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Kota Kinabalu - Bali 30 December

We had a long day's flying ahead of us with a fuel stop on the way at Balikpapan in the Indonesian part of Borneo, so it was an even earlier start than usual.  We were at Kota Kinabalu airport around 6 a.m. with a planned take-off  time of 7.30 a.m.  The reasonable landing fees, calculated at US$ 14, had been already been paid.  The head of Ground Services, Mr. Rahman, wasn't keen on getting up so early so he met Flemming in town the evening before to receive the fees.  There was no refueling to do in KK either, so we just had to pass Customs and Immigration and that took no time at all.  As a result, we actually took off 10 minutes early!

It was perfect flying weather, although there was a slight headwind.  As we reached our cruising altitude of 11500 feet, we had a great view of Mount Kinabalu which we had climbed a week earlier. We landed in Balikpapan 3 hours 40 minutes later.  Flemming went to pay the landing fee and passenger fee of US$ 80 and file the next flight plan while Ray looked after the refueling.   The fuel truck arrived quickly and everything seemed to be going smoothly until the airport officials informed us that the immigration officers hadn't arrived yet, but that they would be back by 2 pm.  They   ushered us into a comfortable, air-conditioned VIP lounge where we were "offered" snacks. One of the officals in the apron office asked us for our 'General Declaration' and our 3 passports and said he would pass it on to the immigration officer once he arrived.

Unfortunately we had not received the original faxed authorisation from FSI concerning the Indonesian authorities before our departure from Kota Kinabalu, only the DAC and DFA approval clearance numbers and a note stating 'DDS Approved' (Defense approval). We thought that was enough and put it in the flight plan. The Balikpapan briefing office asked for the original approval documents, but accepted that it would be faxed to them the following Monday from Germany, so we thought everything was fine for our departure. Then all of a sudden a smiling, smooth talking handling agent appeared in the VIP lounge with his mobile phone and pretended that we could not depart without having received the original approval documents. Sh..!!

He then made a few phone calls on his mobile to Jakarta, and within minutes the two page document with DAC, DFA and DDS approval codes came out of the fax machine in the VIP lounge. Also our passports and DG quickly appeared with customs and immigration stamps, so we could depart. Very nice until he presented us with a US$ 200 bill for his services!!! We complained as we had NOT requested or used or accepted ANY handling services, FSI had done all the work related to getting the clearance, and we had done flight plan, notams, and landing fees ourselves! After a lot of discussions we finally got him to accept a fee of US$ 100, which to my opinion is US$ 100 too much as he additionally billed us for US$ 10 for fax and photocopies as well as US$ 13 for the VIP lounge lunch!

Thanks to the immigration officials, our foreseen departure time of 12.30 was delayed by almost two hours to 14.20.  But luckily the weather forecast was still good.  There were some isolated CBs around and we flew through some cumulus on the approach to Bali's Denpasar airport, but there was nothing to scare me.  We still had a slight headwind so flying time was 3 hours 27 minutes. 

On arrival the handling agents (the smooth talking guy in Balikpapan had called ahead!) swarmed around us like flies.   They kept trying to convince us that we needed them and that we shouldn't walk in the apron area with our bags due to tighter security since 11 September. But Flemming shooed them away. There was an official from the terminal office who wanted a copy of the original authorisation documents which fortunately we had in hand so he was happy. We were actually a long way from the terminal and it was tough carrying the bags in the heat of the day.  The handling agents'  minibuses kept trying to tempt us to take a lift with them, but we said "No way if it's going to cost us $500!". 

Eventually an airport utility truck picked us up and deposited us at the security gate.  Ray and I waited while Flemming took a taxi to the terminal to rent a car.  The taxi desk at the terminal told him it was much cheaper to rent a car in the nearby town of Kuta, so he picked us up in another taxi and we headed for Kuta.   Meanwhile, I had been phoning a hotel in Ubud on the mobile and they told me we could rent a car there for only $8 a day!  There were no reasonably priced cars available in Kuta so we decided in the end to take the taxi all the way to Ubud - an hour's drive away.  It was just as well none of us tired souls had to drive because it soon got dark and it rained and there was a lot of traffic on the narrow roads.

We only stayed the first night at the hotel I'd phoned from the airport.  I'd forgotten to ask whether there was direct dialing from the room - and there wasn't.  We were 2 weeks behind in our updates for the web site, so it was high time we rectified that.  Also I preferred to be a little outside the town in a hotel with a nice view, as we planned to spend a good part of each day there.  After so much activity and moving around in Borneo, I was ready to settle into the same hotel for the remaining 4 nights and take things easy for a change.

Ubud, as Bali's cultural centre, is full of artists - both local and foreign - and we picked a hotel that had begun its origins as the house of one of the foreign artists, Walter Spies.   The Tjampuhan Hotel didn't overlook rice paddy fields as I would have ideally liked, but it had a wonderful jungle view and a beautiful garden on a slope overlooking the river it was named after.  There was also a pool surrounded by statues of monkeys.  Fresh hibiscus flowers were placed around the pool and above our bed every day.  Our bedroom was spacious with a huge bed and french windows overlooking  the garden.  There was also a convenient desk and chair for us to work on the computer.

Meanwhile, Ray - who didn't need direct dialing in his room and wasn't bothered about views or swimming pools - moved to a $5 a night room in a b&b called Brata Homestead.  He gave us a guided tour of the place.  He was actually staying in one of the rooms where the family used to live.  There were several small houses - one for each of the family members.  The elders' house was set higher than the others according to their higher status.  There was also a very ornate private temple where they prayed 3 times a day.

It was New Year's Eve.  Flemming and I were pretty tired so spent the rest of the day relaxing by the pool and snoozing so as to attempt to see the New Year in.   There was a special party at the hotel with buffet dinner and Balinese dancing.   It was all very nice, but I had been woken at 5 a.m. by the alarm that Flemming had forgotten to cancel from the previous day and wasn't able to sleep that afternoon.  So for the first time since I can remember, I faded at 10 p.m.  Flemming stayed on so as not to offend the organizers, but even he had to crash out before midnight!

Our $8-a-day car was a rather battered Suzuki with a virtually non-existent suspension.  On the first day of 2002, the three of us decided to head north towards the volcanoes and then return via the north-east coast as the road seemed to look quite straight.  In the end the whole drive took about double the time we'd reckoned on.   Also the signposting was pretty bad and we didn't have a good map, so we did some unnecessary mileage a few times.  The going was slow due to heavy rain and traffic a lot of the way and to the numerous potholes. After a 10-hour drive with only a couple of stops for drinks and to photograph a beautiful terraced landscape of rice paddie fields, we arrived back in Ubud well after it got dark.  We made up for the fiasco of a day by spending the evening at a super restaurant where they played live jazz.  After a margarita, an excellent meal of chicken stuffed with mango and a bottle of wine, we mellowed considerably.

Next morning, Flemming and I went on a walk that took us past a temple, jungle, rice paddy fields and villages where we saw artists at work.  It rained for part of the way but it didn't matter as we were well prepared with the "emergency" raincoats we'd bought at Mt. Kinabalu.  We met some friendly Ozzies on the way who happened to pass us later on in their hired car, and they gave us a lift to Neka Museum.  There we learnt a bit about Balinese art and how the foreign artists have influenced it.  After that we lunched at the Indus restaurant with a superb view of the river, jungle and paddy fields.

Back at the hotel, we updated the web site by a few days before going out to see a show of Balinese dancing.  We followed that with another good dinner and decided that the day had been well spent.

Our last day in Bali we went on a shopping spree.  There are countless art galleries and after visiting a vast number of them, Flemming hit upon an attractive naive painting by a little known artist that I bought for his Christmas present (without the frame, of course).

Flemming checked out the weather for the flight to Darwin the next day.  There was a tropical cyclone called 'Bernie' 300 nautical miles to the east of Darwin in the Gulf of Carpenteria, moving south south-west at the rate of 3 knots - and forecast to intensify.  However, the weather looked good for the flight to Darwin the next day.  We would have to monitor it closely from Darwin to decide whether to leave the Darwin area rather rapidly.  At Tennant's Creek (about half way between Darwin and Ayer's Rock) we would be out of the danger zone.   

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View of Mt. Kinabalu
as we left KK

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Lunch at Tjampuhan Hotel on New Year's Eve

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Rice paddy in East Bali
with Mt. Seraya behind

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Temple at the start of our walk

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Rice paddy field on our walk

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Artists house by a paddy field

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Balinese at work in paddy

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Balinese dancer

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Balinese dancing girls

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Dancing monster

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