Oz and the Big Lap travel blog

10 July - Amed, Bali

It was a long drive, there was heavy traffic the whole journey and although it was only 54 miles it took two and a half hours of our driver charging up behind the next vehicle, waiting until he thought it was clear and then overtaking at high speed forcing oncoming motorcyclist to take to the edge! Despite all this we made it to our hotel unscathed. It did take half an hour to clear the Ubud sprawl and into smaller villages, rice paddies and banana patches. Nice to see some countryside.

We checked into the Blue Moon and after a welcome drink explored our room and the terrace and the infinity pool (shared with three other rooms) and tempting though it was to jump in, hunger overcame that desire! The hotel was built on a hillside and our room was at the lowest point so we had to climb the steps to get to the restaurant. Lunch was fish cooked in a banana leaf and delicious it was too. We returned to our room and sat outside enjoying the view and just relaxing. Maybe a few zzzzs. The resort faced north so we couldn't see Lombok where we had stayed in 2011. The straits between Lombok and Bali connect the Indian and the Pacific Oceans and where the imaginary Wallace Line runs.

Dinner, up the steps again, another delicious meal and beautifully presented. This is the sort of thing we'd expected at Bebek Tepi Sawah. Write a Trip Advisor review to let them know? The staff were friendly and knew how to do their jobs, what a refreshing change. Although we hadn't done very much today, except hang on tight during the drive, we were exhausted and went to bed after dinner.

11 July

More sad news from home, my Uncle Ken had died.

We had a lovely breakfast this morning then went back to the room to sort out our snorkelling kit. We had been told there was fair snorkelling in the bay below our room so we though we should give it a go. A short walk to the beach access steps, very steep climb down onto the black sand beach. This beach was used by the local fisherman to store their boats, all lined up and ready to go early next morning. They use a narrow hulled boat called a 'jukung', with an outrigger either side and a sort of lateen sail, plus an outboard.

Several offers to take us to another beach by boat while we were getting ready, but we declined, too expensive. The water was lovely and warm and so clear, we could see reef fish straight away and more as we got into deeper water. Fair amount of hard coral and lots of very pretty fish. At one point there was a strong current but we swam across it to the shelter of the rocks before heading back. We had been out for about an hour and saw a lot of fish, many different species, too,many to record here.

We tried the Japanese restaurant next door as we only wanted a light lunch. Very tasty food, beautifully presented, service glacial. Back to get the snorkelling kit ready again as we were to walk along the coast to Lipah Bay, about a kilometre away. An interesting walk past small local dwellings, a few small shops and workshops' all looking very shabby, and plenty of tourist accommodation. The road, which was in very poor condition and mostly single track, wound up and down and round the points and beaches. Great views of the mountains and the ocean. Most of the beaches had rows,of,fishing boats pulled up in them, their brightly coloured sails all neatly furled. We arrived at Lipah Bay and were immediately hassled to rent chairs and parasols and that continued as we walked along the black sandy beach.

Found a spot, put kit on and into the water. There were sandy 'leads' between the pebbly bottom and we were soon into water deep enough to swim. Plenty of reef fish already and as we got further out more and more corals, a few anemones with their clown fish (nemos) and gradually more a more soft corals. Some beautiful large pink sea fans and delicate little fan-like creatures and lots and lots,of,fish. This is better than this morning, the number of different species was amazing. We were in the water for well over an hour, there was just so much to see, we came back to he shore very happy and didn't really mind the long walk back to the hotel.

Showered and relaxed for,an hour or so before dinner.

12 July

We had booked diving and snorkelling with Euro Divers so a quick breakfast to be met at 8 by their car. Breakfastin that early we saw life of the ordinary Balinese as they hurried to work, two school 'buses' (just open trucks with the kids packed in, all very smart in their uniforms). Hundreds of little fishing boats returning to their respective beaches from their fishing expeditions to the south. The Euro Dive centre was only a couple of hundred metres past where we were yesterday. Kit tried on and packed into the car we set off for Tulamben and the wreck of the USS Liberty. Nice views of Gunung Agung, the highest point on the island at just over 3,000 metres and also an active volcano, plus lots of rice paddies.

The ship was torpedoed by the Japanese in 1942 and deliberately beached to prevent her sinking but in 1963 an eruption from the nearby volcano, Gunung Agung, caused the ship to,slip off the beach into the water. The deepest part is 30 metres, the shallowest 5 metres. So, kit on and into the water, I was lucky enough to dive with one of the divemasters and the only other diver went for a refresher with the other divemaster. The water was warm at 26 degrees and beautifully clear. There were many other divers in the water but not many dived the wreck, they seemed to be learners (judging by their diving skills!). So,luckily we had the wreck almost to ourselves. We started at the shallowest point and worked our way along to the far end before returning the other side. A bit of adverse current but not too bad. Plenty of very pretty reef fish and soft corals, it was a great dive, would have been better had a huge cloud not cut out the sunlight. Ruth in the meantime had snorkelled along the beach and out over the shallowest part of the wreck, enjoying the multitude of fish.

We were rested for an hour before the next dive, but Ruth wanted to snorkel with me, so we went off over the wreck again. This time the sun was shining and the colours of so many fish was just brilliant.

On the second dive we swam to the wreck and down into some of the more open parts, the sun was shining, it was approaching midday so,really good light making the dive even better. So many fish, so many corals, soft and hard. It was fun swimming through gaping holes in the ships plates, past the wheel house and out onto the other side. Another hour very well spent. It os said to be one of the best wreck dives in the world. I haven't done that many wreck dives but it was certainly impressive. Took the car back to the dive centre and on the way we saw two 'columns' of schoolchildren marching along, the boys chanting and stamping their feet as they marched, we were told they were practising for the independence day celebrations (17 August, anniversary of the declaration of independence from the Dutch in 1945). Got my log book completed and stamped and during our conversations they,persuaded us to do another dive/snorkel tomorrow at Jemeluk where there is a drop off, a 50 metre wall and an underwater pyramids . Booked!

Back for a late lunch at Blue Moon and then a very restful afternoon. We had the pool area to ourselves as the other guests had departed. Bit of a swim, relax, snooze, bit of a swim and so on...... Roused ourselves for dinner then bed.

13 July

A beautiful morning, great big globe of the sun as it appeared over the horizon, a few scattered clouds but perfect really. Another early start as we had agreed to do another dive and snorkel with Euro Dives. Saw the early morning hustle and bustle in the street below as we were having breakfast, including a couple of school 'buses', as yesterday, the kids must get up very early to make the bus, but then school is over at lunchtime. We were picked up at 8 as promised and joined the other divers at the dive centre. I was to have the same guide as yesterday, Katek, all to myself again; great.

We drove out to Jemeluk, just ten minutes north of the diver centre. Three other divers in the group but they were with another guide. Ok, kit on, into the water, followed the slope down to about 20 metre deep then headed south to the pyramids. These are man made structures set on the seabed as artificial reefs, they were made of heavy steel, an open structure to allow all sorts of corals and other creatures to colonise them. They were put there in 1990 to provide a reef as the former reef had been mined for it's limestone to make mortar for tourist accommodation! Leaf scorpion fish and nudibranchs are the great attraction here, plus all sorts of reef fish and the occasional turtle. Also saw a lion fish, lots of garden eels waving in the current, blue-spotted rays and so much more. A great dive, and unknown to me, I didn't look up much, Ruth was snorkelling above us!

All too soon the dive ended, so back to the dive centre to pay! Logbook stamped and we were returned to Blue Moon. A nice relaxing morning enjoying the balmy weather by the pool before lunch beckoned. The wind started to get up around midday and increased during lunch, so we abandoned our plans for further snorkelling, it was just too windy plus there was the threat of thunderstorms. Will keep an eye on the weather and if it looks good we will walk along to the Japanese Wreck, about a fifteen minute walk away.

So another relaxing afternoon, just chilling by the pool catching up with the blog and trying to confirm our transport arrangements for tomorrow. Finally got that sorted and then it was dinner time. Lovely food, they had good selection of Balinese, Indonesian, Chinese and International dishes and enough dishes for us to have something different during our stay. All the dishes were excellent, beautifully cooked presented and always with a happy smile. We really liked the Blue Moon and would have stayed here longer were it possible.

14 July

It was still windy but cloudless so we thought we would give it a try. Had a quick coffee the walked the fifteen minutes along the coast road and round the point to the beach. The wind and waves were coming straight onto the beach making entry into the water very difficult, the beach was also pebbly making entry even more problematic so reluctantly we turned around and made our way back to the Blue Moon and breakfast.

Finished our packing and waited for the car to take us to Taman Sari in Pemuteran. The car arrived in good time and we were soon loaded and away. Along the rough road through Amed and out the other side onto a good quality road. We were able to keep up a reasonable pace as there wasn't too much traffic, however the 140 kilometres did take three and a half hours. Stopped to take a photograph of Gunung Agung, the highest point on the island and an active volcano. The road wound its way around the coast, crossing several lava flows, past little villages and lots of rice paddies, before turning west along the north shore. As we arrived in Singaradja we passed several groups of people in their finery, we were told they were all attending a collective cremation. Cremations are often for more than one deceased, to save costs.

On through Singaradja, the second largest city on Bali, and it did look reasonably prosperous, and on finally to Pemuteran. We checked in to our little 'bungalow', supposedly with an ocean view, which you could actually just about see through the trees and other buildings! I had realised I must have lost my wedding ring at Blue Moon or maybe when snorkelling, so we called them to check. Meantime we had a bit of lunch, unpacked then a dip in the bay, it was a bit rough and the underwater visibility was very poor, so bailed into the swimming pool instead.

Dinner was disappointing and to our surprise we were given a customer satisfaction survey, so we were able to let them know exactly how we felt! Decided anyway we would not eat there again.

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