Thursday, March 22, 2012

Days and Nights in Bali

We've been at Bali now for six days and as we settle in tonight, we look forward to a day of complete silence and relative inactivity tomorrow, as it is Nyepi Day. I'd never heard of it before, even during my 45 year long study of religious mythology, but it's a Hindu day of silence during which Hindus meditate and focus on their deities etc.

While everyone keeps quiet, it is hoped that the evil spirits will think nobody is home and therefore avoid doing bad things. It's obviously an important festival for Hindus who get dressed up in their traditional finest and arrange processions etc.

All over Bali are Hindu temples included temples built and used by groups of people in an area eg, family temples. An example is at left all done up for Nyepi Day.

Bali fortunately, is a non-muslim part of Indonesia, which is predominately muslim. The muslim warriors invaded hundreds of years ago and took over. Those who survived the murderous onslaught didn't want to live under the sword of Islam, so they moved to Bali and surrounding islands which have a population of about 3.7 million.

As seems to be the way with Islam, the violence continues and during the first couple of days we were here, the Indonesian Police had a shoot out with three orthodox muslims who had been planning to kill Western tourists. Thankfully, the police won this round, but as the evidence from all over the planet suggests, it's far from the end of civilisation's war against Islam.

Everything here is inexpensive by Australian standards, with the sole exception of wines and spirits. No doubt this is a key reason why so many Australians visit. That and the short, inexpensive air travel required to get here. We thought we were probably the only Australians who hadn't visited, so that was the main reason we are here now ... didn't want to be left behind.

The locals are nice, friendly people who are obviously accustomed to high numbers of tourists coming and going. The population seems very young which means that in 40-60 years the Indonesian Government will have a huge challenge providing old-age, medical and palliative facilities for the aged population. I wonder whether they are planning for that at present.

Those working in the up-market shops are immaculately dressed and I saw more than a few stunningly beautiful young ladies, a couple of whom sold us some goods eg, a bottle of men's after shave that I probably didn't really need. Those in the shops lining local streets are not as impressively dressed, but clean and tidy and there are so many little businesses, I don't know how everyone manages to make a living, but they obviously survive.

The traffic in Bali, as in many other countries is legendary. Need I say there are billions of scooters and motorbikes, some of which move up to five people and weave in and out of the traffic. I'm only guessing, but I imagine the traffic incident injury and death rate is probably pretty high.

It's rained a great deal since we arrived, but we managed to do a full day tour of a volcano, coffee plantation, silver shop, and batik industry business, all of which were hard-sell operations (of course!). Having lived in the Middle East, we know all about pressure selling, dodgy deals and have learnt the art of ignoring people despite our inate propensity to do otherwise.

We move to Candi Dasa on Saturday for our last week and I'll post another blog about that towards the end of the week.


Monday, March 05, 2012

Sunset, Signs and the Caravan Escape

We travelled to Adelaide, 1500 km from Alice Springs during February to visit the Caravan and Camping Outdoor Adventure Show and to source a new caravan. It's well known that there are deals at the shows that strip thousands off prices.

The trip down takes two days if you don't drive for 15h straight, part of which is during hours of darkness. Strange things happen in the dark; kangaroos appear in front of you and at 130 km/hr, it doesn't take long to spread one across your front bull bar. Get a really big one and although your bull bar might survive, they often smash into your windscreen, destroy your lighting or buckle some of your bodywork. So we drive for eight or nine hours and take a break at a motel enroute.

We stayed at a large and very comfortable caravan and camping site at West Beach and our friends Michael and Gayle flew in from Melbourne to spend a few days with us. They stayed at a cabin nearby and we went to the Caravan Show and other venues together ... had a great time.

Here's a photo of Chris at the cabin in which we stayed. Our trusty Toyota Prado turbo-diesel is at the front. You can see what we have for a "bull" bar. I'd really hate to hit a bull with it! But it handles most kangaroos quite well.

On our return journey I almost hit an eagle. It was eating the carcass of a kangaroo (road kill as they are referred to) and as it was surrounded by hawks, I didn't see it. I was doing about 120 km/hr and when I passed it took off and almost collected the bull bar before veering left and up and missed hitting us by inches. Because their wing spans are so long and they are so big, they take a while to get airborne. When I see them, I usually slow down, but on this occasion it was almost curtains for the eagle.

On the return journey we stopped to take a photo of the sun against the clouds somewhere along the Stuart Highway in the Woomera Rocket Range. I've found it's always difficult to get a shot of the sun setting or rising ... the photo never quite seems to capture the majesty. But this was different and looks glorious. Where would we be without our friend the sun?

As we cruised through South Australia towards Coober Pedy where we stayed overnight at a motel that is higher rated than it should be, we saw some more interesting signage.

I was a bit taken aback to think that a government body would produce signs like these, but then I recalled from my business education training how important it is to talk to people in the language they understand. Although it has several connotations, most Australians understand the term "wanker".

So there we were rolling north along the highway when we spotted this sign. I just had to pull up and take a shot. I recall thinking that if it kept me safe from wanker drivers, then it was well worth it.

Ultimately, our trip was most enjoyable with a dinner at a Chinese restaurant, lunch at the Ramsgate Hotel, Henley Beach, shopping trips to Ikea and the Marion Shopping Centre which is huge. Chris even conned me into doing a 20km trip to visit the Spotlight shop which is a quilting, dressmaking type of place. Talk about boring, but being a dutiful husband, I did the right thing and suffered in silence.

Next blog I will place a couple of photographs of the caravan we have ordered. Our new temporary home as we cruise around this lovely country.