Why do they call Bali “Morning of the Earth”?

Bali rice paddies

[words by Mark Eveleigh / photo by Narina Exelby]

Life can have changed little in rural Western Bali over the centuries, yet our little Bamboo House seems very different every time we return.

This rented house has been the closest Narina and I have come to having a home during this last year of almost constant assignments. Anyone who’s lived even a couple of weeks among paddy fields knows that they’re landscapes that are in constant motion – almost as much as lakes and rivers. On a blustery day like today they almost look like billowing swell as the wind rolls across the emerald green stems. Long strips of multi-coloured plastic – strung out to scare the flocks of tiny finches – flutter like pennants on the mast of fishing boats. Last time we were here this whole hillside was a muddy patchwork with hundreds of ducks sifting through for fallen grains. If this sunshine keeps up for two more weeks, these fields will be burnt the colour of a lion’s hide and it will be time to call in the teams of migrant Javanese harvesters.

But by then we’ll be on the road again – probably working on a story on Bali’s north coast but maybe already back in Bangkok. We have just fortnight here to beat a deadline or two and bash out a few pitches for the assignments that will pay for our simple Asian lifestyle for the coming months (with just enough perks in the way of G&Ts and traditional massages). Most importantly, this stint at Rumah Bambu (as the villagers know it) is a chance to introduce my nine-year-old daughter to the Island of the Gods, and specifically to a local family who have meant a lot of me since I spent a year living in their house before she was born. Work is a secondary priority for me at the moment, therefore, and I try to limit myself to early mornings – a couple of snatched hours in a hammock on the veranda with the laptop – before Lucia wakes.

But she wakes early here. The dawn chorus of birdsong and croaking paddy frog choir is as unfamiliar to a little Spanish girl as the wailing of the village mosque. Just as the landscape is different every time we come back so each morning here seems more beautiful than the last. The volcano is at its best backlit by the rising sun and the paddies seem to radiate an almost painfully green light in the golden hour after dawn. Gemlike kingfishers make darting flights between the paddy dykes and V-shaped squadrons of commuting egrets cruise effortlessly high above the coconut palms across the valley. We can hear waves booming onto the reef and after breakfast we’ll cruise out to a sheltered bay where we can surf some waves that are just challenging enough for a nine-year-old surf-chick.

Bamboo House has been rented to other fortunate visitors next month but Narina and I will be back for a longer stay through September and October. Although we are sure to visit some spellbinding locations in the next month, I’m going to miss this place. And I’m certain Lucia will.

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