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Memories of my travels between 1972 and 1982

Saturday, 20 November 2010

November 20th: Besakih in Bali

On November 20th 1981 I was in Besakih on Bali.

After walks in the vicinity of Gunung Agung in eastern Bali, I wanted to see more of the mountain and the way it is regarded on the island.  The principal temple of Bali is at Besakih, on the South-West slopes of the mountain.  Besakih is a complex of temples, dating back to the 14th Century.  From my journal:
Above Besakih:  My picture
At 5 am I opened the window of my cheap hotel and saw Agung up there completely clear in the blue sky and the dawn light.  By a little before six I'd made it to a warung for coffee before most of the locals had set up stall.  The temples were nearly deserted in the early morning, but I only lingered for a moment by the trees on the back wall of the main temple.  I couldn't resist walking up towards the volcano, up a green and bamboo-edged ravine until it got so narrow I had to find a trail up onto the fields above.  The local farmers tried to direct me towards the real Gunung Agung trail but I never found it.  As so often it didn't matter.  I went down to a deep ravine in which a trickle of water flowed down rocks and lava and wet black volcanic sand.  I sat for a few minutes in perfect peace at a sunny spot, my mind never quite still, feeling the energy of the holy spot.  I came to a dead end at a hundred foot cliff with a surprised screaming black bird.  So I retreated and climbed the other side through pine trees and tree-ferns and some birds and butterflies, a falcon and an eagle above, but getting no nearer Agung.  Looking back towards my spot and the little shrines, there was an 11 tiered (Shiva?) temple above, maybe by the real trail.  Finally I came back to civilisation via pretty paths and wild raspberries, to the relative activity of Besakih, as it was clouding over, for coffee, drinks and markisas, packing and leaving.
The previous afternoon I had gone into the temple complex soon after I arrived to have a look around.  The whole effect was impressive with the cloud-covered mountain ominous behind.   I looked at the intricate statuary and steps leading into the first temple, which seemed older than everything else.  One temple was preparing for a ceremony, and they had a live female duck trussed up among the offerings.  The commercialisation wasn't too bad.  Outside was a tourist town, but all the tourists were local from every part of the island, religious tourists.  I think I was the only foreigner to stay overnight.

Temple at Besakih:  My picture
Agung clear behind Besakih:  My picture

View Besakih in a larger map

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