The Holy Springs

Let’s be adventurous, Jess said. Let’s hire motor scooters and take the kids up into the mountains to find a traditional village.

Ok said Andrew. Do you know how to ride a scooter?

No she said. But it can’t be that hard. We can learn.

The scooters were cheap and no license was needed but there wasn’t really a lesson. The rental company lady showed them how to turn the bikes on and how to make them go. Now you go, said the lady.

But how does it stop? Jess asked.

It seemed easy but it wasn’t that easy. At first she jerked and wobbled all over the place. She quickly learned not to put her foot down in a panic while moving. That was nearly disastrous, but she recovered her balance and avoided an incident. Her leg smarted a little though.

Mum! What are you doing? her daughter Lily cried. I don’t know if I trust you driving this thing. I don’t want to die!

The roads were steep and narrow and twisty. There wasn’t really an edge to the road — it just became dirt or stones or a sheer cliff down to the sea. There was lots of traffic — other motorbikes, cars and trucks. People tooted their horns all the time and each time it made her jump so Jess wobbled even more.

And there were many obstacles to watch out for — chickens, dogs, people walking with enormous things on their heads. It was chaotic and frightening and she was scared of doing something wrong and hurting her child. Little kids rode past on their motor scooters and laughed at her, the wobbly scared foreigner.

I don’t like this Jess said.

You’re doing great Andrew said. Come on, let’s go this way. It’s a quieter road, so it should make you feel better. It’s an adventure!

She sniffed. Ok, we’ll go a bit further then.

The mountain road was beautiful. Terraced. rice paddies spilled down the mountain sides and filled the valleys. People were busy in the paddies, harvesting and weeding and ploughing with cows. Jess smiled as she looked at the scenery and forgot to watch the road. Lily squealed as Jess swerved back onto the road, narrowly avoiding another disaster.

Mum! What are you doing? You watch the road! I’ll look at the scenery ok?

Jess decided to stop to take a photo of the view. But she’d forgotten how to stop. The bike skidded to a stop in a gravel ditch on the side of the road and tipped over onto its side, throwing Lily off and landing on Jess's leg. She sat in the ditch for a moment or two wondering how to right the bike and free her leg.

Mum! screamed Lily. What are you doing? You were going too fast! Don’t you know what you’re doing yet?

Andrew turned his bike back and came to help.

What are you doing down there mum? asked her son Seb. That’s not how you’re supposed to stop! I’m glad I’m on dads bike.

Can I ride with dad? Lily said. Mum’s scary!

Andrew just laughed and righted the bike, then helped Jess up.

Mum’s doing just fine, he said. She’s getting the hang of it.

Mum tipped us over and I scraped my leg, Lily said angrily.

Oh well. Nobody died and your leg won’t fall off will it? He laughed. Come on! It’s a great adventure story! Lily crossed her arms and pouted for a bit.

Jess crossed the road to take her photo, a little bit shaky but trying not to show it. Shall we continue? Andrew asked.

Yes, said Seb.

No! said Lily.

I’m not sure, Jess said. I’m a bit shaky after that. I don’t know what to do.

How about I get the bike going and facing the right way for you? Will that help? Andrew asked.

Yes, said Jess.

He did and Jess coaxed Lily back onto the bike. It’s like riding a horse, she said. Even if you’re scared you just have to get back on and try again. Ok?

Ok said Lily. But be careful!

I’ll be better now, Jess said. I think I’m getting the hang of it.

They continued on the mountain road, looking for the village with the holy spring they’d heard about. She felt more confident now and went a little faster.

Slow down! shouted Lily. You’re going too fast!

No I’m not. It’s ok. And it’s fun, see? Jess laughed.

Well ok. It is kind of fun I guess, said Lily. You are getting better at it now at least. You’re more confident.

Jess smiled.

Up ahead she saw a village. It was very small and quite haphazard. She didn’t know if this was the village they were looking for. Andrew had stopped beside a house. She stopped too and this time the bike didn’t fall over.

Well done mum! That was much smoother, said Lily.

Why are we stopping? Seb asked.

I just want to ask these people if this is the village, Andrew said.

I’ll ask! said Seb. After a moment he came back. The village is further on. They say we’ll need a guide to find the holy spring — or at least I think that’s what they meant. They didn’t really speak English.

Let’s not get a guide, Andrew said. It’s an adventure! Let’s see if we can find it on our own first.

Ok, said Seb.

No! yelled Lily. I don’t want to go to the springs. We’ve tried riding a motor scooter and it was fun and all. But can’t we just go back now?

I don’t know, Jess said. Do you think we can find it on our own?

Sure we can, Andrew said. Do you want to lead this time? Then you can go as fast as you want.

No you lead, Jess said. I’m happy going slow.

Oh, but I like going faster mum, said Lily.

They continued on up into the mountains, through lush jungle and past more rice farms. Jess was feeling much more confident now and no longer wobbled. Lily had relaxed her grip. They came to another small, haphazard village.

Is this the village? Jess shouted.

I don’t know, Andrew shouted back.

Suddenly the village ended and the road became dirt. They stopped.

Oh. That must have been the village he said.

Let’s go and ask those people she said. But we have to turn the bikes around. How do I make it go backwards?

Lily rolled her eyes. I’m getting off and walking! she said.

Andrew turned the bike around for Jess and they rode back to the people Lily had walked to.

This is the village mum, Lily said.

We found it! Andrew said.

Yay! said Seb.

So where’s the holy spring? Jess asked.

I don’t know, Lily said. They don’t speak English.

Let’s go back and see if we can find it, said Andrew.

Oh no! yelled Lily. We found the village. Why can’t we just go back now?

Maybe we won’t find it, Jess said. Maybe we should go back.

They started back through the village. Suddenly Jess stopped the bike. It’s here!she yelled. There was a small handwritten sign, pointing down a narrow track.

Andrew turned his bike around and came back. You found it! Yay! It’s only 1km. Let’s see where the track goes, he said.

Ok, said Seb.

It looks a bit dodgy, Jess said doubtfully.

Oh no! I don’t want to go down there! It’s too narrow and looks dangerous, Lily cried.

Come on! Be adventurous! Andrew laughed and started down the track.

Oh ok, Jess said and followed. She was wobbling again.

The track was very narrow and rough. Not very far along, it turned sharply 90o. There was a high wall on one side and a steep drop off to a rice field on the other side.

I don’t like this, Jess said. I think we should go back. It’s not safe.

Yes! shouted Lily. Can we just go back please?

Aw come on. This is fun! Seb said.

Well we’re on holidays. We don’t have to go any further if you don’t want to. I’m not going to make you, Andrew said.

Jess thought for a bit. But it seems such a shame to have come all this way and not see the holy spring. We’re so close! It’s only 1km. Maybe it’ll be ok, she said.

Oh mum! No! said Lily.

Let’s go! said Seb.

Andrew continued on. About 200m later the track ended. They all laughed. Oh! Jess said. Well that’s ok then. Looks like we have to walk from here.

Walk! Oh no! I don’t want to walk! yelled Lily. Can’t we go back? Please?

We’re here now. Don’t you want to see the springs? It could be fun, Andrew said.

Oh all right, Lily said. And she stomped off along the track.

They walked along the track for a while, across a creek and through a farm. The track forked 3 ways.

Which way? Jess said.

I don’t know, Andrew said.

I vote this way, said Seb, pointing to the left.

No! This way! said Lily, pointing straight ahead.

I think you’re both wrong! Let’s go this way, Andrew said, heading right.

The track led them further into the farm, past some pigs, banana trees and a small shrine. They went up a hill and down to another creek.

This is the same creek, Jess said. Just further along. I don’t think this is the right track.

I told you! said Lily. I knew it was the other way we should have gone!

They turned back and retraced their steps. As they went back past the banana trees, a man suddenly appeared in front of them. You need a guide? I’ll take you to the springs, he said.

He was a funny, smiley little man, who seemed to have sprung out of the ground. He was muddy from the waist down and barefoot with enormous feet. My name Ketut. This is my farm. Where you from? he asked.

Sydney, Jess said. Ketut smiled and laughed and pointed out all the fruit trees on his farm as they past them. You want to see pigs? Big black and white pigs, Ketut laughed. Yes said Lily. After seeing the pigs, Ketut led them into the first fork in the track they’d come to.

See? I knew we should have gone this way! shouted Lily. I was right!

You were, Jess smiled.

They followed Ketut for a while, along a ridge with beautiful views of the rice terraces and mountains, past huge stands of bamboo, beside a tumbling creek and then turned up the mountain. It was hot and sticky work, climbing through the jungle.

Nobody said we’d be climbing any mountains, Lily grumbled. I thought we were just going for a motorbike ride?

Bonus extra surprise, Jess said. Isn’t this fun?

Not really, said Lily.

After a bit, they came to a temple and the first holy spring. It was a little spring that came out of a bamboo pipe.

Who builds a temple halfway up a mountain in the middle of nowhere? Seb asked.

Ketut just laughed. Very holy water this spring, he said by way of explanation. You drink! Taste water. Very sour!

They all drank.

Wow sour, said Seb.

Interesting, said Andrew.

Yuk! Lily spat it out.

Hmm. Tastes odd, Jess said. I hope it won’t make us sick.

Can we get sick from this water mum? asked Lily, wide eyed.

I’m sure it will be ok, Jess said.

You want go to the next one? Ketut asked. Even more sour tasting! About 200m up there. He pointed up the mountain. We have 5 all up.

5 springs? Lily complained. Are they all like this one? Do we really need to see more?

Sure! Let’s go, said Seb.

Ok, maybe one more then, Jess said.

They were all hot and breathless by the time they got to the next one. There was no temple this time, just a little bamboo pipe with water coming out in a small ravine. Andrew and Seb scrambled down to it with Ketut.

Yuk! This one’s much more sour, Andrew said. You want to taste it?

Jess shook her head. We’ll wait here.

Finally! Lily said. I don’t want to go any further.

Well it’s good you came this far, Jess said.

They came back up. You want to go up more? Ketut asked.

How far is it? Jess asked.

Up there, he pointed. The mountain was very steep above them. They all looked at each other. Everyone was hot and tired.

No. I think it’s enough, Andrew said. We’ll go back now thank you.

Ketut laughed. Ok, he said. We go back.

Yes! said Lily.

Ok, said Seb.

Ketut took them a different, interesting way back to their bikes. He helped them turn the bikes around and get ready to go. Everyone said thank you and goodbye.

Jess lead all the way back. They went much faster and Lily yelled out ‘Hello!’ to everyone as they passed. People smiled and waved and shouted hello back. Children laughed and ran along beside the bike for a bit.

I like going fast mum! It’s fun, Lily said. Weeeeeeeeeeeee! she cried as they went down a hill. I like it here. The people are so friendly!

I like it here too, Jess said. And it’s fun riding the motor scooter, isn’t it?

Yes, said Lily. It is. That was a fun adventure!

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