Volunteering in Bali

19th October

I arrived up to Ubud around midday and found my way to Chakra’s house but he was not there, I met the other people who were volunteering and they told me that I would be staying somewhere else as the beds had now all been filled at Chakras. I stayed with them for the day and then I got picked up at 7pm to take me to where I would be staying. It was about a 30min drive to get there and it was really nice but I had absolutely no signal and they didn’t have WiFi or anything either. The family were lovely but also didn’t speak a word of English so I thought it would be best for me to go back to where all the other volunteers were and check into the hostel over the road the next morning.

20th October

When I woke up in the morning I went down stairs to see the family and I ended up helping them prepare all their fruit and vegetables for them to sell to restaurants and hotels.

Chakra called and I said to him that I think I would prefer to move back closer to them and check into the hostel so he spoke with the man I was staying with and asked him to drop me off back to his house on the way to their sales drop offs.

When I arrived the other guys were on the way to the farm and told me that we were leaving at 10am to go to Denpasar, so I went and checked into my hostel and then walked back over to chakras at 10am ready to go and got chatting to everyone.

There were 5 of us volunteering for him.

Jess – from America

Ruby – from Singapore

Babette – from Germany

Manu – from France

And then me! So a nice mix of nationalities I thought.

Chakra turned up with a truck which could fit 3 people in the front and he put a blanket on the back for the rest of us to sit on. All of us girls decided that we would sit on the back and Manu got in front, it was fun for the first 30mins until we got to our first stop off to pick up a load of Meringa plants which look like wood. The plant grows and they chop it down to use and replant it to grow again, the plant itself is a superfood and great for the earth as well.

After we picked those up there was less room in the back so things got a little more squashed but it was still fun sat in the back especially as we were on busy roads and when we drove past everyone they were quite surprised to see a bunch of westerners (or Bule as they like to call us) on the back of a pickup truck with loads of wood.

We then arrived at the next place which was a house for disabled children which chakra helps them with trying to raise awareness and funds and also helps with planting trees and plants for them. They were so lovely there and we all sat on the floor and the brought us lots of food which had Meringa in. it was delicious. After the food they showed us what they do with all the Meringa that they grow here, they dehydrate it and then blend it up into a powder which they then put into little pots and sell that to stores. The Meringa powder as I mentioned earlier is a superfood and has so many beneficial qualities, and you use just a teaspoon of the powder in cooking, or you can add it to your water to give you more energy throughout the day.

Just before we were about to leave they told us they have some baby Meringa plants that we need to take with us also, so the truck now was getting pretty full, so I jumped in the front seat with Chakra and Manu.

I had a good talk with chakra, he is a very interesting man, he is not religious at all which is surprising in this country as everywhere you go here you are surrounded by Hindu religion with all the temples and offerings on the streets.

He says to me that he believes in the power of nature and not a god as such. He believes that nature will respond to human actions, like many of the tsunamis in the world are in countries where people dump stuff in the oceans and its nature’s way of wiping them out and giving the land back all the rubbish, and he thinks it will happen to Bali one day too as most of the people here are uneducated with what dumping rubbish into the rivers and the ocean will do so they do it.

It was a very interesting and deep conversation for the journey but I enjoyed speaking to him a lot.

The next stop was to a silent retreat surrounded by rice fields and it was beautiful. We were dropping off the Meringa plants and cuttings to them, and we had a look around while they were all sorting that out, and I saw a pineapple growing which I had never seen before. I always thought they grew either straight out the ground like vegetables or that the top of the pineapple was connected to the plant and the pineapple its self was hanging down….learn something new every day hey!

We then got back to the homestay around 4pm and we all went and had a shower then headed out for food to a cheap Indonesian restaurant called café bla bla. After food we walked back to the homestay and we were all ready for bed after the busy day but chakra was waiting for us and said he wanted to take us to a Tuak place (Tuak is a natural alcohol made from palm trees, where they drain the tree and the liquid that comes out is already alcoholic. Only around 2% but alcoholic none the less) so we all jumped on the bikes and followed him to this place which just looked like an empty shop but with lots of people just sat on the floor.

We were the only westerner there’s so everyone was having a good look at us and laughing when we were drinking the Tuak. It tasted really nice and not alcoholic at all which is the dangerous thing about it. It sort of tasted like a sweet but also bitter almost vinegary taste. They served the drinks in old water bottles and we had a few to drink there while chakra was talking to us about many things to do with the history of the world and how places came to be what they are today. I don’t understand how this man can fit so much information in his head.

After a few bottles of Tuak and many many stories we head back to the homestay but not before we got some Tuak takeout’s in plastic bags. We then sit around on the front and chakra brings out his guitar and starts playing music which we had to guess who sang it and what it was called. We did this for an hour or so before looking at the time and realising it was 1am and knowing we all had to be up at 6am we then decided to call it a night.

21st October

We woke up at 6am feeling rather tired but not hungover which was a nice feeling and headed to the farm for a few hours of work.

We were all quite unsure about what exactly needed to be done so we decided that we needed to sit down with chakra and get a proper idea of what he wants to happen there, otherwise we are just digging up grass and weeds all over the place when we may not need to in that area and I tell you what it is hard bloody work in that heat.

When we got back from the farm Chakra said he would like to take us to the rice milling and show us how it happens. So we jumped on the bikes and went to meet the people who deliver the rice to the clients, their main client is a company called Bali Buda which are a chain of restaurants in Bali. Chakra needed to look at the rice and make sure that it had been milled correctly and was up to standard of selling which it was.

After that we went back to the place where I stayed the first night and went to the back of the house where the milling machine was, we were going to mill some red rice but the people who had been there before us had left lots of rice that needed to be milled so we did it for them.

You pour the big bags of rice onto the bottom of the machine which then uses an elevator system to take it to the top and drop it into the machine, which has rubber bands running around inside that takes off the husk of the rice and shoots the husks out the back of the machine and the milled rice comes out the bottom. That is how you make brown rice and if you then want to make white rice you use the same system and the same rice but shut off the first compartment where it comes out and redirect it to a polishing area which then polishes the rice after the husk has been removed to take off an extra layer and then you have white rice.

I never knew that brown and white rice are the same thing and that white rice just needed an extra process in the machines, I just had always presumed they were different plants.

After all the rice milling we took chakra for food to discuss what he actually wants done on the farm, and we all felt like it went really well and that we had a plan of what needed to be done…..a lot of hard work was what needed to be done! Digging up trenches so we could get water running all the way through the farm, digging up very thick and long grass and weeds, planting trees, building chicken houses! Yep lots of hard work to come! Haha

After all of that we went back to the homestay and then had a bit of a nap, when I went back over to meet the guys for food jess told me that her phone was missing, and they thought that it was one of the men working on the house for chakra. After they had all left I told her to sign into my phone and use find my iPhone, it then showed up at the place that all the workers lived. We told chakra about it and he started calling the manager saying he knows the phone was there and he wanted it back.

While he was getting all that sorted out we decided to go for food to a vegetarian restaurant which was delicious, I ended up having a taco salad with poached eggs and red rice….yummy!!

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When we got back we were expecting Jess’ phone to be there but it wasn’t, the manager said that he had asked all his workers to give the phone back but they all denied having the phone, so chakra and jess took my phone and hopped on the bikes to go over there, they were gone for a while but when they came back they still didn’t have the phone, so obviously the person who took it decided to hide it.

Chakra told them all that none of them were getting paid or coming back to work until the phone was returned……it never was!

 

22nd October

This was Babette’s last day with us and Chakra wanted to take us all to see the world heritage rice fields which would take around 2 hours on the bikes. I was not looking forward to this as I was on the back of Manu’s bike and I felt like such a fatso compared to everyone else and that I was weighing his bike down.

Since my dodgy hip incident on the farm in Australia my hips are a lot less flexible than they used to be and get really tight (I swear I am not 70 years old yet am I?) so sitting on the back on Manu’s small bike and having to try and remain still my hips start to hurt and eventually feel like they are locked in place. My back is killing me and even my right knee starts hurting again after around 10 years of it being healed. (long story but old boyfriend who was an absolute asshole chucked plates at me dragged me through them and basically cut my leg open and I needed around 18 stitches – I sure do know how to pick them don’t I haha) anyways…..all of this pain comes after only 20mins on the back of the bike! KILL ME NOW!

Luckily….well I thought it was lucky anyway the heavens opened up and started absolutely hammering it down, we were all wearing shorts and small tops so we got cold and very wet very fast, luckily we saw somewhere with cover to wait out the rain. It was some kind of bike shop but there was one of the cart men there selling Bakso which was only 5000ringit, which works out to be around 30p for a bowl of this lovely soup, so we all ended up waiting around there eating soup and chain-smoking for around an hour before the rain stopped enough for us to continue on the way.

And onwards to the rice fields which were absolutely amazing. We sat at the top to have a Bali coffee looking out to the rice fields which was really nice and such a beautiful view, chakra pointed out to us which one of these plantations was his. After we had finished our coffees we jumped back on the bikes and rode down through the fields to chakras plantation and we all got out and went and had a look, I nearly ended up falling in one of the streams of water that they make to keep the rice nice and moist…luckily I managed to stabilise myself.

Once chakra had walked us around his plantation we got back on the bikes and rode down the road a little way and stopped on a big bridge, we all got off and looked over the side and saw a river and next to the river was a dirty looking pond that none of us would ever have gave a second look at. We walked down the steps to this dirty looking pool and stuck our hands in there…..it was so warm. It was a natural hot spring that was full of sulphur and other minerals which gave the pool its murky colour. Off came the clothes and in we went, it was so nice especially as it had got quite a bit cooler as it had been raining so much, none of us wanted to get out.

Not long after we got in the hot spring we were joined by 3 Balinese kids who stripped off everything and jumped in with us, I think they found it funny that us westerners were in there pool with them. Unfortunately it was time to get out and head back so that Babette could make her bus down to the south of the island in time to meet her friends.

Back on the bikes for an hour and half and back to the pain and the suffering of my quickly ageing body! But I made it back in one piece thank god! I think the hot spring had a lot to do with that as I felt like it had made all my muscles relax while I was in there.

As soon as we got back I said my goodbyes to Babette and I went and got myself showered and changed ready to go and meet Lisa and Nathan who I know from home. They were on their honeymoon. I walked out of the homestay and up the road for a bit until I found one of the bike taxis to take me all the way to the centre.

When I arrived at the bar they were in Lisa was on the phone to the banks in England as her card had apparently stopped working, she was on the phone for a while and I was just chatting away to Nathan. She then realised at the end of the call that the ATM she had tried to get money out of did not actually have a visa sticker on the front which means it doesn’t accept her card and that would be why they can’t get any money out. She quickly hung up on them.

We went to a few bars and had some cocktails and then I joined them for dinner at a place they had visited a few years before, it was lovely! Although our table wasn’t ready when we arrived and we did have to wait about 10 mins for it but ahhh well that’s Bali time for you.

After food we decided to go for another drink somewhere so we started walking around unsure of where to go and then we heard bob Marley playing down a little road so we obviously decided to follow the voice of bob…I mean come on who can resist him?

We ended up in a bar with a reggae band about to come on and also a monkey running around the place, I obviously went over and wanted to say hello to this tiny monkey. When I went over the man who was holding it just put it straight on my back and luckily I had my phone in my hand so quickly passed it to him and asked him to take a photo. I then went and sat back down and some guy decided to come and sit next to us who told me that the monkey was drunk. It had been doing shots of tequila which I just feel sorry for the monkey that the owner was feeding it booze when it was so tiny. Poor little guy.

Me and Lisa got up and had a bit of a boogie and left Nath with the guy who had taken a shining to me, and we stayed there for a few drinks and then it was time to go home. The guy who had come over and sat next to me tried to offer me a lift home but I said no, god knows where he would have actually taken me!

It was so nice to see them in Bali.

So far a good first week….to continue reading about my time with Chakra click HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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