Photo by D.C. Nobes

El Niño Sunsets

D.C. Nobes

The rainy season began with a vengeance the first week of October 2022. We had a solid week of rain, heavy at times; flooding was common. Our house is, for some fortunate reason, on slightly higher ground, so we weren’t flooded, but people often parked in front of our house, the only unflooded spot in our part of the neighbourhood, and waited for water levels to drop. There was no way out to the main roads. The small stream that flowed through the area became a wide muddy torrent, and no one was willing to try to navigate waist-deep brown waters, whether by foot, motorbike, or car.

October 2023 has been radically different. In previous years, we rarely saw the sunset because of the cloudy skies. This year was unlike 2022. El Niño had arrived, and with it came dryer weather for Indonesia, while parts of India were hammered by heavy monsoon rains and flooding. The previous El Niño, in 2015, gave rise to widespread wildfires whose smoke spread across Southeast Asia. This time, thankfully, there were fewer fires, but we could still smell smoke.

What El Niño also brought was clearer skies and brilliant sunsets, enhanced by the smoke from the few fires that burned. What few clouds persisted added what little drama was to be had (El Niño Sunset Photos 1 and 2). The Hindu worship shrines on the roofs of the houses on the hill to the west were silhouetted by the setting sun (Photo 3). The meru (towers) and bale (pavilions) were starkly backlit against the red skies. Despite the end of the official windy season, some still managed to launch kites, which were spectacularly silhouetted (Photo 4).

El Niño Sunset (Photos 1 - 4)

As the position of the sun shifted southward across the horizon, different parts of the rooftop temples became the focus (Sunset North to South Photos 1 to 6). Different parts of neighbouring roofs could be captured in silhouette, sometimes with a bit of cloud as accompaniment (El Niño Sunset Photos 5 to 10). And as the southward shift continued, the sun’s place on the horizon moved past the rooftop temples to the houses to the south, and then further again, until there were no more silhouettes to be had.

Sunset North to South (Photos 1 - 6)

El Niño Sunset (Photos 5 - 10)

But then the rainy season finally arrived in mid-November. It started not with a rush and a roar like the previous year. It came as more of a sigh, with scattered and often highly localized showers. One shower was so localized in the surfside town of Canggu that someone posted a video of rain falling across a road in a band only 5 to 10 metres wide. That was it; that was all.

So we have rain, but intermittent, uncertain, and unreliable. We still have some great sunsets, with bits of rain cloud to add drama to the scene, but the silhouettes are done, unless I can find some way to climb onto the roof of the house to the north of us so that I can capture just the right angle. Somehow I think that is impractical, so I will simply enjoy what sunsets we have now, as they are, and hope for more rain to ease the parched island.

Sunset Wading and Washing at Pererenan Beach, Bali

Photos by D.C. Nobes

D.C. Nobes is a physicist, poet, and photographer who spent his first 39 years in or near Toronto, Canada, then 23 years based in Christchurch, New Zealand, 4 years in China, and has retired to Bali. He used to enjoy winter, but admits that he doesn’t miss the snow or the cold. He thinks almost all poetry is meant to be read aloud. His poetry and photography have been published widely.