Bali cliffs

Splashy moment in Bali

A moment lived in Indonesia by Agnes, a traveller from Estonia

Nusa Dua peninsula became one of my favourite spots in Bali during my six months of internship there. I am going to tell you about the moment I and my boyfriend visited the place for the first time.

We lived in the capital but the peninsula was about one hour ride away from our place. The ride was rather long and we already had heard the rumours about the corrupted police. Thus, we asked for some advice from a local. If you are a tourist, it does not matter if you are a law obeying citizen who follows all the rules or you break the law, drive without a helmet, a licence or don’t stop at a red light, the police will stop you no matter what. The local advised us to wear long clothes to cover our skin so we would be less noticeable. Also to have a little money in our wallet prepared for the police in case they will stop you and keep the rest of the money somewhere else. This way you can show the police that this is all the money you have and they cannot bribe you for more.

Fully prepared, our ride could start. Luckily we did not meet any greedy policeman. Just the other day we stopped exactly on the stop line while a local feeling the need for speed passed us and drove through the red light. Guess who had to pay the fine?

Finally, when we arrived, the beautiful white sand and blue water were greeting us. The peninsula was packed with restaurants and resorts. It is actually a very touristy place and usually, I am not very fond of mass tourism, but the place is so beautiful you cannot help but fall in love with it. The water was very clear with starfish peeking out once in a while. It was also very warm and made you feel like you are taking a hot relaxing bath. The sun was shining and nothing could be better.

There is one special spot on there, a little island covered with trees donated from other countries and a viewing platform. A little disappointed not finding a tree from my country we went on to the viewing platform. This spot was amazing. The platform was created on top of the rocks surrounded by blue water. You could just sit or stand there on the platform watching the waves crashing the rocks. Sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller splashes. You could notice small crabs climbing on the rocks underneath you. There was a huge group of people observing the waves, making pictures and videos. And suddenly the unexpected happened. A wave so strong and high hit the rocks and before you could even realise what was about to happen the whole crowd was completely wet. I gathered my thoughts being completely soaked and picturing myself sitting there ready to take a picture with my phone but the wave completely covered me instead.

After that moment the whole crowd was squealing and screaming and running back to the ground, far away from the viewing platform. I could not help but laugh at the next site: all the people standing there soaked trying to dry themselves and their precious expensive cameras, smartphones and iPads. The people were all laughing too while screwing their technological equipment apart to dry. People, who just arrived, were not sure anymore if to go on the platform or not. Most people were cautious and the platform stayed empty for a while. I wish I had some rice to dry up my phone. I have heard that rice can absorb the moisture completely leaving the device undamaged. My phone fell into a coma and I had to get ready for a less funny moment when I receive the bill for the reparation work.

Even thought my phone died I would still relive the moment. It was hilarious and exciting at the same time. And we kept going there afterwards, believe it or not, trying to get wet again. The following times we were smarter, though. One of us went on the platform and the other was left behind to capture it and protect our precious items.

After being already wet we went for a swim in the warm glistening water and did some sunbathing on the white sand. We ended our day eating out at a treehouse restaurant. The restaurant had multiple treehouses and you could take a table on one of them. The waiters guided us to a free treehouse, which had three floors and we took the top floor. I was surprised how the waiters could climb the trees every day and carry dishes and drinks to people. The place had a big table and you were sitting on the ground on some cushions. And so we sat back, relaxed and enjoyed our meal. This was the perfect ending to our day. Bellies full almost dried up and smile on our faces.

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credit photo : Agnes
trekking Kawa Ijen

Sokerman, my friend from the volcano

A moment lived in Indonesia by Maxime, a traveller from France

It took us a day to ride from the south of Bali to the south of Java. Whilst I lived in Bali, I had the impression to arrive in a new country. I felt like being home; but a different home.

After a short night, we took the road in the direction of the Kawa Ijen.The road went through the coffee plantations, then a dense rain forest with huge tree ferns. The road was more than bumpy, and the mud – gift from the previous tropical rain – didn’t simplify the ride. More than once we had to get out of our motorbike and push it uphill.Parked at the entrance of the National Park, the walk starts.

After an hour of climbing the steps, we finally were out of the forest that covers the volcano sides and approached the top. No more lush vegetation around us, only stones and some dead trees that have been burned by the acid rain. With the first lights of the day, the landscape that surrounded us seemed to be otherworldly… A smog was covering the path ahead; on the right side, the volcano wall clear, with only a few burned  tree trunks. On the left, a steep slope until the bottom of the caldera where a lake has formed.This lake, with its chemical and unreal blue colour, is actually the most acid lake in the world. At the bottom of the slope there was a hut; near there, a huge column of white and thick smoke spiralling towards the sky.

We were sitting on the side of the path, flabbergasted by the infernal beauty of this view when a creaking sound, as regular as a metronome, seemed to get closer to us.From the way coming out of the caldera we saw him: walking fast, on the rhythm of the creaking, his body bent under the weight of the bambu sticks that he was carrying on his shoulder. A basket hung on each end of the sick; full of yellow and smelly stalactites: sulfur.From his face, we only saw his smiling eyes; the rest was hidden by a cap and a scarf. Coming next to us, he said hi and sit with us. That’s how I met Sokerman.

We stayed there for a while, chatting and sharing some food. He then offered to lead us downhill until the camp next to the huge column of smoke.

The way to go downhill was steeper, more slippery and dangerous than expected. The drizzle coming in this early morning didn’t help us, nor did the remarks of our guide that punctuated our path with “be careful, someone fell down here and died”.

Once we were in the caldera we passed next to the hut where someone was asleep and went closer to the smoke.

Suddenly the wind changed and the smoke came on to us. The air was then full of toxic gas, burning my lungs. Squatting, trying to get some fresh air near the ground, Sokerman came to help me to get out of the toxic cloud, before disappearing into it, with a crowbar. He returned one minute later, the arms full of hot sulfur stalactites.

With the smoke blowing uphill and the rain getting stronger, this was not the best moment to leave, so we decided to go into the hut and wait for a more appropriate time to climb.In the hunt, around a fire, we talked about our lives, becoming more and more aware of the differences between our lives.Sokerman was 40, working in the volcano since he was 12. Twice a day, six times a week, his job was to go down and snatch some sulfur from the toxic heart of the mountain. In total, around 60 men were doing this “job”.

The sulfur, bought 500 rupiah per kilo by a company, was used to refine sugar beet, make matches and also denim.Taking a total of 100 kilos allows him to get $5 per day, which allows him to feed his family and pay for the studies of his son.The job is extremely hard. Sokerman’s shoulders and back were distorted by the weight of his baskets and every single laugh followed by a coughing fit. However, Sokerman never complained about his life.

He told us a bit about the man that was asleep. This post is offered by the company to the men that are now too weak to carry the baskets: the “firemen”. They stay in the caldeira, monitoring the pipes that carry the liquid sulfur out of the volcano. Sometimes with the contact with the cold air, the sulfur burns and might damage the pipes. The small advantage of this position: a gas mask is provided by the company, whereas for the others a simple wet t-shirt covering the nose and mouth is enough.

The accidents in the volcano were numerous, and every year was synonyme of victims. To be sure that their baskets were full of the bigger pieces, some workers start to work earlier, in the darkness, taking more risks.The life in the south east of Java is not always easy, and while this job seemed to us to be a form of modern slavery, more and more people were coming to the Kawa Ijen: getting $5 for a working day of 10 hours was appealing for some poor people.

During the years I spent in Indonesia, I came a dozen of times to Kawa Ijen, and seeing most of the times my friend Sokerman. He looked a bit more worn every time, a bit more stooped under the weight of his baskets that seemed to be less and less full, but never the smile on his face seemed to vanish.

credit photo:

Travel blog Bali

The kids who face the ghosts

A moment lived in Indonesia by Maxime, a traveler from France

When I was 21 years old, I went to Bali. I never traveled out of Europe at this time and I didn’t have a real idea of what this island would look like. I had in my head a cliche vision of this island and I was quite disappointed when I arrived at the airport. There was some roads, cars, billboards… ! Me who imagined myself as an Indiana Jones, I was finally in another modern country.

After a few days, an Indonesian friend of mine brought me to a local park for a night walk.

It was around 11 pm and the night was really dark when we met them: two kids who were collecting plastics amongst trashes. By selling plastics to the waste collection, they will get some money who will allow them to buy food.

My friend did the translator and we sit with them for a chat and share some grilled corncob. They were 9 and 7 but looked younger. They were friends and used to come here every night. Their parents were really poor and lived also from selling plastic. We talked a moment altogether, they were smiling and laughed when I tried to repeat after them some words in Indonesian.

Then, once they have finished their corncob, they recommended to my friend and I to leave. This park was apparently haunted, one of their friend has been changed to a monkey by a bad spirit and they didn’t see him anymore since this night… As they knew pretty well the park it was not too much dangerous for them to stay, but for us…

Then they leave, laughing, skinny and dressed with rags. After a few seconds, their shape disappeared into the darkness.

This moment was for me like a slap, I never met people who live in this condition. It destroyed a lot of certitudes that I have, it was for me the beginning of an eternal questioning.

credit photo : Jan Benda