Sunday, September 26, 2010

26 Sept.2010, Lovina Bali


We are back on the boat on the north coast of Bali anchored off a small resort town called Lovina, along with, at last count, 66 other pleasure boats travelling with the Sail Indonesia Rally. The Rally offers a very helpful hand dealing with the bureaucracy along with a range of locally organized events, tours, performances, meals, and workshops, many of which are free and all of which are voluntary, kind of like a cruise ship. It’s quite a value for the $500 entrance fee, especially in a country that is so difficult to negotiate independently.
It’s a big deal in Indonesia. The President of the country came to welcome the Rally at one of the first ports of call. At another, civil unrest broke out because the Rallyers were going to be fed at a daytime event during Ramadan. The event was cancelled and the police had to escort the Rallyers back to their dinghies.
The Rally isn’t exactly our Indonesia. We flew back to Bali and put Amy on a plane for the US, unlocked the boat (which was very well looked after by Isle Marine Services in Serangan), reprovisioned, and headed off. Crew Richie decided that the slopes of the Alps were beckoning (not hard to imagine after a few weeks in sweltering Indonesia) and flew to Europe to land a ski resort job. Tom’s condition is very good so we feel able to manage the thousand miles to Singapore on our own.
Here is our Indonesia. Rasa Manis sitting at anchor off a village on the East Coast of Bali whose main industry was manually extracting salt from salt water until off the beaten track tourists and expats starting trickling in ten years ago. In the foreground is a small slice of a 100 year celebration for the big Hindu temple for the area, the opening sacrifice to appease the seas. Five thousand people dressed in white paraded offerings onto massive display tables. A sampling, including a live goat with a stone round its neck, were tossed into the ocean.
There was a series of silent prayers, everyone seated on the ground. Someone would hand you flower petals – marigold, rose, hydrangea. You put your hands together with a flower petal just extending from the where the middle fingers met, up to your forehead. Then the petal went into the hair, then you took another petal, repeat. To laughter, the priests came around and sprinkled everyone with holy water.
At dusk we were the only white people who made the 4 km. fast march up the lower reaches of the sacred mountain Gunung Agung to attend the ceremony at the temple. Just so you don’t think this was easy, and in support of our statement above that the Rally offers good value. We happened on this event by pure happenstance. We pulled into shore for a night’s sleep and another boat anchored there offered us a ride ashore to look around. Being Bali-philes we knew from the fresh decorations hung all over town that something was up, and speaking Indonesian, we asked, and asked, and asked. It took a lot of asking to get answers. When we heard it was a 100-year commemoration, we were hooked.
We camped out in an uncomfortable anchorage for three days waiting for the event to start. At the end of the opening ceremony, we found a sponsor –a guy with a restaurant on the beach who wanted to build his business with visiting boats - to lead us and find us scooter rides home in the dark. He had to endure some friendly razzing about bringing white people to the temple and he told us there were plenty of laughs at our expense.
We had carefully prepared and worn our Bali formal dress – sarongs(long wrap skirts), formal shirts, sashes around the waist and a headscarf for Tom. Exotic and respectful, but in which we look rather foolish, and in which it is difficult to stride up a mountain much less sit crosslegged. We sweated buckets and endured physical pain when we were the last to sit down in a throng of people in the middle of the street for more prayers. I don’t think there was a square foot for either of us. Tom ended up on the lap of a young woman and I ended up with a foot under someone’s rump. Lesson learned for next time – sit down fast and claim your spot. We rented a motorbike and wangled an invitation to a roast suckling pig party for the third day of the festival, but high seas, rain, and a nasty virus suddenly appeared, which is when we sadly gave up “our Indonesia” and joined the Rally – which once again, we say, offers some really good value. Looking forward to more.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Laura Pitt said...

Very interesting - I am sure Mark and I will also benefit from knowing Indonesia and being able to break off from the rally at various points to experience the real Indonesia. Love your writing.... Laura and Mark

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