Bali, Gunung Agung

This is last week’s blog. Somehow I didn’t get round to writing one then.

My love affair with Bali began in 2009. With several others, I joined my friend and colleague Michele Hendarwin on a Yoga Retreat and cultural experience. This turned out to be a life-changing time for me. I had never wished to visit Bali before but, in the interests of challenging my (then) fear of flying, Michele convinced me that the short flight from Perth to Bali (about three-and-a-half hours) was a good place to start! Since then I have returned to Bali once or twice a year. Sometimes with Michele’s Yoga Retreat and sometimes with my family.


At the moment the one thing on my mind is Gunung Agung volcano in Bali. I’m wondering if there is a tipping point after which the eruption has to take place? The volcano is presently rumbling and shaking and the seismic charts look dire.

The Indonesian authorities have already evacuated over 25,000 people from Karangasem district to centres such as the one in Klungkung where they are being cared for. The evacuees have had to leave their homes, temples, pets, and livestock. The crops in the fields lie in the direct path of the volcano.

The last time Gunung Agung erupted was in 1963 and lasted for a year. In that eruption, ash and lava was thrown 10kms into the air. Acid rain and rocks rained down on the east coast of the island. The official (conservative) estimate of people killed in that eruption is around 1,200. However, many of the elders who lived through it believe the number of people killed was in excess of 5,000.

Water, especially clean, potable water, is always an issue in Bali. The camps have limited resources for the many thousands of evacuees. ABC News reports: “At the Klungkung evacuation centre south of Mt Agung, soldiers from the Indonesian army were preparing rice for the 3,500 villagers who had moved into the site. The evacuees were housed in tents and the local sports hall, sleeping on camp beds and the floor.” In the midst of the trauma it warms my heart that care is being taken of those Balinese displaced by the impending eruption.

Gunung Agung is a mighty volcano, over 3,000m high. Pura Besakih is a temple complex in the village of Besakih on the slopes of Mount Agung. It is the most important, the largest and holiest temple of Hindu religion in Bali. The monks have been evacuated from the temple.

Mt. Batur, also erupted in 1963, a few months after Agung. Mt Batur is known for the hot springs in the caldera. Kintamani is the village on the rim of the volcano.

To my all my Balinese friends, I wish you safe passage through this troubling time.

Amed village, East Bali, Indonesia
Bali’s highest volcano Mt Agung, seen from the black sand beach at Amed village in East Bali, Indonesia.


Bali, Gunung Agung

The Nullarbor Plain: the world’s largest limestone karst landscape

Preamble for this week’s blog: on a scale of one to ten I suggest that this blog sits at about 3.


So, this instalment is about a road trip across the Nullabor Plain. The Eyre Highway stretches along the coast from Ceduna in South Australia and inland to Norseman in Western Australia. This road is the Eyre Highway. We made the crossing in the early 1980s. Our road trip actually began in Hobart, Tasmania, not counting the ferry across to Melbourne on mainland Australia. From Melbourne to Perth is 4,320kms.

The little blue Ford Laser was loaded to the gunnels and Kath was squashed into the back seat with not much room to move. Not far from Melbourne I wanted to stop in beautiful Ballarat – to live there. Fortunately Roland talked me out of that idea. We found out afterwards that it gets extremely cold and I’m a child of the tropics.

not our Laser but ours was just like this

We navigated our way through Adelaide fairly easily, albeit with Roland cleverly reversing my directions. I get confused between left and right so when I said, “ turn left” he’d turn right and vice versa thereby finding the correct route. So, only another 2,790kms further to drive to Perth.

Crossing the Nullabor is an adventure any time. At this stage we did not know where we were and neither did anyone else. There are roadhouses but they are few and far between. Fuel was expensive and we were not really prepared for the distances. Yes, we had driven vast distances in Southern Africa but there was usually a dorp (village), town or even a city along the way. The vast and treeless plain of the Nullabor – the long, long stretches of straight road, and the huge road trains that rode up close behind us were something new and strange. Places marked on the map we were using (I’d found it in an old copy of The Australia Women’s Weekly) turned out to be water tanks.

There was a lot of road kill all along the highway. Wedge-tail eagles live on the carrion and often become carrion themselves as they gorge to the point of not being able to take off when a vehicle approaches and runs them down. Much later, friends told us of a car towing a caravan that ran over a rotting kangaroo corpse. The caravan had to be abandoned because someone had left a window open and the inside was covered with stinking, rotten gunk.

At the border between South Australia and Western Australia is the Quarantine Station where we had to throw out all the fruit and vegetables we were carrying.

One day I’d like to do the trip again, albeit more consciously. I’d like to visit some of the spectacular coastal cliffs and the deep caverns. I wouldn’t like to do it again carrying most of our worldly goods in a small blue hatchback.

The Nullarbor Plain: the world’s largest limestone karst landscape

Back to civilisation and being responsible parents again

Now that we were back on the mainland we stayed a couple of days in the fishing town of Vilanculos. One memory that has stuck were the delicious, juicy crab claws that were supplied as ‘bar food’. So, we’d sit at the bar in the evening and eat our way through bowl after bowl. I don’t even like crab but these were different. Fresh mussels were also available.

Somewhere, I think in Inhambane, we watched the African women collecting mussels off the rocks. When the tide was out, the women would walk out in stately single file. Picking their way across the rocks, with heavy metal buckets balanced on their heads, as a wave came in the women would throw their skirts up so as not to get them wet. As they did not wear underclothes, this was cause for much merriment for Wendy and me. I rather think Roland and Cliff either didn’t notice or were too embarrassed to laugh. Anyway, we bought a bucket of these mussels and I can remember how mouth-wateringly yummy they were.

Another treat in Mozambique were the cashew nuts. You could buy a great big square tin for next to nothing. I remember we were going to take a couple of tins back home but ended up eating the whole lot.


So, from Vilanculos we headed toward Lourenco Marques, now called Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. Slowly but surely we were moving back toward civilisation.

Not long after we arrived in LM, I noticed that a wound on Kath’s heel was looking very red, swollen and lots of pus. Soon a red vein appeared running up her leg. I panicked. I knew this was a sign of blood poisoning. With no knowledge of the Portuguese language, we weren’t confident we could manage the hospital and doctor in LM. Roland and I decided to leave and head for my sister’s place in Rhodesia, near the Limpopo River. We bid a tearful farewell to Cliff and Wendy and off we went.

We went through the border between Mozambique and South Africa at Komatipoort. I remember very little of the trip, just wishing the Land Rover could go faster. We crossed from South Africa into Rhodesia at Beit Bridge – border crossings were not a problem in those days. Soon, we were on the ranch where my sister, Win, lived. Win and I decided to take Kath back over the border to the mining town of Messina (now Musina) to see the mine doctor.

In the event, Kath was given an anaesthetic – chloroform – administered in the old fashioned way, on a cloth. The nurse was the anaesthetist and assistant. Once she was anaethetised, the doctor started probing into her foot. It seemed to take hours and hours. He eventually found a small grain of coral deep in the flesh and plucked it out with tweezers. Coral poisoning is dreadful. Win and I stayed in the room all the time. Before Kath had even come round from the anaesthetic, we were on our way back to the ranch. We had to make the border at Beit Bridge before it closed. We scraped through but only because the officers knew Win.

I don’t know if I ever told my sister how grateful Roland and I were for her help that day. She is truly the hero of the story.

On the way back to the ranch, driving through the bush, we saw an aardvark.


Back to civilisation and being responsible parents again

Flying in the Fifties

While decluttering my old tin trunk I found a diary that I had kept as a teenager. This was the year I first flew from Africa to Europe. My parents and younger sister had travelled by passenger liner – Union Castle – but I was not permitted to take time off school. I can’t remember if I flew BOAC, SAA or CAA. The plane was probably a Vickers Viscount. As far as I remember the route was Salisbury, Nairobi, Khartoum, Rome and then London, so probably BOAC. I’m not sure why the flight was diverted to Kano but may have had something to do with the Benghazi aircraft accident. I do know my parents were extremely concerned that I may be on the aircraft that crashed – and were happy to see me safely in Rome! It was a long journey for a solo fourteen year old, but I don’t remember being in the slightest bit nervous.

According to my diary we left Salisbury (Harare) on the afternoon of 9 August. The preparations I made for the journey were to have my hair done (no doubt a nice big bouffant which I promptly redid when I got home) and read a book: The Mask by Stuart Cloete.

To say I was boy-mad is an understatement! My first impressions of Rome seem to be mainly concerned with the handsome men I saw. Apart from checking out the talent, we did a lot of sightseeing including the Trevi Fountain.

Trevi Fountain – headless statue, useless photographer!

Dad took us to the opera – Aida – performed outdoors at the Caracalla Baths. According to my diary I was impressed by the scenery, the camels pooping on the stage and the size of the opera singers. Oh, and staying up till after 1.00am.

I can’t remember the return journey but we were away for at least six weeks, touring Europe and the British Isles. I didn’t return to Europe until 1976 with Roland and Kath.

Decluttering has turned up some amazing memories so I shall continue.




Flying in the Fifties

Planning Lombok R&R

It seems the only time I can bring myself to blog is when I am going away or blogging about where I’ve been. This is nothing to do with procrastination – or maybe it has a lot to do with procrastination? Is it worth having a theme to follow? Probably. What happens is this, something of interest in my life seems to end up on Facebook and never makes it here.

In the event, we are going to Lombok next week; we being Roland and I. When I was there in May with Kath, Dean and Lily, I liked it so much that I managed to persuade Roland he might like it too. Recently, we were sitting chatting and he mentioned that maybe he was being a bit (a bit!) of a stick-in-the-mud so he’d like to go and have a look at Lombok. Before he could change his mind I had my laptop fired up and had booked and paid the airfares and the hotel accommodation! I made the booking for ‘earlier’ rather than ‘later’ and now ‘earlier’ is right upon us! Only 3 more sleeps.

We will be staying in a homestay in Kuta (Bali also has a Kuta). The prices are reasonable and include breakfast. Have a look here Yuli’s Homestay What do you think? I’d love for my sister Win to come with us as she told me she’d like to do a trip like this.

We are going to do a lot of exploring – I hope going to Mount Rinjani – the volcano which is still active. I think all the volcanoes in Indonesia are active. I don’t think we will climb all the way up but will certainly do what we can. The trek to the top takes 4 or 5 days … so I don’t think we’ll get anywhere near the Segara Anak Crater Lake. The mountain and the lake are sacred places. Mt Rinjani rises to 3,726 metres (12,224 ft), making it the second highest volcano in Indonesia. According to Wiki, “The Rinjani caldera forming eruption is thought to have occurred in the 13th century. Dated to “late spring or summer of 1257,” this eruption is now considered the likely source of high concentrations of sulfur found in widely dispersed ice core samples and may have been “the most powerful volcanic blast since humans learned to write.” I just hope it doesn’t choose when we are there to erupt again!

Roland will be doing some fishing – it looks like there are some excellent fishing charters and pretty reasonably priced too. The current exchange rate is in our favour.

Watch this space for more news.

Planning Lombok R&R

Picking up where I left off – in Thailand

You are here

After returning home from our holiday I had time to write one blog. My next adventure was an emergency appendectomy on Easter Sunday evening. Unusual for a person my age to have appendicitis – but that did not make it any less painful! I recovered well and came home the next day (Easter Monday). After that, procrastination set in and this is the first time I’ve had the inspiration to sit down and blog. Plenty has been happening here including our smash-proof screen door locking itself and not letting us in or out. We’re waiting for the locksmith even as I write.

Of course, the holiday is a dim memory now but I’ll turn to my trusty Moleskine and see what I can find.

We enjoyed Bangkok and Pattaya in Thailand. The traffic was horrendous, kilometre after kilometre of container trucks – mainly running on gas, we could see the gas bottles stacked up behind the drivers’ cabs. Even the tuk-tuks run on gas. The trip from the where the ship was docked (Leam Chabang) into Bangkok took upwards of two hours and gave us a chance to see some of the countryside although mainly built up. A little bit like Bali on steroids.

In Bangkok we visited a number of temples including the huge Reclining Buddha at Wat Po. I was fascinated to see the back of his head in tight little (gold) curls. Overheard in the crush of tourists, “Looks like a gold submarine”.

Wat Ratchanadda and Loha Prasat with 36 surrounding spires is a wonderful place. The spiral staircase winds up and up to a spire from which we could view the surrounding city. All along the corridors on each level are Buddhist adages in English and Thai. Lots of seated Buddhas all along the outside wall and signs to say, “You Are Here”.

my favourite
Rows and rows of gold Buddhas

Seated Buddha

The Big Buddha at Wat Suthat

view from the top

Roland said he was “All templed-out”!

The murals were beautiful and I had fun photographing the details. One of these days I’ll buy a better camera.

To be continued – Pattaya, Ho Chi Minh City and finally Singapore.

Picking up where I left off – in Thailand