First Time Swimming With Waterfalls – Gitgit – Ubud – Bali
After leaving Tegalalang, the journey up to Gitgit was a little longer, and contained a lot of near misses on the narrow roads. The bikes outside of Ubud seemed to have a similarly incautious approach to the bikes inside Ubud, but from the relative safety of our car, it never felt as bad as the bus to Ranau in Borneo.
About an hour into the three hour trip to Gitgit, the driver told us of a tea tasting experience on the way. We stopped off and were shown around. We learned the process behind Luwak Coffee – the famous concoction created from coffee beans that had passed through the digestive system of a civet cat.
This was something that before the trip, we had been desperate to try, but after reading extensively, it appeared that finding authentic Luwak Coffee is difficult. Originally, the theory behind it is that the civets pick the best coffee cherries from the bunch, and along with the rest of its varied diet, it leads to a uniquely flavoured coffee once the poop has been picked up from the forest floor and roasted.
However, since it has now become something of a notorious novelty, many civets are caged, and only fed a diet consisting of coffee beans that they don’t get to choose. This undermines the entire idea behind the unique flavouring of Luwak coffee, and leads to terrible conditions for the civets themselves.
In addition to the coffee making process, we also got to see the side effects, as they had 4 caged civets onsite.
We were given the opportunity to buy some of the coffee as part of the tasting, but decided against it. We did, however, try teas made from pandan, lemon, ginger, saffron and mangosteen, amongst others.
We carried on, and began the ascent towards Gitgit, passing Betungan, the town that sits upon Lake Baratan. Whilst Baratan – and the water temple at its edge – were on our to-do list, we had hoped to see it at golden hour to see it at its best.
Gitgit was still another hour away, winding through the steep narrow roads, it was reminiscent of the uphill road to Ranau, although the road was at a 500m higher altitude. We could tell because large swathes of the valleys below were enshrouded in cloud.
We got to Gitgit and parked up, we had a guide offer his services to us. The cost for this was 200,000IDR (about £12) for an hour of his time – quite pricey when split between the two of us. We declined, figuring that finding a waterfall would be as easy as following the thunderous sounds.
We followed this plan, as Gitgit has a well set out path. We spent 20,000 (a little over £1) to gain admission and continued to follow the path, occasionally harangued by the world’s smallest touts (the youngest of which seemed just old enough to walk and talk), who were selling fairly typical tourist trinkets, presumably on behalf of their mother.
After a 10 minute walk, we came upon our first impressive waterfall – 2 streams cutting into a clearing. It wasn’t huge, but the sun, in its high position in the sky, illuminated the falls and the clearing beautifully.
Satisfied but not sated in our search for waterfalls, we followed the path, ignoring what appeared to be minor offshoots until the sounds of waterfalls began to dissipate. We started to curse our decision not to bother with a guide, although this was short lived, as heading back and following a smaller path we were greeted by a more impressive sight – a large fall with a remarkably deep plunge pool. There was no swimming to be had here, as the depth was 8 metres. The water was a striking azure blue and it looked like a great place to swim, were it not for the looming spectre of certain death.
We headed back up and followed the first path that we’d decided to forego. This was fortunate, as it provided both a pool that we could take a dip in and a pair of very impressive waterfalls. We attempted to take some photos, but were quite rudely interrupted by a lady who continuously waltzed into our shots brandishing a Samsung Galaxy. Sadly this was the case with a few other people, all vying for selfies. We gave up and headed back towards the changing room – a small room attached to a toilet with a 2000MYR price tag.
We got changed and attempted a swim, although the frigid water made it less enjoyable than the pictures of people swimming in waterfalls suggest. The photos that you usually see are of people looking outstretched and confident and, most importantly, not seconds away from hypothermia. I looked something like Gollum, clinging to a rock at the edge of the pool.
Drying off in the warmer air, I set up my camera whilst Laura got changed. Fortunately this coincided with a couple of minutes where no-one walked up to the fall, and I was able to capture a good picture of the twin falls.
Just as we turned to head back, our driver found us, pressing us to move on so that we could make the Beratan temple in time.