Last summer I took a two week trip to Indonesia for a vacation, as well as to attend my flatmate’s wedding. I finally got around to typing up my journal entries, so here they are. I’ll take my chances that you won’t mind if they are 8 months late! Forgive the lack of serious editing; sometimes travel writing should be left as it is, stream of consciousness and abruptness and all.
The second day I managed to sleep from 9pm-5:45am; not too shabby! I really wanted to finish the Wizard of the Crow. How could I resist a fantasy novel by a Kenyan author who once secretly wrote an entire book on toilet paper while in prison? So I sat on my balcony watching the world come alive once again and ended up getting to breakfast later than I intended – just as the van for my Eco Bike tour pulled up, 15 minutes early.
Despite no breakfast and after an hour and a half of picking up 10 other passengers and driving up to the Lake View Lodge, we had our breakfast. But not before passing through a village called DalaDala, which mass produces many of the “handicrafts” seen all over the world. I’m talking absolutely everything from anywhere that is made out of wood. Boomerangs for Australia, giraffe statues and masks for Africa, Tiki statues for Hawaii, Dreamcatchers and Native American chiefs for the US, everything. Apparently the wood is right for that sort of thing, and they take special orders from wherever and ship it all out in bulk. So funny. I would have expected China, but not Bali of all places.
Along this stretch of road, somewhere between the 6-foot-tall giraffe and the Benzin (petrol) stands displaying their wares, I realized I forgot my camera in my room. When we got tot he Lake View Restaurant there was a gift shop, but it was closed. Apparently the person with the key was a Grandma who hadn’t shown up yet. I could see the disposable cameras through the window mercilessly taunting me. So close and yet so far! I took it as a sign that I simply was not meant to take pictures that day.
Mt. Batur is actually an active volcano – the whole southern slope was still covered in volcanic silt from the 1963 lava flow. After properly meeting the rest of the crew (a German couple, an American couple from Portland, Oregon, a Japanese couple living in Spain, a Belgian couple, and a mother-daughter pair from Perth) we were on our way to the Agro-business center, where we tried 6 different kinds of coffee/tea (ginger coffee, Bali Arabica, Bali Robusta, lemongrass tea, ginseng tea, and hot chocolate). I split a cup of the “Bucket List” cat-poo-cino. This is the coffee that is made from beans that have passed through the digestive tract of the Luwok cat. In other words, the cat eats the coffee berries, shits them out, and then people roast the coffee beans. How on earth did this come about? When the Dutch East India Company still owned Indonesia they banned the Indonesians from growing or picking coffee. People found a way around it by discovering the beans were undigestible by the Luwoks who roam all over the area. How it turned into a delicacy I have no idea, but now it is 240 AUS$ a cup, or $20 a cup normally, but because we were at the “factory” I split a cup with one of the German girls for $6 a cup. Score! Nothing like getting a good deal on your cheap cat crap coffee. It was thick, lots of sediment, and a totally different flavor than normal coffee. Mmmmmm! The Agro-business center also had cinnamon trees, cocoa, ginseng, tumeric, ginger, and loads of other fruits. Finally we were off after a trip down memory lane fueled by the use of a bucket water to flush the toilet.
We hopped on our bikes, and proceeded to “ride”25 km. I put “ride” in quotation marks purposefully because it was less riding and more gliding. It was downhill pretty much the whole way. My fingers got more of a workout from using the brake handles than my legs did. The scenery, however, was gorgeous. Rice paddy after rice paddy in varying hues of green.
Men and women bent over with straw hats moving slowly down their rows, plastic bags on bamboo poles to keep away the birds. Stone mini-temples to place daily offerings at their corners. Palm trees laden with coconuts swaying in the background. Then on through villages – streets lined with parked motorbikes, family compounds behind pinkish stone walls topped with grey stone carved decorations, family temples visible in the back corner – some topped with palm tree bark fiber. Many homes and businesses with enormous flags for whatever European cup country team they support – also on top of bamboo poles which create an arched canopy for the streets just over the Frangipani trees. Their yellow flowers brightening up the ground. Children waved and yelled “hello” and dogs barked or looked on curiously – but none of it in a menacing way like some other continents I know.
We visited a family compound, the highlight of which was learning that when their children are born people bury the placentas in a coconut under a rock – to the right of the steps for boys, to the left for girls. We also stopped at a huge Banyan tree – one of the holy trees for the Balinese people. We were warned not to go inside the tree if we were on our periods. This was to be the first of many times I was to be lectured against going into any temple if I was on my period. WTF! I wanted to retort each time I heard the narrative about respecting Balinese traditions – always delivered by a male – “Sorry, my birth control implant in my arm makes it so I don’t ever get a period, but thanks for your concern! It’s right here, why don’t you check right here to make sure I’m telling the truth?” I am usually the first person to insist on being respectful when in a culture different from your own, but good lord this was excessive. Ugh.
After opting in for the optional 8k uphill bike ride to lunch (finally, some exercise!) we chowed down on excellent food, stopped at the monkey forrest (so cute!) and were done for the day. I tried 50 million shops and finally found something traditional that fits me for S’s wedding and Ketam at the front desk hooked me up with his friend to drive me on a motorbike the next day, and I booked a trekking trip. Dinner of salad and a fruit smoothie next to some sort of anti-drug concert on the main football field and I went home to read and go to bed. Except there was a freaking HUGE lizzard on my wall when I got in. I may or may not have shrieked. Ahem. This thing was HUGE (in case you didn’t note the all-caps emphasis the first time), easily a foot long.
I waged war on the guy for a good 15 minutes before giving up and turning the lights out. It just didn’t want to crawl back out the window!