08 May 2009

Jeep jaunting - day 3

We woke on Thursday morning (7th May) to stunning views of the 3 cratered peak of Gunung Batur from our hotel.

After breakfast we then had the difficult task of getting our woefully underpowered jeep back out of the caldera of the volcano and onto the outer rim. The car was so feeble that we had to turn the air con off so as not to drain the power from the engine. Things weren't helped either by the procession of trucks bringing gravel and ash out of the crater which barely moved at more than 3mph. Overtaking, uphill on the twisting road was somewhat challenging with our lumpy feeble engine.

The drive from the volcano to our first stop at Pura Besakih was through some really spectacular scenery.

Pura Besakhi is a complex of 22 Hindu temples perched 1000m up the side of Gunung Agung, Bali's highest and most sacred mountain. Although it is probably the most important temple in Bali it's also infamous for the hoards of tricksters and scammers who try and part the visitors from their money.

Before we'd even got to the site we encountered the fake "Tourist Information Office" where we were told we had make a "donation". Then it was through the crowd of "guides" who insisted that we must use their services if we wanted to enter the complex (the guide books warn you that this is a complete lie!). We had trouble with one particularly persistent guy who wouldn't leave us alone. When we said that we didn't want or need a guide he told us that he wasn't one, he was a "temple guardian" which is different. The main difference being that he charges $10 instead of 5! With the constant barrage of pestering it was hardly the most relaxing or enjoyable place we've ever visited.

Our next stop was the former royal water palace at Tirtagangga. The complex consisted of some really beautiful gardens and pools that provided a (relatively) hassle free hour of calm after the Besakhi experience.

We had originally intended to go from Tirtagangga all the way to the East coast and the town of Tulamben. 40m off the beach at Tulamben lies the torpedoed wreck of the American World War 2 cargo ship Liberty in water shallow enough to allow snorkelling. However, the driving conditions on the road were so bad that we didn't have the time or patience to go that far. Instead we started to make our way back to Kuta stopping at one final temple Pura Goa Lawah, otherwise known as the bat cave, on the way back. There was no sign of Bruce Wayne or the Boy Wonder, but we did see (and smell) tens of thousands of bats who roost in the cave temple during the day.

When we got back to Kuta I discovered that at some point during the day I had managed to loose my mobile phone. I was a little bit sulky to say the least, particularly after pranging the jeep and discovering my camera lens broken the day before. Well they say it comes in threes, so hopefully thats my lot now.

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