For the first two weeks in Bali, we’re staying at a family compound in the village of Bangah in the mountains. This is a different experience than my last trip to Bali, where we stayed in cities or on the coast. In the mountains, the temperatures are slightly cooler, the spiders are the size of a man’s head, and there’s a new amazing view with every curve of every drive.
To me the most striking difference is the way the jungle is always making its presence known. It’s almost as if the jungle says to the people, “Wouldn’t you be more comfortable somewhere else? Down there, perhaps?” And the people, standing their ground, respond, “Nah, we’re good, thanks.” The two coexist, but it seems that one is always nudging the other, trying to push past the boundaries by throwing elbows occasionally. The jungle creeps right up to the walls of homes, farms and temples. It seems ready to take over immediately should the people slack off in their diligent boundary-guarding, like someone walking the circle in a game of musical chairs.
Not only have we been able to see the jungle everywhere we go, somehow, against my better judgement, we’ve crossed the border and entered enemy territory. Somehow, my “Is it safe? Should I do this?” mantra has gotten me nowhere this week. I have actually had a few adventures, if you can believe it.
Our first outing seemed straightforward enough – rice fields, then hot springs. Count me in. The rice fields are beautiful from far away, but I didn’t realize we also got to walk through them to see the process more closely.
It was interesting to see the flooded and fallow fields, rice seedlings, and drying rice straw, and the climb was only slightly treacherous.
Then we drove to the hot springs in the jungle. We walked through a bamboo forest (Fritz’s eyes doubled in size when I told him that’s what it was) and saw heartbreakingly gorgeous flowers.
There was a waterfall (cold!) and a hot spring (warm-ish!).
We had been warned by someone still recovering from his visit not to accidentally swallow the spring water, as if we’d be tempted. One of the students affectionately referred to it as “broth”.
I just kept thinking, “Are you sure this water’s sanitary? It looks questionable to me.” But aside from some injuries from slipping and falling near the spring, we’ve noticed no lingering effects from actually going into the spring.
A few days later, we hiked up to some more rice fields to watch one of our hosts climb up a coconut tree. The boys gave it their best shot, but no one was able to get very far.
Afterwards, our guide thought we should take the shortcut back to the car through the jungle, down steep, muddy slopes, wearing flip flops. Sometimes as I stepped carefully to avoid tumbling off the side of a ledge, I would catch myself on a tripline – a taut vine that fit exactly between my foot and my shoe and almost sent me flying. As I proceeded with caution, Fritz practically ran down that mountain shouting, “Mudslide Achievement Unlocked!” Luckily I was too distracted trying not to get tangled in vines or slide down a muddy hill to give any thought to what creatures might be lurking nearby. Can you imagine? I’m glad I didn’t have time to imagine. A student asked our guide, “Is this even the way?” She answered, “It’s the way. It’s a bad way, but it’s the way.”
Our first week here has been packed with more adventure than I was expecting, but we’re all alive and mostly unharmed, and getting away from the main roads into the wild has given us a chance to see much more of Bali than I did on our last visit. Fritz seems to be shedding his fears with each new outing and I guess that means I should too.