Part 1 Tenganan to Tirta Gangga
It's been exactly a week since my last post. It's been a busy week and internet has been scarce. We're moving at a faster pace now, averaging three days per town. Which is amusing, given my recent 'proclamation' about us being slow travellers. But this speed also feels good... I guess we just like flexibility :)
So before we left Candidasa, we did in fact pop in one more time into the Tenangan festival...and, after waiting one long slow hour in the shade, the Mare Kare (men fighting with thorny leaves) finally began. We weren't really clear on the rules or necessarily what dictates a winner, but in general the fights were serious yet friendly. We were a little stuffed in the back of the crowd, but this actually served us when one of the fights broke off the stage and carried on into the audience. For a few seconds, we were pinned up against the wall while teams of men pried the fighters and their thorny leaves off each other. Very dramatic! It was clear from the general reaction, however, that this break in control was deeply frowned upon. Abbey watched the event from her perch on Mike's shoulders. She seemed to grasp the ceremonial nature of it all, nevertheless we decided to bail after the fight broke. Consequently, we didn't get to see the village girls twirling on the makeshift ferris wheels, which Abbey would likely have found more interesting. Bah, Ya win some.
The next stop was more up her alley. We headed further up the coast to a quiet little chocolate factory set back from the road. This simple little place (which sells two kinds of chocolate and a few gourmet soaps) was run by an ex-surfer from Florida who moved here 13 yrs ago and just didn't leave. The dark chocolate drops with goji berries were our favourite. We bought a small box, along with two luscious-smelling soaps. We also had a go on their huge swing, which hung loomingly between two giant coconut trees. It required a short ladder to mount and so swung out fast, far and high off the ground. Quite a rush! I actually shrieked! As we were leaving, I thanked the surferman and told him "Good Luck!". His eyebrows flashed and he laughed. Of course, success is not really what it's about.
After a quick stopover in Amlapura for some contact lens solution (a rather rare commodity), we finally arrived in Tirta Gangga - the site of a beautiful water palace built in 1948 by a water-loving raja. Our hotel here was meagre. The unusual variety of insects seemed to rule the room, the fish in the pond outside were confined to the only corner that had three inches of water...and the bathroom could have benefited from a good plumber. But the owners were friendly. During dinner we feasted on black rice wine and watched fireflies dance in the surrounding rice paddies. The next morning, we were eager to push on. As we waited for someone's brother's cousin to pick us up, we watched an official looking team of rabies experts arrive with big nets and mysterious coolers, and disappear inside the hotel. Apparently they go door to door across the island. Since we knew Bali has a problem with rabies, and had personally considered -and subsequently rejected- getting shots, it was interesting to witness the solution in action. As they were leaving, I saw one of the men put a watery bag containing a dark shape into the cooler...it looked awfully like a fish. Hm rabid fish? Perhaps lack of water made him desperate and he attacked a passing dog. You never know.