September 2012 – Is surfing the only thing he plans to do on this trip?
I guess thus far, other than speeding around on motorbikes and snorkeling and drinking Bintangs, that is about all I’ve been doing.
But rest assured my non-surf stoked readers that surfing is only the focus of the trip in Bali and I probably won’t be surfing much at all thereafter… unless of course I’m able to find that beach in Vietnam that Lance surfed in Apocalypse Now. And there is a chance I might end the trip with a week or two of surf in Sri Lanka (winds are offshore in the southwest part of the country during that time of year and it should be an easy trip from Kerala so why not?) but that’s a long way off and irrespective of where it all ends, the surf talk will be put mostly on hold when I leave Bali. In fact, let’s put it on hold for an entry from within Bali. From Munduk to be precise… where I went for a brief break from the waves for which my surf weary shoulders were most thankful.
Munduk is an old Dutch colonial settlement up in the mountains about 2.5 hours inland from Balian via winding and often single-lane roads. During colonial times (or, as Ron would refer to them, the good old days), the Dutch introduced a variety of cash crops into the area with varying degrees of success. Those still in production today include cacao, vanilla, cloves and coffee… which means flavored coffee drinkers should be stoked on this part of Bali. As should clove smoking Goths.
It’s basically a one road town and that road runs along a ridge line with a fairly steep drop off on either side of it. Most of the guesthouses (some of which are housed in old Dutch colonial buildings) are built into the hillsides along either side of the road and thus offer fantastic views of tree covered mountains and lowland rice paddies further afield. There is great hiking to be had on either side of town with the trails off to one side offering waterfalls and those to the other side offering rice paddies. I went for the waterfalls and was rewarded with this one (which amazingly I had all to myself for the 30 minutes I spent there) after about 45 minutes of hiking…
After about another 45 minutes, I came upon this one (which I did not have all to myself although even then the crowd was only made up of 10 or so others)…
Good hiking indeed. The “hiking trails” are mostly just the pathways that the locals use to get around and thus they lead past some very humble homesteads. Wrong turns are plentiful if you’re hiking without a guide as i was as there are no trail markers. One such wrong turn had me in an older gentleman’s front yard. He came out from his hut to greet me with about the biggest smile I’ve ever seen, a smile that was all the more impressive given how few teeth he had left. Im not sure if i woke him up from a nap but he was certainly dressed for one wearing only an ancient pair of boxers. He was all smiles as he said “Hello! Hello! Waterfall. Waterfall.” and pointing down the trail in the opposite direction smiling all the while. Great dude and typical of the majority of the Balinese I met in being so quick with a smile.
While I was hiking, I passed through several stretches of forest (or was it technically jungle?) where workers were picking cloves which involved climbing up ludicrously tall ladders constructed of a huge single giant shaft of bamboo with tiny pegs coming off either side… kind of like the pegs on a telephone pole. They would lean them against the tree in which they were working and run some rope from about halfway up the ladder to the base of another tree in order to stabilize the ladder. I would estimate that these ladders were a good fifty feet tall and, in many cases, workers were fearlessly perched right on top. There is no doubt that this is some seriously dangerous work, and one look at some of the homes in the area tells me how little they are being paid to do it.
For those feeling a little less active and not up to hiking while in Munduk, it’s equally as enjoyable to linger over fresh local coffee and the amazing views. Breakfast at the Puri Alam Guesthouse was served on the rooftop terrace with this view in the distance…
I think I set a personal record for coffee consumption one morning which I can mostly attribute to the mesmerizing view and my consequent inability to leave the table. The delicious coffee and tasty traditional Balinese pancakes (of which I regrettably failed to take a photo) probably helped too. Mesmerizing views and tasty pancakes notwithstanding, a few days in Munduk was enough. It was time to return to the beach and make one last run at the waves before leaving Bali.