Saturday, August 31, 2013

race round

The hus is a pre-Christian ritual tradition, formerly held to ask the deities for rain, a good harvest or other bounty. Horseman sport the distinctive tilangga hats and ikat cloth, and the horse’s mane, tail and head are decorated; these days with crepe paper and strips of plastic. A woven pandan mat is used in place of a saddle and there are no stirrups. Originally the riders would circle a large tree that was believed to hold secret powers, while today they circle a dusty oval with a few sticks and string to mark the track. Horsemen representing different clans would approach the arena from each cardinal point (representing specific powers) and circle the tree at a fast pace. While riding they whipped their horses and themselves with the thorny young shoots of the lontar palm until blood was drawn.  Drawing first blood was considered highly auspicious. Each clan would present a young coconut to be split by the priest, with the coconut water hitting the earth representing coming rains. 

With the domination of Christianity on the island, the hus has become a spectacle rather than spiritual tradition, held at any time and place. The breaking of the coconut tradition is forbidden as “black magic”and the flagellation has been replaced by a less bloody test of speed and form. The rules appear very loose, and the winners of each round are difficult for the uninitiated to distinguish. Races are based on maintaining a specific gait or outright speed, with prizes awarded for best decorated horse and rider. Lively gong music is played to arouse greater speed and bravery, and the crowd cheers with high pitched yips and yodels that western men find impossible to replicate.  Tourists are encouraged to have a ride, with inevitable spills into the dust as six foot Aussies drag their feet beside the squat Timor ponies. As far as I am aware, there has never been a female rider, and with my complete lack of horsewomanship, I won’t be the first. 

Thanks for Libby House of the Lualemba Indigo Foundation for organizing this year’s local hus and providing information about the tradition. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

a moveable feast


After the indulgences of Bali, I was happy to return to the raw vegan sensibility - fresh, ripe, organic fruit and vegies, sprouts, seeds and occasional nuts. Simple, grain free, unprocessed, with nil by mouth other than herbal tea after sunset (which is 5.45pm here at 11 degrees south). The exceptions to our raw diet are a small amount of tempeh (an Indonesian delicacy made by fermenting soya beans), steamed sweet potato and dry grilled eggplant. 

Aquaman strung together an impressive 25 days caffeine free, whereas I crumbled after nine - my longest stint totally caffeine free (with not even green tea) for at least ten years. I was shocked by the mental space hijacked with thoughts of coffee, the internal struggle to stay away from the bean and leaf, and the feelings of deprivation as I drank another rooibos. Giving up yoghurt and cheese was much easier. It was pathetic, annoying and I was napping like a wombat. Behold the power of a single shot.  Lord knows how I’d react to anything stronger, or if I had a three-cups-a-day habit. 

We are fortunate to have some foodie friends that aren’t afraid to have vegans at the table, and this week has been a culinary sensation of epic proportions.  Firstly, a lunch next door with our newest neighbours, a Moroccan/Israeli living in Bali and his Italian friend. Cue falafel with tahini dressing, the most hummus ever to be served on the island, mixed salads, toasted rye bread, grilled eggplant with chilli, and floods of olive oil.  All served beneath a shady coconut leaf cabana with a white sand floor. 


After 24 hours to recover from the surfeit of garlic, we attended the annual Lodge afternoon tea, with its much anticipated menu of Balinese black rice pudding with coconut milk and banana, hot donuts and tea. Yes I said donuts. As in “I want to wash myself with a sponge on a stick” kind of calories. It is my one deliberate fried food item of the year, and I ate it with as much mindfulness as I could muster among the animated conversation. 

We had a 48 hour sabbatical after the donuts and before the third invitation; a glorious raw meal with our friends Colin and Linda. Despite an unexpected break in power supply, Linda came through with her promise of banana and pistachio “semi-freddo”; the exclamation mark to a poetic stanza of ingredients.

Back in the days of no refrigeration and smoky pots of rice cooked over an open fire, I couldn’t imagine ever seeing a pinenut or mizuna leaf in this environment. A splash of balsamic vinegar at someone’s house was a luxury to be savored for weeks. Now we have rocket and fancy lettuce, miso, walnuts, dates and Lindt chocolate. They are all still carefully rationed, but I am grateful for their mere existence and the generosity of friends who share their supplies.

Friday, August 9, 2013

winter walk

Today was the coolest morning of the year, down to 20 degrees at dawn.  Just the right level of winter nip for this tropical koala.  An extra sarong on the bed at night, beautiful conditions for a sunrise walk, then by 9am it is back up to 30 and the endless summer continues. My admiration and commiseration for those of you wrapping up against the wild storms currently lashing the south west of WA. Wrap up, put the kettle on, and join me on a stroll up behind the village.
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