Bali and water buffalo racing are the topics for today’s guest blog. You know how it is: I can’t resist a story about someone trying something for the first time … or about oddball sports. Ryan fuses both with this story about buffalo racing in Bali. Enjoy! -Wandering Justin
When it comes to extreme sports, many don’t really justify the name. Without wishing to incur the wrath of suntanned, tattooed men with names like Josh and Brett, all the safety equipment and planning that go into rock climbing, kite surfing and the like means they aren’t really any more dangerous than a day at the average kids’ play park.
Nowadays, most sporty activities – however niche they might once have been – are simply too ‘big time’ to be considered extreme. If they were really that dangerous, the health and safety brigade would go mad, and then they’d simply cease to exist.
That’s why if you want a sport that actually offers you real danger – and the huge adrenaline rush that comes with it – you’ve got to think outside the box and turn your attentions a little further afield.
Somewhere like Indonesia, for instance – and the tropical island paradise of Bali in particular.
On the face of it, your typical Balinese doesn’t really seem like a thrillseeker, what with their famously relaxed outlook on life.
However, visit east Bali between July and October and you could just be in for a surprise, because it’s at this time of year that one of the most truly terrifying, crazy and thrilling sports on the planet comes to the fore in Jembrana regency.
The sport in question is mekepung, otherwise known as water buffalo racing. Now a water buffalo might not seem like the most aggressive animal when you see one chewing lazily on grass while up to its waist in a paddy field, but move them on to dry land and you’re faced with a snarling, horned, one-tonne beast capable of moving at serious speed.
I’ll never forget the first time I witnessed water buffalo racing. It’ll be forever etched on my mind as undoubtedly the most insane – but also the most exciting – thing I’ve ever seen.
It’s not all that easy to describe the sheer ferocity of mekepung in words, but I’ll give it a go. Basically, the sport involves buffaloes being paired up and hitched to a chariot, which is driven – although sometimes the word ‘driven’ only applies pretty loosely – by a single jockey.
The rickety contraption is attached to the stampeding beasts by means of a wooden pole, with a crossbar acting as the buffer between wagon and buffalo. Participants then go head to head against one other rider over the 2 km oval course, with the competition proceeding in a knockout format until one overall entrant is crowned as champion.
Just watching a buffalo race is more than enough excitement, I thought at the time, as hundreds of spectators crowded round the track cheering on their favourite rider.
So imagine my reaction when I was invited to actually have a go myself. My first thought, naturally, was abject terror, followed by an overwhelming desire to run away and hide in a nice fancy hotel with comfy sun loungers.
Maybe it was down to the enthusiastic locals, or maybe it was a side effect of sunstroke, but eventually I warmed to the idea. Sitting atop a shaky wooden cart with my life effectively in the hands of two crazed buffaloes started to seem like something I could do.
Well, it turns out my confidence was mostly misplaced. Balancing on the wagon is challenging enough when it’s stationary, let alone when it’s thundering around a bumpy track powered by an animal that wasn’t exactly designed for comfort.
However, I soon learnt the secret to effective water buffalo racing is devastatingly simple – don’t fall off and keep your eyes open. Also, emitting a bloodcurdling scream for the entire duration of the race won’t do much for your ability to keep the pair of buffaloes under control.
Despite all that, and much to my surprise, I managed to complete a lap of the oval track without being stamped to death.
I may have finished a distant second in a two-person race, but as far as I was concerned I might as well have won the Formula One drivers’ title, lifted the world heavyweight boxing championship and captained England to World Cup glory all in a day.
About the Author: Hey! I am Ryan Gibson, resident blogger at AsiaRooms. When not working, I travel the globe, drawing on my travel experience and passion for travel to spread the good word. I’m also a social monkey and can be found lounging around on Twitter & Google+. I love to interact with other travel bloggers