Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bali Birthday: Amed

Tim treated me to a pretty kick-ass weekend in Bali for my birthday this past weekend...  we headed to a part of the island we hadn't yet been to, the coast on the far eastern tip of the island, a few hours from the airport and miles away from the beach party scene surrounding it.  We stayed in a cute little cliff-side, ocean-view villa in a fishing and salt-making village, Lipah, which is part of a group of villages collectively referred to as Amed (Amed is just the largest of those villages). 

The area is a stark contrast to the bright and flashy beach areas of south Bali.  On the dry side of the island in the foothills of the Mount Agung, Bali's revered volcano (gunung api, which literally means fire mountain), the area around Amed is much less lush than other parts of the island.  People have historically struggled to successfully grow very much there, so they rely on fishing, sea salt production, and now scuba diving tourists for their livelihoods.  The Amed area is visibly poorer than other parts of Bali, as evidenced by the tens of people Tim and I saw bathing and washing clothes in the stream on our way into the area.

The view from our villa was great... blue ocean peeking out through the fruit-heavy mango tree and bougainvillea:
 

In the early mornings and late evenings, you could see Amed's fleet of colorful, wooden, double-outrigger fishing boats (called jukung) with their brightly striped sails:


Our hotel was also home to these two ducks that waddled around the pool/restaurant area... I think they may have been the owners pets, but the staff was none too happy about it.  Each time the waiter came out with a beer for us, the ducks ran after him, quaking and biting his legs and feet.  Poor guy.


Unfortunately not pictured here is the main purpose for our visit to this area: diving the USAT Liberty wreck. The wreck is a U.S. military transport ship that was torpedoed by the Japanese in 1942 off the coast of Bali during WWII.  The ship was beached near Tulamben so that the cargo could be recovered and sat there until
1963 when Mt. Agung erupted, sending tremors through the island that shook the ship back into the water,  about 25 meters from the rocky shoreline.  Since then, the wreck, the top of which is about 5 meters deep and the bottom of which is 30 meters deep, has grown soft and hard coral and become home to tons of sea life, making it an awesome diving spot.

I wish we had an underwater camera to capture how cool this dive was, but in the meantime, I'll rely on the internet to link us to lots of Liberty wreck dive photos.  With the help of dive outfitter Eco-Dive, we suited up on the beach for the dive, waded into the water and swam out to the wreck.  The wreck is sorta split in half, so you're able to swim into it, and yet it's not confining, as you can see from this video.  Tons of fish were swimming all around us, not unlike this video (although our dive was not accompanied by weird porny sounding music)- schools of snapper and surgeonfish, moorish idols, sting rays, nudibranches, sweetlips, box fish...

Our next dive was a couple coves down from the wreck and was an awesome wall dive going to depths of 60-70 meters... Super cool coral, including giant barrel sponges, nudibranches, grouper, lots of trumpet fish, box fish, giant clams, skunk anemone fish (like Nemo, but with the stripe going down his back skunk style), puffer fish, anemone shrimp, and the coolest of all: the ghost pipe fish.  Pretty beautiful and relaxing dive.

After diving we took a dip in the hotel pool and had a beer, then headed out on one of the jukung for a little sunset boat ride with fisherman Wayan.  Apparently, when not fishing, the fishermen are happy to make an extra buck by toting bules around the bay.

The junkung is very narrow- just wide enough for my butt to fit comfortably, but surprisingly deep- my feet dangled when I was sitting on the boat's bench. 


I loved seeing all the boats lined up on the beach- they look at little bit like insects from afar:


From the boat you could see Mt. Agung in the distance:


You could also see some of the valleys in the foothills of Mt. Agung:


This photo give you a sense of how arid the area is- the hill tops are totally brown and dry:

 

These glamour shots are the result of me only bringing the new telephoto lens that Tim gave me.  Turns out it's hard to take a photo of yourself on a narrow wooden boat with a telephoto lens without falling out of the boat.  And yet somehow the photos turned out to be really cool:


The sunset over the volcano was really beautiful:


I love how colorful the sails are on the jukung, giving each on a personality... and each one has its legs painted different colors, too:


Obligatory chickens-on-the-side-of-the-road shot:


As I mentioned, the Amed area is known for its sea salt production, although I think they are phasing it out somewhat as the tourist industry develops and because it is backbreaking work.  Tim and I stopped by the salt production area on our way out of town, but weren't able to capture the production as it happened because it normally happens quite early in the morning before it gets too hot (well, too hot is relative, I guess).

Salt-making involves lugging buckets of sea water ashore to spread on the sand, let the water evaporate and then harvest the natural salts.  It's a multi-step process, documented at this website.  Kinda crazy to think about how much work goes into salt, huh?  


2 comments:

  1. Did I tell you Scuba bought a GoPro - we'll make good use of it when all of us go on a scuba-adventure! Looks like it was a fabulous trip. Glad you signed up for the job as our Indo tour guide and travel agent :)

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    1. Sweet! I think that's the same camera Mr. Ben has... He filmed our Komodo videos and some mountains biking videos with it. Good stuff.

      I would happily dive the Liberty again when you guys come to town- lots to see.

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