We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.
- John Hope Franklin
View entire photo album here.
Julien and Ernesto finally arrived in Bali and checked themselves in at d'Kubu. Here we all were again, a year after our first meeting! It was all a bit surreal actually. Our trio soon became a foursome when Dan from Germany (who is German/Indonesian) became my new neighbour at d'Kubu.
One day, the four of use were leaving the guesthouse for lunch and Wayan, the wonderful Balinese girl who works in the laundry dept., was frantically pointing at the tiny TV at reception. We all crowded around trying to decipher what the Indonesian journalist was saying....Wayan translated and said 'Michael Jackson's heart exploded'. I was in complete shock. MJ was my boyfriend all throughout elementary school. I had the MJ microphone and glove, outwore his red and black Thriller outfit and a mini white glove earring and attempted to master all his dance moves. I recited the 'Thriller' lyrics in the public speaking contest at school. Spun his records in my room day in and out. Performed the entire Thriller dance for anyone who'd watch! I identified with his shy demeanor, his love for animals, music and dance. Despite all the terrible things that were said about him later in life, I will always remember him as I did a child of the 80's and imagine him now, walking on the moon (literally).
We ventured off to Dreamland (yes that is what it is really called) to get away from crazy Kuta for awhile. Driving in Bali on a moto...hmm. Not such a relaxing mode of transport. As we were leaving Kuta, a taxi hit me from behind and my back tire flung out sideways almost tipping me over. Practically growing up on motorbikes, ski-doos and 4-wheelers might have helped but I definitely had my fair share of crashes! I don't think my Dad would believe Ernesto when he said, 'Tracey est un bon chauffeur!'
We arrived in Dreamland 30 minutes later. The waves were breaking too close to shore so I went swimmin' instead! Trying to get INTO the ocean proved to be more difficult than it looked. I kept getting toppled over by every wave coming in - it was all white water but went well over my head...which caused me to indecently and involuntarily expose myself to all the locals! A one piece suit might have been a better choice that day.
The situation got much better once I was in deep enough. I dove into each wave so that when the peak was just going over me - I would flip up both of my feet and snap them out the top. I felt like a lumpa lumpa (dolphin in Balinese). I didn't ever want to get out:)
After sunset, we moto'ed on over to Jimboran Bay. It is a whole bevy of tables out on a beach where you can get fresh bbq'd seafood. It cost us $10 each to have an array of seafood, Balinese vegetables, rice, fruit and freshly squeezed fruit juice. Ridiculous!
On the way back into Kuta, I was going through an intersection and a tour bus turned on my right and then another on my left from each side of me. I had to accelerate hard enough to scoot in front of them and avoid a Tracey sandwich. Traffic laws? Nope, just guidelines.
I felt the same relief getting back to my guesthouse as I did when I would return from walking in Ho Chi Minh City...crossing the roads there was even more death defying. Another reminder of why I love my homeland.
A few days later, we hit Padang Padang, near Uluwatu Temple. There is a viewing deck above Padang Padang where you can see surfers catch world class waves and the sun soakers down on the beach. We had been there the year before but it was no less stunning the 2nd time around. There were no surfboards available to rent so wave diving and photographing it was!
We hit Uluwatu later that afternoon. At the bottom there is a cave like enclosure that opens up to the ocean and seemingly endless perfect waves. It is divine. If you take some stairs to the top, there is a platform that overlooks all the surf action...a most enjoyable photo taking afternoon.
We went to Ocean Beach that night but it just wasn't the same as last year. The stage had been moved back and doesn't float on the pool anymore. The entertainment is the same but not as spectacular. Maybe because Marj and I were there almost every night last year?! I remember watching the Balinese fire dancers for the first time...one of those moments when you say to yourself, 'This is pretty effing cool.'
Two weeks flew by...Dan had parted ways to explore other parts of Indo and Ernesto had to get back to Belgium. Now that he was a doctor again instead of a surfy backpacker, he had only a limited stay. I still had a few weeks left in Bali, as did Julien. We were sad for them to go but it was the beginning of a new chapter, new friends and experiences. Strangers from all over the globe quickly become like your temporary family in a foreign land.
I met Wati and Nick at Alley Katz during a night out with Pauly H. Wati is from Java and came to Kuta to get work and Nick is an artist who only works part of the year so he can travel and surf. This is where Paul B. from Australia, also came into the picture.
I met Rick, from Brazil, outside my guesthouse one night. He had just finished a triathalon in Australia and was seeing what Bali had to offer before returning home. All of us quickly formed a little network and were soon meeting daily for dinz, beach walks and trips out to Uluwatu.
As I have said before when writing about my travels, it was always the people that kept me in one spot for longer than expected, not the place. I had wanted to check out the north and east of Bali during this time, but couldn't bring myself to leave my new friends! I was also addicted to my daily hot yoga session and when I wasn't socializing or surfing, I was making the rounds promoting my work.
I headed out to Uluwatu one afternoon to photograph Nick surf and hang out with Wati. We met on the perch that overlooks the rolling waves of the surf break. Wati is from Java and has worked as a waitress at Ocean Beach, Sky Garden and Alley Katz. She makes more than most Balinese because of tips from westerners but the average worker in Bali makes about 600,000 rupiah a month on average – $60 CDN. Wati and I became like sisters after spending only a short time together. I was seriously missing having a girlfriend to dish and hang with and Wati came along at exactly the right time.
We got back to town and Paul B. (Australia) and I went to Gong Corner for dinner. He reminds me of the guys I grew up with but is city through and through. He is a painter. He meditates. He is sharp. He cares about the world. He is interesting. A great conversationalist. Needless to say, these made meals with Paul B. an absolute DELIGHT! Rick (from Brazil) joined us later, making the conversation even more riveting. I love exploring other parts of the world just by discoursing with fellow travelers. We all have different accents, first languages, cultures, customs and religions but when we are together, we learn something from each other and realize that we are more alike, than not.
Rick insisted he drive me home on his moto. He MADE me wear my helmet just to drive a block down the street. Rick has many endearing qualities also. He really listens to people when they speak. He would lean in to them and peer intently; you could tell he was truly interested in what they had to say. I think that's pretty cool. So many people just want to hear themselves talk never bothering to get to know who they're speaking to. He taught me a Brazilian dance. In exchange, I taught him how to 2 step!
One day when I was walking home from Seminyak via the beach, I started picking up plastic bags. My hands were getting full so I opened one of the plastic bags I picked up and then had to open another so I had somewhere to put them all. The more I picked up, the more upset I got. Even worse was that people looked at me like I was mad when this is something everyone should be doing! All I kept thinking about is that once the tide carries them out, how many unsuspecting ocean creatures will mistake them for food and then suffer long and painful deaths trying to digest them. When are we going to get that we are shitting where we eat? We consume the fish that live in and feed on what we dump in their home. Shame on us humans. Shaaaaame.
Check out this link to Plastiki...a boat made of plastic water bottles sailing from San Francisco to Sydney to bring awareness to how one time use plastics are devastating our oceans. Please say no to plastic whenever possible friends:)
Rick, Julien, myself and a German whose name I don't recall had a very memorable dinner one night at the ever popular Gong Corner. German guy was really funny. He had some pretty crazy stories about traveling and seemed to get into a little bit of trouble wherever he went...the only way to travel really.
Julien went to 'Come In', a cozy little street bar to meet some regulars there and the rest of us to Sky Garden. We danced. It was fantastic. The atmosphere, the fans blowing your hair around, the bass of the music literally making your heart vibrate, the humidity, heat and beautiful people surrounding you makes one feel really freakin' amazing.
I went for one last surf at Kuta beach the day before I left. It wasn't my best session but happy to catch a few more waves one last time for who knows how long. I went down to Gloria Jean's to say goodbye to Frank and Fran and have my usual Americano. On the way, I performed my daily ritual of picking up fallen frangipanis, putting one behind my ear and bringing another to GJ's as an offering to the gods out of respect for the Balinese staff's Hindu religion.
Rick came over and we hopped the moto out to Uluwatu temple to watch Balinese dancing at sunset and cavort with all the monkeys that live there. Those monkeys have it pretty good - never ending snacks and human paraphernalia to snatch, not to mention a luxurious 5 star view!
Pauly H., Paul B., Wati, Julien, Rick and I went to dinner at Gong Corner.. I had cap kunggung and dadar galung one more time. It was bittersweet. I was so happy to have met and spent time with these new friends but made it much tougher to leave.
After breaky with Pauly H. and saying goodbye to Nick and Wati, I was on a plane the next morning to begin almost a 3 day journey home. Four hours after arriving in Bangkok, I took an overnight flight to Seoul, spent 12 hours there and then another overnighter to Seattle..9 hours after arriving there, I finally flew to Edmonton (what can I say, I was on a serious budget and it was a cheap ticket!). The rainbow of the journey was the spa in the Seoul airport. I paid $12 to take a hot tub, a cold water dip, a shower and then a solid 3 hour nap in a private room..EVERY airport should have this option (that and bibimbap!).
Murphy's law, when I arrived in Edmonton, they held me up in customs for over an hour to search every inch of my luggage while Sue and Garry waited patiently for me on the other side. Finally at 1 AM, I was released. Ahhhhh...and for the next 2 days, I slept in my own 'Dreamland'.
Photography for me is not looking, it's feeling. If you can't feel what you're looking at, then you're never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.
- Don McCullin