On our fourth day in Bali, joined by a fourth member of our group, we once again hired a private driver for a day to take us about central Bali and see some sights. This time we paid a bargain price of $45USD for our driver for the day. And choosing to hold off on breakfast until later, we departed Denpasar early – set first for a return visit to a near by waterfall called Tegenungan.
As our first visit to Tegenungan had been at dusk we had had only a few minutes to swim under the falls before the “lifeguard” blew his whistle and expected everyone to get out, and there had been only a small handful of other tourists there with us. But arriving in the early afternoon on this day gave us a different experience. For one, this time we were able to swim beneath the powerful falls with leisure. With no lifeguard enforcing a curfew we were able to attempt again and again to reach and bathe beneath the falling water of the falls – swimming hard against the powerful currents, desperately attempting to find foot-holds in the rough sand and push forward into a downpour that came with such force, that our very aim – to bathe beneath the masses of falling water- was questionable. Failing and re-attempting. Laughing and screaming. Flailing our limbs in ecstasy. Loving every moment in the cool water on a hot day.
Secondly, this trip differed in that we were joined by a much larger group of tourists than on our dusk visit. But none the less not enough to ruin the lure of the place. We enjoyed our return to the falls greatly.
And we even took the time to stop for lunch here at a beautiful hilltop restaurant, where we sat out on a large balcony overlooking the falls below. We enjoyed another Indonesian meal of noodles and rice at prices that took advantage of the view but which none the less were extraordinarily affordable – ranging between $4 – $5(AUD) per plate. And we sampled charcoaled corn on the cob before returning to our van and heading off to the next spot – Goa Gajah (The Elephant Cave).
Goa Gajah was a complex that was beautiful more for its gardens than for the cave which it seems to be renowned for – which despite featuring a beautifully carved exterior (or mouth), was plain and short on the inside and was filled with such thick, hot air that staying inside for any extended period of time became quite gruelling.. The gardens on the other hand were filled with fresh air, they were extensive, lush, wild looking and full of hidden water features and wide-trunked trees. And we enjoyed strolling through them over the course of an hour or so, taking in their rainforest-like beauty.
And only after a refreshing coke and a bottle of water (sold at even the remotest of destinations in Bali by random individuals at make-shift stalls with giant chilli bins) it was on to the Tegalalanga rice fields.
And it is here where the number of tourists present in Bali really became clear to us. Upon arriving at Tegalalanga the tourist masses were immediately evident. Swarming through the paddies, posing at every opportunity for selfies, chattering incessantly and crowding the streets with traffic. I know now how crazy it must sound to say this.. But somehow I truly truly didn’t expect that there were this many tourists on Bali after our first 3 secluded days on the island. And while it meant that this stop, for us, was not nearly as scenic as we might have hoped, it largely acted only to make more precious our first few days on this beautiful island – when we avoided the tourist masses with unintentional ease. It was fascinating to compare how exclusive our holiday had been up until this point to how generic and crowded it must be for most visitors. And it was quite satisfying to find a solid confirmation of how well we travel.
But regardless of the personal satisfaction that I may have been experiencing, the tourist hoards were too much. We spent little of our time at this stop, instead opting to collect some snacks from a nearby convenience store and depart toward our final spot for the day – Tanah Lot.
Tanah Lot is a small temple that rests atop a large rock which, at high tide, is detached from the rocky coast of Southern Bali – giving it an austere and forbidden air. And before I go any further I will admit that it all is, at the very least, a really beautiful idea. However for the most part, unfortunately, the reality of the place is that it is an overpopulated tourist depot. It’s a gorgeous artistic concept that’s been exploited to develop an overrated tourist marketplace. A destination that is swamped with mindless visitors and their selfie sticks, which has little significant spiritual value and which, honestly, could have been skipped. It was as if our day of site seeing at these more touristic spots of Central and Southern Bali had been gaining momentum from the outset, finally reaching it’s climax at this dried-up, rock-top temple.
We sat with heavy disappointment on the rocky mainland, stared for a while at Tanah Lot. Walked about the grounds of the nearby ‘cultural park’ briefly. And left.
Our day did, however, end with a highlight. We spent the remainder of our evening enjoying a heavy Mexican meal in the largest and most impressive Mexican themed restaurant that I have ever seen (and Melbourne thinks it has a foodie scene..). Where delicious food was served to multi coloured tables set out on a verandah that looked onto an impressive cacti garden. It far exceeded my expectations and left us all full and satisfied and ready for bed.
And with this, our last day in Bali drew to a close. Our short four day trip was already over. In the morning we would leave early for the Gilli Islands.