Tuesday, September 22, 2009

on the road 'round bali...

Isabel riding on the bemo, the public bus, to the Bukit Peninsula. The doors never shut. Coconut.

- 5 days at Balangan Beach, Bukit Peninsula, South Bali (surfing much too big a wave, nose dives and reef scrapes)
- 2 nights in Kuta, Bali (waiting for friends to arrive and surf the smaller stuff...way too many tourists here)
-----rented bikes-----
- 2 nights in Medewi, Bali (good beginners' wave)
- 1 night in NW national park (snorkeling)
- 1 night back in Anturan (on the road to the east for a complete loop of the island)
- 2 nights left in Bali.

Isabel and I just left Balangan where we stayed with a family for 5 nights in a thatched bungalow on stilts above the beach. This was interesting when one morning we woke up to an earthquake, we looked at each other in disbelief and 20 seconds later it was done and we feel back asleep. This earthquake did make international news however, my friend Topher in Australia heard about it.
It was one of the prettiest beaches I have ever seen. At low tide a huge reef was exposed with vibrant green moss coating the volcanic looking rock. It was a true surfer hangout, if they weren't surfing, then they were staring intently at the waves, almost nervous to think they could see their perfect wave go by. Isabel and I rented boards at a beach on the other side of a cliff that has bright green grass on it for a golf course. The whole area is being encroached upon as resorts fill up the once rustic style beaches. You can hear bull dozers working as you sit in the water trying to catch waves. Surfing is really hard and pretty scary for me. The first wave I caught I nose dived into a reef, the board so long it awkwardly flailed on the end of my leg, and me so worried about getting thrown under water that I managed to keep my head above the wave the whole time!

After basically camping for 5 days (the home lost power almost all the nights because the family hadn't paid the electricity bill) and asking a member of the family to drive us to an ATM because we had no money to pay for anything, we made it back to dreaded Kuta to meet some friends flying in from Jakarta (teaching English). Kuta is just full of Australian and Europeans ready to club. We stopped at ground zero for the night club bombing in Kuta in 2002, and saw how the names of all those who died, a vast majority being Australians. It was nice to see a memorial and not another night club like there was talk about.

We met up with Nick and Heather, rented 2 motorbikes and started driving westward to Medewi, a wave that supposedly is good for beginners, not too big or fast and a beach landing. Turns out that post-Ramadan's vacation Idul Fitri was just ending and thousands of vacationers were driving back on the same road as us to the ferry in Java. That was a lot of traffic. We travel slowly with two people and a pack per bike, so it was a slow-going day of travel.

We drove right by Medewi at first because it wasn't a town, it was just a tiny alley street ending on the rocky beach. It reminded me how purely these random breaks around Bali sprang up little villages into money-making surf beacons for people from all over the world. Families who have lived here and fished here for ages are now barraged with surfers who need meals and rooms and boards.

These are the volcanoes in Java.

From Medewi we went to the Bali Barat National Park in the northwest. We stayed here a night and indulged in a mangrove bungalow and a half day snorkeling adventure off the coast towards Java. It's amazing how cheap things like this are here - $36 for the snorkel and lunch on the narrow wooden boat, in a protected national park.

Nick and Heather have gone back to Kuta, and Isabel and I are driving on the north coastal road all the way to the east coast. It's so fun being on a motorbike. We stopped today for a Coke on the side of the road. The Muslim owner of the stand asked us the usual..."where are you from, where are you going, have you been to bali?" which is not intrusive, it's just a getting to know you routine. We said we were from the USA, and he immediately said back, "Good, Obama, (with a thumbs up). Muslim, ya?"
We said no, he wasn't Muslim. (Btw, I had a dream last night that I was Obama's babysitter because their old one was kidnapped. I hang out with the girls all day and then he asked me if he could put my number on the fridge for later. I said sure and realized then that every surface in the kitchen was covered with chaulk boards and dry erase boards...for parents on the go! Strange.)
Then we asked if we could go see the monkey temple that was up some concrete steps on the side of a cliff by the road. He said yes and as we crossed the street he said "ten thousand!" (rupiahs, which is a dollar). I yelled back, "we're just looking!" and he waved his hand. People are extremely nice here and not resentful or conniving, and sometimes they try to see how much they can get out of you. Since we are American we immediately seem rich.

Scene as we are stopped on the roadside taking a break.

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