Our day began sharing one of Chef Wayan’s fabulous vegetable omelettes. Today was our day to go on a guided tour of the Sidemen Valley rice paddies. The sun was shining and a perfect day for our walk.
Our Guide Gusti Tanggi met us and we walked down the road across the fallen bridge, through the village we had explored earlier and then we turned off into the rice paddies. The experience is impossible to describe with words but I will attempt to. The track that we took to commence with was a concrete edge of a large water channel that gradually rose upwards towards the base of the mountain that cradled the area. The landscape was breathtakingly beautiful! We passed young rice, baby rice seedlings, long beans, sweet potato, peanuts, corn, tapioca and offering flowers.
The real star was the vista of endless terraces dotted with day huts usually with a cow inside. The cows are fed cut vegetation and their droppings is then used to fertilise the rice. The farms are all quite small and this form of agriculture is very intense and requires a lot of manual labour.
We walked along terrace banks, some no wider than our feet, for over two hours all the time partaking of some of the most magnificent vistas you could imagine. The sighting of a flock of ducks on a terrace was exactly what Erica had wanted to see. Eventually we reached a tiny village and were back on a road. A suspension bridge enabled us to recross the pristine river below and after another 20 minute or so we arrived at the site of the “Once in Fifty Years” ancestor ceremony that has been going on all week.
Today was the last day and the people had already departed to the sea to let free the souls of their ancestors. The Hindu people here cremate their dead as they believe they do not own the land and have no right to be on it when they are dead. They generally use an open air cremation technique and this area adjoins a special Cremation Temple into which dead persons can be taken. This takes care of the physical but the soul according to them is not released until the ancestors have held the week long ceremony. At this ceremony the culmination comes with the cremation of two effigies, one for women and one for men. This had happened last night amid much feasting in the most elaborate temporary structures made especially for this ceremony.
We were able to enter as the festival was over and marvelled at the structures. We rested a while there and were given water by the remaining staff who had been manning a giant kitchen. Thinking the walk was almost over we headed off again behind Tanggi our guide.
Well the most difficult part was left until last as we traversed through many narrow paths with precipitous drops until we reached his farm. He proudly showed us some fighting cock chickens he was rearing and explained that his long bean crop had failed this year as it was too dry and the previous Chilli crop had failed because it was too wet. We tasted some of the remaining beans and they were yummy.
Now we headed off cross country to our bungalow. The terrain became much more difficult and Tanggi called out warnings about “fall holes” and thin and slippery surfaces every minute or so. It was one of these “slippery” calls that bought me undone. Stepping across the slippery section on the edge of the water channel I slid sideways into it! Erica and Tanggi rushed to my aid and were both relieved to find that bar a graze and a twisted knee I had survived alive! I was quickly on my feet again and we continued albeit with Erica giving many backward glances when we reached difficult sections.
Just when we thought we had mastered this sort of terrain we came to a deep and wide channel with the only realistic option of crossing for us old folks being a skinny gnarly log sloping from one side to the other! There was no choice and although the fear of slipping and falling was great I with assistance from Tanggi negotiated a shaky crossing. Erica was next as her knees can just give way on her at times I decided to let Tanggi do the honours. I stood back and snapped some pics! She made it with flying colours and we continued for about another 20 minutes on increasingly thinner rice terrace walls until we arrived at The Village Temple undergoing renovation. It was originally surrounded by houses but when Mt Agung last erupted the villagers fled from the area and it is now all rice paddies.
After a wonderful three hour walk we arrived home. It was the most remarkable and memorable experience to have walked amongst a form of agriculture than has been going on unchanged for thousands of years and it gave us an even greater understanding of rural Balinese life.
There is a certain synchronicity of life and it is not much better illustrated than by this. As we passed on this walk below The Villa Idanna, Tanggi mentioned it and told us he does massages there all the time. We mentioned our friend had stayed there about 2 years ago and on enquiring his name Tanggi exclaimed “Mr Graham”. It turns out he had showed Graham his farm and given him massages during his stay. It truly is a small world!