Home again after a good trip. Bunkus means package, complete, finished and that’s how it feels.

Balinese hand luggage test frame.

All went smoothly for the trip home yesterday. My transport to the airport arrived early and so I had plenty of time to have a bit of lunch and buy a final gift. That was good because I’d had a hell of a job trying to find a suitable item (a purse for my sister). I had one, but wasn’t at all sure she’d like it. Finally, at the last duty free shop, there was a genuine item (not a copy) that grabbed me straight off. No need to hesitate – it felt right, so bunkus. Thank goodness for that.

Bali airport is very nice, the departures section, that is. The arrivals section was a bit old, just as I remember iot from 20 years ago. The departure terminal is way better than Perth! But then every airport is better than Perth.

I’d done a web check-in and when I arrived at the check-in counters there were long lines and my heart sank. But a security guy saw my web-printed boarding pass and ushered me straight past the queues to a line with only two people in front of me! Wacko. I’ll bet the surfie bogans in the long queues were thinking, “Who is that guy? Why can he go to the top of the line?” Hah! Seniority and smarts, mate.

After all my careful packing, having ditched a towel, a T-shirt and a pair of shorts to save weight, my bag came to 19.7Kg. Nice. (There’s a CPAP machine, a tripod, a monopod, a fair sized camera, a laptop charger, three camera chargers and a million cables and power adapters in there apart from clothes and toiletries, after all.)

I’d put the T-shirt, actually a collared polo shirt, and the pair of shorts in the bin in the room. They were of no value, just cheapies. The room cleaner guy saw them and asked if he could have them. Sure, I said, but they’re size 4XL, that’s XXXXL! No problem, he said. He wanted them for his son, I think e said. So I signed a scap of paper with his name on so that could show he had permission to have them. He was very pleased.

The AirAsia departure lounge ain’t very comfortable – steel seats, bad air-con, but that’s what you get when you fly on the cheap. You also have to walk across the tarmac and climb the stairs to the aircraft – no aerobridge for us. It’s getting a bit hard for me to go up those steps, but I made it. Same seat as the flight up, and the same people next to me, the ones with the kids who want to swap seats all the time. Ugh. But we swapped so that I had the window seat for photography, so it was alright in the end.

We’d heard that another airline had diverted a plane around a cloud of volcanic ash from Merapi, so I was slightly apprehensive, but our flight was completely uneventful, without even any bumpiness. They do these Perth-Bali-Perth flights twice a day, every day of the week, so I think they know the way and the conditions pretty well by now.

Who’s driving the bus?

The plane is a pretty new Airbus and from row 6 you can see into the cockpit (you couldn’t call it a flight deck) when the pilot and cabin crew open the door. On bigger aircraft the flight crew have their own toilet so that the heavily locked door doesn’t have to be opened in flight, but not here – the captain or first officer pop in and out to use the front loo and have a chat to the cabin staff. Security? No worries, mate.

STOP PRESS: ABC News is carrying the story that Jetstar has restricted flights to daytime only into Bali due to the requirement to see any ash cloud danger. There’s no suggestion that there’s any problem, but better to be safe. Since I’m writing this at home, we made it! Hah hah.

The flight provided a late afternoon sunset light show over the rugged Kimberleys of Western Australia and was one of the best photo flights I’ve had. I was on the east side so I didn’t have the sun shining right into the lens.

An ancient landing strip?
Closer to Perth
Self portrait, 2010

We touched down at 1923, seven minutes early, and I was one of the first off the plane. walking toward the duty free shop I noticed a lonely glowing machine called an eSmartPassport machine. “Hello, machine,” I said, “what can you do for me?” So I stuck my recent electronic chip-equipped passport in, told it I hadn’t been in South America recently, honest, and it gave me a red striped ticket about half the size of a boarding pass. Hmmm.

Then I bought my 2.25 litres of duty free grog (wow – an increase in the allowance? Unbelievable) and headed downstairs. The queues for passport control were full already and stream of people were coming out of the eSmartPassport channel. I knew I had my little ticket, so I entered the clear channel and was the only candidate. A Customs guy said, “No sir, you have to use the machines over there.” I said, “No, I’ve got a ticket.” OK, just stand here on the marked point, pop your ticket into the slot, look directly at the lens of the camera about 1m in front and look as bored as your passport photo. Ten seconds later, two little barrier gates open and the Customs guy says “Hurry, hurry, before they close again.” I grab my heavy camera bag and duty free bag and scurry through, if you can imagine an elephant scurrying!

Bag pickup took ten minutes and when I reached the Quarantine entry, the lady saw my card said all noes to the questions and said, “First time to Bali, sir?” No, many times. “Any wooden or straw items, sir?” No, I said, I know the ropes. OK, onto the X-ray machine, no problems, no need to open bags and that was it. I was out into the wide blue yonder at 8:03pm – amazing. But it’s about time it was made easier for models of seniority and rectitude like me, harrrumph.

So a good end to a good trip. It was better than I expected – Sanur was quiet and relatively uncrowded and the hotel, although a little frustrating at times, was good. My bed in the room was more comfortable than my bed at home, I think, so I slept well each night. No sickness, no accidents or mishaps and the Aussie dollar exchange rate just keeps getting better. It was up to near Rp.9000 to the dollar at times, even higher than the US dollar, so prices were pleasantly cheap. It rained nearly every day but who cares? I’ve complained long and loud about the food, but eventually I realised that if I emphasised that I wanted it spicy and traditional, I got there in the end. My final meal at the hotel was Ikan Bumbu Bali, fish with Balinese spices, and I said to the waiter, “I like it spicy.” It was just right. Fantastic.

Oh, yeah. After my comment a few days ago that a March 2011 completion date for that villa complex next to The Village restaurant looked pretty pie-in-the-sky, I noticed that the foundations are being laid even now! Amazing. It could happen after all. I’m impressed. MUCH more research to be done, though.

And I can’t do anything until my health improves. I am so dreadfully fatigued that I can hardly do anything, even getting up out of the chair is difficult. Back pain, foot pain. I’m having serious mobility problems. Such is life.

Lots of things to do now that I’m back home. Funny how a change of scene perks you up, gets the brain working again. I have lots of ideas now to make small improvements at minimum cost to make life more pleasant. The trick is to keep the fire burning. Selemat malam.