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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Into the Mountains of North Bali


In search of culture we left the beaches of Lovina and headed on foot into the mountains to the south . We didn’t have to go far to leave the touristy little town of Lovina behind. We quickly realized that this part of Bali didn’t see that many tourists on foot, maybe they would spot the occasional foreigner flying by on a motor bike. The small one lane road headed straight into the foot hills which wasn’t much of an incline. After about an hour we came to the top of a ridge and had a beautiful view of the mountains on the coast to the west. We met a woman there cutting grass with a small hand scythe and had a quick conversation in Indonesian about the heat and where we were headed. She seemed relatively unaware of the scorching heat even though she was wearing two shirts and a long skirt. She seemed a bit surprised that we were walking up the mountain for no reason except just for the sake of seeing what there was to see. I would likely feel the same way if I had grown up in a culture where things are done out of necessity, they haven’t the luxury of just doing as they will all day. Yet still I envy the simplicity they have and the happiness it brings them.


Up the road we continued, the incline appeared to be getting steeper ahead. We walked about a kilometer and reached the top of another ridge on the outskirts of a small village. An old stone sign informed us the village was named Melaka, under that we could see faded Balinese characters which oddly enough resemble Sanskrit, the most ancient Asian language and arguably the oldest language in the world still in use. It’s likely because Hinduism came here from India, the birth place of Sanskrit. Through the village the main road continued its steep climb toward the top. At the sides of the road buildings clung precariously to the steep sides of the mountain ridge. On the other side of the village the road plunged steeply into a ravine turned quickly to the right and continued up another ridge. Here we met two young girls and a little boy, the eldest girl didn’t look that healthy. Her face was a bit swollen maybe from an infection of some sort. The look in her eyes ripped my heart out, life must be so hard up here. There is no way to make any sort of income apart from working the land. You could see in her eyes that she had lived such a hard life even at her young age. I could tell that she was happy to see us but she had a hard time expressing her excitement. The young boy was a bit shy and hid his face clinging desperately to his older sister. I pray that she and her younger siblings are getting well fed and that they will live a long and happy life.


We continued up and the road started to get even steeper near the top. By now we had completely sweat through everything we were wearing, 35 degrees will do that to you pretty fast. Luckily the higher we went the cooler the air became and our sweat really helped cool us down. After one last really steep incline where we felt like we were almost climbing we reached our limits, we knew the top wasn’t far off but it was getting late and we didn’t have much sunlight left to get back down. We started down the mountain but a flash rain storm blew in after five minutes down. We stopped in a little shop which was actually just someone’s house. They sold a few drinks and some other necessities. We sipped on a cup of kopi susu(coffee with milk) and watched the rain fall on the family temple which was directly beside their home as is customary for all Hindus in Bali. The temple was about the same size as their home, the temple had a tall stone gate and many shrines filled with offerings of flowers and food for the gods. As the rain started to die down and we finished our coffee and continued downhill. In the distance west Bali curved around giving us a view of the mountains with the sea in front of them. The sun quickly fell behind the mountains in the distance casting its last light into the clouds, a thousand different shades of gold and pink reflected brilliantly in the sea far below. As soon as it had started to set it was gone and the darkness approached, luckily we didn’t have to walk too far in the dark. The way down always seems much quicker than going up. Definitely a day well spent.


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