, her ‘oma’ and ‘opa’ as she calls us, grandmother and grandfather, the terms originating from the Dutch (and the same as in German)

After coffee the guys go home but I decide to head to my other favourite walk, the Fishing Village Walk. I wrote about it last time but now, on the narrow tree-lined path running along the seafront, I pass groups of locals relaxing on their small, sheltered platforms built in the trees over-hanging the beach.Selamat sore ( good afternoon) I smile at everyone I pass to the warmest response almost without exception everywhere. A young couple crouch washing a baby girl with gold rings in her ears under a hose in front of their house; pigs laze in a small paddock between two houses; chickens run hither and thither; people returning from work pass me, kids play on the beach below, the little insect- like outriggers of the fishermen and dolphin tours shimmer on the silvery late afternoon sea, simple life unfolds.

A late but delicious meal at Wayan’s – she makes absolutely THE best fried calamari- big chunks, fresh, tasty, not tough with a wonderful chilli/ tomato based sambal to accompany, and a bowl of her spinach dish (other dishes we have eaten are chicken rendang, fabulous ayam betutu- chicken cooked with lemon grass, unbelievable), she is just a fantastic cook, the beautiful Kembar sits with us for quite a time and we practise English conversation while I show him photos from Oz on my phone which he really enjoys.

Feb. 14, Lovina: Jalan Jalan Pagi Pagi (Early walk)

Writing while things are still fresh and reading poetry in bed keeps me up too late after an already late dinner, leaving me overstimulated and sleepless so my intention to rise and beat the heat with an early walk fails miserably.Jon and Dave feel it is already too hot and have breakfast but I set off at 8.30 to repeat the ‘green village walk’. Again I pass the tall man walking his dog who I passed yesterday and we chat a little. Clearly he is a ‘local’ and on asking, I learn that he lives in a beautiful villa he owns , one of many in the area facing the fields and has lived here for 5 years.

Instead of repeating my usual route, I turn off the narrow concrete path onto one of several parallel concrete roads leading back to the village main street, then head off toward the fields, ending up on a narrow compacted dirt path walled on either side by greenery. Don’t exactly know where I am but my sense of direction is always good and Im ant get lost. It’s cooler here and eventually I reach a narrow sealed road which I assume is the village road. By now I am feeling the heat and hoping it’s not too far back, so on passing a tiny stall, ask and am told it will take me 30 minutes more. My heart sinks a little until I remember this is Bali time, Bali pace and I can probably halve this estimate.

A few motorbikes pass in either direction and then lo and behold, a wider concrete road appears on my left and I follow it. Shortly thereafter I recognise the name of a little gang (lane/ path) and almost immediately am in familiarity territory and stagger into Summer Guesthouse dripping wet but happy having walked for an hour.The men, of course, would refuse to be shamed by my effort and as they are such old fellas, I don’t intend to shame them!

We are the only folks here but for a couple from Holland (she Dutch, he Dutch Indonesian) who apparently have been coming for years and spend two months here every year.They are serious walkers, yesterday getting a lift up the mountain and doing a 3-hour walk down in this heat! Wish I had that stamina. The man is a sweetie who I hope to have more conversation with. Yesterday evening they appeared bearing two small cuttings which Ketut and her son Awan immediately dug tiny holes for. They were all crouched around as in went the plants in front of Dave’s room, apparently a tri-colour red/white/yellow frangipani .Nice gesture.

The weather on this trip reminds me so much of home, a constant tease of rain bursting from dark skies before disappearing entirely with only two decent rain exceptions, both brief but cooling. But I am reconciled to not doing much, had prepared for it. I have apparently reached an age where I can appreciate a holiday as a break from physical work, no backache making dinner or washing dishes, hip good though I note I walk like a duck!

More Ceremonies, Present Buying and a Family Gathering

Yesterday Wayan began preparing the ubiquitous canang sari (offerrings). It is a smaller, family- based ceremony tomorrow and she asks me if I would like to help her so today after lunch there, I am in the kitchen with her, little Elina occupying herself and wandering in and out of the kitchen desiring more attention. Sumi, Wayan’s sister- in- law who speaks no English and is always in the kitchen, helps. Every time, I am amazed at how elaborate these Hindu rituals are, how much time and money is spent indulging the Gods, three of which are being honoured here, and warding off the bad spirits. Cold rice has been moulded into balls, eggs have been hard boiled; from the market – dragon fruit, bananas, little package of sticky rice rolled in dried banana leaves, little pink sweet cylinders of something, lacy- looking pale orange biscuits etc. All this, in addition to the canang sari we see placed daily in the family temples and in front of shops and houses, elaborate, handmade of carefully cut banana leaf and flower petals. As she constructs the little things, she adds a touch of to tobacco to some ( for the ancestors), a green substance to others.The rice balls are rubbed with turmeric to add an invisible bit of yellow; each different colour petal represents something different, the yellow marigolds, the sun. So much time, work and money is spent as these ceremonies occur many times a year. These canang sari are added to the small and large woven platters full of all described above and then they are piled onto trays and the larger ones into woven lidded baskets. By now the kitchen table is covered with the finished items waiting to be distributed to the three small temples in the Warung and the five in her home.

As mentioned earlier, in an oversight I didn’t think to buy gifts for Ilu’s little girls who are like sisters to Elina and are always there because they live next to the Warung -a family of four in one large room, part of the unused hotel that the owner of the building has developed. Ilu cleans the (unused) rooms in exchange for rent and works with Wayan the rest of the time. Wayan takes me to a couple of little stores nearby and we buy some pretty yellow thongs with flowers on them for little Mesya, a pink pair for Elina and several writing and drawing books and crayons for Winda for school. Throw in a lipstick for Wayan and all this cost $13! Into a big bag with the soft koala I bought from Oz for little Elina and all is sorted. I am by now so overheated that I want to go to the air conditioned coffee place nearby where we each have a healthy veg and fruit drink and sit and talk before returning to cool off in the pool while darling daughter goes back to cook for tonight.

Putu has a day off from her post- graduate nursing training and will be home tonight, thus the planned feast for us and Putu.

The boys are wearing the aboriginal designed singlets I ordered online for them in Oz. They look unbelievably handsome and are quite thrilled. Elina squeals with delight at the koala, cuddling it to her and then they unwrap,today’s purchases. They are so excited and happy.

The Feast

Several tables are pushed together and then the many dishes Wayan prepared with Sumi’s help in just an hour are brought out, each distinct in flavour and all incredibly delicious- sweet crispy tempe with peanuts, vegetable rendang, omelette, a cellophane noodle dish, another vegetable dish, something with pork. At the table are Wayan , Putu and the boys, Ciri’s Elina, Putu’s boyfriend Aria, Ilu and the two little girls, sister-in-law Sumi and the three of us, so thirteen in all.Photos are taken, much conversation, the boy’s English confidence growing before our eyes and ears. Wayan and Putu surprise the three of us with gifts- a shirt each, size perfect for Papa Jon and Uncle Dave and a loose fitting comfortable cotton dress for me.This is accompanied by the most loving note expressing , as she so often does in our frequent messages, her love and appreciation of the support of her and for the children’s education. She is astonishing in her judgement and skill. Putu has three little cellophane wrapped white roses for Valentine’s Day for each of us.It’s all so touching.

Feb. 15, Lovina: A Different ‘Green’Walk

Again I sleep in so only set out at 8 a.m by which time it’s hot but what an exciting walk:

Minutes from home, pagi-ing to the house builders sweating in the morning sun pushing wheelbarrows of stones for a new building, one of their little kids is crouched on the ground. On closer inspection, I see the little fella is playing with a praying mantis, gently encouraging it to move from finger to finger. Too engrossed or too shy, he quite ignores my greeting. Opposite, two farmers I had seen yesterday, greet me.They are cutting an entire paddock of foot- high grass with a scythe, squatting. Feed for sapi (cow).

At the corner, I take the first little turn off to the village road in order to check if a Warung we loved last year is still operating. En route I hear a thudding sound and look into the coconut grove surrounding me to see a man way way up at the top of the very tall tree, feet clinging to the trunk. He is holding on with only one arm; in the other, a scythe with which he chops down dry fronds and coconuts, perhaps thirty or more in the short time I watch him.

I cross the road and head up another dirt track where I see the four Australian ladies of the Cooking Class, sisters, two of whom are on their first trip to Bali. Their guide has brought them to a wonderful small brick Buddhist stupa which I haven’t seen before. It was discovered only 5 yrs ago, foundations and a bit of the stupa buried under the earth. Once confirmed that it was 500 yrs old, the government reconstructed the missing bulk of it but it has been done so sensitively that it isn’t obvious.

Nearby stands the Hindu temple. With permission, I follow this little group as they traipse through a grassy paddock as this is unknown territory and maybe will offer me a new ‘green’ walk. After a couple of minutes the dirt track opens onto a paved concrete gang which I follow and am astonished at how extensive these small paths are, meandering through the village on this unfamiliar side of the village road. Hello, a voice calls, and a man invites me into his compound for coffee. A moment of hesitation and I enter the compound where he sits on a raised platform with some traditional masks and invites me to sit. His name is Gede and he is involved with promoting cultural continuity with a groups of children who perform traditional dance weekly in front of the Dolphin statue on the beachfront. In his paid job he works with local disabled kids.He is a good guy and we spend an enjoyable twenty minutes talking before I excuse myself, well overheated by now and needing breakfast and the pool!

The heat has been relentless, rain refusing to come, a constant tease, sufficient for the staff to daily fold down the two sun umbrellas by the pool and cover the timber pool furniture. For two days we have watched the rain pouring down on the nearby mountains!

Putu must return to the hospital today so we spend time with her at the warung where I ask her more about her work at the mental hospital. I learn that there is only one in Bali, with 700 patients who sleep in wards of 15-25 people. Of course this sounds like something from the dark days at home but she describes what sounds like reasonable treatment facilities with many psychiatrists, psychologists etc, a day clinic for supervising medications for those already discharged and therapeutic activities for including gardening, making canang sari (offerrings) a traditional and meditative process, cleaning motorbikes, badminton- so a nice range of activities which sound better than OT in our institutions!

The last of the presents have been given, and a few hours spent in the afternoon with a wonderful but too big lunch, we take an evening walk to the Dolphin statue but apparently missed the kids dancing. We sit and ponder the silent sea before I take the men on the Fishing Village Walk.En route we pass the little clothing shops that line the promenade and I hear my name called. It is mother-in- law Tomy who has a stall here, then shrieks of delight as ‘baby’ Elina and Winda run out to greet me. It is SO village. Variations of this occur daily, bumping into people one now knows.

A drink at a quiet little cafe right on the sand follows, the sea beyond tinged pink at the last of the sun and, instead of dinner, a final coffee and shared cake in the air-conditioned cafe.Two men who were there yesterday sit in the exactly same position as yesterday. One, well into his 60’s, is dressed in long white pants and loose long white shirt, white shoes. His blond hair is in ponytail and he looks exactly like the artist represented on the cover of a magazine in the magazine rack which I had already seen last year. I figure it is he, a resident Dutch artist. I can’t resist, head to their table and quip that perhaps they are statues who haven’t moved since yesterday! It transpires that the ‘other’ somewhat younger Dutch man is the owner of the business and sits there most of the time.

Final goodbyes from Dave to Wayan et al, more good conversation with Ciri who, with a little help,from GoogleTranslate, elaborates on his passion for cooking and how he sees ‘many good( western) dishes’ being made on iTube which he then tries out in the warung kitchen. I believe he has the potential to become a very good cook.

Some words from Jon

Bali Dogs, Destiny and Nurses Pay

Here every dog must have its day and to interfere in this is not a good karma thing. I remember a story from one of the other times we were staying here where there was a vicious nasty brute of a dog that delighted in biting people. A westerner took it to a vet and had it put down. His efforts were not appreciated as he had interfered with this dogs destiny. Cats are viewed differently.

There are stray dogs and dogs that belong somewhere as evidenced by some sort of ribbon or marking around the neck. A lot of them are related to various degrees, (but aren’t we all?), the two here at Summer Guesthouse which Bonney describes at tiger-striped, being typical.

Putu, our almost granddaughter, will get the magnificent sum of IDR 1,500,000 a month when she finishes her specialist nursing training. This equates to about AUD $37 per week in a public hospital, about $65 p.w. in a private hospital.

Bali remains beautiful…kind gentle folk….hard to believe 500,000 Chinese were killed not that long ago in Indonesia. I see where Indonesians have to fill out 17 pages or perhaps it is only 14 and pay $140 to get into Oz whereas we get in here on a nod and a wink.. it’s a good thing it is nothing about race or religion. God forbid they come and take a job from our employable who are lining up to clean toilets and pick fruit and vegetables, make beds and serve in restaurants. Vigilance, except for sporting grants, is the order of the day.

Feb. 16: Up,Early, Pigeons, A Beautiful Journey Back to Ubud

Leaving the men sleeping, I am out by 6.45 for the Green Walk. It is cool and only a few farmers are out scything grass for the cows. I pass Dewi, who works at Summer Guesthouse, on her motorbike heading to her 7 a.m start- her day ends at 5 pm and not an idle moment in between. The place is perfectly maintained in every aspect. I am surprised by the sight of a young woman pushing her 3-month old baby in a stroller, the first I have seen in Bali. The baby is grinning at her ‘ big’ sister perched on the pusher holding a picture book for the baby to see.

I revisit the Buddhist temple, this time with camera. A few motorbikes wind along the road en route to work, a flock of pigeons wheel overhead several times, clearly belonging to locals, as I have observed at least two yards in the village containing pigeon cages.

After breakfast, a comfortable 2.5 hr drive in a brand new car belonging to Summer Guesthouse. We start climbing the mountains within a few minutes and are amazed at how long the climb persists.The 1500cc car is working hard, often in first gear. Every time we cross the island it is sheer pleasure. There are four roads that go between Lovina and Ubud and this is the narrowest, aimed at avoiding Sunday traffic. It’s hard to describe how narrow these roads are and how many times we dogleg left and right. Densely tropical, punctuated with small and larger Balinese houses and occasional villages, we rise and rise, the coast now far below. At one point we are above cloud and eventually the descent begins. We pass the famous twin lakes, by now on a route that is familiar, pass through Bedugul and eventually arrive at Taman Indrakila to find that Komang made a small error in our booking, expecting us tomorrow! No matter, there is a spare room which Jon and I will have for one night, smaller etc but fine and tomorrow we will be in our larger room as planned.

The staff at Elephant welcome us back, the lady in the nearby laundry smiles to see us and laundry delivered at 2pm is washed , dried and ironed ready for collection 2 hours and $1.5 later! How is this possible, how can she make a profit? the girl at the tiny shop where I purchased my Indonesian phone SIM smiles and waves.It’s nice returning to a place you have already familiarised yourself with and to be recognised by locals.

The day finished with an outstanding meal at the organic garden restaurant where we have had several meals on this and the previous trip, possibly is the best food we have eaten in Bali. Organic homegrown produce from their huge gardens and superb – it is also ridiculously inexpensive.

RETURN TRIP TO BALI 2ND POST

Feb 4. People, Lazy Days and Squirrels

Jon’s words-

Yesterday we met some more interesting people all at the Elephant Cafe attached to Taman Indrakila where we are staying. I love the way we both can make contact with strangers.  For me it is being open like all Aussies are, direct and friendly or maybe it is just Queensland!

One was a young man from Dalby who has been around a lot and is working on some new energy Aether-energy technology here.  The South Koreans are also interested in this process as are the Yanks but the apparently Aussies have zero interest. He definitely felt Oz lacks the will to embrace.

Later in the afternoon while drinking our latte, a true mark of a labour supporter and greenies everywhere, we met three young folks, one from Russia married to a Ukrainian woman travelling with a mate from Belarus.  The lad from the Ukraine had excellent English having working in Sweden, Estonia, Portugal and other places where English is the medium.  The future and the planet is indeed theirs, neither looking particularly good.  Wonderful to meet people from countries like this!

Back to Bonney- I couldn’t take my eyes off the young Russian man, so beautiful was he, with dark hair in a man- bun, olive complexion a beautiful profile and startlingly alive large hazel eyes. I absolutely thought he was Southern European. He and his wife  are staying in Canggu, (the so- called digital nomad capital of Bali) in the large house of a friend where they come each year for a couple of months to re- charge or did he say re-load?

Such an intelligent and lovely person, a vegan whose politic and social conscience matched ours. Interestingly, he is so disillusioned by world politics that he wants to absent himself totally.

This conversation followed on the heels of another with one of the guys, Wayan, working behind the bar here, again smart, treading lightly on the planet in his beliefs, with impressive English given he is self- taught, like our ‘daughter Wayan’, probably having had little education.

A lazy day today, we’ve really done nothing but eat, sleep (Jonny of course), swim (Bonney of course) and write. Early in the morning we have a clear view of Kintamani, one of Bali’s big volcanic mountains which blew some years ago coming very close to ‘our’Wayan’s parents land. Soon it disappears even in the absence of obvious cloud. It’s really too hot for me to do much so we take breakfast and light lunch here at Elephant. It is a wonderful place to sit with expansive views over the old rambling gardens, gully & ridge and we know and have fun with the wait-staff of whom we have favourites remembered from last visit. I envisaged that this time away would be a time for writing for me, both journal and poetry so am perfectly content to proceed with both.

Looking from the Elephant down to the old pool below and vice versa to the Elephant above,this is what most captivates me:

Greenery shudders in the still air,
my eyes and brain seek explanation
until I spot a furry thing streaking
down a banana leaf, tiny against 
the velvet expanse, tail delivering 
its semaphore message.

It leaps, confident in its momentum,
from rippled edge to frangipani, 
scurries across limbs gnarled as an 
old man, a diminutive speed-freak in 
its private playground.

I concentrate to keep apace.
Before my eyes, a virtuosic display of
aerial sportsmanship, a flying machine
airborne time and again as it scales 
the treetop heights then dashes down 
a sturdy yellow bamboo and out of sight.

Overhead, all shimmers 
slowly 
to stillness.

On our morning walk yesterday I saw a poster advertising jazz at a venue in our immediate area. Turns out it is part of Bridges restaurant of ‘casual fine dining set on seven levels overlooking the gently flowing Wos River, one of Ubud’s culinary destinations ideal for memorable dining’. We decided to indulge, knowing we would not spend the money for the equivalent at home. What a lovely evening. A fifteen-minute, still hot  walk down the steep main road, motorbikes whizzing by, to the Campuan Gorge bridge. We enter thru various staircases into several levels of white painted plantation-style-meets-Bali architecture overlooking exotic trees and plants far below and looking up to the bridge that crosses the gorge, really unusual. Impeccable and gracious service, gorgeous food after which we were escorted still further down into the jazz venue with the same densely tropical overlook with comfortable couches and chairs, a bar and first class modern Balinese jazz quartet led by a woman. In the small audience, was a blond Ozzie woman who could not stop talking for a minute and too loudly at that. Jon felt irritated enough to move and after another few minutes I followed suit. He leant over to a couple sitting next to him saying ‘don’t you hate dumb blondes’ which amuses them both. As soon as the silly couple left we charged back to the comfortable couch! In all quite a treat!

Feb. 5, To Market To Market,No Fat Pig But Other Observations

It’s hot,32C with only 67% humidity but, as they say, feels like 38!

The old boy spends most of his time, between feeds, lying reading on the bed in our air conditioned room but with the expansive view through plate glass, the outside is brought inside so he can pretend he is indeed there! The view is what we most love about this place. It’s an older establishment and ,like us, not slick and glitzy and the environment, likewise. It has a slightly overgrown wild feel about it and is just glorious. The place is full of Russians and young yoga maidens in their slightly inappropriate gear and plenty of, mostly artistic, tatts! Amusing, and takes me back to living in Rome aged twenty-two, wearing undoubtedly equally inappropriate clothes- mini-skirts/ dresses and wondering why the Italian men were hot for me!

Went into town after breakfast this morning to beat the heat, a seven-minute/$4 taxi ride, perused the large market,made a few small useful purchases, visited the one really good bookshop buying a Nobel prize winning  Ishiguro and the NYTimes. Depressed myself reading how the Far Right in Europe is now considered the New Normal, as opposed to twenty years ago when it first re-emerged amidst much protest. Not having TV is great, a break from the over- exposure to coronavirus and bushfire news, neither good.