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This was one busy day! We got up at 3am in order to leave the hotel at 3:30am, so that we could climb Mt Batur to see the sunrise. The tour company arranged for us to have one local guide per four of us, thus enabling us to take the better, less travelled path up the mountain. I understand that access to this path is controlled by the local conservation society who hire out the guides. We were picked up from the hotel by cars, which took us for about half an hour through the pitch black, very bumpy forest until we reached our starting point. Wielding torches and carrying backpacks with water for the hike, we set out. I must emphasize, it was very dark, so it was really good having so many guides to keep us all together.
The early part of the hike was pretty easy, a mild upwards slope in the forest. However, once we left the tree line behind, it got steeper and steeper. I’m a tall woman with long legs, but some of the steps up and over boulders were a stretch, so I felt for the shorter ladies of our group. Eventually the boulders gave way to a steep gravel slope, where it seemed that we slid backwards a step for every two we took. By this point we were all a bit sweaty, despite the cool pre-dawn air. Finally we reached a lookout plateau, where there was a wooden shelter over some long tables.We could see strings of torch-light on the main path below us, as hoards of tourists trailed up. Some of our group stayed here, a bit tuckered out, while the rest of us pressed on up the last, terrifically steep stretch.
Whew, we made it!
Turns out my camera can do a pretty decent panorama. There are two mountains superimposed here: Mt Abang and Mt Agung.
A view down to the right, I’m guessing the edge of a crater.
You can just see the town through the mist.
When the sun was well up and we’d had our fill of the spectacular view, we made our way down to join the rest of our group on the lower landing, where our breakfast awaited. Our guides had prepared boiled bananas, fried egg sandwiches, mandarins and tea or coffee for us. Nice food, but there were masses of flies around, which always makes food look a little unappetising, so much went untouched. In Bali milk is pretty scarce, so we had to get used to taking our hot beverages strong and black.
Once we’d finished, we set of back down the great hill. I’m pretty uncoordinated and have a talent for skidding, so landed hard on my backside twice while picking my way down the gravel slope. I earned a nice lumpy bruise on my hip which stayed with me about a week, but it could have been worse. About halfway back to the cars and before we entered the forest, we reached a sandy plateau where large numbers of monkeys capered about. Our guide Sandi had a bag of peanuts, and those who wanted to could hold them out to get the monkeys to climb up to their shoulders. Me, I’m not a fan of monkeys. These ones weren’t too bad however, they didn’t try to mug us.
They drew quite a crowd.
Behind this plateau was a fairly impressive cliff, as you see.
Beside this plateau were some interesting geological features which we checked out: a steaming geothermal cliff-side, and a cave. Unfortunately, my camera card chose to corrupt just after the monkeys, so I didn’t get any photos.
A view of Lake Batur from our hotel just before we moved on. Lovely.
After we’d returned to the hotel and had a quick shower, we packed up and hit the road in our bus once more. Today we were bound for the town of Ubud, via an interesting range of attractions. First stop was at a coffee plantation, where we wandered through their extensive and beautiful gardens, learning about some of the local produce, before sitting down to a free coffee and tea tasting. The specialty of this plantation, and others around Bali, was Kopi Luwak (cat poo coffee).
The civet cats who are fed coffee cherries. Their digestive system strips the outer fruit to leave the coffee beans, which are harvested from their faeces, cleaned up and roasted.
Some raw (unroasted) coffee.
Examples of spices grown locally: cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, ginger and turmeric. They also grow cacao, not shown here.
A shrine piled high with offerings.
The traditional method of roasting coffee: stirring continuously for 3 hours over a fire.
The path through the plantation gardens.
The various flavoured coffees, teas and hot chocolate that we were given to try. We shared one of these spreads between two people.
There were some really interesting flavours of coffee and tea to try. Among the teas were lemongrass, ginger, a flower akin to hibiscus, turmeric and mangosteen. They were more like cordials than teas really – very sweet. The same went for the coffee, which was flavoured with coconut, vanilla, chocolate, and I forget what else. I didn’t try the kopi luwak (which we had to pay for) myself, but others from our group did, and by their reports it was unexceptional. After the tasting I bought some mangosteen tea, which was really delicious, and some coconut coffee…which is still sitting in my pantry, unopened.
Our next stop was at the Holy Spring Water Tirta Empul temple. This was a beautiful spot where a temple had been built up around some natural springs. We bought our entry tickets and were loaned sarongs to cover our legs before entering. I was feeling a little ill from the heat by this stage, but found a shop selling cold bottled water, and enjoyed the surroundings well enough.
The entrance to the temple.
A beautifully decorated gateway.
People bathing in the holy waters. Some of our group took a dip as well.
It’s pretty ingenious how they have routed water from the spring to all these spouts. As far as I could tell, there was no pumping involved. Or maybe it was just well hidden.
In the area behind the pools, there are little temples and shrines for worshippers to pray at.
One such ornate shrine.
The spring. The water is a remarkable colour – quite turquoise.
Mini temples. I don’t know how one decides which one to pray at!
More ornate decoration.
After the temple, we had a delicious buffet-style lunch at the Senang Hati (happy hearts) foundation for disabled Balinese people. They have a make-shift restaurant at their school, which raises money for them to provide practical aid and education to their members. It was the best meal we’d had up to that point, highly recommended – I think they only do this with tour companies by prior arrangement though. The foundation members also make jewellery and assorted handicrafts for sale, and I picked up a pretty bracelet.
At last, we arrived in Ubud. This is a bustling and prosperous town which has grown hugely in the last decade to cater to tourists and expats. Surrounded by picturesque rice paddies, it is the cultural capital of Bali and home to many artists and performers. Restaurants, bars, art galleries, hotels, spas and other such ‘civilised’ things abound. The main streets are narrow and usually choked with traffic, but to the point that it’s fairly easy to cross the road on foot. I quite liked it here, actually!
We decided to catch a traditional Balinese dance show that evening, at a famous local theatre. I had no idea what to expect, and so was thoroughly bemused by the spectacle. First, we had a performance from the orchestra. Balinese music is unlike anything I’ve heard before, and I’m sorry to say that it isn’t my cup of tea – frankly, it sounds like a hangover. Clanging, squealing, arrhythmic drumming, short high-pitched flute lines repeated over and over and over…It hurts my head to think about it. The least offensive examples of Balinese music I heard while over there sounded like infuriating background music for a jungle-based arcade game.
The dancers were a glory to behold in rich, ornate, brightly coloured costumes and full stage makeup. Their skill was highly impressive, as they exercised exquisite control over every part of their bodies – sometimes freezing everything except for a couple of fingers, or their very wide eyes. At first they reminded me a little of creepy animated dolls, but I came to appreciate the style more as the show went on. What quadriceps they must have as well – they spent a lot of time in squatted down postures.
The only photo I took, as I kept getting the heads of the folks in front.
So there you go – clearly I am an uncultured philistine.