No one would have expected a skinny, tan-skinned man to have a tracking hobby. The man who is usually called Mudi has a tourism business with the jargon of The True Bali Experience. Besides serving the tour around Gunung Agung, Mudi has a tour program in the crater Ijen located in Java. This business is named as Mudi Goes to the Mountain and was pioneered since 23 years ago, but then stalled instantly when Mount agung churned with the volcanic activity.
Then Mudi find other business opportunities in the middle of the hard conditions. Mount Agung which is located in Karangasem regency, Bali has erupted since 27th November 2017. Before the first eruption occured, the mountain was at the highest level (Level 4). The level down for a while, but in the end the level returned to level 4, after being observed by the condition of the ash erruption of the crater of Mount agung.
One of his Swiss friends once asked about the sustainability of the business that is being hampered by volcanic activity. The consideration made by his friend refer to a sustainable solution for Mudi’s business, such as business location, the activities that can generate profits, as well as new and innovative business pioneering.
At a time when the situation is still uncertain, Mudi went to an activity with Orari that help the emergency eruption of Mount Agung. He wants to see the situation and opportunities for new business development, and he thinks that it may be after recovery of biking or jeep travel.
“If you look at this moment, maybe the guest is scared. We will see further, maybe we will still do a tracking but basic tracking and seeing Mount Agung from afar.”
While involved in emergency handling, Mudi continues to monitor through radio communications or handy talky (HT). At the beginning of the vacuation, the man who has to sons was active to coordinate via HT to stay at Tanah Ampo Post.
The collapse of this tourism business is not only experienced by Mudi, but also by othe colleagues who are engaged in the same field. Mudi who is also active in Orari or Indonesian Amateur Radio Organization delivered what he heard from fellow tourism practitioners who own a restaurant business in Amed.
“Many restaurants in Amed are closed and some are implementing 15 working days. And there are hotels that do not accept guests and only renovated the hotel.”
“I was asking to them and the acitivities of practitioners such as driver, guide, while from 15 days is zero. Even the drivers that standby at the base, but they were doing nothing.”
According to him, the news in foreign media as one of the factor that worsen the situation, as if Bali is very unsafe because of the threat of Mount Agung eruption. The media reports that Mount Agung is very dangerous. Starting from the news, many foreign tourists who have been facilitated during tracking and is close to him asked Mudi about the condition via email, messanger, WA (Whatsapp), “Is it safe?” On the other hand, there are also many potential customers who canceled the tour on Mount Agung.
“There are 15 reservations that is being canceled, and usually there are many booking.”
A good Experience in Nature Tourism
The business of this tour is actually cultivated very seriously. Backed up by a young hobby, young Mudi develop a natural tourism business to become one of the guides reference that is take into account by foreign tourists and also other travel services company.
In addition, Mudi is very familiar with the terrain surrounding of Mount Agung. The man who was born 43 years ago was grown in the village of Dukuh, district Kubu, which is about 5 km from the crater or located in hazard prone areas (KRB) III.
Mudi said that there are 4 main routed to Mount Agung. One of the four lines was opened by him. Mudi is not only a guide, but he also designs the tracking lines. He has made two tracks, one in his village and another part of the four main lines, through Yah Kurin in Bebandem Village.
“One lane through Besakih, other one around Pasar Keleng Sebudi, then KATA or Yah Kurin, and Berbes.”
Through the paths designed by him, Mudi and his business partner then form the KATA. KATA refers to the Karangasem Trekker Association which also involves youth groups from villages around the mountain. He empowers some youth to become a guide and work in tourism business.
Nature tourism business provides properity which is always being grateful by Mudi. The income is pretty decent, for one travel package per person is charged about USD 85. At that time, every day he and his teams always get the travel orders. The men who likes to consume fish is assisted by 4 drivers and 4 tourguides in this Nature tourism business. They are freelance employees and become the mainstay of Mudi.
The interesting thing about the tourism business that runs, especially for the tourist destination of Mount Agung, Mudi became a person of discussion to understand the cultural context and the local religion. He is very well aware of the local cultural context becaus he had lived around the slopes of Mount Agung.
He also understands the Mount Agung has magical powers so there are some requirements that must be completed by anyone who wants to go to Mount Agung. Mudi exemplifies if anyone violated Cuntaka or Sebel, the person will not be able to walk. Those who are required to attend traditional events, or women who are having period during the travel, by carrying pork or cow food are not allowed during the travel. Musi always tell these terms to the tourists he guided.
The First Start Joining Orari
His interest in the community radio began when learned and know a tourist from Russia got lost on Mount Agung. Mudi told that the tourist had contacted one of the friends before finally lost contact. The information is then known and Mudi found the information and motivated him to get involved in the finding operation.
He immediately went to the Regional Disaster Mangement Agency (BPBD) Karangasem regency to register as a volunteer. Armed with field control in Mount Agung, he requested a handy talky (HT) device to BPBD officers, but Mudi did not know how to operate the radio. So, A BPBD officer then gave him a brief explanation and taught him how to use it.
After being equipped with a communication device, Mudi and a friend immediately did the searching of Russian tourists earlier. “About 200 personels were searching, we finally found the tourist,” said Mudi. Then he contacted BPBD for the handover of the tourist.
Since then, Mudi sees the importance of communication through radio devicces. Mudi who is currently the deputy secreary of Orari, Karangasem, supports communication by installing rigs and equipping HT radio to the team that guides tourists during nature tours.
‘Hunting’ to Keep Working
Mudi still remember, the last time he reached the peak of Mount Agung. It was on 12th September 2017, Mudi went up and set up a tent at altitude. Within two days, Mount Agung then declared a warning status and was closed for all acitivities both for local residents and visitors. Along with the increase in volcanic activity, the Nature tourism began to collapse to the point as post-Bali bomb blast that occured several years ago. This is monitored from one of the volunteer through the Pasebaya Community radio that continues to proclaim the development of the mountain and the emergency handling Mount Agung.
Despite the difficult conditions, Mudi remained grateful and took the positive side of this event. He sees the turmoil of nature as a sign to get closer to nature, society, and God. He and is family adapt to this difficult conditions.
“The important thing is we are healthy and we can eat enough”
By continuing to run the business of nature tourism, Mudi still open reservations for tourist who wants to travel. He really hope the Gunung Agung crisis can end soon. But he was very realistiv when he knew the history of the 1963 eruption lasting up to one year.
The reality of the nature tourism that collapsed is a major challenge on the island of the Gods. Many people rely on tourism business on the island that became a destination not only local tourists but also abroad. Support and promotion for Bali needs to be continously be called for to restore the nature tourism business that provides livelihood for the people of Bali.
Tourism Businessman, especially in Bali, are heavily dependent on transportation mode to the island of 5,636 km2. The Government support for tranportation facilities and infrastructure becomes an element that influences tourists visits, such as flight routes and alternative transportation modes to reach Bali. Bali is safe, and indeed some areas are threatened by the eruptopn of Mount Agung impact. The complete information can also help travelers to plan tours in the middle of volcanic activity of Mount Agung that is still high. However, all parties can certainly contribute to rebuild the nature tourism business that is able to support the local community.
Mudi’s journey when Mount Agung threatens is a bit of a story that may be experienced by other tourism actors. As a sight, that Bali tourism is estimated to lose up to USD 17 million per day. In addition, Bali contributes USD 530 million per year or 40% of the country’s foreign exchange from the tourism sector. We all hope the Mount Agung crisis is over and the tourism sector can recover. The jargon of “Bali is Safe” should continue to be called for because it is only a small part of Bali that is affected by the potential threat of Mount Agung eruption.
This article has been published in Kompasiana.com, December 11, 2017.
Thanks to Dinda Besiari Rambe for translating this article.