A Cow Is Not A Good Sparing Partner

I hit a cow while riding my motorbike to school. You probably wonder now how come. I don’t know myself. It appeared out of nowhere on the road, was most likely jumping over a trench, so it was pretty fast, and hidden behind the bush, so I could not see it. I bumped against its side, and then my front wheel got stuck in the trench along the road.

As I was trying to drag my bike out of the trench, a Balinese guy stopped to help me and asked if I was alright. He didn’t see my accident so I was wondering for a second whether I should explain what really had happened (which was embarrassing) or not say anything (and in this way make him think that I am just an inexperienced bule who turned left too much and slipped of the road, which would be a dishonour for all European nations). I told him the truth, so there is a little chance your dignity is preserved among the Balinese; no need to thank me.

Having been asked if everything is okay with me, and trying not to limp (because despite not falling from the bike, I injured my foot), I answered that I am all good, and I hope the cow is too. If you think how silly it was that I was hoping a 1000-kg animal was alright after being hit by a thin girl, you should wait for the rest of the story. My excuse is that I was shocked, so all stupid words are justified. I went straight to school, where I was expecting some sympathy from the surrounding people. In the campus clinic I was advised to have ‘tradisional bali masas’ on my foot. Since this was not enough sympathy for me, I went to class hoping for some more.

The class starts and our teacher comes in, announcing that he needs to go now to the clinic on campus, because one darmasiswa student got injured. ‘It’s me, Edi, I am the one!’ I say, expecting him to cheer me up as he often does. I tell him the story of how the cow came suddenly on me, that I did not have time to react, putting myself clearly as the only victim of this unfortunate accident. And then Edi asks with a worried voice: ‘Is the cow okay?’. Ohhh, Edi. ‘I just meant that sometimes the owner of the cow would require compensation if the cow is hurt’. Well, I don’t think my insurance company would cover the cow’s injury. They sent me to a hospital where there was no x-ray machine; the doctor just examined my foot manually. Then what came to my mind was the hospital from Cancer Ward, a novel by Solzhenitsyn. And I thought that the Soviet hospital couldn’t have been that bad — at least they had x-ray there, a lot of x-ray.

In the meantime I texted some of my friends, saying what a trauma I had gone through. Most of them laughed. Some asked if the scooter was fine. I did go to a scooter service but not because of the accident, which hardly damaged my bike. I had gotten a flat tyre the same day, and the previous day the cover of the exhaust pipe had almost come off (which I had fixed myself temporarily with dental floss; by the way, the mechanic had trouble removing it from the bike, — dental floss is the new zip-tie!). I asked for changing the tyre, fixing the pipe cover and fixing my leg, if they have a discount for combined services. I explained how I got the injury. The owner looked at my bony shoulders and said: ‘A cow is not a good sparing partner for you’.

Writing this post, I am lying in my bed with the foot up, hoping it’s not broken, and I cannot stop smiling when I think back on what has just happened. Hitting a cow on the way to school. Bali is wonderful.

My bike fixed with dental floss
My bike fixed with dental floss
Looking for sympathy in Medical Service in Kuta
Looking for sympathy in Medical Service in Kuta
When the doctor saw my legs, she didn't know what to look at first: the bruises from the scooter, the scratch I got in rice fields, or the coral reef rash. Getting old is tough :(
When the doctor saw my legs, she didn’t know what to look at first: the bruises from the scooter, the scratch I got in rice fields, or the coral reef rash. Getting old is tough 🙁

Tegenungan And Kanto Lampo Waterfalls

Sneaking out paid off again. This time I skipped classes and visited two waterfalls near Gianyar together with my two house-mates. I actually didn’t sneak out, because I went to my university at 7 a.m. for administrative matters, and accidentally met my teacher in the hall. I frankly told him that I would be absent because I would now do tourism – my major in Politeknik Negeri Bali – in practice.

We approached Tegenungan from the eastern side; the waterfall is possible to reach from the West as well. In Bali you pay for every tourist attraction, parking, and even for using some minor roads. This time the entrance fee was 10,000 IDR per person, which is equal to 75 cents, but as we always do, we bargained, saying we study in Bali and stay for longer. This way we saved the crazy amount of 25 cents each. Which is ¼ of a dinner, so it was worth it.

Tegenungan Waterfall can be reached from three different levels. We started from the top level and continued the walk up the river, because some locals who were taking a swim there informed us about a hidden temple. One shrine is located on the river bank and if you take a long stairway up, you will find another complex with multiple pagodas. While we were walking up, two Balinese ladies each carrying a 15-litre container of water kept us company, and asked: ‘selfie?’. It would have been rude to say no!

On the top of the stairs there is a warung where you can have nasi campur – rice served with various side dishes. For a drink I had Temulawak, which reminded me of some medicine or smelly ointment that I last smelled when I was a little child. Temulawak is the name of Java ginger, which is similar to turmeric, but the aroma is different. And definitely not my favourite one, particularly not in a drink. But I paid 40 cents for it so I drank it all.

With happy stomachs we were ready to walk down to see the bottom of the waterfall and, most of all, to have a swim. After a difficult beginning – the edge of the pool was full of sharp stones — the swim was an indulging gratification. You don’t even need to bring a towel – you will dry on your own on a scooter.

To see Kanto Lampo Waterfall we had to go to Gianyar, which we had no idea where it was. We asked a random man on the street for directions and he drove us to the main road leading to the town, and then turned back since he was not even going to Gianyar. One more time I want to say that Balinese are extremely helpful and friendly.

Kanto Lampo is reachable via slippery rocky steps, but the Indonesians are there to help you – a very nice local guy held my hand and showed me where to walk so as not to get hurt by a stone. Then, you can climb up the first few stones of the waterfall and feel like in a huge jacuzzi, with water drops caressing your back. We were lucky to reach the waterfall before other tourists. Soon, many people came, a group of very good-looking Germans among them. I have attached a picture with them in the background, especially for Martyna. Still, they are not Australian surfers – but close enough?

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On the way back there were even more water attractions, because we were caught by the tropical rain. It was the end of September, so the rainy season was coming. During a heavy rainfall the drops really hurt the uncovered parts of the skin, so to ride a bike in the rain is not the most entertaining experience. We stopped under a shed, hoping the rain would soon stop, but it was not getting better. Soon an Indonesian family in a truck joined us. The father rode one of our bikes to the nearest shop and bought us three raincoats. We made it home safely almost untouched by the rain.

I love my coat; it covers me, my backpack and my motorbike. Since that day I’ve been carrying it under my seat at all times. It’s bifunctional. It keeps me protected from the rain and reminds me of how charming the Balinese are. The reminder, however, is not that necessary. There hasn’t been a single day when the locals wouldn’t remind me about their hospitality.

Temples Everywhere

For the Balinese, religion is as inherent to their lives as breathing or eating. Beliefs accompanied by the knowledge and skills to perform sacred rituals are handed down from generation to generation in a very so-to-speak ‘natural’ way. Given the strong sense of community, it is no wonder that religion plays such an important role. Not only is it each person’s way to find god, or at least to look for him, but it also connects members of the community to a stronger bond than just sharing the same land.

The dominant religion in Bali is Hinduism. It is an exquisite merge of Hinduism and Buddhism that arrived via Java and India, with the original Balinese beliefs and customs related to animism.

Locals give much attention to sacred ceremonies honouring gods as well as other spiritual powers, and the ceremonies are quite frequent. Among the rituals there are life-cycle rites that are dedicated to important milestones in a person’s life and are designed to ensure their prosperity and well-being. These are consistent with milestones marked in other religions, and include birth, puberty, marriage, as well as death, which completes the cycle. Besides the life-cycle, there is also a cycle determined by Balinese wuku calendar, which assumes 210 days in a year. The locals, however, do not ignore the 360-day calendar either, and celebrate anniversaries demarcated by the lunar-solar cycle too.

The density of temples on the island is another tangible sign of how prominent religion is. There are tens of thousands temples in Bali. Every village has at least three public sanctuaries of special significance. Each is devoted to a god of the Hindu Trinity: pura puseh to Brahma (the Creator), pura desa to Vishnu (the Preserver), and pura dalem to Siwa (the Destroyer). Also, every family has their own private sanctuary – sanggah, linked with the ancestors. Moreover, there are other categories of temples, like the ones belonging to an irrigation cooperative, or to a descent group, which is a group that consists of people who belong to the same clan.

I managed to visit more than 20 temples so far, without having to go very far from Jimbaran where I am staying. In the village itself, I found two pura desa temples: Pura Ulun Swi, which is located on the way from traditional street market to Kuta, and Pura Tegeh Sari, which is hidden on the left from Jalan Raya Uluwatu, when going from GWK Park to traditional market.

Pura Ulun Swi is the main Jimbaran temple, and looks frequented and vivid. When I tried to enter, a group of men was in the middle of a prayer and I was turned back at the doorway for not wearing a sarong (‘sori, no entri aria, just sarong hiere’). My next attempt was unsuccessful too, because what I saw the following evening was a closed gate with a padlock on it. A lady selling food in the street advised me to come in the morning – which worked out. So to avoid another failure, I came just after the sunrise, clothed from my neck to the tip of my toes. And I was let in to an almost empty complex of shrines, with only two men cleaning up the area. In the central point of the courtyard there is the Balinese pagoda – meru, which honours Vishnu, whom Pura Ulun Swi is dedicated to. Meru always have an odd number of roofs, from one to eleven. One complex can include many pagodas, each honouring a different god or deified ancestor.

Pura Tegeh Sari seemed a bit forgotten compared to other temples located at Bukit Badung, the southern peninsula of Bali. I visited the temple in late evening and could only see what had remained after the recent ceremony – some abandoned banana leaf compositions, offerings and already cold incense sticks left at the altar. The location itself stimulates senses; you can admire a beautiful panorama of Jimbaran beach from the temple.

Pura Tegeh Sari
I guess this was an altar
Single-storey shrines in Pura Tegeh Sari
Candi bentar – the split gate, typical for Balinese Hindu architecture

The Balinese have a great sense of where to place temples so that the faithful praise god and admire what he has created. Thus the most impressive shrines are erected on cliffs hit by strong ocean waves, like Uluwatu or Tenah Lot temples, or on lakes surrounded with mountains, like Pura Ulun Danu Bratan.

I visited Pura Ulun Danu Bratan a couple days ago. This temple, situated at the western edge of Lake Bratan, has two compounds completely surrounded by water. One of them holds the highest, 11-storey shrine that honours Vishnu. The other one consists of three roofs and links to Siwa, who is the Destroyer but also god of fertility. Maybe that’s why among various souvenirs available in Bali one can easily get a phallic bottle opener, or a fridge magnet of the same shape.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan – the two compounds on surrounded with water
Hindu Temple on Bratan Lake with a blue dome of a mosque in the background

My favourite temple is Pura Luhur Uluwatu, perched on spectacular cliffs on the southwest tip of Bukit peninsula. The complex is very well preserved, with its ornaments being in a very good shape, thanks to the hard grey coral stone used in its construction. Some damage, however, has been done to the temple, as well as to some not very careful visitors, by monkeys who act like they possess the whole area. Despite the place being full of tourists, the colony of monkeys has power over the people. After having visited all shrines in the complex, I was sitting under a pagoda, holding my camera tightly to my body, watching those clever creatures steal glasses and hats from unaware visitors. In front of me there was an elderly woman who was selling little bracelets made of wool, with all her supply covered now from monkeys, shouting to people passing by her: ‘carrrreful, monkeyz!’. Also, a clearly Italian couple joined me under that pagoda. I said ‘clearly’, because if you heard how the guy, watching the sneaky monkeys, shouted ‘unbelievable, un-be-lie-va-ble!, you would instantly know.

Pura Luhur Uluwatu
A monkey praising its monkey god
The Uluwatu temple complex can be admired from various spots
Visitors must wear sarongs which are provided in main temples; when visiting minor shrines bring your own

Although the whole place was quite noisy and crowded that day, I managed to find a little oasis from where I saw other people passing by, but I could sit almost unnoticed, watching the setting sun. The view was breathtaking. No wonder that gods choose places like this to settle down.

Searching For The Dolphins

For those who complained about too much text and too few pictures, I have added this gallery.

This was a morning boat cruise from Lovina Beach in search of dolphins. We didn’t need to look for the trip, the trip found us! While sitting in the car in a random place before the sunrise, with the inside light on, we were recognized by a local fisherman as a group of tourists. What else could we be looking for in Lovina so early, being bule?

We set off when it was still pretty dark. The dramatic sunrise was just a prelude to what we saw next. Dolphins hold that mystical element to me, that I only find in them and in horses. I don’t know how to describe this element – something between wisdom and dignity.

 

I know that for you most probably each photo looks like all other ones, but for me each picture is unique! Oh, and also – the dolphins were moving way too fast for my camera and that’s why none of the pictures is good. To compensate for the poor quality of pictures I give you a corresponding song: