Recording in Munduk
25 January 2014
Today was a big day. I got up at 4:40am to meet my guide Nyaman and head off at 5am to a nearby forest. I had prepared and packed my gear last night so all I really had to do was to get up, however, that always sounds easier before going to bed than at the time that the alarm goes off. But with the promise of some good recordings on my mind I eventually got up and going and soon found myself on the back of a tiny 100cc scooter (of course with no helmet). I had already primed my guide the day before that no recording was important enough to risk an accident and that safety comes first. Luckily he had understood the message and drove carefully through the darkness of the windy mountain roads. However, after about 10 minutes of driving we came to a spot where we could not drive any further because the road was completely blocked by a landslide that had occurred because of the massive rains throughout the night. There was no way we could continue on the main road but Nyaman knew a back road and so we turned around and drove back to Munduk and onto an old road that was used for the north-south travel before the main road had been built. Unfortunately this older road was very poorly maintained and there were more pot holes, gravel and rocks than actual bitumen. In fact, there was nearly no bitumen at all and I found myself thinking that I wouldn't even enjoy riding this mountain path with my 700cc dual-purpose Honda Transalp, yet, here I am on the back of a 100cc scooter that sounds like it is breathing its last breath. Several times I had to jump off the back because the scooter was just not able to climb the steep path with the two of us on it. Finally, after about 45 minutes of riding on this disastrous 'road' we arrived at the path that leads to the volcano and things got worse. Now there was only something that was a bit wider than a footpath, with thousands of tree roots, rocks and soggy pits of mud. Every time Nyoman drove into these puddles the front wheel dug itself into the mud and we nearly got thrown of the scooter. Wow, I can't tell you how much I hate mud and sand on my own motorbike but on this scooter and as a pillion that's a whole different story! I'm not going to go into more detail but let me tell you, I hope I will never have to do that again.
Finally, after another 10-15 minutes on this forest path we get to the foot of the temple area that Nyaman has identified for the bird recordings. After I climb off the back seat and my guide turns off the motor I get a chance to listen to the sounds of the surrounding forest. As I walk up the stairs to the temple I hear nothing but birds all around me, or so I thought. It is one thing to be in this environment and a totally different thing to record it. Our brain is so used to man-made or human-related noise that it automatically filters these noises out and focusses on the beautiful sounds. However, microphones are absolutely relentless. They pick up any sound, whether it be animal or motorbike. And this place was no different to many other places, even after driving for such a long time on such bad roads. I could hear the noises of a nearby road even without microphones, however, when I unpacked my recording gear and started to listen through the microphones I could hear it even more obviously. However, I am used to this and so I started wandering into the rainforest and away from the noise. Before heading off Nyaman reminded me not to touch any of the plants as some of them are poisonous. This turned out to be rather difficult to accomplish with leaves and branches all over the trekking foot path, however, after about 5-10 minutes of dodging and diving potentially dangerous plants I came to a little clearing and finally I could hear just the sounds of the birds with only a very occasional interruption from a particularly loud motorcycle (of a driver with a particularly small d*ck). While it means a lot of work to edit out those sections with noise in it, I will be able to get a few minutes of clean recordings out of this walk.
When I got back to Nyaman and his scooter we spent another 2 hours walking and driving through the forest but could not find any other spot that was noise free. Apart from that the rain set in really heavily and we had to stay at one of the temples near a lake and wait for the rain to ease. While we were waiting, a group of about 10 young Balinese university students rocked up who had been hiking through the jungle as part of a training program. When they had set down their backpacks and taken off their raincoats they immediately began searching themselves and each other for leeches, and sure enough, there were at least 2 leeches on each and everyone of this group. Boy was I glad that I had decided to wear long pants, hiking boots and my rain jacket and baseball cap! Soon after the students had freed themselves of the leeches, the rain stopped and they and us went back to the scooter parking area. The way back to the hotel and down the mountain was even scarier than the way up, since a) now it was bright daylight and I could see the road that we had been driving and b) now we were going downhill and those parts that had bitumen on them were notoriously slippery.
I was already fearing for my life when Nyaman suddenly announced in his most casual of voices that we had to stop for a while because the front brake had overheated and was not working anymore! So we parked the scooter and while we waited for the brakes to cool, the driver got out a clove cigarette and told me about his wife and 3 kids. After about 5 minutes the brakes had cooled down and we could continue. I made sure to remind Nyaman that I was very keen to arrive back at the hotel with all my bones, skull and gear intact, and although he tried to drive more slowly, I never really trusted those brakes until he dropped me off at the hotel in one piece. Before getting there, though, Nyaman took a detour to show me some beautiful spots in the rice fields and wow, that was really worth the detour. The above photo shows one such view. I also captured these locations with my 360 degree camera and I will upload the videos as soon as I have a half decent internet connection again. After the rice fields I thought I had had enough excitement for the day and so I invited my guide for lunch to discuss other recording spots for the next day. Over some Nasi and Mie Goreng it became clear to me that I would not be able to find any quiet locations around Munduk, however, Nyaman and I identified an area south of Mount Batukaru that may be suitable and I thus decided to check out of the Munduk hotel and head south to the 'Bali Mountain Retreat' tomorrow.
I still had the remainder of the day available and so I went on a hike to the nearby waterfall area, this time making sure to take the head of my 360 degree camera! It was a bit of a strenuous 3 hour hike in the mountainous rainforest but I have found and recorded some really peaceful spots at the waterfall and creeks. I have also found a new way of mounting the camera on my backpack so that you can see the scenery while I am walking. Again, I will post these as soon as I have a good internet connection. More on the Bali Mountain Retreat tomorrow.