I basically had three straight days of bliss, relaxation and adventure in Bali from Nov. 8-10. Birthday sandwich! The morning of my birthday I ate banana pancakes, drank a pineapple juice and went for a swim. If that’s all I did for my 31st birthday I would have been satisfied. But instead we did a “choose your own adventure” day. We got a driver for the day for 300,000 rupiah and ventured back to the rice terraces (since Rachel, Izzy, Erwin and Vince hadn’t gone and I was definitely keen to go back). More glorious views, more coconut water, loads of chill. After lunch overlooking the fields we grabbed some Bintang roadies and headed to a waterfall.
My three favorite things (excluding any people) are waterfalls, fireworks and bridges. In that order. After paying a “donation” we clambered down some stairs and dove straight in. The waterfall was so powerful you had to yell at once another to hear over the tumbling water and it was impossible to get directly under it in the center – it would have drowned you for sure. One guy tried and he lost his shorts in the process. We swam against the current of the falls to the rocks behind and sat in the mist, watching the water pour down and the rainbow it created over the shallow pool. I mean COME. ON. We didn’t have the driver for much longer so we headed back to the hostel to shower before going out for dinner.
Rachel left the next day for Gili T and Izzy’s friend Sarah was coming into town, so Vince, Erwin and I formed a trio and rented scooters for the day. I’d previously tried my hand at driving a scooter, but when I told the renter I’d never driven one before he shook his head.
“No good. I business man. I want good business. If you drive and wreck scooter and hurt yourself, not good business.”
“So you’re saying I should’t drive the scooter? What should I do?”
“It better if you walk.”
Burn. So instead I jumped on the back of Vince’s and, with my eye closed and my arms clutching his waist, we sped off into traffic. I was nervous at first, but I have to admit that he was a very good, safe driver and we wore helmets (don’t worry, Mom).
With me directing us on Vince’s phone (thank God for 3G), we headed through town and out into the backroads of Ubud on our way to the water temple, Tirta Empul. The drive was spectacular, twisting through green rice fields, up and down hills, over rivers and under enormous, twisting trees with trunks as big around as a semi trailer. We found the temple easily enough and after being wrapped in sarongs (which are required to enter) we checked out the Hindu faithful (and fellow tourists) who had come to be cleaned by the holy spring waters. The water poured out of stone spouts into a rectangular, waist-less wading pool onto their heads. Neither Vince nor Erwin are religious so I don’t think this particular temple held much meaning for them, but as a Christian who believes in the power and meaning of baptism, I identified with their desire to be cleaned of their sins and it was a special moment for me.
Afterwards we wandered around and eventually found some stairs leading up. We started to climb, but as we did we heard a loud THUD followed by three or four more muted thuds. Then again. And again. Looking up towards the top of the stairs we saw coconuts raining down like tropical cannonballs.
“Coconuts kills more people than sharks,” Erwin warned.
Armed with this terrifying fact we pressed on, but decided to stay to the side and “keep our eyes to the sky,” as Erwin said. We agreed we should have brought our scooter helmets. After climbing another flight we saw that the coconuts weren’t overly ripe, they were being pried off the tree by an old man with a large bamboo cane. We waved our arms and asked him to stop for a moment while we climbed. On our way up we grabbed handfuls of coconuts that had tumbled down the stairs and dropped them in his sack. In return, he hacked two open right then and there for us to drink.
We walked on, a bit more quickly since it looked like it may rain. We came upon another collection of temples completely void of visitors. We wandered in, taking pictures and were eventually greater by an old man who volunteered at the temple. He told us a bit about the history of the temple and chatted with us, asking where we were from and our ages. He guessed me to be 17. Soooooooo I basically we’re dating now. He asked Vince and I if we were married and when we laughed that no we were not, he said, “Ohhhh, but I think you like Romeo and you like Juliet.” Perhaps for a few days, but let’s hope we don’t end up like those star-crossed lovers.
The rain finally started to come down so we hugged him goodbye and made a break for a covered pavilion. After a short break in the rain we laughed unknowingly at the so-called “rainy season” of Bali. We were about to eat our words. Back down the stairs, near the water temple the skies opened up and rained down buckets for a good hour, stranding us in another open-air pavilion, along with other soaking visitors. Only when your’e in paradise can something like torrential rain seem romantically poetic. But it was.