Keen to see more of Bali, we decided to take a little cruise into the wild.
Which meant an early start for breakfast.
If there’s one thing The Santai excels at, it’s breakfast.
An impressive menu of juices, smoothies, coffees, teas, fry ups, breakfast burgers & pancakes, all included with your stay.
So obviously we had to make the most of it!
Having stocked up for the day, we jumped into a wonderfully beaten up old Land Rover and set off.
We drove through 40deg heat for about an hour, and didn’t get very far.
If there’s one thing I didn’t expect to be a problem in Bali, it was traffic! The island is overrun with 4x4s and more mopeds than there are mosquitos.
The roads around the towns are completely choked with cars. It’s a bit like being in Piccadilly in rush hour, but really… really hot!
So hot that the “wonderfully beaten up old Land Rover” gave up and broke down.
We all piled out and waited for another, taking shelter in a road side hut. When a fresh Rover arrived, we loaded up again and set off towards the countryside.
Two hours later, we found ourselves in a totally different world. A lush, green world with tiny villages and finally somewhere where palm trees outnumbered cars!
We’d made it to the jungle.
Here villagers hand cut the volcanic stone from a semi-dry river bed, then shape it into bricks for traditional houses and temples.
The stone is often carved into the incredible sacred sculptures which litter the island, and are always piled high with colourful offerings.
We climbed down into the valley, across rickety bridges to find the quarry.
The stone cutters had taken the day off for a celebration at a nearby temple, but one woman was still on duty.
It’s her job to carry the stones up through the valley and to sell them.
Not only are the rocks incredibly heavy, but she often goes weeks without selling a brick. Despite how hard she was working, she greeted us with a grin and chattered away as she worked.
Like generations before her, she’s been ferrying rocks to and from the valley for her entire life.
Deeply humbled and grateful for her time, we all bowed in thanks and went on our way.
Weaving through villages, past temples and celebrations, we headed to the rice fields.
Stunningly green and abundant, we longed to run through them and roll like happy mutts in the sunshine!
But as beautiful as they are, rice fields are absoloutley teaming with green snakes.
One evening a local chap pointed out a group of men creeping through the rice terraces, stooping down to pick things up and place them into a sack over their shoulder.
He asked if we knew what they were doing, and explained that they were collecting king cobras. Prized for their poison, medicinal purposes and as lethal pets, the hunters can make a pretty penny on their risk.
So, needless to say, we gave the frolicking a miss!
The car dropped us off and left us to trek to a little village.
Here we joined a local gent’s family for tea.
His wife showed us how to make offerings and his mother made traditional pancakes in the kitchen.
Much like little Dutch poffertjes (my favourites! Especially with chocolate) the pancake batter is poured into cast iron moulds, which rest above the embers.
Once cooked they’re topped with shredded coconut and drizzled with a sort of coconut molasses.
Served on a palm leaf, in the palm of your hand… they’re unbeleafably delicious!
Sorry, that pun really crepe’d up on you, didn’t it?
^ Not a bad introduction to Bali for Halcy who joined us from Aus for a few days!
Outside we made our offerings.
Unlike much of Muslim Indonesia, Balinese people practice what seems to be the most incredible form of Hinduism.
It was described to us by the locals as a sort of hybrid between being a Hindu and a Buddhist. They’re very much in tune with nature, believe hugely in kindness, karma, and keeping a balance of the elements.
At least three times a day women make offerings from woven leaves, flower petals, fruit, incense and food. Every home has its own temple, as well as the communal ones nearby. The offerings or “Canang Sari” are left as tributes to the Gods. Subtle differences and the direction they face vary depending on the god they’re dedicated to.
Making the offerings is an act of devotion, sacrifice (because of the time that goes into making them), and it’s a great honour to be invited to participate.
An honour we all found deeply moving.
Canang means “beautiful purpose” which seems rather lovely.
After tea and coconut fried pastries we went on our way, offerings carefully tucked away in baskets for later.
On our way further into the hills we passed another celebratory procession.
According to our driver they celebrate every full and dark moon, so there’s always a party around the corner!
^ The bike on the left is a restaurant on a moped.
Talk about fast food!
During the entire trip we were struck, not just by how friendly the locals we encountered were, but also how exceptionally beautiful.
We drove high into the hills, and looked down over the UNESCO rice fields.
We stomped (literally, to ease Valentina’s snake terrified soul) up into the rain forrest for lunch.
Here we took our places at a beautifully laid table in a wooden tree house.
The food kept pouring from the kitchen until we were left with a serious spread!
Noodles, fried rice, chicken, corn, soup, potato salad, papaya salad, seaweed salad, curries and satay.
I have to be honest, I had chicken satay for every single meal during our trip!
I just cannot get enough of the stuff.
Can you blame me? Look at it!
Charcoaled, succulent chicken, a sticky aromatic peanut sauce. Salty and sweet all at once.
Something I’m absolutely going to have to recreate at home.
After a surprisingly delicious pudding of black rice pudding (I usually hate rice pudding) and apple pie, our hostess brought out little gifts for everyone.
As we finished lunch the rain started.
We raced back to the car, slipping and sliding along the way.
There’s just nothing like the feeling of hot rain on your skin.
Our final stop of the day was Pura Batukaru, on the slopes of Mount Batukaru, Bali’s second-highest volcano.
The royal temple was built in the 11th Century by Empu Kuturan, a great Hindu Sage.
It is one of the nine temples erected to keep Bali safe from evil spirits and holds huge spiritual significance amongst the Balinese people.
Surrounded by lush rain forrest, it’s a deliciously cool oasis, away from the roasting heat of the coast.
Holy water pours from intricately carved volcanic rocks.
We were very grateful fro our guide’s collection of umbrellas!
Local women started arriving for the afternoon’s celebrations.
Draped in bright silks and delicate lace blouses they carried their offerings and food through the temple.
We left them to their ceremony and settled down for the long drive home.
What do you call a girl who can sleep happily in the back of a rickety, hot old Defender?
We organised our tour through Waka Land Cruises and thoroughly recommend them. It was a real highlight of our travels.