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At the end of February 2016 Wendy and I took a package deal to visit Bali.  These days almost everyone knows that Bali is a smallish island off the east tip of Java in the Southern Indonesian archipelago, just south of the equator.  Longitudinally it's just to the west of Perth, not a huge distance from Darwin.  The whole Island chain is highly actively volcanic with regular eruptions that quite frequently disrupt air traffic. Bali is well watered, volcanic, fertile and very warm year round, with seasons defined by the amount of rain.

 

Bali Bali2
Bali3 Bali4

Aspects of Bali

 

I had not been to Bali since 1973 and it has changed remarkably.  Back then Bali was low on the tourist agenda and the only tourists we saw there were fellow travellers from the ship we were on - the P&O steamship Orion, on our way from Sydney to Singapore.  There was no wharf for cruise ships, so we moored in jungle lined harbour where there was a small jetty and used the ships boats to come and go. We were the biggest thing to hit the island for some days or perhaps weeks.  A collection of motorbikes with side cars and what are today generically called tuk-tuks met each boat arrival and took us off to see temples and to Ubud and Denpasar where chooks (chickens) ran in the street and colonial buildings decayed. 

The main local tourist oriented enterprise, apart from the motorbike guys, were perfume sellers who each had several litres of each popular scent on a little wagon that they decanted into smaller bottles when a selection was made: 100 ml of Chanel No5 - that will be $5.  At Ubud we bought a primitive carving of a fertility god that was given the name Ubud and went the rounds of friends who thought it might help in their quest to fall pregnant.  Like a borrowed book, eventually Ubud was no longer returned but is out there still, either gathering dust or having his/her belly stroked by another generation.

Suddenly here, the culture was Hindu blended with pre-Hindu animist religion.  There was also a smattering of Muslim Indonesian officials and a few European expats to make things a bit more complicated.  We didn't know much about anything. We took some photos that I can no longer find of tablecloth clad statues.  But my memory of a rainforest interspersed with rice paddies serviced by narrow roads and inhabited by charming small dusky people who seemed to have a great deal of time on their hands for what seemed to be endless religious parades, festivals and observances.   Back in 1973 the total population was less than half that of that today and to naive travellers like us it was an apparent paradise.  Yet appearances are often deceptive, as you will read later.  Less than a decade earlier those same rainforests ran with blood of one of the greatest mass murders of the century and in 1963 the screams of those killed by volcanic pyroclastic flow, similar to that which destroyed Pompeii, echoed down these valleys. 

 

 

 

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Travel

Burma (Myanmar)

 

 

This is a fascinating country in all sorts of ways and seems to be most popular with European and Japanese tourists, some Australians of course, but they are everywhere.

Since childhood Burma has been a romantic and exotic place for me.  It was impossible to grow up in the Australia of the 1950’s and not be familiar with that great Australian bass-baritone Peter Dawson’s rendition of Rudyard Kipling’s 'On the Road to Mandalay' recorded two decades or so earlier:  

Come you back to Mandalay
Where the old flotilla lay
Can't you hear their paddles chunking
From Rangoon to Mandalay

On the road to Mandalay
Where the flying fishes play
And the Dawn comes up like thunder
out of China 'cross the bay

The song went Worldwide in 1958 when Frank Sinatra covered it with a jazz orchestration, and ‘a Burma girl’ got changed to ‘a Burma broad’; ‘a man’ to ‘a cat’; and ‘temple bells’ to ‘crazy bells’.  

Read more ...

Fiction, Recollections & News

A Secret Agent

A crime fiction...

Chapter 1

 

 

 - news flash -

Body in River

Monday

 

The body of a man was found floating in the Iguazú river this morning by a tourist boat.  Mary (name withheld) said it was terrible. "We were just approaching the falls when the body appeared bobbing in the foam directly in front of us.  We almost ran over it.  The driver swerved and circled back and the crew pulled him in. The poor man must have fallen - or perhaps he jumped?"

The body was discovered near the Brazilian side but was taken back to Argentina. Police are investigating and have not yet released details of the man's identity...

 

Iguazú Herald

 

Everywhere we look there is falling water. Down the track to the right is a lookout to the other side of the gorge, in Brazil, where the cliff faces are covered by maybe a kilometre of falling curtains in white windswept water. Here and there the curtains hang in gaps or are pushed aside by clumps of trees and bushes, like stagehands peeking out into a theatre before the performance.  

Read more ...

Opinions and Philosophy

The Chimera of Clean Coal

The Chimera - also known as carbon capture and storage (CCS) or Carbon Sequestration

 

 


Carbon Sequestration Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

Whenever the prospect of increased carbon consumption is debated someone is sure to hold out the imminent availability of Clean Coal Technology; always just a few years away. 

I have discussed this at length in the article Carbon Sequestration (Carbon Capture and Storage) on this website. 

In that detailed analysis I dismissed CCS as a realistic solution to reducing carbon dioxide emissions for the following reasons:

Read more ...

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