Favorite arrival to bustling Bali

Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Kuta, Bali, Indonesia
Breakfast in Broome was one of those almost postcard perfect situations. We ate a great buffet with view of the beach. It wasn't too hot, it wasn't too humid (yet!) and there weren't the flies of yesterday. Ahh... The day was off to a good start.

Customs control at the Broome airport was a joy, once they showed up about 45 minutes late . They came out to us parked at the general aviation ramp and in the shade we quickly got our passports and gendecs stamped.

From there it was the now-typical mad dash to the planes. We had a 15 minute wait on the ramp until there was enough spacing for us to get a clearance to depart. That's surely one drawback of 9 planes all with different performance wanting to depart at the same time. In general it's smart for the entire group if we and the Cessna are able to start first. Our climb rates are so slow that we don't impact them trying to get to the higher flight levels once were even just a few miles from the airport. It's sometimes the case due to transport to hotels and such that crews have to wait until a critical mass, if not everyone, has arrived before leaving an arrival airport, so waiting is the cards one way or another. Slowly buy surely this group of Type A personalities is figuring that out.

Our flight was completely over water . This time, for the first time our trip, it was over the Indian Ocean though! Not that I could tell the difference, but it was nice to be over something technically different. For the first time also since crossing the Atlantic we had to use oxygen as we climbed to 18,000' to get above a brief layer of clouds. Aside from that, it was a relatively uneventful cruise. That's the best kind.

Things got very interesting as we neared Bali. It's a major destination with lots of airlines arriving and departing on the sole runway. We could hear lots of activity on the communication frequencies as many planes were asking for diversions due to weather and being put in a holding pattern. We could hear as one plane after the other of our group was put in a holding pattern. To make matters more investing, the holding point was so new that it wasn't in our Garmin databases, but only on the most recently updated iPads in our Jeppesen apps. We programmed the point - and the rest of the arrival protocol - in to our database with the given coordinates and sure enough were also vectored into the hold .

Wow! I'd practiced this in training, but this was the real deal. We were in a holding pattern with 5 airliners, separated by a whopping 1000'! The massive jets looked so close. They were probably curious what we were doing up there with them. We surely showed up on their traffic scope, but not as a plane they were used to seeing up there. From 14,000' down we went to 10,000' and then to 8000', all the while circling in our racetrack holding pattern. Well, as we saw on our GPS tracker later the four passes weren't exactly textbook perfect racetrack ovals, but I was impressed enough. It was so much fun.

From there we were cleared between a couple other jets for the approach, so kept our speed up in Maggie as best we could. We were cleared for the ILS approach (there were a few clouds) and zoomed in. Ridiculous! It was so exhilarating and definitely one of the coolest approaches I'd ever flown. One plane was cleared to takeoff as we were on final approach and then we threw out the speed brakes, dropped the gear and put down the flaps to lose speed before coming up on the airport . I was impressed my second straight landing after the Australian hiatus. What a high!

Once we parked Maggie we got a good view of a 747 come in for a landing that had been in the hold with us. What a rush. Here we were the lone crazy piston engine avgas plane in the mix with the big guys. Oh man. I was on cloud nine. We were given plenty of time to bask in the feeling as it took more than 3 hours for us to get our one barrel of avgas. I spent most of the waiting time cleaning Maggie and giving her a much needed polish. As was becoming common, Johannes and I were the last two at the airport as the jet fuel planes were accommodated first. At least the avgas was inexpensive. A tick cheaper even than Australian averages. Unbelievable. The drum was labeled December 2012 so at ten months old maybe they were happy to get rid of it. Avgas does have a shelf life. It does go to show though how few avgas planes come through these parts.

Handling is mandatory in Bali, meaning that you have to use on site agents to help you get through immigration, bureaucracy, and maneuvering within the airport . We were annoyed we had to wait so long for our avgas but the handling agents explained they didn't know any of us were arriving until we touched down. Somewhere something got lost in the communications shuffle. Regardless, they tried making up for lost time by whisking us to the terminal side of the airport and getting us crew/VIP access through customs and immigration. We felt again like legitimate airline pilots getting that special treatment ;-)

Johannes had been to Bali before so knew about districts and. Where to stay. Our hotel was in Kuta, outside the mayhem of Denpasar and closer to the beach. At US$20 per night for a quite nice including breakfast and wifi, it was a pleasant reprieve from expensive Australia. After dinner the inexpensive treats continued with a $3 hour-long massage. It was a good day ;-)

The following morning we hit the beach for a walk to explore. After that it was a much needed haircut. Every place that offers massages offers haircuts, or vice versa . There's really no differentiation so it's hard to say if we were technically in a massage or hair salon. Case and point, we got foot massages with our haircuts ;-) From there I caught up on work and emails before we met up again for dinner. We went to the other side of the airport where the really nice Kuta beach restaurants are. Dinner was fantastic fresh fish right on the sandy beach. With the crazy sunset it was almost too romantic for the two of us dudes. After dinner, what better way to end the night than another great, cheap massage.

Johannes arranged for a rental car for us the next morning so we could do a bit more exploring of the countryside. The driving was active and fun and crazy, with mopeds everywhere and honking the norm. Street lights and signs are simply recommendations, nothing more. You just go with the flow. With the steering wheel on the right side and the driving on the left, I was glad Johannes did the driving.

Our first stop was Tanah Lot . a temple directly on the water. It was nice, but having already seen my fair share of temples on previous trips it was hard to get overly excited. Still, it was a fun drive out there through the countryside so we enjoyed it. From there Johannes drove and I navigated through all kinds of streets and alley ways to Ubud. This district is where the others were staying and is more bohemian with art galleries and coffee shops. We went to the Monkey Forest Temple which was great! There were so many monkeys, all relatively oblivious to us unless they thought they could get something from us. The camera barely took a rest as we saw mothers with little newborns, curious teens, big dominate males, and everything in between. Normally I'm not a big fan of zoos and the like, but with the setting of an open temple complex with no cages or fences getting bombarded by monkeys, it was a great atmosphere.

From there we explored Ubud a bit further, walking around some of the main streets. It really has a unique appeal and I can definitely understand why some folks swoon about Bali. The island seems to have it all, and for all budgets. Naturally the only way to close out the day was with another $3 massage.

Our routing from Broome (YBRM) to Bali (WADD) was: TARUN KALIV at FL140 and just over 5 hours flight time.
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