An Herb Walk On The Way To A Waterfall

Today, our first full day in Munduk, the last stop on our three-location Bali tour, we headed out after breakfast for one of my favorite local hikes: to a waterfall a little more than a mile away. Our lead guide today, Ketut (known as Young Ketut to differentiate him from Old Ketut, from the same family) grew up steeped a the rich knowledge of herbs and their medicinal uses.

We began our hike touring the herb garden on the property of Puri Lumbung, our hotel, and learned about remedies for everything from diarrhea to constipation, kidney problems to breast cancer, toothaches and failing memory to mother’s milk that won’t let down.

Once we left the hotel grounds, we hiked on a trail that meandered up and down steps, from dirt pathways to stone, through backyards, on asphalt and stone, through forests of clove trees. On our right, a constant companion, was the lively music of a rollicking creek.

The path was narrow, so we hiked in a line, stopping frequently to learn how cloves are harvested, how each part of the clove plant is used, about the different varieties of rice and how long they take to grow, what a papaya tree looks like, and how to recognize nutmeg still in the husk.

Ketut was full of incredible knowledge about the natural herbal pharmacopeia local people rely on for their medicine. Every plant, it seemed had a practical use, except for the few he said we had to avoid—those were toxic and could irritate the skin.

At the end of our herbology walk was a great reward—the waterfall to revel in. Come join us on our hike and learn about the incredible riches a short hike in Bali can yield.

These are cloves growing on the tree. They must be picked before they flower. Once the tree flowers, the amount of clove oil that can be extracted reduces dramatically
The green ones were just picked. The brown ones have been drying for two days.
Every bit of the clove plant is used. The leaves are pressed to make clove oil. 100 kilograms of dried leaves makes 25 liters of clove oil. The leftover “sticks” are used to make clove cigarettes in Java.
These dried clove leaves are on their way to be processed for clove oil.
The Balinese build ladders out of bamboo to pick cloves. This is an extremely dangerous job—climbing way high up in trees on these narrow ladders with no safety net of any kind.
This is papaya.
This is nutmeg.
This is what nutmeg looks like on the inside. Medicinally, it is used to treat colds and flu. You grate the red nutmeg, coat it with rice powder, add three slices of ginger and a little water (or arak or vodka) then squeeze it out into a paste that you rub on the back of your neck and all over your feet—do it and your cold will quickly disappear. However, Ketut warned us, “Don’t eat too much nutmeg. You can get addicted to it.”
This plant is good for the kidney.
This is patchouli. Ketut smiled as he describe how he made his own in high school so he’d smell good. But he had to pretend to the other boys that he’d bought in from a store so they wouldn’t make fun of him for being into “ancient things” like herbology.
Ketut says if you eat this plant, you’ll be running to the toilet right away. Melinda dubbed it “the colonoscopy plant.”
This is hibiscus. We sucked on the base of the flower and it tasted like honeysuckle.
This is betel leaf. The Balinese use it to treat breast cancer. They chew it up and make a poultice with it or mix it with galangal in a drink. The Balinese call it sirih. They also use it to repel mosquitos and treat other toxins.
This beauty is candle flower.
I loved this stream crossing.
This is a taro plant. The Balinese use the big leaves as umbrellas in the rain (I’ve seen them do this). And when rice is scarce, like during the pandemic when tourism stopped cold, many Balinese had to eat taro root in lieu of rice which they could no longer afford. Taro is also favored by diabetics because it has such a low glycemic index.
Drying vanilla beans.

Crossing the bamboo bridge.

(Turn up your sound for this one.) This is a rice field alarm. In most rice fields in Bali, irrigation is shared by several farmers. This clacker reassures a farmer that water is flowing to his field. If the clacker goes silent, it’s lets him know that the channel for water needs to reopened or that something is blocking the flow.

Almost to the waterfall.
Just a short water break.
Waterfall…. always an exhilarating highlight.
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