Road Trip to Regreen Bali

Kadek Gunarta tends to his newest children: 5,000 bamboo plants

Kadek Gunarta tends to his newest children: 5,000 bamboo plants

Having fun and doing good…That’s a lesson I’ve learned from Kadek Gunarta.  I joined Dek and his team from Bali Regreen on a road trip to a very poor village in north Bali where they are helping to improve the welfare of hundreds of families.

Dek talking to the head of one of the banjar's at Songket B

Dek talking to the head of one of the banjar’s at Songket B

The Bali Regreen Project is led by Dek and sponsored by the Bali Spirit Festival Team.  It’s mission is to help improve the lives of villagers by helping them plant and then maintain and harvest bamboo which can be used for village ceremonies and as a cash crop.  Also, replanting hillsides destroyed by lava flows and erosion helps to markedly improve the environment.

Dek with Ketut one of the Bali Regreen community organizers and Supardi from Kompos Pedang Tegal.

Dek with Ketut one of the Bali Regreen community organizers and Supardi from Kompos Pedang Tegal.

But the Regreen Project is as much about community organizing and empowerment as it is about planting.  Dek and his team work closely with village leaders and farmers to plan the project, implement it and to maintain it.  Dek’s Team provides the expertise on how to plant and maintain bamboo, and works closely with farmers over many months and years.  The villagers contribute some funding for the projects, but most importantly provide the loving care to the bamboo that it needs to grow.

In addition to bamboo, the Regreen Project recently helped the Songket B villagers build a 9.6 km water pipeline to serve their village.  One of the main reasons that this village is so poor is that it lacks adequate water supplies.  There has been only 8 liters of water per day per household which is barely enough for drinking and washing with no water available to raise livestock or anything else.  Dek put together a plan that included finding a water source, pumps, pipes, water storage, construction and maintenance.  The pipeline was built in less than a month, and is now supplying water.  When I asked how the water supply has changed their lives, one woman replied that now her family has enough water for everyone to have a bath, and she’s bought some pigs and other livestock which will add to the family’s income.

Taking a bath with water from new water pipe built by Bali Regreen

Taking a bath with water from new water pipe built by Bali Regreen

Of course no Balinese road trip would be complete without a lot of joking and eating.  We made at least 3 stops for food at delicious local warungs and ended the day with a feast of Durian, the first time I ate this pungent fruit.

The mighty, fun-loving team from Bali Regreen

The mighty, fun-loving team from Bali Regreen

New Eco Club Joins Campaign to Keep Bali Beautiful

Wearing our new Eco Club SMAN1 Banjarankan t-shirts

Wearing our new Eco Club SMAN1 Banjarankan t-shirts

Thirty high school students from SMAN1 Banjarankan, Bali took a field trip on Monday to inspire them to become eco-educators at their school.  As the SMAN1 Eco Club, it will be their job to operate the school’s recycling program and to educate their fellow students about the value of recycling.

Sorting plastic at Bali Recycling

Sorting plastic at Bali Recycling

Olivier explaining how Bali Recycling converts plastic to products.

Olivier explaining how Bali Recycling converts plastic to products.

Kadek Donal makes Bali Recycling's Managers honorary Eco Clubbers.

Kadek Donal makes Bali Recycling’s Managers honorary Eco Clubbers.

These very motivated and smart kids first received a tour of Bali Recycling in Mas where Olivier Pouillon showed them how the plastic, paper and glass they recycle at their school is converted into valued products.  “Throwing that plastic away is like throwing money away,” said Olivier.  “We will pay you for that plastic, and make upcycled plastic products that we can sell,” he said.

Even old gum boots are recycled for planters at RumahKompos

Even old gum boots are recycled for planters at RumahKompos

Su.pardi of Rumah Kompos PadangTegal showing us how they make compost

Su.pardi of Rumah Kompos PadangTegal showing us how they make compost

Our next stop was to see Supardi at the Padang Tegal Rumah Kompos.  He showed us around this very efficient recycling and composting center across from Ubud’s Monkey Forest.  He also explained to us how plastic pollution poisons our air, water, animals and ultimately ourselves. IMG_3445

Finally it was lunch time where the great cooks and wonderful chefs served a delicious meal, and then treated us to a Yoga Class led by Andrea and Levi. IMG_3455

SMAN1 teachers getting into the yoga.

SMAN1 teachers getting into the yoga.

Made Max, Iloh Averi and Made Junie deep into meditation.

Made Max, Iloh Averi and Made Junie deep into meditation.

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Thank you Andrea, Levi and Yoga Barn for a great finish to the day.

 

Then back on the bus and homeward bound after enjoying a great day learning a lot and having fun!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIaZtepeC7g

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Klungkung Eco Clubbers Meet Bye Bye Plastic Bag Team

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Eco Club leaders from SMA1 Dawan and SMA1 Semarapura traveled to Kuta today and were inspired by the Team from Bye Bye Plastic Bag, a group of middle school miracle workers whose goal is nothing less than banning plastic bags in Bali.

Bye Bye Plastic Bag and Klungkung Eco Clubbers

Bye Bye Plastic Bag and Klungkung Eco Clubbers

Their strategy is just as audacious as their goal.  They are in the process of collecting ONE MILLION SIGNATURES on a petition to ban plastic bags in Bali.  If they can meet their goal, Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika has agreed to impose the ban.  If you would like to sign their petition, please click here.

SMA1 Dawan Eco Club leaders

SMA1 Dawan Eco Club leaders

Our Eco Club leaders and the Bye Bye Plastic Bag kids are planning to work together to solve the problem of plastic pollution in Bali.  Stand aside grown-ups.  Watching these kids in action, I have no doubt they will achieve their goal.

We were also able to sneak in a little fun too with a diversion to the beach at Sanur and to this silly tempat foto.

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The Summit: Leave it to the Gods

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Only the five best climbers were chosen from our group to challenge the summit.  I must have been number six.  I missed the cut and was bitterly disappointed.  But, the summit climb is very rugged and dangerous.  Two days before some hikers were literally blown off a ridge top.  When Wyasa told me he had tried the summit, but had to turn back I didn’t feel so bad since he’s about ten times stronger than me.

So instead of getting killed, I spent the day at the hot springs.  Thank God for being Number 6.

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At the moment this photo was taken, I had this perfectly warm spring all to myself.  Minutes later I was joined by 25 villagers from central Lombok.   These villagers were Muslim and dirt poor.  They had brought some food, a few plates to share and a pot to boil their rice.  They were planning to catch fish at Anak Laut to supply the bulk of their food. They were ecstatic about their upcoming vacation.  Of course they were surprised to find a white guy occupying their spring.  But we talked and joked for an hour.

Drying fish

Drying fish

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In America I might have been ticked off that 25 strangers invaded my space. But after living in Bali for 2 years, I’m used to the lack of privacy. It was fun in camp.  Everywhere I went people invited into their tents for coffee or a cigarette.  All these conversations started out exactly the same.  For the first five minutes it was all about exchanging information: Where did I live? Where was my wife?  How many kids?  Where was my wife?  When was I returning to Bali?  Where was my wife?  Did I like Lombok?  Where was my wife.  This is all pretty normal.  Indonesians want some basic information on where to place you.  Read Indonesia, Etc. by Elizabeth Pisani to get some funny insight on this.

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But even though my language skills are still weak, I could have some conversations.  I talked to a young architect about the techniques he uses to prevent his buildings from falling down in an earthquake.  I asked everyone if they liked Indonesia’s dynamic new president, Jokowi.  Most did not.  80% of Lombok voted for Jokowi’s opponent.  I talked to a man who holds down two jobs as a teacher and hotel employee, and wants to learn the Hindu slokas (chants).  I talked to a young couple who brought their eight-year old daughter with them on the trek.  They are middle class, but still stressed about the basic economic needs of putting food on the table and sending their daughter to school.

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Our final ceremony involved two fun events.  First, a group of brave young men jumped into the chilly lake.  They retrieved two stoppered bottles that had been placed in the lake the previous day.  The mystery would be to see if these bottles had filled with water. Miraculously, as they do every year, the bottles returned filled with holy water (tirta).  We cheered.

Counting the coin and jewelry offerings

Counting the coin and jewelry offerings

The second ritual involved collecting coins and jewelry amounting to several hundred dollars which would be given to the Gods of the lake as an offering.  We cheered again as another group of brave men swam out to give this gift.

Then we went to bed early for a 3am wake up call.  4am prayers…and 5am hitting the road.

The way out started with a two kilometer climb to the ridge top.  Wyasa and I started early, and avoided the traffic jams.  At the top one of the old guys yelled down: Stop Smoking and Keep Walking.  That’s because almost all of the young men would walk like rabbits for about five minutes and then stop for a cigarette break.  They are “Smoking Bunnies”, he told me.

Just five minutes before the end, the rain started.  We had achieved one of our key goals.  Our prayers had been answered.  It rained all the way back to Mataram, and I’m not sure if the rain has stopped since.  These guys really know what they are doing.  Places suffering drought, like California, might want to consult them.

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We hopped back on the bus.  Smoked a couple of clove cigarettes. And then the young guys dropped off to sleep sprawling across each other.  They may be Smoking Rabbits, but at that moment they reminded me a lot of puppy dogs.

Our porter Made

Our porter Made

Father and son porter team who also helped us.

Father and son porter team who also helped us.

Wyasa

Wyasa

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Fog rolling  into the lake

Fog rolling into the lake

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Jungle trekking in Borneo with Orangutans

Sailing on the Sekonyer River in the Rainforests of Borneo

Sailing on the Sekonyer River in the Rainforests of Borneo

“Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings.”

Apologies to Joseph Conrad for stealing this quote from The Heart of Darkness, but a recent trip to Tandjung Puting Park in Borneo to visit the world’s largest population of organgutans felt a bit like being a character in his novel.

Tandjung Puting is home to 6,000 organgutans which are one of the planet’s three great apes (chimpanzees and gorillas are the other two).  The park gives you an up close view of these remarkable animals.

Mom and her young one at one of Tandjung Puting's three feeding stations

Mom and her young one at one of Tandjung Puting’s three feeding stations

Gurundi, the dominant male at Tandjung

Gurundi, the dominant male at Tandjung Harapan

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I glimpsed a few orangutans in the wild, but mostly saw them at the park’s three feeding stations where rangers provide bananas once a day.

Tandjung Puting was first designated a national park by the Dutch in 1939, and later by the Indonesian government, but the orangutan reserve is mainly the work of a remarkable scientist named Birute Galdikas who arrived here in 1971 by dugout canoe.

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She spent years following the orangutans often wading or standing in peat swamps with water up to her chest.  These videos were made in less rugged conditions.

It was a magical experience watching these creatures emerge from jungle.  You first would see tree branches swaying and then would catch a glimpse of red hair in the trees and finally they would slowly walk or swing over to the feeding platform.

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In addition to researching the orangutans, Dr. Galdikas also began a rehabilitation program for hundreds of them that had been captured or lost their homes due to rainforest destruction.  The feeding stations are a step in their rehab program to become completely independent “wild” creatures of the rainforest.  For more info click here.

Standing near wide buttress roots of rainforest trees

Standing near wide buttress roots of rainforest trees

Jungle trekking in Borneo

I spent a few days just walking through the jungle which is different than any trek in the Sierras.  First, the rainforests are home to a remarkable number of plant species.  A single acre might have hundreds of different tree species and other plants.  In addition to orangutans these forests are also home to many different kinds of animals and plants.  Here are just a few:

Kingfisher

Kingfisher

Sun Bear

Sun Bear

Proboscis Monkey

Proboscis Monkey

Hornbill

Hornbill

Clouded Leopard

Clouded Leopard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness”

Also saw tarantulas, crocodile, eagles, macaques, wild boars, crestless fireback, grey heron, mynahs, maroon monkey, gibbons and a few more I couldn’t identify.

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My guides were from the village of Sekonyer.  A generation before their families were people of the jungle.  These men were deeply familiar with the jungle.  It was like walking through a pharmacy as they pointed out trees and plants and the medicinal uses.

Muliadi also had the ability to whistle like birds who lived in the forest.  He would whistle and the birds would return the call.

He also told us a few stories.  His father had a long-standing dialogue with a green viper, one of the most poisonous in the jungle.  This snake stalked him for several weeks. Finally, the father made a deal with him….you can hang with me for two more weeks, then after you need to go home…apparently it worked.

Forest fruits

Forest fruits

Pitcher plants

Pitcher plants

 

Muliadi invited us to visit his village of Sekonyer which had been moved from the park side of the river to the other side with a grant from the Japanese government.  I assumed it would be a very poor village.  However, was surprised to find streets with pavers, nice houses, solar-powered street lamps and a satellite dish at every house.  Just another example, of the clash between the old and new here in Indonesia.

Solar-Powered Street Lamps

Solar-Powered Street Lamps in Desa Sekonyer

The rainforests are spectacular, but they have been devastated by logging, palm oil plantations and other forms of destruction.  Dr. Galdikas has done a remarkable job of educating the locals and others why the park and rainforest should be preserved.  But you can see the pressure of development and modernization at work here every day.  For more information click here.

Lest you think that the jungle means deprivation and hardship…the Indonesians have found a way to make the trip very easy.  You travel in a boat called a klotok with your own guide, cook and crew.  The food is delicious.  You sleep on the river under a mosquito net while listening to the sounds of forest…

Bikram yoga in the jungle

Bikram yoga in the jungle

“We couldn’t understand because we were too far… and could not remember because we were traveling in the night of first ages, those ages that had gone, leaving hardly a sign… and no memories.”

Climbing a Bali Volcano…with a little extra help

 

Gunung Agung, Bali's highest volcano at 9,000 feet

Gunung Agung, Bali’s highest volcano at 9,000 feet

Most trekkers appeal to the Gods for support before climbing Gunung Agung, Bali’s 9,000 foot volcano.  Some of us also need chocolate.

Prayer at Pasar Agung, By Joseph Smith Mewha

Prayer at Pasar Agung, By Joseph Smith Mewha

The trip began at sunrise with prayer at Pasar Agung temple.  I said a few more than usual for my knees, legs, feet and lungs.

Sunrise: The Trek Begins

Sunrise: The Trek Begins

This is a volcano so there is no meandering or switchbacks or any other wimpy western trekking crutches.  The trail went straight up the damn mountain.  The trail began on a narrow path through the jungle which as we rose became less dense and eventually ended after about 2 hours.  The last hour and a half was a scramble over rocks and boulders until a final push of nearly straight up to the rim of volcano…which overlooked this very big, ugly caldera.

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We were eleven.  Joe, Alex and me from America (Max smartly stayed home with Bali Belly) and eight ashram members (Wyasa 1 and 2, Artha, Nengah, Adi, Kawenuh, Komang and Sugi).  Our Balinese friends were bundled up for freezing weather and wore an odd assortment of trekking gear.

Wayan Wyasa, wearing Nomad Bandit trekking gear

Wayan Wyasa, wearing Nomad Bandit trekking gear

Cowboy Nengah

Cowboy Adi

Kawenuh

Kawenuh

Sugi and Adi

Sugi and Adi

Alex, Joe and Kawenuh

Alex, Joe and Kawenuh

Sheik Komang on the mountain

Sheik Komang on the mountain

Also proud that our group picked up several bags of plastic garbage on the trail and recycled it.  Nengah, Kawenuh and Wyasa 1 won the prize for best recyclers.

Our final ascent to one of the holy places on the rim was delayed by a group offering prayers from a village in Karangasem.  Some of us waited our turn to pray.

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The caldera from the rim with incense for prayers

The caldera from the rim with incense for prayers

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Some walked over to the party place to celebrate reaching the top.

By Joe Smith Mewha

By Joe Smith Mewha

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Wyasa Perseda celebrating

Wyasa Perseda celebrating

Showoff

Showoff

Flaunting it at the top

Flaunting it at the top

Some just celebrated the fact it was over.

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Canti,

Pak Dave

Bali Eco Club’s Field Trip…Keeping Bali Beautiful

 

Eco Club Members from SMA1 Dawan (High School) at Temesi Recycling

Eco Club Members from SMA1 Dawan (High School) at Temesi Recycling

On a field trip last week to recycling centers and one of the island’s most eco-conscious businesses, 30 high-school kids from Dawan, their principal and teachers learned how their school’s recycling efforts fit into the larger picture of cleaning up plastic pollution to Keep Bali Beautiful.

And we had a lot of fun.

Eco Clubbers on the Bus

Eco Clubbers on the Bus

SMA1’s Eco Club just recently launched the school’s recycling program in partnership with Ashram Gandhi Puri.  The Club members are responsible for doing the recycling itself, and educating the school community why we need to beat plastic pollution and Keep Bali Beautiful.  

Our first stop was Temesi Recycling which takes our plastic, glass and paper garbage.  They then sell the high value materials to recyclers in Bali and ship the lower value waste to Surabaya where it is recycled into new products.

At Temesi Recycling

At Temesi Recycling

 

 

 

Separating plastic from household garbage at Temesi

Separating plastic from household garbage at Temesi

At our next stop, the team at Bali Recycling showed us their very efficient operations, and then took us to visit an illegal dump in Gianyar Regency which has filled up a river with garbage.  The kids were outraged at this illegal and institutionalized practice which is polluting the river and the land.

Illegal dump in Gianyar Regency

Illegal dump in a riverbed, Gianyar Regency

Our final stop was in Ubud where Yoga Barn co-founder Kadek Gunarta told us the story of how his business uses environmentally-conscious practices.  He also described the success story of how his village and its families and businesses have launched a comprehensive system to reduce waste, conserve energy and water and recycle.  It ended the day on a very positive note.

Eco Club Partners with Kadek Gunarta at Yoga Barn, Ubud.

Eco Club Partners with Kadek Gunarta at Yoga Barn, Ubud.

We all still have a lot to learn about how to be Eco Clubbers. But we’re convinced this will be a great learning experience for all concerned.  In fact, today SMA1 conducted a village wide clean-up day where Eco Clubbers led the way in picking up and recycling plastic and other waste.

The SMA1 Negara Dawan recycling program is a partnership between the school and Ashram Gandhi Puri.  Our other key partners are Ahimsa In Action which funds the project, Temesi Recycling who takes our separated waste and Yoga Barn which contributed our program’s recycling stations and storage shed at cost.

If you would like to help grow our Keep Bali Beautiful program, please consider a donation to Ahimsa In Action.  Your donation is tax-deductible in the USA.  Go to http://www.AhimsaInAction.com  and click support at the top right of the home page.

Our Principal, Kawenuh and Pak Dave

Our Principal, Kawenuh and Pak Dave

Lunch at Yoga Barn

Lunch at Yoga Barn

Sorting the garbage at Temesi

Sorting the garbage at Temesi

 

Keeping Bali Beautiful

Clean-Up with our Partners at SMA2 High School

Clean-Up Day with our Partners at SMA2 High School

 Plastic pollution is a huge problem in Bali.  It seems that every river, every beach, every village, every temple, and every household is becoming blighted by discarded bottles, bags and other plastic rubbish.

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Our first step was to clean up our own act.

You must be the change you want to see in the world.”  -Gandhi

At the ashram we decided that enough was enough.  We researched whether there are credible plastic recyclers on the island, and there are, and we put together a deal with them to pick up our plastic garbage.

It took some time for our ashram members to grasp the concept of recycling after a lifetime of simply throwing rubbish on the ground.  But after a couple of months they caught on and embraced it.

We knew there was a breakthrough when Kadek and Komang returned from a weekend trip to their village to tell us how much they hated the “plastic sampah,” littering their home, and what a shame it was that the villagers didn’t recycle.

We really knew we had made progress when Kawenuh talked his high school principal into starting a recycling program.  Kawenuh also took the lead in organizing an Eco Club at the school to operate the program and educate all of the students at the school.

SMA1 Eco Club

SMA1 Eco Club

We’ve now begun to expand our little recycling operation into more schools and hopefully our village of Pakse Bali. We’re hopeful of making progress, but our eyes are open to the many obstacles we will face….of which we will keep you posted.

If you’d like to help with our Bali Recycling Program, go to: Ahimsa In Action