As I mentioned Mom and Dad could not make their trip to Bali with us, but the tickets and villa were already rented and paid for, so we did not let them go to waste. We’ll consider this trip further “research” into Bali for their future visit (and anyone else who comes to visit!)
Out in West Bali, in the Negara region, the local farmers do Water Buffalo races (Makepung) on Sundays. I had read a little about this but did not know all the details. The schedules are a little hard to find since this is mostly a local event, and not aimed at tourists (yet). When Mom and Dad had to cancel, I decided this would be a good time to go explore and see what the story was. The trip to see the races needs two days. Negara is about a 3 hr drive from the airport, and the races start around 7am on Sunday morning so it’s best if you head out that way the day before. So we landed on Saturday, drove to the region, rested at a wonderful resort and then started early on Sunday to see the races. They run till about noon or so I think, but after about 3.5 hrs there we saw plenty and were ready to head out. By the time you see the races and a few other things, it’s time for lunch and then a long drive back wherever.
A big shout out to the Puri Dajuma resort (http://www.dajuma.com/). Their staff was excellent, I emailed about the races and schedule and they were able to confirm the races were taking place and arrange transport on Sunday morning for us. It’s a lovely place, right on a black sand beach and the food at the restaurant was excellent. The races have an odd schedule, so it’s super nice to have people in that region who can call and verify the location and date of the races before you make the journey.
The races take place out in the rice paddies and are attended mostly by locals, we were one of the few gringos there. What’s nice is that everyone was very friendly, a few odd stares were quickly converted to warm smiles just by smiling first and saying hello, it was great.
The farmers dress the buffalo up in fancy headgear, painted crowns, and cover the horns with colourful fabric. Two buffalo pull a two wheeled cart that is brightly painted and carved with the wonderful motifs from Bali. The buffalo have the great necklaces of brass bells that I am determined (obsessed?) to get as a souvenir the next time we visit. It’s become like the birdcage from HK, I’ve set my mind that for this location the bells are the thing to have, and thus we must get one. Before they race they all line up waiting their turn, and it’s like a mini parade. The farmers don’t speak English, but if you point at your camera and then the buffalo they are happy to pose for photos. The farmers were racing from two different villages this day, so there are red shirts and green shirts to tell the teams apart.
Now for the slightly sad part. I feel bad about this, really I do. But…..to get the buffalo to run, the farmers use a long stick, the end of which is covered with small 1/8″ spikes (possibly nails?) which they smack the rumps of the buffalo as they race. At the end it was not uncommon to see some bloody rumps on the poor buffalo. That part was the toughest part to deal with, because it was a fun event and sight to see the races. I would not be surprised that as they realize this is a good tourist event, they may stop such things. We’ll see.
But, let us not dwell on that unhappy business. The weather we experienced on our trip was SUBLIME. I would say the best weather we have ever had. Sunny skies, wonderful breeze. Just so nice. It made it so pleasant to be out in the uncovered rice fields to watch the races. The whole atmosphere is like a county fair, with vendors selling sweets and peanuts amongst the crowd, while old and young, men and women, gather on patches of grass to catch up and watch the racers go buy. I would go back in a heartbeat to share such a unique experience with friends and family when they visit.