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Go Fly a Kite!

Bali's Annual Kite Flying Season Returns - Sometimes with a Vengeance.

(6/3/2002) The onset of Australia's Winter Season always results in a freshening of Bali's offshore winds and the perennial return of the island's kite flying season.

While children worldwide love to indulge in the pastime, it would be wrong to consider kite flying as it is practiced in Bali anything approaching "child's play." In fact, so serious is the local commitment to the sport that entire villages collaborate in making elaborately designed kites in local Banjar centers that will be launched by the village's men folks and kept aloft for days on end.

In this predominantly male pastime where size does matter, the kites can be as large as a city bus and require large trucks and motorcycle escorts in order to arrive safely at the launching grounds. There, handled by teams of men pulling ropes that can be several kilometers long, the kites are suspended thousands of feet above Bali's shore line secured by massive wooden stakes driven into the ground.

Not Without Problems

Bali's commitment to kite flying does bring its share of problems and hazards to local residents. Sometimes serious facial injuries are suffered by motorcyclists who unwittingly encounter a kite's line stretched across local roads; power blackouts occur when escaped kites short circuit high power lines; traffic accidents do occur when a bus-sized kite suddenly lands on one of the major highways; and the kites are an acknowledged threat to commercial aircraft operations.

A Potential hazard to Air Traffic

Anticipating these problems, local laws prohibit kites flying within 9 kilometers radius of the Ngurah Rai Airport at altitudes exceeding 100 meters. Further out, in a radius of 9 to 18 kilometers from the airfield, kites are forbidden to fly at altitudes exceeding 300 meters. Fines stipulated for violating this statue can reach as high as Rp. 5 million (+/- US$ 580).

Local regulations to the contrary, a Singapore Airlines flight taking off from Ngurah Rai Airport on May 17, 2002, severed a kite wire with its wing. Fortunately, the Airbus' engines were not involved and no serious damage to the aircraft resulted from the encounter.