(“Ubud, Day 1. White Water Rafting” is in the work)
Monday, 16th January,2017
Fast Boat to Lembongan Island
I booked a great package to spend a day around Lemongan Island. You can find it here (package A). I was picked up at 7:30am and driven back down to Sanur Beach. There I had enough time to find some breakfast before the fast boat boarded. It pulls up as close as it can to the beach after that the passengers throw their shoes in a box and wade through the remaining two feet of water to board through the back. You get a comfortable seat but as the windows are rather high not much view beyond the sky on the half hour trip. I found it was a good time for a nap.
Once I was there we were directed by the colours of the wristbands we had been provided into the back of tracks. Benches made seats on either side and we rattled through town and down the road. As Courtney had been left behind to spread good in the world and teach kids about health I took the opportunity to make friends with three New Zealanders around my own age. One young woman had just finished her degree to teach physical education and invited her boyfriend and little brother on an adventure before kicking off life as an adult.
The truck stopped at a beautiful beach with picnic tables, lockers and change rooms. We were welcomed with coconut water and fitted with flippers. A bamboo bridge wove through the mangroves and ended in a floating platform on the edge of a muddy river. About fifteen of us boarded a boat, sitting on the edges, and we started down the river. It soon emptied into the open ocean and then we were off.
Unfortunately, my camera isn’t waterproof. Gotta get me one of those go pros that were so popular with the tourists in Indonesia for my future snorkeling (and skydiving and other) experiences. I’ll do my best to write this down really well and include some internet pictures.
The Blue of a Foreign Ocean
In Australia we have many kinds of beaches. Beaches full of rocks, full of coarse sand, full of sand that is blindingly white. I love Rainbow Beach with its rough surf and Harvey Bay with water so clear I can see the bottom ten feet down, and I loved snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef off the Keppel Islands.
But I had never seen an ocean like this.
The water was blue. Not clear, not a sandy green-blue. The blue of strong Kool-Aid. The boat raced across the choppy ocean, spraying water onto the passengers. We passed over a stretch of something white far below, something that shone through the blueness of the water. We followed the edge of the island. Water swept against the tan rocks, bursting under the ledge it had worn away over the ages. High above us was thick greenery and every hundred meters, on a ledge I saw no way down to, a man sat with a fishing line.
Soon we turned away and headed past other islands. Some small, others riddled with caves, the water splashing up against them and draining out again, waterfalls. The boat slowed and soon we were sitting, rising and falling with the water. The water is still that dark, dazzling blue here. The bottom is too far down to see and excitement grips me, but the water is too choppy and the weather looks to bring a storm so the boat turns.
There are other, safer places, that our guides know of and we head around an island to a beach, at the edge of which a small mass of buildings, perhaps a resort, is huddled. The bay wears a crown of small boats, each depositing snorkelers or bringing in travelers. We pull on our goggles, our flippers, and jump from the side of the boat.
The water is refreshing, but warm. In places it is twenty feet deep, in others only five. It is cliché but true to say that I found myself in a new world. There were colours that I felt I hadn’t seen in a long time. Yellows and reds and greens. I spotted white brain corral and, uneducated as I am, everything beneath the water is either corral or seaweed to me. The flippers pushed me through the water with every kick. Arms out, I felt I was flying. When something in particular demanded my attention I relax into a float, buoyed by the salt water.
Fish as small as my fingers swam in a loose school. They were carried with each swell, backward and forward, their determined path through the water made twice as long. Other fish were as long as my forearm. Some were yellow with black stripes, others white, a couple had scales that shimmered every colour, outlined in blue and purple. The guides crumbled bread and the fish swarmed around them in an amazing display of colours and shapes. One section was a complex nest of corral. Some were disc shaped and reminded me of terraces, others branches out like trees, others made small caves. Fish glided in and out, a busy town.
Soon we were called to climb back on the boat by the use of a small ladder. Treading water, I removed by flippers and goggles. Suddenly stuck with only my human feet, I worked harder to tread water, feeling it rush around my toes.
“Hello, hello!” Mind the Gap.
The second place we were taken to we were directed to keep close to the cliff of the island. The youngest member of our group was about ten and here with four others from China. Every time our guides gave instructions her brother would listen intently before turning and translating for them. She must have had the easiest time of it, a floatie around her waist and attached to a guide, but this stop wasn’t hard on any of us. Get in and float face down in the water. A warm current followed the edge of the island and would carry us far down where the boat would be to meet us.
This was an entirely different place from the first. About eight feet deep, we watched as a new selection of fish went about their business and, fifteen feet to the right, the teeming underwater city dropped off. Beyond that I could see no bottom of the ocean. It expanded endlessly, forever blue. One behind and one in front, our guides watched us as we delighted in the scenery and they commonly gave warning.
“Hello, hello!” They shouted, gesturing broadly for us to move closer to the cliff. Out in that breathtakingly wide ocean were currents that would sweep us away. I kept my head down, my eyes open and made sure I stayed close to the calls of “hello, hello!”
Hot and Cold
By this time we’re exhausted but can’t wait to get back in the water. The third area is full of boats bobbing in the water. We are closer to a sandy beach and the water is the clearer blue I’m used to. Snorkelers are everywhere. One boat has a slide attached to it. our party swims through the water, heading in somewhat of the same direction. The boats are tied to heavy rocks. I spot the biggest brain corral I’ve ever seen (this is the only type of corral I can be sure of recognising).
A huge school of fish sweeps through the ocean. Many others don’t give a damn about all the people and continue, little flippers hurrying them forward, right past my face. In some parts the water is the warm I’ve come to expect but great swaths of it are freezing. The guide seems to know where to stay and I follow his lead, winding a way through the boats and past an array of underwater life in the warmth of a slight current.
Back on the boat we do a headcount and have to do a loop of the area to find a couple of stragglers. They climb up and the oldest, about forty, has the same wide eyes and giddy smile as the ten year old.
Lost in the Mangroves
Back on the beach, we are treated to an Indonesian lunch of fried rice, cooked vegetables, fresh fruit and, for those who eat meat, chicken wrapped in a banana leaf with a variety of ingredients. I eat with the three New Zealanders, all of us going on about the amazing things we’ve seen and what else we’ve been doing in Indonesia. I’ll definitely have to go back and make a bigger tour of Indonesia, including the area of Seminyak which was mentioned to me on three separate occasions that day.
Once we’d gathered our energy we were brought back across the bamboo bridge. The young woman paired with her boyfriend and I with her brother to take control of some kayaks. Once the whole group was riding low in the murky water we set off. The mangroves are a beautiful sight and endlessly interesting, especially to those who have never seen them. Some in our tour group looked about in open-mouthed awe.
The river wound a maze through mangroves. We explored in one direction racing each other and accidentally sliding into the mangrove. While at first us girls had to lie back at times to avoid being knocked off the kayak by mangroves, we eventually got the hang of paddling.
We turned about when the mangroves became too thick and paddles past the bamboo bridge toward the ocean. Our small group was distracted by trying to drench each other and soon became separated from the rest of the party. Deciding they hadn’t taken the kayaks out on the choppy ocean, we turned about and picked at random one of several options into the mangroves. At each fork we picked randomly but never did they appear. To no matter. What we did see was amazing and, we spotted the small spiders, or crabs, or…creepy crawlies, scuttling about in the mud.
Eventually we turned about and headed for the bamboo bridge. It was only then we realised how far we’d gone. When we appeared around the bend in the river a couple of guides resting on the floating platform jumped to their feet, cheering. The rest of the group had long since arrived and was back on the beach, showering and changing. The foreigners had survived their unexpected excursion.
Back on the beach, we were packed into the trucks again and returned to the fast boat, to Bali and to our hotels.
Incense or Candy?
I made my way back to Courtney’s accommodation and we all went to a café nearby to exchange stories about the day. A couple of them had classrooms with walls, others just a roof. They had a wide and varied range of children to teach who knew a narrow and limited range of English, including the hilarious curse words and thinking ‘teeth is spelled ‘tit’. That’s the worst of it and they’re hitting it off wonderfully, teaching the kids about health with a series of activities.
Courtney and I cracked out the Australian candy. First off a Cadbury snack pack which had to be eaten with forks. It had held up well in the Indonesian heat but some of the delightful goo had still oozed out. Delicious all around. Next something that would need a name change if it hit the shelves of America. Red Skins. Chewy, yummy and really impressive in a few cases. Now what we have all been waiting for. Musk Sticks.
Courtney passed them around, giving directions that they should all eat at the same time. She took one for herself, a brave sacrifice considering the face of horror that had surfaced last time. One, two three. Reactions ranged from unpleasant to confused to betrayed. All eventually ended up at disgust. All except one who was quickly gathering up the sticks others threw down. She could have the bag. Nobody else was going to touch the stuff again.
“It tastes like incense, like something you’re meant to smell.” We let them wash away the taste with some Caramello Koalas.