Having climbed to the crater of Gunung Agung early in my stay in Bali in 2004 I was keen to trek again and decided on the much lower peak of Gunung Batur - an active volcano and a beautiful mountain in a unique setting. The peak itself rises from the middle of a wide caldera, the remains of a vast volcano that imploded in the ancient past. The caldera itself is now home to several villages and a beautiful cresenct shaped lake - there are also hot springs, lava flows and forests.
We (Roger, Harashita and Adelino) arrived at night, as one usually does for day treks in this part of the world (the theory being that the best views from the top will be at sunrise). We had heard that you "have to take a guide", and there were horror stories circulating about rip-off prices for those who took one and unpleasant hassle for those who attempted not to. Fortunately our taxi driver negotiated a reasonable rate and we set off with a guy who turned out to be really good - with excellent command of English and a great knowledge of the volcano. Two other hangers-on followed us, but turned back when Harashita told them we had our own drinks, food etc. - thse guys wait at the foot of the volcano then follow parties up to sell them very expensive cokes at the summit - at least we saved them a walk.
After a flat trek across the lava plain we took a steep turn upwards, following a twisty path up the hillside. It was cloudy and when we reached the first main resting point (a shack about 20 minutes from the summit) we could tell that a really good view of the sun rising would be unlikely. At this point a monkey appeared and befriended Adelino, who fed it some of his bread - it was very tame, squatting on a rock and picking the bread from Adelino's hand with its paw - sadly my flash photography with this dinky digi camera is a bit hit and miss and my "Adelino and monkey" shot did not come out.
I took this shot from the shack before we made the final climb - it shows a peak on the crater rim with the sunrise behind (we didn't actually see the sun itself until a a while later) - there are a couple of these outer rim peaks that are frequented by trekkers - Gunung Catur and Gunung Abang as I recall. One has a deserted temple on the sumit - maybe worth a climb next time I come to Bali.
Once we came to the summit (highest point of the rim) we enjoyed some great views both into the crater (above, showing the sulphurous fumes escaping) and below. Gunung Agung could be seen on the horizon, a ghostly shadow behind the nearer peak of Gunung Abang:
The sky was clearing and we soon had warm sunshine as we trekked around the crater - as well as the gases coming out of the crater, the warmth of the rocks themselves attested to the "active" nature of Batur. There were signs of the recent earthquake (6 weeks before) when sections of the crater rim had slipped into the crater - fortunately there were no tremors while we were there. Our thoughts turned, of course, to breakfast, and we unpacked the eggs, bread and bananas that we had packed the night before. The cooked breakfast is a ritual most trekkers go through on Batur - the cooking taking place in the rocks of the volcanic vent itself. This may be a bit of a touristy thing to do, but I thought it was great fun, and hard boiled eggs, courtesy of some geothermal energy, taste very nice after a bracing climb.
Our guide cooks the eggs in a hole in the hot rock....
During our volcanic breakfast Harashita enquired if the guide knew where he could get a coffee (is there anywhere on earth that he wouldn't ask?) and his response was to shout out across the crater to the opposite rim, where a chap in a shack shouted back that the kettle was on. He was all set to jog around the treacherous ridge to deliver a coffee, but Harashita cancelled the order when it transpired that there was no milk available.
Shots of Batur: Adelino on the rim, gases streaming from the volcanic vent and a shot looking down on the "new" volcanic landscape formed by recent eruptions (caldera rim in the distance).
Harashita arriving back at our starting point in his distinctive but eminently sensible hat (I've got one the same so I have to say that)
After a circuit of the crater we headed off the top towards the newer volcanic cones around the base of Batur - these have only been there a few years - looking down you can see how fresh the lava is, still black and devoid of vegetation. The trek ended in the late morning when we came back to our starting point at Toyah Bungkah.
In the midday heat there was only one thing for it - a swim in Lake Batur. We found a path down to the lakeside where local villagers were fishing in the shallows, bathing and washing clothes - the water was lovely and left us refreshed for the journey back to Nusa Dua.
Batur is not an arduous trek. We were not climbing to challenge ourselves physically in a sporting sense - we were there just to soak up the splendour of this unique landscape and enjoy natures beauty & serenity.
If you find yourself in Bali, ignore the negativity about Batur in the guidebooks - get a clued up taxi driver, take all your own food and drinks, and be willing to pay out for a guide (if you get a good one it really enhances the trip).
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