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Bali's Cool Highland Retreat

High in the central ranges of west Bali, a cool mountain retreat nestles in the crater of an extinct volcano. Here lies placid Lake Bratan, source of life-giving water for the springs, rivers and ricefields below. Verdant tropical rainforests blanket the hills, which at 1400 m above sea level provide temperatures several degrees lower than the plains 11°C to 30°C.

Few tourists stop to explore Bedugul and Lake Bratan on journeys to and from the north coast. But this little hideaway is well known to long-term Bali residents for its delightful scenery, spectacular mountain walks and many other recreation opportunities.
The road to Bedugul leads west and north from Denpasar through Mengwi, taking an hour and a half to reach the top. As it winds up the mountain, magnificent views stretch back over the lowlands to the coast and across to the misty peaks of Bali's volcanoes - Agung, Abang and Batur to the east. To the west, deep gorges border tiers of jungle foliage below the hazy peak of Mt. Batukaru.

Near the top of the hill the road suddenly branches to the right, sloping gently down and a striking new panorama is revealed sparkling blue waters backed by lush, green hills. Cottages dot the hillside down to the shores of the lake, and a pier provide a mooring for boats of all shapes and sizes.

This is the Bedugul Hotel, center for water skiing, parasailing, canoeing and fishing
Facilities include boat sheds Jumping ramps, slalom and trick water ski equipment Contact Mr. Wayan Purnayasa owner of hotel, for information and rental equipment

The lake goddess presides

BedugulOn the western shore of the lake, dramatic Pura Ulun Danu Bratan projects into the water. This is the temple of the lake goddess who is much revered as a source of fertility Built by the king of Mengwi in 1633, it consists; of four compounds, the two outermost of which are completely surrounded by water.

When the three-tiered Siwaitic lingga Petak was recently restored, the builders discovered a bubbling spring and a big white stone flanked by two red ones - a phallic lingga representing the reproductive power of Siwa as the god of fertility. Towering above this, on a separate islet, is a single shrine of 11 roofs dedicated to Wisnu in his manifestation as the lake goddess Dewi Danu, protects all living creatures.

The main temple complex on the shore Pura Teratai Bang, is a pura penataran or temple of origin. Its many shrines, associated with different aspects of creation, are d nated by a large 7-tiered meru dedicate Brahma.'Ibe smaller Pura Dalem Purwa dedicated to Dewi Uma Bhogawati, the goddess of food and drink.

Lush tropical gardens

Botanical gardenIn 1959, a large expanse of tropical rain for in the foothills of Bukit Tapak was set as by the government as the Kebun Raya Karya Bali - a botanical garden cove an area of 129.2 hectares. This extensive A is a popular place for weekenders, but d the week it is a haven of peace and solitude,

More than 650 tree speciess have been recorded in the park, and there are 459 different wild and propagated orchids, including some rare ones collected from the nearby forest. Visitors interested to learn more are welcome to call in at the Information Center, although it pays to take a guide, as the staff do not speak fluent English.

The temperate climate, abundant rainfall and rich volcanic soils make the crater ideal for market gardening. In the early 1970s most local farmers cut out their coffee gardens and started growing vegetables. Now the Bedugul gardens supply the huge Denpasar markets and hotel resorts with fresh cabbages, carrots, onions, strawberries, passion fruit and other fresh fruits and vegetables.

Flower growing has also proved profitable, and bemo-loads of freshly cut roses, lilies, gardenias and gladioli are sent southwards at dawn. Nursery gardens and orchid shelters have sprung up all over the valley.

Stop at the produce and plant market to see tier after tier of exotic flowering plants. Women here call out to passers-by in a new language. "Dendrobium? Azalea? You buy orchid, madam?"

Tropical golf and mountain hikes

BedugulSome will find this the last word on Bali as a paradise. At the northern end of the Bedugul crater is one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world, designed by famous golf architects Thompson, Wolveridge and Fream. This is the Bali Handara Country Club, an 18-hole masterpiece with lush green fairways and the fastest greens you are likely to find anywhere. Trees and beds of colorful flowers line the fairways, and there is a spacious clubhouse, complete with pro shop, sauna and fitness center, and a restaurant. Open to the public except on tournament days, the course is playable all year round, with no problems of advance booking.

For those who enjoy nature more without whacking a little white ball around, there are many delightful bush walks in the vicinity of Bedugul. Guides are available at the Bedugul Hotel. They don't speak much English, but they know every inch of the countryside.

One exhilarating hike takes you to the peak of Mt Mangu, on the southeastern side of Lake Bratan. It is a 6 hour walk. At the peak is an ancient temple, Pura Pucak, built by the first raja of Mengwi. The view is spectacular.

Another walk begins at the northernmost end of the botanical gardens. There is a good wide path here, so it is safe without a guide. It leads across the foothills of Mt Tapak to the northern end of the valley. The 8 km path emerges in the midst of vegetable gardens to greet the main road at Pancasari village.

There is a further walk passing up and behind Mt Tapak through dense jungle to a waterfall on this other side. This is a long and steep climb and should only be ventured with a local guide. So set off early and bring food. Nature lovers will find it well worth the effort.

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