Turning 23 – a two day celebration

I am now 23!

The mountainous region of Ubud, known for its rice fields, waterfalls and temples is where I celebrated my 23rd birthday (27th October)! And so was a village even further into the mountains, Munduk. I decided to use the time difference from the UK to Bali (I’m 7 hours ahead I think) to do more birthday celebrations. This also meant that I could use some of my birthday money that I had been given to me by family (thank you again) before I left home.

After the day before my birthday being a busy one, we had a lie in and woke up for a pancake breakfast made by our homestay. We were then driven to a waterfall that is nearby to Ubud called the Tegenungan Waterfall. The waterfall didn’t disappoint, it towered over us and fell into a pool of water deep in the canyon. We spent the next hour swimming in this pool of water – it was amazing! The water was so powerful from the fall that it was quite hard to get underneath it – we managed to a few times though. We also went behind it which was a bit calmer and easier to get to the mouth of the falls.

With around 10 minutes left before we were picked up, we walked to the top of the waterfall. It wasn’t a long way up – they had built steps – but it was cool to see the water coming down and what the canyon looked like from the top. The weather was exceptional for this trip, it was very sunny so our swimming stuff dried really fast after we had been in the waterfall. I have never swam in a waterfall before and am so glad to have been able to do something so fun on my birthday.

Later in the day we went to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary which is on the edge of Ubud city centre (walking distance from the hotel). Here, there are over 600 wild monkeys which are looked after by the Ubud community who make sure they are respected. They provide food in the evenings and keep the environment clean as well as making sure that visitors don’t anger the monkeys (this is as much for the visitors well being as the monkeys!) It was great here, we sat and watched the monkeys for a few hours as they were so entertaining. Some were stealing people’s food and belongings, others play fighting and some even trying to find a mate. There were also little baby monkeys (which I LOVED) all in a gorgeous forest temple setting – couldn’t have asked for more from it!

In the evening we walked around Ubud, got some food and sat in a bar for some drinks. It wasn’t a late one because we had to get up really early the next day to climb a volcano for the sunrise.

We woke up at 1:30am where we had to get up and be ready to leave the homestay at 2am (we had only had a couple of hours sleep!) We reached the bottom of Mount Batur (the volcano) at 3:30am and spent the next 2 hours, along with 5 others and 2 guides, climbing the volcano to the summit. The lead guide for our group was called Buda and he was great at keeping you on the right track. There was a lot of people in small groups with their own guides climbing the volcano too so often you were just walking in a line behind a lot of other people.It wasn’t a straight forward climb and there were elements that were very steep and involved you to clamber over a lot of rocks – all of this whilst in the pitch black using only a torch! Not being able to see what lay ahead we were spurred on by the incredibly clear skies. Not only did this promise no clouds for our sun rise but it showed loads of stars including many constellations such as Orion (that’s the extent my astronomy goes I’m afraid!)

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After 2 very sweaty hours – although it didn’t actually seem as long as that – we reached a point nearly at the top where most people watch the sunrise. Niall had read that you could go higher so we asked our guide if we could go to the top and me and Niall (the others were happy stopping at this point) continued climbing. I was a bit tired at this point and it was a little bit light so I was slightly worried we’d miss the sunrise. Niall was good at ignoring my grumpy protest and worries and got me to go all the way to the top. I’m glad he did because it was truly amazing watching the sun rise from the top on an active volcano. A number of dogs had come to the top of the volcano with us so I ended up sharing half of the boiled egg from the breakfast they provide with one dog who sat next to us while the sun rose in the sky. It was a surreal experience and a real highlight of the trip. We couldn’t have wished for better weather with the clouds below us in the valley leaving just the sunrise to see on a backdrop of mountains.

After looking around the crater – there is a holy cave, lots of gaps in the rocks where steam is coming out from the volcanic activity below and more monkeys – we then walked back down the crater. As my knees are not the strongest, I found this a little more painful but I wasn’t bad at clambering down the rocky segments that had been a challenge on the climb. A lot of the trek down was actually harder than the climb as there were huge segments of sand and sharp rocks which meant it was easier to slip, especially as some of the drops were quite large. We both had to empty out our trainers of sand after the trek from the top of the volcano to meet the rest of our group. The group we were with were all very friendly and we were all a similar pace which made it a little nicer on the climb. We were back at the homestay and packing our bags to leave by 11 still with a full day ahead of us.

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Looking back at the volcano, once we were on our way back to Ubud, you could see the damage caused from previous eruptions. Buda had told us that the last eruption was in 2000 but that it was only a lot of smoke. Down the side of the volcano are huge rivers of black where nothing grows, this was from a previous eruption (sometime over the last century – they have had a lot in the 1900s) where a more serious eruption occurred. It makes you wonder why you would live so close to it now, when it is still active, when the damage it can cause is there as a constant reminder.

On our way to Munduk we stopped at Pura Ulun Danu Beratan – the ‘Temple on the Lake’. This was a very pretty temple on a vast lake lined by mountains. The temple adopted the signature tiered towers that many Indonesian temples have and there were lots of red and yellow flowers planted around it. The only way to get into the temple would be to walk across a part of shallow lake – this wasn’t like the sea temple, people weren’t allowed in this one! It started to rain while we were there but our driver had given us an umbrella so we still got to see it all. I think the extraordinary backdrop is what made this temple so impressive.

When we finally arrived in Munduk (it’s high up in the mountains) we checked in (to the Puri Alam Bali Bungalows) and spent the rest of the day relaxing. Our room has a great view of the forests and mountains around us so we were happy to sit and relax watching the view and listening to the forest. A popular thing to do while in the mountains is to get a massage as the focus on these regions is relaxation. I had used my birthday money to pay for the sunrise trek up the volcano but has some left over so paid for me and Niall to get traditional Balinese massages at our hotel. They were so relaxing and just what we needed after the intense climb and lack of sleep. We even got to sit and watch the sun we saw rising, set over the mountains from our balcony. The two days of celebrating my birthday couldn’t have gone better and I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to celebrate turning 23 in Bali and experience such amazing things.

Sending Love x

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