The coast south of Gianyar is an attractive but little-visited part of Bali, best accessed by private transport, with long beaches of pure black sand and some fine views. Bear in mind, that, aside from a couple of spots that are opening up for experienced surfers, this is an area for beach walks rather than for swimming, as the Badung Strait – the patch of ocean between the mainland and Nusa Lembongan – is one of the deepest and most treacherous stretches of water off Bali. There are plenty of temples to base your explorations around- all are fabulous during festival and ceremonies but pretty deserted otherwise.
The new road eastwards, Jalan Prof Dr Ida Bagus, starts at Tohpati, 4km north of Sanur, a small village where the road is lined with plant and flower nurseries and stone-carving workshops. It’s hard to miss the beginning of the road as it passes through a giant arch on which its name is emblazoned in huge letters. At the time of writing, the final 6km needed to reach Kusamba was still under construction. However, the completed section has already opened up the whole coast south of Gianyar and chopped a great deal of time and anguish off travel to the east. It’s worth noting that the road winds behind the coast, sometimes a few hundred meters inland and sometimes several kilometers. The scenery is picturesque, with increasingly fine views of Gunung Agung as you travel east, but you’ll need to explore the multitude of side-roads that head to the beaches to enjoy the coastal views.
Four kilometers to the east, Pantai Masceti is signed to the right. It’s a kilometer to the beach where an apparent jumble of buildings off to the right is Pura Masceti, one of Bali’s directional temples, or kahyangan jagat, serving the south of the island. It’s an extremely important temple with highly ornate carvings and statues, and is especially busy on the before Nyepi) usually March or April). When religious objects are brought to the temple for purification.
Experienced surfers are discovering the breaks off the coast at Pantai Cucukan, signed of the main road another kilometer to the east. Accommodation is likely to develop here, but in the meantime it’s quiet, attractive sweep of sand.
At a set of traffic lights another kilometer further along the cost, Pantai Lebih is signed off to the right. This is a great beach lined with hundred of local fishing boats and dozens of tiny warung cooking and selling the day’s catch. Sate languan, ikan bakar, ikan pepes, ikan goreng and nasi sela are the specialties. Some of the warung are open from midday but most get going 4-5pm and stay open until midnight – it’s an extremely popular spot with Balinese people in the evening and is heaving during national holidays. Back across the main road (it’s a left turn if coming from the west) the entrance of Pura Segara(Sea Temple) is imposing, but there’s no real hint of the importance of this site. Magical forces are believed to be focused on the temple, and an annual ceremony is held here to placate the demon I Macaling, who is thought to bring disease an ill fortune to the mainland from Nusa Penida.
One of the most picturesque stretches of the south coast is at SIYUT where the bay stretches in a wide sweep for several kilometers, with the rice terraces inland forming a fabulous foreground to the bulk of Gunung Agung. It is signed seawards two kilometers to the east from the Pantai Lebih turning. You’ll share the beach – another one popular with locals come holiday time – with line fishermen, and there are several smll drinks stalls.
Moving eastwards the scenery becomes more picturesque, greener and more fertile. Another 3km on, Pantai Batu Klotok, or Watu Klotok, is signed to the right. It’s a kilometre to the beach along a small ridge with terraced fields sloping away on either side. Pura Batu Klotok, one of four state temples of Klungkung, stands in beachside position. The temple is particulary revered: the sacred statues from the “Mother Temple” Besakih, are brought here during the annual cleansing ritual of malasti. During the 1963 and 1979 Eka Dasa Rudra ceremonies at Besakih, the procession to the sea was over a mile long, and tens of thousands of gathered on the beach for the rituals, which included the sacrificial drowning of a buffalo. An imposing statue of Dewa Baruna, the god of the sea, stands beside the temple, carrying a container of holy water. It was built following the appearance in 2001 of an unusual turtle bearing sacred markings, which died on the local beach and was cremated in the temple. the turtle was believed by local people to be a manifestation of Dewa Baruna, who was bestowing good fortune and honour on the village.
At the time of writing, the new road ended at the junction to Pantai Batu Klotok, 19km from tohpati, and all traffic had to turn left and head north toward Klungkung. The road to kusamba is scheduled for completion by the end of 2005.