We spent four days in Lovina in the North of Bali just chilling to the max! We can't really remember where all the time went - we had a lot of lie-ins and caught up with a serious sleep lag. The pool in the Angsoka Hotel was huge and set in a lovely green garden with flowers and trees all around it, so we spent a lot of time in there relaxing and playing catch (with our bat and ball ball). We saw some white-headed munias, which are really cute little chestnut coloured birds with white heads. And we read a lot - we both read Bill Bryson's Down Under, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime and we are now on book 5 of the No1 Ladies Detective Agency series, and really enjoying them. So that was four days of R and R.
On Tuesday we moved to Kedisan and we did the most amazing scenic drive on the way there. Going from fairly flat coast, up through hills into quite mountainous rugged landscape was fantastic and we were both stunned at the beauty and greeness of central Bali. Now, as you know scenic is also a synonym for windy, so Nat felt like hell by the time we arrived and at one point we had to stop the car just to have some fresh air. At this point, our driver Pineh offered us some Durian, a local fruit that is about the size of a Melon and is incredibly spikey-skinned with kind of grainy orange flesh on the inside. We had heard from our friends from Uncle Tan's that it's not a very pleasant experience... Nat didn't really feel up to trying it at this point but Jim seemed to love it surprisingly!
It tastes a bit like garlic and smells a bit like sewage....but in a rather fruity way. Wallace (the 19th Century explorer) mentioned it in his book that we read and he said it has the most aweful taste and pungent smell that you learn to love. Towards the end of the 2 hour drive we cought our first glimpse of Gunung Batur which is a volcanic cone set inside a big caldera (which is kind of like a massive crater, but it is caused by the collapse of land after an eruption). We first arrived driving around the caldera rim and we stopped to get out and take pictures of the impressive volcano and glistening Lake Batur beside it.
From there it was just a short, steep drive down into the crater to the village of Kedisan where we were staying in the Hotel Surya. After getting ensconced in our room we had a cup of tea, booked our sunrise volcano trek and interestingly, bought some paintings (two very small ones) from a local artist. In the afternoon we went for a walk around the town and tried to get down to the edge of the lake, which was surprisingly hard as the volcanic soil is perfect for growing things, so a lot of the land is farmed. We had dinner in a Warung, which is supposed to be a cheapy traveller restaurant, but the food was good and served in copious amounts. So we went to bed full and early, to prepare for the 3.30am wake up call.
At three thirty the next morning, we were woken, groggy and feeling slightly worse for wear, (as we both had colds at the time) but we dragged ourselves out of bed and down to the bus which took us to the base of the volcano. The sky was pitch black - but the moon was full, so after a while our eyes adjusted to the light and we could see hundreds of stars - which all look totally different because we are in the southern hemisphere now. So we donned our head torches and set off up the volcano, with our guide and another couple. The climbing was hard - partly because our bodies were convinced that we should still have been horizontal. So, for example, at one point Nat was feeling quite faint with the climbing - and we think it may have been her bodies way of saying "For god's sake lie down, or at least give us something to eat!" :-). So we stopped periodically for water and to take in the beautiful landscapes unfolding beneath us, but basically we powered it to the top at quite a pace.
When we got to the top it was still really dark - and after awhile we began to get cold, which is a sensation we had almost forgotten, but was fantastically refreshing. We were sheltering in a hut made out of woven palms, when our guide served us our breakfast of banana sandwiches and boiled eggs, which was delicious as we were starving after the climb.
And then it began to get a bit lighter
And a bit lighter....
And then the sun came up and we could finally see all the fantastic volcanic landscape we had been climbing up and it was beautiful. We spent quite a while at the top, exploring the various craters and visiting the various areas where there is more action - hot rocks and steaming vents. It got a bit cloudy at the top, so as we began to descend it got sunnier and the views became more spectacular. The last eruption was in 2000, but the last big eruption was in 1963 when a huge lava flow streamed down the mountain and sadly through a village in the middle of the night, which has since moved to the crater rim. The black lava flow is still a visible scar on the mountain as it is the only area which isn't covered in vegetation.
We slowly made our way down, across various terrain, sometimes clambering on volcanic rocks, sometime skiing down dunes of black sand, untill we finally got back to the base. Again, there was quite a lot of agriculture around the base of the volcano, as the soil is good, so we saw onions, tomatoes, beans, pumpkins and peanuts all being grown. And then we collapsed in a heap in the back of the van as we were transported back to our hotel. we spent the rest of the day relaxing and reading and resting before crashing out at about eight o'clock.
Then yesterday we transferred back to Kuta in the South of Bali for the last night. Again, it was a lovely drive and we drove through the suburbs of the cultural hub of Bali, Ubud. The streets were lined with artisans and creations of all kinds - glass sculptures, amazing hand carved wooden furniture and paintings. For a while we toyed with the idea of investing in some awesome wooden furniture, but then we thought, the postage and packing may be quite substantial and there may not be enough space in our bedrooms at home for a full dining table set :-)
So now we are back in Kuta, staying at the Gemini Star Hotel, which is the same hotel as when we arrived. We spent most of yesterday afternoon relaxing in the pool and then in the evening we went out for dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe which was really nice. We watched a beautiful sunset from the beach and then set about packing our bags in a more organised fashion of the inter-continental flight! Today we have done a spot of shopping and had a swim, but have spent most of the day sheltering from the sun in Starbucks. We fly tonight at 10:50pm and arrive in Perth (GMT + 9 hours) at 12:45 tomorrow afternoon, due to a crazy flight going via Darwin and Alice Springs, so we are sure to arrive tired, but we are excited about everything being new and different again.
So love to all at home and we miss you muchly, but will speak to you from Perth