Temples, Volcanos, and Ke-chak: During my little sojourn up north on my motorbike into proper Bali, I found you couldn’t go more than a mile or so without hitting a temple.  They are everywhere.  It really reinforces how important religion is around here.  And they are beautiful.  Even the plainer ones from the little villages are intricately carved and ornamented, and it might be tucked into a little bamboo or palm tree grove.  Some of the more famous ones are in the photos I posted…my favorite is probably the one in the monkey forest in Ubud (no pics since I lost my dang camera…argg)…its quiet, dark, and super spooky with fantastic moss-covered snakes, dragons, and demons all over.  Luckily I hit the mother temple, Besakih, during an annual festival.  1000’s of pilgrims decked in their finest were hucking up their offerings of vegetables, fruits, meats, and flowers by the truckload (well, headload maybe).  The temple is really 7 different big temples, all to different major gods like Siva, Bhrama, Visnu, etc.  It was interesting to see that the royals got their own place to make offerings and pray, and the middle class another, and the farmers yet another.  The caste system in full effect.  The setting on the slopes of Ganung Agung (highest volcano in Bali) is pretty spectacular.  Good stuff.


Speaking of volcanos, one big big highlight was motorbiking at the crack of dawn up to the caldera rim of Mt. Batur.  Hard to describe and the pictures don’t do it justice, but after biking up the outside rim for about an hour, suddenly you hit the rim of this absolutely massive caldera and the world just drops out from under you.  In the middle is the cone of Mt. Batur, still steaming a bit, and beside it is the caldera lake.  Standing at the outer rim and taking it all in as the sun is coming up is just spectacular.  Of course I’ve never met a volcano that I didn’t like, so a few hours later I was hoofing up the cone to the top with my guide Henry (hey he’s Christian).  At the top, I realized that in fact the real top was still a bit up there.  Henry pointed out most people don’t bother going up there since you can see down into the steaming crater from where we were at.  But after he pointed out that live animals were still sacrificed at the top (by throwing them into the crater, still very much alive, 500 feet below) I had to check it out.  So after quite a bit more sweat and grime we made it all the way up.  At this point Henry didn’t look so good and he explained that this was his 2nd climb today, because he gave his girlfriend from Jakarta a freebie earlier around 4am.  Poor guy was guiding me up the volcano at a screaming pace (just because I wanted to make it a workout) and he had just got back down from an earlier trip!  But he was a good sport.  After dancing around the razor-thin upper lip of the crater (totally sketchy), we hiked back to some newer cones a bit lower down.  The newest just erupted in 1999, and you could see this immense field of black lava in the caldera floor below that was still barren and lifeless.  From where we were, you could still see the ripples as the lave poured out and cooled, burying an entire village.  Henry pointed out "Lucky Temple", which was surrounded on three sides by the lava but had miraculously survived.  He then proceeded to take the eggs and banana I had picked up earlier, and uncovered some dirt off the top of the cone.  Immediately scalding steam began pouring out of the new hole.  He put the eggs and banana in there, covered it with some grass and a rock, and we chilled out for about 15 minutes taking in the views.  Then we fished out the goodies with a stick and I enjoyed a very tasty, but a little gritty, volcano breakfast of hard-boiled eggs and steamed sweet banana.  Yummmm!


That night I zipped back to ubud to catch the fire-dance called Ke-chak.  Unfortunately the pics turned out pretty bad, but its pretty impressive.  Imagine about a hundred dudes chanting "Ke-chak Ke-chak Ke-chak" around a burning centerpiece, and elaborately dressed balinese dancers perfomring in the middle of it all, while a narrator’s sing-songing voice intones the story from the Ramayana about Krishna fighting with one of his demon enemies over a girl they both like.  Some things never change.


Well that’s it for now.  Next blog I will get into the nitty gritty of how to surf a barrel grinding across a shallow razor sharp reef.  I will also describe the pleasures to be had when this is not performed corectly.


I’m off to get a beer here in Singapore and check this joint out.  Apparently you get fined for jaywalking, caned for chewing gum, and the death penalty for doing drugs, but you can party all night at the clubs anyway.  Singapore is nuts.  Cya soon!!