There is much to surprise and delight in Bali and a couple of weeks slipped by as we savoured a unique culture deriving from Hindu beliefs but we left the famous temple of Besakih until nearly last. We travelled by bemo to Ubud, a town that is one huge garden where cheeky monkeys pick your pocket. Being old hands in Indonesian hotels by now we brought our own toilet roll and light globe. The inn where we found a room was built in the fashion of a temple, with high mud walls adorned with stone gargoyles and a maze-like entrance designed to confuse evil spirits. The rooms with bone-breaking beds surrounded a leafy courtyard.
On the slopes of Gunung Agung stands the mother of all temples, with ornate spires piercing the mist. With grace and reverence, the Balinese leave their offerings on high altars to placate the god of the volcano, which has been responsible for many disasters over the years.
It was early when we went to bed that night, tired out by the climb and it seemed only minutes later that I sat bolt upright, wide awake.
“What was that?” I asked no one in particular.
“What was what?” Robin mumbled.
Then the entire building rumbled and shook and I watched in fascination as a zigzag crack crept up the wall from floor to ceiling.
“Shit, we’re aground,” I cried, and jumped out of bed.
“No we’re not,” Robin said. “It’s a bloody earthquake.”
We scrambled into clothes and rushed outside. The Earth rumbled again and the gargoyles fell off the walls. The innkeeper and his terrified family fell on their faces before a shrine in a corner of the courtyard, moaning and wailing. Dogs and chickens beyond the walls went mad.
Evidently, the god of the volcano had not listened to the supplications of the faithful but was not too angry because the tremor was brief. Much as we loved Bali I decided it was no fit place for a sailor. Give me a storm at sea any time. First thing in the morning we headed back to Jabiru to take our chances with storm, shipwreck and pirates.