Wild beauty

Trip Start Sep 11, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Monday, October 1, 2007

On Sunday, Pak Gunawan, my language teacher, took me out for the day with his wife, Bu Lucy, and Steve, who is learning Indonesian with Lucy. Steve is the office manager for VSO Uganda, and he has come to Indonesia for two months to share skills with the new office manager here.

It was a nice early start, with a 0800 pick-up, and first we drove to Bedugul, which is in the centre of Bali, among all the volcanoes. There we went to the Bali Botanical Gardens, which covers 154 hectares on the lower slopes of Gunung Pohen. Gunung means mountain which, in Bali, usually means volcano, although the correct term is gunung api (fire mountain).

The gardens were established in 1959. They are very pleasant, and popular with Balinese families on a Sunday. There were gorgeous views of Danau (Lake) Bratan below, and it was so nice to sit under the shade of a tree in the warm breeze, looking out across the valley. There are three temples in the grounds, and others features include collections of palm trees and orchids. Though the orchid house wasn't as impressive as I had hoped, as there were only two flowers on display (both were photographed for your delight with tireless dedication).

After a nice picnic of nasi goreng (fried rice) and vegetables, we got back into the car and drove for about an hour and a half through several valleys and small villages. The road was often bumpy, and I managed to (lightly) bang my head on the ceiling of Pak Gunawan's 4x4 which, as you've already guessed, wasn't designed for tall foreigners!  I'm getting better at ducking every day.

Some of the valleys we crossed were amazing - lush and very narrow, with viridescent rice terraces clinging to the valley sides, and the road zig-zagging steeply down and up. Rice farmers here seem to be very good at irrigation, and lots of fields have channels of water flowing around the edge. With the reflection of the sky, driving passed a flooded sawah (rice field) is like looking at a beautiful slab of polished marble dappled with flecks of brilliant green.

The other main feature of the day's outing was the area around Gunung Batur, which is a very imposing volcano (1717m) in the middle of a spectacular caldera, a bowl-like feature which holds Danau Batur.

We stopped at Penelokan on the crater rim for some kopi (coffee), and I watched the occasional tourist arrive and leave very quickly after harrassment from jewellery and souvenir vendors. There are many benefits from travelling around with locals, and being deaf helps too of course!

After kopi, we drove down into the caldera. The landscape is scattered with large forms of solidified lava, and the road followed the lakeside, with lots of short climbs and dips.

The volcano last exploded in 1994, but the current caldera was created as a result of violent eruptions in 1917 and 1926 - the first eruption destroyed more than 60,000 homes and 2,000 temples, mostly in the village of Batur. This village was rebuilt, and then completely buried by lava during the 1926 eruption. The whole place was very bleak and lunar, and very impressive.

Back in Denpasar for 6pm, which gave me a few hours to get some homework done in time for my language class this morning.

(There are more photos of the botanical gardens and the area around Gunung Batur in the photo album).
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