08 h 30 : Departure from Balam Bali Villa.
09 h 30 : Beginning of the trek in the village of Bongkasa
11 h 30 : End of the trek
12 h 30 : Back to Balam Bali Villa
The trek of the Ayung river starts in the village of Bongkasa, where your guide, Komang, receptionist at Balam Bali Villa is living. The trek starts under a sacred tree giving shadow to all public temples of his village. It is by far the biggest tree in Bali, a huge banyan, which brings you in a very special atmosphere, close to that one you can see in the movie “Avatar”. This place in Bali is not listed in any guidebook! A banyan is a fig that starts its life as an epiphyte when its seeds germinate in the cracks and crevices on a host tree (or on structures like buildings and bridges). ‘Banyan’ often refers specifically to the Indian Banyan or Ficus benghalensis, the National tree of India. The seeds of banyans are dispersed by fruit eating birds. Older banyan trees are characterized by their aerial prop roots that grow into thick woody trunks, which, with age, can become indistinguishable from the main trunk. Old trees can spread out laterally using these prop roots to cover a wide area. Banyans have unique fruit structures and are dependent on fig wasps for reproduction. The name was originally given to F. benghalensis and comes from India where early travellers observed that the shade of the tree was frequented by Banias or Indian traders.
In Hinduism, the banyan tree is considered sacred and is called ‘Vat Vriksha’. God Shiva as Dakshinamurthy is nearly always depicted sitting in silence under the banyan. It is thought of as perfectly symbolizing eternal life due to its seemingly unending expansion. In Hindu culture, the banyan tree is also called kalpavriksha meaning 'wish fulfilling divine tree'. Buddha is believed to have achieved enlightenment in Bodhgaya in India while meditating under a banyan tree. The tree is known as Bodhi Tree.
The largest banyan tree is in the botanical garden in Calcutta. The Bongkasa tree is not mentioned in any book, it must be the second largest known. It shows its reproduction system through roots falling down, and becoming new trunks once they reach the floor. This is the way used by this tree to enlarge his coverage, very impressive in Bongkasa.
Be aware that this tree is very sacred. Please behave with respect, and do not touch or break a falling root. Before cutting the roots when needed, the people from Bongkasa village have to make dedicated offerings and pray. Under the main trunk, a small temple gives a magical atmosphere to this place. An esplanade in stone is used for sacred dance performances. On the periphery of the tree, in the direction of the other temples, you can notice a superb and old cock-fighting arena, a double rectangle made of stone slabs.
The proximity of this giant sacred tree explains why all the public temples of this village are located right there, from left to right:
This concentration of temples is quite unique, with more than 60 holy shrines! Temple festivals at this very place are outstanding.
After the contemplation of the tree, the trek to the river Ayung can start. Komang will show you many tropical plants including the coffee plants, guava, cacao, mango, and rambutan trees.
The descent to the riverbed brings you across superb rice paddies, until you reach a cable bridge crossing the river. There you might see women collecting sand in the river. They plunge and fill a big basket under the water. Suddenly, they surge out of the water, with the basket and 50 kg of sand on the head. Komang’s mother did this during 15 years, in order to sustain her family and to offer studies to her children.
On the opposite side of the river, the view on the canyon is breathtaking. You will follow a natural plateau at mid height of the cliff, in a protected area. In spite of this, a real estate investor got the permit to build, in this area, a 5-star hotel. This marvellous place will be probably gone in a few years.
The Ayung river is the longest one in Bali. It flows into the sea close to Sanur, after a 75 km course. The river is suited to make rafting, and you may encounter Chinese or Taiwanese tourists, wet and frantic, after 2 hours of struggle against the currents. The river is very famous in Asia for this activity.