AUSTERE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT
Water is scarce, so the only crops grown here are maize, cassava, beans and tobacco. It is common in the small villages to see cacah strips or of raw cassava drying in the sun before being steamed as a substitute staple for rice.
The islands are very sparsely populated. Nusa Penida (usually called Nusa) has 25 villages scattered along its shores and in the highlands. Access is difficult, as transport is not well-developed and roads in the highlands, winding and uneven, are just beginning to be paved. Everything comes by boat from Bali, including cattle, motorcycle and even bulldozers (which are knocked down, transported and re-assembled.
Houses, built with limestone blocks on the Balinese pattern in the lowlands, are more like Lombok's one-room huts on the plateau. They always include a family shrine (sanggah), as most inhabitants are Hindu Balinese. However, in the main town of Toya Pakeh, many people call themselves "Muslim Balinese" by which they mean a mixture of Malay, Sasak, Bugis, and Javanese migrants - settled here for generations. They have their own mosque and Sasak cloth traders fro nearby Lombok live semi permanently in this desa Islam. Most highland farmers work in terraced dry field and breed cattle. Cows are brought to market aboard jukung to be slaughtered in Denpasar. On the coast, people life by fishing, transporting passengers and goods to and from bali, and more recently, by culvating seaweed. The seaweed the large green kotoni and the smaller, red pinusun is exported to Hong Kong for use in the cosmetic industry. On shore, one find co and cashew plantations.
Women help their husbands in the fields they used to spin cotton and weave cepuk (rough checkered cloth used for life cycle ceremonies) on back strap looms, but this has almost disappeared over the last 15 years, daily life is hard. Rainwater is collected huge tanks for supply during the dry season and on the southern cliffs of Penida, a spectacular bamboo stairway has been constructed together water from natural spring just above the sea. Electricity is not yet available in the highlands, and education, job entertainment opportunities are scarce.
THE CURSED ISLANDS
All kinds of appalling myths have always been attached to Nusa Penida, due to its gloomy atmosphere and unrewarding conditions. Black magic is said to flourish here, and Balinese from the mainland are careful about what they say to Nusa people so as not to offend them. All evil Bali especially flood and diseases during the dry season is said to come from Nusa, brought by the giant demon king, Jero Gede Mecaling. In the Badung and Gianyar regencies, the giant and his troops, who are said to cross the straits and land at Lebih, are met and expelled by means of exorcist sanghyang Dedari trance dances.
Formerly, the islands were part of the Klungkung kingdom, which used Nusa as a places banishment. There fore, most inhabitants are commoners and only a few bear the noble titles Dewa or Sri.
VISITING THE ISLANDS
Nusa Penida is the ideal place to get off the beaten track, and to seek quietude and authenticity. The inhabitants here speak Balinese, with a local accent and vocabulary influenced by Sasak, but for them Bali is another world to which they go only from time to time. The form ceremonies, such weedings and cremations is similar to those in Bali, but in other ways these island remind one of Lombok or Sumbawa.
In Nusa Penida, there is almost no tourism yet. It is wonderful to walk, ride on ojek two wheeled taxis, or drive through the villages in the highlands and along the shore to experience the island's rough beauty. It is also a rare experience to spend the night in a local home, as people are very friendly.
Several sights are worth visiting, such as Karang Sari Cave, the spring at Sakti and sebuluh Waterfall near Batu Madeg. The most interesting temple is Ratu Gede Mecaling's Pura Peed, 3 kin east of Toya Pakeh. In the smaller sanctuary here, a strange tree composed of three entangled ones grows, and from the trunk the stone mouth of Mecaling's minister protrudes. The temples odalan falls on Buda Cemeng Kelawu. Every three years on the fourth full moon (Purnama Kapat), a great festival (usaba) is also held, during which pilgrims from all over Bali come to pray at Pura Peed. The Gandrung dance, performed by two young boys clad in women's is still practiced in Plilit (Sekartaji) and Cemulik (Sakti) on Kajeng Kliwon, Purnama and Tilem according to the Balinese calendar. It is inspired by a dance of the same name in West Lombok. Baris Pati is performed in cemeteries at the time of the cremations, in simpler costumes than on Bali. Baris Gede is Danced at the Odalan at Batu Ngulapan (Batu Nungul). Sanghyang Jaran exorcist dances are held in times of crisis in Kutampi and Sakti.
Nusa Lembongan is a small island covered with coconut trees, mangrove forests, small farms, and surrounded by the coral reefs. The island is split between two villages, Jungut Batu and Lembongan. About 75 percent of its population is involved with seaweed farming. The relaxed atmosphere on the island is synchronized with the cycle of the tides. Villagers are seen planting, replanting, and drying the seaweed. Much of this activity takes place on the beach so it is difficult to find an isolated beach for sunbathing.
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