Greetings all!

Alas, what can I say? All systems seem to be go, so there is no really gripping news to relate. Nevertheless, I proceed to the task of penning the Story Thus Far.

Our Qantas 707 is 44/160 full. However I was initially allocated to an aisle seat, though briefly able to wave to the patient bystanders. In the inscrutable ways of Providence I was seated beside a young Jewish doctor (and his doctor wife) with whom I drank champagne in the AUS Travel office 3-4 weeks ago.

We flew first to Brisbane for fuel, arriving slightly before we left (no daylight saving there) and had to wait approx. 45 minutes in the plane. After Brisbane (about 10 a.m. Sydney time) we were served a very decent breakfast which was most welcome (possibly last Western food for a long time).

We are now flying over Channel country (enormous dried river-beds running everywhere) - the sort of unfriendly country Burke and Wills trundled across on their camels only a bit more than a century ago. We are cruising at 35K ft. and have just passed directly over Mt. Isa. We leave Australia's shores at Wyndham and reach Den Pasar at 10:50 a.m., 5 hrs 10 min out of Brisbane. Bali at this time of year is apparently 4 hours behind Sydney.

Having made up my mind to go, I suppose it's a relief to be on the way. I'm sure Shakespeare, somewhere in Romeo and Juliet, says "parting is such sweet sorrow". It's particularly sorrowful when you can't remember whether you put your nail-clippers back in your pack after use or whether, by force of habit, you returned them to their usual abode.

9:45 Bali time. I have been to pay my respects to the Captain. While I was there, he pointed out to his 2IC what he thought might be the Ord River scheme. I thought he'd know every inch of the way. I noticed we're flying mostly at around Mach 0.820. At sea level, that would be about 620 mph. Up here I suppose it's more like 550 mph. We are now out over the Timor Sea, though the windows may as well be painted white. We have come through quite a lot of turbulence in these "footless halls of air", the ridiculous wings flapping about in a most disconcerting fashion. I'm so glad I have such a strong stummick....

9 p.m. 27/1

It's been a long day (now equivalent to 1 a.m. your time) and so full I hardly know where to begin in setting down my first impressions.

It is astonishing that a place so unutterably different may be reached in a few short hours in an aeroplane. The cultural shock is enormous. We circled in over lush palm-adorned fields, a few volcanoes and many a rice-paddy, to land in Bali soon after 11 a.m. Temp was c. 85°F and humidity 99.9% (so that it was even possible for it to rain on us out of a sky with the merest vestige of thin cloud cover). It has been overcast all day - can't imagine how hot it would have been otherwise.

The population of Bali is 2.5 million. Half of them were waiting outside the airport, importuning the new arrivals with offers of transport. The starting (i.e. highest) price for a ride in surprisingly large and modern American limousines was about 400 rupiahs. This bears no relation whatever to a negotiated price. Trudging out the airport gate - and after a lot of haggling in pidgin - a group of us (14 souls all told, including the indigenes + baggage) clambered into an astonishingly small bemo - a little Japanese covered utility affair with benches along the sides in the back. We thought we'd been rather clever to reduce the price from 200 r./body to 25 r./body. Found out afterwards we'd been had - standard price to Kuta Beach is 15 rps. Since $A1=500 rupiahs, we each lost about 2 cents on the deal - feel really bad about that!

Checked into a losmen (a sort of guest house) on Kuta Beach Road run by a family called Sareg - final price 250 r. for single room or 400 for twin. I shall be sleeping in magnificent isolation at the extravagant cost of approx. 45c Aust. This includes a long glass of hot "tea" or "coffee" and two bananas at any time of day or night. If they don't boil their water properly I suppose I'll be pretty soon finding out about it. One must be fatalistic about these things I suppose. I also had an iced pineapple drink at a shop on the main drag at Kuta this afternoon - very hesitantly, I might add. Truly cowards die many times before their deaths!

I forgot to mention the hair-raising journey from the airport. Roads are narrow and only a few are sealed. I believe they are supposed to keep to the left, though one could be forgiven for not being sure. In the matter of horn-blowing, they must vie with the Italians for the honour of the world championship. What with speeding bemos, animals, push-bikes, motor cars, pedestrians (no footpaths), and the ubiquitous motor-cycles on the roads, the hazards of modern civilisation can hardly be quite unknown to these people. But they keep smiling. And bargaining.

My room is rather Spartan, with a bed, a small table and a kerosene lamp. I'd feel rather like a prophet, except that I also have a wardrobe (imagine that!) but nothing to put in it. Two walls and the ceiling are of plaited bamboo. These are sheltered and I think it looks waterproof - certainly hope so because at the moment it is raining as it only can in these latitudes at this time of year.

I immersed myself twice today in the Timor Sea (or is it the Indian Ocean?) where there was quite a reasonable surf. Water, of course, was very warm. On the beach I was assailed by 5,000 gamins from 2 ft tall upwards, carrying baskets of merchandise (drinks, carvings, coconuts, postcards and innumerable other objects) on their heads. I'm afraid I allowed them to impose on my kindly nature and listened to their broken story. (They don't even speak a civilised language here.)

The only thing I bought all day was 120 rps worth of meal - fruit salad, omelette, and a half share in a bottle of beer - taken on high stools at a street-side restaurant.

And what more do I say? For the time would fail me telling of the sights and sounds and smells and humidity and exceedingly tall palm-trees and lush vegetation and thatched huts and relaxed people. Wait for the next exciting episode.

Tomorrow I'm thinking of hiring a motor-bike for a week - about 5,500 r. for a Honda 90. Seems the most satisfactory way of getting about, though a lot of them break down and mainly inexperienced riders cause accidents.