The second part of our trip was spent inland in the city of Ubud. Known for its proximity to jungles and rice terraces, Ubud is generally a little more peaceful than the popular beach area of Kuta. Since prices on Bali were reasonably low we splurged for our own villa for a few nights in a slightly remote location. We had planned two guided activities though, so transportation was not really a concern. Overall we were really glad we chose to stay here and get a slightly different experience. It is amazing how dramatically the landscape and weather across Bali can vary. The island itself is not large which makes this variety seem even more unlikely.
Our first adventure near Ubud was canyoning. For those of you unfamiliar with this activity it involves jumping, sliding, but mostly rappelling yourself down a series of waterfalls and canyons naturally occurring in nature. Obviously the canyons have been modified slightly to accommodate ropes and climbing equipment, but generally it is all natural. The water levels can chance naturally too and the guides who came with us made sure to test everything out before letting us have at it.
Dave REALLY about to get pummeled in the face with water.
This is my shock face: “oh you’re not only going to let me flip off these things you’re going to encourage it?!” Usually I am asked to refrain from such “dangerous” activities. There is definitely a different understanding of safe/unsafe activities in Asia I have noticed…particularly China where they let you climb waterfalls wearing grass flip flops.
One of the big jumps. They told us it was 9m. I decided there is something about being out in nature that makes it look less daunting, because I do not remember being quite this relaxed about jumping off a 10m platform…
After our trek we went back to the gear rental hut, had a delicious local lunch and headed back to our hotel to swim and grab an early dinner. The next morning we were getting picked up at 2:30am to climb a volcano in the dark so we could watch sunrise.
Mount Batur @ Sunrise
Honestly this might have been the highlight of the trip for me. Despite getting rained on, developing massive blisters on my heels (my trademark), and sweating through all our clothing the view from the top was quite spectacular. We later found out we were really fortunate because many days it does not turn out nearly this clear at sunrise. We were there during the rainy season, and particularly up in the mountains it can be quite misty. The climb itself was rocky in spots and relatively steep. Our guide was a woman around my age who has clearly done this regularly for years as she was more than happy to help us blaze our way up the mountain (in nowhere near her record time mind you, but it was our first trip). At this point Dave had recently run a half marathon and I was signed up for one the following week, so we had to put David in the lead lest we leave him behind. Lesson learned: lifting does not a good mountain climber make. Despite our chastising David we still passed many other groups on our ascent and ended up being one of the first few groups to make it to the top.
Our breakfast happened to be cooked in one of the vents and man was it warm in there! We got to enjoy some eggs and toast and a wide assortment of fruits. I had assumed it would be a small breakfast, but I was pretty impressed overall. We would probably have had a slightly more peaceful breakfast if we hadn’t just watched a monkey try to steal someones food and hiss violently at the person who chased it away. Breakfast still tasted pretty good despite our paranoia and we got to try a new fruit I still do not know the name of!
It is a pity I did not get any photos of the way up. It was far too dark and I was far too out of breath to consider such a notion, but it looked a little different than this. More rocks in the way that we had to climb on top of as I recall. At any rate, our guide showed us a nifty way to get down the volcano faster: run. In zig-zag fashion to keep ourselves from building too much speed and turning our run into a roll…
After cleaning all the black sand out of our shoes we stopped temporarily at a huge tourist destination partway down where the monkeys are accustomed to being fed and watered by all the visitors. David loves monkeys and as you can tell from the picture below he was beyond thrilled to finally make their acquaintance.
Since we started so early and our flight was not until 1am the following morning we had plenty of time to explore a few more spots before we left. First stop, back to the room to pack up and have a nap. Then off to a well known bbq pork restaurant for lunch. Needless to say, it was delicious.
The last two locations we visited quickly were two major sites all tourists must see when visiting Bali: Gunung Kawi and Tirta Empul. Unfortunately my understanding of their historical significance is limited to the fact that Gunung Kawi is many hundreds of years old and Tirta Empul is a water temple with many holy water fountains that you can bathe in if you are keen. We were glad to have been able to see these two sites, but as is the case with most travel, it would have been nice to spend a little more time there to observe and learn more of their historical significance.
It is worth noting that all the temples we visited that required sarongs for entry provided them for free with the exception of Tirta Empul. They were taking donations there.
Pura Tirta Empul
We presume this spring here was the source of the holy water as there were walls all around it to protect this pool. The fact that fish are living in this water was probably a good indication the water was not harmful. It is just amazing to think about how long ago these places were built. They have been dated to around the 11th and 10th centuries respectively.
I think we did a really good job catching all the highlights in Bali in 5 days. Of course we would have preferred to stay longer, but we are only allowed so many days off before we become unemployed.