2 Weeks and Counting
Welcome back to the blog guys! Today is a milestone of sorts for us, as we have officially reached the 2 week mark on our “sabbatical”. Although 2 weeks doesn’t sound like much, to me it feels as if months have passed, and already the names of the day of the week are forgotten, and the days are only marked and differentiated by the things we have done on those days.
To be honest with you, after day 2 I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it, but I think I can speak for the three of us when I say we have finally found our footing here, thanks in large part to the 2 places we have stayed and the gracious people who run them. The unfettered friendliness and good nature of all the staff and the people we met at these two places provided us a home away from home within the initial chaos of Indonesia, and without them, I can’t help thinking it would have been a much different first 2 weeks.
On that note, I would like to give a shout out first to the staff at Hotel Palloma in Legian, Bali. The entire staff here took us in like old like old friends, and took AJ and I and transformed us from two culture shocked white tourists on their first day in Bali, to just two white tourists by the end of our first week. They were helpful and friendly beyond belief, so thank you guys!
The second place is Roy’s homestay in Kuta, Lombok. Roy is the son of the owner of the homestay (Kedi), and although I haven’t met him yet, I know his name belongs to what must be one of the best homestays in Lombok. Again, the people are very kind and accomodating, and because of them, acclimating to a new island has been a breeze.
That reminds me, I almost forgot to mention that we have moved location (or coordinates, if you will). We are now on the island of Lombok, east of Bali. If you can believe it, the flight from Bali was only $11! Or for you chipotle fiends out there, the equivalent to a steak burrito with guac and a side of chips (can you tell I miss Chipotle?). So far, Lombok has been a nice change of pace from the craziness of Bali. The island itself is dominated by the massive Mt. Rinjani, which can be summited in the dry season (not the rainy season unfortunately) and should be on any backpackers to do list here, though the hike is said to be grueling and will take anywhere from 2-4 days.
Here in Kuta, Lombok, a small town on the south coast, there is still a small tourist presence, yet the city retains much of its culture and it’s local Indonesian feel, as evidenced by the Bau Nyale and stick fighting festivals held here annually. This year the festival’s fell in the same calendar week, so we were lucky enough to witness both of these aspects of local Sasak culture. And it was wild.
The stick fighting festival is very much like it sounds, but also very different. Each evening during the week of the festival, the locals flock down to Kuta beach where the festival is held to witness the stick fighting. Here, everybody crowds together on the beach, making what is basically a giant human boxing ring for the stick fighters to do battle. It makes for a sort of school yard fight atmosphere, with lots of yelling and cheering, and with everybody craining their necks, and standing on their toes to get a better view of the action. People even climb the nearby trees to get what is one of the best seats in the house. If you can get a view inside the ring, what you would see is two locals on opposite sides, covered only in sarongs from the waist to the knees, bare chested, with a square wooden shield in one hand, and a thin long stick in the other. You would also see a referee in the middle of the ring. He is the one who regulates the bout, and splits the fight into three 30 second rounds. Once the referee is ready to start the fight, the music begins, and the loud boom of the drums drown out much of the yelling and hollering that has begun around the ring. The referee’s whistle blows, and that is when the unexpected happens… Instead of rushing at each other, the two fighters start to dance to the music, and with these moves, they slowly move closer and closer until the melee begins. The dancing breaks out randomly at any point during the fight, and is used as a tool to express the fighters power, and to rile up the crowd. The actual fighting is very intense, with blood being drawn on multiple occassions, and some fighters being taken off on stretchers. For the local Sasaks, this is a good thing though, as tradition dictates that the more blood spilled means more rain in the coming year.
The second festival, Bau Nyale, is Lombok’s most popular festival, and draws thousands to Segur beach on the south coast. The festival is centered around the catching of the Nyale worm, which wash into Segur beach from the ocean once a year. These worms die when they are touched by sunlight though, so the night before they are due to wash in, thousands of locals and tourists alike flood into the city of Kuta, and partake in festivities all night, before migrating to Segur beach in the middle of night to catch the worms.
AJ, Alex, and myself, abstained from the partying that night (because we would never do that…) and woke up around 4:45 that morning to join the masses at Segur. The walk there felt very strange. It was pitch black outside, and the roads were busier then ever before, yet it was quiet. From the main road in Kuta, all you could see was a string of countless lights far out in the bay, stretching from one side to the other, which we assumed were the lights of the fishing boats. After a 30 minute walk we had arrived at Segur, to see thousands of people out in the bay brandishing fishing nets and flashlights, hoping to catch some nyale. Here I could probably keep chattering on, but instead I’ll put up some pictures which might better illustrate what it was like.
All in all, both festival’s were a great experience, and made for an authentic glimpse of Indonesian life. Well, that’s all for this blog post guys, hope you all enjoyed it!