Cruise Report # Twenty-Two– Day 38 – Monday, October 29, 2007

At Sea in the Northern Indian Ocean

From the Ships Navigator

Today we sill sail on an east-southeasterly course with an average speed of 18 knots towards Darwin, Australia. The total sailing distance between Padang Bai and Darwin is 956 nautical miles. The weather forecast calls for an outside temperature of 82 degrees and a gentle breeze blowing from the southeast with a force of 3.

Welcome to Padang Bai, Bali, Indonesia

Bali is an Indonesian island located at the westernmost of the Lesser Sundra Islands, lying between 2 miles east of java and 8 degrees south of the Equator. It is one of the country’s 33 provinces with the provincial capital at Denpasar towards the south of the island. The island is home to the vast majority of Indonesia’s small Hindu minority. It is also the largest tourist destination in the country and is renowned for its highly developed arts, including dance, sculpture, painting, leather, metalworking and music. The island itself is surrounded by coral reefs with beautiful beaches; those in the south tend to have white sand while those in the north and west have black sand. Padang Bai, however, has both. The highest point is Mount Agung at 10,308 feet, an active volcano that last erupted in March 1963.

We arrived in this beautiful place Saturday around 3pm. The waters of the bay or “Bai” were calm and peaceful as we dropped anchor. Though we were quite a ways from shore, small thatch roofed huts and outrigger canoes could be seen on the beach. Shortly after our arrival, the ship started sending tender boats ashore with the first wave of “targets” or tourists. I refer to them as targets because as soon as they leave the small dock area, hey are beset upon by hordes of “hawkers”, selling anything the can get their hands on. Sadly this was also our first encounter with less than honest naives. Some attempted to exchange large US bills for smaller ones, in the hopes of changing “bad” money for “good”, while others would change the price of an item after a deal was made. One of our tablemates even had her purse opened and an envelope with $50 taken without her knowledge.

The next day, Sunday, the fears that misinformation had stirred up inside us and caused anxiety, disappeared as we went ashore in our last port in Indonesia. Even though our tender was two hours late in getting us from our anchorage in this beautiful bay, it did not dim our enthusiasm for what we were about to experience. It seems that again “time and tide wait for no man”, as the delay was brought about by extreme high and low tides caused by the recent full moon.

Safari Elephant Park

After clearing the gauntlet of hawkers, we boarded our bus, one of three, and waited to depart. Once everyone arrived, we were on our way, again on a narrow two lane “main thoroughfare”. Our excursion this day would take us up to a higher elevation on the island about an hour and a half from the beach where we came ashore. None of the buses had police escorts today, and they really we not needed, although there were some heart stopping times as we sped through the busy countryside.

The uniquely Balinese Hindu-animist faith is evident everywhere you look, and the sheer abundance of temples reflects the Balinese devotion to the deities. There are more temples on the island than houses. Religion is veiled in symbol and tradition that bears explanation. Also Balinese is the celebratory funeral ceremony in which the spirit is liberated from the body, crossing from the “shadow” world to the “real” (Sanghyand Widi) – but Bali has a dual nature. In the south around the areas of Kuta Beach and Nusa Dura, the other Bali – a land of decadent five-star resorts. The resort areas are not typical of traditional island life. Balinese culture centers on agriculture, with cattle, copra and coffee are exported, while rice is grown almost exclusively for local use. It was through this part of Bali we were fortunate to travel.

As motorbikes and scooters were the most prevalent mode of transportation, it was not unusual to see small children and families navigating down the road, usually at top speed and not always on the “correct” side of the road. It all depended which side of the road had the clearest shot or opening around vehicles going in either direction. Traffic stopped at intersections looked like the starting line of a motocross! We passed through countryside so verdant and lush with fields of rice either in the growing stage or in the process of being harvested – by women. We even passed by some women that were “thrashing” the rice stalks in the field. All of the older generation of men and women, wear the traditional sarong. Some of the younger teenagers wore jeans and t-shirts. Along our way we must have passed thousands of temples, some the size of mail boxes and others large with elaborate filigree covering everything. There were even “yards” that specialized in the manufacture of “temples for the home”. The stone that was used in the molding of these structures was made with ground up grey volcanic rock that was just a just a shade darker than cement.

On and on we traveled, past a village that was a craft center for the region, causing the mouths of the shoppers to water. “Can we stop for a while on the way back?” One shopper asked, “There will be no time because of our late start!” came the reply from our guide. As we got nearer to our destination, we noticed the skies were starting to darken with rain clouds, and as we arrived at the Safari Park – the clouds dumped on us. It was glorious, the tropical rain I had been wanting to experience, and we got it in spades. Humm, have we traveled this far to be rained out? Not by a long shot! The back door of the bus opened and as we exited we were handed these oversize green park umbrellas. They were no strangers to these conditions and were prepared. We were escorted into the obligatory gift shop and the restrooms, for which the line had already formed. It seemed our buffet lunch was waiting, so I bypassed the lineup and Harvey Bloom and I grabbed and umbrella and headed for the “trough”. The path to the dining room was beautifully landscaped with excellent views of the Elephant Yard. As soon as we got a table for five, which included a place for Barbara (hung up in the gift shop) and Don and Rena Brofman, two more of our friends from Cruise Critic, Harvey and I started filling our plates. I am not sure what all the dishes were but they sure were good and these tummies, accustomed to regular feeding times, were soon happy.

While we were eating we could hear the trumpeting of the elephants as several of them were enjoying their afternoon bath in a large cement lagoon right next to the dining room. The rain was easing now and as we finished our meal members of our group started forming lines at which was obviously “the Elephant Ride loading dock”. As we waited in line, there was plenty to photograph, as two or three elephants were brought to a nearby railing to pose with the waiting lineup. The rain had all but stopped now, but we hung onto our umbrellas. Soon, “Nopee” yep, that was her name, and her rider/driver were brought along side the dock and we were invited onboard. “You expect me to get down there and sit on that!” Barbara exclaimed, “I can’t do that!” Well after I boarded and sat on the double wooden “chair” she decided that there was no getting out of this long anticipated experience. Once onboard she had no spare hand to take pictures with, as both had a death grip on the chair handles. I don’t know which was worse for her, being stuck ten feet off the ground on “Nopee” or not being able to take pictures. Soon we were on our way down the trail, which was to take 30 minutes, with me taking pictures. Our driver was a young Balinese man of 21 years and rode on “Nopee’s” head just behind her ears. Our elephant was 22 years old, and very gentle. She had this bad habit, though, of wanting to stop every few steps to snack on the vegetation. It was not a smooth ride, but just a gentle rocking back and forth as we made our way through the forest. Elephants consume large quantities of vegetation everyday; the evidence to that fact lay in piles of dung along the path. At the end of the ride we were asked if it was alright to go through the “pool”, and we gave our consent. This gave the staff an opportunity to take our picture with “Nopee” saluting with her trunk, and of course we could purchase the pictures if we so chose. Now Barbara had the dilemma of the dismount, which in retrospect, she carried off very well. After a short Elephant Show, we were herded back onto our busses for the long and, once again, exciting return to the dock.

Along the way back we encountered a procession of townsfolk on their way to a reglious celebration with women carrying offerings in the traditional makker – ontheir heads.

Till next time, we bid you goodbye from the Timor Sea, at 11 degrees South and 123 degrees east, as we sail toward Darwin, Australia.

Jack and Barbara

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