6 - Minor Minutia (Bali, Indonesia)
I eased my way into Ubud’s collective psyche. No hurry. No rush. Nothing to accomplish. Nothing to attain. Single French male. Ornery monkey. Fickle old woman. Beguiling young girl. A python to fondle…and so it went.
by Mr. Nos T. O’maniac
SO, BREAKFASTING ON MY HOTEL ROOM VERANDA IN UBUD. What a wonderfully pretentious way to start a post. A macaque monkey emerged from…somewhere. Dante’s Third Circle? Dunno. The sumbitch was brazen. Insolent. He nonchalantly strolled to my table and fumbled in the fruit bowl for a treat. You’d think I invited him, muttered a polite, “Please, by all means, help yourself.” I didn’t, unless “Heeey! Get outta here!” counts as hospitality. I threw in some threatening gestures for emphasis, but he was unmoved, undeterred. He barely acknowledged my existence though my protestation forced him to fumble a second longer than necessary. He may even have grimaced with annoyance. I’ll count that as a moral victory. He then went on his merry way as if we’d established this routine long ago. Was I followed from Monkey Forest? Looks like they’re on to me.
Bali belly came and went…again. Not too severe. Just annoying. A little feverish delirium sprinkled with nightmares and bizzaro dreams. It took me down for a day, left me a bit weak, but I managed to avoid poopy pants. Win.
Did some rafting in an inflatable kayak. The river wild it was not. Class II on a windy day? Maybe. Still, it was an enjoyable float through the jungle…until the Russians showed up. There were two males, two females, and their Balinese guide in a proper raft versus me, my guide, and the kayak. Shit got strange. There was a splash fight. I lost. Commies: 1. Nostomaniac: 0. The Cold War resumed. My guide screamed, “U-S-A! U-S-A!” to which theirs replied, “RUS-SIA! RUS-SIA!” And then “O-BAM-A! O-BAM-A!” which, of course, drew “PU-TIN! PUT-IN!” in response. Brrrr…
Barack Obama is a popular cat in Indonesia. They love him as much if not more than in the US. He attended grade school in Jakarta, so many Indonesians feel a connection. I suspect he was more popular than their president at the time, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY). I was to have many ‘How-awesome-is-Obama-on-a-scale-of-one-to-ten?’ conversations. I’m glad he was elected. Ease of world travel for us Yanks increased by a factor of five zazillion…roughly. If I’d known, I would’ve brought t-shirts with his likeness. Ya know, in case I had to trade them for my life. GOBAMA!!
I spent a lovely day with a French dude. Other solo travelers were not so common, at least in the beginning. Lots of couples, families, and groups but loners were few and far between. I ran into Enri (his name is Emorie, but Enri just felt right) at Gunung Kawi. I also visited the holy sites of Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave), and Yeh Pulu. I’ll skip the inane details. Let’s say the shit is seven or eight hundred years old give or take, and no one is sure what the hell they really are.
At Yeh Pulu, I had an old woman smile at me, compliment my sarong (I did look rather fetching), bless me with holy water, ask me for a donation, and dismiss me as if there was nowhere else for our relationship to go. I felt used and dirty. I’m thinking the macaque got to her.
A word about fees. At these sites, they charge you for everything. Pay to park. Pay to enter. Pay to pee-pee. One guy was charging people to fondle his python (Reptile that is). I declined. The fees are minimal, so minimal that change is scarce. Got change for a Rp10000? Sure don’t. Life’s a bitch…or is it?
Like a bonehead, I parked my ‘hog’ (a.k.a motorbike) and left the key in the ignition. I returned to find the bike still there but with no key. An attendant moved my bike to make room for others, noticed the key still in it, and held on for safekeeping. Luckily, he did not decide to hold on to the bike for permanent safekeeping. Nice people. I'm an idiot.
At one point, I headed north for some volcano recon. Gunung Batur is one of many on the island. Although I was planning a climb, this was a mere scouting mission. Just felt like riding. On the way, a local woman stopped me at an intersection to bequeath the requisite volcano blessing…and extort the requisite 10,000 rupiahs for said blessing. I was later informed I got screwed. Normally, blessings run 1,000 rupiahs. Maybe I needed the more potent version? After all, my soul is ablaze with countless indiscretions.
I took a detour on occasion down roads few tourists appear to venture and received the well-recognized “Whatcha-doin-round here?” glances. Some rather cute/diabolical little girls beguiled me out of a few rupiahs. One graciously allowed a photo. Generally, it’s a terrible idea to hand out cash. Bad precedent…but they melted me like hot butter. Less than a dollar extracted explicit appreciation and smiles. What can you do? I’m a sucka.
The area around the volcano is covered in lava rock. There have been numerous eruptions over the years, the last of which was in 2000.