Have you ever gone out for a quick trip and ended up with an adventure? It seems Bali can often be that way. Marc and I decided to take a trip inland to the one place we did not visit on our last trip – the lake area. I have a love for lakes and mountains, and Marc had decided we would take one scooter (a little dangerous for me to do on my own scooter) so I was particularly excited! We would head out just before daybreak (6:30am) and drive the 90 minutes, then return at the end of the day. The geography of this area is amazing! But more on that in the next post – this entry is about the adventure!
So, we had an uneventful and easy morning drive through the country and into the hills of the volcanic area. The volcanic mountains were ever present at a distant and we stopped often to take in the view as they became closer and closer! As we hit the perimeter of the tourist area, there were stands everywhere promoting their coveted local produce – STRAWBERRIES! Who knew they are a universal fruit? We arrived at the lake area about 8am and Marc enjoyed a local breakfast of Bakso and noodle soup (Bakso are round balls like matza balls with a little meat in them). The first lake, Lake Buratan, is famous for its temple, so we did the tourist tour and then got back on the scooter to head over the mountain to the next lake (Lake Buyan). It got surprisingly cold and we actually had to put on jackets!
Marc has an obsession with Bali- style houses and we found a house that was more unique than we have seen before, so we stopped to take copious photos!
We saw all three lakes from the volcanic mountain top and decided to find our way down the mountain to explore what looked like a large temple at the end of the final lake (Lake Tamblingan). Sure enough, there was a national park that was really a jungle. And there was an easy walk down to the lake’s edge and a lovely temple. This was turning into a great excursion. As we sat by the lake, the clouds began to move in – not uncommon in a higher elevation, but nonetheless probably time to head back home.
It was about then that I felt the pangs of Bali Belly . . . that ‘not so secure’ feeling in your lower regions. I was able to use the “restroom” at the Park entrance, but this was a true Balinese toilet – just a hole and a bucket of water. Thank goodness I keep tissue with me! We headed back across the mountains where the clouds had grown so thick we could not see much in front of us. We were glad we had gotten there early to see the view. Now we needed to get out before the rain started. As we came back into the town (Bedugul) of the first lake, my body told me I needed a REAL bathroom. So we started looking for a tourist stop – not our usual preference, but they would promise to have real toilets and toilet paper! Marc saw a sign for a BBQ restaurant and we made the turn into the driveway just as it started to drizzle. Down a short driveway, and we entered a fairytale land! A beautiful large Bali-style open air restaurant complete with a lush landscape and great views. . . and a row of lovely bathrooms! It was pretty empty so we decided to make ourselves at home to wait out the weather and my stomach.
What a lovely time! There was a pool table, a small bird aviary, a walking trail through the bamboo forest, and a zip line course. The menu had Indonesian food, but also plenty of European food to settle my stomach. While we rested, the rain moved in and as time passed, it became clear that we would not be able to get home tonight. We would need to find a cheap but decent homestay for the night.
So, with it pouring down rain, we borrowed an umbrella from the restaurant and walked to the road to see if there were any signs for a home stay. We got to the end of the market and tourist area with no luck. It was then that Marc said, “ask the lady in that market stall”
– I turned to see a woman that was somewhere between 75 and 90 years old – hunched over, maybe 80 pounds, and working a little snack stall that was clearly for the locals. There was no way she would know anything tourist-oriented. In Indonesian, I asked her if she knew of a homestay close by . . . and I about fell over when, in perfect English, she told us of a homestay just around the corner and gave us directions to get there (and I learned not to judge a book by its cover). WE WERE SAVED. Going down the mountain in the rain on a scooter in the midst of all the tourist buses would certainly have been our end! We found the homestay to be quite modest, and not all that clean, but it would do for the night. Thank goodness we brought our sleeping cocoons with us! After
checking in, we returned to Granny’s stall for some hot cocoa and then back to the restaurant where Marc enjoyed pool with the local college students and I sat by the fireplace and enjoyed the fire!
So now to Grandpa . . . The next morning, it was still quite gray, but we decided to make our way down the mountain side early to beat the tourist buses. We did really well until we got just to the end of the descent. In Mengwi, we stopped for a little coffee, and it started to rain again. As we stood at the Endomarket (like a Circle K), a lovely 50ish Indonesian gentleman stopped and began talking to us in English. This is not uncommon. He wanted to practice his English and he is in a region that would not see Europeans much, so we indulged him. Turns out he was a math teacher at the local high school. His English was a little broken and he and I enjoyed helping each other with language words. So, when he invited us to his house around the corner and wait out the rain we of course said yes. He lived in a proverbial Balinese compound – a large plot of land with small houses for each family group that lives there. But the family temple was the largest I have ever seen for a family. It looked more like a community temple.
He was quite proud of it so we played it up a little by asking questions about how long his family had lived there, etc. He told us that they were so well off because his grandfather had been a very special man in the community. Well, the obvious question was “What did your grandfather do?” He struggled with his response in English and switched to Indonesian. “Dia bisa terbang!” he said excitedly. “Terbang” . . . I did not know that word, but technology is amazing and I pulled out my phone to get the translation. As I was doing this, he switched back to English and said, “he could go from here to Karangasam (a city in Bali) in 10 minutes” as he was pointing to the sky. Just then the translation popped up as “Fly”. “Yes, Yes!” he confirmed with great excitement. “Oh”, I said, “He was a Pilot?” “No”– he responded and excitedly in Indonesian he began explaining that his grandfather would sit right here – where we were sitting, and within 10 minutes he would be in a city close by. . . now, clearly I was not going to keep up with this story in Indonesian, and certainly was not going to question his validity – or sanity- as we were his guests. So Marc and I stayed silent while he indicated through body language and broken English that it requires a very high spiritual level to be able to travel this way. And he could actually take others with him, if they simply held his arm. We were still not sure if he was saying that his body stayed there in Mengwi, or if he literally flew. But we smiled and nodded – and were really happy when his beautiful wife came out to meet us, thus changing the subject!
She had taken the time to get fully dressed up in ceremony clothes to meet us! He very proudly told us that she was only 50 and he was 62. I think the age difference was an indication that he truly was a powerful man in the community. They invited us to an upcoming ceremony and said that she would dress me in ceremony attire. Unfortunately we will be in Malaysia at the time, but they invited us back any time and to a ceremony in the future. We exchanged numbers and, as the rain had stopped, got on our way.
As we drove the last 30 minutes of our trip, we reflected on all that had occurred in what was to have been a simple day trip – the jungle temple, the amazing restaurant, finding a granny with a homestay for us, and meeting a man whose grandfather could fly! What a magical place Bali is!
Courage to you all!