Sunday, 22 June 2008

The Ascent of Mount Agung (3,142m) and East Bali Tour

Mount Agung is an active volcano which last erupted during 1963,
spewing lava over a large area of eastern Bali. There are two popular
routes up the mountain. We took the shorter from Pura Pasa Agung.

We left the car park at 2.00am on Friday morning (20th June), starting
at an altitude of around 1,500m. Our guide, Made, made an offering at
the temple to ensure our safe passage, and then we began the long
climb to the crater rim at 2,900m. The route was first in thick
forest and then over steep (45 degree) lava slopes. The walk felt
magical in the full moon.

After 2 hours and 45 minutes (a time which Made regarded as 'strong'),
we reached the crater. Unfortunately, we had to wait over an hour
before sunrise in temperatures of around 7 degrees. Not too cold by
Scottish standards but cold enough once you've acclimatised to beach
life at 28-32 degrees. We began to ransack our bags for warm
clothing, shared food and Made started a fire - although we only
had enough combustibles for 30 minutes.

The horizon began to glow a deep crimson as the sun rose. An hour
later, the crater lake was fully lit. Its deep sulphur cliffs and
loose rock only metres from where we stood.

An hour after sunrise, we descended back to the car park, returning at
9.00am. Made's sandals had almost disintegrated by this time. He'd
enjoyed wearing my old Karrimor jacket, and I was tempted to give it
him. But I needed it again and such equipment can't be found in Bali.
Instead I gave him a pair of my walking socks which were gratefully

The rest of Friday was spent sleeping very heavily. Indeed, for the
second time on this trip, knocking and banging on the door didn't wake
me up. Jen had to get the spare key to open the door!

21 June 2008: Tour of Eastern Bali

Today we toured the sights of eastern Bali, guided by the friendly
owner of Kembar Inn, Nyoman. First stop was a very smart new hotel,
Mahagiri, with a fantastic view of Mt Agung that we had climbed the
previous day. We had our first taste of jack fruit which was
delicious and tasted like a mixture of pineapple, mango and banana.

We then visited Bali's most important temple, Pura Besakih - the
'mother temple'. It's in fact a complex of 18 separate temples,
perched on the side of Mt Agung at an altitude of 1,000m.

From there we continued on to a caldera that contains the volcanic crater of Mt
Batur and the beautiful Lake Batur.

We then went to the Elephant Park – named after the Elephant River
that runs through it. There were no elephants at all, although we
spent half our time looking for them. A very old man took us on an
impromptu tour of a giant Buddha, which was badly damaged in the 1917
earthquake. He even offered to carry Jen on his back through the

In the afternoon, we headed over to Ubud to the Sacred Monkey Forest
Sanctuary which has three holy temples surrounded by a mini jungle.
The forest looked like it had come from the set of "Indiana Jones and
the Temple of Doom". It is inhabited by Balinese macaque monkeys who
are very keen to steal bananas and any other food that unsuspecting
tourists may carry in their pockets. Rasmus was unlucky enough to get
a little bit too close for comfort to one of the cheeky primates - it
climbed up his back to reach goodies in this rucksack.

The day was brought to a very interesting end by visiting Pura Goa
Lawah, a temple dedicated to bats. It has an enormous bat cave in the
cliff face behind the altar, and at dusk, we watched thousands and
thousands of bats flying out of the cave. We've never seen anything
like it, and the sky above our heads was full of the creatures! We'd
heard that it's possible to see pythons around the cave entrance,
trying to catch bats as they fly past. We didn't get lucky enough to
see any.