Bali is a pleasant surprise. Lori and I both had imagined a commercialized American-Australian style bars, shops and experience with ping pong ball launching strippers and girly-boy bars. What we found was friendly, personable, authentic and life uncorrupted by the American culture here in Lovina. We found that this was the case for most of the country side of Bali. The Balinese are simple, lovely people who will do everything possible to make you happy.
They are such friendly people that it makes you feel bad about yourself and your typically demanding ways. Yes, they do try at every chance to manipulate the dollar conversion factor to their favor, but this has to be expected if so many enable them to gain 20 to 30% by simply showing the inverse of the actual conversion factor on a calculator. They are sharp business people...but not thieves as we experienced in Mexico where palming bills, bump-n-grab and bait-n-switch are order of the day with the tourist industry.
Lovina Beach is a sleepy little North shore location that eliminates all the touristy experience of the Southern Depensar where the International airport drops all the Aussies and European tourists who have come to see the Indonesian life style. What little do they know that the Balinese go about their lives away from the hustle for the dollar and euro in their simple life style in the rice patties or wood carving barns.
A small group of us arranged a van and driver to take us South to see the interior of the island for a couple days while we hired Abdul to watch our boats. Abdul is the gentleman that came out on his outrigger and offered Solar (fuel), water and provisions. He was the early worm. We bought 400 liters from him for $1 liter knowing full well we could get the same fuel for $0.65/liter if we did it ourselves. The problem with doing this yourself here in Bali is the need for 20 or so 20 liter containers and a beachable boat capable of carrying the containers out to Trim. In the end it is worth $100+ dollars to just pay Abdul to go get the fuel in his jugs, load them on his outrigger and bring them to us on anchor.
Katuk was our driver. He was a 27 year old Indonesian who looked more like 19 or 20. He was dark complected, trendy dresser with an extremely athletic build...Olympian build really. Katuk was super friendly and did everything he could to make sure we all enjoyed ourselves. He would stop, and run around the van to open the doors and fold back the seats for everyone. He was absolutely accommodating and just plain happy to have the opportunity to serve us. The funny part of the name "Katuk" is that an insurance commercial in Australia used a Indonesian named Katuk in their adds in which a Australian woman fell in love with here pool boy named Katuk who eventually comes to Australia to be with her at her high school reunion. So, whenever I said Katuk, I kinda laughed inside. Katuk would eventually introduce us to his family and their very very simple lifestyle amongst the rice patties and coconut palms of Bali...a very humbling experience to say the least.
Our inland journey started with a stop at a Buddist Temple in which we were introduced to the fact that we Americans, ie, Lori & I, need to better appreciate the culture that requires coverage of skin and body before entering the religious realms and temples. I honestly thought it was odd that I would need to wear a sarong in order to enter the temple...did Buddha really have a problem with my shorts?
The temple was visually breathtaking and exemplified the use of perfect symmetry of structure and landscape. Even the trees and flowers were arrange in perfect symmetry...makes one wonder if maybe Buddha had a case of obsessive compulsive disorder. This type of architecture would be seen throughout our journey into the interior of Bali. Temples were everywhere and the first one we visited actually paled in comparison to those we would later see in Ubud.
Following the Buddha temple we ventured through a local market which was a feast for the senses. Everywhere you looked were colors and textures very pleasing to the eye and camera. Women were cleaning fish, separating fruit, flowers, seeds, and just about anything that could be sold. Whole chickens were cleaned and parted on table tops alongside vegetables and fish. There were all kinds and colors of flowers, flower petals and incense arranged into small package offerings to be placed in locations outside building, one scooters, on cars and just about anything that needed to be safe and blessed from evil spirits. The Indonesians believe that offerings to the spirits is a daily requirement and Katuk told us that many people perform blessings as many as 3 times a day for various activities. As a result, everything smells like burning incense.
Up the hill a bit from the market was the natural hot springs where there is a temple dedicated to the warm waters that flow from the mountain side. The hot spring baths are popular with dozens of Europeans taking baths and showers in the waters that flow through steaming trenches into sculpted rock pools that provide showers of various heights and temperatures. Above the baths is a wonder restaurant with balconies designed to allow those that don't want to bathe enjoy the voyeurism of the place. Unfortunately they weren't serving so early when I went to get a beer.
The costliest coffee on earth has a humble proletarian beginning. As folklore has it, civet coffee, or kopi luwak in Indonesian, was discovered by plantation workers in colonized Indonesia. Forbidden from consuming coffee beans picked from the plants, they picked up, cleaned and then roasted the beans excreted by wild Asian palm civets that entered the plantations to eat the ripest coffee cherries. The civets' digestive systems gave kopi luwak a uniquely rich aroma and smooth, rounded flavor -- so much so that the Dutch plantation owners soon became die-hard fans.
In the past 10 years, kopi luwak has won the hearts -- and wallets -- of global consumers. A cup sells for $30 to $100 in New York City and London, while 1 kg of roasted beans can fetch as much as $130 in Indonesia and five times more overseas. The ultimate in caffeine bling is civet coffee packed in a Britannia-silver and 24-carat gold-plated bag, sold at the British department store Harrods for over $10,000. The justification for these exorbitant prices? A claim that kopi luwak is sourced from wild animals and that only 500 kg of it is collected annually. The claim is largely nonsense.
About a half hour further up the mountain road we found a magnificent waterfall which took us past a small garden where they were drying coffee beans and cloves. They even had some Kopi Luwak scat drying in the sun.. Coming up the steep trail from the waterfall was a group of older Europeans that seemed to be speaking Hungarian. One of the older and larger women in the group was having a seriously difficult time making the steep steps back up the trail and so everyone coming down lent her a hand or two along the way as she said bless you and thank you in her thick accent.
This is the poor guy that has to eat all that coffee. I think he just wants a cheese burger and fries.
We visited several other temples of various denomination and varied dedication to the application of OCD architecture accompanied by flowers and entry fees. The one element that all the temples seemed to have in common was the absolute intricate detail of texture and colors covering the front doors to the temple. One such doorway was amazing with gold leaf and brilliantly painted figures of dragons and people. I simply can't imagine the amount of labor that must be needed to maintain such things...and they are everywhere.
Lori tells me that these are perfume bottles. I think they might be used for something else.
As we continued along the narrow road towards the town of Ubud, we stopped at a coffee plantation where they were famous for Kopi Luwak...or Luwak coffee bean scat which is dried, cleaned, ground, packaged and sold at prices near to that of gold. Because it was one of those things that was made famous by the movie Bucket List, we were forced to pay the 50,000 Pd for a small cup just to see what all the fuss was about. Well, the fuss is just that. Kopi Luwak tastes like Folgers instant coffee. So whatever the little ferret like civet animal does to the coffee bean, it makes it taste like freeze dried with all the flavor stripped away. None of us were sure what the big to-do was all about. When we left, we bought some regular coffee...and later we bought some Starbucks Sumatran coffee in Ubud. Nobody was compelled to buy the ridiculously expensive civet shit coffee...not even as a gift. The coffee tasting experience however was very unique with small groups of people privately conducting tasting in the jungle amongst the coffee plants and coco trees.
A Michelangelo moment.
After the coffee plantation, we ventured towards Ubud where the road sides start to become wall to wall wood and craft shops with every form of wood carving, metal fabrication and glass blowing that one can imagine. The sheer volume of wood carving in Bali is just mind boggling. We saw intricate Balinese doors, massive hardwood planks made into office tables, animal statues, masks, and even life sized Komodo Dragons which was my favorite. On the way to Ubud, we visited a jewelry factory, aka sweat shop, and a wood carving factory...both great experiences.
We stumbled upon this cock fight as we were driving back to Lovina. There was a huge crowd and Katuk said that they were having local afternoon cockfights. Each of the fighters wore these nice sharp blades and they used them well. Most of the fight was over in seconds.
As the sun began to set, we finally reached Ubud. The place is hustling and bustling with people from all over the world, the sounds of millions of scooters and the smells of incense everywhere. There are narrow little roads with monkeys running around taking things from the unexpecting tourist. The shops that line the narrow roads are full of amazing artwork, clothing, leather and glassworks. There are bars and restaurants of all types each with it's own alluring atmosphere darkly lit with plush furniture. Ubud is essentially the Rodeo Drive of Bali.
We finally found a hotel that wasn't full and got a huge double room with balcony out to the pool for $55/night which included breakfast. After cooling off in the pool, we all made our way to a temple in the middle of town where the Balinese dance show was held. This show was so amazing that Lori and I want to go again. Unfortunately, we didn't take our Nikon camera and our GoPro battery died right at the start of the show. The pictures would have been amazing because the costumes and make-up where out of this world. The dance was mesmerizing and continued non-stop for 90 minutes with the music of the Balinese drums and xylophones never taking a break. I can't tell you how painful it was to sit there without a working camera!
After the show we went shopping at night along the crowded streets. There were bands of all types playing in the bars. Music was coming from everywhere. Captain Lee would have been beside himself with all the live performances. Ubud really comes alive at night. When we finally arrived back at our hotel room we found ourselves exhausted and it was all we could do to stay awake for a few minutes of CNN and the news about US bombing Syria.
Early the next morning we all met for a small breakfast in the garden and decided to walk through the Sacred Monkey Forest and then meet up again at the Art Musem. On our long drive back to Lovina Beach, we stopped to watch a Cock Fight, visit a Volcano and then stop by Katuk's home to meet his parents and eat some fresh coconut that Katuk climbed the tree and cut the coconuts down and opened them for us.
The power of the gods!
09/26/2014, Bali, Indonesia
Sailing into a 3rd world country is an unusual experience that is difficult to put into words. There are so many small things that are different, lacking, absent or reversed that it makes it hard to summarize the sensations. Probably the best way to describe some things is to give examples. One that stands our in my mind was the day a put-put dugout pulled along side with 6 Indonesians sitting aboard and the front guy says "hello hello...where you from?" We answer, "Los Angeles...USA...America...California" The use of California seems to be more widely recognized than USA or even America.
The next question is always, "How long did you take to get Bali?'
We typically answer, "5 years."
This blows their mind every time. The concept of doing something for 5 solid years is difficult for them to contemplate...especially when combine with the distances that they can hardly grasp.
Anyhow, after asking if we want pearls, dragon carvings or solar fuel and being told we had all we needed, they would often start in on the things they needed. Often this was paper pads, pens and books for their children for school. When we said we were all out, they then asked for water. Water is something we do have.
I told them to give me their jugs and I'd fill them up. They said they only need enough to cross over to Flores. You could tell they didn't want to put us out by asking for too much. I then explained that we make water from the Sea Water. The response to this was complete disbelief and laughter. The guy on the front of the dugout explained to the rest of his crew what I had just told him and they all broke into laughter. You could see utter disbelief with the idea that we could convert sea water to drinkable water and that we had the ability contained within our small vessel...for sure this was something only huge ships could do. At this point, Lori filled a glass of water and handed it to the young man at the bow of the boat to taste. He reached out for the glass and drank with the look of complete surprise..."Good...Good...Yes." He then proceeded to hand the glass to his crew mates who all had looks of disbelief. I then continued to fill his 5 liter jug to the brim and handed it to him. At this point they were in complete awe and thankful for such a gift.
Lori and I sat looking at each other after they left and smiled about the fact we held the power of the gods to convert sea water to fresh water.
Beers of the World Update
09/24/2014, Ubud Rice Terraces, Bali
It has been a long time coming, but we finally got a beers of the world update with the addition of Bintang @ Ubud Rice Terraces, Bali. We believe it is a very special addition to our collection and one that we enjoy drinking while sitting at anchor in Lovina Beach.
Sail Indonesia should be renamed to Motor Indonesia. There isn't much wind in Indonesia. Don't get me wrong, the wind does blow, but only for 2 or 3 hours and never from the same direction. This is in total contrast to Australia where it blows for 5 solid days and always from the same direction. The dichotomy takes some getting accustom to.
We love Indonesia. The people are super friendly, the food and beer are cheap and the seas are mostly calm.
There are a few downsides though...
First, nobody knows what the rules of the road are for navigation on the waterways. Plus, they don't use navigation lights, so navigation at night is nerve racking. The other night at about 2am, we were surrounded by small fishing vessels. I counted 8 total and only 4 or 5 had lights. It was a new moon and pitch black out so the radar was the only means I had to know where most of these vessels were located. The problem wasn't that they were out on the water without lights at 2 am, the problem was that they were all following us! Not only were they following us, but they were all slowly getting closer and closer till many were within our ¼ mile safety zone on the radar. The only reason we could figure that they were following us is that none of them had navigation equipment and so they just followed whatever vessel was going their direction. So, as they all continued to get closer and closer till we were essentially boxed in by small fishing boats at 2:30 am, I did a "Crazy Ivan" and swung two full circles. After that, they all scattered in different directions and we could relax again.
One of the many massive volcanos along the ring of fire here in Indonesia. This one rises over 8000 ft from the water and still smokes from multiple locations...even at the beach.
Second downside is that there are currents that always seem to be heading in the opposite direction of your heading. At this time of the year, most all the currents seem to be moving South from the Bali Sea into the Indian Ocean. As such, the areas between major islands are like rivers between tides and the only time in which you can transit is for an hour around slack tide. During transition, the currents reach 6 - 8 knots and produce massive whirl pool eddies, waves and rips that can swing the boat 180 degrees in seconds. In one case between Komodo and Flores, we slowed from 7 knots to 0.8 knots in only 30 feet and then the boat basically started moving backwards as the current overcame our engine power.
Lovina Beach at sunrise.
Third downside is that the local fishermen use flotsam platforms to attract fish. These platforms are often quite large...about half the size of our boat. These platforms don't have any lights and they can do huge damage to your boat if you were to hit one. Luckily these platforms show-up on radar since they place what looks like a straw man made of wood and palm branches. One of the platforms that we almost hit near Bali had what looked like a "Trojan Horse" that showed up on radar at last minute.
The fuel train loading "Solar" ie, Diesel Fuel onto Trim.
Also, the charts are off in some places by as much as 200 yards. We found ourselves sailing through a couple pieces of land which we haven't done since Mexico.