Sunday 15 August 2010

A few days off to visit my sick mother in Adelaide.

Saturday August 14
An uneventful flight over I read the newspaper most of the flight. I think it is the first time in months that I have read a paper, I could almost convince myself that I am up to date on current affairs. Did you know that there is an election coming up? Well I do now, but there only seems to be two candidates worth talking about, both of whom want to be PM. Which seems a bit odd as surely we need more politicians than that to run a Government?
Anyway I digress. I landed in Adelaide in cold wet windy conditions. The skies were grey and overcast with low scudding cloud. It looked bleak, cold, wet, windy and wintry. It was bleak, cold, wet, windy and wintry in a way that only Adelaide seems to be able to produce. Despite it's low annual average rainfall on days like this Adelaide can really turn it on. Fortunately the airport at Adelaide has been vastly improved and boasts a modern Terminal with modern aero bridges and one no longer has to walk down stairs and across the windswept tarmac to the terminal.
As a matter of fact the terminal is very modern and well laid out. It has one unique feature that places it way above many other airport terminals that I have been in. It has a Coopers Brewery Bar. At that time of day however it was not appropriate to reacquaint myself with one of the worlds greatest beers. In fact I have blogged about Coopers before so I would be going over old ground, so I won't mention it further.
I picked up my hire care, a Toyota Yaris. A car before it's time. A car of the future. A car with an engine powerful enough to spin a cotton reel on a sewing machine. One day if we still have cars we will drive such low power economical beasts. In the meantime I am happy with a 2.5 Litre engine that will do 160 KM/H on a long straight (and no Constabulary to stop me).
Pointing the Yaris in the right direction I headed into Adelaide City. My destination was the Central Market. For many Adelaidians this place is an institution. It is a fresh produce Market located practically in the heart of the City. It is little changed in the almost 40 years that I have been going to it. I cleary remember, when I was a child, going there with my parents. It was a lively place with rows of stalls bearing fresh fruit and vegetables, shops selling nuts which always seem fresh as they are served warm ready to eat. The vendors would call out their prices and towards the end of the day the prices would go down and the bargains appear as they tried to clear their stock. On the edges of the market facing the main road were shops selling fresh seafood and meat. Cappo's was another institution one of the Seafood shops across the road from the markets. In my memory this was always very crowded and the aisle ways narrow and difficult to navigate. But it had a pulse and vibrancy.
Today was not too dissimilar. The Market still has a pulse and vibrancy. The crowds were down, one vendor explained that it was quiet as the crowds had stayed away due to the rain. The aisle ways seemed wider, maybe that was my memory, maybe more room has been created. There were still plenty of fruit and vegetable stalls. However I saw a difference in the make up. There were many stalls selling preserved meats, salamis, fritz, smoked sausage, prosciutto and variants. Many cheese stalls also. These featured many locally produced varieties from the nearby Adelaide Hills. And the cheeses were lovely based on the samples and the purchases that I made. Many of the remembered stalls were still there in the same position. However the Market now also features coffee shops and the ability to buy light meals, predominantly of the open or closed sandwich variety, I don't remember if that was so in the past.
Overall it is still a wonderful place to shop for the fresh produce including fruit, vegetables, cheese, meats, seafood and more. If i lived in Adelaide and was catering for a dinner party or cocktail party, this place would be essential to visit the morning of the event to pick up all of the ingredients beforehand.
The Bludger is a fan of the Adelaide Central Market
I continued on my way to Callington and my parents residence. Seeing my Mother was a shock. Skeletal was the first word that came to mind. She is wasted away. She is old, very old. Maybe I shouldn't describe this. Oddly enough she seems more mentally competent now than she was 9 months ago.
No that is enough, no more on this subject

Tuesday 6 July 2010

A Sunday in Brisvegas

Dateline: Sunday July 4, 2010
Up early and a bit indecisive on where to go for my morning exercise walk. I eventually decided that a walk down to the opening of our newest bridge across the Brisbane River was in order.
What is it with Brisbane? Why doesn't our river have a decent name? London has the Thames, Paris the Seine even Hobart is built on the banks of the Derwent, and I can probably easily name dozens more. But no, Brisbane never got around to naming it's river. It is just the Brisbane River. Fortunately it is not a creek or a swamp, how romantic would that be? "I took a walk around the Brisbane Swamp". I sat by the side of the Brisbane Stream and had lunch swatting the mosquito's away". Eeek
Anyway I wandered down. Ooops I mean that I power walked to the river and bridge. I managed to miss the official opening ceremony. I vaguely heard words to the effect that "the Go Between Bridge" was now officially open. To celebrate I bought a coffee. I should mention that it was only open to pedestrians today. Cars, bicycles and other means of locomotion were banned. Also a series of Market stalls set up on the bridge.
The day was by this time sunny, but windy. A pleasure to be out in the sun but not too exposed to the wind. At this stage the bridge had maybe 100 genuine visitors on it, numbers outweighed by officials, security, vendors and "volunteers". I think that the opening of a letter may have brought a bigger crowd.
In fact some market stall tents were still not open.
I wandered over the bridge. Bought a German sausage in a roll. The seller asked if I would like Sauerkraut on it. "I love Sauerkraut" I said. He handed me a sausage in a dry bun. "Can I have the Sauerkraut?" I asked. He seemed put out, but eventually gave me what I wanted. Man this guy needs to learn about customer satisfaction. At my local Saturday markets I can get the same German Sausage in a similar bun, with fried onions, sauce, mustard and Sauerkraut for the same price, plus a pleasant "hello how's your day?".
Any way I wandered back over the bridge, then back again on the walkway. By now I was running low on things to do on a bridge. As far as bridges go it isn't all that exciting. It crosses the river and links the north shore to the south. It is only 200-300 meters from another bridge, the William Jolly Bridge, which serves the exact same purpose. It is an unfortunate fact of Brisbane geography that 2 bridges need to be so close to each other. The road configurations are dictated partly by history, partly by the river and partly by the surrounding terrain. In effect this new bridge will greatly streamline traffic flows, but it still seems a waste with a perfectly good bridge so close by.
As to the naming of the bridge. A little bit controversial. The "gobetween" Bridge, according to the marketing department will allow you to Go Between the North and South Shores. Gosh they must pay these people a lot of money. It also celebrates the former Brisbane based band "The Go- Betweens". They were big apparently, although I can only vaguely remember their music.
Maybe the next bridge will be called the Powderfinger Bridge in honour of another iconic Brisbane Band that I do recognise their music and actually have some in my collection. Time will tell.
Where is this blog going I am lost at the moment.
Oh right, back on the Gobetween Bridge. If you followed my footsteps I am back on the wrong side of the river and need to cross gain to get back home. So I did.
And then the Bludger went home.

Saturday 3 July 2010

Random thoughts on a plane

I recently flew from Newcastle (NSW) back to Brisbane. My mind was free to wander and these thoughts drifted through my mind.
The Beer that I bought on the flight was a Heinecken. What made it interesting was that it was fully imported. Not brewed under license in Australia, fully imported from Holland. Wow, my beer had been transported half way around the world. I appreciated it, it was a nice beer.
I need more humour in my life. My life is lacking laughter. I used to laugh a lot, listen to Comedians, watch cartoons, see comedies. Where has this gone wrong?
I have been visiting coal mining areas. Our State and Federal Governments are not very clever are they? Or maybe they are extremely clever at pulling the wool over our eyes? They talk about green credentials, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing the release of CO2 into the atmosphere, environmental responsibility. Meanwhile they are investing in, or assisting in, the development of massive infrastructure in NSW and Queensland to get more coal out of the ground and onto ships and sold overseas in the quickest and most economical manner.
Our Governments are hypocrites. The equation is simple, every gram of coal brought out of the ground that is burnt, releases CO2 and adds to greenhouse gases and thus to global warming. Blind Freddy can see it. And we are the mugs that keep voting them in. I am voting green next election. On the same flight is a lady from the Country Women's Association. I know this because she featured on Masterchef recently as a guest judge. Coincidence. That morning I had also seen an article about her in the local newspaper. Coincidence, she was at the airport when I was due to fly home. Coincidence, she was on the same flight as I. Coincidence indeed.
More coincidences. The lady next to me I have seen before. I don't know her at all. But I have seen her or someone very similar. She stands out for several reasons. She has a distinctive style of clothing including a distinctive hat. I see her in profile, she has a distinctive profile, to do with the shape of the nose and the lower lip. Her skin colour and complexion is distinctive also. She wears glasses. All of this triggers memories, I have seen her before. Actually I think on a plane. Coincidence or my mind playing tricks? She is focused and looks like she needs more humour in her life also.
She is listening to an MP3 player. We are on descent and all electronic equipment is meant to be switched off (I am blogging later from hand written notes). She carefully hides the MP3 player in her jacket and the earpiece cables beneath the jacket and under her medium length hair. I hope that her use of electronic equipment doesn't kill me. But that is all bulldust. Neither MP3 players, nor phones, nor laptop computers are likely to interfere with the aircraft electronic navigation systems as they would like you to believe. Modern electronics on air planes are well shielded and electronic transmissions from portable devices are so low that the likelihood of interference is very low. I think that I need more humour in my life, I sound like a Grumpy Old Man.
Two people didn't make our flight. We were delayed while their bags were identified and removed. I am annoyed at the delay. I should be happy that a potential risk to my safety has been eliminated. I am just grumpy that I am late getting home. I need more laughter in my life. I hope that those two people get given a hard time when they pick up their bags.
I am glad to be fling north to warmer climes. I have been in the NSW Hunter Valley. It was cold at night.
I have successfully avoided colds so far this winter. I take a 70 minute flight and by the end of the day I have a sore throat and a runny nose. I dislike being ill. Next day my throat is sore, my nose running. I suspect that this will ruin my weekend.
The Bludger needs to laugh more.

Sunday 20 June 2010

Winter Solstice

I love the sun. I love sunshine. I love warm sunny days. I love the feel of the sun on my skin. I love the feel of the heat that passes through clothing to the body underneath. I love the smell of summer. I love the sounds of summer. I love being warm. Give me the heat over cold anyday.
Today (Sunday) was a cloudless sunny day. The heart of winter. Despite a cold start to the day the sun shone and warmed my body. But not only my body it warmed my soul also.
The winter solstice is on June 21 in 2010 for the Southern Hemisphere. For us Southerners the Solstice is, of course, the shortest day of the year. The day when the combination of the Earth's orbit around the Sun and the tilt of it's axis of rotation, place the Sun as far North as it travels. The Sun is actually directly overhead the Tropic of Cancer on this date.
It's a day that historically has had huge significance for our ancestors. Many ancient civilisations had rituals and myths and celebrations that revolved, date wise, around the (northern) Winter Solstice and also their Summer Solstice. I find it an amazing thing that our antecedents could map the Solstices so accurately. For Brisbane this year the length of day for the 21st is 3 seconds less than the 20th and within 1 second of the 22nd. And several thousand years ago people could measure the solstice to within a couple of days. Magnificent.
As I get older the Winter solstice has started to take on more meaning. In my youth it was just a day. It had scientific interest as being the shortest day. It had intellectual interest as the orientation of the sun and earth changed as they moved through their orbits. Nowadays it is an important date to me as the days now start to get longer and I know that the warmth and sunshine are on their way back.
I don't like winter. I am a child of the sun. I get the winter blues. I feel more alive in summer. I am more positive. I have more energy. Maybe I need to move further north in winter.
The Bludger is looking forward to the return of the sun.

Saturday 12 June 2010

Cooking in a bag

I had my first experience of cooking steak in a bag this evening.
For those who are not aware of cooking in bags, let me explain.
In the last few years chef's and food scientists have actually been applying science to the art of cooking. They have been questioning all the truths that we know about cooking and asking whether they are valid or not. On Australian TV Masterchef has shown cooking in the bag a few times, with much discussion and a fair bit of revulsion on the forums.
What this scientific approach is showing is that we have a lot of cooking know how that is simply wrong.
An Example. To cook a perfect steak, we all know the following. Sear both sides on high heat to seal in the juices and then cook on reduced heat until the juices appear on the top surface, flip once and cook until the steak still feels tender to a push with a fork or tongs. This method retains maximum moisture.
Well that is wrong! It is a very pervasive thought and it has been drilled into us since birth. But it is incorrect.
Our new found scientific chefs have tested and found that the best steaks are cooked with gentle heat, not seared before hand, and can actually be turned as often as you like during cooking. (I would like to give you a reference to that but I lost the link).
Consider this, have you ever had spit roast meat? It is turned continuously, never seared and if done properly comes out sweet and tender.
Anyway an outcome of all of this scientific testing concludes that Steak must be cooked to certain temperatures inside to achieve certain levels of done-ness. The traditional way is to use a meat thermometer to measure the inside temperature of the meat. Sear the outside, cook on a more gentle heat and when the temperature is correct there you have the perfect steak.
Our new scientific chefs have turned that around. You can pop a steak into a reseal-able plastic bag, withdraw the air, dunk it in hot water and 30 minutes later you have a perfect tasting and cooked steak. Note it may not look perfect if you are used to the blackened and caramelised flavours of a steak off the BBQ our from under the grill. Oh and that 30 minutes is not necessary. That amount of time gives sufficient time for the middle to come up the temperature. But leave it for an hour and you won't overcook it.
I had my first attempt at this tonight.
I bought some reasonable quality Black Angus Sirloin and cut it into 1" Steaks. I bought this steak cheap from a man in the markets and while I believe that he sells quality meat, it is so cheap that I always wonder.
I ground salt and pepper and then added crushed garlic to both sides of the meat and then wrapped in 2 layers of cling film. I then placed this into a zip lock microwave vegetable steamer bag and tried to get as much air out as possible, before closing it.
I placed the bag into a pan of water heated to 70 C. Temperature was checked with a Milk Thermometer and I had to control the temperature by turning the heat off and then back on periodically. Thirty minutes later I took the steak out of the water. The outside was a light grey, and the fat looked raw. Oddly enough the crushed garlic had turned a virulent green. Following someone's advice I threw the steak onto a hot BBQ plate and cooked both sides for about 40 seconds. This gave a bit of colour to the outside and removed the green colour from the garlic.
How did it turn out?
Well it was very tender.
I could not taste the salt or pepper that I had put on. I could taste the garlic and my first impression was that the garlic had a raw taste, by the end of the meal I didn't mind the rawness because it was also a very fresh taste.
The meat itself was a very bright red. If you have a look here at the rare steak it was like that, but without the grey edge. It cut very easily. Not fall apart, and while I used a steak knife, a standard knife would have been fine. I felt a bit of trepidation because it didn't look cooked but when I tasted it I found it to be very tender, very moist and very tasty. The bright red was playing with my mind, but the taste and tenderness was excellent. Shut your eyes, enjoy the texture and flavour and quite possibly it was the best steak I have ever had. Certainly I have never cooked a more tender or tasty steak, unless I had marinated it for 12 or more hours.
My conclusion. Cook in the bag works.
You need to "get over" the colour however. I certainly recommend the searing at the end. I have heard that you can do it in reverse. Sear first and heat in the bag second.
I intended to put a photo here, but my camera seems to have died.

Friday 16 April 2010

Easter - Philipines - Day 4 and Return

How quickly a long weekend comes to a close.
As is my curse I woke early and went for a long walk.
I first travelled along the sea front. Here I had an odd encounter. I was aware of a person ahead of me, a Filipino. He was walking at water level, whereas I was higher up. With hindsight I realise that he was not likely to be seen by people in the resort. This man passed beyond the resort boundaries. I stopped and took some photos. As I took the photos a Banca came into shore.
The Banca carried a family. I assumed that they were fishing. The elder male called out to me and tried to sell me shells. I refused to be interested. After taking more photos I crossed the boundary of the resort and made my way along a very rocky sea shore. The shell seller had come ashore by that time and I had a chat with him. He tried to sell me shells and I assumed that he made his money by selling shells to tourists. Not a good proposition from where he was situated as few tourists would come this far.
Walking on I passed the original person, whom I had followed, hidden behind a rock. I continued past and found a vantage point to take more photos. Returning a short time later the man behind the rock had gone. My shell seller was on the point of departure. At this stage I realised that I had probably seen a smuggling operation in action. Not sure what was being smuggled but obviously a hand over of some sort.
I went up that hill again, was challenged by security and returned to the resort for breakfast.
We packed up and arranged for the banca to pick us up. Once again a lovely journey across the ocean back to our vehicle. A slight altercation with a women wanting payment for looking after our car. She did a good job we thought as the broken aerial went into the boot. NOT.
Then we retraced our original path back to Tagaytay. Here we picked up a buco which is a coconut pie, considered a local delicacy. The pastry was well made the filling sweet and flavoursome. I would not hesitate to eat it again if presented to me, but as I am not big on deserts I would not be seeking it out for my own pleasure. That's just my taste not a criticism of the pie.
The rest of the trip was uneventful and we arrived back in Manilla in plenty of time before my flight.
One of Victoria's friends Rose was there practising her art work, she had done a magnificent job on reproducing a very complex painting. She was using traditional media, egg white and pigments. Very impressive.
Tony and I had time to step out for a late lunch before he took me to the airport. We made a pig of ourselves on Oysters. Kilpatrick, Cheese, Baked, Natural, the piglets had a feast.
This gave me a small opportunity to take some photos of Jeepneys. Jeepneys are the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines. They were originally made from US military jeeps left over from World War II and are well known for their flamboyant decoration and crowded seating. They have also become a symbol of Philippine culture. (Thanks Wikipedia).
And then it was off to the airport, holiday ended.
The return trip was uneventful. Notable for lack of sleep, arriving in Brisbane at 4am, retrieving my car with enough time to go home, shower, water the garden, pack for a trip to Melbourne and spend a day at work.
The Bludger was dog tired.

Easter - Philipines - Day 3

Day 3 dawned bright and clear. We had decided to move on. A phone call to Garden Point had found some vacant accommodation and we arranged a Banca to take us over there.
Which caused problems.
Our accommodation decided to take the piss and charge us a mighty fee for the previous days boat trip. Only about 6 times the original quote. Then wanted to charge us an astronomical fee in US dollars for the boat transfers. Tony bless his heart was masterful in negotiation and resolving the issues. Cool calm collected and no compromise.
Anyway we made it to Garden point and moved into our new home. I have to admit the quality of food, accommodation and service was much higher. We also had room to walk more than 50 metres. In fact we had a very steep hill that gave me a good work out. After settling in Tony and I took a walk up the hill and around the resort. We then found a nice spot for a beer while watching the ocean.
The day passed easily. Our group congregated around the pool late afternoon for drinks and photos of the sunset. It was a lovely warm evening and with few other people around was very calming.
After Sunset we repaired to the restaurant and had a very enjoyable dinner. Following dinner I had a massage in my room which put me right to sleep. What a great way to end the day!
Overall it was a lovely day and a lovely place to spend some time.
The Bludger was cruising!

Easter - Philipines - Day 2

Up late, 6:40 am local time. I arose and explored the area looking for a nice walk to get some exercise. Short of trying a bit of mountaineering I was basically trapped. So I abandoned that idea and had a leisurely coffee while waiting for my companions to arise and breakfast to be served.
Breakfast started with fresh fruit and also had a variety of hot food available. A freshly prepared omelette, that was pretty disappointing, chicken croquettes, rice and fish. All basic fare but edible and sustaining. I breakfasted alone and read for some time enjoying the peace, calm and ambience.
A snorkel in the morning before lunch gave an opportunity to view the ocean life, get some exercise and practise some old skills. The sea life here is standard tropical. Entering the water from the jetty in front of the resort soon led to deeper water. A healthy, although sparse population of tropical fish and soft and hard corals was easily found. The water was warm and I swam in a t shirt without discomfort.
Lunch started with a local beef and cabbage soup. Not memorable, a bit like an oily stock or what I termed beef consomme. It is important to skim the oil off such soups, or maybe not add it in the first place! The rest of the meal consisted of chicken satay, fish in soy sauce, rice, a cooked vegetable, pork and tofu, of which I selected out the tofu and once again fresh lettuce leaves as a salad base. Mango float completed desert. The food here is bland, overcooked but edible. It certainly isn't gourmet.
The afternoon was spent relaxing before I and my companions hired a boat (a Banca) and took a ride along the coast. We stopped to feed fish in a reserve, a bit boring I have to admit, and then snorkelled in the reserve. This was a nice area with lots of soft coral, hard corals and an abundance of marine life. Conservation and eco tourism is not difficult. Simply mark off a boundary, prevent fishing and anchoring and the sea life will prosper with little or no effort. There was an abundance of reef fish, I saw pipe fish, a Moray Eeel cream coloured with black speckles. This was working its way confidently across the bottom without obvious fear of snorkellers. Also Clown fish (males orange with a blue horizontal stripe behind the eye. The female considerably bigger and it's body had almost turned black but still edged with the orange colouration. The locals called this a Tomato clown fish, but the colouring was quite different to the Tomato clown fish that I have seen elsewhere. Also Angel fish, a small group of snapper cruising the edge of a patch of bait fish, Parrot Fish, trigger fish and a host of those that I cannot name.
After snorkelling we asked to be taken to Garden Point for a beer. This necessitated the refilling of fuel tanks so we pulled into a small village before continuing around the coast.
It was a lovely day to be on the water and we stayed close to the shoreline which gave good views of passing boats and the resorts and villages on the shore. The ride was soporific and despite the obvious signs of civilisation it was easy to fantasise about exploring the wilds of some long past and forgotten river or estuary system, maybe in Africa or the Amazon. Partly this was due to the basic layout of the Banca, a rather narrow centre section balanced by the outriggers.
We debarked and walked the short distance to the restaurant on the shoreline where we ordered beers and bar snacks. By now the sun was low down on the horizon, daylight was fading and the sun about to set. It was a lovely end to the afternoon, and while the sun set was not spectacular it was very moody and peaceful.
We motored back to our resort in the dark. A lovely trip with the muted sound of the motor not intruding, a warm breeze on our faces, and a cold beer in our hands.
Evening meal was deep fried breaded chicken, bland but good. Think KFC without the secret herbs and spices, and less fat. Also available, Tuna with Mango Salsa, cooked tomatoes and mango in coconut for desert.
We played cards again in the evening
The Bludger is not a card shark

Easter - Philipines - Arrival and Day 1

Leaving work to catch my flight was a rush. I had arranged to store my car near to the airport and rely on their shuttle bus to transfer me. Despite the storage sharing the same site as my workplace it was a rush to get there. However once out of work all went smoothly and I had my ticket, cleared customs and had time to have lunch before boarding.
The flight itself was uneventful. I had a brief nanna nap. The food service was now what I consider airline standard. Too few staff feeding too many passengers making it slow to be served and slow to get drinks. In fact I assume that it is official airline policy to make drink service slow to reduce the risk of drunk abusive passengers. Nice touches were a small drink bottle before take off "retain this so that you can fill it up mid flight" and an orange ice block between lunch and dinner.
Arrival in Manila was uneventful and I was met soon after debarking by my friend Tony who smoothed my way through Customs and Immigration. As part of his Diplomatic Status he is allowed to do this. A short drive along surprisingly empty roads and I was at Tony & Vic's residence in time for Dinner. The dinner party went late until about 2am which was a big ask of me as I had 2 hours time difference to add to that. A nice group of people and far too much wine and alcohol consumed. Lovely curries and I met some nice people. Not a bad welcome to Manila.
We departed the next day for our drive to Batangas for 2 nights at a resort on the coast. My friends were amazed at the lack of traffic on the roads. Manila is a city of 26 Million people and the roads were apparently deserted as the city was emptied out for the Easter holiday.
We made good time and stopped at Tagaytay for a comfort stop and coffee. Coffee was in Starbucks overlooking Lake Taal. The lake was shrouded in a light mist but even so it was a spectacular sight. It is a lake filling the Caldera of a long dead volcano. We were perched high on the rim looking down into the Caldera. The lake is landlocked and surrounded by the rim and surrounding countryside. It is huge some 10 - 15 km in diameter. In the lake there is a fish farming industry. Apparently the Tawaalis fish is a unique species as it has developed in isolation. While I saw it advertised for sale I did not have an opportunity to sample it (until later). It looked like a sardine in the photos that I saw.
By this time it was lunch time and we decided to go to Dencio for some local cuisine. Dencios is a chain of restaurants. The food is traditional Philipines with a chain approach. Therefore it will be hygienically prepared but may not be quite traditional. In the same way that an Aussie hamburger differs in Burger King from that which is prepared by hand in the local fish and chip shop.
We had a variety of dishes shared amongst us. I had a good lunch which included some nice prawns in a spicy sauce, pork belly thickly cut, apparently deep fried, some satay style meat of indistinct origin, nicely prepared asparagus, a salad and a tasting plate of pork hock and crispy pork crackling. Not the most wholesome of foods but a good sampling of local fare.
After lunch we followed the road which runs south along the ridge of the Caldera. We passed many vendors selling pineapples and later in the drive coconuts. Fruit and vegetable stores that we passed seemed to have good selection of tropical fruits, I could see Durian, Mango, Bananas, Mangosteen plus the above mentioned Pineapple and Coconut.
We had a minor accident when we stopped to allow a vehicle to reverse into a car spot on the side of the road. Despite guidance from a traffic marshal he still managed to hit us. No major damage so we moved on. From here the road started to lead down to the coast though Coconut Plantations. Reaching the coast we followed it via Lemery to the point where we were to leave the car.
The rest of the journey was completed by boat. The Banca is a mono hulled boat with outriggers on each side. Ours was long narrow and rode well over the small wind blown chop. The bamboo outriggers held the boat stable and it was a pleasant ride under a bright sun, following the coast.
We passed a small island that for a few brief seconds we wondered whether that was our eventual destination.
Our resort was actually perched between the edge of a vertiginous hillside and the ocean, construction must have been a challenge. Later I surveyed the hillside and realised that a machete and ropes would be essential to climb it. Steep. Very steep.
The resort faces south over the Batangas Bay, cooled by sea breezes for most of the day. Our rooms are small and functional. Beds - firm. Toilet - blocked.
The resort had saved lunch for us but none were really hungry. Hot thirsty and in need of a beer. Definitely. but food no.
The afternoon was spent relaxing, swimming, reading and chatting. Dinner was an interesting mix of local produce including Chicken Satay, rice, fish a bit overcooked, vegetables, fresh lettuce salad and a rather tasteless pumpkin soup, followed by fresh pineapple and Banana Float for desert. I went back for seconds on most, much to the disgust of my companions.
That evening we played cards a game that I had never heard of called Doppelkopf.
The bludger slept like a log despite the noisy air-conditioner.

Wednesday 31 March 2010

Where's the Bludger?

This is my plan for Thursday
  • Breakfast In Brissy
  • Lunch in Limbo
  • Snack in the Sky
  • Dinner in Manila
Which probably needs a bit more explanationBreakfast in Brissy refers to the fact that I will wake up at a normal time in Brisbane, eat my breakfast and head off to work, almost as normal.
Lunch in Limbo refers to the event that by this time I should be at the Airport in the international departures lounge waiting for my flight to Manila. Once you have passed Immigration you are in a legal limbo land, you are physically in Australia but have passed into International space.
Snack in the sky is the recognition that I will need a light meal during the flight but I will be saving myself for Dinner with friends in Manila.
Of course all of this is subject to a threatened strike by Qantas Engineers that could easily ruin many travellers plans over Easter.
The Bludger is procrastinating instead of throwing a couple of t-shirts and a toothbrush into a bag.

Sunday 7 March 2010

Onion & Potato Soup = Antisocial Behaviour.

Note: read this post at your own peril it contains offensive smells.
What to do with BBQ leftovers? I ended up with a large pile of raw sliced onion after a BBQ and a few baked potatoes. After a couple of days I thought that I mite (might?) (neither look correct) make some French Onion soup, but add in the Potatoes and make something a bit heartier.
I started by sautéing the Onions on gentle heat for about 30 minutes. A couple of table spoons of Flour to thicken and then poured on Chicken Stock (home made) and topped up with water. I sliced the potatoes into the soup and simmered for about 40 minutes. A tablespoon of sugar, melted in a serving spoon over the gas until it caramelised was added to the mix. I got this trick from a recipe, not sure if it added to the soup but a novel experience. I let the soup cool and skimmed off the oil on the surface then used a hand blender to make a smoother soup.
The soup was great, not restaurant quality by any means but flavoursome and filling.
The problem came the next day. Which fortunately was a non working day.
I woke up in the morning to a bedroom smelling of Onion. Strange I thought, and then a release of "wind" provided the reason why. The onion had worked its way through my system and was making it's presence known. I guess that it is fortunate I live alone
The Bludger is smelly today.

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Online dating - Scamming? Still?

Several years ago I contributed to exposing the machinations of online scammers who prey on single men. The basic idea is that you get an online contact. Typically an attractive woman, single, young. You follow it up and before you can type her e-mail address she has fallen madly in love with you and has booked a flight to come and see you. But oops she needs some money for the ticket. And so it goes. The ones that I dealt with were Russian.
To be honest it was a bit nerve racking taking on the Russian backers of these scams. You didn't know how long there reach was. Maybe they had associates in Oz, maybe they could reach out and give you a hard time.
I have recently been approached again. So I thought "what the hell, let's do it all over again". Below is the first approach from Catwoman (name has been changed in case she is genuine...."
First and foremost, you have a very wonderful name and that's what attracted me to you....My name is Catwoman and am 27, i work as a sales assistant.. i live with my mom in the UK.I was born in Denver Colorado In US but we relocated due to the demise of my father who died when i was only 3 years old. My mom was very unhappy and we really had to move out to make and put our lives back on track so we moved here from the us when i was 10. i studied in the university of plymouth and i just graduated. Am a God fearing person, loving, kind, jovial, hard-working, respectful, caring, honest, loyal and trustworthy person. I have dated lots of guys and they have all broken my heart and am trying to follow a friend's advice now to try internet dating and see what would happen. Maybe i could find true love. I really hope to hear from you soon. Catwoman.
Lets have a quick look at her approach.
Firstly she grew up in UK but refers to "mom". This is an American spelling. Possibly explainable by her heritage, but the first hint of not being genuine.
Item 2, she is in UK and conversing with someone in Oz to find true love.
Come on be real!
Thirdly she is young and female, the photo that she provided shows an attractive woman, what the American Cop Shows refer to as "Latino" and she is blowing a kiss.
Hell the only way that I could not be attracted is if my heart has stopped beating.
Mmm not yet.
Next pointer, she likes my name. Well there is a first I have an interesting time. The one and only time in 40 plus years.
Finally a fair bit of pathos to pull at the heart strings, broken home, loves her mother, god fearing. She has dated lots of men, obviously the wrong type as they have broken her heart. The message is that she is vulnerable. It is so obvious that she needs a strong man or alternately is open to advances from a predator.
So the contact was via MySpace, I have invited her to be a friend. Stay tuned for the next instalment.

Sunday 28 February 2010

Tsunami overreaction:

An earthquake near Chile has triggered a Tsunami that is moving across the pacific. The Tsunami is due to hit Queensland coast near Brisbane about 9:15am local time, the time varies depending where you are.
I understand that we need to give warnings but the Governments warning does seem to be an overreaction. We are warned to stay off beaches, secure boats and other measures. Despite my cynical post I genuinely do appreciate that the Government is providing warnings and that we know about these warnings. This is a major step forward compared to even 2 years ago.
However. So far a 20 cm high wave has hit NZ "with bigger waves to follow". By the time the Tsunami has travelled further to Australia it's power will have dissipated further. Local surf reports are predicting 1 - 2 foot waves. High tide coincidentally is just before the Tsunami strikes. I actually challenge anyone on the beach at the appointed time being able to distinguish a 20 cm wave from the normal waves. The one difference may be that it travels faster in a straight line than normal. But we are very unlikely imho to be in any real danger.
So thanks Gov but let's be realistic in our warnings.
The Bludger wants to go to the beach, but has too much to do at home to spare the time.

Saturday 20 February 2010

24 Hours - Give or take

Dateline: Brisbane, Thursday 18 February, 10:30am An appointment with my Cardiologist is about to start. He commences with an ECG and then we have a discussion. My reason for being there is I have recently started getting Angina. I have been symptom free for 5 years, so sudden changes need investigation.
I think that you need an Angiogram he says. He picks up the phone has a quick conversation and then turns to me. "How about this afternoon?" I think for a few seconds, then indicate that will be fine.
Arrangements are soon made and I leave his office to get to the hospital. I detour via a Supermarket to lay in some easily prepared food in case I am not mobile for a few days. I drop this at home and pack an overnight bag and toiletries. A few hurried phone calls to work and parents. By midday I am being admitted to Hospital.
I spend the afternoon in a hospital room reading and watching the TV. I am nervous but have been through this before so know what to expect. About 4pm I am ordered into bed and given a Valium. Only a Valium! I wanted something a bit stronger than that as a pre-med. Still my anxiety level dropped off and soon they wheel me away to theatre.
I lost track of time about here was it 4:30 or 4:00 when I went in? Was it 5:30 or 6:30 when I was back in my room? Not sure.
The procedure (you are not cut open so it is not classified as an operation) involves local anaesthetic in your right groin and then a long tube inserted up your femoral artery into your heart. They feed instruments and various tools through this tube. During this time you are awake, aware and being directed to take breaths, stop breathing, breathe again. I can feel warm fluid running down my leg to my buttocks. I comment that I can feel the blood pouring out. I am told it is mucus and fluids not blood. I have to take their word, but I don't know where mucus can come from. Possibly they mean lubricants and the excess dye that they use. Dye that is visible to an X-ray machine is injected into your heart and the surgeon can see on a video screen in real time if blockages are present and where they are. To a certain extent you can see what is going on as you can see the monitors at an angle.
My blood pressure drops drastically and my heart rate is down to 40 bpm. This is a crisis. They suspend the procedure while they restore my blood pressure. I am bathed in sweat and only vaguely conscious. I hear them dial up the drip to squirt fluids into me and repeated calls of "pressure, pressure". I am stabilised and they continue.
I am told that I have an artery that is 80% blocked and that they will need to perform balloon angioplasty and insert a stent.
I am prepared for this and let them know to continue. To be honest I don't have a choice they would do it anyway. But my chances of a post procedural issue have just increased to 1 in 500. I hear them call to inflate the balloon. I let them know that I can feel it. While the balloon is inflated there is no blood flow in the artery. Basically I have a temporary angina, induced by the balloon, which is why I came in in the first place, so it should feel the same and it does.
They close me up and place some stitches in place. They leave a sheath behind. Not exactly sure what this is. I think that it drains blood from the puncture site. Unfortunately when it is removed later it will reopen the femoral artery and I will be at risk of bleeding to death. They will use a clamp on my artery called a "FemStop". This clamps the artery shut and over a period of time it is loosened as the artery heals itself and closes the wound. This is the worst part of the procedure as you are strictly forbidden to move and you lie flat on your back. The FemStop hurts. By the time it is removed your back and buttocks and legs are in agony as the blood has pooled in those regions and not been able to reach the pressure spots. It is now common to use a plug to seal the artery but my drop in blood pressure has forced them to use anti clotting drugs that make that impossible.
By 6:30 (or was it 5:30?) they are cleaning me up and slide me off the operating table and onto my bed. I was able to climb onto the operating table prior to the operation but I am now at risk of bleeding so need to be carried off. I feel like a dolphin that is being rescued as I am in a sheet with people lifting all around. The person closest to me is an extremely attractive nurse and her chest rubs against mine as I am moved. In other circumstances I would have been sexually aroused, but not today.
Shortly thereafter I am back in my room. I am brought food and water. I am both hungry and thirsty so I manage to eat a couple of sandwiches and drink some water. A little awkward while I am flat on my back but the relief is wonderful.
I am monitored continually by machines and every 15 minutes checked by a nurse. My cardiologist visits, tells me all is well and that I will be going home in the morning. The regular checks continue until midnight when blood coagulation tests indicate that I am now safe to have the sheath removed. I am dreading this. As I described above it is not pleasant. However I am informed that the FemStop is only on for about 90 minutes. This is a huge relief as during my first angioplasty it was on for 8 hours and the after effects of lying flat for such a period lasted for days.
Despite the discomfort I am able to sleep a bit and then the FemStop is removed. No bleeding until the Nurse starts to clean up the wound site. She now must compress my artery with her thumb or fingers to prevent the bleeding and let a clot form. She calls for assistance and plunges her hands into my groin. She delicately moves my penis out of the way to have better access.
She needs to be there for 15 minutes. I know that pushing your thumb down for 15 minutes at that pressure will be agony for her (try it!). It is also agony for me. We talk to keep our minds off the personal pain we are both in. She was born in Nepal, educated in India and America and is now working in Brisbane. She moved here 8 months ago. She is well travelled and the time passes quickly. I admire her pluck, courage and mental toughness, it is not easy for someone to move to a foreign country with no social support on her own. I wished that I had met someone with that character and courage many years ago when I was travelling.
The bleeding stops and I am left alone again apart from the regular visits to check progress.
By daylight I have spent a very sleepless night but am pronounced as recovering well. By not moving I have allowed my artery to seal without further bleeding. It is worth the short term pain to prevent complications over the next few days. I an now allowed to sit upright and am even moved off the bed into a chair. Breakfast arrives and I can eat it in relative comfort. Over the next couple of hours I am visited by my cardiologist who declares me well enough to go home, also the surgeon who also declares me fit to go home. I am finally unplugged from drips and the electronic monitors and allowed a shower. The water running off my body turns red. I check for bleeding but it is merely the coagulated blood that had spilt during the procedure washing off me.
I can finally dress and all that needs to happen now is the Pharmacist to deliver a new set of medications and instruct me in their use. Take one a day in the morning is obviously a difficult concept for some. While I wait alarms go off and there is a lot of running in the corridor. Controlled panic. I learn later that someone has had a heart attack in one of the other rooms, he or she is treated immediately and survives. It brings home that this is serious stuff happening around here.
The pharmacist finally arrives talks me through the medications and with that it is all over I am discharged. It is exactly midday, 24 hours since checking in.
I go home and sleep the afternoon away.
The staff in the Cardiac Ward (Ward 2E) in the Wesley Hospital at Brisbane were wonderful. From the moment I entered I was treated with professionalism, friendliness, courtesy and respect. I always felt that I was in good competent hands. The regular care and attention was calming and the nursing staff were cheerful and always willing to help. You can't do a lot to disguise the fact that you are in hospital and I was fortunate enough to have a private room with my own facilities. Even the food was decent.
The bludger is recovering well and taking it easy for a few days.

Monday 15 February 2010

Channel 9 Coverage of the Winter Olympics

Man this is crap. The Channel 9 commentary team look like they have been picked not for their knowledge of winter sports, nor for their talent but for their political clout within Ch 9.
Eddie McGuire - doesn't even see to know what Olympics and Snow is all about.
Andrew Voss - comes across like a rabbit in the headlights. What's going on? AV stick to Rugby League that is your strength. Fortunately he has an offsider to dig him out of his hole.
Alisa Camplin - Thank the lord that someone knows what is going on. A true professional.
Mick Molloy - a poor mans copy of Roy and HG. At least he doesn't try too hard to pretend that he knows what snow is. And thank the lord that there is no fat arsed wombat.
When Ray Warren calls the swimming, you know that he understands the sport, even though he was not a swimmer. I don't get the feeling that the above do.
Channel 9 lift your game.

Sunday 24 January 2010

Man up

Some interesting threads have come together for me over the last few weeks. They have not changed my life profoundly but they have forced me to re-think some aspects of who I am and where I fit into life and society and ultimately what I want out of at least one aspect of my life and therefore who I am.
We are talking about sex, sexuality, companionship and love.
The first thread was late in the year before Christmas. I was involved in a rather pointed discussion with 2 ladies about my lack of ability to snare a girlfriend. This discussion was definitely alcohol infused. I also know that these people care for me. Therefore I take no affront at the discussion and bear no ill will to these people. Their motivation was concern and I know and understand and appreciate that.
The gist of this discussion was that to attract women that I needed to "man up". That I give out vibes that I am gay. That I should lose the earring (left ear) and the shirts with grandfather collars and be more of a man.
I suspect that some of this was fuelled by a third person who had said, behind my back, that if I was to have any hope with her that I would need to lose the earring for a start.
Actually the next time I saw these people they apologised realising that they had probably crossed a line and were feeling bad about how they had got their message across. As I said I bear no ill will.
This did give me pause to think. For the record I am not gay. Many of my friends and associates are, I have had plenty of opportunity to explore that part of me if I wanted to, but males simply do not interest me in a sexual fashion. So I wondered what women really want and quickly realised that men have been trying to work this out for probably thousands of years, so my thoughts are not going to contribute to the debate.
I see myself as a kind, sensitive caring person. Interested in the well being of others, sometimes at my own expense. Not wanting to cause hurt or be hurt. Respectful of women, their rights and their struggle to achieve what they consider equality. The various women's magazines call that a SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guy) although I suspect that that expression is now out of favour. All that I can deduce from what I see and hear is that Women "say" that they want a SNAG but in reality are more attracted to the Neanderthal approach.
I decided from that thought process, which was over several days, that I was not going to "man up" and I would retain the earring and grandfather collars and be me.
The second thread that adds to this topic is due to me spending much time over the last few weeks in close company of "real men". These men are, according to themselves, very successful with women, or at least were so in the past. The ones that I am referring to are married, have dependent children, have wives that they profess to love and hold positions of power and responsibility in the companies that they work for. In the time that I was with them they ogled every women that went by. They rated their physical attributes, they talked incessantly about how it was now x days since they rooted their wives and had a pressure building up. They looked at people who were definitely below the age of consent and gave them approval ratings.
I have to say that I partly fell into this, even though I was cringing inside. I respect women. Yes I do look at women and think that they are attractive or not. And while I have done so in the past, I no longer judge a women on how good I think that she will be in the sack.
As a side track I did wonder whether those of us present fell under the spell of an Alpha Male. There was definitely one there. There is so much psychology going on in this scenario. To be considered part of the "team" the sub alpha males need to be seen to support the alpha. The alpha in turn needs to be aggressive and dominant to prove that he is actually the alpha, not only to those around him but himself also. Not supporting the alpha can be political suicide. So did we all tag along to avoid unpleasantries? I don't know.
Anyway back to the thread. This very masculine testosterone fuelled scenario made me think once more about what women want. Do women really want an alpha male, sweet talking them, then a bit of wham bang thank you mam, before he heads back to his wife and children. I would like to think not but it seems like they might.
So once again I reaffirmed that I will be me. I wont be a male misogynist pig. I wont conform to being a male Neanderthal. I won't change from having earrings and grandfather collars. I will be me and if that is not attracive to women then I will go to my grave considering that I had the moral ascendancy if not the physical one.
Ladies you need to work out what you really want.
And to finish this topic you may be wondering what I do want from a relationship. Bad luck that is a topic for another day.

Saturday 9 January 2010

Bali, Sanur - Day 7 - Thursday

Here I sit having breakfast. The restaurant has no walls and other than the roof it is open to the elements. Outside the bounds of the restaurant it is raining, quite heavily. The restaurant is on a raised platform, so the rivulets of water running across the ground outside possess no threat to comfort. It is warm and I sit here in shorts and shirt quite comfortable, despite getting wet as I left my room to get to the eating area. Water flows along the ground outside.
My waiter has informed me that my accommodation package includes an American Breakfast. This proves to be remarkably good. Freshly prepared Pineapple Juice, I could hear the blender in the background, a plate of fruit salad, 2 poached eggs, a slice of (fried) ham, toast and the highlight a remarkably good and fresh all Butter Croissant. Despite feelings of guilt at the high fat content, I ate it with great enjoyment.
I had just returned from a long walk along the promenade that follows the beach. Despite an early start I missed the actual sunrise. At this time of day the air is relatively cool and long walks and runs are possible. Local hotel staff were preparing their hotels for the day's business. On the beach areas they were dusting off the sun lounges and re-laying cushions and mats on them. Beaches were being swept clean of leaves and other debris and rubbish. Local fishermen were standing in the shallows casting their nets, and I paused to watch 2 people beating the water and trying to drive the smaller fish into a waiting net.The eating and drinking places and vendors were starting to remove their covers and restock shelves and fridges for the day ahead. An early opening warung was serving food and drink mainly to local staff. I was passed by runners, joggers, walkers and cyclists. These were mainly tourists from the nearby hotels, but this promenade also serves as a thoroughfare for the locals Balinese as they go about their business.
Fishing boats line the shore, at this time of the day it is quiet and peaceful. Later in the day this area will swarm with people trying to sell drinks, carvings, souvenirs, massages and en treatments to go and see their shop. A walk along the promenade at this stage is an exercise in patience, as you are followed by these vendors and almost every step there is someone trying to sell you something. This is one of the more ugly sides of this island paradise. As I walk I hear a noise above and turn to look. Above me the top of a palm tree is swaying and suddenly a palm frond falls to the ground. I realise that there is a man up the top hidden amongst the fronds, pruning the larger/older ones.
This is a good relaxing holiday
Later in the day I venture out and talk with some of the ladies wanting to give you massages and take you to their shop. They tell me that they work on commission for the shop owners and make some money on each sale. They use emotional blackmail to force me to buy something. They tell me that they are poor, they have made no money today, could I just buy something as they need to be able to buy food, there are few tourists here at the moment. Some of this is no doubt true but what their real situation is I do not know. Is it right or wrong to pay 120,000 Rupiah (AUS $15) for a sarong that you know sells to a local for 1/3 that price. You would pay much more at home. Do you ruin things for the next tourist if you pay too much? does it matter? There are many arguments about the rights and wrongs of this style of bartering and "fleecing" tourists. But does it matter, I can spend more on a glass of beer at home than I am giving these people.
Maybe I shouldn't have such thoughts over breakfast?

Bali, Ubud & Sanur - Day 5 & 6

Today, day 5, was recovery. The Martini's had caused serious damage. A day basically in bed and I had little appetite for anything. By the evening however I had recovered enough to venture out again for Dinner. This was at Banute. A beautifully presented restaurant with a guitar player/singer in the background. The meals were beautifully presented too, it looked like they were going to be lovely, I had Chicken Sate, Balinese style and Gado Gado salad. However the food did not live up to the presentation it was rather bland and tasteless. I had to drown it in Chilli sauce to breathe life into it.
One of those days to write off and get back on track with later.
Day 6 - Thursday - Ubud to Sanur
I walked up Campuhan again this morning for my exercise. Other than that we lazed by the pool before checking out of Tjampuhan and heading for our new temporary home, La Taverna, in Sanur. The trip was uneventful and we arrived early afternoon, which allowed time for a late lunch, beers and some lazing around. Dinner was late at a nearby restaurant and then we headed out for a late night massage (keep your minds out of the gutter this was a nice massage).

Bali, Ubud - Day 4 - Tuesday

This morning I walked through the centre of Ubud and explored the back streets. I had been in Ubud in 1986 but there was very little familiar to me after this time. There was also very little to trigger any memories. Basically like visiting a new place. (Do we call that a Goldfish memory?) What I did remember as being different is the attitude of the local people. Back in 1986 a white person visiting was still fairly uncommon and people of all ages would stop you in the street and say hello and ask "from where are you going?" The grammar wasn't good but any answer "I am going to..." or "I come from" seemed to suffice as an answer. In fact I took up smoking (again) at this stage as I found it deterred attention. On a hot day if you wanted a rest and sat down or rested somewhere you were invariably approached to see if you were OK. This was lovely but became a pain when all you wanted was to catch your breath or appreciate a view or street scene. I soon discovered that resting was perfectly acceptable if you were smoking a cigarette, it was something that made sense in the local culture and people were not concerned that something was wrong. The Balinese still seem very polite and friendly, but tourists are much more common now, so you are not approaced as often.
Any way, in present day Ubud, I discovered a large central produce (farmers) market towards the centre. This sold an amazing array of meats, vegetables, fruit, herbs and spices. There was very little that you could not obtain in the way of fresh produce here. It was busy and crowded. Later in the day I discovered that the produce vendors left and it became more like a flea market with locally manufactured goods such as baskets, clothing, household items, kitchen utensils, tourist goods and too many others to name.
Later that day Phil and I became a bit adventurous and visited the local Monkey Forest, a large tourist attraction. During my first visit here it was simply a path through the forest which contained monkeys. Even so it was considered unique and a local attraction. Nowadays it features wide pathways, guards at the gate collecting entrance fees and vendors willing to sell you fruit for the monkeys. Peanuts not allowed, I am not sure why.
After that we needed a restorative beer, lunch and decided on a massage in a place over the road from where we had lunch.
With hindsight a poor choice. One of the massage beds collapsed under Phil as he sat on it to mount it. While we got our massages, the owner demanded compensation from Phil and I was concerned that things were going to get ugly. Phil shut him up with some Rupiah, but far less than he wanted. Neither Phil nor I believed that we needed to compensate the owner, quality of his beds is his problem. I had a quick look at the bed and to my mind the bed broke at a knot in the wood, which was a weak spot in the original construction. Still I don't blame the guy for trying to extract money, but at home that would not be considered reasonable.
Any way we decided a bit later to go to Krasa Kafe for the Sunset drinks. We caught a cab up there and asked the driver to wait for us. The sunset never transpired as it was overcast but we did share couple of plates of Spring Rolls. These were so good that we ordered a third plate. The spring rolls were made fresh on the spot. After ordering the waitress went back to the bar/kitchen area and you could hear her chopping vegetables and pounding the ingredients and then the rolls being cooked. They were served fresh with a lovely home made chilli sauce. Magificent. We sent some other people up the next day to experience them and they reported the same delight at their taste and quality.Possibly the most memorable part of the trip?
On the way back we decided to eat BBQ at Naughty Nuri's Warung. The full story of this meal and aftermath will never be told. Suffice to say that the BBQ ribs were excellent and the Martini's made from rocket fuel. This place does come with a warning to be ignored at your peril.

Friday 8 January 2010

Bali, Ubud - Day 3 - Monday

Surprisingly enough this was almost a rehash of day 2.
My walk this day took me into the Temple on the Hotel Grounds. This was approached by a narrow set of rather slippery stairs and then across the river below via a decrepit footbridge. The path itself was difficult to locate as you had to apprach a shrine, then bypass the shrine on a faint path that looked like it would go nowhere. It all felt very Indiana Jones.
After exploring the Temple I found a path heading towards Campuhan Ridge. This turned out to be a well known local "Trek". The path followed the ridge on the opposite side of the river to the Hotel and vaguely parallel to the previous days walk, although on the opposite side of the river. As this path was not built up it presented photo opportunities for landscapes and views across the valley back to our hotel and other dwellings. Toward the top once again you could see rice paddies across a second valley. The path crossed fields of grass, which I later realised is cut and used to make thatching for the roofs. The path ended suddenly at a little cul de sac at the end of a road. The houses here were obviously expensive and very well designed. The path now continued along the road and after passing more houses, small homestays and artist shops it opened out at an expanse of rice paddys.
This would be a lovely spot at sunset I thought to myself if you could get a seat with a view and a beer. Oddly enough someone else had a similar idea and a little further along the road I came across Karsa Kafe which advertised food and drinks and suggested that I could go back for sunset drinks.
I stopped and had a coffee. The local "koppi" which is boiling water pored over coffee grinds, stirred and then allowed to settle. You filter the grinds through your teeth or hope that the bulk of them have settled down. (Note to self - don't stir the coffee before drinking it). I was very impressed with the view from here as the Cafe is right on the edge of the paddies and truly is a splendid view of the young rice, reflections off the water, the mist shrouded hills in the background and the workers in the fields.
I returned back down the hill and rejoined Phil for breakfast. Pool, lunch, the second half of the bottle of Gin, Dinner very similar to yesterday. Oh did I nearly forget to mention a 1 hour full body massage down by the river? We were lulled to sleep by the tender ministrations of the masseuse, the relaxation and the river noises only metres away.

Bali - Ubud Day 2 - Sunday

A slow start to the day - after all why rush?
I took a long walk before breakfast and explored along Jalan Raya Tjampuhan, heading roughly north along the main road from the hotel.This led slowly uphill, paralelling the nearby river. I imagine the road to be very typical of the area, it is relatively narrow full of cars scooters and pedestrians.
A footpath exists on each side of the road, houses, hotels and restaurants( Warungs) are interspersed amongst the local shops. But you can still get your sarongs, carvings and other nick nacks along here.
The road followed a ridge and at the top it flattened out. Here there were small rice paddys although they were not extensive. Ducks were also kept amongst the paddys and the local crispy duck in the restaurants is super.
Returning to the hotel I breakfasted. Oh well, the diet went out the window as soon as I was offered a freshly made Omellette. Fresh eggs, fresh fillings and cooked in front of you, this was a temptation too good to refuse.
Lunch was taken further up the hill at a small warung in a group of shops that also boasted a large supermarket. Lunch was simply selected by pointing to a variety of cooked meats and vegetables in a bain marie and was served with rice on a plate. All very civilised, all very tasty and I had no qualms about risks of "Bali Belly". Of course the large Bali Bintang was required to wash this down.
Phil and I then raided the Supermarket for fresh fruit, a bucket, ice, tonic water and underwear for me as I had discovered that I had forgotten to pack any. The bucket and ice was required to keep the drinks cool as it appears that our accomodation was lacking such things as fridges and TV's.
Throughout the day we spent time by the pool and congregated for drinks at my unit later that afternoon. Dinner was held in Ubud at the Lotus Restaurant. Once again in the middle of a blackout but this was our first chance to sample the local Crispy Duck and it was as I mentioned above simply superb.

Monday 4 January 2010

Bali - January 2010

My first visit to Bali was in 1986. I spent a few weeks backpacking around Bali and Java. A different time and place and my memories of detail have faded. Some general memories remain buried and I have surprised myself with quickly remembering some words and phrases and some of the geography. This has certainly lain dormant and buried in my mind. What this means however is that I am seeing Bali with almost fresh eyes.
I am staying in a nice resort in Ubud. Hotel Tjampuhan & Spa is a lovely quiet place. The hotel is built along one side of a valley and spreads along the steeply sloped valley with a river down below. One can hear the sound of water flowing in the stillness of night. The Hotel itself is a series of dwellings connected by a network of paths. Fate has put me at almost the furthest point from reception which is a short walk along a series of narrow paths up and down steps that I have christened "the goat track". It isn't an arduous walk but surprising in it's length.
Down below me is the river and a swimming pool fed by a spring.The pool water is clear and the water temperature is comparitively cool but by no means cold, it provides welcome relief from the heat of the day.A network of paths lead from here through the grounds past fish ponds, gardens and the other units to end up at the main pool and bar plus the spa facilities. Overall this place is very tranquil and calm.
Wildlife is plentiful with lizards regularly seen on the paths, some playful squirrels in the trees and birds of which pigeons seem to be most common, but not the only ones. The ponds contain gold fish and bats fly around in the evening collecting small flying insects
Day 1 - SaturdayFor me it was arrival after the flight from Brisbane. Not a long flight as things go from Australia but uncomfortable due to the thin padding on the seats.(There are compromises with the cheap airlines). It was easy to negotiate at the taxi rank to hire a cab to get here, a journey of about 75 minutes in a nicely presented and modern airconditioned vehicle.
After checking in I repaired to my room and found bathers for a cooling dip in the pool. I had just decided to get some supplies (cold beer) when Phil arrived and while he checked in I collected the beer (hey no fridges in the rooms!) and we caught up. A little later we migrated to the pool bar and idly chatted up the bar staff. Two attractive local girls. Later still we headed out to dinner and had a pleasant meal in Ubud at a place which had been recommended by someone at the pool bar.
The Bludger is definately bludging

Friday 1 January 2010

Holidays - Annual Leave

I am on holiday from work.The only thing is that I am not exactly sure when my holiday starts
Did it start when I left work yesterday? Did it start when I had that first sit down and drink after I got home? Did it start when I got to a friend's place and felt the exhaustion hit me? Or did it start when I fell asleep on the couch after NYE celebrations?
I don't feel like I am on holiday yet. This morning I was up early went for a walk and have worked in the garden since. What passes as a lawn area to mow. After recent rains the weeds are growing out of control and need taming as I won't be around for the next 3 weekends to control them. Also a pile of laundry to do, so that I have clean clothes when I drop back in for a half day to offload holiday clothes and pick up work clothes. Maybe my holiday has started now?
However it still doesn't feel like it. I have to pack and organise myself for both an OS holiday and then an immediate work trip on my return. I also have some loose ends to complete for work.
Maybe the holiday will start tonight when the organising, packing and cleaning is complete and I can sit down and relax? Maybe it starts when the Taxi picks me up tomorrow? Maybe it starts when I pass through Immigration - you can't get me after that! Maybe it starts when the plane takes off? Maybe it starts when I arrive in Bali? Or is it after I reach my accommodation and have that first beer by the side of the pool?
I don't know. But it certainly doesn't feel like a holiday yet!