They’ll even hold up umbrellas for you should you land during a tropical rainstorm …
Days spent watching a single view, a feverish dream, an impressionist painting. The posts of our veranda have become the heavily gilded frame on this ever changing Pierre Guillaume. Calls to shoo birds away from the precious grains, emphasis added with clanging bamboo halves controlled by long strings from the shed, shared with a patient cow. The calls change in voice from female to male, the woman primal, the man angry, clearly the bounty of this harvest matters. The ceremonial gamelan music drifts from temple to temple adding dimensions and depth. A singing voice, a distant scooter, a loudspeaker announcing lottery numbers? Now a whoosh, whoosh as the farmer patrols the field with a long white plastic vane on a bamboo pole, less subtle then the sweeping, always sweeping, Balinese broom somewhere, if only to separate the wilted white and yellow flowers from the fresh, dotting the paths and greens. In the background the volcanic cones of Gunung Agung and two lesser siblings appear or dissolve into the clouds as if the paint refuses to dry. As the sky darkens the lights of Pura Besakih, holiest of temples of this isle, twinkle, just a degree or two below the first specs on the Southern firmament. Another day, another aspect as the sky turns from grey to black, a thunder clap like the growling eruption of a volcano. Freeze frame! The white birds, the rice stalks, the palm trees, the cow in the shed, the farmers, the bamboo clangers, the large drop off the tip of the banana leaf, the black butterfly, the pagoda on the hill crest. Gusts of wind, rain drops on the flooded rice fields, the gurgle of the overflows, sounds to soothe you into another round of sleep, the frame dissolves into your dream.
Oh, hail thee wondrous traveler in tennis shoes and with quizzical look! You cannot be trusted to scale this 1700 m pile of ash and pumice on your own. There may be spewing of poisonous fumes at times (not that we would know when and where) and trails to be missed (if you can’t find the elephant’s path through a corn field). In addition there is much to learn about geology (it was 1973 … wait let me check the sign) and the local economy (unfortunately we do have to charge a small guide fee). If in the end you feel amazed by the landscape but let down by our services don’t despair for you have provided income and exercise to our youth! Wait, is that a volcano rumbling or did you ingest something funny today?
For days we have been seeing ever more extravagant offerings floating through town carefully balanced on the heads of ornately dressed women. Where are they going with these?
That unique culture and religious custom should continue to exist at all in this spot manhandled by an international influx of travelers is beyond comprehension. From the Dutch seafarers in the late 16th century, to the intrepid artsy types in the 1930s to the modern jet powered masses the people of Bali seem to have deflected homogenization like bamboo a storm, with a smile.
A temple not a hundred yards from tacky souvenir stalls appears to be the destination of the offerings. We clearly don’t belong, wrong outfit, no clue and limited language abilities …
After mulling around sharing friendly smiles with the temple guards we are invited to pick up sarong, sabuk and udeng from the guard house to fix one of our problems. A thoughtfully written English leaflet to instruct visitors to maintain a respectful decorum takes care of the rest.
The offerings are delivered and blessed in wave after wave with a hushed, happy and expectant atmosphere like a night before Christmas. The Hindu Dharma prevails for another season.
(C) Photo: Katja