Monday, 20 August 2012

over the mountains to Ubud from Lovina


on the road to Ubud
After morning Yoga and another yummy breakfast at Villa Jaya, we set off with Gede on the road to Ubud. Gobang and Komang came by to say farewell and then chased after us as I had left my water bottle on the platform outside the hotel. These raised platforms are a feature in the more rural parts of Bali: they are situated all around places where people gather to wait or pass the time. They are usually a simple open, wooden structure with a roof. Hawkers wait there for a likely looking punter to come along; men pass the time of day, smoking and chatting and perhaps gambling. Gede was waiting for us there.
Gede

The winding roads took us over mountainous central Bali. Occasionally we would come across a full-size luxury tourist bus negotiating the hairpin bends! All the traffic would have to wait. These buses come across from Java and are full of wealthy *domestic* tourists. Our first stop was a Kopi and spice plantation near Munduk, high up in the mountains.

The speciality at Kubu Kopi is coffee brewed from beans that have passed through the digestive system of a Luwak - a civet. There was a tired looking civet in a small cage and that made me sad. The beans are cleaned (thank goodness) and are roasted in a wok-like pan over an open charcoal fire. Before we tasted the kopi we had a conducted tour round the plantation.

Apart from the coffee bushes, there are a variety of spices such as cinnamon, vanilla and a host of others. Apparently the season had not been good and the crop was poor. We were intrigued at the informality of the planting; no formal beds and borders here! The only structures were terraces to stop everything from landing up in the valley far below. If you missed your footing the chances are that you would also land up in the valley. I took this photo from the eating area of Kubu Kopi and while I was doing that, Michele took the photo of me with my new pet!
View from Kubu Kopi


The butterfly was on the floor and then suddenly flew up and did some aerobatics before landing on my shoulder! I quickly passed my camera to Michele and she took a couple of shots before it flew off over the valley.

Robbie and I had a pot of the Luwak pooh coffee and it was delicious! The coffee pot was made from a coconut and so was the cup. Robbie is an adventurous eater and even ate some leaves on Mejangan because Wayan told us they were a tonic of some sort. I was worried that maybe you had to cook them first and that Robbie had inadvertently poisoned herself - but she was fine! The mosquitoes here were fierce and although I was covered in DEET I still managed to get bitten a few times.

Further along the road we stopped at a junction where we could look out over two of the volcanic lakes. The scenery here is awesome. There was a man with a massive python draped over his shoulders and, for a fee, he would drape it over your shoulders! Not me.

When there were no tourists around the python lives in that box just behind him. The man also had some large bats and an iguana that I thought was a sculpture, so still did it keep. The huge banyan tree here had a shrine inside.
view over the volcanic lake and a raptor

shrine inside banyan tree
From here the road winds down toward Lake Butan. On this stretch we passed one of Bali's mysterious places, the Ghost Palace. This unbelievably enormous building was intended to be a luxury hotel. The timing for this could not have been worse as the Bali bombings in 2002 and 2005 reduced tourism to such an extent that the hotel has never functioned as such. Apparently it was built by Tommy Suharto but went bankrupt the day it was meant to open. Indeed, the beds were in and everything ready to go but now it is crumbling and unlikely to ever function as a hotel. The road winds round the edifice for a number of kms and, Michele, who has actually been inside, told us that you can see the ocean from the uppermost parts. It reminded me of the castle in Mervyn Peake's trilogy Gormenghast - a trilogy worth reading if you have the time. According to Wiki, a valid classification would be to place Gormenghast in the genre of the grotesque, with marked gothic and surrealist influences. It may also be considered a fantasy of manners. That seems to fit both the books and the Ghost Palace.

Lake Butan was another stop, manicured gardens and many domestic tourists. I was surprised at the size of the lake. Michele found a lion statue and posed in simhasana perched on its back! Next stop was Candi Kuming markets where we had lunch and did some market shopping.

We arrived at Michi Retreat in the afternoon. Once again we had to pass through a magical Bali portal to find the hotel and could hear the sound of he raging waters of the Wos River as we arrived. The river roars through the ravine on whose banks the hotel is perched. Michele had told me I would appreciate the quirkiness of the hotel but even that did not prepare me for the reality. So, next entry will be Ubud and in particular, Michi Retreat.
Michi Retreat














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