|Dear family and friends,
We are now in Padangbai, a little beach town on the southeast coast of Bali. It would satisfy everyone's images of Bali: beach, lush greenery, coconut palms, brightly painted wooden boats, and excellent seafood. Yesterday we watched as freshly caught shark was moved into the back of a pickup truck for transport to an unknown destination -- the sharks were so large it took about 6 people to hoist them up and into the truck.
Yesterday afternoon we set out to walk over the headland at the west end of the bay, since we had been told there was a beautiful white sand beach there. We missed the tiny sign pointing to the footpath, and followed the tiny paved road instead, ending up at a huge long black sand beach. We walked up the beach and found a fleet of local wooden fishing boats pulled up on the beach. All the boats are brightly painted, and have eyes on the prow; the prow is carved to look like a smiling mouth, so the boats have the appearance of very cheery wooden fish. We thought that instead of walking back on the beach, we would go inland to get back to the little paved road. Not so easy! We ended up wandering along footpaths through an area of small houses and garden plots, seeing pigs, cows (who all watched us curiously), a family plowing (wooden plow pulled by cows) and planting between their coconut trees. They showed us the seeds, but we could not identify them. Eventually we got back to the road and wandered home, and discovered the path we should have taken. The white sand beach has now become today's destination.
We arrived in Sanur in Wednesday and spent Thursday recovering from our flight, putting bikes together, and generally getting oriented. Friday morning we went to the US Consulate in nearby Denpasar because Ron had no more blank pages in his passport and needed more added, but the proper official was not there, and we were told to come back on Monday. Because we heard it was raining buckets in Ubud where we'd planned to go on Sunday, we decided to stay in Sanur until Monday, and Ron could then get his new passport pages. Rather than fight the traffic out of Sanur and Densapar (the big city in Bali) and the rain in Ubud, we opted to come to Padangbai instead. We thought it would be easier to learn to bike on the left side of the road in a location that doesn't have the major traffic of Bali! We took the easy way out and had the driver from our guest house bring us and our bikes the 78km.
Saturday morning we did at least test out our bikes on the side road that leads to the beach. Ron tried out the local transportation system (bemos, little vans with benches along the sides) and went to Kuta, the big tourist beach destination, in the afternoon. He found it to be a gorgeous white sand beach with lots of surfers (it is a major surfer destination), but the roads were jammed with traffic, and the hawkers were constant and persistent. Ellen stayed in Sanur and enjoyed her afternoon on the quiet beach there, watching the local dogs play with a stick and chase each other for hours. Sunday afternoon we went to the Bali Bird Park (www.balibirdpark.com for those who are interested), which has a spectacular display of tropical birds in huge aviaries. We also had a spectacular ginger-carrot soup for lunch in their restaurant. Ron took a bike ride after we returned from the park, and reports that although the traffic and air pollution were heavy, he felt safer than when riding on the road that passes the end of our driveway.
The weather is extremely hot and extremely humid -- our friend George tells us that at home we've had a hard frost.
Our current plan is to head by bike from here towards Ubud in a day or so, and hope that the torrents of rain have ended. The sun is shining in Padangbai, but apparently the weather is changeable, depending on both the moment and the location.
Love to all,
Ron and Ellen
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