Things have been moving so quickly for us since we got back in Bali that we haven’t had a lot of time to post all that we’ve been doing. Rather than try and catch up with a bunch of posts, we’re just going to list the highlights from the past 10 days or so.
Our time in Candidasa (pronounced Chandidasa) on the east coast was incredible. We met a great group of people, including Simone, who we shared some great diving experiences with:. She has since headed back to Thailand and then home to Germany, but getting to know her was really wonderful. ( Bye Simone, we’ll see you in Germany someday ). Most mornings in Candidasa we joined a group of friends for breakfast. Besides Simone they included: Brian a Scotish man now living in Germany, Jan a Danish writer who lives full-time in Bali, as well as Made and Norret, two Balinese drivers. We sat and talked about everything from politics to Balinese dream interpretation and more times than not breakfast would turn into lunch.
We went on several outings to places Brian knew from his many trips to bali. Brian has been coming to Bali for many years and at one time was even a contributing author for Lonely Planet, writing the East Bali section in their guidebook to Bali and Lombok. Locations he took us included Amed – a great snorkeling beach on the Northeast coast – as well as a hidden beach known by the locals as White Sand, which we accessed from his boat anchored in Candidasa. East Bali is perhaps the most isolated area on the island, primarily due to the volcanic eruption the 60’s which blocked off road access in both directions for many years. Even today East Bali feels very remote compared to other parts of the island, and is still many years behind in terms of conveniences like grocery stores, ATM’s, internet access, etc. We would not have discovered as much of East Bali without Brian’s help, so here we must say thanks.
The Birthday of the Uluwatu Temple
We had a quick stay back at Bingin to attend the ceremony for the birthday of Uluwatu Temple, which was constructed in the 11th century by a high Hindu priest from East Java named Dang Hyang Dwijendra. At least one person from every family in Bali attends this ceremony, a testament to the importance of Uluwatu for the Balinese. Kai and I were dressed in full ceremonial outfits and given the opportunity to attend the ceremony with our Balinese family.
After the Uluwatu celebration we headed back to Candidasa to make one more dive with Simmone before she headed home. We chose to dive at Manta Point because every diver we met said it was a must see, and the thought of seeing giant rays sounded pretty cool. Manta Point is located in the west side of Nusa Penida, an island about an hour by boat off Bali. Driving around the island by boat we were amazed at the steep, dramatic limestone cliffs that plummeted into the sea. There were literally hundreds of caves in the face of these cliffs, and one could not help imagine a small fortune enclosed in a treasure chest resting just inside one of the dark holes. As soon as we arrived at the dive spot we were greeted by a Manta Ray breaching the surface of the water, seemingly inviting us to come swim with him. Quickly we raced to put on our gear and get in the water. Manta Point is what is called a cleaning station, a place where Mantas come to calm waters to have fish and other sealife clean them by eating all the algae and other attachments they have picked up swimming in deeper water. The rays literall hover around a large rock and hundreds of fish swarm around them looking for snack. There were a large number of divers at the site, but we did see many rays, including a baby one, and it was certainly a magical experience.
Since it was so crowded at manta point we made our second dive off the other side of the island at a place that isn’t often dove due to strong current. It was relatively calm on this day, so we our Dive Master Sue gave us the go ahead. This was my first experience diving with a current – a drift dive as it is called – but it was a pleasant one and the color of the coral was almost psychedelic.
The Road Back to Bingin
Now we have returned from Ubud after a relaxing few days drawing and working on the website. We had a bit of an adventure returning from Ubud, when we were pulled over by four police officers. Having done nothing wrong, the officer insisted that we pay or he would give make us go to court in Bangli. Fortunately we had hidden most of our money so it appeared that we only had rp 100,000 ($10/US) and he accepted this bribe instead of the taking us to court (as they nearly always do). I suppose this is part of traveling but it was a bit scary and very upsetting because we had no power in the situation. We had done nothing wrong except for being white in Bali and all we could do was pay. I am certainly not a big fan of the current direction of American politics and government but I do appreciate the concept of civil liberties and the fact that the majority of police officers do not abuse their power like they do here in Indonesia. What happened to us was a small ordinary thing around here, practically like tying a shoelace, it happens all the time, and it is accepted as a part of normal life.