11 - Lake With Two Names & Pura Puncak Mengu (Danau Beratan, Bali, Indonesia)
A quiet morning on the lake. An afternoon slog up the hill. A temple to my lonesome. Russians and rats and bribes, oh my.
by The Nostomaniac
FROM LAKE BATUR, I DROVE WEST to Bedugul (or Bedoegoel?) abutting Lake Beratan (or Bratan?). I arose early the next morning to see Pura Ulun Danu Beratan (Bratan?) on the shores of the lake whose name I can’t seem to verify. This famous temple is dedicated to Dewi Danu, the Balinese water goddess. Water is life so you can impute her stature. Pilgrims come. Ceremonies are held. Food is grown. Farmers rejoice. As this is one of the most photographed structures on the island, the early bird catches the worm and avoids the tourist onslaught. I prayed for a sunrise, but Dewi had other plans. Still, it was a pleasant morning, wet season or no.
Temple in the morning. Temple in the afternoon. I thought I would take an easy hike up the small mountain (Mengu) running north/south alongside the lake’s east edge. Lonely Planet implied the ease, but it was a somewhat grueling slog. Rain added to the gruel as did the faded path. Wet and slippery. That’s how I like my mountain trails. But, Mengu rewarded my perseverance. I had the temple at the top, Pura Puncak Mengu, all to my lonesome. Light mist and rain imbued the scene with an ethereal aura. Was I really alone? Hmmmm…I loitered for a spell before descending.
The Russians followed me to Lake Bratan (Beratan). Or I followed them. Maybe we followed each other. I’d run into them on two other occasions. KGB? FSB? WTF? I’m a big deal, so it would make sense. One of their females smiled at me. I smiled back. The Cold War is over.
I had a hotel room with rats…I think. Didn’t see them, so I suppose it could be anything. I had animals. Either that or someone played bizarrely innocuous mind games. Food would be missing, moved around. They ate the pastry, left the peanuts. Discriminating rats/monkeys/ghosts/neighbors. I moved a candy bar and the peanuts to a coffee table. I put wrappers beneath glass cups (no trash basket in room) to avoid attracting my companions. Didn't work. They moved the glasses and scattered the wrappers, probably huffing them for a fix. Out of desperation, I assume, they went for the peanuts but only picked at them. Finicky bastards.
It rained for days. Cats and dogs. Cows and horses. Platypuses and octopi. I imagined the bones of Trunyans past washing into Lake Batur. The rain followed me back to Ubud. The Russians did not. I welcomed it, swaddling myself in the sights and sounds. I had nowhere to be, nothing to command my attention. I took naps and naps between naps. The naps felt involuntary. Rice fields and rain. The perfect tranquilizer. Also, anemia. Turns out I had a touch of iron deficiency though I didn’t know at the time. Rice fields, rain, and anemia. Ahhh…
I lied. There was one minor preoccupation: my visa. I had the thirty-day “visa on arrival” purchased at the airport. Options? Go month to month and “renew” every thirty days or leave the country to acquire a two-month social/cultural visa renewable four times (for a total of six months). The first option would be an unmitigated hassle, especially if I wanted to leave Bali. And it was expensive. Bribes usually are. I say “bribe” but it’s not meant to feel like one. You go to a travel agent in Ubud and they quote you a price. You’d pay, and they’d take your passport to the airport, have the immigration slap an exit stamp followed by an entry stamp and—voila!—visa renewed. They’d call it a “fee” and charge you double or triple the price of a legit entry visa. And if you didn’t know better, you’d have no idea you just broke the law. Super. Instead, I’d have to leave and come back. Malaysia? Singapore? Singapore was the path of least resistance, bribes included. Yes.