Owls and misty lakes in the mountains of Bali


Mystical pathway


We continue to go around the island with the motor-bike. The main road is OK but all the the other smaller roads have big potholes and are quite steep. The things is the most interesting parts of the island could be reached namely driving on these small roads. We start a wild off-road drive barely managing to hold ourselves on the motor-bike because of the heavy rucksacks. We are on a very steep hill when the motor bike starts loosing power and in order to not crash I jump off it together with the 30 kg backpack of Mr. Shushtari on my back. In an hour we finally arrive, driving on a dirt road covered with many sharp stones. Our woes are worth it because we reach some incredible rock formations on the so called Broken Beach. We see a rock arc trough which the sea water passes and then goes into a giant hole. The water is sky-blue.


The Broken Beach



Near the edge of the rocks there is a natural stone pool. The algae and the color of the rocks inside make it look surreal. It is called the Angel’s Billabong.




Angel’s billabong

We pitch or tent on a grassy glade. The last tourists leave before the sunset and now it is only us here – the guardians of this heavenly place.



Next to the Broken Beach is located the Smoking Beach. It got its name from the water that crashes into the rocks and forms a mist. Here, as at the Broken Beach, there is actually no beach at all, just vertical rocks and rough sea that make the access to the water impossible. There are grazing cows on the glades… From time to time there are locals passing by… It feels as if time has stopped – something so untypical for the overpopulated Indonesia.


The Smoking Beach

Soon the roads take us to vertical, almost 200 meters high (650 feet), cliffs with an amazing view towards the west coast of the island (Banah Cliff). It looks like some titan had thrown rocks and stone arcs  in the sea eons ago. Nusa Penida becomes rapidly our favorite island in the region.


Banah Cliff


Stone arc in the sea

In the evening we find ourselves on a narrow road leading us to a jungle with thick trees and liana next to the sea. There is a deep stone pool and crystal clear sacred spring called Tembeling. Locals have made a sacred site here. Only men are allowed to bathe in the pool but further down there is another pool for women. We see a wooden pavilion next to the sacred site as if calling us to pitch our tent inside. The place seems enchanted.


The women’s pool


Tembeling sacred site


Early in the morning locals arrive to perform some ritual. They bring offerings – flowers and incense sticks and take away sacred water. They are dressed in the official for the temples clothes – turban, sarong and shirt.


Balinese flower

We get ourselves lost inside the island and drive for three hours on steep, broken roads, depending only on locals for directions. The island is 40 km long but it’s quite hilly, there are a lot of curves on the roads, so traveling here is slow.


Inside the island

Finally we reach another small bay that seems as a photo on a post card – Atuh Beach. It is reachable only on foot, descending on steep stairs. The view towards the sea is incredible.


Atuh Beach

On the beach there are three restaurants with straw roofs and behind it we see a coco-nut forest and a temple. Here they ask for 5 000 RP. (0.30 Euro) for an entrance fee. Overall in Indonesia every rock, wild jungle or a waterfall has an entrance fee. Usually the locals collect the fees and this is not regulated by the government at all.


Warungs (restaurants) on the beach

A nice couple from the first restaurant invite us to pitch our tent for free in the forest behind their warung. While Mr. Shushtari is free diving in the corals with two Russians who are camping on the other side of the beach I see some hunters with sniper rifles. There are no animals here anymore but they hunt small birds and will probably do so until they kill them all.

Bio note:

There is only one endemic bird on Bali – Bali Steeling, that has blue circles around the eyes. It is at the moment very endangered. Scientists in the National Park West Bali care for these birds and try to introduce them also to Nusa Penida.


A rock opposite Atuh Beach

If we judge by the number of hunters we saw this bird is doomed, as the last Balinese tiger that was killed a century ago. Humans are dangerous creatures – they not only kill all other animals, but also kill their own kind. Hunters disappear in the coco-nut forest walking sneakily.


Cliffs in the sea


Today we have to return the motor-bike so we head to the main city Sampalan. On the road we stop by a big cave, that is a Hindu temple called Goa Giri Putri. It is full of pilgrims. The priests demand an “obligatory donation” of 20 000 Rp. (1,30 Euro) so only Mr. Shushtari goes inside. We meet two middle aged French guys who have reached the cave on foot walking for 29 km. The man seems like he is gonna get a heart-attack anytime, his feet are swollen and he is swaying from exhaustion. They joyfully inform us that they plan to go back to their hotel the same way – walking for five hours on the asphalt road. They give 10 Euro to the temple and go back swaying and panting in front the the flabbergasted locals. It is always nice to see other crazy travelers – it soothes us in a way 🙂


The sacred cave Goa Giri Putri

We return the motor-bike and go to search for a clean place for our last night on the island. We rest under a bamboo shelter on the beach when a worker shows up and nastily declares we can’t stay under it for free. People on the island are mercantile though there are not much tourist (or because of it) and vendors try to lie to us even in the small shops.

The region around Sampalan is quite dirty and there are many fishermen boats so it is a miracle that we find a clean glade. The only disadvantage we see is that next to us there is something that looks like a grave yard and there are many homeless dogs running around.


Small shell 🙂

Late in the evening our tent is surrounded by dogs and they bark for so long that at the end Mr. Shushtari has to go out of the tent and chase them away. The rest of the night is silent.


It is time to leave the beautiful Nusa Penida. We pack our stuff and Mr. Shushtari decides to free dive for one last time before we leave.


The volcano Agung and Bali island in the distance

The ferry is supposed to leave at 11 a.m. so we still have time. Then we hear a boat siren and see the silhouette of a ship sailing towards Bali and it is not even 9 a.m. We start running towards the port. There is no one. Two employees explain in broken English that the ferry has gone and will be back tomorrow. “How come? It is supposed to leave at 11” – we say. They don’t reply.

We also don’t see any change on the printed schedule on the wall. We have to go back to Bali urgently in order to pay our visas (which is tomorrow till 2 p.m.). We ask everyone we see. A guy in an uniform tells us that from now on it will leave everyday at 9 a.m., another employee tells us to come back tomorrow at 11. We sit on the stairs in disbelief. Soon two ladies with luggage arrive and we hear that there will be another ferry today at 1 p.m. We go to ask the main officer. He firmly denies that there will be any ferry today. We bring the women to him. They speak Indonesian and laugh. We go out the office and the women confirm that there is going to be a ferry. Mr. Shushtari and I are stupefied by all this.na-ferito

The ferry going to Bali

We decide to hide in a nearby garden and wait for the mystical ferry-phantom till the end. At 12 p.m. a boat loaded with trucks arrives. It unloads and we and ten more passengers are invited aboard. We pay and this time they don’t even give us tickets. There are no seats inside. Everyone sit or lie down near the captain cock-pit. This kind of craziness could happen only in Indonesia. In two hours we arrive on Bali, so all is fine at the end.


Captain Shushtari

We head to a bay called the Blue Lagoon. To our surprise it turns out that the main street of Padang Bai is full of hotels and tourists though there are many fishermen boats on the beach and the water is not so clean because of the port. Maybe they have seen some fake photos on Internet?


Padang Bai

The Blue Lagoon is a really small bay. All white people are on the beach very close to one another. It is difficult to enter the sea because there are many corals and high waves. Many of the tourists have bruises on the legs. This place is not for us, but it is already late afternoon and we have to sleep somewhere.

We lie on the beach, swim for a little and then climb on the nearby cliffs on a path through the forest. We find ourselves in a cactus field, but this is the only place we see with big enough flat space for the tent. We pitch the tent hoping that some cactus doesn’t fall on it and start cooking. We will sleep in a cactus field for the first time ever 🙂


Today is Indonesia’s Independence Day. It is full moon also so it is time for people to bring offerings to the temples. All are dressed in clean, white clothes and carry around baskets with flowers and burning incense sticks, bringing them from one temple to another. Balinese people are as religious are their Muslims neighbors and perform rituals, ceremonies and pilgrimages every week. Some of the customs are pretty interesting.

Interesting to know…

Before going out of puberty every Balinese person needs to rasp their canine teeth until they are flat in order to celebrate becoming an adult. Some time ago this ritual had to be performed by a shaman who put the person in state of trance so that the person doesn’t feel pain. Nowadays it is done by a dentist and the person is given anesthesia. 

Another interesting fact is that every family has around four kids and the first one is named Putu, the second Made, the third Nioman and the fourth Ketut, regardless of the kid’s gender. So everyone on Bali have this four names 🙂


A temple in Denpasar

We spend the day visiting different temples. We go to have breakfast in a somewhat shabby shrine with two fearsome stone guardians at the entrance. Next to us are the life-guards.


The temple


A monster torturing a human

We ask them if we can leave our rucksacks with them and a very nice guy not only agrees, but also offers us to use the bathroom and gives us mineral water. Then he says we can pitch our tent under the life guards’ tower.


The base of the life guards

We don’t feel like walking around the many restaurants and souvenir shops near the crowded beach and head to a big temple, which we had seen yesterday. The atmosphere inside is amazing – fragrant frangipani, incredible wood carvings and stone engravings, glades, birds… and almost no people. We find a wide pavilion in a side yard of this heavenly place and fall asleep inside it.

Later while we wash some t-shirts in the bathroom a priest passes by and is flabbergasted by us. I think he even thought we are terrorists, though I can’t see what is the connection between being a terrorist and washing clothes. We speak to him for a while and he calms down. Anyway it is time for us to leave.


Inside the temple

Before dinner we start searching for a cheap supermarket but it turns out to be an uneasy task. After walking for quite a time we find one. Then we decide to pitch our tent next to an abandoned shrine on a small glade hidden behind bushes and trees. We are really close on the main alley but also no one could see us. We don’t want to bother the life guards so we told them we were not staying in the tower. The evening is calm contrary to the last one. We sleep well.


Our bivouac on the main alley by the sea in Sanur


After breakfast we leave our rucksacks with our new friends the life-guards and head to the immigration office. We make some calculations and it turns out we have spent more money than usual on Bali so the next two weeks we will be with a budget of 2.50 Euro per day for both of us.

So we head to the immigration of foot and wave at the small trucks passing by occasionally. Soon one truck stops and takes us to our destination. This time it all goes fast, we pay and in a few days visas will be ready. Going out we hitchhike again and a truck stops by. To our surprise it is the same one that took us to the immigration office! Strange things happen sometimes.

We did everything in just an hour. We go back to the life-guards’ base, take a shower and prepare to leave Denpasar and visit one of the last places we haven’t yet visited on Bali. Visas will be ready in five days which makes the whole process 20 days long, and when we take them seven days of the visa stay would have passed. Well, that is the bureaucracy…

We are tired and hitchhike inside the city. We start a series where only tour guides take us. Every time we tell them we are hitchhiking they smile widely and tell us that they will take us for free. Two more hitchhikes with tour guides and we are in front of Taman Ayun Temple.


Pura Taman Ayun

The temple is surround by a river-canal as if it is some old castle. The entrance is 20 000 Rp. (1,30 Euro) so we start going around it to see if we can peek inside from somewhere. We pass by an ancient bath with spring water where local women are taking a bath. Along the canal there are many men and children fishing. We reach some dam wall on the river.


Towers inside the temple

Magy stays with the rucksacks and I go to see around. Soon I am inside the temple’s yard. I suppose Achintya and Ganesha will be OK to visit their temple for free 🙂 Inside I see fast-paced tourists who only stop to make 2-3 selfies and then continue. The temple itself is quite small and behind some fence so people could see only it from outside.


The gate of the temple

We continue hitchhiking with yet another tour-guide. We didn’t even wave at him – he asked us where we were going by himself. He is a Muslim from Bedugul famous for the Bratan Lake next to it. The man is very nice and leaves us at a small market where vendors sell many strange fruits one can’t see in the valleys. We buy maracuja from some deceptive old lady, and mango, tomatoes and cabbage. It turns out the market is quite touristic and fruits and veggies are overpriced.

The guide who took us before suddenly showed up. He gives us corn he took from a stance where his mother works.


Cold mist over the lake

We are shivering from the cold and head to the lake to look for a place for our bivouac. Since we are travelling near the equator we often feel cold when going up the mountains. You climb at 1000-2000 meters (3300 – 6600 feet) and temperatures suddenly fall down.  We find a great secluded place among big trees on the lake’s shore. Mists glide over the still water.


Fishermen at Bratan Lake


Day for rest and relaxation. We enjoy the beautiful scenery, bathe and walk around the lake. In the afternoon we head to the famous Ulun Danu Temple that is on every postcard in Bali. On our way we notice something untypical – owls on the tree branches near the lake. We approach the birds and meet their onwer – a nice young lad who wants to teach locals that they mustn’t shoot every thing that moves or flies. His other idea is to debunk the myth that birds are bad omen. The owls are very beautiful. They are different kinds and each has its own character. They look at us with eyes wide open, produce sounds and sway in trance with the wind.


This is my favorite 🙂


Snowy doll 🙂


Mini owl



Sleepy guy


Time for a nap

We reach the temple which has higher entrance fee because of its popularity (30 000 Rp. – 2 Euro). Locals enter for free. We are a little tired of these entrance fees for everything, everywhere. We go around the temple without much expectations and then we see a wide street without any guards where locals go in with their motor-bikes to fish.


Pura Ulun Danau

The temple is small but very beautiful. Local Brahmans skin a freshly killed small goat. What would any Indian Hindu think about this? A goat killed in a temple!? Tourists are fast-paced again. For them this is yet another landmark where one just needs to make a selfie at and to see exactly where from the famous picture of the temple was made 🙂


Slowly we pack and head to the next lake Buyan, which is 6-7 km. away. And who do you think stops for us? Of course the next tour-guide 🙂 The man is filled with joy and laughs a lot. He leaves us at the fork to the lake where there is a market. Then we are just 1-2 km. away from the lake itself. Indonesians are really joyous people. They always greet you with a wide smile on their face. For three months we haven’t seen any outbursts of aggression or people arguing. Even when they don’t agree with something they just express their point of view in an open and free manner.

It is easy to make friends on the street that can even become long lasting friendships. I remember how our host in Jakarta invited the taxi driver in her house. They spoke like old friends. He was walking around the appartment looking at all things closely and sometimes taking things in his hands. In the evening we went out for a walk with his family. Later, to our amazement, we understood they are not old friends at all and had just met the same morning we met him 🙂

bali map

Map of our travels we write about in this post

We buy food from the market and in 15 minutes we are at the lake. They haven’t put down the barrier and want to charge 5 000 Rp. (0.35 Euro) for using the camping site near the lake. We tell the guards we will not use the camping and they let us in for free. The camping site itself is packed with tents and local people who came for the weekend.

In the evening they make several camp-fires, shout, sing and drive their motor bikes up and down… Even if they were to give us money we wouldn’t have stayed there. We start walking on a path along the coast and find a very nice secluded space under a giant, old tree.

bivak-na-buyan lake


We spend the whole day under the shadow of mimosa plants and a magical, old fig tree. No one is coming in this part of the lake. From time to time a fisherman glides on the smooth surface of the lake with his canoe.


Byuan Lake

We immerse into oblivion and blissfully gaze in the silence of the sunny day. Sometime in the afternoon we get inspired to embark on a culinary adventure and start preparing Baba Ganush, frying sweet potatoes, baking rice in bamboo and panning tofu.


With full bellies we head to explore the night forest. Suddenly we discover paths, trees with huge trunks and interesting plants. Our walk lasts for almost two hours. As usual we get lost for a while but find our way rapidly.


The bivouac


We decide to get closer to Denpasar so we don’t have to hurry tomorrow for the immigration office. We want to find another way back and decide to go around the lake through the jungle. The distance seems short and we are suppose be on the hill opposite of us pretty soon. The trek starts well but soon the wide path disappears and it takes us three hours to reach the other side of the lake. It is totally worth it though and we see unique, huge trees in an enchanted forest.



Tarzan on the fig tree 🙂

We go on the road over the ridge. We buy oranges and soon a truck takes us to Sembing, which is half way to Denpasar. It is already late afternoon and we decide to find a place to sleep. There is a narrow street at the end of the town, which takes us to a temple complex. Leafy alley leads to a big gully and a giant banyan tree inhabited by ghosts, considering the small altar built especially for it.


Ancient banyan tree

We set our bivouac in the temple’s gardens full of coco-nut trees, bananas and jack-fruit. Mr. Shushtari goes to look for water and encounters a gathering of the Brahmans from the surrounding temples. Now everyone know we will sleep in the gardens. Soon a not so pleasant man with two-three more people from the gathering come and tell us to leave the temple, saying that there are many dangerous people nowadays and even implying that we might be terrorists. The interpreter advises us to go in the rice fields outside the village. Everyone who has seen a rice field knows that pitching a tent in one is not possible because there is water. And what kind of a terrorist would pitch their tent inside the coco-nut garden of a village temple!?

We go out the village and see only rice fields everywhere. Finding a place to sleep seems like an uneasy task. While walking we see a stone wall with fearsome statues of owls at the entrance. The place seems like an abandoned sacred site – big empty space with two banyan trees hanging its roots to the ground – like a real curtain. There is a small temple also. We hope no one finds us in the dark. I don’t think we will find a better place. We hide our tent behind a jack-fruit tree covered in fruits.

Someone made a charm under the tree – there are some shiny cloths and a pair of old keys put in a specific way on the tree’s trunk. While we unpack a huge, several kilogram jack-fruit falls and smashes itself a few meters from Mr. Shushtari. It releases a strong smell that attracts momentarily all kinds of flies and ants. We discover that there are no fruits hanging over the tent, so we will not wake up in the middle of the night with fermented jack-fruit all over us. Soon we find a fruit that is in good condition and we start a feast. Now we are happy that they told us to leave the temple complex. Faith took us to a much better place to sleep 🙂




Several people arrive to bring offerings to the temple in the morning. Soon the Brahman comes and seems to be OK that we slept in the yard. People even show admiration in our way of traveling. After breakfast we head to Denpasar to get our visas and then we will head to the port and leave Bali.

A man with fearsome appearance – shaved head, rastas, tattoos and burns on his face, takes us. We hesitate for a second but his joyous eyes tell us he is nice. The guy even digresses off his road to leave us in front of the immigration office.

We get our visas and start walking and hitchhiking. Soon the next tour guide takes us to the main road to the port. Then we are lucky again and a two engineers driving a really old jeep stop by. They are on a trip and decide to take us to Padang Bai though they didn’t have the intention to go there. Bali brings us joy until the end with its smiling and good-hearted people.


Hithchhiking with the engineer

it is already dark when we arrive at the port so we decide to sleep here and sail to Lombok the next day. We head to a small bay with white sands. One can only reach it by foot so not many people go there. There is no one on it. There are many wooden warungs (restaurants) on the beach near the water so we have to pitch our tent on the rocks. We eat mango and coco-nut for dinner and fall into Balinese dreams.

Late at night we wake up by the sound of the waves hitting the tent. Then after some running and screaming we move the tent up close to one of the warungs. We are saved but the sea takes a gift for itself – the pot’s lid.


Pura Ulun Danu


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.