THE GROIN

Tracks - - Canggu -

We ought to be used to it by now.

Or at least de-sen­si­tised. All these things that pop-up in our lives. Con­sid­er­ing that we spend so much time star­ing at screens in­stead of the world. The in­ter­net does not have us by the balls, it has us by the eyes. Like cave newts, we will prob­a­bly adapt to the point where we do not need pe­riph­eral vi­sion at all. But at any rate, I think the point has been made that here in Canggu de­vel­op­ers are busy pound­ing and chop­ping and scrap­ing the Holy Hell out of the place. And these con­crete de­vel­op­ments pop up daily, just like those pop-up ads on our screens. That’s where the de-sen­si­ti­sa­tion prob­a­bly is. The thing is, they don’t pop back down. So it re­ally should not have sur­prised any­one when a gi­ant ex­ca­va­tor turned up on Echo Beach in Canggu and pro­ceeded to gouge and dig and pile up a big mess of big rocks. The ru­mour spread fast that a jetty con­struc­tion was un­der­way that would jut di­rectly out onto the sand­stone reef of Canggu Rights, the best wave in the area. Yet again, some mys­te­ri­ous pow­ers-that-be were go­ing to de­stroy the only thing mil­lions of surfers come to Bali for in the first place. And this is when all those screens turned the tide for the good for once. Out went the word on In­sta­gram. “SAVE THE WAVE”. Soon enough over a thou­sand peo­ple were on the beach, many plac­ing them­selves be­tween ex­ca­va­tor and the sea. Lo­cals, visi­tors, ex­pats. A big In­sta­gram party. With mean­ing this time. And it sorta worked. The cops showed up, of course, and started video­ing ev­ery­body so that they would know who to kick off the is­land if any real trou­ble started. But here’s the hard news:

1. It was to be a jetty that was to ex­tend 40 me­tres to the “wa­ter’s edge” for “sun­set tourist pho­tos and selfie op­por­tu­ni­ties”.

2. That pro­posal has since been struck down.

3. The com­pro­mise is that a rock wall will be con­structed with a ce­ment foot­path on the berm of the beach to save the own­ers prop­erty from nat­u­ral ero­sion. The rest of the devel­op­ment will be built right up against it.

4. The new com­plaint is that on king high tides this “Rock Wall” will turn the wave into the Makaha back­wash.

5. The gen­eral feel­ing on that is that no one surfs the place on king high tides any­way. Be­cause of the back­wash al­ready.

6. As of Septem­ber 18, 2018, the rock wall is go­ing ahead. But to re­ally il­lus­trate the sep­a­ra­tion be­tween the church of the open sky and the state of the Union here in Bali, con­sider this: When a cer­tain surfer paid a visit to the Min­istry of Tourism and ex­pressed his con­cerns about the jetty to a cer­tain high placed of­fi­cial, this high placed of­fi­cial re­sponded with, “I don’t un­der­stand, what does surf­ing have to do with tourism in Bali?”

Sun­sets take all pri­or­ity in Canggu and none more than the one that siz­zles into the hori­zon out be­yond “Old Man’s” surf spot. Once a refuge from the high pres­sure line-ups of neigh­bour­ing “Echo Beach”, now Old Man’s fea­tures a park­ing lot the size of a foot­ball field. And at 30 cents a spot, it’s jammed with­out fail ev­ery evening. But still, this is one of the last lo­cal strongholds. The Ba­li­nese peo­ple of Canggu still hold sway with warungs burst­ing with lurid t-shirts that blare “Up the bum, no ba­bies!” and “I’m not gay, but twenty bucks is twenty bucks!”.

These hang next to the beer open­ers in the shape of foot long penises and twirling fake spin­ners from China. Ev­ery­thing the trav­el­ing surfer needs. Pre­car­i­ously perched on the small lime­stone berm is the lo­cal ver­sion of the gi­ant night­clubs that dom­i­nate the beaches to the north and south. A ply­wood prom­e­nade of sorts where one can get ev­ery­thing from a gin and tonic to a fresh co­conut to a 10-times re­paired rental surf­board. Sit­ting on a small stool fac­ing the sea, I take in the spec­ta­cle. A lo­cal reg­gae band on a small wooden stage is on the beach blast­ing out hit af­ter hit. All the songs you want to hear as the sun goes down in Bali. You know, Ho­tel Cal­i­for­nia, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, Co­caine, No Woman, No Cry, The Scorps: Still Lovin’ You. Which makes sense when you un­der­stand that nearby Per­er­e­nan beach was re-named Echo Beach af­ter an eight­ies new wave hit by Martha and the Muffins.

From where I sat with my $3 dol­lar from a lo­cal esky, I could count 166 peo­ple in the line-up. When the sets rolled in, it was car­nage. Like a ju­nior var­sity war be­tween Kas­sia Meador and Dave Ras­tovich, who prob­a­bly have shrines of their own built for them nearby. Up­right, nose rid­ing girl long­board­ers and out­back-bearded guys on retro boards clunk­ing rails all the way to their wide legged wipe-outs in the sandy shore­break. On the beach, the en­tirety of the Euro­pean con­ti­nent was rep­re­sented in a rain­bow of G-strings. And that was just the men. I counted 500 hun­dred peo­ple on the beach. Many of them women in vary­ing stages of ges­ta­tion with chil­dren that looked like ap­pro­pri­ate ac­ces­sories. There were 18 dif­fer­ent dogs run­ning and piss­ing and crap­ping wild. None of these be­ing in­dige­nous species. Like the re­sort build­ing cranes that were swing­ing over­head, these dogs seemed a fit­ting sym­bol to man’s need to ig­nore and warp his en­vi­ron­ment into his own image of par­adise. Seems po­lar huskies and shiv­er­ing teacup Mex­i­can Chi­huahuas are in high de­mand in Canggu. I asked the old Ba­li­nese woman who was sell­ing me the

$3 beers where I should pee. She in­di­cated the ocean with a vague hand. Which was ab­so­lutely cor­rect. Be­cause bro­ken down toi­lets or no, in Canggu, it all goes there any­way. The pres­sure of the com­mu­nal blad­ders here at sun­set could light up a city.

I asked an old timer sit­ting next to me what he thought of things.

“We had Wood­stock, these peo­ple have here,” he said.

And I thought about the lo­cal surfers. With their club con­tests here and their daily bat­tles in the line-up with both top 10 pro’s and fa­mous freesurfers. Ex­cept that here, it is ru­moured that lo­cal club con­tests were once se­cretly spon­sored by David Bowie. Bowie, who loved this place and was re­cently cre­mated and in­terred up in the hills to the North­east. Which seems a per­fect fit for Canggu. Truth to tell, there are a hell of a lot more cre­ative white peo­ple here than any place else on the is­land. Well mean­ing. Look­ing for a groove, a qual­ity of life that most of the planet has deemed un­rea­son­able. Or im­pos­si­ble. Or just too much damn ef­fort. Peo­ple with the at­ti­tude of not just want­ing to lis­ten to a band, but of ac­tu­ally want­ing to be in one.

The sun had set by the time I made my way back to my mo­tor­cy­cle past what was now the packed beer gar­den known as OLD MAN’S bar. Just like in Hell, ev­ery lan­guage on earth was be­ing shouted here over the turgid may­hem. Be­hind me, out there be­neath a pur­ple sky, were the waves. As they al­ways have and al­ways will be. Hiss­ing and crash­ing and pump­ing money into this place with the power of so­lar flares.

On my way back home to Kuta, I passed a dual pur­pose venue on the out­skirts of Canggu. A rock club bar with a deep, 10foot skate­board bowl. I had to stop.

Be­yond its black doors was a won­der­land of con­tra­dic­tions. A new beat gen­er­a­tion joint just for teens. But with vodka. The suc­cess­ful grown-up ex­pats here have cre­ated an army of youth, most of mixed blood. These kids have grown up here in a cul­ture that wor­ships chil­dren but is not quite sure what to do with them once they hit their teens. Ed­u­ca­tion here be­ing as de­plorable as the health care. There is a mid­dle school here that of­fers Macramé as a P.E class. And like the adults, this young army has found their ju­nior ver­sion of the

Canggu groove. In a place where you are al­lowed to drive any­thing as soon as you can, this is a scooter mo­bilised crowd. And as the grown-ups find their dark­ened cor­ners of the night, so do the kids. It’s ex­pected. Cool has a Key­ne­sian ef­fect here.

You couldn’t find trendier dressed teens in New York.

The club I was in had two Jimi Hen­drix posters on the wall, Sex Pis­tols too, Blondie. The playlist while I was there in­cluded Jimi, The Who, Kiss, Led, Blind Faith, ACDC, Black Sab­bath, three Doors songs and a Johnny Cash med­ley. I sat at the bar watch­ing pro skater Greyson Thun­der Fletcher and his crew fly in and out of the skate bowl be­tween their vodka ton­ics. The guy sit­ting next to me sip­ping on a tequila sun­rise was 15-years-old. Him and the 17-year-old bar­tender were hav­ing a real time for them­selves.

I spied what had to be the owner and ap­proached her. She looked straight out of the Haight Ash­bury play­book. About the same vin­tage too. Ask­ing not to be iden­ti­fied, she spoke: “Bali tells peo­ple who to be. It lis­tens. These kids are find­ing the way. Lis­ten­ing. The fu­ture is theirs. This place is a sanc­tu­ary, where young peo­ple live on hugs not drugs.” That much could be true, but I doubted it. Still, I’m no narc. And mush­rooms had re­cently been deemed il­le­gal af­ter a cou­ple of traf­fic ac­ci­dents that left a hand­ful of these young drinkers dead in the mid­dle of the street.

“Its a 24-hour world in Canggu!” She went on, sweep­ing her hand at the teenage crowd “They all love each other here! They are in this to­gether! Canggu isn’t just a dog­gie day care cen­tre for pro surfers, you know. These kids live here! “.

No shit there, that’s for sure. There is no high school­ers bum­ming beers out in front of the quickie mart with this crowd. They have bar­tenders that know ex­actly how they like their sun­downer gin and ton­ics. Heaven knows where these kids get all the money for it all. Wait … sure we do. And they seem to be wait­ing around to in­herit it. But in the mean­time, drink up!

I went into the bat­tered black uni­sex toi­let to pee and dis­cov­ered a home­made wall pa­per of Play­boy and Play­girl cen­tre­folds from the six­ties. A lot of hair back then. Bru­tal look­ing wee­nies too.

Je­sus, it was time for me to call it a night. I was all grown up and even I was buzzed from my Bali Bliss Mo­jito. How on earth do these kids get home, I thought.

Wait a minute … that’s right … some­times they don’t.

I stepped out­side and kick-started my bike. I re­mem­bered what the lady in­side shouted to me over the mu­sic as I waved good­bye. “You are only old once!” I thought about that. I also looked up at the big light box over the front doors of the club that shone like a light­house bea­con of rock and roll into the tor­pid night.

The mar­quee over the en­trance blared: CANGGU: FULL SPEED AHEAD!

And I thought about that too.

Pho­tos: Fran Miller

This page: In July pro­tes­tors gath­ered to op­pose the planned con­struc­tion of a rock­wall at Canggu.

Photo: Dorsey

Op­po­site: There are still a few green-flanked veins en route to the ’Gu.

Photo: Damea Dorsey

Colours and cul­tures col­lide at a bo­hemian tem­ple be­neath the Palms.

Photo: Damea Dorsey

Mar­lon Ger­ber taunt­ing the sun at the beach where the gods come to play.

Photo: Damea Dorsey

Utopia in a bowl for a youth­ful tribe – just add beer and spir­its.

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