Tripping the Gangs

One of the greatest joys of travel is going where you have never been before exploring and discovering along the way. This might even be in your own hometown if you care to explore places you have yet to set foot in. However in my case it was in Bali. Candika wanted to buy some bedak, face powder, but not just any regular splash of flour on the face but a special kind from Java. She had heard that it was available at SuperNova on Jalan Raya Kuta, a mere 2 kilometre stroll from the Prawita. Seemed like a good way to burn a few kilojoules after breakfast, not that I am putting on weight of course but when it comes to being home in Indonesia I tend to eat a lot! We stopped in at Pasar Kuta along the way to buy some Rambutan and a few bananas (hiking nourishment!). The place never changes. Always busy. Being a local market it is a hive of activity with the sounds and odours associated with any local market. Bargaining is a must, almost obligatory, and I like to hear the banter even though I don’t speak or understand Bahasa Bali.

SuperNova is what I would refer to as a has-been shopping centre with not much there to attract travellers or tourists but it is fairly popular with the locals. It didn’t take Candika long to obtain what she came after and then the usual question reared its head. “What do you want to do now” Candika asked. It was a nice day and I suggested we walk to Centro Discovery Mall on Jalan Kartika Plaza. This was met with some resistance as it was getting warmer. But, mere male had his way and we started heading along Jalan Raya Kuta the total opposite to where we should be heading. Candika never said anything but seemed concerned. Mere male had all the answers for that and it was easily solved. “Okay” I said, “There must be a gang connecting Jalan Raya Kuta and Jalan Kartika Plaza, so, we just keep walking until we come to it and voila, we walk down it”. Candika was not impressed with my idea much preferring to either walk back from where we came and take the normal route to the mall or hail a taxi. Both simple solutions but hey, where’s the sense of adventure in that!

Heck, it was only a kilometre further down the road and we came across a gang. I engaged a conversation with a couple of Balinese girls on a motorbike coming out of the gang and was reassured the gang did end up at the Centro Discovery Mall albeit eventually, much to Candika’s discontent. The pretty girls in western clothing rode off giggling. Now I was concerned. I toyed with the idea of hailing a taxi for Candika but the long, narrow and gravel gang was so inviting!

Like most gangs in Indonesia there are entrances to houses and rears of houses, lovingly-cared-for rumah pura (small shrines within the house compound) can be seen and every now and then you will find ruko-ruko; houses that have a small shop out the front selling various needs for home owners. These are great places to stop and have a chat with the ever-obliging and friendly locals. They can also be a great source of information and especially when you don’t know where you are going. Frequently Candika would stop and reassure herself (not me!) that our direction of travel was correct. Along these gangs you will also find small warungs generally accommodating the locals in the area or at times, the traveller passing. Generally, the food available is great value for money and inevitably home-cooked making it a delight to enjoy and savour. Naturally yours truly wanted to stop at a few of these and sample the Balinese fare but Candika was insistent we press on in our endeavours to reach Centro. Children played along the gang laughing and joking, saying “Hi mister” and were inquisitive of where we were going. When I said we were going to Centro the children laughed even harder. Were we going in the right direction? This was soon answered a few metres further on when we came to a T-junction. Trouble was that it appeared in fact to be a crossroad but three of those smaller gangs led to houses. Fortunately there were a couple of elderly Balinese women who pointed us in the right direction and as we turned to see where our feet would take us, the laughter over my shoulder increased. What did I walk in to, the ‘laughing gang’!

“No way” were the only words uttered by Candika as she stood her ground. The section of gang between us and Centro was under water after the recent deluges of rain. The waters should have drained off by now but it appeared as if something was wrong. The section of water resembled the Mahakam River in Kalimantan, dirty and with no idea of what lurked underneath. I slowly waded into the knee-deep water. Candika really had no choice but to follow uttering a gibbered mishmash of Bahasa Jawa, Bahasa Cina and a few words I wouldn’t dare to write here. You guessed it, I wasn’t the flavour of the month or the day in fact as we carried on walking, our feet and legs covered in God-knows-what.

Candika spotted the white edifice first and swore me to buy lunch and in fact anything she wanted for putting her through the ordeal. I guess my sense of adventure is not one Candika cares to imbibe in. As we walked into Centro I said “Great morning eh” A grunt was the reply and I knew this morning was going to cost me big time!