10 Hours in the Jungles of Bali // New Bali Tours
6AM: We’d already been up for an hour. Embraced by pink mist, there wasn’t much to see. Yet, for some reason, we were all hyper and happy. Our driver, Stephen, dispersed piping cups of tea and coffee, also seemingly unfazed by the wakeup call. While Arsa, our host for the day, distributed Balinese pastries.
6:15AM The mist… disappeared. We’d anticipated a muted, dreamy morning but then, just as the caffeine doing it’s magic the cloud that’d embraced the crest which we stood evaporated. Before us lie two out of Bali’s three volcanoes, Mount Kintamani and Mount Batur. Lake Batur lie in the shadows, still reflected the night that had passed.
6:20AM As rays of sun burst from the horizon, the group fell silent as we watched the day unfold.
6:26AM SUNRISE! As though lottery winners were being announced, we could barely contain our enthusiasm as the sun finally crested Mount Batur.
While the sunrise activity – all 26 minutes of it, had been enough to leave me satisfied as a productive day of travel, our NewBali tour was only getting started. We boarded back into our comfy van (complete with neck pillows, snacks and water) and headed towards Singaraja in northern Bali.
7:30AM After an hour of sightseeing en route, we unloaded near a rural walking path. As the group got to know each other, Arsa and our local guide, Tigor, seemed to know just about everyone we (literally) crossed paths with. As a farmer buzzed by on his scooter Arsa grabbed his hat, laughed and placed it on Dan’s head. The farmer was in hysterics as he continued on his journey, hat-less.
8AM As we walked along the narrow paths through the terraces the scene that unfolded looked as though it’d been stolen right out of a travel guide. This is what people want to see when they come to Bali… but they don’t. Vastly different from the famous Jatiluwih Rice Terraces (which annoyingly offers a large paved parking lot – perfect for giant tourbuses to park and unload), Singaraja is unspoiled and incredibly beautiful.
8:30AM Tigor introduced us to his friend, a local farmer, and without saying anything at all he quickly raced up a palm tree – barefoot! I was too amazed to take any pictures but loved drinking coconut milk straight from the source. After meeting the farmer’s sweet pup we continue on our trek.
9AM One slippery, steep ascent and we found ourselves in a deep jungled gorge. At the trail head we stopped for water while Dan attempted to play a gamelan… ‘attempted’ being the operative word.
915AM As we negotiate our footing on the riverbed rocks our next destination slowly became visible – the roaring Sekumpul Waterfalls. Semkumpul is comprised of not one but seven individual waterfalls, surrounded by lush jungle it was absolutely surreal. For the next few hours we swam, played, and jumped into the falls, doing everything we could to appreciate nature’s raw island beauty.
(for perspective, spot Dan below!)
NOON: With the waterfalls behind us, we begin a shorter trek back to the van and stopped en route for sweets made by a traditional Balinese woman in front of her house. She gave us endearing smiles as she dispersed her treats to the group. In hindsight, I think this encounter may be one of the moments I remember most vividly. It was blatant that she led a simple life but was undeniably happy, something I think we can all learn from.
1PM Closing the book on our fabulous day, Arsa and Timor brought us to a restaurant for lunch with the most spectacular view imaginable. I truthfully don’t remember a single bite, too distracted by the volcano-ladded scene!
At 3PM we were dropped back off at our hotel in Ubud with plenty of day still left to enjoy. Dan and I took it easy that afternoon, recounting our whole journey over and over again for days and weeks to come.
If you’re heading to Bali, I highly recommend reaching out to the guys at NewBali Tours. As I told them in an email a week later, this might have been one of the best tours I’ve ever participated in. Start to finish they thought of everything (remember the neck pillows?!) and what made it all the more special was touring with local guides that knew and LOVED the island we explored. Bravo, guys!