Tuesday, October 14, 2008

October 12, 2008 - Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia

Returning to the village, loaded down with seaweed

Our days have settled into a wonderful, relaxed pattern during the two weeks we have spent in Nusa Lembongan. Sten makes our morning coffee around 7. We've been enjoying the local Sumateran Mandailing, which is really robust and smooth. Before the day gets too hot, we work on boat projects such as cleaning the hull, rebending the traveler plate that was damaged during an accidental jibe on our run from Komodo to Gili Air, rebending and rebedding the stanchion that was damaged when our mooring chafed through in Serangan, repairing the generator, overhauling the bbq grill, replacing worn bungs in the cap rail, and turning the anchor chain end for end so that it wears evenly.

Around 9 or 10 we have breakfast. We've run out of yogurt, so Sten whips us up some eggs or banana pancakes. Around 10:30 the circus comes to town. Every day between 3 and 6 boats come over from Bali, loaded with tourists. For 5 hours in the middle of each day, the anchorage becomes really bouncy with the wake of a dozen passing speed boats as the tourists enjoy being towed around on giant inflated bananas or inflated wings or riding jetskis. After approximately three hours of this, we escape to shore for a late lunch.

Other than breakfast, we've been doing almost no cooking on board Mata'irea during our time here in Nusa Lembongan. It is just too hot. And there are too many good, cheap options onshore. Instead, we've dedicated ourselves to conducting a scientific survey of the local restaurants. Our control items have been fried spring rolls and cheeseburgers. After two weeks of arduous testing, we can report the best meal in Nusa Lembongan can be found in Mushroom Bay at Lumbung Bali. The grilled whole fish with Balinese spices and the sate lilit ikan (ground fish satay) are both perfect. And the spring rolls are the best on the island.

No meal in Bali would be complete without a blended fruit juice drink. We've both enjoyed plenty of pineapple, banana, and mango juices over the past few weeks. I've even had a few avocado shakes (bizarrely, avocado is considered a fruit here). But for our money, the most refreshing fruit drink is honeydew melon blended with ice. Absolutely thirst quenching. After lunch, we return to the boat, usually just in time to see the last of the dayboats departing.

Ever since the infection in Sten's finger cleared up he has been taking advantage of our prime position next to the surf breaks. All of the breaks on Nusa Lembongan, an island situated in the middle of a selat (strait), are heavily influenced by a combination of tide, swell and current. For hours, there will be no surfable breaks, and then in an instant, as though a switch were thrown, there will be several breaks working: Shipwrecks, Lacerations, and Playgrounds, among others. By the time the surfers staying ashore have seen that there are rideable waves, Sten has scored a handful of tube rides. Within half an hour of the surf turning on, there can be up to thirty guys on each of the three breaks here. Sten usually gets in a few more rides before leaving the wave to the rest of the surfers. Then as quickly as the surf showed up, it is gone. And thirty guys are bobbing around out there, waiting for it to come back. Eventually they head back ashore and the cycle starts all over again.

With our late lunches, neither of us has been looking for much for dinner. The heat of the day takes a while to dissipate, so the less we use the stove the better. At night we play cards or watch a movie while snacking on popcorn or chips and salsa (Frontera, of course), washed down with Bintang (the wonderful local beer that is sort of a cross between Heineken and Sapporo), or Australian olives and wine (we are still working through the many cases of Hardys non-vintage we loaded on board in New Zealand; it wasn't good then and it isn't improving with age, but wine is so expensive here that I'm glad to have it).
Anything I have whipped up for dinner has been meant to be served cold. And ever since I found a deal on mangoes at the local market (3 for 80 cents), the ingredient of the week has been mango. A few days ago we enjoyed a Thai beef salad over rice noodles with a mango-chili dressing. Just the other day we slurped down an Australasian version of gazpacho, utilizing mangoes, chilies, the last of my fresh herbs from Bali (now a bit wilted) and the juice of some old oranges and limes (I added rice wine vinegar to replace the acidity that the tomatoes would have provided). Apparently Nusa Lembongan is where the Old Food Movement meets the Cold Food Movement.

The past two days our schedule has been thrown out of whack by discovering that we could watch the baseball playoffs at one of the bars lining the beach. The past two days have started with breakfast at the bar, washed down with gritty Balinese coffee, as we watch the Red Sox and Rays in the ALCS. If the time shift wasn't disorienting enough, halfway through yesterday and today's games a local lady, carrying a basket filled with offerings has wandered behind the bar to place the day's offerings on the alter next to the big screen TV and wave some incense around to bless the bar. After today's game, we walked down the road to take in a cockfight.
Ketut untying the small, sharp knife, called a taji, from the fighting cock's leg

Ketut stroking his winning cock.

It is a common sight in Bali to see a group of men sitting around fondling and exercising their fighting cocks. We even saw a guy taking his cock for a swim - on a leash, of course.

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