Christmas break seemed to never end. 25 days of  “vacation”  didn’t feel so “vacationy” by the third week . Time for a road trip around the island. We loaded up the van and headed east.  First stop Serangan for a little surfing; the beach here is small and quaint …..has a nice little Warung in the shade where Lo and I could cool off with an icy drink. The rest of the time was spent looking for shells and playing in the water and while the boys paddled out to sea to catch some waves.

We even “babysat” a stranded star fish…

 

After that we continue northeast to Amed. A place of absolute beauty.  Gunung Agung… (an active Volcano last erupting in 1964) is the background to this stunning scenery layered with soaring green mountain’s terraced with rice fields rolling down to the aquamarine sea. We found an amazing hotel on the cliff with views down to the shore. There was a cool breeze blowing up to our rooms as a storm rolled in that night.

The hotel has two very special guest that like to relax by the pool most days…..

Just down the road  a few K you can snorkel a sunken Japanese ship. It was quite fun and kind of eerie… Arlo swore he saw a skeleton and a treasure chest but I think the water goddess Betara Tengah Segara hid it from the rest of us…. the coastline is dotted with shrines dedicated to the beautiful queen of the sea. You must treat her with respect and place offerings in her waves or she may turn into a fierce hag that will pull you deep with in her darkest depths to enslave you for eternity. Appease her and you may just surf that big wave, have a successful day of fishing or find a sunken treasure chest….The community here live and breathe with the tides so keeping Betara Tengah Segara happy is wise.

The traditional livelihoods are fishing and making salt.  Both offer little money for the hard, back-breaking labor required.

To make the salt you have to carry buckets of water from the ocean and fill “field’s” of flat smooth dirt with the water. They wait for 3 days for the water to evaporate, after that the salt paddies are raked and the broken up soil is put into cones. They compact the soil by walking on it. Now sea water would be poured over top of the “salt-soil” soaking the cone through.  Next step is to collect the water that drains from the cones and place it into hand carved wooden drying trays. Wait another 3-4 days and voila, you have Garam (salt). Unfortunately for us there was no one making salt while we were there. In the rainy season it’s sort of hit or miss if you see anything.

I saw pictures of the harvested salt white as snow piled high into baskets sitting on the shore with the lapping blue waves behind them. A stunning contrast of color and texture, I have to go back to take some pictures of my own…..

From there we took the scenic ocean road up and around Bali’s northern shore our destination for the night was going to be West Bali National Park but the heavy rains and a stop in Les at the Air Terjun Yeh Mampeh (waterfall) slowed us down. Instead we stayed in Lovina…not a highlight but the drives on both sides were fantastic. The waterfall hike was fun for all of us, even when we got caught in a torrential rain storm on the hike back!! Giant  spiders and slugs, banana leaf umbrellas, huge puddles and thunder and lightning shaking the trees makes a great rainy day adventure. A very sweet family that owned the warung at the head of the trail offered their motorbike shed for us to change out of our wet clothes. It was funny how all of the old men decided to brave the lightning and pouring rain to watch the “bule” changing clothes!

Yeh Mampeh waterfall is one of Bali’s highest. We had the whole hike and the waterfall to our selves, not many tourist make it up that way. So Philip and the boys cooled off in the pounding waters.

When we got to Bali Barat national park we decided to splurge a bit on the hotel and stay in the only place in the park. We took a boat from the “check in” to the hotel when we arrived there was only one other couple staying at the resort.

It was like an episode of Fantasy Island I was expecting Mr. Roarke and his sidekick Tattoo to meet us at the dock……

Instead we were greeted by big black monkeys, deer, beautiful song birds and a few wild pig.  We had the Indian Ocean and all of her amazing sea creatures to ourselves. There was snorkeling and kayaking right from the beach in front of our bungalow (if any ones goes I rec. bungalow 2 it is absolutely gorgeous and totally private.)

We spent two days in the water. . There were parrot fish, blue starfish, blow fish and pipe fish, tiny fluorescent ones and leafy coral branches. Some of the best snorkeling we have done so far in Asia.

After that it was time to get back home. But first, a quick stop at one of the most important temples in Bali. It’s not too far from our house but I have avoided taking a trip over there because it is also one of the most visited spots in Bali. It’s on every tour-bus route, and the parking lot is packed with hawkers selling food, drinks and crap. Not my idea of fun…however I was pleasantly surprised.

Pura Tanah Lot (“Temple of Land in the Middle of the Sea”) is an awe inspiring raw beauty that no amount of tacky tourist trappings can (completely) over shadow. The sacred temple is dedicated to the guardian spirits of the sea.  It is said to be guarded from evil by the sea snakes that inhabit the caves below. Philip and Arlo and I waded through the warm water to be blessed in the holy spring below the temple.

On the way out we couldn’t pass up the “holy snake charmer” in the cave that lets you take a photo of him handling a very dangerous sea crete (snake) for a few thousand rupiah.

Asian people love Arlo almost as much as we do. I imagine his portrait graces the walls of homes across SE Asia. So our trip here would not have been complete without a few  photo ops for Lolo and his fans. This one the girls asked me to join in!

We left just as the sun was setting over the water bringing to end the long school break. The next day the boys would be getting back to school and I would be getting down to business!  It’s time for me to learn the language… I’m tried of fumbling my way through conversations…There are so many questions I want to ask and things I want to learn about this amazing country.

Happy New Year!!

* gramam- salt

* Bule- Indo slang term for Foreiner or albino:)

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