Hello, readers! Its been a minute :)
Thank you for your warm welcome and support of my last blog post about the Sulfur Mine at Volcano Ijen. It filled me with joy to know that I was able to bring you something that all of you were interested in.
But at the same time it has put me in a tough position : What am I going to be writing about next? Luckily, Indonesia is generous on natural beauty and wonders. It is also a land of contrast, so if last time we travelled to a place that looked like different planet with gates to Hell, today I would like to tell you about the place that seems more like Paradise.
Bali as much as I love this incredible island has developed drastically in the last 10 years. All the main stunning beaches are flooded with people, guest houses and cafes, roads are often choked with traffic, rice fields are replaced with new house development projects. Old-timers frown and sigh: “This island is not what it used to be”.
Like all good things in life, Nusa Penida island was a gem, that was under my nose all this years and yet managed to go unnoticed/unvisited for all these years. It was always just that "bigger island next to Lembongan”, which also reportedly have a very special cave temple my friend's once visited for a big Hindu ceremony.
Nusa Penida is basically considered a part of Bali and is following the same Balinese Hindu religion. Even more interesting is that it is apparently the darker counterpart for the Bali's energy and forces of light.
Balinese Hindu religion is based on the concept of cosmic balance, the idea that both good and evil should be present in the Universe, none of these forces should completely overweight the other, but rather balanced. Sort of Ying-Yang kinda thing, that is visually represented in ceremonies and holy places here with the checkered black and white fabric.
Balinese believe Nusa Penida was once (or maybe still is) home to notorious dark king Mecaling and his army of demons. Big ceremonies are regularly held on the island to keep Mecaling's temper at bay and almost every Balinese has at least once in his life make a pilligrimage to Nusa Penida to honour the darkness that balances and brings out the light. From the mid of the 18th century all the way up to the 1930s the island served as a penal colony for exiled criminals too.
Somehow this conjunction of rather negative beliefs and reputation might have benefitted this island's nature and culture preservation and kept the wave of agressive development away from it's shores. Though the tourism infrastructure is slowly starting to grow here, Nusa Penida is still quite rough and authentic: most of the locals are wearing traditional clothes, hindu temples everywhere, roads are quite bad and bumpy, and beaches are breathtakingly beautiful.
We have set on a short speed boat ride from Bali to spend a weekend in Penida. There are a lot of things to see, each pretty distanced from the other, so realistically a weekend is not enough time to see all of them. But we hopped on our bikes and tried our best to fit as much as possible into our short trip.
Our first destination was Pantai Kelingking. Word Kelingking translates as Pinkie Finger and I have absolutely no idea what is the reference here: to me the oddly shaped cliff looks more like a whale. The view from the top of the cliff is spectacular with the turquoise ocean waters rolling up to the pristine white sand beach below. We have arrived shortly before sunset, so had no time to walk down to that beach and just enjoyed a very scenic sunset from the view point.
Next morning after breakfast we decided to drive to the eastern part of the island. Our first stop was Goa Giri Putri temple - a Shivaist and Buddhist temple, located in a big cave 150m above the sea level. This temple has a great significance to Balinese. Goa Giri Putri Temple is believed to be a place that increases one's spirituality, provides healing or even brings out magical powers.
To access the cave, first you have to walk up 130 steep stairs and then crawl through the narrow hole for a few minutes (which is kinda fun :)). I really did not know what to expect as I have intentionally did not look up any photos of it, so when I poked my head out through the exit of the forementioned hole I was in for a great surprise.
The cave is big and has a mysterious feel to it. Humid, hot air is filled with insence fragrance, the sound of ceremonial bells and singing bounces of the walls mixing with the squirting of the bats that are sporadically flying over your head. I can only imagine how the twighlight, lack of air (especially during big ceremonies with a lot of people attending) and determinate concentration during prayers can easily put a person on a trance trip.
There are few shrines inside the cave, two of which are located above the stairs in the middle of it. This is a place to pray for spiritual pureness and riddance of all negative things and balinese believe that people can be cured in this holy place. The meditation spot is a tiny poorly lit groth. Be aware though: the sounds of dropping water you hear while meditating and praying there might not be just the sounds of water. As I have mentioned before the cave is hot and humid, this particular groth is dark and Balinese Hindu offerings often contain cookies or candies - such conditions are adored by cockroaches.
As we continued our way to the exit we found ourselves in a Buddhist shrine of the regular Chinese style, dedicated to Goddess of Mercy Guanyin. This is the last shrine in the cave and the one I personally enjoyed the most.
We have left Goa Giri Putri by noon and headed to our next destination - another stunning beach called Atuh. Pantai Atuh is located in the south-eastern part of the island, secluded in a small bay. It sports a striking beauty like no other: perfect white sand beach curved in a wineglass shape, rocks of unusual shape and a coral reef with crystal clear waters ideal for snorkeling. Not much more to say about it - you have to be there to fully feel the experience and appreciate the grace of Nature. I think it will be fantastic to watch sunrise in this place (note to myself to do it next time I am there).
On the morning of our last day in Nusa Penida I have dragged my friends to the place, that was presented as "cascading waterfall" in every post I have read about it before - and everyone knows I am obsessed with waterfalls. But Pura Segara Kedul turned to be much more than just waterfall.
Located on the very southern tip of the island it faces the vast ocean view and clear horizon. The man at the entrance told us to wear sarongs as it turned out to be a holy place and a temple. We have stepped through the door and saw a long set of metal stairs (700 steps as I have found out later) attached to the side of the cliff.
Way down takes about half an hour and not for the faint hearted or those with a fear of hights. Closer to the end of the stairs we could already have a view of the beautiful cliff temple. Waterfall was nowhere in sight, but there is the fresh water spring coming out of the cliff rocks and this water is considered to be melukat - cleansing and healing water. Amongst all the regular statues and traditional temple decorations I saw a figure of a woman all dressed in green and everything came together for me. I should have figured it our from the name of the place, but it was only when I saw this figure in green I realised who's worshipping place it was. You see, for years I have been intrigued by ancient javanese legend of Nyai Roro Kidul - Queen of The Southern Sea. Different legends about her exists but all of them tell approximately same story of her origin.
Once there lived a King, the ruler in the area of modern Jogjakarta and Solo. His wife passed away, leaving him with a beautiful daughter, but no sons. And as it usually goes in fairytales the King remarried and his new Queen severely disliked young and beautiful Princess. So when she finally got pregnant (claiming it's going to be a boy) she gave the King an ultimatum: either he get's rid of his daughter or she will leave and he will never see her or his future son and heir. The King made a "fantastic" parental decision and hired a witch to curse his daughter with skin disease similar to leprosy. Legends say poor Princess either heard the voices telling her ocean water would heal her or just decided to commit suicide by throwing herself into the raging sea waves.
But not only she didn't die and her disease was indeed cured by ocean waters, the sea demons and spirits were so mesmerised by her beauty, they made her their Queen (how about that, bitchy stepmother? buahahahaha). Since then Nyai Roro Kidul became the ruler of the Southern Sea (Indian Ocean), in control of winds and waves, with the power to obtain any living soul she wants. But she is said to mostly prefer young handsome men:). Once she fell in love with a young sultan-to-be and promised to help him secure the throne and power as long as they would become lovers, which they did. But Sultans die and Goddesses live forever, so she continued these thing with Sultans and up to this day is considered a spiritual consort to every ruling Sultan in what used to be Mataram Sultanate. She sometimes is depicted as a mermaid, loves green color and wherever she roams, others are not allowed to wear green (Javanese take this rule very seriously).
So, coming back to Pura Segara Kidul. After performing a water cleansing ritual, praying and bathing under three fresh water springs you can walk behind the shrine, where you will find a big groth with a fresh water basin overlooking the ocean waves crushing on the cliff. I have never experienced anything like this before.
The water that is coming from the rocks is so clean it's drinkable (and tasty too), it is clear and soft to the skin. The basin is good enough for one or two people to be in it at the same time, so out of the courtesy to other visitors you can not spend too much time there. I cherished every second of this magic and the memories of it will always be my happy place.
Nusa Penida island has much more to offer and that is why this post is called "Part 1" - sooner or later I will be back there for new discoveries. I will keep you all posted :)