On the verge of a long journey home: Denpasur, Bali to Jakarta, Java 1 hour flight time. Jakarta to Taipei, 6 hours. Taipei to Los Angeles 12-hour flight. Ugh! Los Angeles to Santa Barbara 2-hour bus ride, plus a taxi ride home. Over 30 hours of travel time including layovers. But what a marvelous experience, certainly worth the inconvenience and the long waits.
Yesterday, we woke up to a long guided bike tour (3 hours and nearly 30 miles) – Laurie’s choice. A minivan takes us to the top of a ridge – 1200 meters (4600 feet high). We see what seems to be the remnants of the remains of an ancient caldera, yet another example of Indonesia's tectonic activity. There are marvelous views of a volcano in the middle of a crater lake.
We alternately coast, push our bikes up steep grades, and travel off-road on narrow trails through rice paddies.
The scenery is magnificent orchards, cabbage, and a coffee plantation.
Our guide also takes us past and through many rice paddies – complete with ingenious irrigation systems that channel the water right or left with simple mechanical devices.
Irrigation Device for Guiding Water
We see multiple examples of the Chinese influence upon local architecture. The picture on the right exhibits a typical entry way to family compound. Notice the upturned roof lines - the classic dragon spine that adorns every Chinese temple. Although the dragon has disappeared, the form is unmistakable.
Laurie and I have been long perplexed by the ornate decorations on top of many Balinese roofs. When we asked someone from Sarna's village, he responded that it was just a way of pinning the roof down, like a nail, but that it had no symbolic significance. Our guide informed us that these roof ornamentations, as well as being functional, are also symbolic representations of Garuda. Presumably, Garuda, the aformentioned mythical bird-man, provides both guidance and protection for the extended family.
We also glide by local shrines and an old and active temple built around a bubbling hot spring. Evidence of the spiritual orientation of the Balinese people is everywhere – a refreshing break from the rampant materialism of our secular world.
More importantly, we experience an intimate view of local Bali life. As we pedal through the countryside, uncountable villagers and roosters call out greetings. I respond in their respective languages. We stop for a break and meet our guide's friends in his small village. It seems that the Balinese children are named by birth order. In other words, the first child of every family has the same name. Only their family name differs. We spend most of our time laughing. Certainly a merry culture.
Our bicycle guide informs us that Bali (like Cambodia, Thailand and Java) is organized into villages surrounded by rice paddies – possibly for millennia. The village joins together to tend and harvest the high maintenance crop. Each Balinese family lives in a compound that contains a temple/shrine dedicated to the gods and ancestors. The compounds are loath to split because this would mean moving into the valuable rice paddies, the source of sustenance. Each village has a community temple with unique celebrations from the rest. Once a year, everyone in Bali goes to the Mother Temple on top of a volcano. What a tight knit community!
One of the highlights of this day's adventure was experiencing the guide’s own family compound. It houses 62 people and is much more elaborate than Dana’s compound.
After a 3 hour bike ride, we have another delicious room service lunch. Then off to our beach hotel in Denpur. Crowded, touristy beach. Boats in the harbor. Trash in the ocean. We take an obligatory swim in the warm but dirty water and in the beautiful hotel pool.
Go to our room – enter through a seemingly ancient Balinese gate, complete with wooden draw bar as the bolt. Nice touch. Still exhausted from the bike ride and the trip, we have dinner at the hotel and collapse in a heap – information overload combined with the excitement of our journey to the east.
Wow! Thinking back on all we’ve experienced. The busy streets of Jakarta, long drives from Western to Central Java, a live volcano, an exotic resort, ancient mountaintop temple/shrines, delicious Sundanese, Javanese, and Balinese food. The Gallery Hotel, Borobudur, Prambanan and Yogyakarta. Villa Sarna, with its beautiful vistas, prime location, beautiful statuary, gracious staff, lagoon pool, and delicious food. Then the small village, native dancers, the Ramayana and the Fire Dance. Beautiful Ibud and the Monkey Forest Temple. Dana’s hospitality in this family compound and a native religious celebration. Whoa! Overwhelming just to recollect. Oh, we can’t forget the bike ride and more importantly the marvelous conversations with our host Martin Nga. Bless him and his family for his generosity and support on my strange Dharma path. And let’s invoke the blessings of the gods for a safe journey home. Amen.