Journey with a River: Rafting the Ayung in Bali

In their journeys, from rugged slopes to the salty embrace of the sea, rivers pass through dense forests, narrow canyons, open plains with long vistas. Riding on their waters can bring you into an otherwise inaccessible landscape, into the thickest forests, through tall walled gorges filled by rushing water, and let you pass unnoticed by the banks where wildlife come to drink. Add to this the thrill of a turbulent ride and the exhilaration of navigating rapids, and you have my love of river-rafting. And so, in the crowded heat, laying under a ceiling fan, I signed Dave and me up for a white water rafting trip down the Ayung River.

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Long-tailed Macaques

TempleWithMokeys

MokeysOnTemple We saw our first monkeys today on the temple roof above Padang Padang, perhaps the most famous left hand barrel in indo. Small, nimble gray creatures, they move effortlessly from the temple ledges up into the trees and back.

Young monkeys played together, tumbling across the temple floor. Moms and young babies sat on the rooftop. One monkey climbed aboard a white umbrella sticking out of the temple roof, and began bouncing on it. Thrilled, we watched them play and move about. The monkeys began to take interest in us and came closer which at first we were excited by. Then a few moved in quickly. I turned to find a grandpa monkey standing on the tree trunk behind me, it snarled and revealed pointed fangs. As Dave puts it, “We took the clue and exited quickly.”

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Big Day at Ulus

I shall intersperse both Dave and my stories in the blog so you can see what I did and feel what he did:
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Overnight the swell doubled. Dave has been itching to surf Ulus. It looks great in the morning but we were told to wait for the mid tide. By the afternoon the wind is on the water making it roughly textured. It looked big and fun, but it’s hard with no reference points to tell how big it really is. Dave is impetuous, and decides to paddle out.
DSC00761 “We were told that most of the waves around, including Uluwatu, worked best on a medium low tide. With this in mind, we checked Ulu’s the first morning of our stay on this remote part of the Bukit peninsula. It was high tide, about 20 people out, and the waves were huge! Watching some of the surfers drop in, it was clear that the waves were at least 20 ft on the sets. Knowing that my board was not big enough, and hearing that high tide was not the best time to surf, Sierra and decided to visit the famous Uluwatu temple and wait for the conditions to shift. After spending a few hours at this beautiful temple, which is perched on a 500ft cliff overlooking the water, we decide to head back home, eat lunch, and then check the surf again.

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Uluwatu

Uluwatu is a truly special place. The volcanic cliffs in this area are tall, and entrances to the beaches below are through steep slots in the rock. It was low tide during our first trip down to the beach at Uluwatu. We took a series of steep stairs down the cliff, between rocks that are flooded sea caves at a higher tide, out onto a small section of sand, beyond which stretched the reef, now partially exposed by the tide. The reef at low tide sectioned off various pools in which children splashed and adults waded. Beyond the pools, lay the reef crest and then the waves. Big beautiful lefts traced the edge of the reef, peeling along perfectly. Dave was enthralled, like a kid in a candy shop.

SierraAtUlusBeach

We hiked up the stairs. The path took us through the town of Uluwatu—shops of collaged materials are tucked on top of one another along the cliff face. Tourist souvenirs, surfboard rentals, cafés, laundry, mini markets and a place advertising showers and a toilet. Narrow footpaths make their way between the shops and up the cliff.

Uluwatu

At the top of Uluwatu village lays perhaps the most beautiful ocean vista I have ever seen. The cliff point in the distance is covered in lush green vegetation, and gives way to a vertical black face. Below is a series of waves. The lone left in the distance, nearly inaccessible, peels perfectly along the point. A series of reef breaks fire off in between the far point and Uluwatu, which is below us. Ulus is big and practically perfect, the type of wave you become mesmerized watching.

UlusPoint

We had dinner at our new favorite restaurant, Single Fin. Fins is at the edge of the top of the cliff. From the balcony you can watch the waves from the far point and see Ulus wrap around the point below. We dinned, drank unbelievable fresh juices and watched the sun set on the day, leaving the clouds first yellow then pink.

YellowSunsetUlus

PinkSunsetUluss

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Balagan, Bali

Fourteen and a half hours from LAX across the great Pacific Ocean to Taipei. Four hours in the airport and five more to Denpasar, the capital of Bali.

Bali lies between Java and Lombok in the island chain that makes up the country of Indonesia. The volcanic island is a little more than half the size of the big island of Hawaii. The tallest is mountain is over 3000m. Ninety two percent of the population is Hindu.

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Backpacking to Duck Lake, John Muir Wilderness

My parents took me backpacking outside of Ketchum, Idaho practically every summer of my childhood starting when I was 3 or 4. I loved being totally immersed in the mountain forests. I am lucky to have been exposed to the incredible isolation and remote wilderness that backpacking brings from a young age. I am also fortunate to have been taught the skills needed to be so isolated from civilization. We brought my best friend, Josie, to Idaho with us when I was in high school and she predictably fell immediately in love with it. This summer I decide to plan a trip to take four of my best girlfriends backpacking. For two of them it would be their first trip.

IMG_9908I selected the Duck Pass trail in the John Muir Wilderness for a few reasons. 1. It looked incredibly beautiful 2. The trail passed 3 smaller lakes on the way to Duck Lake. I wasn’t sure how well everyone would do hiking with packs so the lower lakes gave us alternative camping options 3. The trail to Duck didn’t seem to long or challenging but was far enough to get us out of most day hiking range. 4. There were trails that we could day hike on once we set up camp.

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Days in Little Cayman

Days here are pretty packed and wet. Dive in the morning, dive in the afternoon, afternoon excursion in search of YOYs (young of years….the fishy way of saying baby fish), dive in the evening, attempting to set up the equipment for doing a live stream from the dive site to classrooms on Grand Cayman. The team is made up of researchers, graduate students, people from the Cayman Island Department of the Environment, and REEF Volunteers, and of course Brice and Christy’s kids. We all gather at Peter’s house and talk about the day, what everyone will do, has done, has seen, plans to do. Meals are communal and everyone forms a wonderful working family of sorts. The bond between the people who have come for years is evident and they welcome us newcomers, all of us sharing our enthusiasm of the project and love of diving and fishes.

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