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April 10, 2004

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Volcanoes erupted and created Bali. It's a nub in the Pacific Ocean, only 6000 square kilometers, yet fertile volcanic soil allows several rice harvests per year and supports a dense population, over 3 million people. We rented a jeep and set out to find out what else lay beyond the surfing and seediness of Kuta. Narrow roads, the island highways, wind through a lush landscape of hillsides covered by intricate rice terraces, swaying palms, and rioting vegetation. Tall pillars, carved with Hindu motifs, mark the beginnings and ends of villages along the road. The houses almost touch the ashpalt, red shingled eaves overhang the place where sidewalks would be if there were any; people, animals, and everything else uses the road as if they're pathways, nevermind the speeding vehicles that race and hoot as they pass. Life fights for space on this island, it's a full time job to secure breathing room.
Gunung Agung (3142 meters), the 'mother mountain.'
Jeep rental comes cheap in Bali - less than $10 per day including insurance. However, the engine belongs on a moped.
Roads run straight up from the crater floor. With the help of bystanders, we revved the engine over the redline, used rocks as tire stops, and still couldn't get up this steep incline. We drove back down the mountain in reverse.
One guess - what is the main crop on Bali?
We're staying a few nights in central Bali, at a town called Ubud. The area claims to be the 'cultural bulwark' of Bali. Here we find numerous shows: Kecak, Legong, and Barong dances, Ramayana ballet, puppet theatres, gamelan orchestras, and a group that bongs on giant bamboo pipes. Besides music, every block of Ubud contains art shops and meditation centers. Monkeys jump around trees on a nearby reserve, birds hunt frogs or fish in the rice paddies.