Monday, August 29, 2011

I'm Back!

Well we have been back from our holiday for two weeks now.  We managed to drive all the way around the coast of Bali and a bit inland as well.  It was great to see the diversity of this magical island and we certainly see the difference between where we live and work to the rest of Bali.  Our area is very hot and dry, hence the area being poorer economically as they can’t rely on crops for income.

We didn’t have a very good start to our holiday.  Before we even started it was a nightmare to try and hire a car here.  If we were in Kuta or Ubud, no problem, but out here we may as well have been on the moon.  There’s no problem hiring any old car but we needed to get one from a licensed agency as our travel insurance requires that and we needed full insurance.  After many phone calls, txts and mucking around we managed to hire one from a guy in Tianyar and even though it didn’t have full public liability insurance it’s the best we could do and we just prayed we didn’t need it – and we didn’t.

So off we headed to Singaraja which is a small city one hour north of Tianyar to renew our Visa’s. There were forms to fill in and lots of waiting.  We then found out we were overstayer's by one week (we were going off the visa expiry date from the Indonesian Embassy in Wellington, not our arrival date) so they penalised us $200 each and then when they renewed our visa we only got three weeks not four.  We were NOT happy but there’s nothing we could do.  Even pleading with them that we are volunteering here to help the children – the guy at the counter said “I don’t care” – I will leave it up to your own imagination as to the names he was called once outside!  We were gutted as $400 goes a long way here and basically that was most of our accommodation money for our holiday.

At 3.00pm after a long, tiring, stressful day at the Immigration Office we drove through to Lovina which was only about 20 minutes away.  We drove down to the beach and parked up, just to catch our breath so to speak and decide what we were going to do.  We were seriously considering leaving after the three weeks as we had had enough of all the bull…. we had encountered along the way and the immigration fiasco was the last straw.
Anyway, we were sitting in the car, and within two minutes the hawkers started appearing wanting to sell us watches, jewellery, sarongs, sun glasses.  We were not in the mood!  I had my window down getting some fresh air and was just sitting there with this wretched look on my face and one poor guy came up to me to sell me jewellery.  I shook my head saying “no” but he persisted, I told him I had no money that his #$%^&! Immigration Department had taken it all and with that burst into tears – needless to say that got rid of him – hehe.  Lovina looked nice but we didn’t stay, we carried on and drove for another hour or so and ended up in Pemuteran. 

We enjoyed Pemuteran and ended up staying three nights there.  We had a day trip to Menjangan Island which is just off the coast of Bali.  We did two dives from the boat – I can now tumble backwards off the boat with all my gear on – just like you see on TV – cleaver ay!!  There were not too many fish to see in the part we went diving but there was fantastic coral.  We also saw two sea turtles.  They are amazing.  Very beautiful and very graceful.  I wanted to watch them all day and follow them, but they go out to sea when they see you so that wasn’t an option!  The boat ride was a bit of a challenge as I haven’t got sea legs.  I was very surprised I didn’t lose my breakfast, or lunch on the way back as the sea was quite rough and the driver was just going for it, but I managed, although was great to get back onto dry land!

After three days in Pemuteran we headed around the North Eastern tip of Bali and down the Eastern side and stayed in a little out of the way place called Rening. It was a nice drive with a few monkeys keeping us entertained along the way.  We stopped and fed them bananas out our windows which we only wound down about 2cm and threw the bananas at them.  We didn’t want them jumping up and in the window as they are well known to be full of Rabies!   
At Rening the first place we looked at to stay was deserted of guests, smelt awful and was very very tired.  I told Brent I wasn’t staying there no matter what the price, it had “bed bugs” written all over it!  We went across the road and there we found another guest-less resort but in a much better condition, including three lovely staff.  We negotiated a very cheap rate, as there were no guests, and no working restaurant.  We headed up the road ½ an hour and got supplies and came back and stayed the next three days, cooking our own food and having the whole place, including two lovely swimming pools, to ourselves.  That made up for the crappy Singaraja episode!

Sunset reflected in the pool
Our Bungalow at Rening

We carried on down the coast to a little backwater called Pantai Soka (Pantai means beach).  We only stayed one night as there was nothing there really and the surf was HUGE so no swimming.  Actually the constant pounding noise of the surf gave me a head throb in the end as we were staying right above the beach.

Retro, Bali Style!

Next stop was Tanah Lot which is a famous Temple by the sea.  Of course this is where we met “touristville”.  The Tanah Lot village is very much set up for tourists so we basically paid our entrance fee, went in, saw Tanah Lot and walked out again.  It was nice to see and would have been lovely at sunset.

Tanah Lot

One of the strangest things we did see that was most unexpected was, for want of a better word, a backyard zoo of reptiles.  We were walking past one of the shops on the way to the Temple and this guy was sitting there with this rather large Python snake in a box.  Of course you can have your photo taken with “Johnny” for a small fee but I didn’t bother as I’ve done it a couple of times before.  He happened to mention that he had a much bigger Python out the back if we were interested in seeing it.  So we did and he wasn’t wrong, Jake is a huge snake, weighing in at over 60kg (we can’t remember the exact weight but it was a lot).  He also had bats. Big bats, that were hanging about the place in the daylight which seemed strange and also a good size Iguana lizard which was beautiful.  We felt sorry for these poor beasts but took photos anyway and of course made a donation towards the feeding fund.
Just hanging around!
Jake the snake!

Then it was a 20 minute drive to Caangu (pronounced Changu).  We were looking for the homestay of the Brother of one of the guys I worked with at Groenz.  Well, we drove up streets, down streets, back up streets we’d already been for about 2 hours.  We then called into an internet café and I Googled the name of the place – we had driven past it twice!  Unfortunately they were full, as were most of the other places.  We managed to find a nice homestay about a five minute walk to the beach.  This area is called Berawa Beach and is just before Seminyak which is one of the main popular tourist beaches of Bali.

Berawa was much quieter than Seminyak and is a major surf spot in Bali.  It was a nice sandy beach and we walked to Seminyak one day – about 1.5 hours walk one way.  I had the worst pancake of my life at one of the seaside café’s there – I didn’t like the look of it to start with but took one mouthful anyway but had to spit it out, it was disgusting.  So we went to the next door café and I tried their French toast – that was just as bad!  Imagine, two slices of bread dipped in egg with a packet of cinnamon mixed into it and then sandwiched together and cooked on the outside only – the inside was still mushy raw egg and cinnamon – mmmmmm – not!  Brent showed them what to do but the 2nd version wasn’t much better so I gave up and just had coffee!
Seminyak and all along that coast is awful.  It’s sun loungers and umbrellas as far as the eye can see and full of tourists.  People think they’ve seen Bali when they come to these places, most don't leave their resort or the beach.  They have no idea.

On the way from Rick & Lita's
We then had a very long drive to visit Rick and Lita at Kerta near Ubud, which is inland.  Unfortunately there are two Kerta’s on the map and of course we went to the wrong one first!  So with over an hour of backtracking and finding the right road we finally ended up at their place mid afternoon.  It was lovely to catch up with them again and have some yummy lunch.
We couldn’t stay the night as Rick had a Retreat starting the next day and guests were arriving, so we headed back out and once again got lost – more backtracking and after a very long day/evening we finally ended up in Padang Bai at 9pm looking for somewhere to stay.  Padang Bai is basically a port town where people get the ferries to Lombok and Gilli Islands.  There wasn’t much there so we only stayed the night and then we carried on to Candidasa (pronounced Chandidasa).

Candidasa is lovely.  I think of it as a small Ubud but on the coast.  We stayed at a nice place right on the beach but could only stay one night as they were full the next.  Brent then found another gem which we stayed at for a further two nights, just relaxing by the beach and pool.  We also went snorkeling by boat out to a couple of small islands nearby but it wasn’t any good so we came back within ½ hour – we are spoilt with the snorkeling at Tulamben!

Homestay at Candidasa

We didn’t want to leave Candi dasa or the lovely place we were staying but leave we did, heading home along the coast to Amed which is renowned for it’s wonderful snorkeling and diving. 
We didn’t stop here as it’s right on our doorstep anyway and can head back for a weekend anytime (she says, hopefully we won’t run out of time!)
Coast of Amed

Back to Tulamben and our little abode, unpacking, washing and getting the brain engaged to teach again on Monday.  It was a nice time away and gave us a good overview as to the impact tourism has on the different towns and villages here.  No tourists, poor economy.  No water and no tourists (like Tianyar) even poorer economy.

Pina Colada Duck!

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