This is the story of the beginning of the end! How one day of adventure and new experiences led to the premature end of our time in Bali!
After an amazing, life changing week in and around Kuta, we had headed to Ubud to continue our adventures and see some ‘off the beaten path’ Indonesia. We spent a fun and relaxing few days eating, shopping and becoming at one with the monkeys, before deciding to spend a day exploring the raw beauty and nature that surrounds this sacred part of Bali.
We hired a driver for the day through Champlung Sari Hotel, where we were staying, and asked him to take us to all the sites that anyone visiting the area really should see. He did not disappoint! We spent the day being driven from place to place, seeing and experiencing some of Bali’s most amazing, beautiful and interesting sites.
Our first stop was Tegenungan Waterfall. We had been told that you could swim at the base of this picturesque waterfall but our driver warned us that if the water was brown (common in the wet season) it would not be wise to due to pollutants. Sure enough, after trekking down the steep path to the base of the waterfall, lugging towels and our swimwear, the water was indeed brown. So, while we ruled out a refreshing swim (much to the very vocalised disappointment of our hot children), we did take many photos and simply enjoyed the beautiful, tranquil setting and sheer beauty of the majestic waterfall.
Our next stop was Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave). Before we had even entered, the kids thought this place was fantastic. Dad had to wear a skirt! When visiting a Hindu Temple in Bali, it is a requirement that all men and women must cover their legs below the knee and so Peter and I were each lent a sarong to wear. The temple was just incredible. With ancient relics, carvings and structures dating back to the 8th century and the most gorgeous, tranquil gardens, it was like no where we had ever visited. Walking right into the Elephant Cave was quite amazing, and a highlight for the kids. Like with many places we visited throughout Bali, at times our kids appeared to be more of a tourist attraction than our surrounds, posing for photos, waving and giving high-fives.
From Goa Gajah we headed to another temple, Titra Empul (holy spring water temple). Again, Daddy had to wear a skirt! Yay! Tirta Empul is famous for it’s holy water springs consisting of two pools containing 30 small showers gushing out what is said to be holy water. The springs are visited and bathed under by Balinese Hindus, locals and tourists from all over the world. It is believed that this ritual offers purification, prosperity and the cleansing of evil spirits. For a while we watched in fascination as one after another, people walked in to the water and stood beneath the showers. The kids pleaded for us to let them “have a go”. As hot as it was, and as fun as I’m sure it would have been for them, the answer was a big fat NO. We explained to them what a sacred and spiritual ritual it was and how the people there would not appreciate children jumping in just for the fun of it. I was actually quite impressed and surprised with how accepting of this they were. Our travels are definitely teaching our children so much understanding and acceptance of different cultures, beliefs and behaviours and I’m really proud of how open-minded and worldly they are.
After some time at the springs and a walk around the grounds we headed to a large walled area which held a huge pond filled with hundreds of koi fish. We bought some fish food and the kids sat on the edge of the pond, mesmerised by the sheer size and amount of fish right in front of them. Again, for a while, our kids became the tourist attraction, but they were so caught up in the fish feeding frenzy I don’t think they even noticed.
There was a little warung (restaurant) next to the pond and when the kids finally tired of the fish we sat and had some lunch. We ordered 2 nasi goreng, 2 mie goreng, 3 freshly squeezed juices and a packet of emping (Indonesian chips). The food was fresh and tasty and the price was incredible, just AU$11.50 in total!
For our next stop our driver had something a little different planned. He took us to a coffee plantation. We were shown around and taught just how coffee is grown and harvested. We all found this very interesting, even the kids, but the biggest highlight for them was learning about ‘poo coffee’ (kopi luwak) and meeting the little creature who produces it! Kopi Luwak is a kind of coffee made from semi digested coffee beans eaten and ‘pooed out’ by an Asian palm civit.
The kids thought it was both amazing and really, really gross at the same time. After our little tour and lesson we were given a tasting tray of all the various coffees and teas produced at the plantation. The poo coffee was not included as it is significantly more expensive than the ones we tried, and honestly, this was more than ok with me! All of the coffee and tea (and hot chocolates for the kids) that we tasted were delicious, our favourite being the coconut infused coffee which we bought a big bag of on our way out.
Our second last stop for the day was at a village called Kintamini where we had the most incredible views of Mount Batur, an active volcano made up of three volcanic cones (Batur I, II and III). As we patiently declined the very persistent street vendors, we walked along the footpath to a viewing area and stood in awe, looking at some of the most breathtaking landscape we have ever seen. Standing here actually reminded me of the first time I laid eyes on the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Obviously quite different, but they both took my breath away! Spectacular and surreal! While we spent a long time taking in the views and taking many, many photos, I really don’t think any could really do it justice. The kids couldn’t believe they were standing in front of a real volcano, the black stains from decades old lava, so clear to see. Just phenomenal!
By the time we were back in the car, it was quite late in the day. As we headed back to Ubud, discussing what we would have for dinner, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. While we had had an incredible day, there was one thing missing. Something I had always associated with Ubud and had been really excited to see. Rice terraces. Our driver had mentioned them earlier in the day but now it seemed we were heading back without having had time to see them. We had been out so long and our driver had been so patient with how long we had spent in each place (everything takes longer with 5 kids), I figured he was keen to get back and I didn’t want to push him for more time. So, when he stopped the car and pointed across the road, telling us where to walk to get to the rice terraces, I was secretly doing a little happy dance in my seat!
As we crossed the road at Tegallalang and the rice terraces came in to view it was exactly as I had pictured it would be. Beautiful bright green rows lining the hill as far as the eye could see. Immediately we started taking photos. We could see people walking through the terraces below us and so of course our kids (and Peter) just had to do the same. The hill was steep and there was a fair drop between each terrace. Ben, our 1 year old, had fallen asleep in the car and so I was holding him, still asleep. This was a good enough excuse for me not to attempt to climb down the steep, uneven dirt paths that the kids had made a beeline for.
As I watched the rest of my family begin to head down the paths Lucy, our nearly 4 year old announced she was absolutely desperate to use the toilet. “Great” I thought “how and where am I going to find one of those?” Fortunately there was a little shop near the top of the terraces and the lady working there could obviously see Lucy’s “I’m desperate for a wee” dance and led us out the back to their toilet. Thank goodness for that!
As soon as we walked out of the toilets I could hear screaming. It only took me a second to realise that it was one of my kids. One of my big kids! As the screaming got louder and more severe my heart started racing. Something was wrong. Seriously wrong. My girls NEVER scream like that, no matter what has happened. With the sleeping baby still in my arms, I pushed Lucy at a young woman who was sitting having a drink, blurting out something along the lines of “please watch her, my daughter is hurt” and ran toward the terraces. There, from the top, I could see Anna, our eldest, lying on the ground with Peter and our other 2 children standing over her. Her screams were spine chilling. I threw the sleeping baby on a young couple who were standing nearby looking down at Anna. I can’t even remember if I said anything or just dumped him on them and ran. The adrenalin had kicked in and my only focus was on getting to my injured child. I still didn’t know what had happened. A thousand thoughts were racing through my head. A snake bite? A gun shot? I actually thought she may be dying.
I remember, as I made my way down to her, shouting over and over “WHAT HAPPENED? WHAT HAPPENED?”. When I finally reached her Peter was carefully helping her to stand up and her screams were subsiding and turning in to sobs. I instantly felt a little relieved. Then he told me she had fallen from one of the terraces and I actually felt even more relieved. I was still panicking, my heart was beating out of my chest, but at least I knew it wasn’t one of the absolutely horrific scenarios that had crossed my mind. Her forehead was grazed and bleeding and she was holding her arm and shaking. The next few minutes are a blur. We somehow got her up to the top and all of us to the car.
What happened next is a whole other story. Another long story which Peter will write one day soon. I will just say for now that my baby was ultimately ok. She had broken her wrist and, after an absolute nightmare of doctors and ambulances and hospitals and hundreds of calls back and forth to our travel insurance company, we flew back to Australia for treatment, cutting our time in Bali short.
I think this may have been the longest, most eventful, exhausting and emotional day of my life (and I’ve given birth 5 times)! And to think, right before we arrived at the terraces, we were light-heartedly arguing about what we’d have for dinner. I wanted to order room service and have a nice, quiet night in………………