The morning of our trip we went for breakfast with a friend and he encouraged us to buy a sim card with 5gb of data on it. Luckily we did. Although we both loved the idea of doing the trip the old school way with a real map, we didn’t have a real map. The best we could find was a fairly detailed tourist map. Even with that we would never have found our way. Despite the gps we had to turn round on countless occasions and often finding the waterfalls meant asking directions from a host of locals.
Our first port of call outside Canggu was a place called Balian Beach. An up and coming surf spot just along the west coast. This meant driving slightly inland to join up with the only road winding its way along the coast. The first part of the drive was a taster of what was to come. Flat endless roads lined with layers of rice fields and tiny villages, clusters of local street sellers jumbled along the side of the road. After about an hour we became a novelty. As two slightly red faced tourists with backpacks we stood out clearly and everyone waved. Children on their way home from school in beautiful brightly coloured uniforms shouted ‘hi’ and laughed as we passed by. It had not taken long to break out of the tourist bubble of Bali’s southern towns.
After a hairy ride along a main highway on which we had to dodge the exhaust fumes being spurt out of large freight vehicles and trucks bearing ‘Harley Davidson’ logos, we turned right. Down a series of dusty and unpaved side streets into the small hamlet of Balian Beach. A line of swanky hotels and restaurants directed our way to the beach itself which was almost deserted. Seeming to play host to an older crowd of expats and tourists than the south, Balian was calm and chilled out. We sat at a sushi cafe perched atop the surrounding hill and lounged on beanbags as we drank coffee overlooking the beach.
Our next stop was a waterfall, allegedly almost ‘unchartered territory’ not far from Munduk where we planned to stay the night. With that we left the beaches and surfers for the more mountainous terrain of the centre of the island. As we rode higher the view unfolding became more and more spectacular. Tier after tier of rice paddies hidden between valleys of palm forests gave way beneath us as we climbed ever higher towards the mountains just visible beneath the blue clouds. The kind of clouds that preceded rain. We had just reached a village that gave the impression you were at the top of the world, a flat street with nowhere to go but down, when the first flecks started to fall. Seeking solace from the rain and lured by an enticing smell of coffee we stopped at a small cafe set into the side of the road. A woman peeked out of a nearby door; ‘coffee?’ ‘Two please’. We sat down and not long after we did a Balinese man stopped on his bike to have a coffee. His name was Kudduk and he sat down next to telling us about the coffee which was grown in the hills where he was from, showing us the fat packets of fresh ground coffee.
As all three of us sat and drank our beautiful locally ground coffee Kudduk looked at our crudely written useful Indonesian phrases on the scrap of lined paper we had been attempting to learn. Within 30 seconds the guidebook phrases had been thrown out and replaced, with the help of three hysterically laughing children who had come to watch, with local Balinese. Armed with a more local dialect we set off for these hidden waterfalls. Turns out they are pretty hidden, either that or no one was quite sure how to direct us. After driving backwards and forwards along the same road as we were directed to and fro, ‘its back that way’ ‘its further up there’ pointing each time in a different direction. Eventually our search for this elusive side street was realised when someone hopped on their bike and said ‘follow me’. He stopped just in front of a steep and unpaved path and pointed up it. ‘Sukesma’. We followed the path. It turned quickly into two narrow tracks separated by a grassy verge in the centre. Much of it was rocky and uneven and it was very steep, winding up and down through the Balinese jungle. After a final downwards corner the road fell away and we hit a dead end. We parked up and went to explore one of the tiny paths cut into the undergrowth before a Balinese man and his three boys pulled up on a scooter. For rp 50,000 he agreed to show us to the waterfall and so finally, after a short walk through the coffee trees and banana plants we came across the falls.
The waterfall was a tall and powerful single stream gushing into a shallow pool lapping the forest floor. It was not the most spectacular waterfall we had ever seen but the whole place was very secluded. Set in the shade of the jungle and completely deserted I watched the children paddle in the pool undisturbed. As we left the enclosure the sun emerged lighting the water running down the precipice and created a rainbow crossing the falls.
Back on the road it was time to find Munduk and a place to sleep. We drove for another half an hour, still climbing ever higher. I had to concentrate hard on driving so as not to crash whilst gawping at the stunning views. Munduk is a typical hill top town. A line of shops, restaurants and guesthouses on top of the valley below. Most with rooftop seats and viewing areas to make the most of the scenery.
We got a room at the ‘Panoramic Guesthouse’ one of the remaining dutch colonial buildings. As we sat on the rooftop cafe for our welcome drink of tea and coffee we gazed at the sunset to our right. Its colours reflected in the glassy ocean below. To our left four tree coloured mountains protruded from the cluster of houses perched on the hill nearest us. The scenery was breathtaking and sat on a balcony admiring it was the perfect end to day 1.