Virtual Vacation: 2 Dives and a Hike Through the National Park, Bali Day 9

I dove this morning—wonderful visibility and a great variety of corals, many of which I’d never seen before. Even better, when you haven’t gone diving in a while (in my case a year), it takes time to remember how to be underwater. Today, I felt like I got my groove back. I was no longer struggling with buoyancy, I could move slowly and conserve my air and I could hover in the water to study something without surging upwards or downwards, constantly inflating or deflating my BCD.

I’m going (I think) on another night dive tonight. I did one last night and I loved it. I adore the sensation of being underwater in the dark. Each diver carries a lantern that’s strapped to her wrist, so each person has her own light source. When you’re underwater at night, you stick close to your guide. And there are all kinds of creatures that only come out at night. Last night we saw a number of swarming schools of fish, lobsters and other crustaceans. And when I shut off my lantern and swished my arm in front of me, little bright lights came in the wake of my movement—phosphorescence. Whether I go again tonight will depend on conditions in the water. I’m waiting for a call back from the dive shop as I write this post.

The dive shop is a ten-minute walk down the beach. This is what the back of the mosque looks like on our walk:

This afternoon, Allison and Rebecca (a young German woman, traveling alone, who we’ve been diving with), hired a guide to take up to West Bali National Park. It was mostly a flat forest hike with a steep uphill portion on very muddy (ie. treacherous) ground. That was a bit of a challenge, but we were rewarded with incredible views of the whole surrounding area and the island of Java looming on the horizon.

At first, our guide, Nyoman Kawit, took us to see the mangrove trees. The trees and their seedlings were twisted and looked ancient to me. I found them to be powerful spirits, and according to Nyoman, many creatures breed in their complex root systems.

The one thing that destroyed the view, is unfortunately something you see all too often Bali—trash. Plastic. Empty bottles and packaging. Wrappers. Plastic bags. It’s ubiquitous and that’s sad. Even the school children yesterday—when they finished their snacks, they just threw their garbage on the ground. This is pretty typical of many parts of Bali—and here it was happening right in the national park:

This fishing boat appeared suddenly on our pathway, near the mangrove swamp.

As we hiked further in to the monsoon forest, we saw more and more amazing species of trees. I loved these tree roots. This tree is known as a Looking Glass Mangrove. The snaky roots on the ground look like a crocodile.

This is man-made cistern created for animals in the dry season. Unfortunately, the animals starting killing each other and the project was abandoned:

This mushroom is from the wood ear mushroom family:

This is what a banyan tree looks like:

And this, with its spiral corkscrew branches is called a Lion Tree. I thought it looked really cool, but Allison says it’s a pest because it destroys all the other life around it. Aussies call it, “the strangler vine.”

Nyoman asked if we wanted to climb up to a vantage point to see a great view of Bali. We all said yes, but I found the ascent harder than the other two women did. I lagged behind and was breathing hard and struggling with the mud.

My Keenes were great when we had to cross water, but not so great on a muddy pathway. I was covered with sweat by the time I made it to the top, but the view was definitely worth it.

This is Rebecca relaxing.

I love the way relationships between travelers can be surprising intimate, companionable and fluid. She’s going to meet up with Allison tomorrow night in Ubud for dinner—as I go on my solo journey to Amed, a town I’ve never been to before. I have to admit, I’m a bit jealous. But then again, I wanted challenge myself by spending these next days on my own.

On our way out of the park, we had to cross this stream. This is where my Keenes and Nyoman’s steadying hand really helped.

From there we had a lot of steps to climb. And then we came to this temple:

From there we kept climbing up steps until we finally came to this pathway:

It led to a major temple and there were monkeys everywhere, eating the food left in offerings:

A group of Balinese, dressed all in white, had just finished some kind of ritual or ceremony and as they were leaving the temple, we fell in right behind them.

Now see this woman with the basket on her head? She approached Allison and seemed to be scolding her for something she did. Allison felt chagrined. What had she done to offend this woman?

But the next thing we knew, this matchmaker was trying to fix up Allison with our guide, speaking very loudly in Indonesian to anyone who would listen. It was all in gestures and inflections. We suddenly knew exactly what she was up to.

As you can see, Allison and this woman became best buddies:

And here’s the whole party. They were laughing and joking with us and wanted to pose for this picture:

 When we got dropped off to our hotel, sweaty and sticky, Allison and I both showered and sat down to check email and relax. Right now I’m sitting on my lovely white bed, looking out at an incredible view, wrapped in a towel and feeling lazy.

I think you could say we are making the most of our last day in the Pemuteran region. It’s not a big tourist center, although there are definitely tourists here. But it feels more local—and deeply relaxing.

I feel sad to leave this place, but ready to move on. And I’m no longer feeling anxious about my days on my own until the tour group arrives on the 22nd.

I’ve learned that I can be spontaneous, that’s it’s pretty easy to meet fellow travelers, and that the Balinese people are always generous and welcoming. By just making a small amount of effort with their language—they are so appreciative.

So tomorrow morning we head out in a shared car. Allison will be dropped off in Ubud and I will continue on another few hours to Amed….and who knows what adventures that new place will bring. More diving? A bike trip? A fast boat to one of the Gilly Islands? Snorkeling just across the street? Or just sitting on my veranda contemplating the universe?

When I came on this trip, I had this idea that I’d work on my memoir—not! I’m enjoying writing every day, but really I’m only interested in writing about this trip—not doing anything else. Why waste time in Bali doing something I could do anywhere? That’s how I’m feeling today. And I’m letting go of any idea that I “should” be doing something other than what I’m doing and what I feel like doing everyday.

Just a word of forewarning: From what I hear, internet is very shaky and uncertain in Amed, so I don’t know whether I’ll able to get these posts to you or not. So if you don’t hear from me for a few days, you’ll know why.

Sending love from Bali….

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