When I told my story about how I hiked for 2 km in Bali to others, their reactions were mostly “what? You can hike in Bali?”
Bali has been viewed as a form of paradise for beach-goers or a bucket list item for anybody who’s seen or read Eat, Pray, Love. But in truth, Bali has a lot more to offer than just beautiful beaches and their indigenous culture.
An example would be in Tamblingan Recreational Park, Munduk.
The place may have “recreational park” in its name, but don’t expect dirt tracks and a little trees here and there or some brick road cut out for you to walk on and some restaurants and all. I think when they said “recreational park”, they actually meant “jungle”.
The name “Tamblingan” came from the name of the lake located in the park. So, in order to get to the lake, you have to go through the jungle. And when I say jungle, I don’t mean row upon row of neatly manicured trees with a visible dirt path and no poison ivy. I mean jungle as in a real jungle.
These dense trees were what we had to get through in order to get to the lake. I know what you’re thinking. How can we not get lost here? When you enter the jungle through Tamblingan Recreational Park, you’re going to need to pay a certain amount of money and you’ll have a guide completely familiar with the jungle territory. He’ll show you where to go, point out which trees are poisonous, which leaves not to touch and what would happen if you touch them, show you hundred-year-old trees, and explain everything you need to know about the jungle. Hell, the guide will even give you his supply of water if you didn’t bring any (in which we case we did).
This is our guide. I didn’t get his name but he’s an awesome guy who knows his stuff around the jungle. He knows what certain plants are doing and why they’re like that. He knows which path will lead to a temple or which path will lead directly to the lake. And he knows how old some trees are.
This fruit came from a poison ivy which grew into a tree. The fruit itself is also poisonous and inedible. It kind of makes you wonder why God created this fruit.
This tree is 300 years old! It once produced fruits but then a parasite plant took away all its nutrients. What grew so old wasn’t the main tree, but the parasite plant.
This is the mushroom that usually grows on wood. But because it’s in the jungle and the woods are filled with more nutrients, it looks somewhat prettier than the shrooms that grow on wood at home.
Aside from the mud, abundant amount of poison ivy just waiting to sting you, tall grass, narrow and slippery roads (some with a bit of an angle than others), the place was actually beautiful for a photo shoot.
The hike was categorized as a moderate hike. Looking back, it was truly a moderate level hike – not too tough, but not too easy. The only time the road really got to a steep incline was near the temple which was our destination. The incline was steep, but not to the point that you needed ropes to get up. Otherwise, the terrain was fine, although rough and slippery. Beware of the poison ivy, leeches and occasional spider webs though, those were nasty. There were several clearings where you could stop to get your bearings if you found it too difficult.
We hiked for 2.5 hours, covering the distance of 2 km when we finally got to a very, very old temple. By old, I mean a thousand years old.
The temple has been around since the Hindu-Buddhist era of Indonesia which means that it dated back to over a thousand years ago. This temple is a place of worship for both Hindus and Buddhists as you can see from the architecture. Most of the items here remain untouched except for some painting job. To this day, this temple is still used by both Hindus and Buddhists and remains to be a standing image of tolerance in Indonesia as Hindus also head here during Buddhist holidays and vice versa.
Afterwards, we walked down plenty of stairs which led directly to Lake Tamblingan.
In case you’re wondering, the total number of staircases was 171 and with varying heights and less than smooth stones. The fact that the temple is still an active place of worship now leaves me wondering how Hindu ladies can manage to walk up these staircases wearing their traditional outfit with those tight, long skirts.
I have a new-found respect for Balinese Hindu ladies.
We finally arrived at Lake Tamblingan! The place was… wow, there’s no other way to put it except that it was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to and that it was so freaking perfect for a photo shoot set.
Lake Tamblingan was truly worth all the hike we needed to get there. Standing there looking at the lake, listening to the chirp of birds flying overhead, the sounds of insects in the jungle with a bristle of wind lifting my hair – that was peace like I’ve never felt before. It was magical.
So, after we hiked for 2 km through dense woods, is the adventure over? Not just yet. There’s no other way to get back to the entrance of the park than to ride a canoe. The canoe was traditional, hand-carved and made of thick wood. It might not look too convincing but this thing actually has great balance.
Since there was only one boat captain and if he did all the rowing by himself, we’d never get across. So we all took a paddle and started rowing.
My cousin and I took turns paddling the boat because there were only four oars and five of us on the boat. On those turns that I didn’t paddle, I took in just how beautiful the lake was and how far we actually came to get to the lake and it just gave me a new perspective on life. Just like how it was worth it to hike that much, go through that much jungle to get to the lake and how beautiful the lake was, you have to fight just as much in life to get to some place beautiful.
This journey gave me such a fresh perspective on things that I just want to construct a direct portal to this place if ever I need some peace of my own.
After paddling and paddling across the lake, we arrived at a village and we had lunch at a local family’s house.
The lunch was simple: a bucket of rice, deep-fried fish, Indomie with vegetables, hard-boiled egg with some sambal, and rempeyek. But it was honestly the best meal I’ve ever had. Maybe it’s just me and my fetish for village meals or maybe it was the fatigue from the hiking but I thought it was a really great meal.
After the meal, my dad fished for 4 hours at the lake and the weather turned from a chilly but sunny day to a monstrous cold. The cold was bone-chilling and every time the wind blew at my cheeks, it felt like icicles were stabbing them.
I caught up on some reading, took some photos, and watched people to kill time due to the fact that my dad challenged my sister and I for a day without our cell phones and being the competitive person that I am, I didn’t want to lose.
There was a couple testing shots and trying to decide where to shoot their pre-wedding photos (you’re on the wrong side of the lake, guys!). There were a couple of cars loaded with villagers making their way to the temple by the lake to pray. There were three dogs chasing each other at the field, one of them had a limp and appeared to be deaf but was still joining in on the fun anyway. There were kids riding tricycles, racing each other. There were young moms cradling their babies in their arms while laughing and talking to other ladies. There was a family of tourists who just finished their hike and stopped for a PopMie.
And then finally, there was a handsome foreign guy riding a motorcycle with a local. He stopped right by the lake and I was expecting him to take photos or something but he just sat there with the local with a relaxed posture and stared at the lake, pondering in his thoughts. He sat there, almost lying down on the grass and just enjoyed the view. He sat there for about half an hour or so and then he got up, dusted his pants, put on his helmet and gloves, and got on his motorcycle. I had been watching him the entire time and when he got back, riding past us, I looked away. I looked up in time to see him waving at us.
And that, my friends, was the closest thing I’ve ever had to a summer fling.
So, next time you go to Bali, don’t just go there for the beaches or to party or to “find peace”. Go on an adventure, hike, head into a jungle. Adventure is always out there and most of the time, adventure is what gives you a new perspective, new feelings you’d never known you had before, and sometimes, it’s what grants you peace.
(Photos in the temple are taken by Dad. Photos of me are taken by my guide throughout this trip in Bali, Mr. Gede Eka Putra. He made the trip to Tamblingan Recreational Park happen. He can cater to customized travel itineraries and he knows all the best spots in Bali and he’s an excellent photographer too. If you’re going to Bali, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org!)
You can read about this destination, get an offline map of it, and learn more about Bali in my Bali for the Family Guidebook App available at Apple App Store.
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