Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text:
I'll take you back to Baliin Indonesia. In Amed, exactly, on the northeast coast of the island. Despite the development of tourism in the region, there are still salt workers here.
The salt harvest
I couldn't stay at Amed's during this trip to Bali (July 2008)Without going to see more closely the work of the salt workers. It is the traditional activity of the region.
Under the hot sun, they harvest the sea salt. One can observe their hard work on the beaches at the entrance of the village, at the foot of the imposing Agung volcano.
A hard work, in the middle of the drought, on the black volcanic sand. The sea water is drawn on the backs of men, spread over large squares of sand.
After evaporation, this sand is collected and filtered in large funnels of braided bamboo.
The brackish water is collected in hollowed out coconut trunks and put to evaporate again. At the bottom of the trunks, salt crystals are formed.
A handful of garam
Salt is said garam in Indonesian. When I arrive on the beach, the local kids spot me and surround me. They all want to sell me small souvenir baskets, containing a handful of garam.
I'm resisting. And then I end up cracking up and giving a few thousand rupees to a little girl, a little older than the others, with whom I manage to exchange a few words in Bahasa Indonesiathe Indonesian language.
I ask her how old she is. She is 12 years old. She shakes all over as she hands me her little basket of salt. Fear, emotion? Very shy, she hardly dares to meet my eyes.
The others are jealous. When I walk away, she ends up giving me a nice warm smile and even gives me a little wave when I leave on my scooter.
I go a little further, on another part of the beach, to take pictures more quietly. There, only two kids, who escort me with curiosity. But they don't insist anymore when they understand that I won't buy salt.
Two hostile dogs do not stop barking when I frame the trunks of coconut trees that two men are hollowing out. The two Balinese, with a sarcastic look in their eyes, kindly accept that I take a picture of them.
But I feel a little intruded upon, a little "out of place". Not a hair of shade on this grey-black volcanic sand. It is terribly hot.
What future for the Amed salt workers?
There are fewer and fewer salt workers in Amed. The work is hard, unprofitable. Those who harvest the garam are rare to own the land they work on. And the owners prefer to resell it to hotel group builders.
Sana's parents, the young guy who served as my guide in the backcountryThey used to work as salt workers, he told me. They stopped and now cultivate a piece of land, not far from the beaches.
In a few years, will there still be salt workers in Amed? The young people of the area have no desire to toil like their parents on the burning sand, to earn a pittance.
Everyone I asked wanted to study languages, work in hotels... Tourism is the golden goose here in Bali.
Updated (December 17, 2020). Arte broadcast a 14-minute report on the salt harvest in Bali, entitled The coconut-salty flavors of Balidirected by Fabien Berquez. I insert the video player below: