Friday, November 10, 2006
Nusa Penida, Bali
Because of its mountains, Nusa Penida gets more rain, produces more crops, and is therefore better off economically than Nusa Lembongan or Nusa Ceningan. Nusa Penida and its satellite islands offer fine swimming, surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and sunbathing, also dramatic walks, unspoilt scenery, deep caves, and delightful, friendly villages. Not an island rich in elaborate temples, dance and drama performances, or the plastic arts, Nusa Penida is like a Balinese outpost transplanted to some alien shore. It's off the map, metaphorically speaking.
Radio communication between Klungkung and Sampalan wasn't established until 1985. The island has one hospital and one post and telegraph office. Generator-supplied electricity—and TV reception—exist only in the Sampalan area. The highlands, with its rough beauty, crude dwellings, and backward inhabitants, feel like the interior of Sumbawa. The roads are generally good, though there's very little traffic. People are easy to meet and talk to. The island is cooler than the mainland, there's less pollution, and the air seems to circulate more freely. Sampalan and Toyapekeh have the only official accommodations. Rice, fish, and vegetables are the main staples in the island's warung. Most visitors stay in Jungut Batu on Nusa Lembongan and come over to Nusa Penida island on day trips.
Land and Climate
The body of water separating the three islands from Bali—Nusa Penida, Lembongan, and Ceningan—roughly marks the division between Asia and Oceania. As the Balinese say, "Here the tigers end."
Though the Badung Strait that separates the islands and the main island of Bali is more than 100 meters deep, the trench in the Lombok Strait between Nusa Penida and Lombok is even deeper. Here the sea plunges to depths of over 300 meters just four km off Nusa Penida's east coast. The main island, nearly rectangular—22 by 16 km—with a total area of 203 square km, is basically a giant slab of limestone seabed uplifted out of the ocean. In its center is a stepped, rocky plateau—clearly seen as you approach the coast by boat from Bali—very similar in terrain and geology to the Bukit Peninsula of south Bali. A string of low, beautiful, palm-fringed, silvery white sandy beaches are found along the north, northwest, and northeast coasts, fringed with coral gardens. With waves crashing against sheer cliffs up to 230 meters high, Nusa Penida's southeastern and southwestern coastlines, which face the Indian Ocean, are rugged and magnificent. You can drive to within several hundred meters, hike to the top, then walk down steep paths to springs emerging at the foot of the cliffs just above the sea.
Flora and Fauna
No native vegetation here. The island's few uncultivated patches are mostly imported weeds and grass. In stark contrast to Bali, Nusa Penida is a dry, hostile land of arid hills, big cacti, low trees, patches of green, small flowers, thorny bush, shallow soil, and no running surface water. The few animals who live—or rather, survive—on Nusa Penida include birds, snakes, and kra. Walter Spies, in a trip to the island during the 1930s, discovered unusual copper-colored bats that derive their color from algae which grow in their hollow hair.
Birdlife—like white cockatoos—is more Australian than Asian. White cockatoos inhabit Nusa Penida. Other rare species, like the white-tailed tropicbird and the white-bellied sea eagle, breed in the spectacular cliffs of the southeast coast. The island is also the home of the exceedingly rare Rothchild's mynah and a breed of cock much prized as an offering in exorcistic rituals.
Once known as the Siberia of Bali, Nusa Penida was formerly a penitentiary island of banishment for criminals, undesirables, and political agitators fleeing the harsh and unyielding reign of the Gelgel dynasty. The inhabitants were overwhelmingly of the Sudra caste, with few Ksatriya and Brahmana among them. In Balinese mythology, the island is the home of the fanged giant Jero Gede Macaling, who periodically sends his invisible henchmen to southeastern Bali via the beach at Lebih, spreading plagues, famines, droughts, and rats. The word caling means "fang" and those dying of cholera on Bali are said to be "ambil Macaling" ("taken by Macaling"). Mainlanders attempt to chase the demons away by means of exorcistic trance dance-dramas such as the sanghyang dedari.
Although I Macaling has his own temple, Pura Dalem Penataran Ped near Desa Ped on the northeast coast, no cult images of this god of pestilence exist and he is spoken of only in hushed tones. The Balinese are loath to even utter his name, prefering to refer to him simply by the honorific title Beliau. In exchange for prescribed devotional rituals, I Macaling is expected to protect the people.
The level of chalk content in Nusa Penida's soil makes it impenetrable to water; lacking water for rice, the people grow only maize, sweet potato, cassava, soybeans, peanuts, mangoes, sawo bali, tobacco, and grass for cows. Tegelan rice is grown in the Tanglad area once a year. Except for seaweed off the coasts and coconut and cashew plantations in coastal areas, agricultural crops grown on the mostly dry, mountainous terrain are for domestic consumption, not for export.
All garden terraces are faced with the island's most abundant material—stone. Nusa Penida is literally covered in terraces supported by small coral stones. The government periodically sponsors transmigrasi programs to resettle the inhabitants in South Sulawesi. In an attempt to stem the devastating runoff and irrigate unproductive land, lined rain-catchment tanks and reservoirs have been built with the help of overseas aid programs. Concrete cisterns, a few wells drilled in the low coastal regions, and springs at the foot of cliffs in the south are the only sources of water during the long dry season.
There is no manufacturing or even cottage industry, save for a few women weaving ikat, and everything on the island is imported from Bali—motorcycles, cows, generators, most of the island's rice, even earth moving equipment.
Nusa Penida's most lucrative export is edible seaweed, grown in submarine pens along the northwest and northeast coasts, off Nusa Lembongan and in the channel between Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. After drying on the beach and along the roads the seaweed is exported to Hong Kong for processing into agar, a thickening agent used in cooking, and carrageenan used in cosmetics and in crackers, sauces, condiments, and other food products. There's a big difference between the traditional, poor, cassava dependent, rural hill villagers of the arid interior and the more prosperous seaweed-farming villagers of the coast, which have become market dependent and can at least fish for their protein. The average seaweed farmer earns about Rp200,000 per month.
A small-scale fishing industry catches mostly sardines and Bali's largest and most succulent lobsters. On the south coast fishermen descend paths to the sea, where they fish from platforms protruding from the sheer cliff walls.
The island's lack of infrastructure, meager resources, and harsh living conditions account for Nusa Penida's relatively small population of 47,000. The bulk are Hindu. Toyapekeh is the only part-Islamic village, consisting of a mixture of Sasak, Bugis, Malay, and Javanese settlers whose ancestors migrated hundreds of years ago.
Nusa Peniders are commonly thought to possess knowledge of black magic and are given wide berth by other Balinese. Most speak or understand a little Indonesian, but use their own peculiar vernacular of Old Balinese sprinkled with many words borrowed from Lombok. They have their own adat, dances, puppetry, weaving arts, and architecture. The dour and cheerless people of the central plateau live in austere one-room huts built of jagged limestone blocks, surrounded by rustic stables, storage sheds, the family shrine (sanggah), and terraced dry fields.
Most festivals and religious events are devoted to appeasing, deceiving, or exorcising the black-faced demon-king Jero Gede Mencaling and his white-skinned wife Jero Luh. Personified in giant puppets (barong landung), these terrifying deities dance and strut through village streets at festival times. Another popular exorcistic dance is sanghyang jaran, held during times of catastrophe in the Sakti area of west Nusa Penida.
Dance costumes, body ornaments, and gestures are less elaborate than on Bali. In Cemulik (near Sakti) and Pelilit (in the southeast), the gandrung is performed on Purnama, Tilem, and Kajeng Kliwon. In this dance two adolescent boys dress as women. The group baris gede dance is staged during odalan at Batunuggul, and the archaic baris pati is performed in graveyards during cremations, and the baris jangkang is occasionally trotted out to welcome officials to Sekartaji.
As a dive and snorkeling locale, Nusa Penida is at least as spectacular as Bunaken in North Sulawesi. But it's a long and expensive ride, and, once there, cold, strong, unpredictable swells and currents up to four or more knots make conditions challenging and even hazardous. Not the place for beginners. No dive operators exist on Nusa Penida so finding a well-organized dive outfit on Bali, a knowledgeable guide with plenty of experience in the area, a reliable craft, skilled boatmen, and a good engine are all necessities. The best dive sites, in the channel between Nusa Penida and Nusa Ceningan, are close together and you can move to alternate locations as conditions dictate.
Two of the most convenient sites lie off the dermaga east of Toyapekeh. Fish life, particularly pelagics, tuna, jacks, and reef sharks are common; manta rays collect on the southwest end of the island. The variety of coral along the drop-offs and steep slopes is incredibly rich, but because of deep upwellings the water can be uncomfortably cold, dropping to below 19° C during the Balinese winter. Visibility, up to 15 meters, is quite good.
Nusa Penida's weaving style is called tenun Bali ikat cagcag, or by the local names cepuk or capuk. Goods are woven by hand on backstrap looms in the plateau villages of Tanglad and Karang. Distinctive blood-red, brown, and yellow traditional cloths with plaid and rough checkered designs are worn by participants in life-cycle ceremonies. The per meter price depends on the quality of the material and the intricacy of the design. A three-meter-long, one-meter-wide fabric usually sells for roughly Rp40,000. Nyoman at Bungalow Pemda in Sampalan sells cloth for only Rp6000 per meter. Clothes are also hung in Sampalan's Kios Dew, a few shops in Toyapekeh, and in the souvenir shops of Klungkung.
Kusamba is a small Muslim fishing village on the southeast coast of Bali, a six-km bemo ride east of Klungkung (Rp600). Turn in at Jl. Pasir Putih about 1.5 km east of the town of Kusamba and walk 500 meters to Banjarbias, where you'll see small, bullish outboard-powered outriggers taking on cargo. Boats usually leave twice daily (Rp15,000 for Westerners), but only when there are enough passengers. Another departure point, preferred by Nusa Penida residents, is from Kampung Kusamba about 100 meters from the pasar. These motorized outriggers carry passengers to, among other places, Toyapekeh on Nusa Penida. Make sure you're on the right boat. The charge for Westerners is also Rp15,000 one way and the 10-km passage takes 45 minutes to one hour, depending on the wind and the choppiness of the water. When you arrive in Toyapekeh, there are frequent bemo to Sampalan (Rp500, nine km). To charter a boat from Kusamba to any point on Nusa Penida's north coast costs Rp100,000-150,000 roundtrip. Boats must return to Kusamba by 1400.
From Padangbai the charge is the same. Buy your ticket in the loket to the north of the main Lombok ferry ticket office. The first express ferry departs at around 0630, but you have to wait for it to fill up. And you might wait awhile, what with its 45-passenger capacity. The crossing takes just 30 minutes, docking at Buyuk just east of Toyapekeh. From there you can hop a bemo east into Sampalan (Rp500, five km). From Jungut Batu on the northwest coast of the neighboring island of Nusa Lembongan, small jukung motor shoot over to Nusa Penida for Rp3000 per person (45 minutes). Landing at the charming fishing village of Toyapekeh, you have the option of spending the night in Losmen Tenang or going on into Sampalan.
Prahu sail from Sanur to Toyapekeh (25 km, 1.25 hours, Rp15,000) very early in the morning. Check out the day cruises offered by Bali International Yacht Club, tel. (0361) 288391, in Sanur; Bali Intai Tours and Travel, tel. (0361) 752005 or 752985 in Tuban; and many other outfits that visit the south coast of Nusa Penida. These cruises charge around Rp160,000 per person, which includes free transport to the boat, drinks, packed lunch or Indonesian buffet, and fishing and snorkeling equipment.
Roads cover the island; good roads run from Toyapekeh to Sampalan and on to Karangsari, and from Toyapekeh to Klumpu. The roads from Klumpu to Batumadeg, Tanglad, and Pejukutan are winding and bumpy but asphalted and traversable. Because of the island's rocky, undulating topography, only motorcycles, trucks, or tough canopied bemo can manage the bumpy, dusty roads of the outlying areas.
Bemo run irregularly between the main villages, connecting north coast towns and inland settlements. From Sampalan, bemo begin carrying passengers out to the villages early in the morning, but by the afternoon the terminal is all but empty.
The best way to get around quickly is by motorcycle. As soon as you get off the boat at Buyuk or wander into the Sampalan terminal you'll be approached by motorcycle owners or drivers. You can either drive or be driven. It's cheaper to drive yourself, though the drivers know all the best places, can introduce you to people, and speak better Indonesian. It's Rp20,000 for a motorcycle and driver for just a few hours; for that price don't accept anything less than six hours. Expect a per diem price reduction if you take the motorbike for more than a day. Or wait a few days to meet someone, and convince a newfound local friend to drive you around for free (give a "donation" to his younger siblings afterwards). Make sure your rental agreement makes it clear who pays for gas and oil. Try to negotiate a free dropoff at your embarkation point back to Bali or Nusa Lembongan. Two good, cautious drivers are recommended: Nyoman Soma Arsana, who can be contacted by telephone through the kantor camat (tel. 0366-231-885), and Made Latoni, at Banjar Sental Kawan, Desa Ped.
You can charter a whole bemo for Rp50,000-75,000 per day; inquire at Toko Elektronik. You may also opt for an hourly rate, though drivers will demand at least Rp15,000 per hour. At Mentigi harbor, it's Rp75,000 for a small, two-engine boat; Rp100,000 for a larger one.
Take boats to Padangbai (30 minutes) and Sanur (1.25 hours) from Buyuk, one km east of Toyapekeh. Get there by 0700 to buy your ticket (Rp15,000) at the Departemen Perhubungan office near the pier. Each boat holds about 30 people. If there are enough passengers, a boat sometimes leaves for Padangbai in the afternoon. From Mentigi Harbor, one km west of Sampalan, hire boats to Banjarbias, then a bemo into Kusamba where other bemo pass by to Amlapura or Klungkung. The cost is Rp15,000. The Balinese operate an organized transport cartel that fixes all fares at Rp15,000 to and from Bali—and there's really no way around it if your skin is white. To their credit, most boats offer life-jackets, hard wooden benches, and double 85 hp outboards.
The largest settlement and Nusa Penida's administrative center, Sampalan is a long town around one narrow, tree-lined street crammed with shops selling food, necessities, agricultural tools, and cheap clothing. Don't miss the pasar north of the bemo terminal—traditional, classic, an example of a Bali gone by. Sampalan is a study of a growing "Outer Island Bali" urban culture, a delightful little town with just enough places to sleep, eat, snack, and drink. Warung Ceper and Kios Dewi boast color TVs to keep you connected to civilization. Because of its friendly, relaxed air, good transport services, and close proximity to the island's finest attractions, Sampalan is your best base on the island, with beautiful views across the Badung Strait to Bali; at night, try to guess which town belongs to which set of lights.
Sampalan's pura dalem, near the football field and cemetery, has a six-meter-high candi bentar adorned with menacing Bhouma statues and a fearsome Rangda.
Accommodations and Food
Bungalow Pemda, the government resthouse, is in the east part of town, a 10-minute walk from Pasar Sampalan and the bemo terminal. The bungalows, opposite a soccer field and only 50 meters from the police post, face a beach lined with jukung. Very convenient location. Five units, each containing two rooms with bathroom, cost Rp5000 s, Rp8000 d. The beds are too small and narrow, the place could be cleaner, and the mosquitoes are bad, but what do you want for two bucks? Ask to see the houseboy's private collection of cepuk (Penida cloth).
You can try to stay in cleaner rooms with local families. Ask the bemo drivers to drop you off at Made Latoni's house (Banjar Sental Kawan, Desa Ped, Nusa Penida). It is the red and white building on J1. Segara across from the bank about 100 meters west of the bemo terminal. He can arrange accommodations in one of several private homes for Rp10,000-15,000 per night. For Rp20,000 per day, Made offers motorcycle guide service.
On the road are small warung which serve nasi campur, nasi goreng, mie goreng (Rp2000), and cold drinks. Down Jl. Nusa Indah toward the terminal is Kios Dewi—neat, clean, well-lit, a good place to hang out at night. Another, cheaper place 100 meters farther toward the village is Warung Ceper (Jl. Nusa Indah 54), offering local foods like lawar, urab, ayam kampung, and veggies. A knockout kampung-style nasi campur with all the fixings is only Rp1500, though the food is generally gone by 1800. Great value, though there's no compromise with the fiery spice.
Toko Anda on Jl. Nusa Indah between Kios Dewi and Warung Ceper is a very complete shop offering groceries, stationery supplies, color print film, snacks, ice cream, and cosmetics. Toko Elektronik in the bus terminal sells radios, watches, tapes, sunglasses, and calculators. There's also a bank, post office, clinic, telephone office, photo studio, and billiard hall.
It's easy to find bemo or a minibus east to Toyapekeh (Rp500, nine km). When full, bemo leave for Sewana to the southeast, usually starting at around 0900 (Rp500, eight km). The bemo fare to Klumpu is Rp1500, Tanglad Rp3000.
Means "Salt Water." A small, attractive Hindu coastal village nine km east of Sampalan, with the island's only mosque, inhabited by fishermen and seaweed farmers. This is the main market town of northwest Nusa Penida, yet it is peaceful, with an attractive white-sand beach. When the boat from Nusa Lembongan pulls in on the beach, bemo are waiting to take passengers to Sampalan (Rp500).
Stay at Losmen Tenang, right on the beach next to where the bemo wait. Price Rp6000 s, Rp10,000 d for four clean rooms with mandi. Order simple meals there or from a few simple warung on the main road. East of town is a nice beach. Motorized jukung from Toyapekeh to Jungut Batu on Nusa Lembongan cost Rp3000, and leave only in the mornings because of the tides. You disembark in front of the main surfer strip.
Pura Dalem Penataran Ped
From Toyapekeh minibus stand, ride or walk four km northeast down a tree-lined road along the sea to this temple in Desa Ped near Sentalo. On the way, you'll pass the landing stage of Buyuk on the left. The temple is about 50 meters from the beach, north of the main road to Sampalan. Built almost entirely of volcanic sandstone, limestone blocks, and patchwork cement, with rough paras carvings, guardian statues, and the leering face of Bhoma looming over the gate, it's architecturally very homely and sinister-looking. One of Bali's holy sad-kahyangan temples, this rather crude and poorly maintained pura is considered magically powerful. It's the destination of devout pilgrims from all over Bali who seek to ward off evil and sickness by praying to the sorcerer and destroyer of evil Ratu Gede Macaling, a spirit who occupies a lofty place in the Hindu-Buddhist pantheon. Beyond the outer west wall of the temple is a shrine dedicated to that terrifying protective deity, where worshippers place their offerings. Pura Dalem Penataran Ped's odalan, which takes place on Buda Cemeng Kelawu, lasts three days and features entertainment and an open-air market. Every three years on the fourth full moon a big crowded, noisy usuba festival takes place.
AROUND THE ISLAND
Circumvent the whole island by starting from Sampalan and heading first to Toyapekeh, then Penida, Batumadeg, Tanglad, Sewana, Karangsari, and back to Sampalan. Traveling by rented motorcycle or bemo you can make it in four days: one day in the Sampalan-Toyapekeh region; another spent exploring the southwest coast; the third day touring Batumadeg, Debuluh, and Tanglad; the fourth wandering in the Sewana and Karangsari areas. From Toyapekeh, the road climbs a hill for three km southwest to Sebunibus. A bit south of Sebunibus the road branches west two km to Sakti. From there, a new road winds through barren country and over a hill to Penida, in all about 17 km from Toyapekeh.
The seacoast village of Penida is nestled at the bottom of a valley filled with coconut palms, surrounded by a peaceful woods. This pretty village offers a short beach and nice scenery but has only one warung and no place to stay. Rent a jukung and visit the Shark Cave offshore. In 1994 a pipe carrying fresh water and a new road to the village were put in. An Australian planning to build a homestay and a berbintang hotel is is the permit-acquisition stage.
The road east from Sebunibus leads to Klumpu (225 meters), a small, red-roofed village about 15 km southeast of Sakti. One-half km east of Klumpu, a paved road takes you north to the coastal road between Toyapekeh and Sampalan. The Klumpu area features the island's best indigenous architecture.
From Klumpu, the road heads south and then southwest to Batumadeg, passing Bukit Mundi, Nusa Penida's highest point and the dwelling place of Dewi Rohini, the female aspect of Shiva. Climb Bukit Mundi from Batumadeg up through grassy ridges; there's a temple in a small patch of forest on the western slope. On the way down pass through the small village of Ratug.
The first tourist didn't reach Batumadeg until 1977. Today there are some warung, a few shops, and bemo connections. From Sebuluh Waterfall (elev. 300 meters) near Batumadeg take the steep path between high stone walls two km down to the sea. The road southwest from Batumadeg ends in Debuluh; from here a path leads down to yellowish sea cliffs. All along the coastline you can stand on spectacular promontories and watch the dazzling green sea 200 meters below. Offshore, rock pinnacles eroded from the cliffs shoot straight up for hundreds of meters completely surrounded by water.
Another road from Batumadeg takes you across a plateau for seven km to Batukandik, which possesses "male" and "female" shrines. This unique temple also has a prehistoric stone altar: a heavily eroded woman with enormous breasts supports a stone throne on her head, two roosters standing on her shoulders. The Holy Forest of Sahab hides a temple, said to be the exit of a mythical tunnel connecting Bali with Nusa Penida; the hole apparently starts in Pejeng.
This stark, rolling country feels a million miles from Bali. From Batukandik a bumpy road takes you along a gently rising and falling ridge four kilometers to the cool, 400-meter-high village of Tanglad; from Klumpu turn right and climb the hill 10 km. You can catch a bemo to Tanglad (Rp3000, 25 km) from Sampalan at 0800 or 0900, after the market. Along the way glimpse both the northern and southern coasts of the island.
Tanglad is a very traditional, preindustrial, rocky mountain village of steep-roofed stone houses sprawling across hills, inhabited by bare-breasted, betel-chewing, middle-aged women. Of a population of 2,000, sixty are weavers. Capuk cloth costs Rp6000-10,000 per meter here. You'll be shown "antique" pieces for Rp50,000, woven with handspun cotton 15-20 years ago. The rough designs and crude techniques are light years away from the sophisticated ikat designs of Sumba and Flores.
Small warung serve noodle soup and very strong coffee. The only entertainment is two billiard tables in the town bale. In the temple on the village common, see the throne of the sun-god Surya in a sculptural style reminiscent of East Java's Candi Sukuh. From Tanglad, head north to Pejukutan. Take the road south to Sekartaji, or visit the traditional houses of Pelilit on the south coast.
The East Coast
The nicest part of the island. If you see nothing else on Nusa Penida, see this. This undiscovered coastal strip lacks the laid-back quality of Nusa Lembongan's Jungut Batu but offers full Bali culture. If you can spend only a short time on Nusa Penida, just start walking south from Batu Malapan. Bemo leave Sampalan for Batu Malapan when full; Rp500 is the correct fare.
This stretch of coast is even more scenic than the east coast of Karangasem. Sewana and Karangsari villages are lovely, as are the adjacent offshore sea gardens. Here, industrious women use inflated inner tubes to move heavy baskets of seaweed. Long lines of bright jukung pull up on shore. At the side of the road are mats covered in drying seaweed.
From Tanglad, it's nine km northeast to the small fishing/seaweed village of Sewana. From Pejukutan, the road north leads down to the sea. The high cliffs of the southern part of the island give way to open beach and seaweed gardens. The village starts as soon as you come down the mountain, as the road levels out. Walk this beautiful coastal road; if you've rented a motorcycle, have the driver wait for you three km up the road at Gua Karangsari.
To the south of Sewana are several pagodalike temples, including the island's second most important, Pura Batu Madau, and Pura Batu Kuning on the beach. Malibu Point, with stunning visibility of up to 20 meters, is a favorite scuba diving spot with an excellent variety of fish, including pelagic, tuna, and manta ray, as well as hawksbill turtles. With a current of up to four knots conditions can be fierce, and the water is cold.
Northwest 3.5 km from Sewana and about five km southeast of Sampalan, within sound of the ocean, is an immense limestone cave known by the locals as Gua Giri Putri. Hindus worship at the holy spring inside. The entrance lies 150 meters up a steep stairway. Climb down through a small opening, crouch under a low ceiling, then descend into tremendously deep, vaulted grottos—still and silent except for the squeaking of bats, which grows louder the deeper you go. Tradition has it the cave leads eventually to Pura Puser Ing Jagat in Pejeng.
Some of the branch tunnels lead to openings; at the far end of the cave is a breathtaking view of fertile rolling hills and green mango groves. The main shaft rises to a small lake. The villagers will provide you with a big lamp for Rp2000. Without their assistance, entrance should be free. For safety's sake, bring a friend. Besides the bats and some birds, there's a certain species of crab found in this cave. During Galungan, a torchlit procession of women bearing offerings visits the underground lake.
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