Candidassa and Tenganan

One day we hauled our snorkel gear up and over the hill to Blue Lagoon, a highly recommended spot in which to explore the fish and corral. From the shore it was stunningly beautiful. The water was a translucent green-blue, and looked like moving glass. Surrounding the beach on both sides was a bowl of black lava rock, spilled centuries ago from Gunung Agung, Bali’s mother volcano that towers over the eastern half of the island. But the surf was too fierce and dramatic to enter on foot (flipper) on this day, and so we went with the flow, and put off snorkeling for another time.

Plan B: Get-away from our get-away from our get-away. We saddled up the motorbike and headed east. First stop: Maggis, known for its beautiful, steep, hill views, and a particular type of tree from the region, honored with a large sculpture of one in the middle of town. We pretty much struck out on both counts. We learned that a 100 cc motorbike will not carry 2 people up steep hills, and we passed the sculpture 2-3 times before we saw it -in the middle of a busy roundabout. We moved on.

Jennifer knew of a renown resort on our way, so up its long driveway we scooted until our small engine could scoot no more. Jennifer was determined, even if it meant that I would scoot to the top and wait for her to walk there. A beautiful day, I enjoyed the fabulous view looking down over the jungle, rice fields, bridges and distant mountains, which looked too perfect, like a SIMS game. Once she arrived, Jennifer was able to do what I could not: sweet-talk the guards into letting us pass. They raised the gate, and downward we coasted, to the parking lot of the first restaurant. Nearby was the first of several looooong, stunning, emerald-tiled pools, with no one in any of them -nor nearly anywhere. The pools were terraced down the lush green hillside, and we walked further and further down to the last one, where we needed to sit and gulp down glasses of water kindly offered from the sympathetic staff member. Jennifer’s favorite part of our spa visit was our private golf-cart shuttle all the way back to the gate. She was let off there while I was driven back to our bike, and watched as a delivery truck was searched thoroughly, including the use of a mirror attached to the end of a pole, to look up at the chassis from underneath.

C(h)andidassa lies at the far end of the big bay that we were circumnavigating. Just as we entered we found a  cluster of outdoor warungs (cheap and authentic eateries) near the ocean that hit the spot. Two kilometers later, we found a large and beautiful lagoon, that backed into the ocean at the far corner. Next to it -behind the front buildings, was a hidden oasis of an ashram. Large, gorgeous flowers and murals of Gandhi graced the grounds, and led us farther back past thatched cottages, a yoga stage, and 2 of the most beautiful, velvety, and graceful cows imaginable, doing their job of mowing the perfect, cropped green grass. A slender wooden gate in the far back opened up onto our very own small beach, where we happily combed amid a tranquil setting of turquoise ocean on one side, lush jungle mountains on the other, and the glowy aura of the ashram everywhere.

Across the main street stood a beautiful temple with many tall flights of stairs that beckoned. We paid a small fee to rent the appropriate temple sarongs and sashes. We then turned the scooter around and headed back west, but soon took a northbound road and followed it into the hills until it ended, at Tenganan, a walled village, and home of the Bali Aga people -descendants of the original Balinese. Its a fiercely conservative community -engines not allowed (feet only!). It’s long and rectangular, and terraced upward with steps every so often. It’s one of 2 places in the world that utilizes a form of weaving called the Double Ikat technique, which can take 9 years to finish a single piece. Besides the stunning batiks and ata palm baskets, the village artisans are also famous for an incredibly intricate style of story telling, created by carving detailed pictures into lontar palm strips, rubbing them with dyes that fill the scratches, and then stringing the strips together to fold and unfold vertically. Until the 1970’s Tenganan was a closed society, and the villagers still practice unusual rituals. The dead, for example, are not cremated, but are instead buried face down, naked, and without a coffin.

We instantly recognized that this was a special place to visit. Water buffalo roamed freely, as did strangely dyed chickens of yellow, pink and purple. A long, elevated, thatched building was filled with men on one side, shaving and pounding coconut, and women clustered on the other side, hanging out. Onward we strolled, further into the quiet village, past ritual pavilions, beautifully cobbled homes, hanging batiks, intriguing open doorways, walls covered with carved masks, more strangely dyed chickens, and village residents living their lives: children grouped in a circle on the ground, playing cards; young men playing volleyball; an older man on his small porch, sitting in a beautifully made chair of wood and rubber tires, gently playing his homemade xylophone.

Eventually we passed through the far northern gate, and entered a windy, more lush area. Men and women, carrying baskets of fruit began to assemble near a small building. The men sat and watched as the women arranged the food. Further ahead, alone again, we came to a huge, gorgeous banyan tree, situated at the start of a large temple complex that felt rich in history, and special. We learned a bit later that our sense was correct. We continued on the narrow foot path for some distance until we came to a closed wooden gate, suggesting it was time for us to turn around. Heading back, we began to hear beautiful, exotic chimes off in the distance coming from somewhere up ahead. We followed the beautiful rhythms back to that banyan tree, where large bowls of meat, poultry, rice and fruit now sat at its base. Close by, a group of men sat playing original, ancient, gamelon selonding instruments, which use iron-keyed metallophones. They were practicing for a ceremony that would begin at midnight. We were enchanted, and sorely tempted to find away to stay and witness it.

As we strolled back through the village, we took different streets, offering more glimpses of this fascinating village. We met an old man, dressed in a red silk shirt, who showed us into his home, lived in by his ancestors going back many, many generations. Draped batiks, varving tools, and bird cages filled his dwelling, and it was a treat to see, but we were more focused on his 5 inch-long fingernail instead. Back outside and on our way, we tried to explore the eastern gate and steep stairs that rose sharply into the hills, but a growling white dog stood at the threshold, and told us to move along. It was getting cooler, which brought out the villagers and children -and an expanded social scene- but it was also getting dark, and we were still a ways from home.

Just before we stepped out of the village, Jennifer noticed a group of black roosters, sitting up on the branches of a thin tree, looking like over-sized Christmas ornaments.

-matt

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Raphaelle McMahon
    Jun 12, 2013 @ 01:31:19

    The social sins included religion without…sacrifice! Ulp. Old time religion. All that uneaten food? What is the significance of 699? Thanks for the ongoing feast of utterly new sights and painted chickens. Rapha

    Reply

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