Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Garden of Eden

I feel like I've woken up in the Garden of Eden! I had better leave that apple (or whatever it is) untouched!

Like in the original Garden of Eden, many things have turned sour here for unsuspecting foreigners. After I had told the Balinese lady who looks after the Banjar Hills bungalows that I had almost bought the place myself back in 2006, she asked, "You want to buy house? I show you!", and off we went down a slippery track only fit for a mountain-goat, skipped from boulder to boulder in a fast-running stream, and balanced across slippery logs over deep irrigation channels. We finally arrived at what is a typically Balinese walled compound built at the far end of a deep valley where not a single breeze stirred the oppressive heat. A (mad?) Dutchman had built it; two small houses, a kitchen/bathroom annexe, and the usual wooden shadehouse platform.

Evidence of some long-ago human habitation was strewn across the bird-cropping covered floors: old copies of the Dutch version of Reader's Digest, some Dutch magazines, and in a corner a mildewed pair of wooden shoes! Jungle- or gum-boots would have been more appropriate as this place is really hard to get to.

What possessed the Dutchman to build a house where everything had to be brought in on foot single-file? And if I had thought that we had come via some shortcut and the way out would be any easier, I was in for a shock as we had to struggle our way up steep and slippery hills on an hardly definable track. What would it be like during the rainy season?

I seem to remember having seen the place advertised for sale on a website which, however, made no mention of its "Heart of Darkness" location.

Another Bali Dream gone sour, just as for the Australian family who arrived last night to stay for a week. The woman, with a haughty and supercilious Penny-Penfold look on her face which made me suspect she was a school mistress, stated grandly, "We're here on business", whereas her husband, Keith, was a little more self-effacing when he confided that they had committed a lot of money to having a villa built at Lovina for their retirement but things weren't going too well. He's a school teacher which became apparent when he talked about 'pentatonic scales' after he had inspected my newly acquired kecapi. "Well, yes, indeed, and how different from the heptatonic scales we're used to," I couldn't stop myself from replying. Bloody show-off!

He pointed out the location from the vantage point of the hotel's restaurant: three tall palmtrees next to a terracotta-tiled roof. The builder, he said, was an Australian expat living in Bali which gave him some hope. Hardly a recommendation in my opinion as most of the expats I've met here so far are the sort of people I'd cross the road to avoid.

Next day, and after meetings with several Balinese people, the result was out: no building, no builder, no money! They're checking out already as it pains him to look down to the coast and see those three palmtrees mockingly waving at him!

When I jokingly ask him, "How's Bob the Builder? - or should I say Shaun?" (that being the real name of the Australian builder), he replied, "He's gone into hiding." Well, being a school teacher, he's just learned a lesson rather than giving one: never trust a builder, especially one who's left Australia to live in Bali!

Some pictures of the Banjar Hills Resort:


Some pictures of the "mad Dutchman's house":