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Memories of my travels between 1972 and 1982

Thursday, 18 November 2010

November 18th: Tirtagangga in Eastern Bali

On November 18th 1981 I was in Tirtagangga in eastern Bali.  I made an outing to the village of Tenganan, which was reputed to have customs that predate most village life on the island.

The Water-Palace:  My picture
Eastern Bali is dominated by Gunung Agung, the volcano which is a major focal point of religious sentiment on the island.  Out on foot you are always aware that the mountain is there.  In the wet season, as it was when I was there, it may be shrouded in thick cloud, but when the clouds pull back the moment seems magical.  As you walk around you encounter lava flows at unexpected places.  I stayed at Tirtagangga, the water palace of a twentieth century ruler from nearby Karangsem.  Built only in 1946 the water-palace seemed a bit kitsch to me, but it made a pleasant place for a swim.  There was also a decent cheap hotel, which attracted interesting visitors and was therefore a good place to hang out for a few days.  You could have your evening meal on the terrace and watch a lovely sunset amongst the clouds, with frogs beginning to croak in the dying light. It was also, like most places I went inland in Bali, a great place for trips out.

Writing a book in Tenganan:  My picture
On this day I went with a friend.  We took a bemo to Amlapura, a nothing sort of town, but the Rajah's Palace had some good statues and a little pavilion on a pool (he also built the water-palace) and a few Chinese features. We took a bemo to the turning to Tenganan, began to walk along the road, but a bemo came by and we took it, and it started to rain just as we arrived.  The village was very interesting, the lay-out reminded me of Nias, houses close together with a wide area between with communal or meeting-houses in the middle. There was also a second row of houses and maybe a third.  The compounds sometimes seemed like little versions of Bali houses, but the temples much smaller and less significant.  All around were huge slopes making it perfectly defended by a valley.  We stopped and talked with a maker of lantok (bark) books, very fine, about the story of Arjuna fighting one of his brothers, and he chanted a bit of the writing, in old Javanese.  He also played a sort of gamelan and told us he was a puppeteer, a dalang, one of 265 on Bali.

We walked back down the road into more normal Bali, past a place where a bough of a banyan had crashed through the roof of a house; the people there understandably had long faces, something unusual on the island.  On either side of the valley were low unforested hills, terraced right up, but only for the grazing of cattle with little houses or byres near the top.  At Bugbug we looked for food but only found a good "es" (ice mixed with anything), basically a jackfruit sundae, excellent.

Another day I walked up behind the water-palace and the temple through lanes to a wide trail-road to Budakeling, a large village with lots of temples and even a festival, but no Buddhist signs which I had expected from my Indonesian Handbook.  Some people there file their teeth, but not as spectacular as I'd seen in Africa.  Then I followed on up a hill behind to another village called Komala and enjoyed a long sit out of light rain where there was a shelter and a long talk with a gentleman from Karangasem.  On beyond were rice-fields, more temples, a swathe of coconut palms and the slopes of Agong going up into the clouds; and a great feeling of peace.  On the way back the rain really set in at Budakeling; I sat over tea in a warung, and came back by bemo.

More locally I walked and found some women weaving the sashes they wear in temples for festivals, really fine and tightly woven of a silky substance, which they make by a complicated process I didn't fully understand.  Then I walked on paths and lanes, through shady fields with thatch houses and beautiful deer-like cows in little thatched byres, and over a little ridge to a lava river where there was a warung with beans and peanuts.

The Indonesian Handbook was banned in Indonesia.

Lower slopes of Gunung Agung:  My picture

Lava River under Gunung Agong:  My picture

Tenganan:  My picture

Tenganan:  My picture

View Besakih in a larger map

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