Papajerus Eco Desa Wanigiri – The Shining meets Fawlty Towers
Looking for a natural mountain getaway, I come across the Eco Desa Wanagiri, perched in mountain town Wanagiri, around 1300m above sea level. The change in climate is palpable as soon as you pass Lake Beratan and start winding your way up, past the monkeys and up onto the road overlooking Lake Buyan, with its wealth of selfie platforms. Eco Desa Wanagiri is right at the end of this road and dressed as I am – not at all appropriately for the weather – my white knuckles are not entirely caused only by the precipitous ride to the top! Papajero is there to greet me when I arrive and as he clasps my frozen hand in his, he gives a yelp of surprise.
Papajero is somewhat of a celebrity in the area and if you have any trouble finding his place, you just need to stop and ask anyone the way to ‘Papajeros’ and they will happily point you in the right direction. After our frozen handshake, he shows me to the main building and tells me a little about the history of this imposing yet run-down structure, whilst his granddaughter makes me some much-needed hot tea. Previously, the complex was a 5-star luxury resort, surviving a mere 2 years before closing due to bankruptcy in 2004. Papajero took it over after it had been standing empty for a few years and converted it into an Eco resort, complete with adjoining organic garden. The lack of maintenance clearly shows through – moss grows through cracks all over the place and knobs fall off as you open drawers – but this all adds to its odd charm.
It’s difficult to keep the cold and damp out of such a huge building and the staff wrap up warm in the main building, drinking cups of hot tea to keep out the cold. In the rooms, a kettle, a bath and a fireplace are all very welcome additions. Having no idea how to start a fire, I ask the staff to help me and it takes one of them a good 30 minutes to get it going using nothing but toilet paper and a metal straw – it’s impressive!
We chat on my veranda and he tells me about his family coffee plantation and shows me pictures of a lesser-known waterfall, where he works part-time. Wanagiri and neighbouring Bedugul are not high on the tourist trail; great for walking and waterfalls but the unpredictable climate is anathema to most tourists who have come to Bali to get some tropical sun, and in fact most of the tourists I see are Indonesians. However, tourism is still the major industry and a more profitable and less-strenuous pursuit than coffee farming.
Dja-Dja Lak-Lak – Bali Breakfast Heaven
I opted for the room without breakfast at Papajeros, nothing against his granddaughter’s banana pancakes but I just happened to know the best breakfast in Bali was being cooked up just minutes away, not far from the shores of Lake Beratan.
On your way up to the mountains, after driving past the first lake, and just before you start ascending to the twin lakes, look out on the right-hand side of the road for the following sign.
If you don’t yet know about my obsession with the Balinese rice cakes served with grated coconut and drizzled in coconut syrup and known as ‘Lak-Lak’, you can read about it in some of my previous posts (Greedy Cat Adventures in Sideman Road and 4 things you can buy in Bali with 10p / 15 cents). However, Dja-Dja Lak-Lak is something new to the Greedy Cat. Little did I know that here in Bedugul they elevate the humble rice cake to a whole ‘nother level! Now I’ve seen green ones in Ubud made using pandan, but these are pink and purple and orange, colours I had never seen in a lak-lak before! They told me that these were made using red rice (pink ones), black rice (purple) or pumpkin (orange), instead of the boring old white rice versions you get in Ubud.
I had to try them!
I ordered a portion with a cup of hot tea and watched as the ladies poured the mixture into divets in an open stone oven, then delivered them piping hot to my table. I knew there was something special about these lak-lak.
They were light and spongey, allowing the syrup to soak into them perfectly. Honestly, they reminded me of crumpets back home, with the air bubbles in the middle, toasted bottom and piping hot. I came back several times during my stay up in Wanagiri and wouldn’t put it past myself to plan another trip to the mountains based around a visit to this place.
Unfortunately, I have become a Lak-Lak racist, the white ones just won’t cut it for me anymore.
After breakfast, I drive down to the shores of Tamblingan lake, just a short drive from Papajero’s and on the way to Munduk. There’s no charge to park or to look at the lake, but I am half-heartedly offered a tour around the lake in a canoe (this isn’t the height of tourist season so I’m spared the hard sell). I explain though that I’d like to walk and the canoe touts point me in the direction of a temple – about 2km away – telling me I can walk there and back, but no further. I set off, thinking I can probably find some way of walking around the entire thing, but after only a few hundred metres the path turns into a river. The rain from the night before has made it untenable and I have to turn back.
I don’t bother with the canoe tour, although it does look very peaceful.
I see there are people camping lakeside which looks like an amazing idea and I bid the bleary-eyed campers good morning as they emerge from their tents and head back to my bike.
Waterfalls of Munduk
After returning to the main road from Tamblingan, you just continue along the main mountain road towards Munduk, where there are numerous waterfalls to see. As you arrive into Munduk, you can park up and walk down to Melanting waterfall, only 300m away. However, if you’re looking to stretch your legs, I recommend parking up at Lumbung Sari cottages (I also recommend as a place to stay if you’re travelling as a pair/couple, their Eco Cottages are very charming and have spectacular views) and starting your 3.5 hour hike, which will take you to 4 waterfalls, ending at Melanting.
Just follow the signs through the hotel complex to the waterfalls, past several of the cottages, and eventually you will head down some steps which deposit you onto the path. Go right and follow the trail. It’s not always obvious where it is but you can’t go far wrong and there are plenty of villagers along the way who will point you in the right direction.
The ‘entrance’ to each waterfall is 10k (50p) and you can’t really miss any of them out because that is the way to continue your path onwards. Still, they are all a lovely sight and you will have the chance to dip your weary feet into the cool streams.
I was lucky enough to have a local dog accompany me the last few kms before finding myself on the road into Munduk centre. From here you just hike a few hundred metres up the road and you are back at Lumbung Sari – easy!
It’s difficult to find hikes this long in Bali (that you can do alone) and I really recommend it, you will be surrounded by coffee and cocoa plants along the way and will be sheltered from the sun for most of the walking by jungle.
Bedugul Botanical Gardens
One of the best-know tourist sites and most evocative images in the area is the Bedugul water temple – Ulun Danau Beratan. However, I can take a look at that on google images when I get back. I’d prefer a bit of time stretching my legs in the mountain air so head, instead to the Bedugul Botanic gardens, just around the corner from the famous temple.
It’s 20k to get in, very reasonable as you could easily spend the day there. In fact, I would recommend taking a picnic as there are plenty of spots to sit and enjoy one. You can follow the main road up to the crazy statue and then head into the park any way you like. There is a treetop adventure park to the left, but keep to the road and you’ll come across the main attractions, housed in greenhouses.
The park is big enough to walk around for hours. It’s difficult to get lost because there are a couple of roads that go through it and you can easily find your way back to one of them.
At one point I found myself in a bamboo area, which felt like I was on the set of Crouching Tiger.
The trees are truly awe-inspiring.
After two good days of walking I was about ready for some relaxing on the beach. But Bedugul and Munduk will be on my list of go-to places for walking in Bali. I’m sure there are more treks to do as well so I intend to go back when the weather is a bit more reliable.
- Take some warm clothes for the evening, it can get chilly up in the mountains
- Take waterproofs and plastic bags to keep your stuff dry inside your luggage if you’re on a bike
- Try the Dja-Dja Lak Lak
- Worry about getting a guide. There’s plenty you can do independently
- Bother with the selfie-platform madness along the top of Lake Buyan. There are plenty of nice spots to take photos without having to pay for it