But Tourists Never Go There — Pura Luhur Batukau

“I want to go to Pura Luhur Batukau.”  The “destination guide,” Barbara, on the Amsterdam had never heard of it but looked it up and said “Wow, Lonely Planet gave it a star as a top tourist attraction.”

“Yep, that’s why we want to go.”  The fact that she had never heard of it made me all the more interested.  She found it on a map and said it would take two hours to get there, but we sure wouldn’t see many other tourists.

So we got a car and driver and said to our guide,Putra, “We want to go to Pura Luhur Batukau.”  Putra said “Tourists never go there.”

“Yep, that’s why we want to go.”

The temple (Pura means temple.) is on the slopes of Mt Batukau, one of Bali’s volcanos, not the one currently acting up but the second highest.  It’s high, up in the clouds and the gateway for climbers, so it is cooler than the area down below.  The temple was built in the 11th century to protect Bali from evil spirits.  It was destroyed in 1604 but rebuilt in the mid-20th century.

Our trip there was a little of an adventure.  The a bridge on the main road to the temple had been washed out during the recent rainy season so we had to backtrack and take a longer route, which found us in the middle of a funeral procession.  Apparently there were three cremations going on this day.  According to our guide bodies are held, ether in temporary graves or at the hospital until they can be cremated.  We crept along until we got to the place where the funeral pyres were set and got out and from a respectable distance with a long lens took pictures..  It sounded like the pyres were propane fed.  Vendors were there with food carts.

After the funeral we traveled through an area of rice terraces.  Bali’s rice terraces are a UNESCO world heritage site.  They’re all over the island, but the ones we visited were not surrounded by visitors, which gave them a serene quality (see separate post).  The water for the terrace system comes from mountain springs and lakes.  The springs are sometimes in temples or are a part of shrines.  Fresh spring water can become “holy water” while surface water cannot.  So the springs sit in the mountains with offerings of flowers around them as people take water for religious purposes.  The rest flows into ponds and then, through sluice gates, into the terrace paddies.

When we got to the only other people there were a group of Western women, who looked like they were on a spiritual pilgrimage.  The two dominate things struck me.  The first was the sound of running water from springs as they produced water for holy uses and, further down the mountain, for irrigation, and the sound of bird calls.  It was peaceful and relatively cool.  The second thing that struck me was moss.  Statues were covered in it and it covered the paving stones making walking, especially on stairs, a bit treacherous.  There are requirements to enter the temple, aside from paying a fee.  Some of them are typical for Eastern religious compounds, no menstruating or pregnant women.  Others were a bit odder.  “Ladies whose children have not got first teeth,” are prohibited as are “children whose first teeth (have) not fallen out yet.”  Then there was a rule that completely baffled me.  “Dvotees (sic) getting impure due death.”  Barbara told us that we needed to be covered ankle to wrist, so we were wearing long sleeve shirts, but apparently pants on men or women were inappropriate.  Suzi and I were each loaned a sarong to wear.  One pair of xtra-tuff style boots stood outside the entrance to the temple grounds.  Our guide told us people wore them to prevent leeches from attaching to legs.

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