A traffic jam in India. Likely during rush hour, nothing but Tuk-tuks are visible on the rundown freeway

Do you have what it takes to drive in India?

Header Image: Andrey Martovskiy

The Indian landscape has an infallible beauty to it. From its sui generis Himalayan mountain range to the dense tropical forests of the south to the eclectic Ghats of Varanasi, there is a simplistic nirvana found in visiting these places. India should hold a place on your bucket list!

But, its one thing to describe this beauty. It is quite another matter to reach them. Specifically, traversing these regions in a fashion obtainable by the common man can be expensive.

Trains will get you to most places, if you are willing to brave an overnight train ride on India’s infamous railway line. This really is your only viable option for inter-regional travel. This leaves only one issue – intraregional travel.

India is typified by enormity. Its towns are vast and its iconic points seldom exist in proximity.

How are you going to get from the Dashashwamedh Ghat of Varanasi to the Tibetan Temple, nearly 10km away? I can tell you how. With great difficulty. Many of the streets of Varanasi, for example, are too narrow to be navigated by taxis or even Tuk-Tuk drivers, whom will refuse even an attempt.



 

Many of the truly unique places do not offer a persistent and easily accessible taxi service without you parting ways with a significant wad of cash. Even a seemingly novel task like chowing down on some veg curries will be costly.

There seems to be an unspoken rule amongst Indian drivers – accept no less than 4 times the price of that which a local pays from a foreigner.

It looks like you will be walking. What else can you do when your pockets run empty or, at least, reasonably empty?

Well, you could drive yourself. It is not the common avenue of travel for tourists nor the most stress free. But, then again, there is very little that is stress free in India. And, the constant availability of your own scooter and own heading may make navigating to your desired locations somewhat streamline and minimise interactions with locals.

But…

Do you have what it takes?

I have driven scooters all around the world. From the novel task of navigating Bali to the hustle bustle of Bangkok. Getting from one point to another has been an interesting task at times, but I never found myself exiting my comfort zone. And, then I came to India.

There are certain places where scooter navigation is out of the question. Places like New Delhi and Mumbai, for example. Firstly, no local in their right mind would rent out their scooter unless they desired it to be returned scuffed-up with a beaten driver. Secondly, and more importantly, the roads take a special few to navigate. Many Indians seem happily complacent to accept rides from those that have mastered the art of not-dying-in-the-worst-traffic-in-the-world.

charminar_traffic

Source: India

I had considered Bangkok a lawless road. While federal road laws do exist, it seems that no one accepts them and, instead, a community derived road conduct exists. It may not be perfect, but it seems to work. However, in India the only conduct that seems to exists is;

Every man for themselves.

The concept of give-way is determined by the trajectory and momentum of two or more drivers near collision; space is measured in centimetres; a honk has an infinite amount of meanings; cows are immovable objects that favour the middle of the road; stop lights are token gestures; cutting-off others is a high score game every driver plays; if you want to move nowhere, drive as fast and as close to others as possible – and nobody seems to want to go anywhere.

You would be hard-pressed to find places in the world that can rival Indian roads for the title of ‘Worst Roads in the World’.

But, it is important to distinguish the massive differences between a place like Delhi and a relatively banal road like those found in Khajuraho or Pushkar. A foreigner can navigate the roads of a place like Khajuraho without exiting the realms of sanity and relative safety. The rules listed above still exist, but there is a mere fraction of the amount of people.



Depending on the specifics of your location, it will be possible to hire a scooter. If you are staying in lowbrow accommodation, most locals will be able to put you in contact with someone who will hire out their scooter – most likely they will offer their own. Some are kind enough to simply request you pay for the fuel you use, which is rarely more than a few AUD dollars.

If you do manage to hire a scooter, visit all your desired locations and accomplish all meagre tasks that could not be reached on foot, you will inevitably ask yourself…

Is it worth it?

Between moving at a snail pace, continuously and unknowingly being honked, making every possible wrong turn and being in a constant state of flux, the whole ordeal will deplete your motivation. Furthermore, constantly teetering near the door of agonising pain that would follow a crash is unnerving, to say the least. And, the security and accessibility of your own scooter does little to compensate the whole ordeal.

In a place like India, you need to do as much as possible to reserve your motivation to travel. You will end up paying a larger, but still relatively small fee for a local taxi. But, in the end, the money that could have been saved by renting a scooter will offer little comfort.

Again, some places in India are suitable and maybe even more enjoyable on a rented scooter, but these places are few and far apart unless you get off the beaten tourist trail. (But, this opens up a whole other door of hardship).

You may have what it takes to drive in India. But, do you have what it takes to prosper in India while riding a bike?

Will you be driving in India?

For more articles with the sole focus of travel in India, check out How to smuggle a drone into India.

 

A crocodile navigates the murky backwaters of Australia's outback as the sunset gives an ominous orange glow to the creatures eye

A crocodile cull in Australia is pointless

Feature Image: Michael Schwab

Demands for a cull of Saltwater Crocodiles in Northern Australia and Queensland are an ever-present whisper in the ears of the regions masses. Every now and then these whispers intensify, often following a tragedy, and reach national headlines, where the subject and discourse polarise people.

“How can we stop the next crocodile attack?”

Answers to this question are broad and diverse. But, culling advocates have a ubiquitous presence in these discussions.

As of July 2018, the most recent calls for a crocodile cull have come from Northern Australia politicians. The most vocal proponents of a cull being far-right figures, such as Bob Katter, whom renewed their advocacy to the public after the non-fatal mauling of a teenage boy and the fatal mauling of a spearfisherman.

The teenager entered the Johnstone River on the drunken dare of a friend. He staggered into the croc-infested waters and, surprisingly, was mauled by a crocodile, but lived to tell the tale. The spearfisherman’s death is unfortunate. He was taken from the coast of Northern Queensland near Innisfail, in an area known to be inhabited by crocodiles. His body was later found with lacerations consistent with a crocodile attack.

It is important not to adopt knee-jerk reactions in response to such events. The legitimacy of a cull is important, as bills have been proposed, and rejected for now, on several occasions. It would only take one successful bill, implemented in hysteria, to once again threaten the future of a keystone species.



What legitimacy does a crocodile cull have?

Such a question can only be understood in the context of the last century of crocodile populations fluctuation. During this time, they were pushed to the brink of extinction. (This article uses the general term of ‘crocodile’ to denote purely the saltwater species, as this is the most active target of culls).

A bleak history?

 In the 1970s, several bills were introduced and implemented in state parliament that assigned ‘protected’ status to crocodiles across Northern Australia. It took close to a decade to achieve this outcome because, in spite of scientific recognition, the parties in power were highly reluctant and oppositional to this protection on the grounds of ecological importance.

Nonetheless, by the late 1970’s crocodiles were unanimously protected across all jurisdictions of Australia – this protection was extended to Freshwater Crocodiles.

Before this, the species had been hunted relentlessly for their hide and out of contempt. Due to a lack of regulation, it was essentially open season year-round. Crocodiles were on the brink of extinction. In the era before protection, intense hunting wiped out 95 to 98 percent of wild crocodiles.

The total population of Saltwater Crocodiles was down to roughly 3000 individuals in Australia – its lowest populous since the days of the Asia-Australia consummation.

The protected status was a welcome embrace for the species, which bounced back with a vengeance. It is estimated that there are now around 100,000 Saltwater Crocodiles inhabiting the waters of Australia.

In fact, the revival of the crocodile population is one of the conservation success stories of Australia. (Hence, the question mark in the title of this subsection). But, not everyone has embraced this rejuvenation.

“Crocodiles are now a serious risk to humans”

 Some suggest that the population of crocodiles living in proximity to humans has reached such a level, that they are now threatening the safety of humans.

Too many crocodiles?

Visit any local venue in the Northern Territory and you will likely hear long-term Territorians recounting a time when they used to swim in the regions waterways. But, many are now hesitant to walk the banks of those same waterways.

To many, this is evidence of a problem. Crocodiles are now of a populous which is infringing on human safety. While many people do not remember the time before the crocodiles near-extinction, they demand a resolution to the situation. They demand a return to a time when waterways were safe to swim in.

In the 40 years following the total protection of crocodiles in Northern Australia, there has been a total of 33 fatalities directly attributable to crocodile attacks – the Northern Territory is the main location of these attacks, accounting for nearly 75 percent of the fatalities. Rates of attack have increased slightly over this period, although they remain an extremely rare incident – from around 1 attack to 1.4 attacks per year.

These deaths, while unfortunate and in most cases avoidable if care were taken, are not indicative of a population explosion beyond sustainable levels.

Most scientists argue that crocodiles are almost fully recovered, verging on a near optimal level that sustains and can be sustained by the ecosystem. In most waterways, populations have reached a plateau, with said waterways reaching carrying capacity.

The increased sightings are an outcome of the recovery of the population. When a population of any species increases from 3,000 to above 100,000, there will be notable differences in its composition and density – naturally with such an increase, people are going to see more crocodiles.

As to the associated claim that waterways used to be swimmable and safe. This too is fallacious on rational grounds. The waterways in Northern Australia have never been safe to swim in. They have been less risky in the same way that an Olympic swimming pool hosting 1 crocodile is less risky than a pool with 3 crocodiles.

In 1975, just after Queensland’s protection of crocodiles, Peter Reimers was attacked and killed by a crocodile near Mission River – it is difficult to discern how many attacks occurred before this point as records only began following crocodile protection.

Crocodile awareness has been heavily promoted by Australian municipalities in recent years. It is possible that waterways in previous decades were perceived as ‘safe’ because people were not aware of the dangers and crocodile attacks did not receive as much coverage, owing to the times.

A second anomaly has amplified the chance of interactions – humans. Specifically, the explosion of the human population in regions that overlap into crocodile territory. The human population in Northern Australia has more than doubled over the period mentioned above. With millions more people and the attraction of urban sprawl, we have advertently encroached into crocodile habitat. Inevitably this has increased the chances of unwanted interactions.

The social perception of the crocodile population explosion has been a big driver for culling advocates. While it is founded on incomplete knowledge and counterintuitive logic, it is nonetheless part of the public discourse. But, in the context of this issue, it is only a single pro-cull argument. And, unfortunately, the only partially reasonable one.



I want to swim. Cull the crocs!

People have equated a perception of historical safety in waterways with a croc population explosion. This perception is false, but understandable – if you played the odds, a dip in the refreshing water would be a pleasant experience. However, there are others that ‘remember’ these times and advocate a cull upon them.

Culling advocates are fond of citing a time when the waterways were safe, yet such a time never existed.

“We can’t ski out in our favourite skiing places and the rowing clubs have dropped in numbers” – Shane Knuth

Upon the insipid desire to swim or go out canoeing, people are driven to call for the eradication of a species. This kind of deplorable anthropocentrism does not often rear its ugly head. But, unfortunately, it has not completely disappeared from existence. To people who desire a cull on this premise, all I can say is:

Please, go for a swim.

Asides from the anti-humanity sentiment of desiring a cull for recreational activities, the whole notion of humans as reasonable and conscientious moral agents has gone out the window. This mindset sits atop the pinnacle of a human selfishness. A selfishness that has underpinned the mentality behind some of the worst environmental atrocities in the modern age.

Ethics aside, there is logic in rejecting calls for a cull on the basis of a desire to swim in crocodile infested waterways. Namely, even when the crocodile population was at its lowest in modern history, attacks still occurred.

“It’s possible that in the 1970s it was relatively safe to swim in Queensland waterways, but even then, there were fatal attacks. If you bring the population down, even then there will be fatal attacks” – Dr Adam Britton

A crocodile cull would not bring safety to waterways. These zealots claiming the they want “to swim in the rivers again, like when we were kids” seemingly do not realise that attacks did occur. A cull would not emulate safety. 

The only way to guarantee safety while swimming in Northern Australian waterways would be to advocate the annihilation of an entire species.

An alternative option is that people could recognise that they have placed themselves in an ecosystem founded on a large reptilian predator. Short of exterminating a species for personal sentiments, you will have to accept that you wittingly live in close proximity to crocodiles not vice versa– crocodiles have existed in these same rivers for many millennia.

Despite the existence of these self-motivated views some are concerned extra-personal views; about macro-scale impacts to the local economy. Namely…

Crocs are driving away tourists.

Are crocodiles driving away tourists?

No. The resurgence of the crocodile population is having the opposite effect. Recent decade has seen the proliferation of the croc tourism industry – possibly due to the healthy crocodile numbers, but such a claim would purely be speculation.

If we consider the Northern Territory alone, the least visited region in Australia, tourism has increased year-on-year. Between 2015/16 period, tourism was up 28 percent to 1,735,000 international and domestic tourists.

The same period saw a 17 percent increase in foreign visitors to 800,000. During the 2013/17 period, the Northern Territories social media following increased 200-fold. Statistics after statistic indicates that the regions tourism industry has not suffered any major blows.

But, even if tourism to the region were falling, how can this be immediately linked to the crocodile populations resurgence?

No academic studies have formulated this connection, so who has?

Why should conjecture hold merit in the governance of wildlife management?

Why immediately target the crocodiles instead of issues, such as rurality, resource scarcity, negative perceptions of the local people, the high costs of visiting the region, the high crime rate?

What is the real issue?

There are easier ways to get yourself killed.

 

With a crocodile cull being tantamount to nothing, what can be done to mitigate the risks still posed. The problem is not with crocodiles, but people. Wildlife management is about managing people. Pre-empting and mitigating peoples lack of knowledge, fatal mishaps or blatant stupidity.

In every death or injury that has resulted from a crocodile attack, people have put themselves in a situation that increased the likelihood of an attack. No individual has been in a situation that could be considered completely innocuous, only to be mauled by a rouge crocodile in some abstract location.

From swimming and fishing in croc waters to camping on river banks to engaging in recreational activities in close proximity to crocs, every single person has put themselves in that situation. Should they have chosen to bask in the comfort of some inland activity, no injuries would have occurred.

Many deaths and injuries have been a result of alcohol and/or stupidity – people have a few drinks and throw caution to the wind. They go into waters that are known to have crocodiles and are surprised when they get attacked. More to the point, people believe that there is some issue with the crocodile population because of this attack. Should we legislate for stupidity?

“It will continue to happen; no amount of legislation is going to change anything.” – Professor Webb

The local governments have invested many resources into risk mitigation. From warning signs cluttering the banks of most rivers to radio and television campaigns to brochures. The Northern Territory and Queensland crocodile management program works remarkably well and has set a precedent for the world.

Despite such a large crocodile population, Australia has a disproportionate amount of attacks when compared to the rest of the world. The Philippines, for example, has a much lower population than Australia, but nearly twice as many attacks. The success of the public safety and awareness campaigns would only be tarnished by adopting nonsensical management strategies, in place of current ones that are proven to be effective.

Most crocodile attacks that do occur are outliers – the result of freak circumstance or stupidity. Furthermore, a cluster of incidents does not indicate a worsening situation. Similar to shark bites, it commonly indicates a blip in the numbers. We must be cautious not to adopt knee-jerk reactions to outlier events and rely on ‘solutions’ that are proven to have no legitimacy.

It is difficult to suggest something that can mitigate the risks associated with people acting on whims. But, this is not to say that nothing can be done. The best option is to build on top of the strong foundations provided by current crocodile management strategies.

Firstly, rule out any suggestions of strategies that are counter to scientific evidence. There are real world examples of how this can have unforeseen issues.

The Western Australia shark cull is a lesson in complete failure. The government relied on political ideology over scientific evidence to implement a cull. The scientific community predicted the outcome to a tee.

The cull did not improve public safety at all. But, it had a significant impact on Australia’s reputation as a precedential manager of endangered species. In the aftermath, all this policy achieved was the diminishment of Australia’s reputation.

Secondly, develop risk aversion strategies for high risk groups. Specifically, young males and foreigners. While this would need development on the basis of research that determines the breadth of high risk groups and why their risk is high, potential solutions could involve increased safety barriers in areas where high risk groups are most common, such as river pubs.

Along with this, education is an important factor because a good portion of those involved in crocodile interactions are foreigners. The best way to target these groups would be through tour operators. As this is where most foreign tourists end up. Investments in expanding safe practices and knowledge on crocodiles may be enough to subside the risk to foreigners – foreigners are a only a fraction of the affected group.

Potential mitigation mechanisms at the disposal of local and national governments are broad, although many hold promise. In the light of scientific knowledge, the best option is to develop strategies that further public awareness and minimise risky behaviour.

The specifics of the best path to take are still up in the air. But, one thing is certain: a crocodile cull holds no merit nor those that purport it.

Is there any rationale for a crocodile cull in Australia?

 


In a popular street market of Jaisalmer, two Indians prepare a fresh pot of Kachori in boiling oil. Their pan has a thick buildup of charcoal from years of use.

Do Indians’ eat meat?

Anyone who has ever visited India will be aware of the slew of questions that follow such a journey upon returning home. You will be pressed to comment on just about every aspect of Indian culture and life as if you were an expert.

Inevitably, you will be asked: Do Indians’ eat meat?

Well… do they?

India is home to the highest population of identifying vegetarianson Earth. In total, it accounts for as much as 30 percent of the nations’ total population – in 2018 this stands at just under 450 million people. This is an exceptionally high number by any standard, but particularly when compared to the abysmal rates of meat abstention or moderation in most affluent countries.

By this precedent, much curiosity is drawn. Why are so many Indians vegetarians? What underpins this oddity in a rapidly intensifying global livestock economy? Can we extrapolate these actions to future peoples?

There is an answer to all these questions, but it starts first by recognising a flaw in the overriding line of thinking. The Indian race and the quality of vegetarianism are inaccurately conflated – Indians are not vegetarians by virtue of being Indian. If these two factors were dependent, the number of vegetarians in India should be close to 100 percent, not a minority group.

Still, there must be a correlating dynamic between the two factors, which has resulted in the high percentage of vegetarians in India. While standing as individual identities, their relationship is not coincidental nor entirely independent. What connects the two? Hinduism.

Around 80 percent of Indians, give or take 5-10 percent, identify as practicing Hindus. This equates to just under 1 billion Hindus in India alone. Naturally with such a numerous and expansive population, the details and application of said faith will vary. However, Hinduism as a national identity can be whittled down to a few general principles.

These principles begin with the archetypal belief in a supreme being, sometimes referred to as Brahman, who espouses three absolute tenants of the faith – truth, dharma and karma.

Brahman is seen as the collective identity of many individual gods and goddesses that personify said being’s individual aspects, such as Saraswati the goddess of learningand Lakshmi the goddess of good fortune– think of it like a puzzle set, where pieces have individual faces but interlock to form a single cohesive unit.

Some Hindus look to the authority of the sacred scriptures known as Vedas – the Hindu equivalent of the Bible or Qur’an. In translation of these ‘truths’ and other teachings, such as those of the enlightened Buddha, somepracticing Hindus adopt a restrictive diet. But, what specific beliefs motivate this abstention?

Most modern Hindus abstain from the consumption of cattle, although they may consume the flesh of other animals. The source and exact starting point of these beliefs are difficult to discern. (Historians can tell us when events occurred and detail the transition at length, but are unable to decipher the subjective reality).

To some, cows are perceived as a mother figure due, in part, to their involuntary provision of milk – relating to the story of Gomatha orAditi. Some Hindus’ view them as the vahanaof gods, by which they symbolise an omen of sorts – many temples still follow the tradition of having a Nandistatue preceding. Some Hindus’ believe beef abstention is written into and prioritised in the Vedas scriptures.

There is a variety of religion-based reasoning used by Hindus to abstain from the consumption of beef.There is just as much diversity in reasoning for completemeat abstention. Although, two main ones are as follows. Either, vegetarianism is adopted as a derivative of ahimsa – a key teaching in the Hindu faith. Or, vegetarianism is adopted as a rational extension of Hindu scripture, which regularly forbids beef consumption on compassionate grounds – an individual could pose: if we must care for cows, why not all lifeforms?

However, the adoption of vegetarianism is not synonymous with the faith, as much of the teachings is lost in translation or perception. Hinduism is not an organised religion, in the same manner as Christianity or Muslim. Its teachings are not confined to a single book or set of tablets. Local, regional, caste and community-driven practices influence the way individuals and groups interpret and practice their beliefs. From this system, the diversity in beliefs is borne.

Just as diversity of culture exists within the worlds countries, so too does it exist within a single religion, especially a pantheistic and polytheistic religion. There are people in India that maintain religious or non-religious views from polar ends of the spectrum, from fundamentalists to agnostics and atheists. There are those that swindle general Hinduist ideology to reject common Hinduism teachings of altruism and kindness in a vain attempt to justify meat consumption without conflicting with their faith in the gods or threatening the self with acts of immorality and anti-faith. Potential translations of Hinduism harbour as much variation as its adherers superficial qualities.

A tainted history.

Few Hindus wish to acknowledge past practices in the name of their faith. For instances in this history could be described as diametric to modern translations of the faith. But, they are important to recognise because they help formulate an understanding of the faiths current practices.

Roughly two millennia ago, during the post-Vedic era, cows attained a symbolic importance in the faith. Prior to this, cows were used in sacrifices; exonerated on special occasions; had little religious value; were hunted for their meat and hide; et cetera. But, the religion underwent ground-shaking and relatively quick transformations in the way it identified with cattle.

Most scholars generally equate the rise of meat abstention in Hindu cults to a period around 300 B.C. with the telling of a Sanskrit epic – the Mahabharata. The epic in question reads:

 “Once, when there was a great famine, King Prithu took up his bow and arrow and pursued the Earth to force her to yield nourishment for his people. The Earth assumed the form of a cow and begged him to spare her life; she then allowed him to milk her for all that the people needed.”

 This myth describes the rise of a symbolic and utilitarian value for cows. Where people abandoned the hunting of wild cattle, choosing instead to domesticate and preserve their lives. In this sense, the cow became a paradigmatic animal that provides a food source without being killed.

This same period saw a multitude of underpinning factors that supported this change of ideals. For example, some dharma texts proposed that cows should not be eaten because of their increasingly recognised presence in scripture and tales, where they were associated with Brahmin – a sacred creature in Hindu lore.

As the centuries progressed, factors like social status became intimately connected to food restrictions. Whereby abstaining from meat became a ‘matter of status’ – the higher the caste the greater the food restrictions. M. N. Srinivas, an Indian sociologist concerned with the caste system and social stratification, described, in great length, how lower castes gave up beef in order to move up the social ladder, in a process known as ‘Sanskritization’.

(There is potentially 10s of thousands of contributing factors to the rise of beef abstention in Hindu culture. The aforementioned factors are merely some of the more notable and empirically supported underpinnings).

After two millennia, we return to current times and, once again, are face-to-face with a group of well-intended acquaintances asking…

Do Indians eat meat?

Some Indians eat meat. Some Hindus’ eat meat. Some Indians abstain from meat. Some Hindus’ abstain from meat. The variety of restrictive and non-restrictive diets is as diverse in India as its landscape.

Hinduism is a religion of contradictions when interpreted on an individual basis. The faith can be interpreted to suit individual preferences. So, while Hinduism is intimately connected to the high concentration of vegetarians in India, it is not the sole cause. Hinduism is the prescribed reason in an individual’s decision to become vegetarian only if said individual’s subjective beliefs can be translated into the Hindu faith – rarely will Hinduism promote vegetarianism if it is opposition to the subjective self.

If some individual wishes to describe themselves as a Hindu, while continuing to consume meat, it is as simple as translating the teachings of Hinduism to suit their prescribed desires. While beef does appear to be a common abstention, even amongst meat consumers, the majority of practicing Hindus seem to have no issue with eating all other forms of meat.

Hinduism ≠ Vegetarianism

Do preordained sentiments motivate vegetarianism more than Hinduism?

 

Afterword:

***Many practicing Hindus whom observe the teaching of compassion for cattle have inadvertently and unwarily perpetuated the abuse of the species. In line with the notion of cattle being the providers of milk, many in India consume high amounts of dairy. Like most nations this has resulted in the industrialisation and systemic abuse of the cattle. And, also like other nations, smokescreens and deception are the backbone of the industry. For if Indians’ truly new the practices undertaken to produce the milk and milk-products they consume, it would be impossible to abide by their own beliefs of reverence for the cattle while still consuming its milk.

*** Many Indians do not expressly follow the ethics or guidelines of vegetarianism, but have partially adopted the diet out of circumstances. To accommodate a high population of vegetarians, many stalls and restaurants have aligned their menus with the diet, with very few offering more than one or two options. Such a small variety of options, not to mention the popularity of Indian vegetarian food, has driven many people in the nations developed cities to consume little meat.

Those living on the peripheries and in rural areas do consume meat but this is more out of circumstance than religion or ethics. Poverty or destitution has forced many to undertake subsistence lifestyles, relying on the bread of the land – they eat meat out of necessity. Their diet consists of what they can grow, forage or hunt and occasionally raw foods purchased at the local market.

How to smuggle a drone into India.

India is one of only a few nations to completely outlaw consumer drones. While the government suggests they are for regulation not prohibition, their actions suggest otherwise. Laws governing the use of drones have effectively removed the ability of any individuals to purchase or own a drone in India nor import as a foreigner.

Mountains of paperwork, excessive restrictions and indecipherable bureaucratic jargon are just a few of the hurdles to drone usage in India. Their stance is truly unclear. But, they are adamant about one thing; should you try to enter India with a drone while lacking appropriate paperwork it will be removed from you at the airport.

To some, the use of a drone may seem like a trivial matter. But, the Indian government has affirmed their belief that any ‘regulation’ is purely directed at minimising any potential injuries.

Regardless of the ban…

I recently travelled to India via the Ghandi International Airport, the busiest airport in the world, with my DJI Mavic and no paperwork. 27 days later I departed the same airport with a stockpile of drone photography from a myriad of corners around India.



An impasse?

Several weeks earlier I was on the cusp of a backpacking trip through Southeast Asia. Adventure was my calling. Photography my motivation. For near on two months I had been lugging around a second backpack solely dedicated to photography equipment.

Reaching the southernmost boarder of Indonesia, I was faced with my first dilemma – India or Cambodia? I am not sure to what reasoning I made the decision, but I quickly found myself with a ticket and e-visa to India.

With ticket in-hand and pack on back, I was faced with my second and more substantial dilemma when doing some research on India; No drones allowed and I was carrying my recently purchased DJI Mavic.

Stressed. Frustrated. Tired. And, conflicted on what path was best to take with the few options I had.

There were essentially two options. Send the drone home, effectively ending any aerial shots during future travels or take a risk and try to smuggle in into India. Through this article, you can easily assume which option I took.

With a disheartened smile and drone in pack, I boarded my plane bound for Ghandi International Airport. I had read much about smuggling drones into India and had developed a full-proof plan;

Put the drone in my carry-on bag. Smile. Act like a normal non-criminal. Hope for the best.

It may sound foolhardy. But, had I done anything else I would have inadvertently revealed the presence of my drone.

Smuggling a drone into India.

Despite what you may have heard about Indian airports – busy, sluggish, aggravating and excessively restrictive – you’d be wrong. Well, actually you’d be right on all points but the last. In fact, unlike many airports around the world, it is a trivial matter navigating security.

After departing the plane, you will navigate a long corridor to the visa check point. Here, you will go through the normal rigour of entering a country. Applications, photos, passport checks, questions, tensions, et cetera. But, if you have filled out the appropriate paperwork it should not be too tedious.

Next you will precede to baggage collection. Up until now everything should be running smoothly with minimal risk to exposing your drone. But, after baggage collection you will head to the TSA. The dreaded TSA. The biggest threat to your clandestine operation.

Here is how it will play out:

You will approach the TSA. Officers will glare at you and your baggage. As you move towards the baggage scanner, they will trade looks in a threatening and suspecting manner.

Images start racing in your head. Upon scanning your baggage, alarm bells ring. The officers are prompted to investigate your baggage. They uncover your drone. You are escorted to a sealed room where you are separated from your drone and this whole operation is declared a failure. (I can vividly recall these exact fears playing out in mind). But, back to reality.

With a large sigh and gulp you move towards the TSA. A man asks for your passport. And, seeing that you are a foreigner – “here it comes” – he points to the exit. You walk straight pass all the TSA and straight out of the airport.

You have successfully entered India with a drone. And, you are an international drone smuggler.

There is almost no challenge to bringing a small to medium sized drone into India if you are a foreigner from a popularcountry.

Now that you are in India, you have to determine whether or not you are going to use it. There are many places with signs forbidding drone usage and many that do not. It is a novel task getting the drone in, but the penalties are excessively harsh if they catch you. Specifically, they will immediately confiscate the drone and most likely demand an on-the-spot fine, which you will not want to deny them.



Depending on your situation, the best advice I can give you for drone smuggling in India is:

Avoid if possible. Risk if necessary. Do not bring anything you are not willing to lose.

What if I get caught?

Obviously, there is the risk of, for some unknown reason, being requested to run your bags through the TSA and the drone being uncovered. If the drone is discovered it will be confiscated.

(Depending on your drone type, running your baggage through the TSA may not uncover it. The DJI Mavic, for example, is compact and foldable which hides its true nature from the authorities. The Phantom Pro, on the other hand, will likely be conspicuous and easily discoverable).

This does not mean that your drone is lost forever. Only during your stay in India. Upon confiscation of your drone, the authorities will force you to fill out some paperwork declaring, among several things, that you recognise why your drone is confiscated.

On the document, there will be a box you can tick that indicates your intention to collect your drone when leaving India. Be sure to tick this box otherwise your drone will truly be lost. Upon departure of India through the same entrance port you will receive your drone back, should the authorities be feeling hospitable. 

Have you smuggled a drone into India?

***Note: I was travelling with a DJI Mavic Pro. The unique ability of this drone to fold up meant it was far less conspicuous than most drones. This was likely a contributing factor to the success of my smuggling operation. I can’t speak to the ability to import non-compacting drones.

 

Moving forward? Australia’s plastic bag ban.

Several supermarket chains in Australia have initiated a phase-out of single use plastic bags – touted as the 2018 plastic bag ban. While their intentions are unknowable, especially when much of their store still offers plastic wrapping and containers, the ban was welcomed by environmental groups and much of the general public.

However, it has not been unanimously well-received. For some Australians, it seems to have amounted to a near cataclysmic existential threat. Enraged customers vented their frustrations on social media, with many calling for a “boycott” of the supermarket chains.

Others took a more direct response, resorting to physical and verbal violence towards supermarket staff at the unavailability of a free or paid plastic bag.

The heated response from some shoppers has reignited old calls to offer 15c plastic bags to quell the growing tensions. But, if history is a precedent, it is obvious that bags with a small fee will not solve the issue.



The Scandalous 15c Plastic Bag

In the early 2000’s, a revolutionary idea was surmised: supermarkets would offer 15c plastic bags in place of free ones. By solely offering bags with a small fee, it was intended to deter people from using them and drive them to purchase their own reusable bags.

Again, the response was mixed. Many could not see the plan as a green-minded disincentive. They saw it as corporate profiteering.

Still, the basic economic principle was to deter use through a cost-benefit equation. Where the cost of the bag was proportional to a value that would outweigh the benefit gained through the convenience of a plastic bag. This would invigorate people to purchase their own reusable grocery bags and deter others from using a plastic bag for small purchases. And, it worked… kind of.

Plastic bag sales dropped and reusable bag sales soared. But, there was a certain level of contempt within the general public and hostility directed towards supermarket staff charging customers for plastic bags.

Despite this, many retailers solely offered a 15c plastic bag and took the hostilities with a crocodile smile.

Now, we arrive to today. Where people wish to repeat the process and willingly subject themselves to the former contempt felt from having to pay for a plastic bag.

A small fee for plastic bags will not solve the issue. The best option is to progress with the phase-out and come to terms with the change. Just as people did with the 15c charge. People will either adapt or be forced to carry their purchase individually… which would you prefer?

Moving forward.

Amongst the rallying calls from plastic bag enthusiasts, a small subset can be heard highlighting genuine implications in the ban. Specifically, two issues:

The First Issue: Increased bin liner sales

Removing access to free plastic bags has the potential to increase bin liner sales. A review of the Plastic Shopping Bags act 2008 found exactly this. Bin liner sales increased from 15 percent to 80 percent in the wake of a plastic bag ban. Consumers were inadvertently being driven to a potentially more unsustainable product.

Many bin liner brands contain artificial fragrance chemicals that act as soil and water pollutants. And, have a greater carbon footprint than some single use plastics.

BUT, not all bin liners present this issue.

Like all products there are alternatives that offer uncompromising environmental sustainability, including 100% biodegradable and compostable bin liners. There are many environmentally sustainable bin liners. For tips and tricks on alternative bin liners visit Frugal and Thriving.

With the responsibility of sustainability being pushed onto the consumer, it is imperative that we are proactive in monitoring what and how we purchase items, so as to avoid more consumer driven issues.

The Second Issue: A half-assed plastic ban

Many of these supermarkets have expressed concern for the environment as a reason for their decision. While this does seem noble, their actions do not reflect this sentiment.



Check-out plastic bags make up a fraction of the total amount of single use plastics pumped out by supermarkets. For example, most places still wrap or place their products in plastic, including fruit and vegetables. With no clarification on this counterintuitive dilemma, it is reasonable to see how this discrepancy is driving much of the publics scepticism on the integrity of the ban.

But, regardless of intent, every incremental lowering of plastic usage, no matter how minimal, contributes to a future with less rubbish and removes them from the build-up of dump sites. Even a 1% reduction in Australia’s plastic pollution would equate to 1000’s of tonnes of trash removed from the country’s fragile terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

With all eyes firmly focused on the plastic bag ban, only time will tell if these companies take the necessary steps to affirm their dedication to phasing out plastic usage or if the responsibility will continue to fall on the consumer.

One thing is certain. This ban has drawn much-needed coverage to the issue of plastic usage and furthered the public discourse. Taking one-step closer to a plastic free future.

Are plastic bags on the way out?

 

The Cost of Plastic Convenience #NoPlasticJuly

July signifies the beginning of environmental campaigns heavily focused on the issues of plastic output. Devised as a mechanism to shed light on the direness of plastic pollution, #NoPlasticJuly engages social media users and pushes the issue in front of the unaware.

A key driver for #NoPlasticJuly is prompting people to share their own plastic reductions. But, this has transgressed the intended direction of the month and become a show in greenwashing and a PR move.

#NoPlasticJuly has been whittled down to #OnlyConvenientPlasticJuly. For the most part, people have been complacent with brandishing their plastic saving measures on social media. However, come August or even another meal where the situation is not so convenient or when the fad has died out, and people quickly return to plastic usage.

Studies indicate that convenience trumps sustainability impulses; that people may wish to pursue environmentally-minded avenues, but will falter when faced with inconvenience.

Unfortunately, #NoPlasticJuly has become a token gesture. Those that are truly concerned about the environment and recognise the serious issue of plastic live a #NoPlasticLife.



Convenience.

Convenience has fuelled the surge in plastic usage. But, many of its issues begin in production. Specifically, over 50 percent of the plastic we use is single-use. Meaning, it is designed to be thrown away after a single use. This includes food packaging and most plastic bags. For scale, 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used around the world every year.

After usage, there is no optimal way to dispose of these plastics because they are pollutants by nature. When burned they can produce highly toxic dioxins; when buried they leech into soil causing depletion, water pollution and subsequently loss of plant life; when concentrated in dump grounds, it breakdowns into micro-plastics, again, polluting water and soil.

“Plastic is a substance the earth cannot digest”

–  Plastic Pollution Coalition

Most troubling of all these issues is the ruinous relationship between plastic and environmental water. When properly contained on land, plastics will have a dramatic effect on localised areas, but the peripheries can still remain relatively healthy. (It’s not a solution, but it kicks the can down the road). This is not the case in water.

Plastic affects water directly with pollutants, such as micro-plastics, rendering it unfit for consumption and life. It is a difficult task to halt this contamination. A 2018 study by the State University of New York found that 93 percent of surveyed bottled waters contain micro-plastics – this prompted WHO to conduct an international health review of bottled waters.

The rise of plastic pollution has driven a surge in marine life deaths. Our denizens of the deep inadvertently consume plastics or mistaken them for food or become entangled in it. Some 100,000 marine mammals and turtles, and 1 million sea birds are killed by plastic annuallyThis number is only rising! And so are the statistics.

  • Every day, 8 million pieces of plastic reach the ocean.
  • Plastic makes up to 90% of marine debris.
  • 5000 pieces of plastic have been found per mile of UK Beach.
  • Every year 13 million tonnes of plastic leaks into our oceans.
  • 91% of plastic is not recycled.
  • 500 million plastic straws are used every day in America alone.
  • One million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute.
  • If plastic pollution is not curbed, it will outweigh global fish stocks by 2050.
  • Many plastic products will not biodegrade for hundreds of years – almost all plastic that has ever been made still exists.

Plastic pollution is on the rise! These statistics are a snippet of some of the startling facts to come out of #NoPlasticJuly. So…

What can you do?

Plastic has no essential qualities, despite its qualities seeming essential. It can be used to transport groceries; siphon fluid from a cup; and keep food fresh and more. But, in each of these circumstances, plastic does not need to be the default.

Plastic is purely a product of convenience.

Alternative and sustainable materials and methods are always available. They are just not as mainstream. Reusable grocery bags, fresh greengrocers, biodegradable straws and food containers, for example, are all alternative and sustainable measures for common uses of plastic. (These may seem like trivial examples, so for deeper analysis of removing plastic from your life visit Trash is for Tossers or The Rogue Ginger).



The key to minimising plastic usage will be decoupling this notion of convenience and plastic, completely. Even removing plastic as the occasional and affable back-up for when, say, you leave your reusable grocery bags in the car.

By conditioning yourself to reject plastic as a convenient back up, you will find that you stop forgetting the recyclable bag in the car or considering a plastic straw in your drink. As many people are finding out, the inability to purchase some convenient plastics as back-ups has simply meant people have become proactive in their planning and their resourcefulness.

#NoPlasticJuly was formulated as a genuine way to get the word out about the harm of plastic. While it has not lived up to that potential through the bane of social media, it is symbolic of the enlightenment some individuals have towards achieving a better future.

With stores in Australia initiating plastic bag bans to Mumbai illegalising some plastics to Kenya issuing potential jail time for plastic usage, it is clear that the word is starting to get out. No matter how faint the calls, people are uniting for a plastic free future!

Is plastic reduction on your radar?

 

Dealing with Bali Belly (Traveller’s Sickness)

You’ve heard all the warnings about food in Bali and taken all the recommended precautions to avoid the infamous Bali Belly, otherwise known as Traveller’s Sickness.

But, despite all that research and planning, you have ended up here. Likely meaning that it was all for nothing. Diarrhoea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, aches and pains are pretty good indicators that you have got Bali Belly and are in for a few rough days.

 

What is Bali Belly?

 

Bali Belly occurs when an individual consumes contaminated food or water that has been exposed to pathogens, including bacteria, viruses or protozoans. This commonly occurs in the first week on the island as the body is exposed to an unfamiliar environment with a great swathe of foreign bacteria.

Some people are more susceptible to Bali Belly than others and everyone will experience it differently. But, common signs of Bali belly include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Malaise
  • Stomache cramping and pain
  • Mild Temperature
  • High urgency to use bathroom

Secondary issues can include:

  • Dehydration
  • Headache

If blood is present in your vomit or stall, you have a high fever or significant abdominal pain, contact professional person ell as these symptoms indicate something severe.



 

Overcoming Bali Belly.

 

There is no way to sugar coat it: Bali Belly has no quick fix. The next 12-36 hrs are going to be hell. But, there are a few options that may help ease the whole ordeal.

 

Option 1: Tough-it-out

For most people, Bali Belly is discomforting but not severe. It will pass naturally within a day or two. During this time, your hotel room will be your only solace should you choose to tough-it-out.

Maintaining water levels and keeping up nutrient levels with small and frequent meals should be your main focus. Electrolyte drinks, such as Hyrdalyte, will help ensure you are hydrated – you are going to be losing a lot of fluids that need replacing.

No relief will be found in this option, but minimal money will be lost!

 

Option 2: Antibacterial tablets & water

For those above-standard cases of Bali Belly, it is best to gain access to some anti-bacterial medication. (Bali Belly is most commonly caused by Bacteria, such as e. coli). This will require a visit to the local doctors for a prescription – unless you have bought your own medication. The consultation and tablets will cost you upwards of $120 AUD.

For the good ol’ self-prescriber, consider these tablets or something of the sort:

Cedantron for nausea and vomiting; Buscopan for stomach cramping; Nexium for a gastric acid regulator; Paracetomal for headaches. And again, keep yourself hydrated and eat small amounts of food frequently.

 

Option 3: Visit the local hospital

If you are on deaths doorstep and a doctor has confirmed it, you will likely be requested to spend the night in the monitoring ward. Here, they will place you on an IV drip for hydration and nutrients; have a nurse check on your condition regularly; offer you a variety of medication based on your condition; conduct several tests for various measures of health.

This will speed up your recovery. BUT, it will cost you in excess of $1300 AUD. AND, depending on your insurance company, Bali Belly may be excluded in a ‘due diligence’ clause. You either want to double check with your insurance company or spend a sleepless night in your hotel room.




 

Avoiding Bali Belly.

 

By now it may seem redundant. But, there are some simple things you can do to reduce your chances of contracting Bali Belly. (These suggestions are also applicable to most developing nations). Things you can do to minimise the chances of Bali Belly, include:

  • Use bottle or filtered water. This includes, brushing your teeth, in your tea, frozen water products, water used in food, et cetera.
  • Avoid peeled and pre-cut fruits.
  • It is advisable to avoid meat altogether. Eating rare, raw and undercooked meat is particularly inadvisable.
  • Food at room temperature or exposed to the environment has an increased chance of contamination.
  • Avoid dairy.
  • Ensure that plates and utensils are completely dry before use.
  • Eat at popular and busy restaurants. These places will have a high turnover rate so food is more likely to be fresh.
  • You can’t be too clean! Always wash your hands with soap and get familiar with hand sanitisers.

 

While Bali Belly is synonymous with travel in Bali, it should not be a deterrent. The island is popular for a reason and there will be no issue if you are vigilant about what you eat and drink. And, you can find comfort in the knowledge that you will recover eventually.

 

What is your best tip for avoiding Bali Belly?

 

 

***After contracting a severe case of Bali Belly and being requested to spend a night in the hospital, this article is nothing more than a reflection of the writer’s experience and what they were recommended.



Backpackers Guide to ‘Travel in North Bali’

 

North and South Bali share few similarities. The weather. The people. The environment. All drastically different despite only being separated by 50 or so kilometres. All travellers experience the South, but few make it to the North of the island. This is a mischance!

The North is the place for those that want to get away from the tourist haven of the South and experience something more wild and raw; to experience a relatively untarnished representation of Balinese Life.

The North is an entirely different landscape from the South, typified by dense jungles, raging waterfalls, jagged highland mountains, monkeys and dogs, and people living truly subsistent lifestyles. If you want to see the true Bali, this is where you must go.

But, this contrast has come-about because Northern Bali is relatively untouched by tourism. The distance from the islands only international airport dissuades many from visiting. In line with this comes the need for an entirely different method of travel distinct from the convenient south Bali. Most importantly, how can you travel on the cheap in the disjunct North.

This is not an article on things to do in the North. It is about the most economically efficient way to travel so as to fully experience the local environment and culture on the cheap. If you are looking for adventure try Bali’s 9 waterfalls in 9 days or The Top 10 Things to do in North Bali.

 

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Where to stay?

 

North Bali is a large area with many things to see. Unfortunately, they are disjunct and there are few, if not none, local taxis eagerly scouting for tourists. Unless you organise a private driver and are willing to spend a premium fee, you will find yourself in the middle of nowhere with few options.

With this in mind, you need to place yourself in a position that is central to everything with viable amenities and resources. This would be in the region surrounding Lake Buyan. The main highway runs directly pass this lake, providing the best starting point for anywhere in the region. Hotels are scattered all along this stretch of the road and many locals have set up various shops catered to local and foreign travellers. Also, most trails and attractions in the region connect to this road.

Hotels in the area go for around 200,000 IDR, or about $19 AUD, a night. But, if you look around and travel wiser you can get them cheaper. If you are travelling with a group or a friend and willing to share a room it will make things cheaper. For example, a room at the One Homestay and Warung costs only $7 AUD, including breakfast, a night when split between two people.

If you use any online booking sites, such as booking.com, and time your stay right, you can always save with unique offers, flash sales and super cheap deals. Just be flexible, patient and bring a friend!

 

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How to get there?

 

Now that you know where you are going, it is time to get there. Most taxi’s will take you to Buyan, but it is likely to cost you in excess of 600,000 IDR.  Unless you are travelling in a large group and split the bill, it is not a viable option. Thankfully, there is an alternative. But, it is a bit… rough.

You are going to have to do it how the locals do it. Mini buses run from Denpasar to Buyan daily. Most do not go directly to the lake, instead zigzagging across the country, dropping off and picking up people and packages. Eventually they will make it. Though sometimes it can take up to 8 hours – a private taxi could do it in 2-3 hours. But, most commonly it takes about 4 hours and costs 60,000 IDR per person. (Depending on your luggage you may have to pay for a second seat).

The bus leaves Ubung Terminal in Denpasar around 0900hrs, bound for Seririt. It makes a stop of in the Munduk region, the location of Lake Buyan, a bit after lunch. It is best to come to the terminal early, around 0800 hrs to purchase a ticket, beat the crowd and ensure your spot on the bus.

 

Getting from A to B.

 

The best and cheapest way to get around North Bali, much like the rest of the island, is by scooter. There really is no rival in a cost + convenience equation.

Most hotels rent out scooters or will happily put you in contact with a rental company – it is best to email the hotel prior to arrival just to double check.

You should expect to pay 70,000 IDR per day. However, most companies will do it cheaper if you rent for multiple days and haggle. (I rented a scooter for three days and got it down to 170,000 IDR). If you are a good haggler, you could get it much lower.

If you can ride a scooter in Denpasar, you can ride one in the North. The roads are nowhere near as crazy. And if you are not comfortable in Denpasar, the North is the best place to practice riding. You will not regret trying! Just be prepared for a few long hauls to reach the best spots.

 

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Where to eat.

 

There is no shortage of chow-down spots around Buyan. You are only limited by your preference and budget. There are many upbeat restaurants that have adopted foreign cuisines purchasable at a reasonably cheap price. But, you cannot go past local street food for affordability and taste!

If you are worried about trying street food, you should not be. A lot of the stigma is borne out of excessive western standards of cleanliness and individuals raised on a silver spoon. Ultimately, doing little more than making pansies out of people and limiting them from experiencing the splendour of Balinese cuisines. Most shops pride themselves on a clean working area and producing quality food. But, there is the very odd few. If you are concerned about a vendor, my only advice to you is;

Drink bottled water. Eat where others eat. Avoid meat. 

While in Bali, I ate street food for every meal for nearly a month with no issues. Each meal comprised of a main dish and a bottled drink, rarely costing more than 30,000 IDR, or about $2.50 AUD.

There is not much else you need to know for travel in the North. This side of the island is perfect for those adventurous souls wanting to get away from the hustle-bustle of Denpasar or the touristy Canggu to experience a more untarnished representation of Balinese life. Now that you know you can reach the North on the cheap…

 

Will you be visiting the North?

Bali’s 9 Waterfalls in 9 Days

By Gaia’s grace, we have waterfalls. Whether by the tranquil mind that comes from a raging torrent or the adventure had in trekking to these secluded locations, waterfalls seem to bring out the best in people.

Bali hosts a diverse myriad of waterfalls across its small, but varied landscape. One could not hope to ever visit all of them. But, you can at least scratch the surface and visit some of the more awe-inspiring waterfalls.

So… here are 9 of Bali’s waterfalls you can visit in 9 days to get the scratching started.

 

Day 1/ Banyumala Twin Waterfall

 

Situated in Bali’s northern foothills, the twin falls will be one of the more secluded locations of your trip. This is a good thing. The seclusion means fewer people and few gawking tourist trappers. In order to reach it you will be travelling a far distance – on bike and foot – from any built-up areas, so come prepared.

There is a small sign on the side of a single lane road indicating the beginning of the track to Banyumala. The walk is not strenuous, but it can be a bit hazardous with steep stairs and moss-covered rocks. From experience, I can tell you; locally bought thongs do not handle well.

 

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Entry Fee: 15,000 IDR

Location: Wanagiri, Sukasada, Wanagiri, Sukasada, Kabupaten Buleleng, Bali 81161

Note: Follow the signs. Not the path. (You could end up back in Denpasar following some of the paths locals have carved).

 

Day 2/ Sekumpul Waterfalls

 

The other twin falls, as they are locally known, are one of the most well-known waterfalls of North Bali, potentially of the whole island – largely due to their high presence on Instagram. Despite this, few people visit them daily because it is difficult to reach. The nearest built-up town is about one hour away by scooter and the waterfall itself can only be reached after hiking a 1.5km trail.

Be ready for some fees! We were charged three times – a registration fee, an entry fee and a second entry fee halfway along the hike. (They even attempted to charge us a fourth time when riding out on our scooter). Unless you have a strong backbone, you will end up paying. It does put a dampener on the mood, but there is not much you can do about it.

 

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Entry Fee: 20,000 IDR

Location: Sekumpul, Sawan, Lemukih, Sawan, Kabupaten Buleleng, Bali 81171

Note: There are several signs along the side of the road indicating the entrance to the falls. Unless you wish to hike several kilometres, it would be advised to ignore them and continue to the above location and ignore the ‘suggestion’ for the guide. Not even a fool could get lost on the hike.

 

Day 3/ Fiji Waterfall

 

What could be better than twin waterfalls? How about triplets? Just a short 500m hike from Sekumpul exists another equally spectacular waterfall. Though not as well known, but by no means Sekumpul’s lesser, Fiji waterfall is the meeting point of three individual streams of water on a single rock face.  The sheer volume of water here creates a thick and constant mist. If you are planning to visit this waterfall you will get wet.

Cost: 20,000 IDR

Location: Sekumpul, Sawan, Lemukih, Sawan, Kabupaten Buleleng, Bali 81171

Note: This fall is found at the same location as Sekumpul. To reach it, all you must do is follow the flow of water up the valley floor.

 

Day 4/ Git-Git Waterfall

 

You will see Git-Git long before you reach it. It seems small. But, as you slowly navigate the rocky – oh, so rocky – path, it grows. And, grows. Until, eventually, you are standing at the base of a huge waterfall, over 100ft high.

If you have come around dawn, the sun will be rising perfectly symmetrical to the valley, giving of rays of light illuminating your walk. It is a sight to behold and worth the early rise.

Entry fee: Come early enough, it is free.

Location: Jl. Raya Bedugul – Singaraja, Gitgit, Sukasada, Kabupaten Buleleng, Bali 81161

 

Day 5/ Golden Valley Waterfall

 

Situated in the middle of a coffee plantation and just a short walk to a local eco-café, the Golden Valley Waterfall is the most developed and civilised waterfall on this list.

The waterfall itself is not overly awe-inspiring. But, when complemented by the visually appealing tropical plants that surround it and pungent coffee aromas, it is definitely not one to be missed. You may even want to take your time and sample some fresh local fruits and coffee.

Entry Fee: Free 

Location: Tutub, Munduk, Banjar, Bulelang, Bali 81152

 

Day 6/ Air Terjun Munduk

 

Cascading nearly 100ft down a worn-smooth rock wall into a tiny pond, Air Terjun Munduk easily rivals any single waterfall on this list for sheer volume of water. The valley that plays host to the waterfall is constantly filled with a thick mist emanating from the violent collision of water and rock at the base of the falls. And yet, through it all, the soft chimes of the local swallow populations, that for some reason have chosen to nest around the falls, can be heard.

 

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Entry Fee: 15,000 IDR

Location: Jl Raya Munduk, Desa Munduk, Banjar, Buleleng, Munduk Banjar, Munduk, Banjar, Kabupaten Buleleng, Bali 81152

 

Day 7/ Sambangan Falls

 

Sambangan is the par excellenceof waterfall cliff jumping. Encompassing several waterfalls along a single stretch of river, there is plenty on offer for those looking for a bit more… adrenaline.

There are three different jump heights. For newbies or the kids, Kroya is perfect at 3m. Getting a bit more intense at about 9m, Kembar Falls will get the heart racing. And, for a truly fear-inducing jump, try your luck at Pucuk falls with a 15m jump.

Entry Fee: It is 10,000 IDR to look at the falls. But, if you are planning to jump the fee is about 125,000 or more depending on the guide and the package you select. It is a tad frustrating being forced to hire a guide just to jump from the falls, but it does give the added safety of a life jacket if desired.

Location: Jalan Raya Desa Sambangan, Sambangan, Sukasada, Kabupaten Buleleng, Bali 81161

 

Day 8/ Aling-Aling Waterfall

 

Aling-Aling is the sacred waterfall of the local people and for this reason people are restricted from swimming in it. Although you would not really want to. The waterfall billows of a cliff some 90ft high before raging towards the ground. The rocks at its base have been visibly worn smooth from the relentless and sheer force of the water. It would not be a pleasant swim!

 

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Entry Fee: 10,000 IDR.

Location: Jalan Raya Desa Sambangan, Sambangan, Sukasada, Kabupaten Buleleng, Bali 81161

Note: Aling-Aling and Kroya waterfall are individual falls found in the same valley. Entry to one will cover both falls. (Due to the cultural importance of Aling-Aling and its distinct contrast to Kroya, I felt it deserved its own place on this list).

 

Day 9/ Nung-Nung Waterfall

 

You are going to have to work to reach this one. Some 500 steps separate the beginning of the footpath and the waterfall. And, let’s just say, it is not a breezy walk. But, this waterfall is not one you will want to skip due to some stairs.

During the rainy season, this waterfall likely boasts the largest flow of all the waterfalls on this list. Complemented by a cliff roughly 70ft high and lush greenery, this is one you will not regret making the slightly long and arduous trip for.

Entry Fee: 20,000 IDR

Location: Nung-Nung Village, 35km north of Ubud.

 

How many waterfalls did you visit?

Should I drink Civet Coffee?

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I do not find much appeal in Coffee. We have never been formally acquainted without a string of inconvenient events following. So, it was to my surprise that I found myself enjoying a guided tour around a rural coffee plantation in Bali.

Rich aromatic scents drifted on the wind; the coffee willows swayed gently, producing a calming white noise; our guide could scarcely be seen without a smile from ear-to-ear. It was an unexpected pleasantness away from the constant hustle-bustle of Southern Bali.

The day was progressing nicely, until I became curious about the many cages dotted throughout the property containing peculiar creatures.

“They’re civets” replied our guide when pressed. “They make the coffee”.

I was confused by this proposition. But, the answers became apparent a short time later at a tasting vendor, which offered a particular strand of coffee labelled Kopi Luwak, otherwise known as Civet Coffee.

“So… what is Kopi Luwak coffee?”

Kopi Luwak derives its name from a process of fermentation, in which coffee cherries pass through the dietary tract of a Civet.

Genuine Kopi Luwak relies on wild Civets. These shy and solitary creatures raid coffee plantations in the still of night, seeking out the flesh of the choicest coffee cherries. They consume the coffee cherry in its entirety, but excretes the seeds as they are indigestible. The partially digested, and now fermented, coffee beans are collected, cleaned and processed.

Enzymes in the dietary tract change the protein structures of the coffee bean, while the creatures anal scent glands infuse a unique aroma. The result is an aromatic cup of coffee with a smooth and earthy flavour that is less bitter than regular coffee – at least that is what the coffee bag claims.

Some years ago, Kopi Luwak was a rare and exclusive product of the most well-connected. Today, it is no longer exclusive, but it is the most expensive coffee in the world.

The Problem.

Kopi Luwak came from humble beginnings. The droppings of wild civets were collected and processed by small-scale farming operations, often with a single worker, having little interaction with each other.

This boded well for these creatures. The Civet, whom had historically been considered a pest by the fruit farms it raided, was given a green card.

Recent years have seen a surge in the popularity and accessibility of Kopi Luwak – it is no longer a novelty of the wealthy and well-connected. Consumption outpaced the capacities of traditional production methods, forcing the industry to evolve.

There is now a thriving industry in Indonesia based around the consumption and production of this coffee – people are willing to pay a hefty fee to see how this coffee is made and interact with the creatures that provide it.

As the business has grown, the demand for more productive and efficient methods of harvesting said coffee have also grown. Similar to layer hens and dairy cows and many other animals, this has meant neglecting these animals to horrendous living conditions and deplorable treatment under the guise of efficiency and profit.

In order to sustain a commercial quantity of coffee that is viable for mass consumption, the process by which it is produced needs to be highly efficient and profitable – the wellbeing of the Civets does not fit into these parameters.

This has meant higher stocking densities in smaller cages, limiting natural movements and increasing rates of Zoochosis, a stress-induced neurotic breakdown; the naturally solitary animal experiences stress related issues from living in close proximity to other civets; nutrient deficiencies and hair loss stem from the exclusive feeding of a single food source; unsanitary conditions spike disease and mortality rates; exposure to daytime conditions leads to mental disorders – civets are exclusively nocturnal animals; wire mesh flooring create an intense and constant source of pain for the soft-footed creatures; caged Civets have a greatly reduced life expectancy and high rates of vices, such as gnawing at legs and fighting; et cetera.

“When tourists see the caged civets, it helps to convince them that they are drinking genuine real civet coffee as part of their tour. Sadly, many tourists are blind to the cruelty associated with caged civet coffee and even queue up to take a photo to share on social media”

– Dr Neil D’Cruze, Wildlife Researcher

Luxury. Austere.

The commercialisation of Kopi Luwak detached the industry from one of the fundamental roots that made it a ‘luxury’ item – WILD Civets.

Wild Civets are incredibly picky. They will only eat the finest and ripest coffee cherries. Being fed cherries by a farmer removes this aspect of selectivity. If there is nothing else, a Civet will eat a cherry regardless of its grade. This luxury item is a shadow of its former self. Coffee connoisseurs and aficionados alike will likely never taste a true cup of Kopi Luwak.

“Detecting cruel civet coffee remains a constant challenge because of the difficulty in distinguishing between beans from caged or wild civet cats. However, if tourists see civets in cages as part of their tour this is a clear indication that unnecessary animal abuse is involved.”
– Dr. Jan Schmdit

There is no way to tell if Kopi Luwak is sourced from wild or caged Civets, as there is no regulatory or certification body to validate this claim. Coffee certifiers, such as the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ, refuse to certify Kopi Luwak products because it is almost impossible to determine if they are wild-sourced and abide by welfare standards laid out in the widely applied Sustainable Agriculture Network standards.

“My personal advice is generally to avoid it. More likely than not it’s going to be coming from a caged production landscape.”
– Alex Morgan, Rainforest Alliance

A Few Bad Eggs or a Systemic Practice?

Like with any exploitive business there will be those who operate with the best intentions, ensuring that their actions are not unduly damaging or abusive. However, there will always be those who seek to capitalise on any potential business to the fullest of its extent in spite of the damage it will cause. So, what is the case with Luwak Coffee?

“nowadays, it is practically impossible to produce wild kopi luwak”

A review by Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit of 16 different coffee plantations found industry-wide standards of misconduct and welfare rejection. Of the 16 plantations, 14 processed their coffee beans through caged civets on-site. The other two plantations sourced their coffee beans from an off-site facility that used caged civets.

The review remarked;

From the size and sanitation of the cages to the ability of their occupants to act like normal civets, every plantation the researchers visited failed basic animal welfare requirements… “Some of these cages were literally the tiniest—we would call them rabbit hutches. They’re absolutely soaked through with urine and droppings all over the place” … Most of the civets were very thin, from being fed a restricted diet of only coffee cherries—the fruit that surrounds the coffee bean. Some were obese, from never being able to move around freely. And some were jacked up on caffeine.

A conduct of deceit weighs heavily on the industry to maintain an illusion of ‘traditional’ standards. Most telling, at least for me, was the employment of diversion tactics. It is common practice to keep several Civets in reasonably large cages and in healthy condition to put on show for the tourists. It creates an illusion of an ethical ‘business’ relationship. If the conduct of this industry was known, this products consumption would plummet. And, they know it!

 

I will not be drinking Kopi Luwak. Will you?