07 May 2009

Jeep jaunting - day 2

Our second day on the road started with a bit of a downer and got quite surreal before normality returned later in the day.

When we had parked our heap of a jeep the previous evening we left the keys with the hotel reception in case they needed to move it during the night. They did move it but left the front wheels precariously teetering at the top of a ramp so that when I got in to move it the following morning it rolled forwards. The hand brake being unable to hold the weight of the car and a driver (no fat driver gags please . . . We've already said how knackered the car is).

This wouldn't have been a problem if it weren't for the Russian perched on his moped a few inches from my front bumper. By the time I realised that I was moving and reacted to get the brakes on I had managed to mangle his headlamp. Due to the state of our jeep I couldn't tell if we had damaged it or whether it was already like that to start with (the jeeps owner thought the latter). After much to-ing and fro-ing and a bit of a heated debate the hotel owner decided it was the Russian guys fault as he had told him several times not to park there. So with the issue settled we headed out for the central highlands of Bali.

Things didn't improve much once we got on the road. Somehow we missed the turning for the coast road bypass and got stuck in the gridlocked capital city of Denpasar. To make matters worse we got hopelessly lost and were unable to find any of the roads that we were on in any of the 4 maps at our disposal. After the best part of two hours we eventually made our way out of the city via the town of Sakah.

Sakah is famous for having a 10m high statue of a giant baby in the centre of town. Despite the fact that the statue was only erected in the early 90's no one is quite sure why it was built or what it symbolises. For some reason we kept thinking of George "he's just a big baby" Dawes!

It was at this point when I discovered that my camera, or rather the lens, had gone wonky. It's a bit of a long shot, but if there's anyone out there knows how to fix a Canon EF-S 17-85mm lens that wont auto-focus or allow proper control of the aperture then please let me know.

After being delayed by our little shunt and getting lost in Denpasar we eventually made our first planned stop at Gunung Kawi by about 3 in the afternoon. Gunung Kawi is a monument complex carved into a cliff face to commemorate the 11th century Balinese king Anak Wungsu.

We weren't that taken with the actual monuments themselves but thought that the location, in a rice terraced valley, was absolutely stunning.

Whilst we were there we were approached by an old croan who asked us if we wanted to see a waterfall. After a 5 minute trek across the rice terraces we eventually arrived at what could best be described as a small trickle of water obscured by some trees. Sensing our disappointment the old croan decided to liven things up by getting her tits out. She then appeared somewhat offended when her request for some money was refused.

We made our excuses and departed rather hastily to our next destination, Pura Tirta Empul, a sacred spring water temple a few kilometers up the road. Hindus from all over Bali come for holy water and ablutions in the bathing pools.

Although we really enjoyed our visits to both Gunung Kawi and Pura Tirta Empul at times it felt like you couldn't see the temple for the amount of hawkers (or pensioners breasts) getting in the way. It was a little trying at times, particularly after the morning we'd just had.

To end the day we headed into the heart of the central highlands and the volcano of Gunung Batur. We arrived on the outer crater rim at dusk just in time to take in the views before the sun set and the clouds rolled in.

The volcano is the most active in Bali and has had over 20 major eruptions in the last 200 years. Rather than return to Kuta we decided to stay in the village of Kedisan which is located inside the volcano's caldera on the shore of Lake Batur.

We're not sure what they're putting in the Pedigree Chum in the towns around Gunung Batur but the roads seemed to be full of kamikaze dogs which spent most of their time trying to get under the wheels of our jeep. It was a real challenge not to squash the poor mangy looking mutts.

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