One of my greatest delights in Bali is to drive up into the mountains. Here, where the cool air is fresh and unadulterated, you can immerse the senses in a panorama of Mother Nature's beauty.
The mountain areas in the north-west of Bali are some of the most magnificent to be found. Lush, thick green jungle line your passage as you travel.
A few years back, Nick and I decided to head west to the small town of Pekutulan and from there take the northern road to Pupuan high up in the mountain peaks. The journey took us through rice paddies and villages, and the further we climbed into the spice growing areas of Bali, we saw rivers flowing through overlapping valleys.
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The road is forever winding and narrow, a switchback of horrors, and yet around every sharp bend is a surprise. I was taken aback when suddenly up in front there was a massive tree seemingly blocking the road. Pulling over to the side of the road, I walked further ahead to get a closer look at this giant. The closer I became the more I felt like a complete idiot. The road actually went through the tree. I recognised the tree. It was a kind of Ficus, a Bolong tree that grow prolifically in the valleys.
There was a shrine on the side of the road. I asked a couple of locals about the origins and the reason why they didn't build the road around the tree. I was told it had been there a very long time and to build the road around it would have been dangerous. Peering over the edge behind the shrine the sheer drop to the valley floor below made me dizzy.
According to the Balinese animistic belief, a tree cannot be cut down or even scarred in any way before asking permission of the Gods and the tree itself. Once the Pedanda's had completed their prayers, a hole was dug into the tree - not bored like we do in western countries. It then became a sacred site and daily offerings are given to the tree and to appease the Gods.
As we drove through the tree, after quietly asking permission to do so from the tree, we then did a U-Turn and went through again much to the amusement of the locals standing by the shrine. Our journey continued as light rain fell, and as we turned every sharp bend I wondered if there would be more beautiful holes in the road.