So you’ve spent a few days walking around the central Bali town of Ubud, checking out the various shops and eateries, enjoyed a traditional dance show or two, had a day or more touring around the bigger attractions of the area so you’re a bit tired but still want to do and see something….because you’re in Bali after all….but not too much of the doing something….and hiring a driver or risking life and limb scootering yourself around doesn’t sound appealing today….so what to do? What to do??
I found myself in that exact mood and decided a nice walk sounded best.
💡Campuhan Ridge Trail💡 (Balinese “C” is pronounced “CH”)
I had read on TripAdvisor about a short and long version of this walk and decided to try the longer…..but wasn’t quite prepared for what I found.
First, street name posts are hard to read (if you can find them) and if you aren’t glued to your GPS, you can easily miss turns and landmarks in town. So before you set off, make sure you’ve got good cell signal or have written some directions down to ask the locals about. But once you’re on the trail, you can’t misstep.
The trail head is found by walking west of Ubud Palace (central/downtown area) along the main east-west road, Jalan Raya Ubud. Along the way you pass a number of temples that warrant some investigation and pic opportunities.
I’ve been here a week and am still in awe by the mix of environments – motor bikes beeping and zipping everywhere (what Westerners think of as “rules of the road” are not even mere suggestions here), little old Balinese women carrying huge baskets of offerings on their heads, tourists strolling about, hawkers calling out their wares… it’s a lot like an Indonesian version of Cancun….and all of that is inches away from 800 year-old functioning temples with their lush gardens crowded by trinket shops, warungs (typically tiny, 6-10 seat restaurants converted and run out of the living room of a house) and bamboo framed tour guide kiosks.
After a slight decline as the road passes between retaining walls with all manner of moss, fern and even trees growing from them and dangling their vines over the road. Walk on and you’ll come to the Warwick Ibah hotel on the north/right side. You can take the driveway/road toward it and then bear west/left following the sound of water, or you can continue along the main road just a bit further until you come to a set of stone stairs on the north/right immediately before you cross a bridge. I’d suggest walking to the middle of the bridge and taking a pic up the valley – run down shacks on the west/left hill and a gorgeous temple on the east/right with a pretty bit of river between. Go back and take the steps down to the river, turn north/right and then walk upstream a smidge to cross a bamboo bridge (can be slippery but fun if you like “off roading” and want some pretty nature shots). Wind your way toward the temple (can’t miss it) and climb the steps to Pura Gunung Lebah. This is about 1.7km from Ubud Palace.
The temple stands right where the river Wos joins with the river Pormil, to become the Campuhan, and is considered to be a powerful area with very strong energies. Local lore has it that in the 7th century, Buddhism was sweeping through a Hindu Indonesia and concerned about how to maintain the Hindu religion in the region, the sage Rishi Markandeya, sat down here to mediate. During his meditation, he was instructed to build 9 temples roughly circling the island as well as Pura Besakih, the Mother Temple. In doing so, he could create a ring of protection for Hinduism in Bali. For whatever truth there may or may not be to the story, Indonesia is currently about 87% Muslim, 7% Protestant, 3% Catholic, 2% Hindu and less than 1% each Buddhist and Confucian….. and Bali is home to roughly 83% of the Hindus.
As you walk east around the temple and there’s another small bridge to cross (where the Warwick Ibah driveway meets up with this little scenic detour) and a set of stairs that takes you back to the east side of the temple. After you leave the north side of the temple grounds, the Campuhan trail technically begins. Google recognizes it as “Jalan Bangkiang Sidem” road. The trail is made of 12″ squares of cement set 2″ apart and usually 4 squares across to create the trail. If you’re semi-careful with foot placement, it can easily be jogged; don’t think it’d be that great for strollers and the like, though. The first segment of the walk is relatively steep but soon enough flattens out when you reach the crest of the ridge. Views of valleys on both sides spread out, lush greenery on the east/right and lovely homes on the west/left. There’s a small swing hanging from a tree branch somewhere along here but it’d take a photographer far more skilled than I (and with far bette equipment than just an iPhone SE) to make it look like anything special.
After about 1km of greenery and you’ll find the outskirts of a village with lots of local artists’ shops filled with wood carvings, sarongs, paintings and jewelry as well as warungs mixed into residential spaces and small, picturesque rice paddies. The village is about 1km long and seems to more or less terminate at Karsa Spa/Cafe. This is what people mean when they say the trail is 2km long. You can easily turn around and go back the way you came or you can be slightly more adventurous and continue north. I chose this route… The country road (no longer a trail as of the village entrance) is more modern here and the rice paddies stretch further with fewer homes and shops.
Rice takes about 3 months to go from planting to harvest and due to Bali’s climate, there are 4 growing seasons per year. Crops are rotated to give each plot of land 3 seasons of rice and one of a nutrient replenishing vegetable crop.
I found it interesting that rice doesn’t actually need a lot of water to thrive….but we all see pics of people standing knee deep in muddy water to plant it, right?! Well, apparently, the rice is very water tolerant but the weeds are not. So paddies are flooded for the first month to drown any weeds and give the rice a chance to take serious hold. After that first month, they’re not intentionally watered at all and the paddies gradually dry out. The rice foliage creates enough of a canopy that hardly any weeds can sprout due to lack of sunlight. Month 2 sees heads of rice form and grow to a golden color. Month 3 brings mature rice heads and dry grass… much easier to cut with a hand scythe, bash around a few times, shake in prospecting pan of sorts and bag.
Since each plot is family owned, they take their bags of rice home to dry. You’ll see giant blue tarps laid out in driveways, alleys or on streets (you have to drive a super slow zig-zag pattern to get between them) with the rice spread out and raked to dry in the sun. Another round of thrashing, sifting and winnowing and the rice is re-bagged and sent to a processor. Bali produces a surplus of rice for it’s population now but there are clear concerns that the overdevelopment of tourist attractions will reduce the arable land and create a deficit in the near future.
After the larger rice fields, about 1km north of Karsa you come to an “actual” road, Jalan RSI Markandya II, and you turn west/left. You cannot miss this intersection; you’ll feel as if you’re back in civilization with the congested traffic. 😉 Now THIS is where I take a bit of exception to whomever wrote about this option and mentioned this route. While I can recommend taking this route for exercise and to definitely see the “real Bali” (*zero* touristy stuff), I can not recommend it as being “safe” by Western standards. The road is paved to what I’d consider a single lane but it is intended to be 2 lanes. There is *zero* paved shoulder and you’re lucky if you get 6-12″ of muddy weeds to tramp along as gazillions of motorbikes, cars and heavy trucks beep and whiz past you.
Being brave and trusting in everyone’s desire *not* to run you over (if for no other reason, that it would total their scooter), once you turn west/left onto Jalan RSI Markandya II, you continue along about 300M and then you start a steep hill climb with a lot of twists and turns for 400m. I didn’t take pics along this route as my full attention was on not dying and avoiding slippery piles of trash (ahah, the true Bali no one ever talks about). A brief, steep downhill set of switchbacks follow and then another 400m of even steeper, tighter turns. If you’ve not been run off the road and tumbled down into the ravines that line this road, you’re rewarded with the small, interesting but unmaintained Pura Pucak Desa Pekraman Lungsiakan temple at the top. The road veers sharply south/left and you start to feel as if you’re on the outskirts of a town as houses, roaming chickens and traffic increases…. but at least you get broken sidewalks ⅓ of the time. The road is slightly downhill from here on out and you follow it 1.2km until it comes to a “T” with Jalan Raya Lungsiakan. Turn east/left here and continue 2.6km until you cross the bridge where you took the pic of the river valley before you began this little adventure.
This route is roughly 7.7km round trip and it took us a leisurely 3hrs to walk it, stopping for a cold coconut and pics along the way. Add in another 3.5km if you’re starting from Ubud Palace. I’m glad we did the route as it’s great for exercise but I do wish I’d known about the road conditions prior to starting (probably still would have done it, though ;-)). Chances are you’ll be ready for a massage after a day like this (we sure were!) but do not, repeat DO NOT, visit Tirtha Wangi Spa (see my review on TripAdvisor) even though it is on the way back to the Palace… find another spot to get the kinks worked out. Cheers!
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