Its the day of the Ogoh-Ogoh festival! A day of loud music and crazy parades.
The day before Nyepi, the main streets of every village pretty much shut down, and giant effigies of demons and gods are paraded through the streets along with dancers and loud music before being burned to purify the island for the New Year. As such, most shops and stores start shutting down early, and roadblocks start popping up everywhere.
When I wake up, I spend a good chunk of the morning in the reception area making plans for my last few days (this is important later), before walking over to the beach to see what the options were for surfing lessons. However, when I got there, I discovered there were some starting very soon…but I hadn’t brought anything with me as I’d assumed lessons would have started already. I was pretty ticked at myself, and headed back to the hostel. In the dorm, 2 guys (Olly and Eddie) were packing up – the hostel had told Olly that he had to be moved out of the dorm room and share a private room with a random stranger. He’d disagreed, so was moving to the Downtown Hostel with Eddie. We ended up chatting, and turned out they were heading to the beach to rent surfboards – I mentioned my bad luck and they invited me along. When I said I had idea how…turns out neither did they, but figured it couldn’t be too hard to learn. So I tagged along – and let them do the haggling for the board. 50,000 for 2 hours later, we hit the water.
I probably do need lessons, but to be honest, most of it reminds me of wakeboard/surfing. Weight on the back in the swell and direct with the front foot. As such I managed to ride quite a few waves while lying down, and got up for a few seconds twice. However, about an hour into the learn-as-you-go lesson, a wave caught me by surprise and I got conked in the head with my surfboard. This pretty much knocked me for six and spent most of my time just floating on the board after that. Ended up all coming out around 90 minutes later. At which point I started to realise that my suncream was clearly not as resistant as my usual brand (couldn’t get my hands on banana boat in the UK) and I’d forgotten to hit up a few parts of my body that my top normally covered but my swimsuit didn’t. As such I was a little bit sun sunstroked, and would probably be pretty sore come tomorrow… From now on, I don’t leave the bloody HOUSE without banana boat suncream…
Had lunch at a small Indonesian cafe, and made arrangements to meet up at 5:30 so we could try and get a good spot for the parade. I head back to my hostel, and get to enjoy a decent shower before the receptionist waves me over.
Remember why Olly was leaving? Turns out it wasn’t an overbooking as we’d assumed (its impossible to get an accurate explanation out of people in Bali – every time you ask you get another answer), but that the dorms were closing due to them being attached to the outer area which was being blocked off for Nyepi. So they wanted ME to pack my bags and move to private room, and share a double bed with someone I’d never bet.
Uh…no. I’ll do many things on my travels, but when I’ve paid for a bed, I am NOT going to share a double bed with complete stranger – who thanks to the festival, may have been drinking. I have enough issues without going through that kind of hell, thank you. I ask her why she hadn’t told me earlier so I might have gotten something else arranged, and she says she couldn’t find me (remember, was in the reception ALL MORNING, and then LEFT with Olly who was leaving after being told just that). I admit I was far more snippy that I should have been with her, which I’m sorry about (and do apologise later), but there was no warning that this would happen. They’ve been warning us about Nyepi all week, but there is no warning that the dorms would close, not when we booked in, or even a notice on the board to warn us! It literally got thrown at us last minute. I ask her to call up Downtown and see if they have any spaces – turns out the 20 room dorm has vacancies, so I pack up my bag and head there.
Frankly, if the outer courtyard is gonna be closed, then the only place anyone can go is the outside pool area or their rooms – Kayun will be swamped with that kind of crowd – the pool wont even be worth it. Besides, as of this point everyone I’ve spoken to save Seretha (who is spending Nyepi on Gillies Island anyway) is now staying at Downtown. Time to head on back.
Throughout Legian, people were getting ready. The 24 hour stores were all either shutting or already closed, as are several of the tourist shops. The bars are still open, but they’re all gonna be closed before midnight, and ATM’s are systematically being shut off. This causes a mad panic in the tourists who flock South in order to find one that still functions (which had a 6+ queue last time I saw it)
Like I said, getting a straight answer out of the Balinese is really hard – especially if you only know a few words of Indonesian. As such, nobody had a straight answer for when the parade was meant to start. Even my searches online had come up squat. The best I could gather was ‘Ceremonies happening everywhere at 4-6, Parade at 7’. Then someone at the hostel told me things would be started at 6…so Olly, Eddie and I all headed out to figure out where the hell we were meant to go. Followed crowds and people (who had as much idea as we had), before stumbling across the waiting area.
Large demonic and animal structures are supported by bamboo stands line up down the street. Some have explanations in front of them in English for what they’re representing (mostly of dubious quality – google translate may have been abused here), but most of them are incredible. Further along and to the left are smaller demons – I think made by schools or less professional people. At the very end of the street lies a stage, and a large crowd of people.
We stake out a few seats on a set of stairs and wait. By 7 we’re a little agitated, and it finally kicks off around 7:30…but its all speeches completely in Indonesian (and something that looks a little like a beauty pageant but I’m not really sure). By 8 were hot, claustrophobic and a little bit hungry, so we break away and decide to go get something to eat – coming back when the parade has finally begun.
Apparently this festival does normally start around 5-6, but has been known to start as late as 8. By the time we’d finished eating, around 9, the parade part of the ceremony was just getting underway. We ended up going to the hostel and deciding to wait until the parade had really gotten underway due to the crowd and wait. At the end of it all though, it was just me wandering round as the boys called it quits.
It takes a long time for the festival to make its way through town. I end up chasing the sounds and walking along the very dark beach row until I find the very final spot in the route. Its sadly extremely packed – at least 5 people in front of me and another 5 crushing behind me trying to find any gaps. I end up watching most of it through my video camera screen because it was the only way I could get a view. I ended up breaking away and following the demon down the street, through the gates towards the beach, where is was presented on a stand overlooking the ocean.
Went back to the main street to attempt to watch the parade, but it just wasn’t happening. The parade was intersected with dances and performances, which were impossible to see through the crowd, so varied time between parade and watching people stack the demons on the beach.
I was fully intending on staying until the end, however cause of the late start, there were still 8 stands waiting for demons come midnight, and as an added bonus, it was starting to rain. Plus my mind was constantly dropping off due to the darkness and the frankly very busy day, and sunstroke I still had. Eventually decided to call it quiets with the rain (because honestly, even if they set them alight the rain would probably wreck it), and make the long trudge back.
Its very eerie to wander through Kuta at night when nothings open. At 1am earlier that week every bar and shop was open and teeming. Now the streets are pitch black, with boards all over the fronts of buildings and the odd motorbike or taxi trundling along the street asking if I needed transport. Its a complete 180 compared to the Kuta I’ve come to know.
There’s also taxi drivers looking for people even now, and motorbike drivers who are desperate for rides. One – despite me stating that my hostel is just up the road, insisted I get on his bike, no charge. This is something you should never do, because they will take you where you want to go, and then insist on tip. You might give them a dollar, and then they’ll insist on more and more, especially if they see what’s in your wallet, and its next to impossible to get rid of them – not worth it for a trip that lasts all of 20 seconds.
My hostel is a shock to the system after the abandoned Kuta – its the only place open and as such non-boarders have even stuck around – including what appears to be an entire football team. Place is loud and crazy, and booze flowing like water. Ridiculous number of people in the jacuzzi too. Its a pretty awesome atmosphere, but my head is beyond salvation, so have to surrender at 2 – crashing amongst laughter and arguing dorm mates (word of warning, don’t lie on someone else’s bed and use their charger without permission, especially if you don’t know the guy – its just wrong…)