First Time On A Caldera Lake – Lake Beratan – Ubud – Bali
The descent from Gitgit falls was much clearer than the foggy climb, allowing us impressive views over Lake Beratan and beyond. We bristled with excitement at seeing one of Bali’s most picturesque temples – the Lake Beratan Water Temple. And as we hadn’t eaten since breakfast, we were almost as excited about a meal.
We stopped at a restaurant for food, but discovered that they were serving neither food nor drink, yet inexplicably remained open. With the help of some locals, we found another restaurant, we were able to eat, and spent a portion of the meal discussing and comparing costs of living with our driver – Dewa – in our respective countries. After finding out the sort of wage that he could expect in a given month, we felt obliged to pay for his meal – all the more affordable since we were outside of Ubud.
Lake Beratan is a large caldera lake, formed in the top of a collapsed volcano. It sits at an elevation higher than Scarfell Pike – England’s tallest mountain – and is the site of one of Bali’s most famous temples. The Pura Ulun Danu Beratan – the temple in question – actually appears on Indonesia’s 50,000IDR note.
We approached a jetty on the side of the lake, and were quoted a price to hop on a boat to drive around the lake. This came in at 400,000IDR (£24ish) for both of us. Our experience of haggling up to this point had mainly consisted of saying, “that seems expensive”, which typically prompted vendors to half – or even quarter – their price. As we were only carrying 275,000IDR with us, this was the first time that we were having to haggle for something we actually wanted. The boat operator came down to 300,000 but after a little discussion with the driver – who appeared to fight our corner – he was willing to take what we had left.
We were led out to onto the jetty and climbed into the speedboat. The driver started the engine and drove out into the lake, making a tight turn that turned my stomach along with the boat. He did this a couple more times, which was quite exhilarating once he’d proven that he wasn’t going to flip the boat. He then set a course towards the middle of the lake.
We were rewarded with our earlier decision to head to Gitgit first, as the cloud had cleared from the early afternoon, meaning that we were able to enjoy the steep sides of the caldera bathed in the warm light of late afternoon sun. We had planned the trip around getting some nice photos of the Beratan Water Temple as the sun set, and things were looking promising on that front as we reached the halfway point around the lake. Then things changed.
A cloud started to roll into the lake from the South, carrying with it a density that felt like something out of a horror film. It didn’t help that we’d watched a couple of episodes of The Mist just a night before, or had been watching Game of Thrones. In both cases, thick clouds of mist meant certain death for minor characters, and I didn’t rate our chances out here on a boat.
As we crossed the lake, we were treated to a stunning view taking in the sun, alongside the impenetrable fog, which soon overtook us. Inside the fog, we were able to see the sun creating silhouettes of trees on the opposite bank, with spectacular rays being thrown in every direction, this led to some pretty dramatic scenes.
The fog cleared just long enough as we slowly passed the Beratan water temple, allowing us to see that clearly. After taking in our fill of the temple, the driver put the boat back into gear, did one more tight turn and bombed it back to the jetty. We thanked the driver and alighted, glad to have avoided the fog for the important parts.
The drive home was enshrouded in fog, as another huge bank of it had rolled in as we were climbing into the car. The drive home was long and largely uneventful, and on our return we discovered that Dewa, our driver, had been out with us for closer to 12 hours, when we were meant to be out for 8. We gave him a generous tip to repay him for his generosity with his time. We both climbed into bed, exhausted.