After a night of illegal cockfighting, very illegal, I bolted for the coast. My destination was a place called Keramas, about twenty minutes east of Sanur. There is a right-hand point breaking wave there, known for its power and hollowness.
Wasting no time, I shot straight to the beach where the wave is known to break. The town is not touristy, comprised mainly of locals, something that made it attractive. The wind was howling, blowing most of the swell away. I paddled out anyway after negotiating a deal for a board with a local guy called “C2”. It was nice to get wet after the night prior. All the blood had me shaken, and as I recalled the evening, it felt as if it were some sinister dream. Unfortunately, it had been very, very real.
Done with the surf, I found C2 and his gang of jolly teetotalers lazing away under the cabana, passing around cups of homemade liquor called tuak (too-wak). Red-cheeked, grinning idiots and friendly as all hell, they quickly extended a strong-armed invitation. I accepted.
They passed me cup after cup of the stuff, which is kept in water bottles and made from the sap of palms. It possesses a slightly brown, milky complexion, and really doesn’t have much taste, other than a slight tinge of palm – at least, what I imagined palm might taste like – and coconut.
Batches of tuak can be made quickly and cheaply, and most Indonesians will keep a good storage full bottles. Drinking tuak, in Indonesia, is a single cup affair. One person handles the water bottle, filling the glass cup and passing it around the circle. Clockwise, counter clockwise, and sometimes at random. The receiver downs the tuak and passes the, now empty glass, back to the controller. This goes on until the water bottle is empty, and a new one is brought out – with it, a new controller is made.
I got jolly quickly, and regaled the gang with stories from the night prior. I told them about the white bird and my many losses. One of men, a plump Asian man with large all-emcompassing black sunglasses, the kind a person wears after eye surgery, used to fight birds regularly. At one point, he claimed, he owned up to as many as ten birds, before retiring to the beach. A simpler, happier existence, he confirmed.
Forcefully removing myself, despite their pleas, I drove my scooter back to the homestay I had checked into.
The street on which it sat was inhabited by a trio of dogs, all of which barked their little brains out, on the verge of choking it seemed, whenever a newcomer came their way. I barked back, confusing them, and they promptly ceased. From then on, they showed me some respect – and if they forgot, I would charge and they would soon remember.
Aside from the dogs, the street was also filled another group of merry locals. This time, they were cousins and brothers and friends, gathered for a classical rehearsed Balinese barbecue.
It was almost dusk and they, at once, invited me to join their barbecue. "This is Bali!" they rejoiced, passing me a cup of tuak. I told you, most Indonesians keep a full arsenal of tuak at all times. They also brought bottles of arak and ginseng. Before long, several cups were twisting their way through the gathering.
Arak is tuak's stronger cousin. It's also much more time-consuming to make, which is why most simply settle for tuak. Like moonshine, it's believed a poorly-timed swig of arak can make a grown man go blind. I've never seen it*. Intended. Indonesia, although largely Hindu and Muslim, has a thriving history of liquor distillation, most notably it's long forgotten rum running.
In the 18th century, Indonesia rum was actually preferred to its Caribbean counterpart. Thick with sugarcane, Indonesia has been distilling liquor for the past 8,000 years. However, the rum market eventually shifted to the Caribbean and the industry welled up and dried out. At least, the commercial industry did. That has never stopped local Indonesians who continue to distill their own, passing around cup after cup of their bootleg assortments.
The barbecue got wild quickly, and soon it began to rain. Drunk, we didn't mind. I forgot entirely what we talked about, but I know not much of it was coherent or understood -- the arak and language barrier conjoining and exploding.
Vaguely aware of the the Indo moonshine was doing to my mind and system, I was present enough to snap photographic evidence of the affects.
Without further ado, I give you, The Bootleg Boys. I forget all their names, but their faces have forever been seared in my mind. I hope they stay in yours, too.
Now you know.
More later, as always.