I had heard tales of this place. A place where huge bats with massive two metre wingspans hang threateningly from the bows of trees, and where the jungle is so thick, you would need a machete. I was told it was a place of majestic beauty where monkeys are the guardians of a sacred temple and, where the locals were not so friendly.
It was a place where no sane person would stay overnight for fear of demons entering their bodies and eating them from the inside out. I soon found a different place when I returned some twenty-five years later. Back then, my only guide to where I ventured was a huge stone marked with the name – and now – tourism rules the roost where the huge bats hang.
Alas Kedaton, is situated, some twenty-five kilometres north of Denpasar, near the village of Kukuh. I arrive to see rows of stalls selling tourist souvenirs and the ilk, warungs (small eateries) around a carpark and, a grand entrance gate where a ticket booth is the only way in.
Making my way along the well-worn path lined with T-Shirt sellers and other colourful clothing, I follow the path down to a huge stone-paved area surrounded by dense jungle. Monkeys of all sizes are skiting to and fro in the trees and all around where I walk. My unopened water bottle is soon snatched from my hands and a monkey skilfully opens the lid and drinks from it cheekily as I look on.
The still, quiet atmosphere of the temple is haunting as I walk through the unique construction of four gateways – unlike other temples on the island.
Down the side path at the rear of the temple I see yet more stalls selling the usual garb, and it is then I hear the constant and piercingly loud drone of bats in chorus. I stop to take photos. One large bat moves and the others follow – but not far – only far enough to settle on another branch, their territory surrendered. Around the many high trees with their black devils hanging limply from the bows, I walk into the dense jungle to find the original path I trod so many years ago. Thick and massive vines snake their way into the treetops, and my every movement is watched by the guardians…and the bats.
A local girl approaches me. I ask her where the old stone was that first guided me to this eerie place. She looks bemused and then points to a heap of almost buried and fragmented rock. I gaze up at the bats gazing back at me, then at the monkeys rushing to the newly arrived busload of tourists, and I think how lucky I am to see have been here before the tourist invasion. Maybe, just maybe the bats would agree.