Monday, 26 September 2011

The Rice Fields of Bali

The famous Jatiluwih rice fields form one of Bali's most picturesque areas - if not THE  most. They can be found about 20 kilometers north of Tabanan, in Bali’s western region.  Situated majestically in the hills 850 meters above sea level, the atmosphere is refreshingly cool. Jatiluwih means ”really beautiful”.  An appropriate name indeed with breathtaking views across terraced rice paddies, Mount Batakaru and many undulating hills and valleys.
We took an obscene number of shots between us in this location, to the extent that Liz ran out of space on her camera card and had to borrow a spare. I have posted several shots instead of resorting to a collage for this location - I have this vain fancy that some folks may care to see some of them up-large so to speak.
Stitched Panorama

Our first impression of Jatiluwih.  Picky I know, but who allowed a telegraph pole to be sited there? The roads could have been used.

A view that shows the young rice plants growing in the water. The irrigation system here is from a mountain source.



A lone worker in the paddy field. P1160271

We had the distinct feeling that we were walking on private land. Not another visitor was to be seen and we had been assured that it would be crowded. Granted we arrived quite early in order to get good light, but still it was a surprise.
P1160273_postcardA lady came towards us with a basket on her head in true local style.
We made an approach and were greeted with smiles and cheery words. Jeremy had a few phrases of Bahasa and coupled with some sign language, convinced her that he would like to try carrying her load himself. Just to see how heavy it was – and to test his skill at balancing I suspect.
P1160276Finally, a little shrine, beautifully maintained in the centre of the growing area.

We really had to tear ourselves away from this amazing location. Our driver knew a cafe nearby and we paused for a break and also to experience the views from the cafe.
Temple CollageWe have booked the transport for the day and had previously agreed the itinerary, so we pressed on to venue two, a temple complex commencing with Pura Lumur Petali which embraces several discrete temple locations.
At this point we were in the Regency of Tabanan which occupies a big chunk of the west of Bali.
Back in the 15th century it was a kingdom in its own right, but after the Dutch conquest, the Royal family were taken captive and the territory eventually was granted regency status.
Driving on we came to Pura Luhur Batukau which is a royal ancestral temple, with a seven-tiered pagoda, built on the foothills of Mount Batukau. Not as easily accessible as others, this temple remains off the beaten track its forest surroundings have an abundance of flora and fauna.
P1160331There were quite a lot of tourists here and at the gate we were each supplied with a 'srendan' (a wrap around) in accordance with local custom

b-Trip to World HeritageThe area had an air of verdant charm and despite the numbers of people present, it had a tranquillity of its own.
Our guide book goes on to say:    'The tourist is few because it is not maintained of the road. Therefore, an approach to a shrine that goes to ruin and a covered with moss wall quietly have mysterious atmosphere.  There is a shrine where the god of Danau Bratan, the god of Danau Tamblingan, and the god of Danau Buyan pieces are enshrined in the hillside in Gunung Batukau. It can climb a mountain from this place.  Because it is a high ground, it is very cold according to the climate. Taking the jacket recommend it.’
IMG_0692 2 collagePassing through some stunning scenery (well, pausing occasionally), our journey heads north towards Singaraja.

Ulu Tanau Bratan

But first an important temple stop at Puru Ulu Tanau Bratan. This a Hindu and Buddhist shared site. Founded in the 17th century it is dedicated to the Dewi Danu Goddess of the Waters and is actually built on small islands and is thus completely surrounded by the lake. Pilgrimages and ceremonies are held here to ensure a supply of water for farmers all over Bali.
IMG_0747One of my favourite shots shows the temple musicians taking a rest break. It reminds me of a very famous print of seven policemen enjoying illicit pints of beer, known as ‘Seven Pints of the Law’.

We have pretty well finished the journey as we arrive at our last scheduled temple stop; that of Maduwe Karang, the Temple of the Landowner.
b-Trip to World Heritage3Like the Pura Beji (featured above) it is also dedicated to agricultural spirits, but this one looks after un-irrigated land. The temple is also quite famous for its sculpted panels one of which shows a gentleman riding a bicycle with petals for wheels.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Singaraja and thereabouts

The nearest town to Lovina Beach is Singaraja. which has the honour of being the regency seat of Buleleng. The name incidentally means "Lion King" in Indonesian.  It has an area of 27.98 km² and population of 80,500. Singaraja was the Dutch colonial administrative centre for Bali and the Lesser Sunda Islands until 1953, and the port of arrival for most visitors until modern development in the south.

We needed a new diesel filter, so we took a taxi into town. Our driver proved to be a really jolly and interesting man who asked if we would like to see a couple of extra highlights. “Would we ever!”

Just a little way along the main road he turned down a lane and almost immediately we found ourselves in the middle of rice production. As always in Indonesia we were greeted with waves and smiles.Rice working

Our first sight was of field workers paddling in muddy water planting the young rice. We had been told earlier that two or even three crops of rice can be produced in one year, so planting, ploughing and harvesting take place side by side – although I’m not absolutely certain that mud of that consistency qualifies as ploughable.

P1160173At this point we were only yards from the coast and our driver took us just a little further on to an old and obviously well established fishing port. It doesn’t appear on our charts, but the vessels here were sizeable and wonderfully exotic. The colours brilliant in the sunshine and being packed so closely together, the effect was visual overload!

IMG_0427As I mentioned earlier, Singaraja is significant. We drove for several miles through the outskirts until we reached an enormous statue of the bulls in a sled race. A wonderfully impressive structure, doubly so as we had witnessed the races ourselves only a short time ago.

Stitched PanoramaOur driver was determined that we would see the highlights, so we were taken to the pride of the port. A refurbished walking area with various levels and a massively impressive Yudha Mandala Tema monument celebrating an Indonesian freedom fighter in their struggle against the Dutch colonialists in the 1940s. A bit like ‘Liverpool Resurgent’ on Lewis’ corner …but with clothes.

Just opposite was the Ling Guan Kiong Chinese Temple. Always worth a visit as they are so exotically painted and the architecture is just so incredibly different to our western eyes. I’m sure there is a symbolism, but we walked over a bridge to enter the temple area and were met by an official who had English sufficient to point out the main features. One of which was a brightly painted bell – with the casting mark ‘Kent’ on the outside.Singaraja temple
















P1160205Leaving the city and travelling further east our driver took us through more rural rice growing areas and we saw – albeit from a polite distance – a funeral procession with mourners carrying umbrellas. Sorry about the hazy picture – it was zoomed quite a lot.

P1160211Close by is the Pura Beji Temple.

Dedicated to Dewi Sri, the Hindu goddess of agriculture with particular emphasis on irrigated rice fields.





Stitched Panorama







We also visited the nearby Pura Dalem temple Always good for a photo opportunity, the temple is locally renowned for its carvings.


P1160241In the evening there was another concert on the beach. More dancing and of course …gamelan music – I think I have heard the tune before!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Bali–Arrival and Local Entertainment

Thirty miles across the Selat Lombok [the Lombok Strait] and we are lucky with the currents. We had identified a shallow bay with sandy shallows offshore at a place called Ambat. P1150935Not much information was available about  the spot as an anchorage, but it looked suitable. Apparently several other folks thought so too, because we were the seventh boat in the line-up nose on to the shore-line. As usual there was a small town nestling in the bay complete with mosque, and we even saw a couple of tourists!

The view looking towards the shore was very pleasant; mountainous and giving a dramatic backdrop to the tiny village. We were not planning to stop here as the ‘event’ was starting in Lovina Beach and if you want anywhere safe to anchor, it is better not to be the last one in!

P1150949Another easy, light airs sail from Ambat to Lovina Beach. There were an enormous number of the unmanned rafts [shown left] which apparently provide a form of shelter for young fish and therefore a food source for larger fish. Fishermen are ingenious. Approaching Lovina Beach there was an invisible avenue in the coral reef through which we had to pass to reach the anchorage area. The GPS co-ordinates should be reliable, but we have found that some charts that folks use have slightly different off-sets and ‘invisible avenues’ are a bit nerve wracking. We need not have worried, the fleet was in and clearly visible and soon we were at anchor.

P1430863The dinghy launched, we rowed …yes rowed …too the shore (we need the exercise) and were so impressed with the preparations that had been made for us as a Rally. For a start there were young men on the beach just standing by to haul dinghies up onto the dry sand. Then looking around, there were rows of marquees; a reception tent housing the Rally officials and a row of kiosks displaying local foods and handicrafts.

Marquees collageWe did come to appreciate that we had to run a gauntlet of keen salesmen (and ladies) each time we came ashore. We need not have worried about a lack of necklaces, bangles, paintings etc. or even the availability of tour operators or laundry services. They were all there throughout the daylight hours. Plus there was a choice of very reasonable restaurants that were pretty much ‘open air’. They are called Warungs and seem to be like a restaurant only more informal. The food however was delicious.

Band&stageAs it came to late afternoons, then numbers of people increased, the stage areas became crowded, and this happened virtually all week, local performers took to a temporary stage and we were treated to Balinese Dancing accompanied by various Gamelan orchestras.



Dancers-1 collageBefore one of the shows, Liz made contact with a few groups of dancers waiting for their calls to go on stage. They were delighted to be photographed and struck wonderfully complex poses as she snapped away. All with a smile and a laugh.



Dancers-2 collageIt would have been fun to know more detail about the significance of the dancers movements. Each dance was given a brief introduction, but they seemed to represent complex stories or parables.



Another day, another experience. We were invited to visit the Bull Races that were being held nearby. I confess that many of us, with our very western wariness of anything to do with cruelty to animals, were a little curious an reluctant. However, when the format of the event was explained (and the history checked out on the internet), we signed up for the trip. Well, it was a walk actually, and a good one at that. Probably only 2  or 3 miles, but the sun is strong and the roads are busy, dusty and without continuous pavements.

bulls collageReaching the stadium, complete with tiered stands and a band, we walked past the competitors. The bulls are chosen for their colour and their elegance, they are all light brown, immaculately groomed and their harnesses and sleds decorated using traditional colours and designs. As usual, there was a great deal of waiting around before the main event got going. Then, because the announcements were being made in Bahasa, it all started without warning. The bulls race in pairs pulling a sled and two sleds compete each time. Just one length of the field – turn about and race back. The bulls carry their tails high like flagpoles and even their noses are in the air like snooty ‘upper class’ bulls.

After the main events, which took an hour or two, foreign visitors were offered the chance to have a sled ride – well it would be churlish to refuse, wouldn’t it!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Medana Beach and the Gillis

vTanjung lifeLeaving the resort required a bit of walking, but it was interesting. We first passed through a very small local community then walked a quite major road which led to Tanjung a bustling township with adequate provisioning and plenty of interest. We paused for lunch on our first foray to the town at a family run rumah makan [trans: eating room]. It was one of those spontaneous successes that just happen. The meal was simple and the family serving and cooking it were so very friendly and welcoming, a really enjoyable event.

Village collageThe Rally organisers laid on a coach trip to see some sights of Lombok and it proved to be an enjoyable day. Our first call was to a traditional community near to Tanjung (our nearest significant town). Inhabitants were demonstrating weaving, basket making, rice preparing and just outside the village boundary, paddy fields stretched to the distant mountains, a lady wearing a picturesque hat beamed a wonderful smile.

vBasket & satayWe did much re-provisioning and re-fuelling of course (we always have to) – and it is so labour intensive. There are no pumps on site, so trucks have to deliver jerry cans in the required number, which can take an entire day.

However, and more interestingly, there was a cookery demonstration that I attended and learned how to make Indonesian satay

and also a basket making class that Liz attended and succeeded in making a very credible container.

There followed an afternoon and evening of traditional dance and music. A superb performance ending with a childrens’ choir coached by Aki, the manageress of the resort.


Jeremy and Kathy from Sal Darago were still in need of a replacement dinghy after suffering a burst seam whilst on Savu. Bali, it seemed was a place where a dinghy could be obtained. It all made sense, Bali is a popular tourist and sailing location it has a marina, a sailing club and perhaps more than one chandlery. Fired up by this opportunity, Jeremy and Kathy set off for south Bali.

vGilli MenoWe stayed and signed up for a trip to the Gili Islands off the Lombok shore. Three tiny islands, tourist spots all, that are pretty and have good snorkelling. Aboard a power launch the Gilis (islands) Air, Meno and Trewangan were only an hour away and were indeed lovely, if slightly wacky. We snorkelled on Air, then moved round to Meno in time for lunch and a break for exploration. The lunch venue was exotic, bordering on the hedonistic!

After lunch a walk. Liz teamed up with a couple of friends, but I thought that a circumperambulation would be fun. It was further than I thought – I should have taken some water!

Returning to Medana Beach it was time to prepare to leave. Next stop Bali.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Gilli Lawat to Medana Beach

P1150478Leaving Gilli Lawat meant a 40 mile journey, which doesn’t sound much to those used to car travel, but it is about as much as we enjoy tackling in one day. It took us to a sandy shelf about 5 miles short of the offshore island of Satanda.  It was shown on the charts as merely a shallower part of the coastline without any offshore rocks. It was not on the list of anchorages, so both Sal Darago and ourselves were a little leery about staying, but as is frequently the case, the ad hoc anchorages that feel ‘chancy’ work well in practise. In fact it turned out to be a very peaceful night. Calm weather and light seas.

P1150509-11(3)A glorious sunrise over the mountains was followed by an equally fabulous sail passing by the small volcanic island of Satonda and westwards to Pulau Medang, yet another small island with a deeply indented bay on its north coast. We were not alone that night. ‘The boys’ from Cheetah 2 were there, another rally boat manned by 3 young Kiwis, one of whom plays the guitar and we could hear the pleasant strains across the water as the sun went down.

Another 44 miles west saw us safely tucked inside a reef fringeing a small island offshore from Lombok, one of Indonesia’s major islands. Actually, that makes light of what was a rather freakish approach. We plotted a course over the western end of the island, but there are reefs there and the current was doing its best to push us onto them. However, we triumphed of course Smile with tongue out. The island was named Gili Lawang and it was a very secluded anchorage, calm and peaceful with no sign of significant habitation, save for a tiny fishing boat, a small fire and a man tending the fire.

P1150542The next ‘event’ was based at Medana Beach and that was our target this time. A gorgeous light wind sail took us right into the narrow channel through the reef and into the ‘sort of’ protected moorings area. There were about half the number of mooring balls than there were rally boats, so there was going to be a bit of competition. We were probably the last to arrive for whom mooring balls were available, but ours was unbelievably close to the shore. At first we thought it was simply not possible, but after trying it out and with the added benefit of being tied to a big concrete block on the shore as well (courtesy of the management) it was fine and our preference for our spot grew as we watched those who were in apparently more spacious locations being twizzled around by the changing winds and currents.

P1150544Ashore, life was going on as it had done for centuries,

…but with a difference, tripper boats taking tourists to the ‘Gillis’ (offshore islands), traders with trinkets waited at the jetty

…also the beach was home to an incipient resort, the new apartments were built and party furnished but as yet unoccupied.

There was however a bar and restaurant offering excellent bar prices and reasonable food. What more could anyone ask?

Monday, 5 September 2011

The Komodo Islands and Sumbaya

Our next main destination was Bali where the Sail Indonesia Rally 2011 had announced another ‘Event’ – and we were assured that this one was definite! We much prefer covering the distance in day-hops as it allows us to get some sleep during the hours of darkness and it gives us a chance to see out of the way places.

There are several small islands lying to the north of Komodo Island and a choice of anchorages. The fleet by this time was thinning out, many had already left and some were still in Labuan Bajo. We chose to set sail and made for Komodo Island. P1150227A beautiful inlet on the north coast called Gillilawa Bay. Sailing a mile or so down into the head of the bay revealed two mooring balls – one each for Sal Darago and Ellida! Absolutely blissful.

The next day was just right for a little snorkelling. Taking the dinghies to the mouth of the bay, there was an outer island and a pass between the two land masses. [You have to understand that Indonesia has tides and currents that are strong and are difficult to predict. There are rules and guidelines that are well documented involving the seasons and the state of the moon’s phase, but basically it’s a crap shoot, you find out when you get there]. 

We dropped into the water and discovered that the current was taking us out through the pass. Towing the dinghies on long lines we had a wonderful, no …better than that …fantastic, drift snorkel. Just let the current take you past all the under sea gardens and brightly coloured fish. What an experience. Arriving at deep water on the outside of the islands, we hopped (I hope that doesn’t make it sound like an elegant process) back into the dinghies and fought the current towards our anchorage.
If you find there is a current that can be of help – take it!  Taking the big boats through was a bit ‘heart in mouth’ but it all passed without incident and there followed a very short trip to Gilli Lawa Laut which was just a couple of very small islands north of our last anchorage.
P1150252-55(4)Here we found commercialism and tourism again. It is obviously a good diving spot because several tripper boats were already here and had occupied the mooring buoys, so we searched for a suitable anchoring spot. Space was limited and what we actually found left us rather close to each other at times. We had one of those nights, when you get up every hour to check that all is well and sometimes it is.  There was good snorkelling there, but from the traffic to and fro from the tripper boats to an offshore sunken rock we guessed that the prime site was accessible only to the gas bottle brigade.

A sail of less than 10 miles had us in Batu Monco (Batu Montjo) another deep indentation on the northwest point of Komodo. Another idyllic spot; a sailfin leapt out of the water as we sailed in and we picked up an anchoring spot – ahead of Sal Darago for once! Only one other occupant in the bay, a small catamaran called Decoy, who we had seen before and we made contact. It proved to be good snorkelling before lunch, then a walk ashore in the afternoon. No dragons.

Time to make the last of our island hops before heading to the much larger island of Sumbawa. This time it’s another offshore island named Pulau Banta (Pulau means island) and the recommended spot is a very deep indentation in the southern coast. The chart shows shallows on either side and as we have learned not to trust the charts completely, we keep a fair distance from both shores as we enter and watch the depth gauge very closely. Finding a suitable place did involve a fair bit of trial and error, but eventually we settled and were quite happy with the location. The real drama came the following day when we tried to leave.

Obeying all the rules and guidelines as well as checking a few goat’s entrails, we calculated that the tide would be taking us North as we crossed the pass in a northwesterly direction for the northeast tip of Sumbawa. Thus is was with confidence that we set off and rounded the south coast of Pulau Banta to meet a south flowing current of sufficient speed and set that we were facing north, but travelling south!  Aaaaaarrrgh!  Turn about! We returned to a tiny bay close to our original anchorage and regrouped.

We thought that a couple of hours delay would see a change in the tide and therefore we resolved to wait until midday before trying again. Before the two hours were up, we spotted three rally boats sailing on our proposed route. Lupari 2, Greg and Sue’s bright yellow 40 footer was unmistakable, so we called them on the radio to get there estimate of the current. “It’s just a little bit against us.” was the reply. Fine, that’ll do, so we brace ourselves and set off for a second time.

This time it went according to plan and we had a good sail over the top of the northeast point of Sumbawa and just 10 or so miles west to the open roadstead of Teluk Wera.
IMG_9812There were several rally boats already at anchor, so many in fact that anchoring was tight, but there’s always room for another one or two and we fitted snugly into gaps that were a little tighter than we would have liked, but we felt that they would do. The village of Sangiang was wonderfully visible on shore. It is famous for boat building and two massive traditional style wooden vessels were in advanced stages of build on the beach. We resolved to have a closer look the next day.

The night proved to be eventful as the wind and current changed at irregular intervals and we were anchored next to a catamaran. I friendly Australian couple that we had met before, but catamarans tend to lie in accordance with wind conditions and are less affected by current, whilst the maxim for monohulls like us is, ‘when tide competes with current, current always wins’. We very nearly collided with our neighbour in the darkness, but as we were both up on deck, a little judicious line twiddling and he was kind enough to lower his daggerboard which made him more responsive to the current and it all settled down.

The following morning we did visit Sangiang and we invited to look around the boat building project. It was thoroughly enjoyable and a joy to see them working in the old traditional manner using adzes to shape the timbers and making pegs, boring holes and driving in pegs to hold the planks instead of bolts, rivets, screws, nails whatever is the modern equivalent. And of course there was an army of workers assigned to the task – a jolly bunch.

We then walked the village just taking in the sights; the neat streets formed of hard packed earth, the large and geometrically precise drainage which probably meant that they have severe water problems when the rains come. There were of course mosques, and other public buildings, small shops that were more like kiosks which to our eyes all seemed to offer the same goods for sale; biscuits, benzene, cheap brightly coloured fizzy drinks and sweets.
P1150321P1150323P1430598P1430601P1430610P1430614It was wonderful to see the laundry being done in communal fashion around a water supply and animals sharing the proximity of the family home. People were friendly, eager to exchange works and eager to be on our photographs. We had a wonderful few hours just wandering the town before returning to our dinghies to find that they had been guarded by the harbourmaster and his friends.

Time to resume our journey and a perfectly reasonable sail of just over 18 miles around to the township of Bima. Which was unexpectedly huge. We found an anchorage not far from the town quay, cheek by jowl with a variety of local boats and not too far away from GOSI and HAVEN two friends from the rally who had arrived earlier and chosen a spot further out (where it was a bit windy).

I woke early the following morning. No particular reason, I sometimes do when on board and never regret seeing the dawn.

The sights of Bima coming to life were wonderful and mystical, but before long the silence of the early light was broken by the arrival of workers by ferry from nearby communities. Health and safety regulations don’t apply around here and the way little boats are overcrowded just amazes us. We did notice that the ladies seem to have the interior accommodation whilst the men-folk take the roof. Are the men letting the ladies have the shelter against the sun or are they grabbing the seats that are most easy to escape from (in the likely event of a capsize) for themselves. We wondered.
Budi arrived and made himself known. He had some English – well lots of it actually – but not all easy to understand. He was quite a small and slight man but was accompanied by a large and silent friend, his aim was to assist in any way that he could. He could supply diesel, petrol, water, arrange for laundry, offer guided tours and anything else that we could possibly need. His charges were very reasonable and we availed ourselves of a top-up of diesel to be conveyed to and from shore by him using jerry cans. This arranged, we went ashore to explore.
P1150380P1150384P1150387P1150389P1150391P1150397P1150398P1150403P1150404P1150407P1150408P1150409P1150413P1150414P1430681Bima was just a P1430684stopover – we thought. But a brief foray ashore and we were all convinced that it deserved more attention. It is a very large town – in fact a city, the largest city on Sumbawa with a population of just under 150,000. The language is not Bahasa Indonesian like most of the country, but uniquely Bahasa Bima (or Nggahi Mbojo in native language) it is clearly a Moslem majority and like all Indonesia in our own experience, amazingly friendly.
It was a long hot walk into town, but we wouldn’t have missed the experience, life was going on at breakneck pace all around us, but with such colourful variety. Motor repairs, a flour factory, schools, horse drawn taxis a veritable feast of experiences.
In the centre of the town there were shops galore, of course. But we also found a highly complex set of markets, a fabric market, a fruit market and a meat market all large and all separate. Hundreds of temporary stalls covered with low hanging sun (or rain) covers which both Jeremy and I found awkward as a ‘safe’ height was deemed to be about 5’6”.
The Sultan Salahuddin of Bima left his name to the city mosque and also to the sultan’s palace, an impressive stately pile which by dint of good timing we were able to visit and har a demonstration of drumming. Then a return to the boat by horse drawn cab. Not the very best of experiences as we felt the poor animal was overstretched by our weight.
We could have spent longer at Bima, but we chose to keep up the pace and headed off to Kilo, just 28 miles to the west. P1150455An awkward anchorage, either too shallow near to the tiny village’s shoreline or too deep outside the shelf. However we found a limited patch of rock flecked sand and dropped the hooks, it was fine for an overnight anchorage. We did get a visit from children in boats. It was a good paddle in their dugouts, probably over a mile, but they were all smiles and so we obliged with a few small toys that we kept for such an occasion.