Sounds from Munduk

23 January 2014

Last night I arrived in a village called Munduk, 2 hours north of Ubud. The village is located near 3 volcanic lakes and the road was very windy and of rather poor quality. I am always surprised about the speed that the Balinese people drive on these rough roads, especially when I see 80% of the scooter and motorbike riders without helmets. The roads are small, slippery and full of cars and other motorbikes, yet, the driver of our shuttle bus just honked once or twice and then started to overtake the car and scooters in front of us, regardless of the oncoming traffic. Often there are 3, sometimes 4 people on one scooter. Mostly dad drives the scooter, mum sits behind him, holding a baby between them with one hand, with the other she is writing text messages on her BlackBerry. All the while their older kid stands between dads legs with his/her head lying on their arms that are draped over the handle bars of the scooter. Amazingly the kid seems to be sleeping while dad drives the scooter at 60 km/h over the bumpy roads and amongst the crazy traffic. None of them wear helmets. The most people I have seen on a scooter were 5 children that passed us on Noosa Lembongan with a big laugh on their faces, again, none of them wearing helmets. The driver was at most 9 years old. What a different world to Australia, let alone Germany.


When I arrived at the hotel that I had booked, the lady at the reception showed me to my room. After I dropped of my luggage she couldn't help but proudly show me the left overs of the school room that had collapsed and slid down the hill only one house next to where I was staying. The strange thing is that in the western world the hotel manager would not make a mention of such an incidence because they wouldn't want to make guest feel uneasy or unsafe. In Munduk it almost seems like people welcome such news and share them as an exciting change in their otherwise rather mundane daily lives. Despite the possible threat of more houses sliding down the hill I slept deep and sound, only waking up once because of a branch that must have hit the roof of the house next to me. Of course I thought that the next minute a wall from a house above me would come crashing through the door of my house, however, after 5 minutes of no such thing happening I went back to sleep. 


The next morning I found the water heater defect and when I showed this and the leaking toilet to the manager I was transferred to another room. The view is nicer and I feel much safer here as it is a couple of houses over from where the schoolroom collapsed. There are also no other houses above me and the ground on which this house sits seems much more level and less on the slope. Yet, the promise of warm water was only partly fulfilled as I could only get a couple of hands of lukewarm water out of the heating unit. Still, it was enough to make me feel half human.


After breakfast I talked to the manager to organise a guide to help me find quiet places that have lots of wildlife and no human noises. This initially seemed to be a crazy idea and I often face the same challenge of making people understand what I do and most importantly - what for? Like so many people these days they simply don't know what a world without human-related noises sounds like. After a few more explanations the manager promised to call a guide and sure enough the young man with good English skills arrived about 30 minutes later. He understood much faster what I was after and suggested a hike into the rainforest of one of the volcano craters the next day. His suggestion was to go and check the location this afternoon so we could evaluate the suitability in regards to human-related noises. After agreeing on a time I set off to go to a small waterfall nearby in order to bridge the time until departure. 


The hike quickly led me into the outskirts of the village and into the jungle. The path was very slippery and I had to willingly slow myself down. With about $6000 worth of gear in my backpack I don't want to slip and fall on my back. My gear is insured, however, the pain of trying to get the money back from the insurance and replace broken cameras, lenses or microphones are not worth a couple of minutes that I might arrive earlier because I rushed. Also, going slower has another benefit - I actually get to see and listen the world that I came to record and I see and hear those nuances that make this place so special.


Upon arriving at the waterfall, I discovered that I did rush after all - I had forgotten the camera head for the 360 degree camera, so no surround videos of this place. But I thought "Well, everything happens for a reason" and so I decided to focus on the sound recording. After all one of the albums that I am working on features the sounds of waterfalls. This is when things started to go not as expected. First the batteries went flat, which was my fault and I should have changed them earlier, however, after I put new batteries into the recorder and had just picked up the recording where I stopped before, one of the microphones popped and dropped its recording level by about 20dB. I have had this problem before, however, it hasn't happened for a few months now, so I thought it had resolved itself. But it seems that the problem is back now. I have a feeling that it may have to do with the high humidity levels here because the last time I had these problems was when I lived in steamy and hot Darwin. I can compensate for the lowered recording level in post-production, however, it seems like work that is unnecessary. Upon returning from this trip I will call Rode and ask for their advice on this. There must be a way to solve this.


On my way back I heard some beautiful birds, yet they were overpowered by the sound of the water and insects. Still, the recording that came from this location is amazingly dense in atmosphere. And then, still with my frustration about the forgotten camera head and the dropped microphone levels in my head, I saw this miracle of a dragonfly dancing in front of me. It's shiny body glimmered in a stark blue that was an amazing contrast to the green around it. Its wings were another high contrast black and the little insect gave me the opportunity to photograph it while the sun poked through the clouds momentarily. What a moment.


Back at the hotel I discovered that the silica gel pack that I use to dry my microphones has within only a few days completely absorbed water, so I need to 're-charge' it by putting it into an oven for about 1 1/2 hours. I am not looking forward to explaining that to the manager or her staff. 


The rest of the day was spent on a very flaky phone line trying to sort out a hotel booking that had gone wrong because of the wonky internet. After a stalled page load and subsequent refresh the booking site had changed the dates and I have written 3 emails to the support and called 5 numbers to finally find someone who cares. Supposedly he has solved the problem, so fingers crossed that I will get the refund :)


In the meantime, enjoy today's recording and the photo of Mr/Mrs Dragonfly :)