The salt workers collect the salt in hollow coconut trunks. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
The salt workers collect the salt in hollow coconut trunks. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)

Amed, the salt slaves

#Bali # Indonesia

  Indonesia: Bali - July 2008

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. In spite of the tourist development of the region, there are still some salt marshes and saunters here.

The salt harvest

I couldn't stay at Amed's during this trip to Bali (July 2008)without getting a closer look at the work of the salt workers. This is the traditional activity of the region.

Under the scorching sun, they harvest sea salt. Their hard work can be seen on the beaches at the entrance to the village, at the foot of the imposing Agung volcano.

Under the burning sun, two men evident the trunks of coconut trees where will be collected brackish water. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
Under the burning sun, two men evident the trunks of coconut trees where will be collected brackish water. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
The salt workers collect the salt in hollow coconut trunks. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
The salt workers collect the salt in hollow coconut trunks. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)

A slave labor, in the middle of the dungeon, on the volcanic black sand. Sea water is drawn on the back of men, spread over large sand squares.

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 allowed to evaporate again. At the bottom of the trunks, salt crystals are formed.

There is terrible heat on the black sand beach. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
There is terrible heat on the black sand beach. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
The gray-black sand absorbs the strong heat of the sun. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
The gray-black sand absorbs the strong heat of the sun. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
"Salt marshes" in the gray-brown sand. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
Salt marshes" in the grey-brown sand. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
Salt crystallizes. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
In the hollow of the trunks, the salt crystallizes. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)

A handful of garam

Salt is said garam in Indonesian. When I get to the beach, the local kids spot me and surround me. They all want to sell me little 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'm asking his age. She's 12. She's shaking all over her limbs as she hands me her little basket of salt. Fear, emotion? Very shy, she barely dares cross 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 get back 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 when they understand that I won't buy salt.

The children persist in wanting to sell salt sachets to all the tourists who pass by. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
The children persist in wanting to sell salt sachets to all the tourists who pass by. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)

Two hostile dogs never stop barking when I frame the coconut trunks that two men are hollowing out. The two Balinese men look sarcastic, yet they kindly accept that I take their picture.

But I feel a little intrusive, a little "out of place". Not a hair of shade on this grey-black volcanic sand. It's terribly hot.

What future for Amed's 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.

In the hollow trunks exposed in full sun, the water evaporates. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
In the hollow trunks exposed in full sun, the water evaporates. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)

Sana's parents, the young guy who used to guide me around the backcountry......used to work as salt workers before, he told me. They've stopped and are now cultivating 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 scramble like their parents on the burning sand to earn a living.

Everyone I asked wants to study languages, work in hotels... Tourism is a bit of a goose that lays golden eggs 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:

  Indonesia: Bali - July 2008

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