Monthly Archives: January 2012

BEAUTIFUL BALI… plus dogs.

Bali is certainly still a beautiful place, especially if you get away from the tourist centres (and that’s easy to do). Volcanoes, gorgeous green jungle and forest, rice paddies, colourful ceremonies passing down the streets – it’s all there.

Members of my family in the grounds of Bali’s ‘mother temple’ at Mount Agung.

So too, unfortunately, are mad dogs, a perennial problem in Bali. These rabid, mangy, flea-infested creatures may be found lurking in roadways and gutters, mainly belonging to no-one and living on their wits and scraps.

My in-laws’ village is in a very pretty locale, up country where it is often cool in the mornings and evenings: perfect for going for a walk. However, you sometimes can’t go far without coming across one of these mutts, snarling at your approach. It just isn’t worth the risk of passing near them.

Our dog Dino (without rabies!)

About 150 Balinese have died of rabies bites from dogs or monkeys over the last three years. I haven’t read about tourists dying from it, though it’s just been reported in my local paper that small but significant numbers have had precautionary injections after suffering bites.

Last year, the Indonesian government embarked on a campaign of injecting as many rapid dogs as they could, which reduced but did not eradicate the problem.

The rice paddy next to our living room

I don’t know why the local police and military can’t be authorised to shoot stray dogs. It wouldn’t be too difficult for a local cop-shop to catch up with all strays in their district and despatch them – say over a period of six weeks or less. It would be a kindness to the poor brutes, with the miserable lives they lead.

Still, don’t let any of this put you off visiting Bali, so long as you have a real interest in connecting with the people and the culture. There are hardly any strays in the tourist centres (Legian, Kuta, Sanur, etc) and your stay should be a memorable one.

A procession to the main temple in our village – my son at left.

JAPANESE APOLOGY

Last week, a Japanese politician formally apologised for the Nippon bombing of Darwin, Australia’s northern regional capital, during World War Two. Senior Vice-Minister of Trade, Mr Matsushita, expressed his “feelings of deep remorse” on the 70th anniversary of the bombings, as he visited the Northern Territory.

Exploding oil storage tank, Darwin, 1942 [Wikipedia

Darwin was then little more than a small town but it was bombed 59 times over two years, doing huge damage and causing its evacuation. More than 250 people were killed, and material loss included an American destroyer and a large American troop carrier. [Google “bombing of Darwin” for more info.]

However, unlike the misrepresentation in the movie Australia (starring Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman), the Japanese never made a land-based invasion of Australian soil, though they did get mini submarines into Sydney Harbour.

Aboriginal artist Jack Dale’s impression of the attack on Broome. [www.awm.gov.au/exhibitions]

Other towns were bombed and/or strafed along the north coast of Australia, notably the pearling port of Broome, where the Aussies were taken completely unawares. This event plays a small passing part in my novel, Shadow Chase, which will be out in March. Google “bombing of Broome” for more info (though many say there was no bombing but ‘only’ cannon and machine-gun strafing).

Diarama in the Heroes Museum, Surabaya.

Holland apologised some time ago for damage done during different battles in Indonesia’s independence struggle, which forms the backdrop for about half the action in Shadow Chase, especially the Battle of Surabaya. The British ambassador to Indonesia apologised in 2000 for the damage this battle caused. For one version of what it was like (there are many), see “Battle of Surabaya 1945” on YouTube.

CAPTAIN COOK’S GREAT ENDEAVOUR

On Friday, a fully-functional replica of Captain Cook’s ship HMB Endeavour put out from Fremantle, a port city in the south-west of Australia, to continue her voyage around the continent.

  Passing Sydney Opera House

For the second time, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this replica of the ship captained by James Cook on his first voyage around the world from 1768 to 1771, in which he took scientists to observe the transit of Venus in Tahiti, proved New Zealand was two main islands, charted the east coast of New Holland (as Australia was known then) and claimed it for Britain, sailed though Torres Strait below New Guinea, and put in at the Dutch East Indies before returning home to England.

A great feat, especially as achieved in a clunky former collier without an accurate ship’s chronometer. The last leg of the trip, however, was a less than happy one [see story below].

Last time the replica was in Fremantle, I was able to look it over below decks. Very cramped it was, with most of the ship’s complement having to bow their heads to move around. Even the ‘state rooms’ occupied by Cook and botanist Joseph Banks were very pokey indeed. Endeavour has a barge-like shape with a very flat nose, being designed for its original function of hauling coal along the English coast.

For this voyage, the Endeavour replica set out from Sydney in April last year, retraced Cook’s journey up the eastern seaboard of Australia, passed the northern-most tip of the continent, traversed what Aussies call the Top End, then down the west coast to Fremantle.

Now she’s travelling down to and across the Southern Ocean in the wake of Abel Tasman’s trip in 1642, putting in at Tasmania and tracing Cook’s passage from there to Sydney, arriving in May. Another epic voyage, of several thousand sea miles.

I trust I’ll be able to see this remarkable craft again.

COOK IN JAVA

Leaving Torres Strait in late 1770, Cook made landfall at the Dutch port of Kupang in West Timor before heading further West. Then, skirting the southern coast of the 900km-long island of Java, he approached the Sunda Strait with his ship Endeavour terribly the worse for wear. There, he encountered a Dutch ship and caught up with the news from Europe and elsewhere.

[From georgianjunkie.wordpress.com

Up to this point he could proudly record that he had “not one man on the sick list”. This was largely due to his efforts at seeing his men had a balanced diet, with as much fresh veg as he could procure for them. However, he then sailed eastwards along the northern coast of Java to Batavia (now Jakarta), capital of the Dutch East Indies. There, officers and men tried to enjoy the facilities of city life but, one by one, many all of them contracted malaria and other ailments.

As botanist Joseph Banks recorded, the canals which were meant to flush out the city were stagnant and clogged with mud which “stinks intolerably‚Ķ being chiefly formed of human ordure.” Cook contemptuously described the place as “a stinking hell-hole”.

Before long, the ship’s complement that had not suffered a single death over many thousands of sea miles began to succumb to fevers. First, two Tahitians on board died, followed by the surgeon and then four others. It took over a month to have the Endeavour repaired and provisioned, and a further eleven days to battle back through Sunda Strait.

Cook then made a decision that he would rue for a long time: he decided to put in at an island to replenish his stock of fresh food for the trip across the Indian Ocean. As it turned out, he took on more than just food – dysentery made its appearance on the ship and caused its own toll.

So, Java was not the happiest of experiences for Cook.