My last 5 days in Indonesia were flying by no matter how much I wished them to slow down. When I returned to Gili Meno everything was as it was before, the daily volleyball matches at 5pm, snorkeling boat trips during the day and evenings spent drinking rice wine around camp fires on the beach. The only thing that had changed was the faces of the tourists.
On one of my last nights Barone, Ludra and some others sang the song, “Leaving On A Jet Plane” with every word on point. They looked at me after and said, “this song is very meaningful to us and we sing it often”. “What do you mean” I asked. They explained that they meet many different people from all over the world every week. “We become friends with them and then they leave to go back to their powerful countries and they forget about us”. It was touching and almost heartbreaking to hear them say this. “It’s not true”, I said; but this was the reality of their life, no permanent friendships just ones that would last a few days and then vanish in an instant, like it never happened. The only way they would ever see these tourists again would be if they decided to go back to Gili Meno because they surely didn’t have enough money to go and visit them. Yet I couldn’t help but think that the same must go for them, they meet new people every week and they too probably forget about us and it made me sad.
To think how simplistic their life was compared to where I came from in New York. They were living about 20 years behind the rest of the world. I don’t even think they got mail on this island. Most would work a few hours a day in touristy type jobs and then the rest of their time was spent walking up and down the beach front, cooling off in the ocean and napping in bungalows while enjoying the sounds of the ocean waves and the warm breeze. If they wanted to get some food or a drink but didn’t have any money that was ok they could always pay the next day. Only a few of them had cellphones, no one had email addresses and the majority didn’t even know the concept of facebook or instagram. If you needed to talk to someone you just had to walk around until you found them or ask someone and EVERYONE knew where EVERYONE was all the time. One time I went to a different part of the island for a few hours and when I came back all these people asked how I liked it down there. I had no idea how they knew I was down there but they knew!
In order to survive here you need to make about $70 bucks a month. Maybe it wasn’t enough to be rich but it was enough to be happy; and they were truly happy. I could see it in their eyes, always smiling and always joking around. Yes they were always saying they needed more money but not anymore than you or I would say with our comfortable jobs in America.
They were surrounded by a strong community, like one big family helping out whenever anyone needed anything. In the end I felt like I was part of their family; walking down the streets barefoot, learning how to eat rice and fish with my bare hands like they did (ok so they had to actually pick the fish off the bone and set it aside to let it cool for me because I found it too hot to pick up) and by the end I didn’t even need a flash light when walking home in the pitch black dark.
During my time there they would always say, you are so lucky, you are American, you got to go to school, you can have a good job and make lots of money and see things that we will never see, you have a beautiful life and you are very lucky. I know I’m lucky and feel grateful for that but the ironic thing was, is that I was thinking the exact same thing about them and their lives.
The days on Gili Meno passed by in a flash and I did not want to leave. The next stop of my trip was on Java in a city called Yogyakarta. It was supposed to be a big city with beautiful temples and from there I would fly to Jakarta (mother big city) for a day and then leave for my next country. I left Gili Meno and took the hour and a half boat back to Bali and then a 2 hour car ride to my hotel for the night and planned to fly out the following afternoon.
When I got back to Bali it was like sensory overload. So many people, it was loud, hundreds of cars and mopeds honking their horns, it was dirty (compared to where I had come from) and there were peddlers at every corner. For the first time in my life, a big city was overwhelming to me! I was still bummed about leaving Gili Meno so I thought some retail therapy would help to pass the time.
Whenever I visit different countries I always seems to fall inlove with one thing in particular that they specialize in. In Vietnam is was bowls made out of coconuts, in Morocco it was the “Aladdin” styled pants, in France it was skirts that were meant to be worn over pants, in Nepal it was the hand-knitted winter hats and in Bali……it was the rompers! I bought 3 more to get me through the next 3 months in the southeast asian heat and decided to ship some of my colder clothes I’d worn in NZ and India back home.
That night I went to the beach in Seminyak and had a beer to watch the sunset amongst the hoards of people. I couldn’t imagine going to Yogyakarta the next day which was supposed to be even a bigger city then this. I really just wanted to go back to Gili Meno. Then all of the sudden, like a lightening bolt, a thought crossed my mind, “why not go back”? Ok yes it would cost me a few hundred bucks and a couple of plane tickets that I would have to toss but who cares. This was a once in a lifetime trip and why not do what I want to do, there were no rules. You only live once right? And my motto of 2014 has been, “do more of what makes you happy” and Gili Meno did just that.
I guzzled my beer and booked it back to my hotel to see if I could pull this off and switch some plane tickets around and the next morning at 7AM I was making the 2 hour drive back to the boat harbour that would bring me back to Gili Meno. Exactly 24 hours later, I was back on my little island. As I got off the boat and was walking back to Tunai Cottages to ask Ronni for a room a few people passed me on bikes and said, “welcome back Amanda”! I had never even talked to these people the first time but they seemed to remember me. I knew I had made the right choice!
When I was at the bird competition one of the girls who sells fruit whom I hadn’t met yet introduced herself to me and her 3 year old little boy, named Faisel. She was very young and after speaking for a while she told me that she was single. I didn’t know what she meant by this but when she said it, she got very sad and tears welled up in her eyes. She told me that a year ago her husband had died on Gili Meno when he was working in a field and a tree fell on him. It was so sad when she explained in detail to me with her broken English what happened to him. To think that she was a widow raising her son at the age of 24.
She mentioned, that in addition to selling fruit she also offered manicures and pedicures on the beach and one day hoped to open a small salon on Gili Meno. Even though I didn’t really need a pedicure after going to all the spas in Ubud I couldn’t refuse.
The very next day she found me with all of her nailpolish in hand and Faisel at her side. The manicure and pedicure was no where near as nice to the ones I’m used to but she tried! Faisel had been playing on the beach and was just covered in sand from head to toe but he sat next to me on my towel that day and didn’t say a word and waited for his mom to finish. I can’t think of one 3 year old kid who would wait so patiently.
The nail polish had already started to chip off the next day but I couldn’t be upset, that was nothing compared to the battle that Uni and her son were facing.
Boy in training…
Since I had planned to stay on Meno longer I was going to miss seeing the big Island of Lombok. Barone told me that it was a 25 minute boat ride away and that if I wanted, he would take me around on a motor bike….. for a small fee of course.
We arrived to Lombok and it was jam packed with people, cars and motorbikes. He asked where I wanted to go and I told him to just drive! While Bali is an island of 1,000 temples, Lombok is an island of 1,000 mosques or “mosquis” as they call them. That day we went to Lingsar Temple, a place where both a temple and a mosque were built right next to each other so that neighbors, either Hindu or Muslim could pray together. It was a beautiful sight to see.
A little while later we stopped for some food at a roadside stand. The dish had chicken, toasted soya nuts, a variety of spices, onions, rice and some type of red and green spicy sauce. It was the best meal I”ve had yet in Indonesia and it was $1.
That afternoon we went to a shopping market where one of Barone’s friends worked. As he was talking to him I decided to have a look around. Up until now I’ve been really good with NOT shopping during this trip and it’s been a very difficult for me! Usually when I travel to different countries, I have to bring an extra empty luggage to fit all my souvenirs and once I leave their economy takes a dip, I’m sure of it! So up until now I’ve been pretty darn good. This market contained hand-made wood carved bowls, dishes and wall hangings that were Lombok specialities. Well I cracked! I decided that I was going to buy and just ship some stuff home and since I was shipping I might as well do some Christmas shopping while I was at it. We stayed there for about 2 hours as I went from shop to shop. The shop owners LOVED me at the end!
On our way to Lombok on a local boat; apparently they were using it to transport more than just people that day. I was surrounded by water jugs up to my knees and had to rest my feet on top of them!
Lombok monkeys on the side of the road.
Delicious food for $1!
Local food market
The place where a temple and a mosque were built right next to each other. On the right hand side of the wall was the mosque and the Hindu temple was on the left.
This little boy was a kite-flying king! He was making it dance and twirl all over the sky.
The lady on the right asked to take a picture with me because she thought we looked alike? It must’ve been the light skin because we don’t resemble each other in the slightest!
Gas station for mopeds!
My new best friends at the market I bought from!
In less than 24 hours I had to decided to spend the next 5 nights in Gili Meno. There was just such an incredible vibe here and I needed more time.
I also have to add that there are a TON of hot men that live on this island and they are all single. I messaged a few of my single girlfriends in New York and told them to get to Gili Meno because there was a plethora here, that is, if you like the dark skin, long haired surfer type with a missing tooth or two.
However, when traveling alone as a female you always have to be on your guard. Everyone is nice but you don’t know who is genuine and who may want something from you. There is a fine line when making friends especially when it’s the opposite sex. You have to show them that you don’t completely trust them and that you are street-smart, confident and strong enough to take care of yourself. And it helps if you mention a (fake) boyfriend back home that’s waiting for you. :)
Once all of that is established then you can really become friends. I’ve met a few locals here who are really sweet and totally harmless. Barone, the one that works at his family’s “warung” noticed that I was popping in and out of cafes one day to escape the heat. He said that I was welcome to sit on his hammock in the shade at his warung. It was a beautiful view and he even played some music on his guitar. He has a really nice voice and played the obligatory U2 and Bob Marley songs that all foreigners know. To think how big these artists really are that their music is played all over the world, even on a little island like Gili Meno. Barone knew the lyrics better than me.
Later that day I joined Barone and his friends to play some volleyball. I know that they were being nice when they invited me but they were shocked when they saw me, “bump, setting and spiking” just like the rest of them. Maybe I failed to mention that I played in high-school for a few years. Now I will say that my wrists are actually black and blue and tender to the touch from that day, since I hadn’t touched a volleyball in 10 years but it was good fun. They are really good though so now I just watch since they play everyday at 5pm when all the workers at the cafés get an hour break before the dinner shift starts.
One night I was invited to an old hotel on the island that technically isn’t open anymore except for the occasional tourists who have read about it and are dead-set on staying there. This hotel used to be the one and only hotel on Gili Meno and was THE place to stay back in its “hay-day”. But since tourism has slowed down, so has the hotel. This hotel is where all the locals hang out because there is a TV and they don’t have TVs in their homes. So they come here a few nights a week in the open-air patio to watch the news and to watch “Indonesian-idol” the equivalent to American Idol-ha! They also sell homemade rice wine under the table that is prepared daily. I went that night and the rice wine was served out of used water bottles. This stuff was legit, like their local moonshine. It’s very light tasting and not too strong. Throughout the evening other locals would stop to buy a bottle on their way home and take it to go. I’m convinced that this is the reason why this hotel is staying afloat because of the locals buying rice wine. An hour into the evening, the power for the entire island went out. Gili Meno didn’t have electricity full-time until 2003. Before that a few hotels had generators during the day and then it was shut off at night. From time to time the electricity does go out but only stays like that for about 15 minutes. That night, it went out for over an hour, but since everyone is used to living without electricity, candles were immediately brought out and we continued our night under the full moon.
The following night we took our rice wine to the beach and made a campfire. Barone played the guitar and everyone sang. They honestly have beautiful voices, each and everyone of them. I am so impressed that they know all these American songs and the words better than I do, even if they don’t understand them. If they don’t know the words they will use filler words such as “nasi gorang” the traditional rice dish here, or “gili meno” until they get back to verses they know- it was funny.
They also sang some beautiful Indonesian songs that evening which was the best part. It’s so interesting to see foreigners sing songs that only their country knows. I’ve seen it through my many years of travel and hanging out with friends from Germany, Turkey, France, Tunisia, Morocco and Mexico amongst a few. I don’t understand one word they are singing but the way they sing the verses with so much emotion and passion brings tears to my eyes.
I am never alone on this island. When I go to the beach the local fruit woman greet me by name and ask how I’m doing. I go to a cafe and the workers come and sit at my table to have a chat. I walk through the village and someone passes me on a bike saying, “hellooooooo Amanda”, I walk past a bungalow and the young girls ask me to take a seat and chat with them. I go to another cafe and more people I’ve met in the past few days join me and sit down. I am surrounded by more love and genuinely kind people than I ever was in a city of 8 million in New York. As I looked up at the sky, that night on the beach with the beautiful music, I thought about where I was a month ago when the full moon was brightly shining down on me. I was in the Great Outback camping under the stars. My what a drastic change from where I was now and still incredible all the same. I’m excited to see what the next month brings and who else I will meet along the way.
Barone’s warung where we would have camp fires at night and sing songs with a guitar.
Momo and Maman worked at the cafe I went to multiple times a day. These two were probably some of favorites, always joking around and professing their love for me despite me telling them EVERYDAY that they were way to young for me!
Top, who worked at another cafe that had wifi so he would see me at least once a day too even though it didn’t work half the time.
Mr. Botol- the toothless old man who had a small shop of handicrafts. Please excuse my outfit in this picture-I’m wearing a wet bathing suit underneath!
Fruit ladies who hunt me down out everyday to buy fresh mangos, lychee, pineapple and coconuts!
Daily volleyball match between the locals. I watched every evening, they were so good and always looked to be really enjoying themselves! When it was over and they were hot and sweaty they would just run into the ocean about 50 feet away to cool off.
Unil and Ludra
A link to my favorite Indonesian song that they would sing every night at our camp fires.
So my friend was right, this place was just as beautiful (if not more) than the last, I was simply trading one paradise for another. Once I got settled, I went for a walk to see what was in store for the next few days. Within 10 minutes about 8 people came up and asked me my name and introduced themselves. I felt like the president of America. I met Mamman and Momo, two young boys who worked at the cafe next to the harbor, Baron who lived in an open-aired bamboo hut on the beach and serves beer at his family-owned “warung”. There was Unil, a surfer boy who owned his own boat and gave snorkeling tours; Ludra who worked at one of the bungalows and a crap load of children who came up and hugged me. I met two women, Uni and Woosh who sold fruit on the beach out of baskets that they carried on their heads and I promised I would buy from them the following day (and they were waiting). This place was like one big happy family, everyone knew everyone, LITERALLY!
The beach is lined with indonesian-styled gazebos where you can just lay and order food and drinks while gazing at the shimmering turquoise waters. As I lounged in the gazebo drinking a fresh cold juice, taking it all in, I could sense that it was a tad different from Bali but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The people were still just as nice but none were named Wayan or Katut. I didn’t smell any incense, and come to think of it, I didn’t see any flower offerings for the gods scattered in the streets or any temples. And then around 3:30pm I heard the call to prayer. That’s it, I was in the Muslim part of Indonesia! Asian Muslims, imagine that! I totally forgot that Indonesia is a Muslim country except for the island of Bali that is Hindu. Thats what makes this country so interesting.
That day , whenever I told someone that I am from America, their eyes would light up and they were so happy that I was visiting their region of Indonesia. Many have said that there are very few Americans nowadays because they are nervous to come. There are tons of Europeans and Australians but no Americans. “We are peaceful”, they said, “yes we are Muslim but we just pray and mind our own business” and we are honored that you are here. I asked when was last time they saw an American and they couldn’t remember. Later on in the conversation they said, we heard that candy is cheap in America. “What do you mean” I said. They replied, we heard that it’s only 50 cents for a big candy bar. I started laughing, wow it has been a long time since you’ve seen an American because they cost about $1.25 now. They looked shocked!
My time in Nusa Lembongan finally came to an end and it was the first time during my trip that I was actually sad to leave. We’ve all gone through this, it’s usually the last day of vacation and you spend all day thinking that you don’t want it to end and try to savor every moment. A friend told me that the next place I was going to would probably be just as beautiful so I tried to keep that in mind.
The next stop was the Gili Islands near Lombok (another big island in Indonesia). There are 3 islands in the Gilis and there are no motorized vehicles allowed on any of them, just bicycles and “pony-drawn-carriages”. Gili T is the most well known and a huge party island, think Cancun during spring break. Gili Air is the next most popular one that still has a party night-life just not as big. Gili Meno is the smallest of the three with a population of 400 and is known for being calm and quiet where everything shuts down at 9pm. For those of you that know me, I’m sure you’ve guessed which one I picked.
Another girl I met in NZ, Helen, had recently been to Gili Meno and said that it was an absolute hidden gem and that she stayed at a really great place that was cheap. The only problem? She forgot the name!! However, she did know the first name of the owner. I told her that I was nervous about arriving somewhere without pre-booked accommodations because, well lets see how I can put this…..I’m totally type-A and like to have everything planned out!
She assured me that it would be fine and gave me explicit directions on what to do and where to go once I arrived. After arriving at the boat harbour she told me to go to the restaurant directly to the left and ask for a man named Ronni who owned the new bungalows. She promised me that someone would know who he was and point me in the right direction. This was crazy, it felt like I was on the Amazing Race, I couldn’t believe I was doing this.
From Lembongan my boat went direct to Gili T and then from Gili T I would have to wait 2 hours for a local boat that went to Gili Meno about 10 minutes away. I really didn’t feel like wasting 2 hours when I didn’t have a place to stay so I made nice with a worker on my first boat and she asked her friend who was taking a group of people to Gili Air to drop me off on the way and he said yes. Cool, and it only cost me 5 bucks! Since it was an unscheduled stop they just took me to the first stretch of land on the island they saw and barely stopped to let me get off. They took my bag, chucked it into the sand and rushed me off the boat. They didn’t even fully pull up to the beach, I was in knee deep water as I got off the boat. They had pulled away before I’d even gotten to my bag. I hoisted my backpack on to my back and looked around, ok this was definitely not the official harbor of the island, how was I going to find Ronni from here? The sun was beating down and I just wanted to find a place as soon as possible so I started asking everyone that I saw if they knew a man named Ronni. They all gave me blank stares and said no. One asked if I was looking for a room and I said that I was looking for a room and the owner’s name was Ronni. He said, yes Ronni it’s my sister and she has rooms for you. Sorry buddy, Ronni is a guy, caught red-handed!
I continued along the shore asking a good 10 more people for a Ronni but no one knew and they told me to keeping walking further down towards a cafe. Yes, this must be that cafe that Helen told me about! Once I got there someone said that Ronni owned a place called Tunai Cottages and explained to me where it was. Unfortunately it was all the way back from where I came from. By this time, my clothes were just drenched and there was not a dry hair on my head (I really need to pitch some things to lighten up my bag). As I passed back down the street everyone I originally talked to ask if I found where I was going and I said “yes, I’m going to Tunai Cottages”. Once they heard that they said, OH RRRRRRRRRRRoni with a big “rolled R”, “you were looking for RRRRRRRRRoni, yes we know him”. Ha, ok I thought I said Ronny pretty clearly when I first asked them but since I didn’t roll my “R” they had no idea.
After 20 minutes of roaming around, I finally found RRRRRRoni , a 27 year old boy who owned the bungalows with his wife. It was a simple room, had a bathroom with a salt-water shower and a fan (we’ll see how long I’d last without AC). All in all it ticked all the boxes and I talked him down to $15 a night!
Once he put me in my room he turned to look at me and said, “miss if you want you can take a shower, you look very sweaty”.
Ronni the man of the hour-in front of my cottage.
I woke up in the middle of the night a few days ago to the sound of cracking and chipping. It was pitch black and I was freaked out! I was hoping that it was maybe something outside my hut but the noise was too loud to be anywhere but my room. Maybe it was the AC, I thought, but I clapped my hands 3 times and the noise stopped so I knew it was an animal. I was FROZEN in my bed hoping that my flimsy mosquito net would protect me from whatever it was. I now realize that the mosquito net wouldn’t have done $#it, but it was wishful thinking in the heat of the moment. After being up for 2 hours to the chipping noise, I finally flicked the light on at 6AM and like that it was quiet again. Must’ve been all in my head I thought. However, an hour later, I got out of the shower and was getting ready for the day and saw my peanut butter jar that was about 2 feet from my bed and it was in bits and pieces with a hole chewed through the top. Whatever it was, it was definitely in my room, it was smart enough to smell the closed jar of peanut butter and had teeth sharp enough to bite through it!! I was dumbfounded!! For those that know me, I am not the biggest animal lover let alone critters. In fact I just started petting dogs about 6 months ago when my brother and sister-in-law got a puppy bassett hound! Now I love dogs but I don’t like critters!
I showed the jar to my hotel and I did not argue with them when they quickly offered to switch my room. I asked them what it was but unfortunately they didn’t speak english well enough to explain what it was. I started googling wild animals in Bali but couldn’t find anything. Finally that afternoon I tracked down another worker who spoke english and asked him what he thought it was and he said that it was probably a mouse. EEEEEKKKKKK a mouse, or should I say SQUEAK!!!
Yesterday I went snorkeling with a lovely British couple and their cute sun from Sunset Coin that had just arrived. They mentioned how nice it was and told me what room they were staying in. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that it was my old room! I’m sure the mouse was gone by then anyways.
What’s in a name? Shakespeare said that a name means nothing! How about in Bali? If you ask a Balinese his or her name, the most common answer that you will hear is, “my name is Wayan”. In a population of 3.3 million, about 500,000 have that name.
In Bali, a name is not just a name. It is used to give information about sex, rank of birth, caste and more. The name Wayan is derived from the word “wayahan” which means oldest. So every first born child in Bali is given the name Wayan (or Putu and Gede). The second child in each family is given the name of Made or Nengah and the third child is given the name Nyoman or Komang. The fourth child is given the name Katut (so I assumed that my guide in the previous post was the fourth born child in his family). These names are given for both girls and boys and to distinguish the sex a “Ni” is put in front of it for girls and an “I” is put in front of the name for a boy. So the first word tells, the gender, the second word tells the rank of the child’s birth and the next is the given name which is usually from Sanskrit or a local language. For example we can deduct that the name, Ni Made Swasti is a second born female. The Balinese usually just give their second name when introducing themselves.
Sounds easy enough right? Not quite! If the parents have a fifth child, the naming process starts over again with Wayan. So if there are 5 kids in a family there are 2 with the name Wayan. In the case of my guide Katut, I assumed he was the fourth child but he is the 8th meaning he is the 2nd Katut in his family. That has got to get confusing!
I think about my dad’s family with 7 children and if they were named the Balinese way my dad would be named Wayan and I would have 2 uncle Mades, an aunt Nyoman, an uncle Nyoman, one uncle Katut and one aunt Wayan. Haha!
After a few days of lounging around the beach (and getting massages) I decided that it was time to actually get out and see the island of Lembongan. While I was figuring out my plan of action, breakfast was delivered to my room by the night security guard named Katut. As I said it’s a family-run business so they all wear many hats…..sound familiar?
He asked me what my plans were for the day and I said that I was looking to see the island but not anything too “touristy”. Katut told me that he was actually just getting off and was free that day and immediately offered to show me around. I was a little skeptical and told him that I would pay him and that this WAS NOT A DATE! He said that it was not a problem and that if I wanted to pay him I could but I didn’t have to, he was happy to do it. I group texted my friends Carrie, Mike and Elizabeth and told them that I was going off with a local for the day on a moped around the island and if they didn’t hear from me in 24 hours to contact the embassy. Sorry mom I couldn’t tell you because I know you would freak!
Two hours later I was on the back of a moped with the wind in my hair holding on for dear life! We first went on a boat ride to a mangrove and then to an underground house where a hindu man lived for 10 years to meditate. I couldn’t even be down there for 10 minutes for fear of a heat stroke, not sure how someone did it for 10 years.
From there we drove over a rickety one lane bridge (with missing pieces) to an island right next store called Ceningan. He took me to Blue Lagoon where there was a cliff that you could jump off into the ocean…..for $5 bucks. $5 bucks I thought, “what the heck, shouldn’t, this be free” but of course I never turn down an adventure! It was a 13 meter jump and after 3 months of being in countries that use the metric system I was finally able to quickly calculate in my head that it was about a 40 foot jump. As I was getting ready to jump the people working there came over and told me to sign a waiver. Ok now I was getting nervous, was this dangerous? “No, no dangerous Miss”, they said “but you must sign”…..um ok? The $5 bucks got me 2 jumps and when I got to the ledge I was thinking that I’d be lucky if I went ahead with just one of them, it looked like a long way down. Based on past experience with bungy jumping, I knew that the longer I stayed there the harder it got so I threw myself over without further contemplation. My body slammed into the water and I think I might’ve lost my bathing suit top and acquired a few bruises but it was exhilarating. The waves were huge and it took me a while to actually grab onto the ladder to hoist myself back up. I climbed to the top and in the end I decided to go a second time, you know me with money, I always like to get my bang for my buck!
By that time I was quite tired and thought that he would maybe take me back but he had other things in store. He said that we were going to another island where I could see something that most tourists don’t get to experience. His english wasn’t the best so I really didn’t understand where exactly we were going. Something about a cave?
We got on a boat with 3 other locals and the cutest little boy and rode to my third island of the day, Nusa Penida. There was not a single tourist on this island. Nusa Penida gave the impression of what Bali was probably like before the world’s curiosity descended upon it, it is the true Bali. Here people can be found still living in century old huts, working as fisherman and seeweed farmers trying to make a living.
When we arrived he rented a moped for us and away we went. About 5 minutes into the drive he stopped and said, ok now you are going to drive. I told him that I drove in Ubud but I was still really new to this. He said that it was easy to drive on this island and not to worry. I got on and he hopped on behind me and we drove and drove and drove for almost 30 minutes! When 2 people are on a moped the back person has the option to hold the waist of the person in front of them or on to the handle behind the seat (your hands are basically behind your back as you hold on). When we were riding in the morning I started off by holding on to the back handles but he insisted that it was hard for him to keep his balance that way and that I had to hold on to his waist. I wasn’t sure if that was the complete truth or that he just wanted to pretend that he had an american girlfriend for the day but since he was doing me a favor I figured I could let him dream even for a day. When I began to drive he held on to my waist and at times (maybe it was in my head) I felt like his hands were getting a little too close for comfort so I would “accidently” slam on the breaks as if to signal, “hey buddy watch where your hands are going”. He definitely got the hint!
Katut was very nice in the end. He is 26 and from another island but moved to Lembongan 2 years ago to take care of his “auntie” after her husband passed away. He works as a night security guard at Sunset Coin and then works on a tourist boat during the day that takes people to and from islands. Apparently he had a small stroke about a year ago (or thats what the doctors said) that caused him great pain in his back and legs. He started meditating with the help of his spiritual guru and he is completely healed now.
About 5 minutes before we arrived at our final destination he stopped in front of a temple and told me that he had to go and get sarongs for us to wear. “Where in the heck was this guy taking me?” I finally figured out that he was taking me into a limestone cave on top of a hill that is a very holy temple for hindus called Giri Putri and our legs needed to be covered. “Giri” stand for hill or mountian and “Putri” means beautiful lady.
When we arrived he gave me my sarong and asked if I knew how to tie it? “Not a clue”, I responded. So he proceeded to wrap the sarong over my outfit. He was doing all sorts of folding and tucking and I have to admit, I was impressed that a 26 year old kid knew how to wrap a sarong. He too had to wear a sarong and once he was finished we began the climb up 110, 2-feet tall concrete steps. In case you are wondering it is very difficult to walk up extremely high steps in a tight sarong that goes down to your ankles. I was praying to god with each step up that I wouldn’t bite it. By the time we got to the top I was drenched!!! It was a long climb up and the sarong was a heavy canvas material and I could feel the sweat dripping down my legs. At the top there were many priests that were praying and singing overlooking the ocean as incensed blew through the air. Talk about a peaceful place to pray! Katut showed me a manhole and said that we were going in. I had no idea how I was going to fit in there let alone climb into it with a tight sarong but figured people must do it all the time. We went through the tiny hole and once we got in, it was this wide open space with many small temples. It was like a church in here! It was so quiet, all you could hear was water dripping from the walls from time to time and the fluttering of bats….yes bats! Local people used this cave to hide from the Japanese upon their arrival in WWII. We visited the different areas of the cave and then he gave me a ceremony bracelet that is given out in the temples. Katut says that up to 5,000 hindus can fit in here during big religious ceremonies and that he even comes here with his “auntie” to meditate for 3 hours at a time because it’s good for your health! He explained some other things about the hindu religion and how it’s a little different from the hindu religion in India. He said that in India Hindu is a religion but in Bali it’s a culture. I couldn’t understand what he meant by that so I did some research. The Balinese religion is a Siva-Buddha tradition intertwined with the beliefs, rituals, and deities of both Hinduism and Buddhism. Now it makes sense since Buddhism is more of a way of life than anything.
Anyways, that day was definitely off the beaten track and one for the books.
My guide, breakfast server and night security guard Katut!
PS. Katut wouldn’t let me pay him in the end, he said to save it for the rest of my trip!