Saturday, April 23, 2011

Balinese Cockfight

4/20/11 (Amed, Bali) Yesterday afternoon, I stumbled upon a cockfight in the village center. An array of stalls formed a perimeter, selling fruit, snacks, satay, cigarettes, and cool drinks.

Inside, the atmosphere was tense with anticipation as men stroked their roosters, demonstrating their mettle, and riling them with thrusts at an opposing bird. Eventually, two were chosen for combat, and handlers retreated to lash a blade to their feet with many twists of long, red thread

The ring cleared and crowd deepened; then the birds were released in flew at one another. Fierce pecking alternated with leaps as one rooster would kick at another. 
The scene turned ever more gruesome as the blades bit, feathers flew and blood started dripping.  

Cheering ended when it became clear how the contest would end, and the handlers forced the finale by enclosing both birds in a loosely woven basket. Spectators broke, victors laughed and dirty bills exchanged hands.
An old man collected the dead an injured birds, retreating nearby to pluck and boil them. As people milled about and visited the food stands, the process repeated with two more birds being selected for the next fight

Margaret and I had seen a Balinese cock fight 21 years previously, before the sport was legalized. The crowd had been smaller and more furtive, but the atmosphere just as intense. I felt guilty watching then, just as I did yesterday. In addition to the animal cruelty, many men lose hard-earned money, which would be better spent on food for their families.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Scuba Diving in Tulaben, Bali

4/20/11 (Amed Bali) Sitting on our bungelow's terrace, the dawn quiet is broken by a strange mixture of girlish laughter and staccato roosters.  The uniformed school girls playing with friends and preparing for class, and I imagine the roosters are calling their fallen brethren who died in yesterday's cock fight.

Stretching below us, arcs a black cobble beach lined with dugout canoes, whose white paint gleams in the morning sun. Their gangly outriggers resemble gangly spiders.  A faint wind tickles the Timor sea, stretching languidly towards the northern horizon. To the west a lava toe of the mighty Agung volcano edges the beach: black rock draped with verdant vines and rippling with palms in the breeze.

It's a good time to reflect on yesterday's incredible experiences. In the morning we donned scuba gear in nearby Tulaben and explored the 395' wreck of Liberty, a cargo ship which was sunk in 1942 by Japanese topedoes on its way from Australia to the Phillipines. I simply can't describe the splendid multitude of fish species or bewildering variety of delicate coral fronds, horns, mushrooms and pods. My favorite memories: a purple spotted ray lurking low, the irridescent lips of a giant clam, a swirling school of silver jack pulsing in a mamoth ball above us, a forest of sinuous garden eels slowly sinking into their holes as we approached, swimming through narrow pasages to the Liberty's cargo hold, and watching Adam, Galen and Leah soaking it all in!

Mountain Biking Bali Ricefields

4/17/11 (Jimbaren, Bali) From our base in frenetic Ubud, we joined a mountain bike tour to visit the countryside.  In the cool, early morning a minibus drove us high to the crater rim for breakfast overlooking Lake Batur. From the true summit across the crater dropped a tongue of black aa laval, but the vigorous vegetation were creeping their way into the desolation.

After breakfast, our fantastic, informative and funny guide Joe led off on bikes. We whizzed down tiny 'roads,' dodging potholes, thru small villages in a freespirited and festive mood; children lined the street to slap hands, shouting "Cho!" Soon we left the pavement for a dirt track through the ricefields.  A network of irrigation canals, ditches and troughs ensured that water never left us. Gurgling cheerfully, it seemed to help celebrate the day.

Joe punctuated the ride with interesting diversions - helping a farmer plant emerald rice shoots in the wet, oozing mud, visiting a family compound to see traditional rhythms of life, exploring the crevices of a mamoth Banyan tree, and trying our hands at harvesting rice alongside a group of elderly women. The trip ended with a fabulous Balinese feast - a perfect day.

Monday, April 4, 2011

North Stradbroke Island

Last week (3/28) we celebrated the visit of Seattle friends Cate and Mia by taking train, ferry and bus to visit North Stradbroke Island, closely offshore in Brisbane Harbor. The island, which is mostly sandy beach, is rooted on a few rocky sections including an intensely beautiful eroded chasm termed "The Gorge".
Margaret, Leah, Mia & Cate on the Gorge Walk

The gorge-concentrated surf whipped itself into thick foam

Masked Lapwing

The beach-side vegetation was intricately beautiful
More pictures on Picasa