We sort of nervously peered over the edge to our left. Joel asked, “do you think that’s where you slide off the waterfall?” We have heard from fellow travelers and tour guides about waterfall trekking and cliff jumping and waterfall sliding in the north of Bali, and now we are here feeling somewhat unprepared. “No,” I said, “I mean…that’s a proper waterfall. Surely that’s an injury if you slide down there. Then our guide, Panca, stepped over and happily pointed to our right: “Okay, we jump in here, swim across, and then slide down there.”
Us: “What, there???”
Me: “How high?”
Panca: “Let’s say 12 meters.”
We initially ruled out the waterfall to our right because surely that’s not safe for sliding down on.
We sort of shrugged our shoulders at each other, and changed our mindsets. I guess we’re sliding off that real full-size waterfall. And then we jumped and we swam and we said a little prayer and we slid down that waterfall.
We don’t normally take pleasure free falling or shooting out into pools from waterfall chutes, but we were there and we were ready to have fun and try new things and be the waterfall.
Then we safely climbed down to the other pools while we contentedly watched as other people jumped from 10 and 15 meter platforms.
I think our time in Northern Bali may be characterised by moments like that of being completely unprepared and then wholly surprised of how moments are unfolding in front of us. If it were up to Joel he would’ve spent all his time in Nusa Penida, where we just came from, but I had managed to convince him to drive all the way north where the elevation is higher and the temperature cooler and the mood mistier. We traded beaches and cliffs for mountains, coffee and marigold plantations, waterfalls and lakes. And then we arrived, and my idea of leisurely exploring the misty mountains quickly disintegrated when our accommodation, perched next to the mountain road a few kms from any town, had no scooters to rent. And to get anywhere anyways means at least 45 minutes, but mostly an hour of driving on the windiest mountain pass you can imagine behind cars and trucks and other scooters.
We felt a bit stuck as we ‘borrowed’ a staff member’s scooter to go try and get money from the nearest town, whose ATMs were all out of order.
Ari is one of the drivers who responded positively to Joel’s wild frenzy of whatsapping random numbers he found online once we realised what the area was like. We suggested some things we want to do for the day, he said fine – 500,000 rupiah (ca. $30) – he’s leaving right now, he’ll be there in an hour.
Our first stop was Munduk waterfall. We had already taken to Ari by this time. You’d have to be a monster not to. He is literally the happiest, friendliest person we have ever met. He laughs all the time, but in a way that is cozy and warm, endearing and infectious. Then we approached the waterfall and a group of young people noticed him and got really excited. People were rushing over to greet and chat and laugh with him. You know you’ve struck gold guide-wise when everyone is happy to see your guide wherever you stop.
“You know all these people?”
“Yes, yes,” he laughs.
“They are also from your home town?”
“Oh, how do you know them?”
He knows them because he helps out at the orphanage sometimes on his days off. Sometimes he takes his kids along too.
Ari literally spent the day making us and everyone else around him smile (as he photobombed visitors to the famous Ulun Danu Beratan Temple with glee).
If you ever need a guide in Bali – Ari is an expert driver and just a phenomenal human being.
Our second day in the Bali highlands panned out much like the first. We had no ideas of feasible, practical plans of how to fill our day. So we jumped on our scooter right at sunrise and made the coldest 90-minute trip north over the hilliest, windiest mountain pass to meet Panca near his village. And then Panca took us around the rice fields and the villages, and down into the valleys to swim in blue lagoons, jump off cliffs and slide down rushing waterfalls.
We arrived back at our homestay, fatigued from long scooter rides and waterfall adventures, and were just happy to see the sun set behind the rice terraces that expanded into the distance from our balcony in Bedugul.
So even while our time in northern Bali was poorly planned on our end, it quickly morphed into two incredible days of chasing new horizons from sunrise to sunset by the grace and expertise of other amazing people who had plans for us after all.