The iPad alarm begins playing After the Disco (Broken Bells) – groovy tune. It is 2:00am in Bali and we just had four hours of sleep. Well sort of because even after being in the rice fields for two months, the sound of frogs croaking (what sounds like over a crackling elementary school intercom system) continues to keep interrupting Mark’s sleep each night. Regardless of crumby sleeps (frogs croak, that is just a fact of life), we love this place and we are getting up at 2:00am to complete another visa run in order to return to Bali. The locals say that Bali has a way of embracing the ones it wants to keep and sending the ones it does not want far, far away.
I guess Bali likes us.
The full moon just completed and it is pitch black in the rice fields at this early hour. A quick shower, headlamps on, we head down the “gang” (a narrow trail in the rice fields connecting the homes to a main path or roadway) to meet our taxi. Our taxi driver, Wayan, admits that he is scared of the demons that come out at night (a common Balinese belief), so he stays inside his vehicle to stay safe while waiting for us under thick trees on a narrow winding road.
The trip to the airport from Ubud at this hour takes approximately 45 minutes at reasonable speed. It provides a bit of the usual entertainment – scooters passing on the inside, truckloads of black dirt dumped on the black asphalt roadway with no warning signs, triangles, or flashing lights. Our favorite though, the Balinese dog.
These dogs are everywhere in Bali. They are fantastically road wise, savvy and they run in and out of traffic in the calmest manner never really appearing to be worried about being hit by the vehicles cruising by them. Sadly, some look like they are on deaths door, scavenging for food on a daily basis, no owners and no one to love them. Some have mange, deformities, and most are not spayed so many of the adult females have permanent swollen nipples making us cringe every time we see them. The locals keep them for security… every house has at least one. Otherwise they do not seem to get much love. The lack of attention and care of the doggies has resulted in some aggressive behaviour leading to mass culling in an effort to control the dog population and rabies. Regardless, the breed unique to Bali continues to thrive.
Although the Balinese dog has made its way into Mark’s heart, Christine continues to be terrified every time we walk by one barking continuously at us. Mark tells Christine to just be calm, that they sense her fear, but she just tells him to go fly a kite (edited from her actual reaction).
As fate would have it, two Bali pups were abandoned at our favorite café and tugged at our heart strings. At 48 years of age, we finally became parents – well foster parents that is. For our moms eager for this roaming two to provide grandkids, we finally did it… only these grandkids have four legs and are half way around the world. Sorry mom! Approximately two to three months old, Freya (multicolored) and Tammy (white) were abandoned to fend for themselves. Eager to give these cuties a chance at life, we teamed up with our friends, the owners of the café, to give them a home until they can be adopted.
During the day, Tammy and Freya hang out at the café with Mark (that is another story) and have been socialized with other dogs, people and even two cats. They sit and wait patiently until Mark puts the food bowl down, they potty in the yard and they sleep peacefully together in a cardboard box. We have had fun buying teething treats, bones to chew on and even specially formulated puppy food. Their first vet visit was complete with a thermostat up the bum (Freya yelped louder than we have heard – but who can blame her!) and they have been de-wormed and received their first vaccination. Exhausted after their day of playing with other dogs, cats and greeting people, they snuggle into our lap at home for an evening siesta making us melt into goo and get warm, fuzzy feelings that we assume all new parents get.
Proud parent moments include sitting for the first time, sharing food with their sister, leash training – our dogs are so much smarter than yours – and the infamous good morning… wiggle butt, lick toes and jump up and down so happy to see you that has truly made the dog man’s best friend.
And a video of the little darlings…
Our favorite café, the Pyramids of Chi, is owned by a wonderful Australian couple. With a vision to create a space for people to enjoy, they have built an incredible café in the rice fields. While enjoying tea, coffee and amazing food, customers sit in an open air restaurant overlooking two pyramids being built suspended over a body of water. The pyramids will hold up to 70 people interested in enjoying the sounds of gongs, didgeridoo, hanging drums, water sticks and other ancient sound healing instruments. Missing designing, building and tinkering with home “stuff”, Mark spends many hours helping out on the pyramids and getting his hands dirty when possible.
Believe it or not, travelling can get a bit “been there, done that” and getting sweaty, stinky and dirty is rather fun. Especially when it is with a group of fantastic Balinese guys that speak four words of English and smile from ear to ear all day long while sweating their butts off!
To get an idea of this fascinating project, check out the latest drone video taken after erecting 80% of the first pyramid and a quick glimpse into the mesmerizing sounds of a hang drum in a pyramid under construction.
Drone video, shows the neighbouring landscape as well.
Sounds of hang drum in a pyramid
Amongst all the beauty, we begin to break down a bit on this backpacking trip. Muscles are no longer in places they used to be and joints, tendons and wee muscles begin to feel strain they never felt before. Christine develops a frozen shoulder – perhaps from carrying the backpack (or from sleeping on countless crummy mattresses) and Mark a repetitive strain injury from hours spent lifting massive panels and squeezing a caulking gun. As they say in Bali, “it is no problem”. Christine goes to a Traditional Acupuncturist for a truckload of needles and a procedure called “cupping”. Mark sees a Traditional Balinese healer for some Reflexology and pain like he has never felt before (15 minutes with this healer and he was soaked with sweat from head to toe).
Alas, all is great. We have been super busy in Bali which has taken us away from photos and writing. We even had some best friends from Edmonton come out for a couple of weeks to explore the island with us… but that will be for another post.
As we said goodbye to our friends and as we approach the Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, we are reminded of everything we are grateful for in our life. Our health, a laugh, our lifestyle, travel, education, a smile, childhood, career, and of course our family and friends. There is a phrase, “you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family”. On this Thanksgiving, we are thankful we have the best of both.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
…Mark and Christine
Sample Expenses – In Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)
Exchange is approximately $1 CDN = 9,800 IDR (easiest is to drop the last 4 digits… eg. 100,000 IDR = approx. $10 CDN)
- Yogurt 72,800IDR
- Muesli 700 grams 68,200IDR
- 3L box of generic red wine 363,000IDR
- Dairy Milk chocolate bar 165gram 15,700IDR
- Paper towel 3 rolls 22,800IDR
- Toilet paper 8 rolls 34,650IDR
- Milk 1L tetra pack 19,500IDR
- Butter 227gram 30,000
- Papaya 22,226IDR
- Watermelon 52,626IDR
- Sensodyne toothpaste 100gram 26,600IDR
- Bug killer 600ml aerosol 38,650IDR
- Tortilla chips 180gr 25,350IDR
- Mixed salad (bag) 200grams 21,250IDR
Buying western products would blow the backpacking budget… (eg. Haagen Daas $21, Kettle Chips $9)