A smell wafts over to the island of Seranganl. Situated on the outskirts of Denpasar, the rubbish tip and stench is what first assaults the senses, as tourists make their way to sleepy coral beach. The tranquil waters of the harbour are ideal mooring places for luxury boats, and local fishing boats. There are even traditional boat homes resting on bamboo platforms. A dive boat sits wrecked on the beach. Sea weed is drying on the coral infested beach. It’s for export, the local fisherman explains.
Too sedate for my liking. We follow the smell. Ok, good, now turn into the tip. Sana is onto it. He’s not into smells and covers his face with a towel. He knows the drill. A few questions. I hand out one cigarette. I take photos, he does the talking.
They get between 30-50 000 Rupiah a day, the average salary of a labourer or someone working at Indo Mart for a ten hour shift. Plastic. The truck dumps its load. They hover around, looking for bottles. A wire, twisted with a hook on the end, does the picking. They all wear gum boots.In some ways the booty here is better than on the streets, where rubbish collectors must walk vast distances to reach their quota.
Here, they work in teams. Husband and wife team have about five large bags full of recyclable. On a good day, they might find jewellery or an electronic, like a broken phone or iPad, which can fetch higher prices. “I found copper. We had to strip a washing machine apart. But I got about 200 000 Rupiah that day,” says Ali,who is from Java.
The photos shot on iPhone, in noir mode, piqued interest from travel partner, Miss Anderson. “I love the starkness, rubbish roads and rates as local as the weather!
My simple explanation of the photos treaded the modest line. “Its the filter, want to look serous, use black and white. Add colour, then you are an amateur. But I do recall the great photos of Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado of a rubbish dump in South America… they were nice shots.”
Cows graze on the rim. CAT excavators move rubbish. The cows continue their grazing, keeping out of the way of the machines. Something incongruous about this , but hay, its Bali after all. And they are holy cows. Untouchables with a taste of fresh rubbish. “There must be lots of gems, like rotten fruit and rice, and vegetable peels,” says Sana. There’s a beauty about Bali’s underbelly. A reservoir is now used for holding most of the rubbish, And surrounding it, as far as the eye can see, is land fills.
This is where Bali trash ends up. The largest tip on the island, there’s an innate stark beauty about the place. No denying, the smell is rank. But when among the rubbish,only the flies to contend with. The smell isn’t as overbearing as from a distance.
This is one of the few tourist attractions where they don’t charge you an entry fee. Truck drivers looked at us like we were out of our minds. We had to walk up a ramp to reach the top of the reservoir. “There’s another tip that generates fuel.” Sana wasn’t sure if it was this one. He’s talking about the methane gas that is captured from rotting rubbish, and used to fuel turbines that generate electricity.
On the way home, we drive over the new overpass. It cuts across the tranquil bay, cutting off five minutes to Nusa Dua from the other side of the peninsular, and alleviating lots of traffic on the other bypass. To the left, mango swamps, to the right, pristine beaches and white sand. Only 10 000 Rupiah for a car, and 4000 Rupiah for motorbikes, which have their own lane, the ten minute drive across the bridge is quite spectacular.
This view in the middle of the harbour was once the domain of passengers on planes flying over head. Now it’s accessible for everyone. It was opened up with the APEC meeting in Bali a couple of months ago. And coupled with the new airport opening up, Bali is developing big time. Seems the purse strings from Jakarta are opening up.
I liked the toll way so much, we end up driving over it twice.
The first time was on the way to Kuto Village in Jimbaran – more signs of mega development. They charged us 5000 Rupiah. Sana did a film shoot here with a Japanese advertising outfit a year ago. The road leading in and out is on land owned by the Suahato. A new Kuta is being made accessible through blasting of the headland. Roads blasted out of cliffs. Sana says it’s a village initiative. But its obvious that big players of Indonesian business are throwing their weight around.
Hailed as the next Kuta – pristine beaches, nice safe coves – this will be the Mecca for Asian tourists, looking for gaudy monuments, and plastic malls. It has that artificial feel about it. The beaches are white. The surf is up. And the ubiquitous first time western surfers, with a rack attached to the back of the motorbikes for carrying their surfboards. I’m out of here. I don’t even set foot on the beach. Too busy for me. The Bali arches haven’t appeared yet.
There’s big designs for this place. Lots of government cash invested in this area. Land prices will go up. Niches cut in the wall have divine figures perched into them. Below, in a big clearing, are a dozen tour buses parked.
And it’s only a matter of time before the five-star hotels and bungalows mushroom up, followed by Mac Donald’s and Starbucks. The road will cut through another cliff, opening up more beaches. “Before, you could only get to the beach by dirt tracks,” says Sana. This is the next happening area on the island. The last outcrop of nature will be tamed for five-star tourists very soon.
The evening was topped up with a fire. A truck blocked the way, outside a swank Spa resort in Ubud. We followed the hose, from the main road. Another truck, in reserve, was parked behind the one that was pumping water to put out the fire. It was a gas cylinder, said Sana. Crime reporters were taking notes and sending pictures on their black berry. The Spa area was cordoned off. I walked under it. “Mister, be careful.” I said I was a journo – another lie. No problems. Get the photo, then we head home.
Two tourists are enjoying a wine on a balcony. “What happened?” they asked. I said I hope that the fire brigade offer the same help to the poorer part of town. No comment. I left them to their wine.
We drive around town. And one of the fire trucks is filling up their tanks with water from the canals that criss-cross across the town, feeding water from the mountain springs.
Bali in black and white — definitely showed a moodier side to the island. And somewhere in-between the day, we managed to visit the chicken farm and throw back a Bintang. Those condoms lying in the drain really would have looked good in noir as well.