Bali Back Roads First Visit 2014
Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Recuperating in Ubud

A Balinesse music procession at Ubud with a Barong gearing up for Galungan. The Barong is the king of the spirits, leader of the hosts of good, and enemy of Rangda, the demon queen and mother of all spirit guarders.

Made it to Satwa 4 Homestay in South Legian at around midnight, or 4 am NZ time, after a very long flight in which we swooned off a few times and the hostess threatened to report me to the Indonesian police for sitting in another vacant seat to let Christine lie down, although the younger air hostesses did a great job of keeping everyone cheerful.

Very hot when we arrived but our rental car guy was there waving a "Chris King" sign and we managed to get some money and pay him the correct amount in rupiahs. No visa swipe no deposit just US$65 for 5 days! We hired two Suzuki Katana Jeeps, one on each visit. The first was from Mase at [email protected] for $140,000 a day and the second from Gede at [email protected] for $120,000 a day. Both worked but had their quirks. The brakes are almost non-existent requiring heavy pedal action. The first overheated from lack of water when we got it and nearly ran out of oil climbing the volcano and the second was really tricky to get started and failed on the wet morning we went to leave Bali and had to be crash started backwards into one-way traffic on Monkey Forest Road in Ubud.

Satwa4 Homestay is up a cul-de-sac off an alley Jl. Benesari running between south Jl. Legian and the beach.

Then ensued a mad journey in the middle of the night with no map bigger than a postage stamp and mopeds everywhere beeping to try to get to Kuta and then the Losmen, which was up a side alley up a side ally in a fringe between Kuta and Legian, but managed by sixth sense to actually drive straight there with the jeep screaming with a loose fan belt (or something - actually it was low on water). I even picked the right alleyway to decide to turn off. No one knew where it was but we got right to the corner dairy where it was only meters away.

But then no one was awake so we had to break in and take a room, which was like a sauna because the aircon remote wasn't working. After a difficult restless night we woke to find a nice place, and given a new aircon remote, a cooler room, with children and babies and a big family and we now are about to go and get pancakes.

Breakfast at Argasoka and a shrine in the garden.

Made it to Ubud during the day, stopping in at our reserved place at Argasoka Bungalows the pleasant little garden losmen we stayed at in 2010 for 180,000 but this time was 280,000 booked. Resting up overnight after a two hour journey with the most insane traffic jams I have ever seen. Indonesian corruption I'll be bound. The car is working okay though.

This morning feeling a bit queasy as we head for the cool of the volcanic mountains and lakes and maybe the UN rice terraces.

Bedraggled in the cafe, having lunch at Warung Bu Nani in Ubud down Monkey Forest Road on the slope above the bottom corner.
Their spring roll's are out of this world!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Traversing the Edge of the Volcano

Richly adorned wayside temple on the back road to Jatiluwih

Today we drove off in our bumpy little Suzuki and managed to navigate using Google Maps along little side roads across to a temple Pura Taman Ayun on the main road to the second volcano. After that we passed up a small side road and found outselves going past a beautiful little richly adorned local temple with people in the compound setting up offerings.

Pura Taman Ayun plain by comparison.

The transition west was necessary because Bali is cut with deep valleys from the mountains and all the major roads go north and south so you need to find a back road connection that links you to the mountain road you want to take, or at least gets you across the often impassable gullies.

Small roads crossing from Ubud to Mengwi

On the way up we spied a small green sign for Jatiluwih a UN heritage set of rice terraces which wasn't supposed to be accessible from the road we were on. The road was a tiny back road with some beautifully adorned rural temples completely more engaging than the big touristic one we had just seen. We followed more small rural roads having to ask directions several times and finally came upon the rice terraces in in a sweeping view from across a wide valley where there were a bunch of tourists in guided taxi tours but nobody else finding their own way there.

Jatiluwih rice terraces

We then had to try to figure out how to get back across the side of the volcano without tracking back down to the steaming jungle below. I turned up a little mountain side road and found we were following a group of people on a guided tour so we figured the driver had to know there was a way through. we followed over pothole-riddled tracks and little fords until we eventually came out into some villages, at which point we passed the others and stopped to confirm we could still go this way to the summit. 

Trace the northernmost wiggly line from Jatiluwih to the lake even if it seems to wander everywhere through fords and gullies.

Summit lakes Danau Tamblingan and Danau Buyan.

On we went up and up and then up a ridiculously steep road up the volcano's rim, barely making it in first gear. Eventually we reached Bedugul and found we had made it there on the most extreme mountain back road connection possible. Suddenly we found us entering Bedugul from a side road we didn't know existed.

Bedugul and the lake.

Bedugul was a terrible nexus for Indonesians escaping the tropical heat. It has a reputation of being a resort town for Indonesian tourists with little cultural appeal and that is pretty much the picture. There is a large lake with hundreds of buses, overblown hotels, flappy duck paddle boats and a seedy town, with a big mosque, which in Bali is always a sign of an influx of wider Indonesian Muslim influence against the Balinese Hindu-Animist culture.

The view from Puri Alam Bali Bungalows

Christine was pretty shaken around still feeling reeling so we headed on to a place called Munduk where the lonely planet said there were a few cheapish home stays. The road wound up again in a precipitous string of hairpin bends coming to a T where we turned sharply left on a small road and wound on the razor edge of the rim in a pouring tropical rain storm. The the road wound down and down ever more steeply emerging through a steep forested valley reminiscent of the descent from the Andes to the Amazon in Peru.

Puri Alam Bali bungalows

Then just as it began to get dark we stopped in the pouring rain and found we were right outside one of the bungalows, Puri Alam Bali, which we were hoping to find at Munduk, with the hostess standing under an umbrella in the rain trying to entice us inside, so we ended up succumbing when she offered us a room with an absolutely panoramic view of the volcano and the paddies and forest below for IR 200,000. The view form the restaurant is even more sweeping, with views both of the volcano on one side and right out past the coast towards Java on the other.

The sweeping view from Munduk village to the north

Munduk is a little village perched on a razorback overlooking both the volcano and the whole north coastline. It has been discovered by western travelers for its stunning views and capitalized by enterprising hostelliers, but still has the charm of the fringe which you don't find in Kuta or Ubud. The views are superb and above all it's cool after two days of sweltering heat!


Christine is still feeling she has a very tender stomach so I am being forced to eat both the satay pork and the beautifully cooked side of chicken. Hope my stomach survives two dinners!

Lovina beach front

From Munduk, we traveled to the north coast and west to Lovina a beach town become a fringe tourist stop which was one of the few places where there was budget accommodation, rather than expensive luxury hotels.

Lovina looking to the beach and dining at the Cafe Made.

Immediately we arrived we were besieged by a tout on a motor bike at the street entrace trying to get us into his favoured hotels in the hope of taking us snorkeling. In the end we searched around ourselves until a man stepped out from a gateway down a little alley and offered us his beautiful new two room suite with aircon for IR 200,000. The place didn't even have a name much like in the old days of the 1970s. We ate in the main stree at the Cafe Made which was good value.


Next morning there was some kind of ceremony with two young boys in a golden saffron sedan chair borne along by a festive crowd followed by an oceanic parade of men in formal attire on motor bikes.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Galungan and Ida Sang Huang Widi

Had a couple of off the radar days. We set off from Lovina and Christine had noticed a way we could loop back up to the volcano rim to head East over the road to Antosari which was supposed to be a beautiful drive.

Lonely Planet map: The little road through Selat took us up the mountain but was very steep and needed a 4wd

So we drive west along the coast and after asking along the highway found this little side road heading straight inland and followed it up and up even more steeply than the previous one.


We had no idea whether it would go all the way to the top and after passing several villages it would more steeply into the forest and gradually broke down into a stony track with potholes in the forest at times so steep that we had real trouble making way in first.


Also the jeep was just about out of oil and boiling over all the way. A couple of times we nearly turned around but then there was a patch or two of tar seal and after endless hairpins, it broke out into the summit crater area.

View from the volcano summit rim

Here we eventually gave the jeep respite with some oil and water in the crater at a small motorbike shop.

After checking several T junctions, we made it back onto the road through Munduk again we headed down and then across the saddle to the Antosari road but turned off at Peremban on another back road winding through the spice country bordering the great forest area of western Bali.

Spices laid out at Manggissari overlooking the huge forest wilderness in western Bali

We eventually came down to the surfing beach of Medewi where we found a cosy place Mai Malu with a restaurant for IR 150,000.


Today was a bit of a desperate drive along the busy south coast arterial route. We tried to go to Pura Tana Lot but there were queues miles long. We then got lost a couple of times in Seminyak and Legian in atrocious traffic snarls before managing to go to one of our old haunts - Poppies Lane 1 - where all our problems were solved - namely (1) a free parking space (2) an internet cafe where we could print our Air Asia boarding passes and (3) a restaurant with wi fi.

Mai Malu

We got a bit of a shock the other morning when finally dialed onto my own e-mails rather than Xtine's and found Air Asia wondering why we hadn't checked in electronically and then insisting we print our own boarding passes which is not as easy as it sounds because internet cafes are fast disappearing from the scene with cellphones and tablets and wireless everywhere.

Everywhere the house poles

Here is a funny story about Bali and festivals. Everywhere we went in Bali there were these waving poles made of bamboo with shredded coconut leaves embellishing them with little shrines with offerings at the base. By everywhere I mean everywhere even the most remote forgotten corners. It couldn't be a government initiative. Also there were groups of boys walking around Ubud with gongs and a tiger dragon as I showed in a previous posting.

On the last day when we were trying to leave, the roads were choked with traffic and cars with foliage medallions on them and people in their formal dress on motorbikes carrying offerings. People were even giving offerings and praying right in the main street.

Praying at the street shrine

Eventually we came upon a festival in full swing and just caught it in the moment when all the figures in the pageant were dancing and about to enter the temple. I managed to get a short sequence of them dancing at the entrance amid wild singing and gamelan clanking.

Galungan celebration on the way to Tabernan complete with Barong.

Finally when we got on the plane the Air Asia magazine had a small entry explaining it all. The festival is Galungan and celebrates the victory of goodness (dharma) over evil (adharma) and celebrates the creator of the universe Ida Sang Huang Widi. The bamboo poles, or penjor, are erected outside every family home in Bali. The small shrines are offering to the ancestral spirits of the families who are believed to visit their families during the festival. So much for researching Balinese culture before we left!

Galungan celebration on the way to Tabernan