Wednesday, November 19th, 2014
By Kurt Schultz, trainee
Bali is an island nation of contrasts. My experience didn’t start as well as hoped. After travelling almost 24 hours to reach Bali, I made the mistake of avoiding the airport taxi stand in order to get a better deal from one of the many drivers outside, all wearing identical green flower print shirts. My mistake! Instead of the roughly $8 US fee I would have paid, I ended up paying $20 for the “very far” taxi ride. Later we found that the BLUEBIRD GROUP metered taxis were the best, most reliable to use and we used them exclusively from then onwards. I arrived on October 3rd and met several of the (also tired) apprentices and trainees waiting at the Bali Marina for the ship to clear customs and send the skiff to bring us all aboard. After a few days of learning the ship’s routines and getting split into watches we had some time off by watches. Making good use of the Captain’s good friend and local guide, Made Alon, we arranged some tours and found local guest houses to see the sights and spend some time exploring Bali.
There are a couple of sides to Bali. We saw some grand temples and dances (and dances at temples), rice fields, a coffee plantation where we drank the famous LUWOK coffee (also jokingly known as “CAT-POO-CINO”) as the coffee beans are first eaten by the luwok, a cat-like creature related to the mongoose, then harvested from the luwoks’ excrement, cleaned and roasted. You might remember it as being on Morgan Freeman’s list of things to do before he dies in the movie BUCKET LIST. We also climbed a volcano at 3 in the morning in order to be near the top for sunrise. One of the highlights of that hike was having to trick a monkey in order to reclaim the water bottle he had stolen out of the pocket of my daypack while it was still on my back. We won’t go into details about my other monkey encounters at a monkey filled temple. Suffice it to say that our guide had to clean off the back of my shirt after the monkey leapt onto my neck while unsuccessfully trying to steal my ‘Texas Longhorns’ baseball cap!
I wasn’t a huge fan of the uber-touristy areas such as Kuta Beach, but it was well worth a visit just because it has a nice beach with beachside restaurants and all the shopping stalls and booths you could ever imagine (I eventually bought a nice farmers’ sun hat!). My favourite experience so far was taking a boat over to the small island of Nusa Lombongo. It had a nice small town pace and I was able to walk about 3 miles outside of town to where the road ended at a mangrove forest. The snorkeling out there was fantastic too, much less frenetic and nicer reefs than the ones close to Benoa Harbour. I saw 3 manta rays and even had one swim up to within three feet of me. More to come!