In Search Of The Five Holy Springs

It used to be called the “Lost Coast”, a string of fishing villages, collectively known as Amed – the start-point and finish-point for Seatrek’s Komodo cruises – on Bali’s eastern tip. Hugging a dramatic coastline of steep headlands, coves and coral reefs, Amed is a wonderful destination for those who wish to escape.

We had heard a story about Toye Masem – five sacred springs, all within close proximity of each other, with each one purported to spout a different taste. Knowing that these aquatic sources would be difficult to find, we employed a local guide and drove to Desa Bangle (pronounced Bang-Lay), a village situated five kilometres inland.

Leaving the car and the asphalt road behind, we headed along a narrow track past simple houses with woven walls and grass roofs. Here, the villagers eke out a living from the dry farmland and the neighbouring sea, maintaining an ancient lifestyle that hasn’t changed in generations. Surveyed by pretty mountain goats and graceful cows resting under small palm shelters, we in turn observed groves of giant bamboo bordering fields of cassava, sweetcorn, soybeans, bananas, peanuts and chilli peppers. The lives of the people centre upon the availability of water for domestic use, sacred rituals and the cultivation of their crops.

We walked for about one kilometre before we reached the first holy spring, channelled into a bamboo pipe and guarded by a temple. Leaving a donation, we sampled the taste; it was strong and bitter, yet refreshing. We noticed that the soil below the source was stained orange, indicating a rich content of iron. Further along the path we slipped and slid on thick grey clay. Advised that it was nourishing for the skin, we eagerly applied it to our faces, trying not to laugh lest the masque should crack as we continued our journey to the four remaining springs. Again, each source was guarded by a shrine; one was dried out for the season but the others yielded varying degrees of sweet, sour, and bitter tastes.

Revitalised and replenished with the life-giving energy of Toye Masem, we returned to Bangle with glowing faces. Our little pilgrimage had proved to be rejuvenating, revealing and rewarding.