The advantage to writing this blog in retrospect is that we're able to identify, without question, the highlight of our time in each of the countries we visit. Jatiluwih (pr. Ju-t-il-loo-eh) and the surrounding countryside yielded so much more than we expected. Located on the lower southern slopes of Mt. Batukaru, the terrain is hilly and the temperature a perfect compromise between the cold mountaintop and the heat of the flat plains to the south.
It was a fairly easy downhill ride from the Lakeside Temple albeit the condition of the road did not improve. The rain stopped and it got warmer. We asked for directions a few times; a good thing or we'd have missed our turn-off. No tour buses come this way and as usual, directional signposts are sparse. After about an hour's ride we started to see the promise of what was to come.
A green brilliance of rice paddy terraces as far as the eye could see, like velvet-carpeted stair steps leading up the mountain! It was difficult for Dennis to keep his eyes on the road and after a couple of hard bumps on the bike I asked him to please, please, STOP the bike if he wanted to look at the scenery. Though this wasn't easy as the road was narrow with little or no shoulder.
Thankfully, we soon arrived in town and could feast our eyes on foot. We paid IDR15,000 each to enter the acknowledged UNESCO world heritage cultural site which incorporates the small town of Jatiluwih. The regional administration has established a 300-hectare area of protected rice paddy fields and is also restricting the development of star-rated and city hotels. That's good news!
Jatiluwih is tiny; we counted three homestays and perhaps five restaurants, no shops. One homestay stood out above the others and we quickly secured a room for IDR200,000/night (about US$16/night). This included an en-suite bathroom with hot water, breakfast for two and wi-fi. The room was very nicely appointed, the best we'd had in Bali so far. We later discovered the wi-fi didn't work but no matter, we had a great time without it.
And you just couldn't beat the view from our window!
Our host gave us information on a 2-hour rice paddy loop walk, also pointing out that one side of the loop was in fact much more scenic than the other. We set off thinking we'd do the loop anyway but just a few minutes into it we'd already decided we didn't want to miss the same magnificent scenery going in the other direction! We were charged a nominal fee of IDR5,000 each for entry to the trail ... only a few steps from our room. Looking back at the homestay, our room (one of only four) is the one on the far right of the building, the small family restaurant on the left.
These are young rice shoots ready for planting.
It's not unusual to see young children riding motorbikes in Bali, even in major cities in the busiest of traffic. In this case, they were also carrying sharp scythes! We thought these three boys to be aged about ten years old.
The pathway into the forest above marked the halfway point. We deviated from it to discover a deserted temple in the overgrown jungle. Or at least, it was deserted when we were there.
We've seen people using these leaves as umbrellas!
Exiting the jungle to return the same way we came, the sun peeked out from the clouds and lit up the rice fields beautifully.
And then it was gone for the day.
The walk took us longer than two hours because we'd stop every few steps to take photos. We passed very few tourists on the trail, perhaps no more than six altogether. After we freshened up for dinner and walked the road further into town to find a restaurant, it slowly dawned on us that we may be the only overnight guests in Jatiluwih that night.
The first clue was that we appeared to be the only westerners in town, and the second was that all the restaurants were closed. Apparently they only stay open until all the day-trippers leave. So it was back to our own homestay where the host cooked us a delicious dinner. We were also treated to a performance of traditional Balinese dance by their 9-year old daughter, Yande.
Around six in the morning we were awakened by the brightest of colour lighting up our room. The sunrise was stunning and we decided to go for an early morning walk.
This is the main street running through town. We really appreciated that all the buildings were on one side of it, to allow for an unobstructed view on the other. Amazingly, we were indeed the only tourists in town and it was wonderful to have it all to ourselves!
We walked the other side of the loop and passed many farmers on their way to work -
Imagine this as a little hillside retreat!
If only we could have stayed a week! For sure, this fabulous place will be in our hearts forever!
Note on current exchange rate: US$1.00 is about Indonesian Rupiah IDR12,160 is about ZAR10.60