Fizzy days in Bali

After Lombok we got a five minute aeroplane ride over to Bali and we stayed at a place called BB Hostel in Canggu. The hostel had a swimming pool, a pool table and a television.The first day we were there the swimming pool was out of order because the pump had stopped working. While we were there Dad invented special dipper where you fill the lid of a water bottle with water and dip your toothbrush in. We needed to do that because tap water in Indonesia isn’t clean, so we used bottled water for that instead.

In the evening we left Jago at BB Hostel and the rest of us went out for dinner but it was only five minutes there. The food was delicious, I had a folded up ham pizza and ravioli stuffed with spinach.

 

 

I woke up the next day knowing it would be Cara’s fake birthday today. She had a fake birthday becauae Dad wouldn’t be there for her proper birthday. He was leaving because Nanny was very ill. We went straight to splash water park because that’s how Cara wanted to spend the day. At Splash there was a massive rainbow coloured water slide  and a Tarzan swing, and I had 2 fizzy drinks. On the rainbow slide you needed to go down on a mat and you went really fast, and we raced each other. It was amazing and I would like to go back there. I also enjoyed table tennis with Dad, going round the lazy river and the big red waterslide. It was a brilliant day. Then we got a shuttle bus to Finn’s bar which was on a sandy beach with lots of surfers surfing and we had another fizzy drink by the sea. Finally we went to Bobs restaurant and they said they were good for birthdays. I had a beef burger and yet another fizzy drink and played pool. We got a cake with candles in and we sang Happy Birthday”.

The next day we went to Kota Kinabalu and left Dad at Kuala Lumpur airport. It was sad leaving him. The last few days in Bali we did fun things but we didn’t enjoy them as much as we should have because we knew that Dad was going to leave.

 

 

Beach clean and bike

On Friday, 2 days after we arrived on Gili T, we were at Antony’s house playing in the swimming pool there. The pool was shared with two other people but I didn’t mind because it was very big and refreshing. Once we had swam for a while, Mum gave us some spellings to do using little letters that were a bit like scrabble tiles. I thought it was fun and I did lots but I didn’t get all of them right. Piran then decided that he wanted to go for a bike ride, so we did.

We got 5 bikes that fitted us ( from Antony’s house ) and then we set off. I rode ahead with Mum and Cara while Dad and Piran went behind us. We went very fast as we rode down the dirt track and round the corner at the bottom of the road. When we got to the next turning we had to stop and wait for Dad and Piran to catch us up. When they got to us we were told to go left because then we would be facing where we were heading.

When we started again I found that my legs were hurting but I decided to just carry on. Soon I decided to go and see how Dad and Piran were doing so I told Mum, turned around and set off back down the road. A little bit back down the road I found Dad and Piran. They were doing well and and thought I should leave them while they were still ok. I tried to catch up but I couldn’t find Mum and Cara so I ended up going back.

Soon we got to a T junction and I didn’t know which way to go but Dad saw their bikes by a mound of sand so we put our bikes with theirs, climbed over the mound and we saw them playing on a swing in the sea. The swing was just above the water and if you put your feet down you got very wet and slowed yourself down. When Cara finished playing on it I had a go and it was very fun. Dad even had a go and he splashed me but I had another go and got him back!

We then went back to the bikes and we rode back to the house. When we got back we had a quick swim, got back on our bikes and rode down to a dive school on the main road by the sea. Mum said we were going to do the Gili T beach clean and the dive school was where it started. Piran said he didn’t want to do it but Dad said you got a free drink if you do it and immediately Piran changed his mind. Once we had seen all of the rubbish in Bali we all really wanted to stop the rubbish polluting the sea because it is bad for the planet.

We only had to wait 5 minutes until someone came and explained what we needed to do. She told us we had two bags, one we needed to fill with recyclable things and another for other rubbish. She also said we had an old water bottle to fill up with cigarette butts.

Once she told us about it we went onto the beach and started cleaning. I found lots of cigarette butts and a lot of non recyclable things but not too many recyclable things. Cara had a bottle for cigarettes and we found a lot. There was a dive instructor who had a bottle as well and we decided to try and get more than him. We them found that when we were looking especially for cigarette butts we found loads of them. We went on for a long time and when Cara’s bottle was almost full I got a new one to start on.

I decided to go ahead of the dive instructor so I got lots and left only a little for him. I went on for ages and when it was time to head back I came and we saw who had the most butts. We found we had 4000 and he had 1500 butts so that meant we had beaten him by a long way. We then had our free drink and went back to the house and I fell asleep very quickly.

I really enjoyed the bike ride and the beach clean was very fun. It was my favourite day on Gili T so far. After the beach clean we made posters and gave them to the Gili T Eco Trust and they put them on Facebook.

Gili Air

On Gili Air I went snorkelling, stand up paddle boarding and bike riding. Mum and I went snorkelling in the clear turquoise sea. We saw lots of colourful fish, sea urchins and coral but no turtles. There were lots of little neon blue fish although my favourite fish was the parrot fish. The parrot fish was multicoloured and quite big. I liked the parrot fish because of its amazing colours. There were lots of sea urchins which are like spike balls, therefore Jago didn’t stay in long as he was afraid they might hurt him.

Jago paid for us to go stand up paddle boarding. When you do stand up paddle boarding you slowly stand up then paddle on alternate sides. It was a bit hard because I had to keep changing the position of my hands so it felt comftable on both sides without falling off. When I was up I felt the wind in my hair and the warm sea gently brushing over the board. It was quite relaxing just paddling and thinking.

The next day we went to Oceans 5 dive resort and left our things there with Dad. Mum, Jago, Piran and I went on a bike ride. It was sandy in places and we all fell off at least once because the sand slowed us down and stopped our wheels from moving but it was still fun. We saw the sea and let the cool breeze blow over us. We found a way to the beach and tried to go in the opposite direction because it was too sandy but every road we took went back to the coast. Eventually we found a way to the middle of the island and we decided to head back. When we approached the centre of the island it got a bit more busy and we began to see horse and carts. There are no cars on Gili Air so the transport is horse and carts. All the horses had bells and were decorated nicely.

I enjoyed stand up paddle boarding most because it was fun to have time alone. The beaches were nice and the fish were beautiful. It was just the right temperature but the island was a bit too small. I think Gili Air is a fun little island.

Week 12 continued- Ubud

On Wednesday we bid farewell to the Bukit and made the journey north to Ubud. What a contrast! Ubud was incredibly busy, full of tourists, shops and restaurants, with locals offering taxis and trying to persuade you to come in to their place every few steps. There were plenty of fabulous buildings including the centrally placed Palace to admire, as well as many huge doorways with their distinctive style of tall, elaborately carved stone pillars which have been sliced straight down the middle and pulled apart, with the door in between. There has been plenty of wonderful architecture in Bali with oriental style roofs in abundance and statues to admire at every turn, and we enjoyed noticing these on our journey and after reaching our destination. I found walking around Ubud quite stressful as there were cars and mopeds everywhere and often no pavement, but the kids took it all in their stride. We had booked a room in our first homestay in the centre of town, and whilst I am not normally a city person it was exciting to be right in the midst of the hustle and bustle for a short while and convenient to have everything on our doorstep. Staying in a family compound, we could see how they were set up with a central gazebo for coming together, a separate kitchen, and separate buildings for each of the bedrooms/living areas. Much of the available space was filled with small shrines which made up their personal temple for daily offerings to the family Gods. Looking out over the rooftops from our balcony, we could see that this was replicated in all the surrounding homes, and we could see again how the multiple daily offerings really are a part of everyday life for the Hindu Balinese.

Our first outing in Ubud was to the monkey forest, a sanctuary of lush jungle filled with fantastic stone carvings, three temples and hundreds of monkeys, a cool respite from the heat and mania outside. It was a calm and inviting place to explore and we enjoyed watching the monkeys chasing each other round and round a pond, splashing about and getting soaking wet as they jumped in and out looking just like our children. The walk became a bit more stressful when one naughty monkey decided it would like the bottle of water I was holding and grabbed the other end of it, but I managed to keep my nerve and run as quickly as possible away from it emerging unscathed. Not long afterwards another monkey decided it liked the look of my rucksack and jumped onto my back which was slightly more terrifying. My hero of a husband wrestled that one off me and we managed to escape the forest without any further attacks, although Cara was pretty freaked out by that point! There were plenty of people around holding bananas for the monkeys to make them climb up their arms to reach the food, so it’s not surprising that they don’t have any fear of humans- but I really couldn’t understand why people would want to have a monkey on them! We finished our day in a fantastic restaurant called Clear, which had delicious healthy food and an incredibly serene atmosphere with indoor garden and stream. This was a huge hit with the kids on account of a climbing pole near our table, which could be used to scale to the first floor and slide back down again. It certainly kept them occupied before and after the meal, and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Ubud.

On Thursday we spent most of the day around the homestay, Piran and Cara doing some maths and art, whilst Jago had a restful day reading and sleeping, affected by his first episode of traveller’s diarrhoea and stomach cramps. Left to their own devices, Piran and Cara spent the day creating a show for us consisting of a magic trick, a piece on the recorder, and a play based on ‘Percy Jackson and the Lightning thief’. At lunch time I took the 2 younger ones out for a walk to the rice terraces on the outskirts of Ubud. It was amazing how just 10 minutes walk from all the craziness of the town centre there was complete tranquility and the most beautiful surroundings with more different shades of green than I ever imagined possible, ducks and herons in the fields, swallows darting all around, butterflies and dragonflies. We sat and enjoyed the peace and quiet in a wonderful cafe for an hour or so before heading back into town and it was one of my most serene moments since leaving the UK. Amazing how so much noise and busyness can make the quiet times so much more blissful! This was my first glimpse into the Ubud that I had been led to expect from the guidebooks and I can see how wonderful it would have been here a few years ago before tourism completely took over.

The following morning we ventured out to explore further with a longer walk along the Campuan ridge, this time with Jago and Ben in tow as well. We managed a whole 9km despite the heat, started off by taking in the fabulous temple of Pura Gunung Lebah with its multiple tiers of shrines, lovely stone carvings and the sound of quiet water rushing by, cool and shady in the valley. We saw fields of elephant grass, rice terraces, and swathes of jungle in the valley with some fabulous places on the hillsides looking out at the view. After just 3km we reached a small village which felt a million miles away from Ubud- another reminder that you certainly don’t have to go far to escape the frenzy of the town. Walking back along the main road we could appreciate all the boutiques and art galleries. There is so much creativity here- particularly paintings, wood carving and stone carving, but it feels very strange that within one village there will be dozens of people each with the same craft selling almost exactly the same things as each other rather than spreading it out across different areas. Having made it back at lunchtime we had another quiet afternoon at the homestay and were treated to another show by the kids, this time consisting of poetry, songs and music that they had written themselves. We haven’t fitted in nearly as much recorder practice as I had hoped, but I am happy we’ve done enough for them to start composing bits and pieces using the 3 notes they know! We ended the day by splashing out on a very touristy outing to see a Legong and Barong show at Ubud Palace, to experience some Balinese culture. We all agreed that the Legong dancers had wonderful costumes and the instruments themselves were fantastic including bamboo xylophones played with ivory tusks, but the music and dancing itself was a bit repetitive and none of us were able to follow the story despite having it all written down in the programme. The Barong dancing, on the other hand, was enjoyed by all. A large friendly monster much like a Chinese dragon with 2 dancers controlling the head and tail respectively, the kids were captivated as the story unfolded. Just before the show finished the heavens well and truly opened and we had great fun getting soaked to the bone in the short 2 minute dash back to the homestay. Being here in the rainy season can be quite fun!

Saturday was the highlight of my time in Bali so far. We had booked ourselves onto a cookery course at an organic farm 18km outside of Ubud, and it was far and away one of the best family activities we’ve ever done. We were collected at 7.30am and taken to the market where we could see locals buying and selling their produce- spices, fruits and vegetables, dried fish, meat, pastries and even some brightly coloured dyed chicks. We were shown the different spices that we would be cooking with and also bought some different fruits to taste. On arrival at the farm, we were given a basket and knife and set off to harvest what we would need, looking at their farm set up as we went. It was not as different to Hempsals Farm as you might have expected! Different crops were grown in rows of piled up soil with some vegetables rotated and others in permanent position, and despite a stark absence of mechanised tools there were very few weeds in place. Farming here is a full time job 7 days a week and the only labour aid that we could see apart from mattocks and scythes were the cows for ploughing the fields. We enjoyed picking our beans, spinach, bok choy, bay leaves and chillies whilst we had our guided tour. Then the cooking commenced! Working in 2 groups we made 6 dishes: vegetables, chicken curry, sweet and sour tempe (soyabean, and surprising tasty given how little we like tofu), pork satay and tuna sambal, followed by sticky rice pudding. It certainly was a feast and we all enjoyed chopping and cooking together. The best part was that having prepared the food, everyone was keen to try it all when we would normally have difficulty persuading the kids to sample dishes like these. Topped up with rice, we ate enough food to last us several days and it made a really nice change from the nasi goreng and mie goreng that we have been living on for the last couple of weeks.
On our way back to Ubud, thinking that a walk would be nice after all that food, we stopped at the Tegallagang rice terraces as we were passing by. After our experience of Jimbaran we ought to have learned to avoid places on the tour bus trail, but we could not have imagined the sheer volume of people who were walking around these terraces, which had clearly become consumed as a tourist attraction with locals trying to persuade you to take photos with them (for a fee of course), and charging you for entry, and to cross their bridges and their particular bit of land. Whilst the terraces are fabulous, the way they curve around with the river, with the water running down the hillside from terrace to terrace, with so many different shades of green, it is completely unnecessary to pay to come and visit sites like this when the countryside is full of similar fields that aren’t heaving with visitors trampling over the land. Still we successfully managed to walk off some of our meal and arrived back in Ubud feeling much more comfortable after a great day’s activity.

The final day of the week, and of our time in Ubud, was New Year’s Eve. Keen to explore a bit further afield we headed up to the central mountains for the day, near the foothills of Mount Batur. Our first stop was the Botanic gardens where the kids had a fantastic morning at Treetop Adventures, much like Go Ape but far more adventurous with very challenging circuits for them to enjoy. Leaving them to it, I enjoyed walking around seeing the landscaped gardens, wild orchids and thousands of types of fern, and appreciating some peace and quiet by myself for a change. After a quick lunch at a local warung, we headed to Lake Buyan, one of two ‘twin lakes’, where the Lonely Planet described ‘an easy, clear 4km walk- ask your driver to drop you off and pick you up at the other end’. Believing the book, we declined offers of local guides and set off on our walk over to Lake Tamblingan, initially on an obvious wide path which locals whizzed backwards and forwards on, on their mopeds. It was lovely to be walking away from the tourist trail again, particularly after our experience at Tegallagang the day before, and the cooler temperature in the mountains meant we could have a proper stomp. We had a happy walk for a good hour or so before the path just disappeared as we reached a house with some rather scary dogs that were keen to chase us away, and checking the map we realised we should have turned off the path some way back. Retreating our steps we tried various different paths, none of which seemed to take us where we were meant to be heading, and some of which just took us round and round in circles. Ben had a revision lesson on how to use a compass and we all managed to stay cheerful and rise to the challenge of finding our way out of the jungle, until we noticed that I had a couple of leeches on me which had clearly been there some time- big and swollen and firmly attached to my ankles. On closer inspection we all had a few of them on our socks and shoes, although the others weren’t yet attached. After the excitement of pulling them all off, we finally decided we had had enough and admitted defeat. We retraced our steps and sheepishly called our driver asking him to come all the way back from the agreed meeting place to where he had left us in the first place. Although we didn’t manage to find our route, we all felt very adventurous and pleased with ourselves for surviving the jungle challenge! We didn’t quite have to call on our survival skills but it was great that everyone met the challenge with a positive attitude and worked together to escape. Happy times and a great way to end 2017.

We spent the evening in a reggae bar where we had dinner, many drinks and lots of games of cards. Clearly a family run business, the warm up act was a couple of small boys playing the same 2 or 3 pieces repeatedly on their xylophones and the interval act was 2 of the girls doing some Legong dancing. They invited all the men to join them and much to Jago’s embarrassment Ben happily jumped up to demonstrate his hip movements and hand waving. Ben clearly enjoyed himself greatly! When Piran couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer we headed back to the homestay to continue the party while he slept, and we all agreed that dancing to cheesy music on the balcony and seeing in the New Year watching the fireworks over Ubud was the best New Year ever. At half past midnight we all finally rolled into bed, a happy end to an amazing year getting to know our world, and each other, so much better.

Arriving in Lombok

After the stormy, windy boat trip we arrived in Lombok. The boat was small and wooden and there were loads of people. The first thing I noticed in Lombok was that there were not as many motorbikes as in Bali but as we got to a village there were the same amount.

Soon we arrived in Senaru and reached our home stay. I got someone to carry my luggage to my room for me, then I jumped into the bed and started putting up my mosquito tent. After I put up my mosquito tent Mum, Cara and I went to a shop and brought five wafers. We sat on chairs and looked out from the balcony. From the balcony you could see Mount Rinjani, a big rainforest and lots of rice terraces with cows in and some of the rice was much more light green. In the room there were Barcelona blankets. They were really soft but I didn’t get to use them in the night because there were only 2. It was chilly and misty near the mountain.

It was hot in the Gili islands so I wanted to go to a colder place but then when I went to a cold place I wanted to go back to a hot place again! In the morning Mum, Cara and I sat where they serve you breakfast. I played games on my kindle and Mum and Cara stuck stuff in the scrap book. We all had pancakes, then we set out to a waterfall walk and I got really fed up with walking. I liked Lombok because I thought it was beautiful but I thought it was too cold.

Week 12- Christmas at Bingin

We were woken up early on Monday morning (Christmas Day) with cries of ‘He came! Father Christmas came!’ There was great excitement opening their small stockings containing sweets, chocolate coins, a chocolate orange, some playing cards, toothbrushes and soap. We managed an early morning video call with my family who were still up on Christmas Eve- the first time since we left that I have felt homesick, seeing them all gathered together with a beautifully decorated big tree and a warm fire. The family gathering is the most wonderful part of Christmas for me, and I was sad not to be part of it this year. Having said that, I do normally find the run up to Christmas quite stressful with all the decorations, shopping, wrapping, food preparation, card writing, children’s plays /school fairs/ carol concerts and general organisation, and the simplicity of Christmas this year has been very refreshing. We hardly thought about it until it was upon us, with just one morning of shopping for us and one evening of internet shopping for family at home, and we were able instead to relax and enjoy it and focus on the important messages of Christmas- spending time together, telling family we love them, giving thanks for all that we have and how lucky we are, and giving thanks to God. We managed a simple Christmas service, singing Away in a Manger, saying some prayers and listening to the Christmas reading by candlelight whilst it poured with torrential rain outside. The wet weather was ideal for Christmas day- after exchanging presents and eating breakfast we settled down for a family game of Carcassonne, then the kids snuggled up to watch Moana with their piles of sweets giving Ben and I some happy time alone together playing cards and chatting. We were so delighted with how excited and happy the children were with such a simple Christmas and only a couple of small gifts each; when asked what they prefer about Christmas at home the consistent answer was ‘being with our family’ with no mention of wishing they had more presents.

The rain cleared around lunchtime, and we decided to keep our tradition of a Christmas walk with a stroll to Dreamland beach for the afternoon. We had been told that this beach is suitable for beginner surfers and Jago had his hopes up, but the wet weather had closed everything except the bars and clothes shops, and once again the beach wasn’t terribly appealing- the sea had been stirred up so the water wasn’t very clear, with lots of driftwood floating around. The walk itself had been a good stomp across a field full of cows and I had a lovely time drawing on the beach- I have been really enjoying trying my hand at painting and drawing whilst we have been travelling, and whilst my pictures aren’t particularly good, I can now just appreciate being still, in the moment, having to look closely at what I am actually seeing and enjoying the creative process regardless of what I end up producing. The best way I have found yet of practising mindfulness. If only art at school had focussed more on that feeling and less on the end result! Of course we also managed to fit in a drink and an ice cream with a family game of Hearts before leaving the beach. Returning to the villa we had enough time to enjoy playing in the swimming pool and a few games of catch before getting ready to go out for dinner. We enjoyed a few more video calls with family then treated ourselves to a lovely celebratory meal at Cashew Tree, a really nice healthfood restaurant just around the corner from where we were staying. It was the perfect end to a wonderful day.

Boxing Day was our last full day at Bingin, and we had another relaxing day mostly spent hanging out at the villa with a trip to the beach for lunch and returning to Cashew Tree again for dinner, finished off with a family viewing of Doctor Who. As we got ready to leave the following morning Piran decided he would like to give some of his chocolate orange to the staff who had cooked and cleaned for us- anyone who knows how much Piran loves chocolate will know that this is a great sacrifice for him indeed! We made up a little plate with some chocolate orange, chocolate coins and toblerone and presented it to them as we left. I love so much that he enjoys giving presents as well as receiving. This small act of kindness totally made Christmas for me. Despite being so different from our usual Christmas, we had enjoyed a wonderful, special time and I am sure we will all remember it in the years to come.

Balinese cooking class

We left Australia and landed in Denpasar. First we stayed at Balangan for a couple of days and took a day trip to Kuta for some Christmas shopping. We moved to Bingin for Christmas and stayed in a villa with a private pool and staff. Then we went Ubud and did more day trips, on one we went to a Balinese cooking class.

We had an early breakfast and started our class. First we went to the market, the market was very busy and everyone shouted at you to buy their stuff. We bought snake skin fruit and hairy fruit. Next we went to the farm we would be cooking at. When we got there we ate the fruit we had picked up at the market and mango.

When the other people we were cooking with arrived we looked around the farm and picked some food. We saw pineapple growing and picked beans, cassava and other things we would need. We cooked in groups of two and three.

First we cooked Sayur Urab (mixed vegetables). First we cut all the vegetables and spices. Next we put the vegetables in boiling water for five minutes. After that we fried shallot, garlic and chili. Then added salt, pepper and shrimp paste, stirred it and drained it. Next we added grated coconut, lime juice and the mixed vegetables. Finally we mixed everything up and put it on a plate.

We also cooked bumbu bali (a spice mixture used in balinese cooking), sweet and sour tempe, opor ayam (balinese chicken curry) tuna sambel matah (tuna and vegetables), bali satay lilit (beef satay) and bubur injin (rice pudding with banana).

My favourite food was the bubur injin. I think its better than the school rice pudding We used white rice and black sticky rice. I also enjoyed the bali satay lilit. The tempe was a bit to nutty for me but it was okay. I thought the opor ayam good and wasn’t very spicy. I loved the Sayur Urab, coconut goes really well with fried vegetables. The tuna was nice but you could really taste the lime juice we added.

Our cooking class took almost the whole day but I enjoyed it.

School

6 days after we arrived on Gili T we had a lie-in for the first time in months. I was woken up by the noise of our staff cooking breakfast. The food smelt so good I jumped out of bed, put some clothes on and went to the table. I got there just as  they had finished cooking the pancake I had ordered. The pancake was banana and nutella and it was one of the best pancakes I had ever had. Over breakfast Dad told us about the school we were going to go to today. He said it was called Bumble Bee Montersori and it started at 11:00am and finished at 4:00pm so they only had 5 hours of school. He also said that they learnt by playing but I didn’t know what that meant so Dad said I would have to find out.

After breakfast we had a swim then we headed of for school. Me and Mum went to look if we could find the school but we couldn’t find it we could only find the international school so we then went back to get Cara and Piran. This time Cara and Piran came with us and soon we found the right school. Luckily we got there just as it started. First we were shown around and then we went into the classroom. We met the teacher who was called Miss Eggie and then I was told to help a boy called Max with a skull of a skeleton because he had messed it up last time he tried to do it. They didn’t have years they were in an older group and a younger group. We were in the older group with 13 other children. In that school they all spoke English so I could understand them.

Max said he was from Germany but he had moved to Gili T when he was 3 and had been at that school for 3 years because he was 8 and he started at age 4. We worked on the skull for what felt like a long time but soon it was finished. When we were done we found out it had taken us 35 minutes to do it. We then both decided to do it again but this time try to do it faster. Just before we were going to start again Max found something in the instructions that said beginers took 30 minutes, average would take 20 minutes and advanced would take 15 minutes so we tried to go for undernieth 20 minutes. Max had a watch with a timer so we used that to time ourselfs. We went very fast and did it in 13 minutes which was better than advanced so we did it again in 12 minutes so we decided we were good at it.

Next it was time for lunch and I went and served myself some food. Before we ate we said a prayer then we were alowed to eat. I ate quickly then we went outside and played for a bit then they had to clean up from lunch, then we did a treasure hunt. In the treasure hunt we had a picture of the garden and it had coordinates that we used to find clues and then we put them together to make a sentance that said the treasure is in the classroom. We all ran into the room and found a snack to eat.

After that we made a solor system out of paint and the white paint glowed in the dark. I did Uranus and the other people making it each did 1 other planet. While we were doing the solor system the teacher said Jago in baharsan meant the bravest and undefeated. We then all found out it was the end of the day and we would be going home soon. When Mum and Dad came to pick us up I said goodbye and walked back. On the way back I told Dad about what we had done and he said it sounded nothing like the school at home.

I really enjoyed my day at school and it was very fun playing with other children for a change. My favourite part of the day was building the skeleton with Max. I was very tied at the end of the day and I fell asleep very quickly at night.

Week 11 continued- Bali’s Bukit peninsula

After so many weeks on the road in a campervan, our plan for our first few days in Bali was just to stay in one place with enough space to have some time apart from each other when wanted, and to adjust to the different culture and different pace of life.  We decided to start our time at Balangan beach where we found some lovely ‘bungalows’ (huts with 2 floors) around a fantastic pool, with an on-site bar, restaurant and pool table, all for about the same price as a powered campervan pitch had been in New Zealand. We arrived very late at night- although our plane landed at 9.00, it took a while to get through immigration as I hadn’t realised we would need our boarding cards to get in (i’ve never been asked for these anywhere else before), and having used mine to score a game of cards with Jago on the flight I had left it behind on the plane. After the official talking for about 10 minutes about how serious this was, he finally asked for a $10 sweetener and let me in. Welcome to Bali! We couldn’t take in much on our journey from the airport, but the roads full of stationary cars and mopeds travelling 5 abreast, often with a family of 4 astride, coupled with the fact that noone stops when joining a new road, they just drive straight on and assume whoever is there will slow down and let them in, was quite an experience! Despite Balangan only being about 20km from the airport, the journey took well over an hour due to the terrible traffic, and the driver not knowing where our accommodation was. After stopping and asking in several places it turned out that the 5km long road was numbered from both ends, and we needed no.2 at the other end from where he had brought us. We were extremely relieved to arrive at 11pm, and it was a wonderful novelty to be able to go out and have a drink and a game of pool after putting the kids to bed. It feels like a very long time since we’ve been ‘out’ by ourselves in the evening!

On Thursday and Friday we just stayed around Balangan, not venturing any further than the beach. This is meant to be one of the best surfing spots in Bali, and we had expected the place to be busy, but the effects of Mount Agung on the local tourism were immediately visible as the sea, the hotel and all the warungs (local name for a cafe or restaurant) were extremely quiet. As well as noticing how empty it was, the kids seemed shocked by the huge quantity of litter on the beach too. The sea was beautifully clear, but spoiled by all the plastic bags, old toothbrushes, flip flops and floating bottles as well as masses of dead wood and seaweed, presumably washed out from the beach where the rubbish had been organised into piles intermittently, but not removed. After the beautiful beaches in Australia and New Zealand it was so sad to see what was potentially a stunning white sand beach with crystal clear water looking so uncared for. We also had our first experience of monsoon rain, having set off to the beach whilst it was sunny, only to have the heavens open on us as we reached the beach. By the time we had finished eating lunch in a local warung where we sought shelter, the sun was back out again and we were able to carry on with our day. Although the downpours are very heavy, it remains warm, and none of us seem to mind getting wet much- especially if it lowers the overall temperature a bit! The other thing that everyone noticed early on were the offerings all over the place, comprising a square bamboo basket filled with assortments of flowers, grass and food and accompanied by incense sticks. These seem to be placed around the home and on the pavement at least 4 or 5 times a day. It was interesting to start thinking about other religions and to see how Hinduism is such a strong part of Balinese culture, incorporated so strongly into their daily living.

We decided to venture north to Kuta on Saturday, to fit in some shopping before Christmas. Having heard awful things about Kuta, we were interested to see the impact of tourism here, safe in the knowledge that we would only be here for a few hours! We successfully managed to negotiate a reasonable price for a driver for the day, and set off early with a shopping list of present requests- mostly new sunglasses, light clothing, new swimming costumes and sweets. As we neared Kuta there was little to be seen except for loads of traffic, garish bars and restaurants, large hotels and shops with no sign of any of the laid back Balinese culture that we had found in Balangan. Our driver dropped us off at one of the shopping malls where we were slightly surprised (perhaps naively) to find everything at western prices, and decided to head over to the market to see if there were any deals to be had. The kids had their first experience of people shouting out as we walked down the street, ‘taxi’, ‘come and look in my shop’, ‘look at my hats/sunglasses/shirts’ etc. None of us really like all that attention and pressure on us, and although I quite enjoy a bit of haggling I was reminded again how much I prefer the western style of shopping where you are left to your own devices, can take as long as you like, and have no pressure to buy. We managed to pick up some boardshorts for Jago and a dress for Cara before we couldn’t face it any longer! At that point we had a bit of light relief as the incessant traffic suddenly disappeared, only to be replaced with bright colours and music as a temple procession made their way down the main street. It was wonderful to watch, and was just about the only redeeming feature of Kuta. A moment of calm before all the traffic and hassle resumed again. We finished up in a department store which I found incredibly frustrating! You are given a ticket for everything you want to buy and it is taken by the staff in your particular section to their particular check out, with the result that you need to pick up your hat, children’s sunglasses, and trousers all at different tills and pay for each item separately. Shopping here was definitely a more difficult and stressful experience than at home, and by lunchtime all of us except Ben were thoroughly fed up and in need of a change of scene! After filling the kids up with cheap western rubbish food, we decided to treat ourselves to a special lunch at Jimbaran beach, famous for its seafood, before heading back to Balangan. As the wind was picking up, we couldn’t sit outdoors but once again I was slightly disappointed by the beach, professed by the guide book to be one of the most beautiful in Bali. Yet again there were large piles of rubbish, which were being raked away from the tourist restaurants up to the far end of the beach where the locals were hanging out, seemingly to put on a facade of a clean, perfect beach by the time the tourbuses arrive for sunset. We had a veritable feast of lobster, prawns, fish and calamari which was delicious but we certainly paid for it! Jimbaran felt very inauthentic and I wasn’t very comfortable with what we saw. After a walk along the beach after lunch, we decided to return along the road and it was clear that the vast majority of tourists don’t make it even 20 yards away from the restaurants and views, as the road itself comprised little more than local stalls and Bakso carts, and when we stopped to buy a bottle of water the woman running it had to check how much to charge a tourist, and then struggled to find change for a 20,000 note (about £1) despite running around a few other places, eventually solved by us buying 3 bottles instead! It was interesting to see the tourist face of Bali, but it did feel that the huge sum of money coming in to this area was all going to these well established, presumably not locally-owned restaurants, and that apart from providing local employment, very little was filtering its way even to the adjacent strip. It was difficult to see this face of tourism where visitors arrive for a ‘show’ of perfection, without venturing in to the wider community, and I was pleased to return to our quiet resort that evening for our final night in Balangan beach.

Sunday was Christmas Eve! After nearly 3 months on the road, we had booked a private villa for 3 days to celebrate in style at the cool Bingin beach, just a bit further down the coast of the Bukit peninsula. Having got a driver to take us to our new accommodation, we decided to take advantage of the ride to visit Ulu Watu temple, an important Hindu temple perched high on the edge of a sheer cliff with the waves crashing below. It was a busy site with active worship taking place inside and many people arriving in beautiful sarongs with offerings, as well as hundreds of tourists, mostly visiting from Java. It was an amazing location for a temple and I could easily appreciate how spiritual this place would feel inside on the point of the headland- however we couldn’t actually see much of the temple itself as it was only accessible for active worship. We had a nice walk around the surrounding area in borrowed sarongs, with lots of tourists asking to ‘do a selfie’ with us, particularly Cara- at times it felt like we were the main tourist attraction here. For us, most of our attention was taken up by the hoards of monkeys loitering with intent. Seriously naughty monkeys, they had snatched glasses off people’s faces which they were sitting nonchalantly chewing and breaking apart. Goodness knows what else they had grabbed from the passers by! We had removed our hats, earrings, glasses and cameras before entering the site but were still nervous of the bigger monkeys eyeing us up. Despite this, the small ones were pretty cute. I was quite relieved when we escaped the site having avoided any monkey attacks.

We arrived at our villa at lunchtime and were warmly greeted by our staff who were there to cook breakfast and lunch for us as well as keep the place clean. It was so wonderful to have a clean house with so much space, comfortable beds, hot water for unlimited tea and coffee, a swimming pool and garden. A wonderful Christmas treat! We settled in and headed down the uneven steps to Bingin beach late afternoon- much cleaner than the other beaches we have visited here with lovely soft sand but not great for playing in the sea as the powerful waves crash hard onto a rocky shore. We had fun making Christmas themed sand creations and swimming, although with all the dogs around it wasn’t long before Father Christmas was destroyed. We tried our first freshly barbequed corn on the cob which you can find everywhere you go (delicious) and had a nice dinner in one of the beach warungs before heading back to the house. Bingin beach felt really relaxed and laid back, a lovely place to hang out for Christmas. The villa had been decorated by the staff with a couple of small Christmas trees and some ‘Merry Christmas’ bunting, so we made a Christmassy corner and hung up our makeshift stockings (mosquito net bags), put out a Bintang for Father Christmas and a dragon fruit for Rudolph and watched ‘Twas the night before Christmas’ on YouTube before bed. Despite it being so different to normal, we still managed to make it feel a little bit Christmassy and the kids all went to bed very excited about what tomorrow might bring.

Week 11- Noosa to Brisbane

This week brought about the end of our time in Australia, over all too quickly. I feel we have only just touched on this enormous country in 4 weeks, and have really enjoyed the different wildlife, the beautiful beaches and the warmer climate. Although after a total of 10 weeks in a campervan we are all in great need of a bit of space from each other and hopefully a break from some of the bickering that inevitably comes about when living in such close quarters. With lots of driving time and resting, the kids have all read masses of books, completely engrossed by the adventures of Percy Jackson, although schoolwork has been somewhat lacking on this leg of the trip, apart from times tables practice on the road and a small project on rainforests. Continuing on from New Zealand, we have mostly focussed on the topic of conservation which has been very relevant both in the rainforest of North Queensland and further south with the loss of eucalyptus for the koalas. It has made me start thinking about how few birds we have at home in comparison to here, and how few wild animals, and I have started to notice for the first time how little natural space we have in the UK, that hasn’t been developed in some way either for housing or for agriculture. We certainly don’t have many forests left! I think that seeing it and experiencing it first hand has increased awareness not just for the kids but for Ben and myself as well, and I am certain we will be much more proactive in supporting global conservation projects on our return to the UK. I imagine this seed will only grow as we venture further into South East Asia.

We began the week with a walk up another hill, this time Mount Coolum, to see the views of the Sunshine Coast. Despite doing less walking in Australia than we had been used to in New Zealand, everyone powered up without any difficulty and we enjoyed looking out from the top. We spent the rest of the day just hanging out at the lovely campsite we were staying in at Tewantin, near Noosa, sorting out the campervan and repacking our rucksacks, swimming and playing cricket and enjoyed our final barbeque of the trip.

 

Having failed spectacularly at seeing any of the famous Australian wildlife actually in the wild, apart from kangaroos andcrocodiles, we decided to spend our final day at Australia Zoo. We all enjoyed seeing the Australian animals and doing the Summer holiday Christmas treasure hunt. Particular favourites were the wombats, one of which was taken for a walk on a lead and stroked by Cara, the incredibly cute koalas and the fantastic crocodile show. The kids have been playing crocodiles and zookeepers ever since! We stayed our final night just a few km away from the zoo, north of Brisbane, conveniently located for getting back to the airport the following day. I finally saw a snake for the first time, just in front of me on the path as I went to the toilet at our campsite. It looked harmless enough, but I was a bit jittery all the same, and made Ben accompany me on future visits just in case!

On Wednesday we all bid farewell to Australia as we caught our 5th aeroplane of the trip so far, bound for Bali. Australia was brilliant, but I am so looking forward to finally experiencing some different cultures and starting the ‘backpacker’ part of our travels. Indonesia here we come!