This actual off-the-beaten-track experience doesn’t really start until you Pengastulan in the north of Bali, a place less frequented by travellers. The road up to the northern region starts to get very interesting once you pass through Tabanan and take the turn-off at Antosari. Here, you leave the main south-west coastal road and travel into the interior of the island passing through some stunning scenery along a winding and narrow road. Before you get to Pupuan there is a small place called Belimbing. You really can’t see the village but on the side of the road you will see an isolated warung. Do stop there for a break and enjoy the fabulous view of terraced ricefields at the rear of the place, and of course, the massive fruit bats that hang from a small tree in the courtyard.
The road forks at Pupuan. Take the right-hand road leading north direct to Pengastulan. Despite what some people say I found the town to be quite attractive even if the locals are somewhat curious as to your visit. There are some great warungs here and especially nasi padang places where you can enjoy a good feast cheaply.
From Pengastulan take the road to Banjar, a smaller village with even smaller roads and an interesting hilly place it is. Here is where it starts to get interesting. There are actually two signs pointing the way to the spectacular Brahma Viahara Arama Bhuddist Monastery. Best thing to do in this situation is ask one of the locals to point you in the right direction. I did! The Vihara which opened in 1970 is the only Bhuddist monastery visited by the Dalai Lama. It is a great place to spend some time and climb the numerous layers of the temple on the hillside until you reach the top where you will find a small replica of the magnificent Borobudur temple located in Central Java.
You will have to return to Banjar to continue your journey where you have a choice. Here is where the real fun and adventure begins. You can play it safe and head back to Pengastulan but I suggest you head south from Banjar towards the village of Munduk. There are some hot springs just south of Banjar that are worth a visit (it is signposted). From Banjar to Munduk it is about 30 kilometres, however, take the wrong turn on these narrow roads (as I did!) and you could be, well, lost. Not really lost as there are plenty of locals around to point you in the right direction the only problem being that a lot of them don’t speak English and so a good grasp of Bahasa Indonesia is an advantage. However, it is an interesting part of Bali almost never visited by your regular tourist/traveller. There are a lot of T-junctions so use your Boy Scout survival instincts and there will be no problem. There are radical forks in the road and no road at all to speak of at times but keep on heading south and you will be fine. What I found interesting was the climb up into the mountain and then down the other side heading to Munduk. The scenery is quite spectacular with cavernous valleys and scary drops at every turn and mountain ranges that pop-up out of nowhere and then, suddenly disappear.
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Once you arrive at the T-junction at Munduk simply turn left for another spectacular view of the northern lakes of Tamblingan and Buyan. From there it is a matter of continuing on to the radically sharp right-hand turn at the T-junction road leading to Bedugul and Pura Ulu Danau Bratan.