Yup, that's an infinity pool. I also had my first beer in 12 days. Also had my first hot shower in 12 days. Very luxurious.
After a fairly decadent meal at the bungalow, I rent a sepeda motor and go explore; Tengannan Pegringsingan is home to indigenous Balinese called Bali Aga, and known to have maintained its appearance and customs from the old days. After submitting donation you're allowed to their village which is strictly exclusive to the natives, and one of the strangest space I've set my foot into; all the villagers are minding their own doing their things while tourists take pictures of them. The only way I can describe how I feel would be that it's like walking into Safari Park, only with people; the villagers are setting up shops in their residences, selling their crafts such as ikat weaving and carved wood, not many of which I see people buying. They might not give a fuck, but this underlined sadness is killing me, which is further enhanced when I get to the end of what seems to be the main plaza and see a pile of garbage with a few chickens picking out whatever they think is edible. Balinese in general are pretty horrible with littering, and its not rare to see garbage piles on the side of any road, but this one looks more like a deep ditch they dug to throw in whatever they decided they don't need, probably some from the tourists added in as well. I could turn around and exit, but I do see that the path keeps going into the woods and the Google maps show that its a loop. Might as well earn some step count on my Health app.
You know where you are? You're in the jungle baby, hope you're not gonna die.
Imagine the last act of Apocalypse Now where Captain Willard finds Colonel Kurtz, but with natives wearing T-shirts and no dead bodies hanging from the trees. The path has been unpaved for the last 20 minutes now. And I know that I'm still in the village because I still see the bamboo fences, and through its openings some signs of civilization like chickens running around, cows hanging and huts that look inhabitable. Occasionally a few sepeda motors pass me by, staring at first then cautiously smiling. There's a few water fountains and what I assume to be shared shower room (with people bathing and staring back at me). I should probably turn around; I wasn't in the mood for this kind of adventure especially after spending a night in a resort. Then I remember the time in Kuala Lumper, what we thought was gonna be a short hike up to the waterfall turned into a full-on jungle expedition with our shoes drenched and wherever our skins were exposed visited by leeches from all directions, meanwhile our poor driver was scared shitless for having to wait for our tourist asses for 2 hours longer than expected, thinking we might've gotten lost. Well, at least I still have LTE and as long as I don't upset the locals by invading their homes...
Then I hear it; gamelan from the distance. I have heard that Tengannan was known for the rare Galeman Selunding but was not expecting since there was no ceremony or occasion that'll involve music. But maybe they're practicing for an upcoming one, I HAVE to check where it is coming from.
Then someone from up top yells "Hello?" I meet a lanky local as he comes down the hill and asks what I'm up to. I tell him I'm studying Gender in Sukawati (thought that might give me some credential) and wanted to see where the music was coming from.
"Are you guys practicing Gamelan?"
"Oh no, just the speakers."
Turns our they are playing recordings from a pair of bigass speakers they set up in their hut, while the whole family is chillin. A lanky guy offers me their house brew saying "the best in Karangasem," but I had just heard that people die from drinking house-brewed Arak so I decline and leave. Well it was exciting for a moment. Also, this is where they actually live; away from the front and the facade by the entrance, deep into the rain forest with no pavement or signs. I hear kids playing, people cutting trees and random conversations, sounding from somewhere in the woods that I cannot see, or from the valleys or streams that look dried up. And on the dirt road I've been walking are opened plastic packages of instant ramen and roti bread, empty pet bottles etc. Okay, I need to take a shit. Enough adventure for today.
OR NOT. Instead of going straight back to the oasis with hot water and Indonesian MTV, I decide to get my rental fees keep exploring. There's gotta be a beach that's not blocked out by any resort where locals hang, let's turn this corner and see what I end up with. And I end up with this.
I see an middle-aged man sunbathing, and a group of white people looking up at their friend on a parachute, and a few roosters. I'll take it - kick my sandals off, take a walk along the waves hitting the black sand under the blazing sun. Much like in Hawaii, the rain doesn't last long and the sky keeps switching its color between blue and grey. It has been surprisingly chilly occasionally but at this moment, I'm getting baked. Soon there is no one in sight - can't remember the last time I got to be completely alone in an open space, which I cannot have enough of. I have known that I have the loner tendencies. I enjoy the silent solitude, the reason I prefer traveling alone. Balinese folks think doing things by yourself is weird or eccentric. They think I'm crazy that I take my bike to wander around the island all by myself ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ If I didn't have the language barrier it might have been harder to find the alone time, just out of their sweet hospitality.
Then I hear engines roar behind; looks to be 6 or 7 local teens staring at my sepeda motor. Then one of them finds me - everytime I am spotted by locals the questions are the same; where you're from/where you're going. I tell him I'm from Sukawati lol which sounds less touristy than Chandidasa or so I thought, and that I'm going to LEAVE. He goes "there's a beautiful white sand beach, 5 minutes from here - you should go." Sure - I know you want me out of YOUR beach ;) Totes okay. Lemme be on the move. Then he goes, with underlying hostility and menace,
"It's gonna cost you 100k."
Ah, THAT'S what you want. Okay then, I'll just head back. "To Sukawati?" Yes, an hour and half away. "Are you sure?" Yes, I'm pretty tired sitting on your beautiful black sand beach. It's time for mandi (shower) "Okay, well, let us escort you" which he does not say, but he and his gang ride along my ass till the main road, out of "their" territory. I must say, that was the least intimidating extortion I've ever seen, or the most hostile tour guide. I had a dude that would not let me leave before I pay 100k for a ray-ban knock off at Sukawati market (which a convenience store one block down sells for 25k) while two other squeezing in their products like mardi gras beads and model trains, but this was just weird.
Well, I also know that on the other side of mountains is another beach called Amed, where a lot of snorkelers and scuba divers have moved from Candidasa after the development in the nearby area destroyed coral reefs there; a tragedy which seems to happen almost everywhere there are corals. The bali that Maria remembers from 1987 is no more; the back road that used to host magnificent views of nothing but rice patties are now featuring villas and yoga retreat centres, or the construction sites for either. As much as I love Sukawati, the air quality has not been the best due to all the exhaust gas and people burning shit on the roadside (what they're burning I don't wanna know) but largely from construction dust. But I digress. Only an hour away, let's just stretch and see what I see.
The bottom line; the beach turns out to be another tourist haven but along the way I see some of the most gorgeous landscape of this trip. Much like the Golden Circle drive in Iceland, the best part I failed to capture with my iPhone 7+ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ but the majority of my 2-hour ride (there and back) was mostly on single-lane roads among the hillside villages surrounded by woods, rice parties and streams, running away from the massive cloud swiftly spreading its fingers over the mointains. I really was running away from the cloud because under it I was freezing my fingers with no gloves or jacket. Didn't check the altitude but my fingertips were getting numb. When do I ever over-prepare myself? Why does the weather always betray me? Who woulda thought you'd be longing for leather jacket in Bali? Well at least I'll have my hot shower when I get back to the luxurious bungalow.
I dropped my clothes to jump into shower - the water never got hotter than semi-lukewarm.
Soundchaser/two-time Independent Music Awards finalist. New EP "Six Songs from Insomnia" is out on all major streaming platforms.