An eco-re­sort in Bali of­fers sus­tain­abil­ity and af­ford­able style

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - PHIL JARRATT

The bun­ga­lows are of co­conut tim­ber and bam­boo in tra­di­tional style, one side open to the view across the ter­races to the coast be­low

A FEW years ago, Johnny Blund­stone from Noosa on the Queens­land Sun­shine Coast felt the urge to com­pletely change his life­style. As a vet­eran waiter, he had the per­fect blend of un­der­stated at­ten­tion and knowl­edge of his craft. Then, with wife Cath and young son Huey, he trucked off to the out­back for as long as it might take for a new life plan to emerge. Un­der the stars at Kakadu, they found them­selves shar­ing a campfire with Norm and Linda vant Hoff, Aus­tralians of Rus­sian and Dutch ex­trac­tion who had started a small re­sort, based on sus­tain­able liv­ing, in the wet moun­tain jun­gle of cen­tral Bali. If the Blund­stones were look­ing for a rad­i­cal life­style change, then Bali could be it.

They flew over for a look at the vant Hoffs’ Sar­in­buana Eco Lodge, in the shadow of Mount Batukaru. Blund­stone told his hosts that while he ad­mired what they were do­ing, it had now been done. But Norm vant Hoff re­sponded that the more peo­ple run­ning sus­tain­able busi­nesses there, the bet­ter it would be ‘‘for all of us’’.

Mini, the lodge’s smil­ing chef, said she and her hus­band, Agung, had a large plot of fam­ily land a few kilo­me­tres down the val­ley, if the Blund­stones were in­ter­ested. They shook hands on a deal that evening.

In 2010 they opened with a res­tau­rant, small of­fice and four one and two-bed­room cot­tages scat­tered along the rice ter­races, with pris­tine spring wa­ter stream­ing un­der the en­tire prop­erty to nour­ish the land and grow crops to feed the guests. The big­gest sin­gle in­vest­ment was not an in­fin­ity pool but a pel­ton-wheel hy­dro-elec­tric gen­er­a­tor to power most of the re­sort from the ad­ja­cent wa­ter­fall.

The re­sort be­came the first in Bali to gen­er­ate its own power; by the end of next year, the Blund­stones aim to be to­tally off the grid.

My­wife and I vis­ited ear­lier this year to find the Blund­stones hap­pily en­sconced in paradise. Look­ing out over the hill sta­tion from our Rice Wa­ter Bun­ga­low, my first ques­tion is why couldn’t they have come up with a more ro­man­tic name. ‘‘Google-friendly,’’ says Blund­stone. Peo­ple keen on eco-tourism seek them out on­line, and there are enough of them for Bali Eco Stay to have achieved an av­er­age 60 per cent oc­cu­pancy af­ter just 18 months.

When the rains tum­ble down, we take the op­por­tu­nity to spend a pro­duc­tive af­ter­noon in Mini’s res­tau­rant (they stole her from Sar­in­buana, with vant Hoff’s bless­ing), which of­fers sen­sa­tional or­ganic food from the prop­erty’s food for­est. More than 70 per cent is home-grown and cooked in un­re­fined co­conut oil. Lo­cal farm­ers sup­ply chick­ens, ducks and eggs, while the re­sort’s wa­ter gar­den will soon yield fresh­wa­ter fish. The wa­ter sup­ply is from a spring near the edge of the prop­erty, and it cre­ates a nat­u­ral swim­ming pool, be­low which the wa­ter­fall pro­vides the power. The bun­ga­lows are of co­conut tim­ber and bam­boo in tra­di­tional style, one side open to the view across the ter­races to the coast. Fur­nish­ings in­clude an­tiques and tra­di­tional mo­tifs; lighting is sub­dued to con­serve power, but there are bat­tery read­ing lights.

There is no tele­vi­sion, and the only mu­sic is the gur­gling of the wa­ter be­low and the dis­tant sounds of game­lan mu­sic from nearby vil­lages.

The Blund­stones have in­tro­duced per­ma­cul­ture to sur­round­ing vil­lages, set up a free lend­ing li­brary and of­fer vil­lage kids English lessons.

I’m a cynic when it comes to tourism in­ter­fer­ing with tra­di­tional ways, but in the land of the plas­tic bag, projects such as Bali Eco Stay are lead­ing peo­ple back to their own cul­tures while of­fer­ing them new op­por­tu­ni­ties in ours.

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