A trek through rice fields to temples and an elephant cave

Saturday 5 July 2008 – Around Ubud and Bedulu, Bali, Indonesia

For my last full day in Bali called for some more sights and exploring. The ‘Elephant Cave’, Goa Gahja, looked quite close on the map, and indeed it turned out not to be far. But walking along the side of the busy road to get there was not a pleasant experience. Motor fumes combined with the absence of any sort of footpath and the fact that pedestrians come a distant last in the transport hierarchy in Bali.

Goa Gahja, Bali

Still, I eventually found Goa Gahja, and before the tour busses started to arrive. As with so many sites here, there is little by way of interpretation provided. A Balinese guide was speaking in German to a couple ahead of me and another old man gesticulated uselessly at me, so I relied on my trusty Lonely Planet guide. It’s origins are mysterious, having only been discovered in the mid-twentieth century, and is obviously an interesting place but this shortcoming makes visiting it less than compelling as heritage experiences go.

Another nearby site suffers similarly. Yeh Pelu (Balinese for ‘water container’) was also, like Goa Gahja, rediscovered in the twentieth century. I had almost found it when a young man started chatting and offered to show me this and other sites via the rice fields, rather than via the dusty, noisy and quite unsafe roads. We agreed a price and I gladly accepted Betu’s offer. He lived in the village (Bedulu) and was a rice farmer with two children, who both had the flu. He also earned money by wood carving – and was clearly trying to break into tourism when the opportunity arose, having good working English.

My guide for the day, Betu, a local rice farmer

Betu was keen to show me his village rice temple, so we set off there first, walking along the narrow ridges between the terraces, through some quite lovely and apparently unspoilt scenery. It started to make sense why the locals don’t see the need for footpaths (other than as somewhere else to ride or park their motor scooters) – their paths are through the fields. They can get around perfectly well when they must go on foot by knowing all the rice fields in the area.

Tracks beside the rice fields
Tracks beside the rice fields

The rice temple was attended, when we reached it, by a resident holy man and a helper, who followed us about chattering and grumbling, presumably to ensure that I put an appropriate donation in the box. The various alters held offering selative to the rice harvest that was in progress all around.

Rice harvest near Bedulu, Bali
Rice harvest near Bedulu, Bali
Rice fields near Bedulu
Rice fields near Bedulu

Yeh Pelu is a 25 metre long carved rock wall. Betu did his best to explain its relevance and context, but couldn’t really do so effectively. Again, some meaningful interpretation would be handy.

Yeh Pelu
Yeh Pelu

On the way back to Ubud, we visited another, much larger temple – I believe to was probably Pura Samuan Tiga (Temple of the Meeting of the Three), near Bedulu. It was deserted, but quite stunning.

My last day or so in Ubud were spent more gently, relaxing, some more shopping and a final treatment in the resort’s spa, before heading to the airport and returning home via Sydney.

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