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Ciaran’s Hat Trick of Dangerous Activities

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First of all, thanks everyone for the comments you’ve been adding. For now, it’s all I can do to keep up the blog posts and upload the odd photo, so I haven’t been able to reply, but we do all like to see the comments!

I titled this entry “Ciaran’s Hat Trick of Dangerous Activities”—but strictly speaking, it was more than a hat trick. In a nutshell, today he rode in the front seat of an ancient pick-up truck with no seatbelt, later bounced around for miles in the flatbed back of the same truck, and finished off his day with a ride on a motorcycle in the dark with no helmet. He also drove a mountain bike (also without a helmet) that was too big for him down winding roads through several villages alongside all the usual traffic I’ve been describing lately, and accidentally startled a likely-poisonous snake while hopping across ditches near a rice paddy.

Before anyone starts to wonder what finally became of him after all that, he’s now safely tucked into his bamboo-frame bed, snoring away. As we crossed the bridge from Monkey Forest Road to our guesthouse in the dark, reviewing the highlights of the day, he speculated that this might actually have been one of the best, luckiest days of his life. “But imagine how much better it could have been,” he added, “if I got to go play hockey somewhere in Asia now.”

You can take the boy out of Ottawa…well, for a little while, anyway.

All of these most un-Canadian opportunities today came out of a decision we made to join a group of people on a bike tour of rural Bali north of Ubud. The tour was organized and promoted by Augustus, who we know as our breakfast waiter here at Nick’s Pension. Loosely, the program consists of being driven out to a large temple (Gunung Kawi Temple) for an hour-long guided walk around it, followed by nearly three hours of cycling along back roads and trails, stopping frequently at sites of interest, such as spectacular views of rice paddies carved into steep mountainsides or ancient, enormous banyan trees with tiny temples built into their bases. Over the course of three hours, we biked our way nearly all the way back to Ubud, to Augustus’ family home, a traditional Balinese villa complete with its own temple. There we were treated to a tour of his home, a nearly hour-long explanation of Balinese Hinduism, castes and naming traditions, and dinner—a glorious feast consisting of at least eight or nine different Balinese village foods, from plain rice to satays with peanut sauce to chicken curry and a salad of minced jackfruit, chicken, vegetables and spices. And of course, Balinese tea before and after dinner, as well as bananas from Augustus’ own backyard and oranges from the north for dessert.

The day got off to an interesting start when we ran smack into a cremation procession on our way to meet the minivan that would drive us to the starting point for the bike ride. We had been told about this likely procession by a few different people, who seemed to be promoting it as though it were a rock concert or really fascinating busker act: “Hey, you’re going to be in Ubud around August 27? You might get to see a cremation!” Or “Oh, are you heading down Monkey Forest Road around noon? Keep an eye out, you might catch a cremation ceremony!” The Balinese seem to understand that their elaborate ceremonies and rituals are fascinating to outsiders, and are quite willing to share them. As it turns out, the deceased was a grandmother in a family that runs a nearby homestay called Sania’s House. The relatives had assembled just underneath the bridge near our guesthouse to scatter the ashes in the stream below, and they were proceeding back up the alley to the main road when we came across them, with the women at the front all bearing tall baskets of fruit and flowers on their heads. (It’s strange to put it this way, but I guess you could say we lucked into a cremation ceremony.) We brought up the rear, following them all the way up to the main road.

“I think Bali would be a nice place to die,” Chloe said cheerfully, after observing the fruit baskets, the flowers, the incense, the sarong-clad women and the ceremony by the water.

By the time we found ourselves at the meeting point for the trip, everybody else was there already, so we piled into the minivan and got going. It was a bit of a rocky start, since both kids had been complaining of stomach problems, and we were facing a 45-minute drive to our departure point up and down winding mountain roads with nearly constant hairpin turns. Both kids were stuck in the third-row seat where the windows don’t open, with me wedged in between them, so I spent the drive doubting the wisdom of agreeing to this outing. Despite my misgivings (which had more to do with anxiety over being vomited upon in the backseat than with anything else), we arrived with all of our clothes clean and headed off to our temple visit.

To enter the temple, we all had to don sarongs and sashes; the kids loved the ceremony of that. We listened for a while as our guide described the cremation process. When he said that sometimes a family will bury a dead relative for as long as three to five years before exhuming and cremating the body, Chloe abruptly changed her mind about the wisdom of dying in Bali. At the temple she also had her first real encounter with an authentic Asian public toilet. This one was not just any old filthy squat toilet, with mandi and scoop for flushing; it came complete with a wizened little old lady sitting in front of the row of toilets with a donation box. Cost to use the toilet: 1,000 rupiah (about 10 cents). In exchange, you are given a swatch of toilet paper, and had better hope you took enough in with you. I explained most of this to Chloe in advance, so her transaction went relatively smoothly (she tried at first to make off with the entire roll), but she was not impressed with the state of the toilet.

Eventually we exited the temple and hopped on our bicycles, only to find that the one they had in mind for Ciaran was going to be too big. He couldn’t drive it at all at first, since he couldn’t quite reach the handlebars. After some adjustments, he decided he could manage, but it was still going to be difficult going up and down the steep hills. We briefly thought of letting him sit on the back of my bike, but ruled that out when it looked like his toes would get caught in the spokes. In the end, the only solution was to have him ride in the pickup truck that would be shadowing us for the afternoon. Mark hopped in with him, and off we went. We met up regularly at the scheduled stops for explanations and photos. I expected Ciaran to be disappointed, but I think any grumpiness he may have felt about not riding a bike was countered by his excitement at getting to ride in the front seat of the truck. Later, his lucked improved again and he moved to the open back of the truck and, well, you know the rest.

The bike ride was fabulous and scenic, and gave us a different perspective on village life in Bali. Chloe loved how kids her age would yell hello and wave to her as she drove by. I imagine Balinese girls don’t do a lot of bike riding, because our guide marvelled continuously over the way Chloe managed the hills, standing on her pedals with elbows sticking out, refusing to give up and walk up. “She looks like a man,” he said at one point. Meanwhile, Ciaran was high-fived and played with everywhere he stopped.

But the highlight of the day was dinner at Augustus’ house. The kids were champs, and ate nearly everything on offer. We had a chance to meet two of Augustus’ three children, Made and Nyoman, who introduced themselves shyly to Chloe and Ciaran. Before long the four of them were playing, trying to see who could strike the most comedic yoga sitting pose and then wiggle across the floor with their legs all tucked in.

Of course, it wouldn’t have been a typical day if it hadn’t ended strangely. After dinner was over, we were all delivered home separately: Chloe and Mark in different minivans, and Ciaran and I on the back of Augustus’ motorbike. I must say it was a lot of fun zooming down the Ubud roads on the back of a motorbike in the dark with my hair flying in the wind, helmet free. Ciaran and I arrived first, and let ourselves into the room. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me that I should wait out on Monkey Forest Road for Chloe to be delivered (from Monkey Forest, you have to make your way down an alley for about 200 metres, then cross a bridge to our guesthouse). I was thinking Chloe would be arriving at the main entrance to the hotel, and could make her way to our room on her own. As it turns out, she was standing around by herself on Ubud’s busiest road for about 10 minutes before Mark got dropped off in the same place. Then they waited together for 10 more minutes for Ciaran and I to show up, becoming increasingly worried when we didn’t. Needless to say, by the time they strolled over the bridge and up the path to our room, Mark was not amused. But all’s well that ends well, right?

P.S. Apparently there are recent news reports that a passenger ferry just off Bali capsized the other day, killing a dozen or two people. You have probably figured out by now that we weren’t on it!

Some photos from the day

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Posted by The Rymans 20:36 Archived in Indonesia Tagged family_travel

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Patti, my boys and I have been reading your blog since you started it and they are completely amazed that someone that I hung around with in high school is cool enough to do something like this!
Your entries are always entertaining and full of great info and your kids must be having the time of their lives!
Take care, Mary :)

by Mary Ladouceur

Hey Patti,
I have to say I was a bit skeptical at first about your trip, meaning that I would be pretty terrified to try if myself with kids, but it sounds really amazing so far, you guys are so brave to take your kids away like this, but I bet this will be something they remember for the rest of their lives for sure..I love reading your posts, your descriptions really give a sense of exactly what is happening. Keep writing!

by Kristin Newman

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