Beginning of September we decided to shake things up a bit and go on a road trip. Organised by yours truly, it was never going to be about chilling out – we had an action and fun filled 5 days exploring some of the picturesque Bali highlands.
First it was up to the Kintamani region in our tin can like Suzuki 4WD -the fun started there really. It was everything Michael dreams of in a road trip, bouncing along the pot hole filled roads, heads occasionally bouncing off the roof and steep hairpin bends, never quite sure if all 4 wheels would remain grounded.
Kintamani is known for one of Bali’s two active volcanoes, Mount Batur. The following day we did a sunrise climb of the volcano which sounds a lot more idyllic than it was. First there was the 3am wake up call and by 4.15am we were down at the base of the volcano, head torches on, beginning the 1.5hr VERY challenging climb. The terrain of a volcano could be equated to the moon – not that I’d know, it’s what our guide was telling us and I’m guessing he hasn’t been to the moon either but it sounded credible. So for those who haven’t yet walked on the moon, I’d describe it as oscillating between soft sand hill climbing and lots of loose, hard lava that easily slips away underfoot. When it’s pitch black and of course the ground is pitch black, it really ain’t the easiest thing to negotiate…oh and did I mention how steep it was!?
As I have shared with you previously, try as I may to convince myself otherwise, these gruesomely early starts don’t agree with me – oh I hear my Mum having a giggle at this little fact she has known my whole life. The level of exertion was GREAT, one guy we walked past exclaimed, ‘my heart’s pumping so hard I feel it might come out of my chest.’ He wasn’t alone and at that hour of the morning it felt ten times more brutal. I arrived at the sunrise point feeling quite nauseous. Nothing a sit down witnessing a magical sunrise and some hot tea couldn’t fix though.
Once recovered, Michael insisted on dragging me that bit further to climb to the very peak and walk around the whole crater. I was far from enthusiastic about more climbing though once there it must be said that it was pretty amazing. Some sections of the crater walk were very narrow and steep with no room for taking a wrong step while turning to look down at the steam coming up from the volcano. Our breakfast of boiled eggs were cooked in this steam and perfectly done too.
Descending the mountain was relentless and in its own way just as challenging as the climb though it was a bonus being able to see properly! We had a well deserved reward in the form of some hot spring baths once completed and were utterly spent for the rest of the day.
Clearly suckers for punishment the next day we were up to do a ‘triathlon day’, thankfully minus the early start! We started with a downhill trek through the jungle which our thighs were not thanking us for at all after the previous days volcano descent. However we did get glimpses of some wild animals along the way which was exciting despite having no clue what they were and our guide being non the wiser.
Second section was a cycle around Lake Batur. Now when reading this on the brochure I pictured a lovely, easy and flat cycle along the picturesque lake surrounded by the mountains. My imaginings were not anywhere near the reality! For 1.5hrs we were climbing and descending mammoth hills so steep that the front wheels of our bikes were coming off the road, forcing even Michael to get off and push his bike uphill. Along with this the roads were pot hole and gravel plentiful – it was far more equal to mountain biking than simple cycling. Even the van following us was spinning it’s wheels so what hope did we have?!
Final section was canoeing on the lake. There was a huge sigh of relief when they told us this part of the tour had changed. Instead we were on a large wooden boat with two men paddling for us. We had the option of assisting and felt obliged for the first 20mins but that feeling soon passed.
We actually paddled to the ancient village of Trunyan, famous for the way they bury their dead. They just lay the dead bodies out in bamboo cages on the ground to decompose under the Menyan tree. The tree is very strong in fragrance, absorbing the bad smell and coming from a person with an extremely sensitive sense of smell, it works. I have to say though that we both found it a little uncomfortable to be touring this place with bones and skulls everywhere, looking at bodies in various stages of decay. It felt it should be a sacred space, not a display for tourists to endlessly pose for photos in front of walls of skulls – weird!
Our next region to explore was the stunning area of Munduk. It’s a clove growing area which I couldn’t get enough of as we drove around with the windows down, absorbing the intoxicating smell of cloves from the trees and out on the roads being dried.
There are also many coffee plantations in the area with the Luwak coffee being a specialty too. This is the coffee that’s produced after the civet cat has eaten the coffee bean, it’s been digested still remaining whole. They then pick up the poop, dry it, then manually shell and grind the beans. It’s quite the buzz one gets after a cup of this – it truly is world class shit, pardon the pun. With the Luwak coffee in our systems a day of rest is all we needed before feeling up for some more heart conditioning adventure in the form of waterfalls this time.
It was sold to us as an almost leisurely stroll down past 4 waterfalls and then back up. Well, they were half right in that it was a very steep trail down that you could almost fall into a jog before hitting 447 super steep steps down to the fourth and final waterfall. I think we’ve been spoilt and whilst it was lovely, it didn’t blow our minds – not to worry though as the climb back up certainly did! I got my own back here with it being Michael’s turn to cry like a baby as he struggled to haul himself out of the chasm requiring regular rest stops while I powered up the steps with laser like focus and determination.
We had a fantasy of walking the huge rice paddys in the area later in the day but abandoned the idea for a leisurely lunch and just one more coffee before heading back to Ubud for 10 more days of quiet bliss.
The peace has now left us as we are in buzzing Kathmandu with some mighty big adventures ahead of us…….