After a run of the busiest five months we’ve ever had at our hotel and conference centre in Bali, we closed for a couple of weeks in October 2008 to do some renovations, including installing a new eco-friendly wastewaster system for our oceanfront restaurant to cope with all the increased washing up.
I don’t personally have a lot of interest in grease traps and waste water tanks, so I’m very happy to report that this project has turned out to be unexpectedly fascinating.
Our part of Bali is about an hour away from Mount Agung, the island’s tallest and most sacred mountain, and the local landscape is well populated with rocks that were thrown out during past volcanic eruptions. A solid foundation of rocks is a good thing when you’re building a hotel, but not such a good thing when it comes to digging a very large, deep pit to put some new tanks in.
We got in a crew of local diggers with their shovels, crow bars and hoes, and they made good progress the first day. It’s hard work in the tropical heat, but they are used to it and they appreciate having employment. The problems started on Day Two, when they started hitting larger and larger rocks. They asked me to buy them a heavy duty stone hammer, and I watched as they assailed the stones with all the force they could muster, making no impression on them whatsover. Drastic action was called for.
My husband, Richard, drove to town at dawn the next morning to find (with great difficulty in this part of the world) a jack hammer to hire, which proved to be just as ineffectual. Finally the workers told me in awed tones about two men they know who are “stone magicians”, who live in a remote mountain-top village. Someone went to fetch them and they all then stood around and watched as the two legendary stone breakers arrived, inspected the hole, assessed the situation, and bargained with me for their price. Basically, they could name their fee, and they knew it. They were our only hope.
I agreed to pay them three times the rate of the other workers, based on their estimate that it would probably take them three days to complete the job. As it turned out, they broke most of the rocks in the first 90 minutes of the next morning, took a rest, and then returned later in the day to break all the new rocks the diggers unearthed as the excavations continued. Hour for hour, they earned twelve times as much as the other workers, and they were worth it.
I have to say, I’ve never seen anything like it. They made rock breaking look like child’s play.
Working wordlessly together, they took it in turns to wield a large stone hammer and a crow bar. First they would first take a few seconds to size up the stone, much the same way as a master snooker player sizes up a shot. Then one of them would deliver two or three well placed strikes with the stone hammer and the other would casually stroll over, split off a large piece of rock with the crow bar and toss it aside like a feather. Often the strikes were so well placed that the rock would split into a number of pieces, as you can see in the photo. They had clearly been fooling with me when they estimated three days. No rock took them more than 15 minutes, no matter how large it was. Awesome know-how.
Rocks smashed, the tanks arrived, and we are now the proud owners of a wastewater system that can handle whatever we throw its way.
For anyone reading this wondering why the heck I didn’t just hire an excavator to do the job, this is the way things are done in Bali. And anyway there is no possible way to get such a machine to this location.
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