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Journeys : MNJ Aug Sep 2011
Destinations Although Vivi had to dow ngrade her surf lessons for pamper sessions of Balinese oil massage, pedicures and exotic fruit face- packs, she still had the chance to laugh at my inept foundering on a long board. My patient and good-natured Balinese surf- coach stuck with me, and after five days of chafing and bruising of both my ribs and ego, those gods finally looked dow n on me favourably – I managed to stand on my board for a timeless five seconds. It was a question of pride – my fellow student, a German retiree 20 years my senior, had found his feet the day before and I felt I needed to redeem our nation’s bronzed surfie reputation. Vivi, glowing and rejuvenated and I, sunburned, bruised and battered, then flew 20 minutes east to the neighbouring island of Lombok. A deep but narrow strait separates the two islands, not only culturally, where Balinese Hinduism is replaced by Islam, but also ecologically. The strait is part of a bio-geographical border known as the Wallace Line, the division between the distinctly different flora and fauna of Asia and that of Australasia, named after the 19th centur y Br itish naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace. Landing in Lombok’s sprawling shanty- town capital and once Dutch colony Mataram, we explored the many artisan villages that specialise in pottery, weaving and wood carving. We then taxied north up the west coast through mountains capped with rain clouds r umbling with thunder and snaked through jungle that spread to the horizon like green crushed velvet. Compared to Bali’s maddening masses of ‘Kuta Cowboys’, the hard-sell, side-street hawkers in knock-off designer labels, Lombok’s residents, robed in the national dress of the sarong and peci, a knitted skullcap, were a lot more laid-back – even more so when we pushed off a deser ted beach in an outrigger fishing boat and motored out to the nearby idyllic Gili Islands. As azure waters lapped at platinum-white beaches, I focussed on my aquatic passion, diving on the many reefs while Vivi perfected her tan. Here the only forms of transport, other than circumnavigating the island in a lazy 90 minute walk, was a cidomo, a horse and multi-coloured cart. We whiled away a week on Gili Air, the quietest of the three Gili Islands. It’s the sort of place you could come to and never actually get around to leaving, although reluctantly we did – back to Denpasar and into Bali’s hinterlands to Ubud. Situated at 600 metres above sea level, Ubud is refreshingly less hot and muggy than the coast and for the last 100 years has been considered to be the artistic and cultural centre of the island. Amongst a rural setting of terraced rice paddies, Ubud, actually a conglomerate of 14 villages, is a maze of narrow streets packed with temples and small artisan shops. Despite the massive inf lux of tourism since 2009 that was triggered by Eat Pray Love, with the many yoga schools, alternative therapies and organic food eateries, Ubud still retains an authentic rural, rustic charm and the slower pace of life. After shopping in the bustling markets and taking in a cultural show or two, our holiday climaxed with a Balinese cooking class where we not only learnt traditional recipes and cooking techniques but also indulged in eating them after wards. Our creations included sambal, a spicy yet refreshing lemongrass salsa; sayur urab, a green bean and shredded coconut salad; satay; opor ayam (chicken curr y) and the national dish, nasi goreng (fried rice). Bali has a lot to offer and if you avoid the boisterous crowds of Kuta, it can be a great place to rejuvenate and recharge the batteries. It is more than safe for expectant mums, where we found that Bali belly is actually a sated sense of adventure – gastronomically and other wise! Photos Aaron Smith August / September 2011 19
Jun Jul 2011
Oct Nov 2011