Rural Bali

Rural Bali offers entrancing scenery. Traditional life endures. The island’s complex irrigation systems nurture abundant crops and are based on community cooperation to ensure fair water distribution at village and district levels. Neighbours help each other with the hard work of subsistence and semi-subsistence agriculture, where tiny plots of land are the norm. Religious and cultural practices help to cement traditional values and cooperation.

My friend Wayan boasts that his villager mother in her late 60s can still carry a 25 kilogram load balanced on her head.

The rice harvest near Amed in north east Bali is threshed and winnowed.

South of Amed, impossibly green rice fields provide an intricate mosaic. As always, a shrine is never far away.

Near Tabanan, a farmer cultivates a field for the next crop of rice, using a Dong Feng (East Wind) walk behind tractor.*

Bananas and coconuts flourish in the lush background of these rice fields near Tabanan, while ducks help to control pests and provide another food source.

A view near Sideman.

* I have to confess to having a slight Dong Feng obsession after visits to rural China beginning in the early 1990s. The Dong Feng walk tractor revolutionised Chinese agriculture after its invention in 1952. Previously, rice fields were mainly tilled and worked by hand or water buffalo. The Dong Feng is very versatile. Besides its use as a walk behind tractor, with a flat wooden tray, it becomes a truck, or a bus for transporting villagers, and its pulley can operate other machinery like saws and concrete mixers.

Fish Bites Man in Bali

 

Mount Agung, a 3,014metres (9,888 feet) volcano, is a massive landmark at Amed, on Bali’s north east coast. It is seen here from the water at nearby Jemeluk, where I joined other snorkelers and divers in the bay.

There is some nice coral there, although as with other coral reefs I have visited over recent years, including Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Bali’s Pemuteran, and Indonesia’s Nusa Lembongan, coral bleaching is noticeable. Another warning sign of the dangers of global warming.

At one point at Jemeluk, I was surrounded by clouds of different kinds of fish. I wondered why. Many came up very close. They’re curious, I thought, like some stingrays of Bass Strait near Melbourne that gently flap up and look into your face mask. Then I felt a nip on the arm, and a few more. Am I that delectable? The owner of my homestay in Amed, who is also a dive master, said that the fish would have been protecting their eggs.

In spite of having my underwater camera, I failed to catch much of the action.

A fish that likes to bite. I see aggression in its eyes.

Another fish that likes to bite. Apologies for the fin only image, and the out of focus photo, but that mouth is clearly about to strike.

 

 

 

 

 

Black Swan Event with Itchy Pelican

This fuzzy dawn photo was taken on the Mornington Peninsula, near Melbourne, and shows a black swan event that is not a rarity here, but an everyday occurrence. In the gloom, black swans evoke memories of those grainy pictures  from Loch Ness.

Scratching an itch is more important than posing for a photo.

Bird Land

Sometimes I feel the soft wingtip of a King Parrot brush my shoulder as it flies by. At other times it’s a rush of air on the cheek as the bird announces its presence with a close fly by; an air kiss. It could happen when I’m in the garden or a paddock; an invitation to come back to the house. We whistle to each other at other times. In the morning, the King Parrots call to attract attention. If I don’t respond, the friendliest ones sit on the kitchen window ledges, staring inside in order to make eye contact, imploring attention. Is communicating with birds a sign of madness? If so, it’s been a long delusional spell for me, one that began in childhood when I called up grey thrushes in the bush. Slowly, they would come closer and closer, calling and responding, wondering why that alluring potential mate was not to be seen.

Here are photos of some regular garden visitors.

A male King Parrot. Perhaps the eyes are the window to a bird’s soul.

Cockatoos outlive humans. When tamed, they have great talking skills.

Cockatoos cleverly use their weight to press down on the nets so that they can sample the fruit.
A corella
A corella
Rainbow lorikeets
Kookaburras signal the dawn and twilight with laughter

Smaller birds tend to be elusive.

A male Superb Fairy-wren. The clothes peg behind gives an indication of size.

 

A male Superb Fairy-wren
An unhappy Eastern Spinebill about to be released from a net

The gentle King Parrots are usually moved aside by other birds wanting to sample seeds. The lurid Rainbow Lorikeets make up for their smaller size with aggression; Sulphur Crested Cockatoos even more so, usually displacing all other birds with their swooping and threatening strutting. I was amazed to see this rare sight of a cockatoo sharing with a couple of King Parrots.

Togetherness

When returning from an overseas trip, the first morning back home is a delight of birdsong, a symphony of contrasting sounds from melodious to jarring. Fortunately most is the former. Recognising the different calls is one of the privileges of life in the bush.

The presence of birds mean that many fruit and vegetable crops must be protected. Fruit trees have to netted or else the fruit is devoured, an interesting contrast to Europe.

Galahs jealously watching Rainbow Lorikeets

Galahs have a reputation for drunken and stupid behaviour, which has generated local Australian expressions such as, “You silly galah’, ‘he’s a galah’.

Wood ducks. Occasionally they decide to abandon the dam for the swimming pool

Another regular visitor, the wedge-tailed eagle is described here.

 

The quiet side of Lake Como

A late October wander around some of the quiet villages that hug the edges of Italy’s Lake Como provides a major contrast to the main tourist centres. As the air increasingly hints of winter, during weekdays it’s possible to walk for hours while rarely sighting another person. Local buses seem to travel at times unconnected with their published timetables, matching the random hours of restaurants and alimentari. More reliable ferries provide economical travel around the lake, offering the chance to hop off and explore.

Last year’s visit was enhanced by the generosity of friends who lent their village house for a relaxing week, complete with its expansive views of the lake and mountains. Most of the time a wildfire burned on high, causing a smoky haze. Locals attributed this rare fire event to the changing climate.

Grand villas contrast with modest village houses.
Grand villas contrast with modest village houses.

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Everyone needs an escalator
Lakeside villages invite exploration

 

The main road in Laglio

Romance is in the air

A fire fighting plane scoops up another load of water to dump on the wildfire
Another tranquil evening soothes

 

 

 

 

Postcard from Prague

In a city of splendid architecture, and a fascinating history and culture, it is no wonder that tourists provide an opportunity for musicians, artists, magicians, entertainers and tricksters.

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Empty churches are everywhere in Prague, as the country has the lowest religious adherence in Europe. The large Jewish population was almost totally murdered by the Nazis in World War Two. The city’s empty churches and synagogues are now important classsical music venues.

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