A wild and fascinating cultural experience in Bali...Buffalo races! Video and photos!

Our video from yesterday morning's buffalo race.  Two carts took off at a time
while the others awaited their turns.
 
 "Sightings on the Beach in Bali"

This morning we spotted this large fishing boat close to the beach.  It was surprising to see how many people were onboard.
Moments later they were hauling this little blue boat onboard. 
Buffalo racing is a popular sport in Bali.  Two highly decorated buffaloes are hitched to plowing type carts, modified and also elaborately decorated for racing, the "jockey" sits in the cart, reins in hand, knees bent, holding a leather whip, not unlike one would find in horse racing.

After our first steps out of the car, we could tell the path ahead would be congested.
Yes, there are many animal cruelty activists that are adamantly opposed to buffalo racing and we understand their intentions.  But, we're not here to judge a centuries old tradition. 

As all of our readers well know, we love animals and are also vehemently opposed to animal cruelty.  But, we aren't here to espouse our personal beliefs over worldwide racing of a variety of animals  nor are we taking a stance on such a position in this post.

We arrived well before the start of the race with many of the buffaloes still in the trucks.
We're here to describe this unusual experience we'd yet to see in our world travels as a way of life for many Balinese and others throughout of the world.  Their passion, enthusiasm and dedication to the sport is not unlike the dedication one finds for football and soccer worldwide where humans are the target of considerably rough encounters centered around much hoopla and wild celebration.

Buffaloes aren't intended as "runners."  Their bulky physiques and ungainly gate make them poor candidates for such a sport.  But, boy or boy...can they run and it didn't appear it take much encouragement to get them on the move.

The buffaloes were being dressed in their elaborate costumes.
Yesterday morning at 7 am, Butu, our alternate driver for the villas, picked us up for the 20 minute drive through unbelievable traffic early on a Sunday morning.  It wasn't as if everyone was heading to church and brunch in Bali. 

Most of the population adheres to Hinduism, with approximately 14% Muslim, 3.5% Christian and .5% Buddhism who don't  necessarily worship on Sundays. 
It appeared that the bulk of the traffic resulted from trucks hauling buffaloes to the races and other trucks hauling various goods to the island. 
Many hands were involved in prepping the buffalo.
Weaving in and out of traffic while constantly passing other vehicles on the narrow two lane roads is a harrowing event in itself, not intended for the squeamish. 

If such traffic scenarios are an issue for you, Bali wouldn't be a good vacation/holiday spot for you, unless you parked yourself at a resort for a few weeks to enjoy the balmy weather and beautiful beaches.  In reality, driving in Bali is not unlike the buffalo races...one wild ride, for sure!

It was equally interesting watching the prep required as the buffaloes were "dressed" for the event.
Once we arrived at the race track, we discovered a somewhat unusual aspect to racing on this particular course in Malaya.  Wherever we stood near the track, there wasn't a good vantage point in which to see the race other than for the first 100 yards.  Once the buffaloes were on their way, the vegetation and distant areas of the track only allowed us to see the bobbing flags on the carts at a distance. 

From what Butu explained as best as he could with our language differences, the race of each buffalo cart is timed, determining the winner(s) who'd go on to the bigger races for the finals in several months. 

It was the look on the mouth of the buffalo on the right that inspired me to get a close up of his teeth.  Please see the photo below for details.
Here's more information from this site further describing these events:

"Makepung is the name of a major grand prix in Jembrana, West Bali, which features racing buffalo races. Hundreds of pairs of buffaloes are teamed up together with their jockeys riding the traditional wooden ploughs that are slightly modified for the competition.

The racer buffaloes, called kerbau pepadu, compete in various open race circuits in assorted heats around the district of Melaya, leading up to the finals, or what has come to be known as the Jembrana Regent’s Cup, and the Governor’s Cup, held annually.


Makepung is derived from the base word of kepung, meaning ‘chase’, similar to the expression ‘steeplechase’. Makepung is one of the unique traditions stemmed from the agrarian life scene of the island, and is a widely enjoyed event in the regency of Jembrana, west Bali.

The grand-scale events inspired from such a simple, traditional pastime preserves the unique traditions of this part of the island, as well as to promote tourism to this far flung western location. The competitions also provide positive impact on other local sectors such as agriculture and farming.

The tradition has partly prevented the shift of land for farming use, and it has also encouraged the people to improve the quality of animal husbandry, raising winning buffaloes for the yearly events."


Once we entered the grounds for the race we walked along a narrow path weaving in and out of the rows of buffaloes.  I could tell Tom was a bit concerned we'd be kicked or stepped on by the huge beasts but I was so busy taking photos I never gave it a thought. 

This is how close we were to the buffaloes when we were able to get this close up of his teeth.  Even munching on all that vegetation causes tarter of the teeth. 
Being up close and personal was "right up my alley" and I couldn't have been more thrilled to look in the eyes of these amazing animals, admiring their individual expressions and elaborate decorations that the Balinese people design with considerable care and attention to detail.

At no point did we see any of the buffaloes handled with any rough treatment other than the first moments "out of the gate" when their tough hides were swatted to get the show on the road.  Often, while they waited their turns, we noticed the owners and handlers petting them in a revered and appreciative manner.

Many of the costumes worn by the buffaloes were elaborate.
Now, we get it...the buffalo on the beach every day being walked to the river for a cooling soak.  For all we know, they too participate in the races. Apparently, the buffalo races have contributed to tourism in this more remote part of the island, four hours from the capital city of Denpasar.

We had to walk quite a way to get to a spot on the sidelines in order to see the beginning of each racing cart, most often starting two at a time.  The walk was somewhat tedious over rough, slippery terrain with room for only one  person at a time.  Gingerly, we made our way to a good place to stand on the sidelines only a few feet (meters) from the track with no fence or guardrail to protect the spectators in the event of a mishap.

We ended up walking down this uneven grassy area on the right finally staying put close to the official's tower on the left. 
We positioned ourselves a reasonable distance from the starting line when we noticed the helter-skelter nature as the buffaloes and carts took off. An official yelled something in Balinese in a loud and intimidating voice that immediately triggered the buffaloes into action.  You can hear this on our above video.

After quite a while and with all the photos we wanted, we decided to head out before the end of the race since we couldn't tell who was winning anyway.  With the lines of vehicles, participants, spectators, buffaloes and carts it was evident it could have taken two to three hours to get back out to the highway.

The buffaloes were adorned and ready for the races to begin.  In a perfect world animals (including humans) wouldn't be subject to these types of sporting events and customs.
We'd hoped to make a stop at grocery store on the way back to the villa but Butu misunderstood taking us to a farmers market with mostly fruit, some veg, clothing and trinkets, none of which we needed to purchase.  The two Kataks purchase all of vegetables, eggs, chicken and fish each morning for the day's meal.  Next time we go out with Gede we'll make the stop.

At the moment, we're outdoors on the chaise lounges on a dark and somewhat dreary day.  We can't see across the ocean to Java, the Indonesian mainland, as on most sunny days.  We've already had our coffee and are showered and in our swimsuits as always. 

The buffaloes are being led to the starting gate.  More photos will follow tomorrow.
Regardless of the weather, we'll stay outdoors all day and swim in the pool even if it rains.  The cabana provides good cover from the rain and will have slightly less flies than inside the house.  There's no way we can describe how bad the flies are especially after it rains, especially during dinner.  But, like everything else, we'll manage just fine, flies and all.

One month from today, we'll already be in Singapore. Its hard to believe we've been in Bali over a month.  How the time flies when you're having fun!

May your weekend be enjoyable and meaningful!
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Photo from one year ago today, May 30, 2015:

Rough seas aboard ship one year ago had resulted in the closing of the swimming pool.  Walking about the ship had been tricky for 24 hours as the rough seas increased.  Luckily, neither of us suffers from seasickness.  For more photos and details, please click here.
 

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