“G’day mate. Bloooody awwwwesoome”. Gusti, our local guide during our tour of Tirta Gangaa bursts out in perfect Australia drawl. This would be a little gimmicky, cringe-worthy even on anyone else, but for some reason it’s just plain endearing on this guy. Maybe because it’s the way he looks – his appearance is comic, in a good way. His body and head are tiny, with over-sized ears and a toothy grin that almost never leaves his face – he’s like a real-life caricature. The cheesy faux accents seem to fit naturally into his entire persona.
We met him as soon as we got to the Temple entrance: “Do you need a guide?” I’m not sure. In our experience, it is very hit and miss with local guides. When they’re knowledgeable and can tell you things about the site you would never have discovered yourself, I find they’re worth every penny / rupee / rupiah. But more often than not, especially in India, they regurgitate some obvious facts from wikipedia, rush through the tour and you finish in one of their mates souvenir stores.
I don’t know why, but something about Gusti made me take a chance on him. To be fair, he wasn’t the best guide in terms of knowledge, but he made up for it in terms of comedy. Every sentence starts with “Well Brad and Mesi…” The first time it’s normal. By the fifth time it’s annoying. But by the twentieth time it’s so ridiculous it’s funny again, and more so as ‘Brad and Mesi’ slowly becomes ‘Brad and Menshi’.
Half way through the tour he unexpectedly switches from his Bahasa-clipped English to lad-British.
“Dis ‘ere’s the holy wa’er.”
It’s so out of the blue, and so spot on that Mesi and I double take at each other and burst into laughter. He apologises profusely but keeps on dropping the phrase ‘holy wa’er’ whenever he gets a chance.
He guides us around the beautiful grounds of the Tirta Ganga – which means Holy Water of the Ganges. Like many temples in Bali the water comes from a natural spring and flows constantly throughout the year. It’s a relatively recent construction, faithfully restored after being destroyed by the eruption of the volcano Agung in 1969. He explains to us that it was the spa of the local King and then later on transferred to the state as a tourist attraction. We swim in the massive pool that is filled with the ‘holy wa’er’. Locals are also there playing and flipping around the fountains. It’s a gorgeous day and the water is refreshing.
We pass by a low hanging roof and I nearly hit my head. He turns back and says: “Brad, this is not a time for soccer”. It’s not that funny but he then proceeds to explain the joke by moving his head back and forth like he’s heading a ball. He ends up looking more like a chicken, which is hilarious. He’s just a big kid really, and he reveals to us that he keeps himself young and fresh of mind by swimming in the ‘wa’er’.
After an hour of his time we bid our goodbyes. I wonder how he picked up all these accents and it occurs to me that he’s probably just heard it enough times over the years. He walks us to the end of the tour, grabs our hands, smiles and finishes with: “Thank you Brad and Menshi”.