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

Best Massage in Bali

Felicity and I have been engaged in comprehensive, dogged research these past two years to find the very best massage in Bali.  This project has taken us to every part of the island to fancy resort spas, therapy centers, street-side masseuses… you name it.  Literally dozens of massages and hundreds of hours were put into this job.  I’m exhausted just writing about it. Seriously, there are some excellent masseuses and spas in Bali…better per square kilometer than any place in the world.

After compiling our findings and running many analytics, statistical equations, meditating and praying, we have a winner:  THE BEST MASSAGE IN BALI IS BY IBU KETUT of Subak Tabola.  She leads the spa team at Subak Tabola on a beautiful hilltop in Sidemen.

Ibu Ketut, The Best Masseuse in Bali

Ibu Ketut, The Best Masseuse in Bali

Ibu Ketut is strong and well-trained. She’s worked as a masseuse all over Asia. She really knows what she’s doing, and after an hour in her strong hands you feel like a newborn baby. Ibu is also about the kindest person you’ll ever meet, and you’re part of the family after the first massage. Ketut has trained the other members of the Subak Tabola Spa Team so whoever gives you a massage, you’ll love it.

The Subak Tabola spa setting is also beautiful. It’s not the least bit fancy. The spa is the patio of an old Javan joglo that sits next to an irrigation canal and rice fields. While Ketut or Kadek works on you, you hear the water rushing and hear the birds singing. Afterwards, you can take a shower or bath outside, and then head off to the bar and pool at Subak Tabola or its sister hotel next door, Surya Shanti. You can book a massage with Ketut by contacting Ayu at Subak Tabola 081337597898. Subak Tabola website: SubakTabolaVilla.com Surya Shanti Website:

View from the Subak Tabola spa.

View from the Subak Tabola spa.

SuryaShantiVilla.com

I’m sure other folks have their favorite massages, and you’re welcome to add a comment with your favorite. But once Ketut has worked on you, you will be spoiled forever.

Canti,
Pak Dave

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

Keep Bali Beautiful preview

For more information or if you’d like to help Keep Bali Beautiful, please complete this form:

Bye Bye Plastic Bag Movement Grows

Isabel and Melati from Bye Bye Plastic Bag with Klungkung Eco Clubbers, Komank from Udayana University , Puji from Keep Bali Beautiful and Lucas from DASH

Isabel and Melati from Bye Bye Plastic Bag with Klungkung Eco Club Leaders Gita and Reny, Komank from Udayana University , Puji from Keep Bali Beautiful and Lucas from DASH

Bye Bye Plastic Bag (BBPB) the kid-run organization with the big mission of banning plastic bags in Bali organized a coalition of more than 100 organizations (including Keep Bali Beautiful) and individuals to assist their effort at a meeting last week.

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 The BBPB Coalition will be focused on educating schools, businesses and villages throughout the island about the problems that plastic bags and other pollution causes for the people of Bali, and what they can do to solve it.

A the BBPB Coalition Meeting

At the BBPB Coalition Meeting

They will be organizing marches, awarding businesses that take the pledge to be plastic-free, delivering their message to the news media and continuing their campaign to obtain one million signatures to ban plastic bags.

If you would like to sign the petition to make Bali plastic bag free, click here. Or if you would like to volunteer to be part of the campaign to Keep Bali Beautiful click here.

Keep Bali Beautiful preview

University Students Take Pledge to Keep Bali Beautiful

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During a leadership retreat at Ashram Gandhi Puri, nearly 100 student leaders from the Institute of Hindu Dharma pledged they would personally take charge of helping to solve the problem of plastic pollution in Bali.  They will help create an Eco Club at their university to recycle plastic and Keep their Campus Beautiful.

These students bring a lot of enthusiasm, smarts and leadership skills.  Their commitment to cleaning up their island is a big step forward.  It’s part of our strategy to help provide these young people with the tools and infrastructure to help them achieve their goal.

Find out more at Keep Bali Beautiful.com

On the trail to Rinjani

This Was the Easy Day

This Was the Easy Day

We walked in the dark for the first hour, and thank God, because actually seeing the cliff faces we were walking on would have scared me into turning back.  By the time it was light, we were too far up the trail to bailout especially since there were 200 people behind me….And this was the easy day.

Our porters carried their stuff in rice bags hung on bamboo poles.

Our porters carried their stuff in rice bags hung on bamboo poles.

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Hiking with Putu

Hiking with Putu

With our group partners Ibu and Kadek

With our group partners Ibu and Kadek

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Every morning and evening, the community prayed together.  No matter what the religion, there’s something very powerful about praying with 250 people in a beautiful outdoor setting.  Our prayers were primarily to harmonize with God, nature and other people (Tri Hata Karana) which means we prayed to the primary Hindu trilogy of Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (The Protector) and Shiva (The Destroyer).  We always finished with the Tri Sandhya mantra which is the most common prayer in Bali.  It is chanted at public schools every morning and in most temple ceremonies.

Our group ascending to Anak Laut.

Our group ascending to Anak Laut.

Sprinkling tirta (holy water)

Sprinkling tirta (holy water)

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The chief priest offering prayers.

The chief priest offering prayers.

The Tri Sandhya is followed by the traditional five prayers using flowers:

1. Pray for your soul “atman.”  2. Pray to Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and your ancestors.  3. Honor the one God, and ask forgiveness of your sins.  4. Prayers asking God to help heal the sick.  5. Pray for peace in your soul and the world.

Then comes the water purification ceremony.  The assistant priests (mangkus) first sprinkle water on your head followed by three sprinkles to drink and another three for washing your face.  I’ve heard the Balinese form of Hinduism called Agama Tirta, or the Religion of Holy Water.  Water is the key element in all Balinese ceremonies.  For example, in the cremation ceremony, tirta is the mechanism which releases the soul to return to heaven.

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Holy Water (Tirta) from Anak Laut

Improvised temple at Anak Laut

Improvised temple at Anak Laut

Sorry, to go into detail on this, but the Tri Sandhya, these prayers and the water rituals are really at the heart of Bali’s culture.  I can’t pretend to fully understand all of their meaning, but for every Balinese it really goes to the soul of their spiritual and community lives.  It’s these daily rituals that define the people and their culture.  In a very concrete way it makes one feel bound to God, bound to your community and bound to nature.  The Balinese are very open in allowing outsiders to participate in their rituals.  It’s something we’ve done for many decades while visiting here and at home.

A mid-morning ceremony

A mid-morning ceremony

Blessing a goose who is about to become an offering

Blessing a goose who is about to become an offering

Our group sacrificed several chickens and other foul as a way of feeding the spirits above and below which helps our prayers become accepted.  Good news Bad news story for the chickens.  Good news is that their souls are reincarnated into higher beings.  Bad news: your lunch

Our group sacrificed several chickens and other foul as a way of feeding the spirits above and below which helps our prayers become accepted. Good news Bad news story for the chickens. Good news is that their souls are reincarnated into higher beings. Bad news: your lunch

Hindu or Christian, Pak Dave?

Surprisingly, no one had asked me this question before.  But since we were spending 24/7 together sweating our way up the mountain, a few Balinese people risked asking me this personal question because they observed me practicing the Balinese Hindu rituals.  My answer was that I was born and remain a Christian.  And during this journey, I spent a long time thinking about the Sermon on the Mount.  What I love about Jesus is that he was such a subversive, and there’s nothing more revolutionary than the Sermon on the Mount’s direction for people to go deeper into their souls in understanding and following the Ten Commandants.  It’s intention that counts as much as ritual and external acts.  At the time, it was a direct assault on the rituals of the synagogue.  It’s also a reminder that excessive ritual which can happen in Bali Hinduism, Catholicism, and other churches is sometimes a distraction from getting to the heart of the matter.

I also told him I was a Hindu because it helps explain the reality I’ve experienced in the world and in life.  Also, I particularly love the Balinese approach to Hinduism which is a mish-mash for spirituality, community and common-sense.

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And finally I told him that I’m on the hunt for other religions to understand. I’m now reading the Koran, for instance.  So this pretty much blew his mind because Indonesians (at least officially) like to have clear labels for people.  The national identity card (until yesterday when the new government changed the law) , for example, requires every citizen to identify his/her religion. But this ecumenical view is all very Gandhian.  Gandhi was an adamant respecter of all religions, and carried a copy of the Gita, Sermon on the Mount and Koran with him.

With one of the mangku's (assistant priests)

With one of the mangku’s (assistant priests)

Sorry for the diversion into theology.  But as you can tell, this adventure turned out to be as much as spiritual journey for me and my new friends as it was a mountaineering adventure.

Back to the Climb

We spent the second night along a river that was very fresh but with a yellow color from the sulfuric lava rock and hot springs nearby.  There were few tent sites available, so we ended up camping on a bed of ashes from a forest fire that had burned the area very recently.  Smokey the Bear would not be happy about cavalier approach to campfires practiced by these Balinese trekkers. In fact, a couple of logs nearby were still shooting flames out.  The yellow river proved to be an excellent tub. Fortunately, our drinking water came from a fresh spring further up the hill.

Clean, but sulfury water great for bathing, not so good for drinking

Clean, but sulfury water great for bathing, not so good for drinking

We arose again at 5am, and sat on hard, cold rocks for a quick morning prayer before the day’s hike began. While the trail turned out to be quite steep in places, the pain in our bodies was soothed by diversions to two sacred sites.  The first one we slithered into a cave through a very small opening.  Inside the cave was a warm pool where we prayed in all five sacred directions.  We then hiked another few miles to a second cave where the Goa Susu (cave milk) or hot springs soothed our aching muscles and blessed our souls.

Wyasa emerging from the cave opening after praying

Wyasa emerging from the cave opening after praying

Praying inside the cave to the five sacred directions

Praying inside the cave to the five sacred directions

Climbing through Goa Susu (cave milk)

Climbing through Goa Susu (cave milk)

Wyasa getting his Buddha on

Wyasa getting his Buddha on

Finally, we hiked into our final camp at beautiful Anak Laut (Child of the Sea) a crater lake formed in the caldera of the Rinjani volcanoes.  Yes, that is plural.

Anak Laut

Anak Laut

And we finally got our first peek at the summit of Rinjani.

Anak Laut

Anak Laut

Next up:  Pak “Spiderman” Dave traverses cliffs and ledges at Panjor Mas.

Oh Shit

Oh Shit

 

Bali Tooth Filing and Cremation Ceremony

Putu, Komang, Father and Kadek in front.  Grandfather and uncle in back

Putu, Komang, Father and Kadek in front. Grandfather and uncle in back

Saturday was a very auspicious day for ashram members Kadek Ayu Ariani, Komang Ayu Juliantari and their sister Putu Ayu Astri.  Five years after their mother died, they were able to cremate her.  The mass cremation ceremony was sponsored by a Member of Parliament from the Karangasem area.

Big sister Putu, took charge of making sure her sisters were taken care of

Big sister Putu, took charge of making sure her sisters were taken care of

The sisters and their family worked all week long preparing offerings for the cremation.  After the ceremony they walked down to the sea where they released her ashes to return to the universe.  Very moving.

But wait that’s not all.  The same afternoon, there was another important ceremony for Balinese…tooth filing or mesangih.  This ritual is usually performed around 16 or 17 years old.  However, it’s expensive so many poor people cannot afford.  But the same organization sponsored the mesangih for more than 200 people including Kadek and her father.

Showing off their filed down teeth

Showing off their filed down teeth

Kadek praying before the ceremony begins

Kadek praying before the ceremony begins

Dad under the knife

Dad under the knife

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