Bali -from street-sleeping to volcano top

A sparsely 1.5 hours of sleep this night (30th into 31st Dec), from 00:15 to 1:45 AM, as I dinned for 2h after the traditional dance show in Ubud. Read one Hemingway story. Net hooked a little bit and then talked to my bro before hiring a bed/room for the 2h left. Definitely needed some sleep as this wasn’t even New Year’s Eve yet, so two white nights in a row would’ve been a tough stretch.

Then wake up call for a night hike up Mount Batur.

2:15 the car picks me up from front of the Rena tourist agency – a random one I got into last eve before the show.

So had 2h in a mock traditional bungalow style boutique hotel 2 streets away from Rena. Still within 5′ walk from the Royal Palace. Little wooden tile roofed houses lying almost on top of each other, inconspicuously hidden in a courtyard behind some alluring gates. Dogs roaming in and out of the venue.

Two days later I came across similar compounds in Ubud. And at least the front rooms and amenities in the first 2-3 layers of buildings in such a courtyard were the family residence where somewhere between 3-4 generations of relatives lived at the same time. These were either kept for the same function or rented out as hotel rooms as well. All traditional balinese rooms and houses. While the back rows were newly built either straw or tile hatched bungalows. Or overlaied bungalow style huts, very traditional at least in their exterior setting. But customised to fit a relatively modern tourist function.

Back on streets, the only reason I didn’t sleep on the footsteps of the agency were the mosquitos. Otherwise, a sarong stretched out around ankles, chest and face didn’t sound that unappealing.

Sideways across from the palace a resto-club half full at this hour, with mostly asian ppl relatively animated. A zingy compilation of oriental-techno music mixing what’s new and old about this culture kept the vibe going. A city attached to its fame of south-east particulars.

It is “exoticism” that comes to mind to a much reacher sense when in these places. An accessible one to which dutch, italians and frenchmen, british and latvian, australian and kiwi, japanese and indian can be and belong without almost any adaptive stress. That’s how Bali caters to your expectations of the far east. Minimum hindrance. While destinations outwardly different, culturally incongruent to our inner making we usually tag differently, “end of the world” type of perception. But not “exotic”, as this term I feel has a good sense of comfort embedded in our western/modern minds.

Ate great, western standards, balinese and indonesian plates last night (30th Dec). Listened to and seen pure traditional dance followed by techy one, and now, at 3:00 AM I’m sitting in the little van with just as sleepy as I am Gonzalo (Spain), Chris (austri-aussie) and Karen (Cape Town), Virginia (aussie) and Lisa (Perth – Scotland) heading out to the simmering volcanic Batur base camp for the prospects of a steamed boiled egg (volcanic steam of course) at sunrise on the summit/crater.

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Up the trek guides: Darmari (in the front) and Wayan in the back. (driver is also Wayan).

Wayan( guide) tells me there are only four names in Bali:

Wayan (first born),

Made (madei) (second),

Nyoman (third)

Ketut (câtât) (fourth)

Or

Putu (first),

Kadek (second),

Kumang (third) and

Ketut (fourth).

in aceasta secventa in functie de ordinea nasterii. Depinde cum iti numesti primul nascut. Asta dicteaza succesiunea urmatoarelor nume. Daca incepi cu Wayan continui cu Made etc, daca incepi cu Putu atunci mergi pe firul acela. Al cincilea preia din nou numele de fie Wayan fie Putut. Dar again si de la al cincilea mai departe se pastreaza secventa dictata de Wayan/Putu. Si astfel poti avea 7 nume diferite intre cei sa zicem 7 copii cu care te-ai invrednicit.

In afara de numele asta fiecare poate avea un nickname. Dar turistilor le prezinta numai numele uzual (Putut, Ketut, etc). “That’s for people who you meet briefly, like just once, like you and me today” imi spune. “And your nickname then?, if you don’t mind…”

“Putra”, he says, means man. Putri ar insemna femeie.

So not bending your mind too much.

Funny insa, nu retin pentru numele de femei e si acolo o regula numerala?, I gotta ask.

Later that morning I was b’fasting at my fav rest next to the palace in Ubud. The same waitresses as the night before. The one that got closer to me a d conversed more was a 20y old pregnant mignonette. Not beautiful, with a very authentic mix of traditional facial balinese traits though and very genuine. She explained the above naming rules again. Same names for women, only instead of I Wayan (optional Nickname) Family name for guys you put the prefix Ni in front instead of I. So Ni Wayan (opt Nickname) Family name for women. Also the Wayan etc name chronology is mostly particular for families where both parents are from lower ground balinese kingdoms. The higher up the mountain ones tend to go by the Putu lineage. While in mixed marriages the origin of the father tends to dictate the succession of names. She scribbled all these on a napkin and left it as a souvenir. :-), funny.

She also sketched some festivals due soon, to either convince me to return to Bali/Ubud or ward me off the ones of social retreat:

– Galungan and Kuningan cele mai mari sarbatori hinduse

10 Feb and 20 Feb 2015 and then every six months

– Besakih temple -biggest in Bali there’s a festivity dedicated to it in April

– Silent Day is called Nyepi – on 9th March every year

In a corner of the resto-cafe there it was – Andrei Plesu dinning torture: a suspended wooden traditionally carved layout where one could enjoy an evening only if hours of yogic/kneeled posture wouldn’t hurt.

Half moon right above, Jupiter la o palma

distanta spre dreapta (rasarit I guess). Venus imediat de dupa creasta lui Agung tocmai rasare. Bright! In the claws of the Scorpio. Antares breaks the zig-zaggy crest of the mountain. While Mars is half way between Jupiter and Venus. Orion and Sirius at its foot shine bright on the other side of our track. The ding dong of Orion hanging on the other side of its belt compared to the North hemisphere. While orion himself lyies on his back, always sideways when at this latitude. Nyoman began an astronomy chat with me, trying to pick up a bit of celestial mapping. He gave me funny words about stars in local tradition, just a few as he was mostly asking me question. Clarified what’s with the large trail of stars – Milky Way. Explained why it was called Drumul Robilor in certain parts of Romania. The symbolism of falling stars, how sometimes in Balinese culture they are referred to as “the piss of stars” – the way they’re drawn. Where can he find Venus, why are planets changing positions etc.

Am inceput traseul pe la 4:00 AM. Finished the main leg to the crater at 5:30. Then four of us+Darmari pushed on the last stretch to the top of the horn to get there just before sunrise. Dashing through sandy crumbles of black – volcano lava in dissipation. The peak was full of people.

Not exactly the volcanic turmoil I expected, but still shyly steaming up between the rocks. The cone and gap are close to what I thought. But you can’t gawk into the abyss and shiver at the hellish innards. Sheets of rock sliding into each other sealed the bottom. On the way back in the caldera Darmari explained how locals use incense to light up the tiny syphons of gas making it visible AND aromatic. As otherwise it was just the heat of it that made it observable. Monkeys suddenly woken up to the sunshine roam around the heat and the tourist food keeps them cozy.

A wide volcanic lake outside of the cone in the valley between the peaks of Batur and the cliffs leading into Agung. The sun opens curtains of light initially melting clouds away. A golden like crenelated shadow soon clarifies into a “head-and-shoulders” pattern far East by North-East. It is another mountain on Lombok island.

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Can’t see the island though. The remaining bodies of whites obscure the rest of the island and plunge into the depth as their shadows reflect back to us. A girl hums something to herself on a slight slope away from the crowd. Sitting in yogic position inviting the sun into her. I stand just a few yards away and sip tea. Braving the brisk chills and enjoying the light vibes. “Hi, Happy New Year”, same to you, thank you! “Did you realise this is the last sunrise of 2015?” .. well, I didn’t but indeed. It’s been a difficult year. “Yes, I think it’s been like that for many…” so many sudden changes… “But it’s ending now. And this sunrise is <<the beginning of the end>>!” I muse at her line. And she sees me. Well, I understand how you see it but I’d rather choose to see it as <<there is a beginning, a sunrise in any ending>>. I prefer it. We agree to slightly disagree and having just touched worlds with each other at that height of spirit we veer back into each of our wonders.

Downtrack I spoke to Lisa a bit more. Osteopath. Incited her to describe some techniques which she gladly did. I’ll try some of them.

Then vanned back home stunned tired sleeping on bags and head-resters nudged all over the road. But first a stopover at a coffee-cacao plantation where I was almost nauseated to be woken up. So began asking the guide lots of questions while on the plantation just to stay awake. Bought some Luwak coffee – the one digested by a specie of fox/cat/weasel before recovery and processing.

By midday had enough energy brain-packed to last me all the 1h+ scooby ride back to the Tanah Lot area where Crina and G were starving in the big mansion retreat waiting for me. My brain was already beginning to switch off by then, so went for a 4.5h sleep to recover the night lost and store for the year-end night.

R and E soon showed up. All girls arguing about the New Year Eve’s night supplies and the winding down of Rv-Aa story. I was slowly coming back to senses. Splurged into the lush of the large pool wet watching the jungle sunset just off the scenic terrace.

(our own little pool Buda)

The girls were rushing back to their own house. G left me back as my stuff was here and we all needed time to shape into the party. Hence I tempo-ed down a bit. Undressed for a shower, went out to prepare an “on the rocks” and then aloofed my barren silhouette into the night heat. Shadows, cicadas, water angles all over the skin, walls, trees. A feel of naked jungle lush in the safety of a luxurious retreat. This was a “Waterfall House” type of setup, not far from the architectural design of Frank Lloyd Wright. But that one was in more temperate climate. So the warmth of leisurely retreat came from a combination of wood and colour, beams, accessories, books and art. Which here were replaced by huge slabs of marble and black solid wood, minimalistic design and yes, the full flow of subtropical heat and nightly jungle natural sound-beats. The night was barely starting. Let me see how NYE partying happens on this island!

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