selamat tinggal Bali

Somewhat belated, owing to the sporadic availability of time/internet/functioning brain cells, but this a short and heartfelt word of thanks to the Balinese massive, who made our time there such a special one.

Difficult to say when we will be back, but be back we must. Here are some reasons:

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Agung: Bali’s towering centre
(more in a basketball than a geographic sense.)
National Geographic unfolding on the wall in front of you


Batur – the more likeable, bikeable volcano


Having coffee here every morning…


and going to bed here every night



and looking down from here generally…


on our very own slice of the Campuhan river


the fabulous Nyoman. Salad-maker without equal.


doesn’t bode well, does it?


kids in bali: the graph is ridiculously skewed


farewell karaoke


my all time favourite person in Bali…and possibly anywhere. just a shame i couldn’t get him to bust out his usual, single-toothed smile for this photo.

it changed my day every time i saw it.


trouble masquerading as innocence

peanut butter parfait
the daily cartloads of artwork from Pelangi school.

the fantastic friends we made.

thanks for such a great sendoff (all of them). you’ll be sorely missed.


…i found the tooth.

From the top rung of Mount Agung….

I was lucky enough to be let off the leash for a night and a day last weekend to go and climb Bali’s highest mountain – the sacred Gunung Agung.

four days later, i’m still mesmerised by the experience…and my thighs have only just stopped abusing me at every step for cranking them up and down 2000m worth of hill .

i went with some friends from the East Bali Project, ten of us in total: half Bule and half Balinese. i confess, i was a little paranoid about not having the right footwear, and so splashed out $30US on a pair of indonesian-issue hikers, only to see some of the group turn up in battered old converse cut offs. As it turns out, i was very needful of the heavy duty boots, especially on the way down when my knees conked out and it became more of a plunge than a descent. Only one of my converse-wearing friends made it, although all of us were fully shamed by the old women who passed us on the way up at about three in the morning, carrying a basket full of offerings and going barefoot!

after failing miserably to get any sleep at Pura Pasar Agung on account of the local arak that was making the rounds, we set off at about twelve thirty…in the morning. we were the first group to really get underway on the mountain, and given the pace we managed, this was a sensible move. our ‘guide’ was Ardika, a friend of a friend who claimed to have made the climb four other times. within an hour of leaving the camp, his sandal broke in two pieces, and, when we couldn’t fix it with some electrical tape, he decided to turn around and head back down..

it took another four and a half hours to reach the summit after that, with the last hour and a half a pretty hard scramble above the treeline, requiring what felt like a near-vertical climb up a series of sharp volcanic walls. with only the moonlight to go by, you couldn’t really see where you had come from or where you were going, just the next few footholds and the shadows of the cliffs. further up the mountain, you could sometimes make out the flickering of small lights, where some hardy folk were really pegging it, but they seemed so high as to be almost overhead, and it was quite dizzying to think of how much further you still needed to climb.

i lost my group when we came out of the trees, so climbed most of the rocky part solo, occasionally passing small groups of Balinese pilgrims who would ask me where my guide was. this may be why i found myself at the thin edge of the crater, and almost over it, before i really figured out what was going on. someone had made a fire against a rock wall out of some old leaf offerings, and when i tried to keep climbing past them, i pretty much ran out of mountain. a little blown away, i sat there for an hour, turning down more offers of arak while watching the thin trickle of pilgrims come up to the edge, light a few sticks of incense, chant some lines then float one and two thousand rupiah notes out into the abyss.

as the sky began to change colour, i noticed that there was another spur of rock further east around the crater, and that a few western types were already up there taking pictures. it took another twenty minutes to get there, which was when i realised that my legs had already started to seize up with the cold. this would to come back to haunt me on the descent.

around five-thirty, the sun came up over Mount Rinjani on the island of Lombok to the east, fully 100 km’s away. it was amazing to see it across a sea of clouds at 3700m to our 2600m. as the daylight increased the view just became more amazing wherever you looked: down the slopes to the temple, inside the crater (created in 1963 when the top 100m of the mountain blew off), or along any of the fault lines from the eruption, showing layers of rock that had once been the insides of the volcano.

most of the rest of my crew straggled up, and we had a rather delirious hour taking pictures and stuffing our faces with nutella, peanut butter and honey (yes, all on the same slice of bread), before we started back down around eight thirty in the morning. that part of the trip was a slow crescendo of pain, as everyone had various parts of their body call time. for me, it was the knees as i always knew it would be. thankfully i found a 2m staff about halfway down and i hobbled into the temple elven hours after we started, looking no doubt like a wonky, pot-bellied Gandalf in hiking boots. Thankfully everyone was too tired to take any photos by this point.

speaking of which, perhaps it’s time i shut up for a bit…

a last supper of crackers and coffee. this was where i started to notice the footwear discrepancies

when rice into nutella will not go…

getting passed by the first wave of pilgrims…

then being shamed outright by a little old lady doing it barefoot.
(i was looking for blood later, the rocks were that sharp)

on edge: perched here for a while, trying to figure out if this was the top
(it was)
cue smile of relief


the sun finally joins the party


and light’s up Rinjani to the east.


“what were the skies like when you were young…?”


a familiar face


full moon party


inside the crater’s west face. you can see why these are called Stratovolcanoes


crater floor…cozy, huh?


this big fella has a long shadow


can anyone else see a rabbit?


Juan practices some surf moves…


mountainous homunculous…

(how did Sai Baba get up here?)


peanutbutter and nutella frenzy


the converse crew: where’s the bloody zipline?


where valleys end.

(the little notch on the left is the offering place….that i nearly offered myself out of…)


you mean we climbed up this in the dark?


you really don’t want to get on the wrong side of a volcano


only three more hours to get down…

Happy Phoniversary

trying to keep the signal to noise at a minimum, here are three semi-related news items.

  1. Happy Anniversary to my lovely wife, who has put up with me a good deal longer than i would have done (given a choice in the matter): 14 years in a conjugal capacity, longer if you count the years of prior goofing. to celebrate we had a slap up, six course dinner at what must be the nicest restaurant in Bali and are now completely cured of the need for food, wine, or exotic citrus fruits for the foreseeable.
  2. Happy Anniversary to those in my family that share the same date as Tash and I. Mom, Dad, Jeff, and Cyn: selamat ulang tahun pernikahan!
  3. and, on a slightly more upbeat note: i’ve lost my bloody phone. it bounced out of my pocket yesterday while riding the bike somewhere between here and there. here’s my new number:
jay-indo:+62 852 1358 0578
deliberately starving yourself before a big meal is not necessarily the greatest plan:
1) you can look a little too keen beforehand 2) you’re drunk after the first drink and
3) your stomach gets the pregnancy treatment as you require it to triple in size and workload in the space of a couple of hours
drunk on fumes: the deleterious effects of a chocolate martini
Tash finds the transplanted monkey brain hilarious
(it’s actually a lime, dear)

East Bali Poverty Project

I’ve been doing a bit of work for a charitable foundation that has been setup here in Bali to help people living on the remote slopes of the Abang and Agung volcanoes – a particularly challenged part of the island where health care, education and decent roads have only recently been introduced.

a lot more information about the villages of Ban and the work of the foundation is available on the EBPP website.

(my sharp-eyed metro brethren may spot the wordpress/atahualpa/hostgator combination running the site. a pleasant surprise, in that i would have picked all three of these things myself if starting from scratch. also a good thing, since it looks like i will be in the frame for tidying up quite a few loose ends).

i was lucky enough to be invited to the Independence Day celebration this week, which is the highlight of the calendar for the kids. People came from miles around, packed into trucks and dressed in their best. After games of sack racing, and an enormous Rice Cracker Eating contest, the kids put on a variety show, where kung-fu, rap numbers and gun battles featured almost as prominently as traditional balinese dance performances. It was also a chance to showcase some of the artwork from the up and coming talent and award various prizes for performance over the course of the year.

there were about ten of us Bule (i.e. foreigners) there, and we were made to feel very welcome throughout. at the end, everyone sat down to a meal of nasi bungkus and families were given a package of household basics (from towels, to vitamins and toothbrushes) to take home. a good reminder that, despite the cheerful occasion, most of these people are living in incredibly challenging circumstances, without many of the basic amenities.

below a few pictures from the day. i took many more, but some are of variable quality. the heat and lack of sleep engendered by a 5am start did little to help my already meagre talents as a photographer. however, most of those should find their way on to shambolic…eventually…

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Hey Messrs. DJ

the other night (actually, quite a long time ago now, given upload speeds and perambulations in lombok), weakened by drink, and with a little encouragement on my part, my friend John (DJ professional and all round nice guy) conceded to playing a few tunes on my portable mixer after the girls had disappeared upstairs to watch the latest vampire romance on dvd.

what started out as an attempt to mix a few tunes turned into a 3 hour, track-apiece session with neither of us quite able to resist the challenge of turning out a one-better mix on a blinking piece of plastic.

you can be the judge of whether it was a good thing that someone pressed record along the way, but since the marvels of t’interwheeze allow us to share these things, then here you go.


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(right click here to download)

needless to say, John fashioned most of the silkier mixes with the worldmusic-and-dancefloor friendly vibes, whereas i showed a predilection for dirty, old skool sounds, which, thanks to the whisky, the time of night and my trademark kak-handed amateurism, tend to be introduced by way of the ropier mixes.

enjoy, or avoid: you have been warned.