Saturday, August 28, 2010

The evolution of personal computers - what I have owned

Here is a list of "primary" personal computers that I have owned in order of purchase.  The evolution of the technology and specifications - particularly the hardware - is spectacular.

1. Kaypro, circa 1989
  • 1 MB RAM (640K used by DOS)
  • 20 MB Hard Disk
  • Intel 8088-2 Processor - 5 MHz, turbo mode 8MHz
  • 5.2 inch floppy disk drive
  • Cost $4,000 (approx)
  • Status: in storage
  • MS DOS
  • MS Windows 1.4 (ran like a dog, basically useless)
  • MS Word for DOS v4
This was my first PC.  The processor was on a board that plugged into the motherboard so in theory it could easily upgraded, but in practice CPU and bus design superseded this feature.

The RAM above 640KB could be configured and used as a RAM disk.

2. Microarts 486, circa 1993
  • MS DOS 5
  • OS/2 version 2.1 and version 3.0
  • MS Word for Windows 2.0
3. Landmark AMD K6, circa 1997
  • Windows 95
4. Dell Optiplex, circa 2001
  • 512 MB RAM, upgraded to 768MB RAM (3 * 256 MB modules)
  • 100 MB Hard disk (?)
  • Pentium III processor - 600 MHz (?)
  • Video onboard
  • Cost: $1,250 (approx)
  • Status: Returned at end of lease deal.
  • Windows 2000
This machine was purchased as part of a "PC at home" via the company I worked for at the time.  They took a long time to get the program running so it was a substandard spec by the time it arrived.  I upgraded the RAM and hard disks over time.

5. Homebuilt Pentium IV, circa 2003
  • 2GB RAM 
  • 100 MB Hard disk (?)
  • Pentium IV processor - 2.4 GHz (upgraded to 2.8 GHz)
  • Video: nVideo GE Forece 4 440, upgraded to ATI Radeon 9600 512MB
  • Cost: $1,500 (approx)
  • Status: Still in use
  • Windows 2000
I built this machine as a longer term proposition. It had double the RAM that was common at that time.  I also fitted a SCSI card to run a Nikon Coolscan III scanner.  I started with a RAID configuration then reverted to normal disk management.

6. Asus F3JM Laptop - Core 2 Duo, circa 2006
  • 2GB RAM 
  • 250 MB Hard disk (upgraded to 500 MB)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 processor - 2.53 GHz
  • 2 cores
  • Video nVidia Geforce GO 7800 512MB
  • Cost: $2,700 (approx)
  • Status: In use.
  • Windows XP
  • Kubuntu 9.10
The concept here was to use a lower power machine as my primary workstation that I could also lug around when required.  The processor has enough grunt to do video editing.  However, over time the boot time has increased and the performance has degraded.  It never ran Adobe Premiere Elements very fast.  I also ended up with several large (1TB +) which cluttered up my desk space a bit.

7. Custom built Core i5, mid 2011
  • Windows 7 Home Premium
  • Sun Virtual Box - Linux Mint 8 and Fedora Core 13
This machine has good processor power for encoding videos and more than enough for general office tasks.  There is enough memory to run additional operating systems in virtual machines too.

Mobile and secondary computers

Fujitsu Lifebook 2120
  • MS Windows XP
  • Kubuntu 9.10 Linux
This very compact laptop ran the low voltage and low power Transmeta Crusoe processor.  It was a pioneer of the segment that later become known as Netbooks.  It has been very reliable, but the processor speed is a bit slow and the memory cannot be upgraded.

MSI Wind U100 Netbook
  • MS Windows XP Home Edition
  • Linux Mint 8.0
  • Kubuntu 9.10

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wave and tides damage Portsea front beach following channel deepening

The deepening of the shipping channel in Port Phillip Bay that ran from to February 2008 to November 2009 has been criticised for not having a business case and for the environmental damage it would cause.

The project proceeded with approvals from the Victorian state government (Tim Pallas, Minister for Roads and Ports) and the Australian federal government (Peter Garrett, Environment Minister) with assurances and reports stating that no environmental damage would result.

I visited Portsea Front Beach on 20 June 2010 and was amazed to see the beach almost completely gone. Waves were pounding at the footing of the Portsea pier that has been there for several decades, and at the vegetation that used to be protected by a reasonable beach. People sunbathed on the beach, and I remember it stretching a third of the distance to the first landing on the pier.

Two large erosion barrages were in place to stop the footing of the pier being destroyed. Two things struck me - the height of the water and the size of the waves. Both were much higher than my memories for the past.

Increased water flow speed and volume through the Port Phillip Bay heads after the Channel Deepening Project is a possible and likely cause of this. However, this has been denied by the authority charged with monitoring the environmental impact of the project.

The Victorian State Government seems to have made no comment on this to date.

Here are the photos of 20 June 2010.

I returned on Monday 23 August 2010. The protection barrages were gone and a lot of rock had been placed around the base of the pier where it connects to the shore.

We passed three B-Double trucks full of sand that was being delivered to the beach. Another truck was dumping its load near the pier. Two front end loaders were pushing the sand along the beach attempting to restore it. There was a massive plume of sand as it was being washed away almost immediately out to sea. It looks like a very expensive and loosing battle.

A local told me they had "rebuilt" the beach a week ago but that most it had then been stripped way again. The front end loaders were perilously close to toppling into the waves as their sand ramp was being eroded.

External links

Sunday, August 22, 2010

An opportunity for a new form of government

The 2010 Australian Federal election results are not yet finalised, but it appears that no party has enough seats (76) to form government on its own.  This situation has not occurred in Australia since 1940.

The Greens have won their first ever lower house seat at a general election (Adam Bandt in Melbourne).

The three previous (incumbent) independents have been returned to office.  These are:
  • Tony Windsor, New England (rural NSW)
  • Bob Katter, Kennedy (rural QLD)
  • Rob Oakeshott, Lyne (rural NSW)
In addition, it is quite likely that Andrew Wilkie may win the seat of Denison in Tasmania as an independent.

Negotiations are in progress between the three confirmed independents and both the Labor party and the Coalition as to how a minority government might be formed.

I think this is a good outcome for democracy.  All those elected (all parties and independents) have been selected via the current electoral process by the people of Australia.  It is incumbent on them to form a stable and effective government.

These three confirmed independents have stated that a new form of government will be required to provide the stability required, and that traditional party politics should be shelved to make this happen.  I agree.

If either major party forms government in their own right they tend to run their own agenda along their party line rather than respecting the best interests and wishes of the Australian people.  They are basically accountable to nobody until the next election.

We saw this with the Rudd Labor government ignoring the recommendations of the extensive Garnaut Review of Climate Change and concocting a fatally compromised Emissions Trading Scheme (the CPRS), that was initially supported by the Coalition opposition, then opposed.  It failed because it was no good.

The Henry Tax Review finished early in 2010 was eventually released by the Rudd Labor government, who then chose to implement only 2 of the 137 recommendations (the mining tax being one of them) in the midst of an election campaign for political reasons.

Rob Oakeshott made the point on the 7:30 Report (special election edition 22/8) that a lot of time, money and effort has gone into these and other similar reports, which could be considered by the next government with more care and attention than the previous one.   In short, the next government should use this type of information to formulate policies for the future covering energy, carbon pollution, taxation and water utilisation and conservation, rather than just playing short term political games about these important issues.

It seems that the old political parties have become part of the problem contributing to lack of action on climate change and inadequate planning and investment in infrastructure for the 21st century.  They are stuck in old paradigms of winning, losing, being "in government" or "in opposition".

Why should 51% of our elected representatives be given the right to "govern" in an autocratic manner with the other 49% consigned to "opposition" where they spend most of their efforts whining, criticising, attacking and just opposing for the sake of it?

If Malcolm Turnbull would be a better treasurer than Wayne Swan, why shouldn't he get the job?   Our current political system totally precludes this (for this example with a Labor Government in office).

The Labor, Liberal and National parties are out of touch and out of date.  The Greens need to be very careful they don't end up in the same state.

Tony Abbott seems to think he has won the election and Labor has lost, apparently oblivious to the reality that the Australian people have given him no mandate to govern.

Julia Gillard seems to be adopting a better negotiation approach to possibly forming a minority government with the support of the independents and the single Greens lower house member.

I think we need a form of government where all 150 lower house MPs are accountable for delivering stability, innovation, good management of the executive arm of government and planning for a prosperous and sustainable future.  Bring it on please.

External links

Friday, August 20, 2010

11th hour hatchet job on the Greens on Lateline

The Leigh Sales interview with Michael Kroger and Paul Howes on 20/8/2010 lacked balance in one very serious aspect.  

We heard the Labor point of view (Howes) and the Coalition's (Kroger), but both of them attacked the Greens about them potentially holding the balance of power in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

We did not get to hear the Greens point of view on this.  Such unbalanced coverage is likely to impact the Greens vote  during this election, particularly among those voters who have not yet made up their mind (up to 1 in 10 apparently).

A spokesperson from the Greens should have been represented in this discussion for fairness and balance. This segment was not accurate, impartial or objective in its coverage of the Greens.

I wish to lodge this as a formal complaint.


You can leave your own feedback about this here.

The end game - is a minority government likely?

The election campaign is now at end game.

This election was Labor's to lose rather than Abbott's to win, and it looks like Labor may have just about blown it.  The basic problem with playing politics is that a clear majority of people don't like it.

We haven't seen any leadership on fundamental issues of great concern and importance; such as moving Australia towards a sustainable and vibrant economy for future generations to enjoy.

A summary of the political tactics in play follows:

  • Focus on Abbott and his negatives - viz:
  • Attempt to scare people about the prospects of Abbott as Prime Minister.  There is some validity to this as Abbott's belief that climate change somehow isn't happening is real worry (remember the bushfires?) and he has flagged big cuts to education and the public sector.  This is similar to John Howard's "please don't kick me by registering a protest vote" line in 2007.
  • Keep blaming the Greens for Penny Wong's failure to get a price on carbon.  They really have to get over this - they did not negotiate with the Greens on either the ETS or an interim carbon tax, their politically strategy to wedge the Liberals backfired when Turnbull was deposed as leader and Abbott took over.  Kevin Rudd then backed down when he should have called a double dissolution history
  • Try and shift the focus from Rudd's fall from grace - Labor even had him campaigning in the seat of Melbourne in atttempt to stop Adam Bandt winning it for the Greens.
  • Keep on hammering Labor about the demise of Kevin Rudd, and attack Julia Gillard as one of the perpetrators of his demise
  • Grab the media by any means possible - Abbott's "I am not sleeping until the election" tactic has been quite effective here.  There is lots of media coverage about this, despite the fact that Abbott dashing around in frenzy visiting police stations (law & order) and other random locations is essentially meaningless.
  • Attack the credibility of the Labor government across a number or topics - including asylum seekers (even though they share identical policies) , the economy (even though Labor steered Australia through the  GFC), and Julia Gillard's bona fides.

The Greens
  • Keep the focus on positive policies - such as tacking climate change, reducing taxes for small business. This is difficult with a huge proportion of media attention focused on who will win out of Tony and Julia and who will from government.
  • Convince people that a green vote counts - and try and counter attempts by both major parties to "scare supporters back into the fold".  This is of particular importance to the Greens in the Senate and the seat of Melbourne.
  • Present the Greens as a positive influence in the senate if they end up with the balance of power.
  • Avoid getting sucked into discussion on preferences.  For the future, I think the Greens should adopt a policy of reforming the voting system to eliminate (or at least reduce the effect of) preference deals.
In summary, for the major parties, the election has devolved to a "he said - she said" and "we are right - you are wrong" game devoid of any real substance.

Interestingly, several newspaper editorials and articles today have made similar points. 
It seems our style of western democracy has spun itself into a silly game where long term planning and strategic outcomes get lost in a babble of inane "campaigning".  A minority government is a likely outcome that I think would be positive.  It is better that some independents and the Greens have a say and role in government rather than sitting as with the "opposition".  

Adversarial systems often don't deliver outcomes; it is time for our parliament to truly represent the people rather than the fairly narrow interests of political parties and career politicians.

As postscript, here is a video I shot yesterday of a discussion between Nicola Roxon, Bob Brown and Joe Hockey with Jon Faine on ABC 774 radio.

PPS: It is also interesting to note how much we have heard about Abbott and Gillard, and how little we have from other such as:
  • Barnaby Joyce (where are the Nationals?)
  • Almost all Lower House candidates from all parties (except for a few marginal seats)
  • Wilson Tuckey (has he been gagged?)
  • Penny Wong (following her abject failure on climate change policy)
  • Eric Abetz (the shadow minister for logging)
  • Mark Arbib (gone to ground apparently)
  • Peter Garrett (after several train wrecks as a minister)
  • Bronwen Bishop (the silence is deafening).
  • Kim Carr (shouldn't he be spruiking the "cash for clunkers" scheme?)
  • Martin Ferguson (the minister for coal)
It seems that some effort during the campaign actually might go into keeping some of these people off the airwaves, or maybe the media is just not interested in what they have to say?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Is Julia Gillard doing a Beazley?

So now we have the new Labor Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, launching Labor's election campaign less than a week before the election with hardly a mention of climate change - "the greatest moral challenge of our time".

This election has been largely a content and policy free zone.  It has devolved to a game of cat and mouse between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, both of whom have adopted personas quite different from their own.

Gillards rapier wit and forensic precision so often admired in parliament has been replaced by a bland and carefully measured drone.  She doesn't answer questions and stays on message about "moving forwards".

Abbott's bovver boy combative style has been replaced by a forced joviality and an appearance of calmness and control befitting someone who would be prime minister.

Neither are playing their natural game and it shows.  The winner takes all game they are playing is to form government after the election.  To do this they need to win the votes of a small percentage of swinging votesr  (less than 15%) in a small number of marginal electorates - approximately 20 out of 150.

The entire election has been pitched at winning the votes of this very small proportion (less than 5%) of the Australian population - based on feedback from "focus groups" in these electorates.

Rusted on voters are taken for granted -their votes won't shift.

Voters in non-marginal seats are considered irrelevant as their votes will not determine who will win government.

So what about the issues?

Climate change

  • Gillard has committed to a "community consensus of 150 randomly selected people".  There will of course be no consensus if at least one skeptic is included, and there is nothing new that will emerge that the Garnaut Climate Change Report has not covered
  • Abbot has committed to NOT introducing any price on carbon pollution if he wins government, and to hand out millions of taxpayers funds as corporate welfare to large polluters to "encourage them to reduce their emissions".  This is ridiculous - the role of government is to legislate, not hand out corporate welfare.
  • Gillard scores 1 out of 10, Abbott scores 0.  Neither will commit to the year Australia's emissions should peak then fall.
  • Emission reductions 0.
Asylum seekers
  • Gilllard has "done a Beazley" and aped Coalition (indeed Howard) policy on offshore processing.  This will disenfranchise a lot of Labor voters and drive them to the Greens.  This could a factor that costs Labor the election.  This is moving to the right and to the bottom, not moving forwards
  • Abbott's policy is virtually indistinguishable from Gillard's
  • Both are dog whistling on this too - dropping hints about "border security" and "Australia's population growth", both of which are completely irrelevant, but not apparently in the minds of those few voters who matter
National Broadband Network (NBN)
  • This is one of the few policy areas where there is a discernible difference.  
  • Labor is committing to spending $43b on fibre to 93% of homes offering speeds up to 1gbit per second.  Next generation wireless services to 4 per cent of premises and satellite services to 3 per cent will deliver speeds of 12 megabits per second.
  • This has a very high cost and provides bandwidth than many people need.
  • Abbott is proposing a confusing mixture of cheaper technologies - but it is quite clear he does not know what he is talking about. He has committed to killing the NBN too.
  • I think about $20b should be spent on high speed internet - with the priority shifted to rural and regional Australia that currently has poor and expensive services - and the other $20b allocated to clean energy project to transition us off coal
  • Gillard wins on this - GP super clinics are a good idea and some additional funding for mental health have been committed too.
  • Abbott will kill the GP super clinics.
The outcome will be interesting.  Labor could well lose the election in the key marginal seats, even though they are likely to have a higher overall vote.

Forest destruction and land clearing accounts for over 8% of Australia's carbon emissions, yet neither Julia Gillard nor Tony Abbott is proposing to do anything about this.  The solution is quite simple - protect our native forests for their carbon stores, biodiversity and water production.   However, the silence from Tony and Julia on this is deafening.

Indigenous Australians
The racist Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill 2007 brought in by John Howard as an election stunt in 2007 is still in place and supported by Labor.  This legislation is racist as they first had to suspend the Racial Discrimination Act to bring it in.  This suspension is still in force.  Welfare payments are quarantined and indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory are treated differently from everybody else.

It was supposed to be an emergency in 2007, yet in 2010 indigenous affairs have not been mentioned during the campaign.  The gap has not been closed, and needs to be.  Indigenous Australians need to empowered to manage their own affairs, and more funding is required for improved health, housing and employment.

Public Transport
No federal funding is routinely allocated to the States for public transport, unlike roads which are funded 50% federally and 50% from the States.

Consequently, public transport infrastructure has lagged behind and crumbled for over 50 years.

During this election campaign, the Gillard goverment has announced funding for two new urban rail lines that both run through marginal electorates.

  • Gillard has pledged $742 million for the long-awaited $1.15 billion Redcliffe rail connection, should Labor be re-elected.
  • Gillard has promised to build the long-awaited $2.6 billion rail link between Parramatta and Epping.  This rail line runs through the marginal seat of Bennelong.  This is the biggest single funding announcement of Gillard's campaign so far, with $2.1 billion in federal funds towards the project, with the a state government contribution of $520 million.
Gillard have also pledged up to $20 million for a feasibility study into a fast railway linking Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.  This after they has previously voted down a bill from the Greens for exactly this, prior to the election campaign.

Will we get a minority government?

I think the best outcome would be hung parliament followed by negotiation to form government with independent MPs such a Bob Katter and Tony Windsor, and possible Adam Bandt from the Greens if he wins the seat of Melbourne.

This would curb the excesses of either major party governing in their own right, with the democratic representatives of other electorates frozen out of government and forced into a largley futile opposition" role.

Perhaps it is time for political parties to be banned - as they mostly don't act in the best interests of Australia and they corrupt the basic principle of democracy by putting there "partly line" at a much higher priority than the local MPs representing their own constituents.

This is an interesting "example" of election advertising from the Gruen Nation program that we have not seen during this campaign.  It provides some food for thought.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bali trip 2010

I visited Bali for the first time in September 2010 to go to the Ben Wilson Bali Accelerator Kitesurf Camp. You can read about my experiences on the camp on my kitesurfing blog.

This post provides some information and links to photos of my other experiences in Bali.

It has taken me 50 years to get to Bali, and I am glad I have finally visited.  Bali seems to a place you think you know all about even if you have never been there as so many Australians visit here and talk about it.

Some say they love it.  Others say they hate Kuta but the rest of the island is very good.  I was very interested to see for myself.

Arriving and early experiences

Landing at the airport, I approached customs and immigration wondering what I was in store for.   I was confronted with very long queues that took about an hour to be processed, and I was right up the end.

Once through, I looked for my transport to the hotel I have booked, but couldn't find anyone.  There was a fellow in an office who rang my hotel (the Puri Cendana), but they said I didn't have a booking.  They said to contact ABL Tours who I had booked through, but they did not answer their 24 hour number.

Not a good start.  Hot and bothered, with several guys offerning lifts.  The guy in the office helped me get a car (not a taxi as it turned out) who took me to Pur Cendana for 140,000 rp.  I figured this would be the best place to go and I might be able to talk them into giving me a room.

The car drove through the bar district of Seminyak which had people (mostly tourists) spilling out into the street with music thumping, and Balinese "lady boys" perched on motorbikes parked nearby.  What an introduction; I was getting frazzled.

The driver left me at Puri Cendana where I spoke to the attendant and settled by nerves.  He and the security  guys were friendly and helpful, as I found most Balinese to be.  The concierge found me another hotel and a taxi to take me there, and showed the taxi where it was on his scooter.  The Ari Meriki turned out to very friendly, quite convenient and not too expensive.  I booked it for my other nights in Seminyak.

The first day around Seminyak and Kuta

I woke early and went for a walk along the JL Drupadi road the Ari Meriki is on.  Some hustle and bustle starting up along the road, but most of the shops were closed.  I encountered the Bali paradox - some very neat and expensive western shops, and a small very poor street market.

I had a nice breakfast back at the hotel, then wandered in to Seminyak and walked along JL Dyhana Pura.  Again there was a mix of western bars, hotels and shops and other more local places.  I stayed out of most of the shops but settled in the Bestest Cafe for some good free wifi and some eggs for lunch.  I checked out the Sofitel on the beach after a security check to get in, and then the beach and the Hotel Pelangi where we meet tomorrow for the wave camp departure.

The beach is nice and wide, with lots of deck chairs to rent and drinks, massages and rental equipment available.  There are some good waves too.  This beach is the draw card, along with cheap prices, for the Type A Australian tourists who flock here.

I then rented a bicycle which was only just big enough for me and not in a good state of repair and cycled along the JL Raja Seminyak to Kuta.  Endless shops and people milling about.  Lots of scooters and cars too.  It was very busy, and not my idea of a relaxing holiday.  I cycled down through and around Kuta, passing ground zero for the 2002 bombings (without realising it) then back along the beach.  It is much busier both on the beach and the streets in Kuta.  Too busy for me.

I bought a mosquito net and a T shirt at the Bintang supermarket, which is full of local goods.

After a rest at the hotel I headed off to try and cycle to Sanur to check out the kitebeach there.  Lots of cycling along roads that all start to look the same, jostling with scooters on the left.  I could hear them talking about me on their scooters as they approached from behind and passed by.

I got close, but did not have a good map, so I turned before I got there as it was getting late and I wanted to avoid the dark.  I followed my nose home along a busy road.  The right crank on the bike became loose so I had to hand tighten the screw several times, as well as constantly adjust the seat.  It was great to get some exercise.  I dropped the bike back after a shower and had dinner at the Bestest Cafe - a nice safe souvlaki.

Kitesurfing at athe Ben Wilson Wave Camp

I then spent 7 days at the Ben Wilson Bali Accelerator Kitesurf Camp. You can read about my experiences on the camp on my kitesurfing blog.

A day tour to Kintimani and Sanur

Back in Seminyak after the wave camp, I decided to hire a driver and go inland to the volcano region and check out some sights along the way.  I was considering doing one of the bicycle tours that leave from the top and meander down, but I also wanted to visit Sanur.

My driver for the day was Gusti Nyoman Suamba in a Suzuki people carrier.  We stopped at one the streets where they sell and create stone carvings, which are very impressive.  We then visited the silver region, where I bought some pendants for Lena. They were not very cheap, but they were nice.

I also bought some drink coasters from a shop selling ceramics.  We bypassed Ubud, a popular town to visit in the hills, then stopped at the Ubud Rice terraces, where I was beseiged by persistant local sellers.  Gusti told by later to avoid talking to them and handling the goods they thrust at you.  I bought a couple of sarongs from an extremely persistent lady.  Every time I walked away she dropped the price, until I reallly thought I had a bargain, and they would be good to have at home.  As it turned out, I need one as a wrap at the temple later too.

The rice terraces are beautiful and there are cafes there for meals.  I bought some bananas thrust through our window as we drove off.  We then finally left the endless roadside stalls and shops and entered a more rural region where they go fruit.  Then we crested the rim of a giant crater to get a breathtaking view of two volcanoes and a giant crater lake.  This was well worth the trip.

The smaller volcano has a fairfly fresh lava flow (circa 2008) down its flank.  More sellers of postcards and paintings.  Some are mobile on scooters and pop up when you stop in the middle of nowhere.

We then visited the superb Ulun Danu Batur temple.  Gusti explained that Ganesh the elephant welcome you just inside; Hindus pay him homage during there visit.  There were various regions and shrines within, including a small shrine for Buddha.

I had my sarong to wear but had to hire a sash to tie around it, after a bit more hassling.

2010-08-09 Ulun Danu Batur Temple

The three main dieties of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva were represented by statues.  The flower offerings are colour coded for them.  Red for Brahma (the creator) on the right, Green for Vishnu (the maintainer and preserver) in the middle, and all the colours for Shiva (the destroyer) on the left.

We then drove along the crater rim and stopped for lunch a restaurant perched on the edge with seats looking out to the superb view.  I took the buffet after they dropped the prices to 80,000 rp + tax.  It was a nice lunch, with fruit and stick rice pudding along with good tea.  I started before 12 and was glad to leave when hordes of tourists arrived.  I found Gusti with some locals and stopped for a chat and had a snake fruit - a curiously tart fruit with a skin like a snake.

We headed down into the crater for a look.  There are market gardens growing cabbages and tomatoes down by the lake and a small village too.  We stopped at a small Warung (local bar / cafe).  I walked up onto the lava flow for a lovely panorama looking up the the Mt Batur volcano, then had a good Bali coffee at the Warong.

We continued on to the hot springs, but I balked at 150,000 rp to enter the resort.  I walked down the lake and saw some locals in canoes fishing along with fish farms.  I walked around the resort complex and found a neat local hot spring bath where they said I could bathe for a donation, but I was happy to just keep walking.  The lake is lovely, but there is garbage in it, and one guy was washing some clothes in it with detergent.

We then drove back to the top and returned along a different road, passing some large processions of locals heading to the local temple for a ceremony.  They were dressed in marvellous finery and the women were carrying ornate food offerings on their heads.

A couple of times we passed local school children in uniform marching in unison along the road, with a guide and vehicle behind them slowing traffic.

There is much more culture, ceremony and social interaction here than we have in Australia.


We stopped at Sanur on the way back.  The beach scene here is more relaxed then Kuta.  It was low tide to the reef was well exposed.  There are seveal very expensive hotels here.  I found the kitesurfing location to the west of Sanur beach.  There were four experienced kiters out in the harbour area enjoying the good sea breeze.   High tide would be much better for beginners here.  Its flat water only.  There are three kite schools along the foreshore.

We left just before the sunset and got back to the hotel without too much traffic.  All in all, and excellent day out.

Last day in Bali - Ulu Watu, Nusa Dua and Jimbaran Beach

I woke early and updated my blog and put some Facebook photos of Ben and Tony up.  I was packed at 10 and contemplating how to spend the day.  I decided to call Gusti again and do a tour down to Ulu Watu and Nusa Dua, then get dropped at the airport at 8:00pm.

We headed off, and stopped at the big Rip Curl shop on Sunset Way.  The prices were similar or more expensive than Australia, and they didn't like me taking a photo.

We drove on to Ulu Watu where I walked around the temple.  Gusti warned me to be very careful about the monkeys and not wear my hat or sunglasses.  There were a lot of them about, and some were quite playlful.  The views from the cliffs along the coast are superb.  A large surf was roaring in, and this area is not developed much.  Gusti said water is a problem up in the hills and it has to be trucked in.

2010-08-10 Ulu Watu, Nusa Dua and Jimbaran Beach

The temple is not a big one and is in a state of some disrepair.  Tourists are not allowed into the worship areas which is fair enough.

The monkeys managed to pinch a few tourist's hats and other gear, but only the ones who chose to play with them for a good photo.  I kept my distance.  Their sharp teeth and the potential for rabies is a big deterrent.

We then went to Ulu Watu, which is a surfing mecca.  Descending the foot path from the road head brings you into a world of Warungs and small shops tucked in contours of the steep drop to the water.  Surfers hang out to rest and eat, and some store there gear in racks in the roofs.  I had a great Nasi Goreng at the Surfer Warung.  Photographers are perched at good vantage points with massive lenses shooting surfers in the waves.

The break follows a reef and a largish swell was coming in.  Wave selection seems to be crucial. Many go unridden, and many attempted takes offs are not successful.  Good riders where getting in the pocket and even tubes, and getting a long ride.

A path leads down step steps through a chasm to a grotto which opens onto the flat reef which is not too sharp.  It is a very scenic spot with the combination of limestone cliffs, water and waves.

Gusti then took me to Padang Padang, where a Rip Curl surfing tournament is "on hold waiting for the waves".  A big swell is needed to get good waves at this location.  There is more of a beach than the tiny cove at Ulluwatu.  There were a lot of Europeans here; French, Italians and some Americans here, but very few Australians.

Gusti then drove toward Nusa Dua.  There was a steep climb to a plateau which we traversed in very light traffic to Nusa Dua.  At Nusa Dua, vehicles enter a secure zone though police inspection points.  Once through the road follows a neat and very tidy and well planted green zone which traverses the entrances to numerous 5 star hotels.  There were no Warungs or pedestrians about.  This was where the United Nations Convention on Climate Change was held in 2007.  It is a world apart from the Balinese.  Tourists here probably stay at their hotels and do tours out from them; many wouldn't mix with the locals.  It seems the U.N. buys into this paradigm too.

We drove through to a beach further north.  The area resembles Sanur, with a similar reef system out from the shore.  Low water sees all the boats resting on the sand and the water activities cease.  A good strong wind was blowing most of the day, but no kitesurfing was happening.  The locals were flying their ubiquitious cheap kites made from bamboo and garbarge bags.

I got a text from Jestar advising the flight would be delayed four hours which was not good news.

We then drove back towards the airport and stopped at Jimbaran beach where several local seafood restaurants spill out along the beach.  There is a public section of the beach that was being enjoyed by many Balinese, and not very many tourists.  I went for a swim in the small surf and caught a few waves.  While in the water a turtle surface a short distance out, it had massive head so it looked like a seal to me, I didn;t see its shell. It looked around then dived.

After the swim we had Chicken Nasi Goreng for dinner at a nice Warung, and I had a banana pancake for desert. Some locals held a ceremony with bells on the road.  Gusti said they were looking after the soul of a relative who had probably died there recently.

We then drove to the airport where I said goodbye to Gusti and headed through customs.  No problems with the kitesurfing bag (22.3kg), then through paying the 150,000 irp departure tax.  Jetstar gave us a free feed that was a bit average.  There are lots of shops in the airport full of souvenirs, but none of them were cheap.  I got some time to write up my trip and also some content for the kitesurfing handbook I am writing.

We got on the plane at 4:00am and had a good flight home, back to a cold wet winter in Melbourne.

Some general observations about Bali

There are of big global brands adverstised on TV

Low income Balinese can earn as little as 1,000,000 irp per month.  A beer in the Rooftop bar of the Anananta Hotel costs 50,000 irp, while a beer in a Warong costs 15,000

Kuta has been transformed by tourists into a not so pleasant place.

The surfing breaks are good, but getting to them in not easy.  A lot of survers use scooters with a board cradle, but one prang could ruin your holiday or even your life.  The best bet would be to hire a car and driver.

The official taxis are quite cheap compared to the cars that offer lifts then haggle over the price.  For example, the same trip cost me 7,000 irp in a taxi and 30,000 irp in a car.

Health is definately a concern.  Caution is required to avoid Bali Belly and even Dengue Fever.

Arriving late at night is a hassle if you don't have confirmed bookings with a hotel.

Getting out of Kuta (and staying in Seminyak or Sanur) is good to do.

Map of some locations visited

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