Day 11. Tourists in the Mist

Day 11. Tourists in the Mist

For our last two days in Bali we had tons of plans (the rush at the end, when you think that you’re leaving Bali and you’ll need another seven years to start to know it a little) so for both days we hired a driver to help us in our adventures. And I feel a little bad again because I remember their faces but not their names. Ah well, it’s their fault for not being called Juan or Pepe, which are universally easy to remember. I’m sure that they don’t remember my name either (I know, know there’s no possible justification… although in my defense I’ll say that this was several months ago and I’m very optimistic and trust my brain to retain almost everything and Fergus to fill in the gaps: I would say I’ve learnt to do better next time but who am I trying to fool…)

Returning to the matter at hand, now that I’ve botched it… that day dawn was cloudy again and when the driver came to pick us up (we’d “hired” him at the hotel the previous night) my teeth were already chattering.

From the car (warm) we saw the palace and the market of Ubud, though the car spent the whole journey with a filter on the glass… something like rain falling incessantly… The nice guy (I need to call him something as I don’t remember his name) took us to the rice terraces of Jatiluwih, telling us part of the history of the Ubud area on the way, a land of “healers”, as opposed to the people of the neighbouring land, who are said to have practiced black magic.

As the good daughter of my parents I spent the way looking at the different plantations of vegetables and some curious techniques, like covering the earth with black plastic leaving holes where they sowed the seeds to ensure there were no weeds around. It seems intelligent but I don’t even want to think of the environmental consequences of kilometres and kilometres of black plastic… but the main “agricultural” dish of the day was obviously the famous rice terraces of Jatiluwih (I’ve not written the word correctly first time once) that are… well that, rice terraces.

Terrazas de arroz de Jatiluwih
Rice terraces of Jatiluwih. It rained too much to use anything other than my poor person’s action camera.

To obtain the maximum use from very hilly terrain they “terraced” the rice plantation and allow it to flood since rice needs a great deal of water. Knowing that and knowing that in Ubud there’s a lot of rice we could have put two and two together and packed some cagoules and wellies… although the workers themselves went with flip-flops or bare feet, very few of them wore wellies. In any case, all of the above would have been better than some slowly drying soaked trainers.

We took a long walk around the rice fields, appreciating not only the beauty of the way but also the difficulty of the work (like almost all field work…) that includes planting, watering, harvesting, burning, restarting… it caught my attention that they burn the plants once the rice has been harvested but it seems to help the earth for the next harvest (although it still didn’t seem very sensible to me)… in any case, burning it seemed easier than dragging all that dry grass up or down a mountain…

Terrazas de arroz de Jatiluwih, Ubud. Arroz quemado
Burned rice. Just like when I try making paella.

From the terraces of Jatiluwih we went to a nearby botanical garden that should give you an idea of the Balinese attitude to wheeled vehicles: the route INSIDE the botanic garden was designed to be travelled by car. And thank God it did because the botanical gardens were the biggest I’ve ever seen in my life and I’ve visited several… so we went with the car to see the more famous things: orchids, cacti, plants that have no translation to Spanish (Translator’s Note: I’ll assume the same is true for English…) and if they do it doesn’t really matter because I can’t remember them… all very well watered, including us.

There are two parts of the garden that especially caught my attention: one, the bamboo forest, because I’ve never seen bamboo plants growing that way and I’d imagined they were always like the shoots that the pandas eat in documentaries… a mistake, they’re big tall trees with trunks thicker than me… well, more like thicker than Fergus, let’s not exaggerate. And two, an extremely precious thousand-year old fincus tree. (I know of someone who’d have a great time tree-hugging)

Planta de bambú
This isn’t what the pandas eat in the documentaries…

If faries existed I’m sure they’d live (or do live) in trees like that… the driver told us that sometimes couples have their wedding photos taken there but there weren’t any that day (you’d have to be very Gothic to take your wedding photos there in that mist…). And I expected that list of things that caught my attention to feature a lake that I’d seen in photos. The driver kindly took us to look for it and pointed the lake out to us. This is what I saw:

Fog 03
Photo by Honey House Films (https://www.flickr.com/photos/honeyhousefilms/)

There could have equally been a volcano there rather than a lake, or a group of motorcycling dinosaurs, I didn’t see a thing. Other families were picnicking there, as they were so keen to have a picnic they had one in a cloud, but oh well…

After that super view we left the botanic gardens, in part due to the rain, in part because I was on the point of losing my superpower (they call me steel-bladder, I was late when they handed the powers out, ok?). I’d tried to use the bathrooms in the gardens earlier but the fact that Fergus left them with a face straight out of Trainspotting despite the advantages associated with his XY chromosomes made me give up on the idea. Sigh.

Our next destination was the lake and temple Beratan, a journey that took a good while longer than expected because there was a festival on the neighbouring islands (the end of Ramadan) so many people had come to Bali on holiday that week and there were more cars on a small carriageway than on the M-1 at rush-hour…

Taking advantage of the traffic jam, the people got down and bought things at points on the road: thousands and thousands of corns on the cob and “crisps” made from different vegetables and coloured in extremely vivid greens, yellows and beetroot reds…

Esculturas de frutas y verduras en Beratan, Bali.
Watermelons: serving suggestion.
In case it’s not clear, the sculptures mainly consist of vegetables. Not bad as offerings go…

Once close to the temple we stopped to eat at a buffet that to be honest was neither good nor bad (Translator’s Note: as a posh child I thought it was of the minimal standard about which I wouldn’t whinge)… after so many days eating like Gods that touristy menu with minimal varieties and very normal flavours seemed poor to us. From there we went on to the temple, which was already full of tourists. Entry wasn’t very expensive (some 10,000 rupees, that if I remember correctly is about 60p) and the surroundings of the temple are rather grand. Since we visited during the Bali arts festival we could also enjoy a series of sculptures distributed around the temple and from a “boat customisation” competition that was certainly worth seeing.

That typical craft lesson from primary school, where they give you scissors, glue, paper mache and a boat.

As soon as we reached the temple itself… it disappeared. Of course you don’t know that in this part of Bali it’s cold and rains because I haven’t complained about it at all in this story but yes, it’s cold, it rains and there’s sufficient mist to make the temple, the lake and I’d say all the island disappear. And that’s what happened to us, when we arrived there wasn’t a temple and when we left there wasn’t a temple, but fortunately the mist was sufficiently kind to let us see the temple for a little moment and it’s truly majestic. There, floating in the lake, unaware of all the selfie takers on the shore, untouchable and proud.

El templo de Beratan, Bali
And during twelve magnificent seconds the temple showed itself in all its glory…

Our last plan for the day was the Gitgit, some magnificent waterfalls in the north of Bali, but our driver recommended us others because in theory they were closer (and because the man that sold tickets at the entrance gifted him a coconut, greeted him as a regular and hit us with the transaction as soon as we started). But hey, it’s no problem, we paid something like 30p each… there was another problem, and it’s that with this stubborn sun that insists on setting at six without fail, it started to become night on the fifth step on the path to the waterfall… and, eh, call us cowards, but going down a path of steep steps with a free-fall on both sides in the middle of the jungle and the night didn’t seem like the most sensible idea. Above all to arrive and not see anything because the waterfalls don’t shine out in the darkness as far as I am aware… so we went until a point where we could see into the distance only a little but we could hear the loud melody of the water mixed with the sounds of the jungle at dusk, with another impressive view of kilometres of jungle at our backs and the slow darkening of the sky…

So it wasn’t so horrible to stay there without waterfall, although I felt quite disappointed, I really like waterfalls and it was the only one we had planned. But well, I live in Scotland, and if there’s one thing this country doesn’t lack it’s falling water…

After that little fiasco, the driver returned us safe and sound to Ubud. Between the fact that it was night and that we weren’t very far from hypothermia we decided to go calmly and sit in a marvellous terrace in the middle of the foliage to drink a hot toddy, that is not very typically Balinese but mixed liquor with hot water, honey, herbs and spices didn’t seem a bad way of heating up (Translator’s Note: This is considered a fairly common cure for hangovers and general ill health in the UK)… anyway our stomachs asked for calm after the hot toddy and we had something light for dinner, that in my case was an aubergine sandwich (no comment…) and in Fergus’ case was a schnitzel with chips (no, I wouldn’t call that a light dinner either…). And so ended our last night in Ubud…

A day trip from Ubud


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Day 11. Tourists in the Mist