Disclaimer; the following post includes graphic and disturbing details which might cause some to react physically. Readers discretion advised.
The real Bali Belly, so I was told, comes in two folds; diarrhea and vomiting. I have not puked yet but I've been on the verge, so I believe it when they say this is a mild case. STILL THOUGH; my appetite has been severely reduced, and my energy extremely low. I can see how much liquid I'm losing every time I go, but rehydrating is difficult since I don't feel like putting anything down my digestive system, even water. I do it because I know I have to, but the discomfort is always there. What makes matters worse, which I've been kinda avoiding to discuss, is the state of bathrooms around here. There's a few things in our modern life that I cannot stand such as food waste and selfies, but filthy bathrooms pretty much tops the list. In that sense, Bali has been pretty rough; fortunately the pad I've been staying at has a nice one, but I pretty much avoid going at any local warung (store/restaurant) or household. Now the squatters we used to see in Japan, its that they do not use toilet paper and instead comes with a water hose. I don't even wanna know how they do the business, but I'm assuming it's the DIY washlet-type concept (why left hand is considered filthy and never to be used when passing food around). The worst part for me is the wet floor and/or seat, and they almost never wear real shoes. Sometimes barefoot. Every time I have to run, which often comes pretty abruptly, I have to see and be in this for at least a few minutes holding myself from hurling. Just writing about his subject gives me a headache.
Sanitation/cleanliness standard here differs from the west. People litter all the time, pubic urination is seen fairly often, and the first warning you read about Bali is "dont drink the water," "use bottoled water to brush your teeth even," which is puzzling when I'd assume they use the same water to cook and grow crops like the delicious papaya (in season) Ive been eating, and those are safe? You cannot eat anywhere without finding hair or bugs half the time, and even if you don't there's always a few flies flying in and park their asses on your fried fish. 100% of the time. Or ants. Or spiders. All of the above.
Let's turn back time like Cher wished she could;
The first suspect is Sukawati Night Market which I have been wanting to check out but somewhat reluctant because of this exact reason, but with Maria's suggestion we grabbed cap cay (a stir-fried veggies in a tomato-based? soup), mie goreng (a fried noodle and a local favorite) and martabak (a deep fried savory crepe of sort) all of which were delicious and cheap AF. 2 stands we grabbed these from were busy and also MariaWati-approved so I felt good afterwards, going to bed soundly with my spider friend above my pillow. Next morning I woke up fine, had my lesson with Sarga and had another decadent lunch by Mrs Sarga (which never got me sick before, but I cannot rule out the chance that this might have put me over the fried food intake limit) and hopped on my motor en route Mt Batur, an active volcano with the last eruption in 2000.
The second; a fish dish provided by my guide Eron's brother who has taken over the business from their dad, Nyoman, a longtime friend of Maria. Everything in the dish was locally harvested, freshly cooked and vividly-seasoned with ginger and other spices which I failed to ask about since I was already feeling pretty weak at this point. As much as I enjoyed it, this might have been a little harsh on my system especially after the aforementioned goreng festival which, come to think of it, has been going on since Day 1. In the last 14 days, I probably had 2 non-fried meals. I haven't done that in years. Or possibly never.
The third; a simple good ol exhaustion. One misconception I had about Bali was that its hot and humid at all times, as in Hawaii. WRONG. Though dry season, the nights have been periodically chilly and maybe because I went up to the 1000+m altitude with my motor, I was ready for some hot shower when I arrived at Batur. The modest accommodation I requested and Eron provided for me would've been fine if I was feeling strong, but the hot shower was WAY TOO HOT (no regular water in the pipe). and the local hot spring, a main tourist attraction was not hot enough (I haven't gone to a hot enoug spring for my japanese ass anywhere outside of the homeland though) so by the time I was in bed for a required sleep, I felt undone. Then it started to hit me - the devil. The monster. The bug. The alarm was set at 3:30am to give ourselves enough time for 6:30 sunrise at the summit, I didn't completely pass out till about 1:30am cause I was too busy splashing water out of my butt. So much so that not only I ran out of TP but also my Hana-celeb (the softest and the best facial tissue ever created, of course by japanese) and the wet nap. Nevertheless I felt somewhat rested when Eron came knocking on my door, and hit the darkened road with his 8-year-old son who's already a 2-year-vetreran equipped with his own flashlight. Within 30min or so, the beast started to growl underneath. I tried to power through for another 15 or so until I felt lightheaded and out of breath. I admit that I'm not an avid hiker, but this must be the demon inside me sucking all my energy and liquid out. So I tapped out; I asked Eron for a bag of tissues and ran into the bushes in between other tourist packs passed us by. As I gazed into the tropical vegetation converged with the darkness of pre-dawn, listening to cicadas and crickets with my digestive system screaming and wailing, I questioned my ability to continue. Eron told me its merely 1/4 of the way. Is it better to turn back now than too late? What would he have to do if I fell unconscious and deep into the crater? Maybe I feel better after this purge?
When I got back on the road, Eron hands me a pill. I'm praying to Gods, Buddha and the Sun that it kicks in soon enough, but WRONG; within 15min or so there's another emergency but I barely kept it together until we got to a rest area with and a bathroom. THIS TOILET THOUGH; possibly the worst one I have ever seen. Having to use this AND PAY FOR THIS was one of the most dehumanizing moments of my adult life. I know, #firstworldproblem but you didn't see it. It was pitch black, soaking wet but no running water, and smelled like where all the Neo-nazis, the trust fund kids and their parents should be buried alive (especially after handing mere 75 cents to the family of five that also sells water and snacks in a bamboo hut at 4am, holding a newborn). As atrocious as it was, after this your options is limited to bushes again. Better turn back now? Fuck I'm not sure. Fuck I'd rather go back. But FUCKIT IMA DO THIS. It'd be a helluva way to go if die on an active volcano in Bali. Let's just write a note on my phone not to let anyone involved - cause all this time, Eron had been nothing but chill. Calm. Composed. He didn't sway me either way; go back or go forth. I had already liked this guy after the conversation we had last night about how he's seen and guided hundreds of tourists including Indonesians hiking up the mountain he's known since age 8, peaking into the world outside of the cardela and beyond. He speaks the best English by far of all Balinese I have met, which would probably enable him to get a job elsewhere if he chooses, but he chose here; a simple life with his family and friends by the beautiful volcano, a polar opposite of what I pursued my entire life (and forward). The most Balinese I have met has been pretty level-headed, and he is a fine specimen. Okay, maybe I'm more calm now too. Let's see how far I can push myself.
This is when Chucky joined our crew; a Kintamani dog owned by Eron's cousin and a fellow guide. He probably was around with his master on the hike, found us three and somehow decided to come with us. He'd stray for a few minutes digging shit up or hanging with other groups (but never letting strangers pet him) but he would come back to check in with us, or maybe to witness this pale-looking East Asian dude on his last breath. Regardless of his intention, his continuing presence gave me some level of comfort and what do you know? The higher we went up, the better and more energeized I got. The sky turned lighter, you could see Danau Batur the lake greeting us and the mood turned lighter too. My legs were starting to feel the burn but not so much my belly. I could actually crack a few jokes without catching my breath. Maybe he helped me grow a pair (Kintama in Japanese means balls) ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ A few hours and some sore muscles later, my pain was rewarded.
I wanna live. I wanna live on a mountain. Especially after the aforementioned excruciating hours, I dont wanna go back down. Also, going down is also gonna be a bitch. In one of the few huts they set up I enjoy a small breakfast that Eron prepared for me and a cup of hot tea. For this moment, I'd do it again. Preferably sans Bali belly. Actually never with Bali belly. There was a group of guides singing Balinese songs (a lot of which is political from what I was told) and a few country tunes, but the moment a white guy grabbed a guitar it turned into a sing-along to Wonderwall. #facepalm and he didn't even know the changes but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Going down certainly was a B, half way through my thighs and calves started to curse at me, but not my belly. I count my blessings and made it down to the village, went back to the lukewarm spa with Eron and his boy, and hopped back on my motor heading to Sukawati.
My arrival home was followed by shower, the cancellation of my afternoon lesson and an 18hr sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I still felt groggy and immediately heard the gnarl. Pelvis has left the building.
Soundchaser/two-time Independent Music Awards finalist. Currently travelblogging at #beatvagabond and working on new material.