Bali & Lombok
18th September 2008
Ten miles to the destination, Gili Aer, motoring along nicely, suddenly from nowhere again we were hit with strong headwinds . The two hours trip to the anchorage turned out to last four hours, ploughing through with engine and using a lot of fuel. No need to say that we were completely fed up. Eventually we limped in and picked up a mooring buoy, the anchorage was very calm despite the strong winds. It was time to catch up with Pete and Fliss, also anchored at the bay. We haven't seen them in a very long time. The night ended in a huge drinking party and by the end of the evening we were singing along with the call for prayers from the mosques. Luckily we were not arrested.
19th September 2008
Lombok is partly Hindu and Muslim, with a lot of Balinese architecture, legacy of the time when Bali controlled Lombok. The drive around the island included a trip to the monkey forest, where miniature baboons can be fed with peanuts. But attention is needed as these cheeky monkeys snatch the whole bag and run off with your peanuts. The island is dotted with rice paddy fields and terraces and interesting little villages. Sengiggi is the local tourist beach, but still very pretty with Balinese hotels. The five hours trip also included a well awaited stop in a western style supermarket and for the first time in Indonesia we were brave enough to buy meat.The last stop was at the Bintang distribution centre, the very drinkable local beer. The half day trip was only ten pounds.
The way to go around the island is by mopeds, favoured by the locals as it is cheap in fuel. We hopped on one and rented it for eight hrs. First stop was Sengiggi Beach and maybe because itís the quiet season or result of the Bali bombings, the resort looked like it had it's heydays. Many of the resorts and restaurants were shut for good or up for sale. Unfortunately there are many street vendors selling fake Rolex and the likes, which is not a problem, but they wonít leave you alone , following us around the town, very difficult to keep cool. Just after Sengiggi is the Botu Bolong Hindu temple, stunningly built on cliffs. Long time ago, young virgins were sacrificed here for the gods. We paid a donation to enter the temple and we were given a yellow sash to be tied around the waist as a symbol of respect. Who knows what happens with the donation, the temple is filthy, with plastic bags and rubbish even around altars! The final stop was at the market in search of cheap sarongs, fisherman pants and t-shirts. Eating out is cheaper than eating on board, sound by us, the food is fantastic. The only detail is that food must be eaten with right hands, not as easy for the lefthanders like me.
Again we tried to clear in the country. Although there is an immigration & customs office here, other yachts experienced some problems. Customs asked a bond of 25% value of the boat, money that would go missing in Indonesia... However after much negotiation, Customs dropped the charges. So we were quite hesitant to see Officials here but in other hand, didnít fancy the trip to South Bali (Benoa marina) due to strong headwinds. Dealing with the Officials in the end was smooth; apart from the Harbourmaster, who kindly asked for a gift. Between two boats we handed a note of 50.000 Rupiah, equivalent to four pounds, but that wasn't enough... I couldn't hold my irritation with the shameless faced official. It wasn't the money, but the principal, besides that, money goes a long way here... Another 50.000 Rupiah later he allowed us to go, shook our hands, a gesture which I did with great displeasure. Finally after one month in the country we are legal!!! But this is Indonesia...
Lovina Beach is a quiet decadent resort in Northern Bali, our only available option since sailing to South Bali was impossible due to strong SW winds. And Lovina looked a great base to leave the boat and explore inland. After seventy miles, we arrived just as sun was setting. Ben radioed us to tell that a free Legong dance presentation was on, but we were too tired to make it.
Although touristy, the resort has a nice feeling, not so busy or overcrowded and with plenty of Balinese houses. The town is spread out but divided, one side is Hindu and the is Muslim. The Muslims want to outgrow the Hindus, the way they are going about it is by having lots of children.
For the first time in ages we felt like on a proper holiday. We are constantly keeping an eye on budget and doing things cheap, but here we can even afford some serious pampering. Graham paid three pounds for one hour full body massage. I opted for a pedicure for two pounds.
With Pete and Fliss, Carola, Ben and their kids, Lisa and Niles, we rented a people carrier to visit Ubud, a three hoursí drive inland through mountains and the city is the centre of Balinese arts and architecture. Here it is possible to partake many courses including cookery, massage and meditation. But for us just wondering around and visiting temples was enough. Our driver was Nyoman, who was very nice and friendly. Enroute to Ubud we stopped at a Buddhist Monastery and a coffee production house where we learned about the different stages of roasting grains. Driving along we saw lots of rice paddy fields. Also we witnessed the liveliest and happiest funeral ever. According to the Balinese Hindu traditions , death is not a final departure, so after the burial and a grieving period, the family celebrates the deceased's life and achievements.
Before lunch the group had close encounters with the local wildlife. Inside a hut on the roadside various species of animals were up for rent for pictures. And Pete was the bravest, at one point a mongoose was dangling of Pete's neck while he was holding a fruit bat . Then he swapped those for a huge snake and a chameleon.
Mid-afternoon we arrived in Ubud and found a home stay for the night. Dinner was at the home stay, the owners produced a buffet of seventeen Indonesian fabulous dishes costing two pounds per person.
The home stay alone is a part of the Balinese experience, where for two days we lived in a Balinese house with the extended family. The front door leads to a big patio, from where the kitchen and living open up. The altar and the praying area behind the big patio. The bedrooms are the only closed area for guests. The huge house belongs to a family of 30 people from various generations, each one with their own duties. The elderly are responsible for the cleaning and making the offerings for the Gods.
Another very interesting part of the culture is the offerings for the Gods, the small parcels made from banana leaves filed with flowers, grains of rice and biscuits. Three times a day the offerings are placed in a altar while saying a prayer and sprinkling it with holy water, a beautiful ritual to watch.
Ubud itself was a little disappointing, extremely busy with cars, tourists and motorbikes. The surroundings however are nice. We walked in rice paddy fields surrounded by beautiful scenery.
For the evening we settled for an Indonesian dance spectacle. It told the story of fight between good and bad spirits, with dragons and kids dancing.
Sadly we are leaving Bali feeling very disappointed. The island is interesting but by now we are tired of being ripped off and hassled. The Indonesians are too greedy, taking pride on stealing as much as they can. We have been on guard full time, checking every bill meticulously, negotiating every cent, hoping that water has not been mixed with diesel, checking and counting every item of laundry, dealing with the street sellers who are pushy and don't understand the word NO. It is not fun anymore, so we are leaving earlier to Malaysia.
Currently we are in Batam, the last stop in Indonesia before Malaysia. The last twelve days were spent cruising the Riau group, on the coast of Java together with Yacht Nadezdha. The islands are deserted and idyllic, the few locals we encountered were a joy, not spoilt by the tourism. Unfortunately with the autopilot broken, we hand steered the next eight hundred miles, rushing through this part of the world. Approaching Singapore the waterways became extremely busy. On one night passage we were surrounded by around thirty squid fishing boat. These boats carried big spotlights to attract the squids and at times we felt like being in the middle of a huge football stadium. Not to mention the cargo ships. Catching a fish here is impossible, these waters have been fished out to the bottom.