Volcano at sunrise - beautiful!

Trip Start Jun 17, 2010
Trip End Jun 12, 2011

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Where I stayed
Loka House

Flag of Indonesia  , Bali,
Saturday, May 21, 2011

We arrive in Ubud within the hour after asking the taxi driver many questions about Hinduism and the meaning of the 210 day calender which apparently tells you which days are good days to get married, cut the hedge, have a funeral and even when to have sex! He tells us about the different gods and about the cute little offerings that are everywhere, which are to keep away bad spirits and to pray to the gods.  It was a very interesting taxi ride.  We find a nice small family guesthouse with only 4 rooms called the Loka House on Monkey forest road, me and Floor have a lovely room upstairs with views over a rice terrace, and the rooms were pretty big, so for 150,000 a night, we were pretty happy.  We wondered around the market and booked up all the trips we wanted to do, basically I had a plan and the guys were just happy doing it and we booked our day trip the next day, a volcano hike the next day and then the kayak and mountain bike the day after - it was to be a busy few days.  That night we book into to see Legong dance another traditional Balinese dance with mainly female dancers this is the most graceful Balinese dance and there is alot of focus on they eyes and hands.  We get there early and get second row seats - what is the point of sitting at the back and not seeing their eyes move!!We all sit there completely in awe of what we saw, the detail of the movements, the precise flicker of the hands and the slight movements of the neck and eyes all go into making this dance amazing to watch, and the girls are very beautiful.  The band were pretty good too, one guy who played a whistle was synchronizing his breathing like you do if you play the didgeridoo- he was playing for 10 minutes at a time sometimes continuously.  The dance did have a few men involved too, but often  they wore make up and looked alot like women, the only way I could tell was by looking at the hairy legs!  The performance lasted an hour and half, but I could have sat there all night watching the fine detail gone into making the dance perfect - they must have had strict teaching from a very young age.  It is said that in old age a good Legong dancer would be remembered as a "great Legong" so I guess its a pretty prestigious art.
The next day we set off a 09.00 and head off on a planned itinerary which had to be cut a bit as I was a bit too ambitious!  But we first headed off to Pura Taman Ayun a temple built in 1634 set in beautiful gardens surrounded by a moat, as with most Hindu temples tourists or non Balinese are not allowed in to the actual temple, but wondering around it was nice, with very picturesque Balinese spires, we spot a few yoga posing spots and all take advantage!  Next we move to Pura Ulun Danu Bratan Temple which is a Hindu-Buddhist temple and is dedicated to Dewi Danu, the goddess of the waters - so this temple sits on a little island and is surrounded by a lake and a mountain backdrop - perfect photo opportunity! There was quite a bit of action when we arrived almost like they were getting ready for a party - we later learn that the 210 day calender states today is a good day for marriage - so be it!  We stop at a lovely restaurant sit high into rice terraces - the food was a bit crap, and really this place is just for tourists - and I guessed that our driver would have got commission for bringing us there - but the view was spectacular! even if the food was bad! Next we continue on the winding road to Jatiluwih rice fields - we stop along the way to walk through these massive rice fields it was a nice little break from the car as we strolled through this majestic sight, something I haven't seen before! The last stop of the day was to Pura Luhur Batukau which was the least touristic temple of the ones we have seen, but is one of the most spiritual temples, we were the only one walking around this old moss covered temple, we see a sign on the way out that tells you you cannot not enter if you are mad! Plus many other bizarre rules! - this was the only temple we visited that required us to wear a sarong - apparently knees have to be covered, but you could walk around in a bra...The end of a long interesting day we all snooze in the 90 mins it takes us to get back to Loka House.  We have a bite to eat next door and then we head straight to bed at 7.30 - as we must be up early to trek Gunung Batur for sunrise!!
The alarm rings off at 1.50 - up I spring, Floor is a bit more tame! I organized everything I was to wear and take the night before, I put on my top I brought especially for this trek back in Perth and get excited - meeting the other two downstairs, its clear I am the only one at this moment who is excited.  We get picked up by a chatty driver who takes us to the start of the trek within the hour and half.  We have some shitty pastries to give us energy and the driver gives us some bananas to eat at the top - I hate bananas - so luckily I have  more yummy pastries for later.We all decided to use the unsanitary Balinese style mosquito infested hole in the ground before we start out climb - you don't want to get caught out on the side of a volcano do you?!  Batur sits at 1717m above sea level and its last eruption was in 1994, it has a double crater and sits just like a classic volcano shaped peak.  We start our ascent at about 02.30 - we climb over loose rock, it was not particularly steep, but there were often stepped sections which would gain quite a bit of height, we stopped frequently, we realize soon that we have another guide climbing with us, he was helping Aly up, - she has short legs and the wrong shoes on! He then announces about half way up that he is not a guide but he is selling refreshments when we want them - he tells us he climbs this twice a day  to earn money as he is studying.  We reach the sunrise point where we take a little rest - we still have about an hour for sunrise and the guy that climbed with us then wants us to buy a coke - at 4.30 in the morning, its the last thing I want to drink - I feel a bit bad as we all say no, especially as he helped Aly up the volcano.  I wanted to go to the crater rim for the sunrise - you don't come all this way not to! Many people stay at the sunrise point - but we set off, this section was much steeper and had more loose sand underfoot, Aly was finding it difficult so I grab her hand and literally pull her short arse up the side of the volcano! It was tough going as I had to climb first then get stable enough to get her up to, we slipped a few times!  I had read quite a few blogs previously, alot of them said this part was really tough etc, so I was expecting a lot worse - I was pleasantly surprised - it was pretty easy going!  We reach the top! and the sun is starting to rise.  As it appears you see Gunung Agung right in front - the other volcano I had planned to trek - almost double this one.  There is Lake Batur at the bottom and you can just about to see Mount Rinjani on Lombok - another volcano I was thinking about - but decided against due to time and money.  There were hardly any clouds - we were very lucky, often I hear you have to wait for about an hour after sunrise to see everything - but we were getting 1st class views! The sight was amazing.  We all take soooo many pictures of the varying stages of the sunrise and see everything differently as the sun rises - you can really see how high we climbed! you can see inside the crater, no lava though! ha ha.  Also you can see the old lava flow of the big eruption in 1926 I think which wiped out the village.  We spend about and hour and half on top - with only a dozen or so other people before we make our descent.  Here comes the hard part - I'm sure this takes longer!  We stop alot on the way down to see the things we didn't see on the way up - including 3 monkeys just sitting on some rocks! The views were amazing! at the bottom we all suffer a little bit - My little toes hurt like crazy as my feet were not used to being in closed footwear - the knees were doing well.  We hobble to the car where our cheery driver takes us back to Ubud and we take a nap on the way.  We have a little nap and wake up to shop! Ubud is quite a cool little place less touristic than Kuta, more alive with culture and a nice vibe - but I can see it in a few years surcoming to tourism and price shooting up - its Balinese nature to haggle and bargain, but seriously - I was knocking off sometimes 70% off the price to make it a fair price  - I think sometimes tourists are seen as people to exploit and to make money off - I think maybe Bali will not be a little gem in a few years, but will be a place to avoid.  For now though I think its great! 
The next day May 25Th - I had already booked a kayak and mountain bike trip in and around Lake Batur (the lake at the base of the volcano we climbed) It also happens to be Sabine's 30Th today - me and Floor go into their room and we sing happy birthday, while Aly has completely forgotten and had been milling around! We have a bit of brekkie and we wait outside to be picked up - As soon as they stepped out of the car it was completely obvious they were there to pick us up in their tight bright blue Lycra cycling shorts and bright yellow top - it feels a bit like going off to summer camp (not that I ever went there, but I think it would be like this!) We have an Aussie and a Dutch - Floor lets out a massive sigh when she learns the guy is Dutch - for some reason as with many people I met they hate meeting their own kind! So off we role - Aly puts in headphones for the journey but she is promptly told to take them out as the tour starts now! It really is Summer camp....
She tells us lots of interesting facts on the way to the lake and we had so many questions, it was good for someone to explain everything to us as we didn't have much luck with the locals!  She and her husband had been living in the village for 5 years, so were part of the village - everyone lives together and takes care of the children as a village, now they don't live in the village but in the south of Bali due to work, but they still refer to everyone in the village as their children, or mother, grandmother etc - they have been integrated into their culture.  So they had so much insight into the real traditional Balinese culture - as they lived it for years.  I should mention now, this is going to be a long blog - full of what I think is interesting and what I want to remember - so it may not be all that interesting to you guys reading!  We reach the area in the central mountains where the volcano sits high into the sky, and we re-live the climb - it really is high - and I'm sure we all felt another sense of achievement again looking at it standing there so tall!  She goes onto explain a bit about what the Balinese believe about the volcano - which I cant remember! ha ha - but I remember it being interesting....! We get out to the lake by carrying the blow up kayaks on our heads, like true Balinese! At times it felt like we were being spoken to like children, which was the only bad bit about the trip, but we bit our tongue and carried on with it.  I fess up that the last time I was in a kayak in Ha long bay Vietnam, I fell out - to my surprise no one wanted to kayak with me! - Floor drew the short straw! - we got in no problems! And we paddled over to our starting point no problems, actually we worked well together as a little team - Sabine and Aly on the other hand had a few difficulties and were weaving around all over the lake! We stopped  near the temple and with Mount Batur in front of us! stunning! - she then goes onto tell us what we wont read in any guide books - and explains you only know about what they want you to know about - so she tells us that this temple is very sacred and is host to several sacrifices throughout the year - Animals are considered lowest of the low in their culture - so they would often come down to the temple of sacrifice animals to the gods - they would throw in a cow, duck, puppy, and a pig I think in to the lake with a weight tied to them - we were all horrified - she explained that they would often try and save the animals they threw in, but did not always manage to - I asked if they minded them doing it - and she said no they just laugh at them - as the offering has already been made, so it doesn't matter what happens after - she then told us of a time when the volcano was erupting, so they decided to sacrifice animals into the volcano - and it just so happens that the volcano stopped erupting, so now, they believe this is what they have to do.  She tells me this is the only thing she does not like or follow about Balinese culture, as they consider themselves to live and follow a Balinese lifestyle.  We finish our kayak after having a picture taken with us and the volcano in the background.She also tells us about another shocking event that happened in their village - in the year 2000 a good proportion of the village died of starvation due to a drought - in the year 2000! This shocks me so much - she goes on to say a road to this part of Bali was only recently built, and because the Balinese never felt the need to store food, alot died - some of the people before this happened fled to the south of Bali for work and were supposed to go back  to bring food and money back to their families but they never did - so their families starved - and they didn't know about the drought that it was happening - when some of them did go back, they found their families dead in their homes - The Bali bombing happened In 2002 in Kuta with over 200 dead - the local villages believed that this was an act of god punishing them because their people never returned to the village - they went to the temple to beg forgiveness and made a promise that those who left will promise to come back every year - these people did for a time, but then each year, less and less of them returned, then in 2005, more bombs went off - again they believed that it was because they broke their promise so they again begged for forgiveness - many of the people that were in Kuta fled back to this village scared - knowing better that it was the result of terrorism - but were also scared that it could be the work of their god punishing them - many of these people now work as volcano tour guides - as they were used to working in tourism in Kuta - but are too scared to go back, for fear of more punishment.I still cant get my head around that these people died of starvation in 2000 - and Bali is not a poor country, no matter what they try and tell you, actually I believe they are quite a wealthy country - it was just that no one knew about what was happening.We then got on our mountain bike and biked to the village - which is very small and looks like a temple actually - all the houses are bunched together and it looks very sociable! We meet her "children" and grandmother and see a real life village who don't make money out of tourism, they are not interested in tourism - they farm and provide for their village and find it difficult to understand why we are so interested!She goes through the stages of life - and the interesting rituals they perform - The birth of a baby is believe to be a reincarnation of an ancestor  - for the first 210 days the baby is not allowed to touch the ground! so get carried for the first 3 months - later in life birthdays are not significant and many people could not tell you their age - we were told recently alot of peoples date of births were guessed - for some kind of census - so were all given the 1st of January as their birthdays!!!! She also tells us about the high mortality rate in the first weeks of life - sometimes as much as 50% - they will not treat the babies or take them to seek aid - as they are thought to be "god like" and what will happen happens - she tells us of a time she asked a mother where her baby was - and she said baby died in the night like the most normal thing in the world, what we hear doesn't feel like we are in the 21st century.  I go on to ask about the medical provisions they have and health matters - she tells us as Balinese don't drink milk the kids have very bad teeth - she started to giver her kids milk-and they have the best teeth in the village now, Balinese are very short and petite, but one of the girls has shot right up - which they believe is also to do with the milk, one of the other children looked about 8 years old, she was 14 years old.  They have no vaccines, they have "witch" doctors as well as medical doctors - one of the girls was also pretty much blind, they flew in a specialist from Australia thinking it was cataracts, it was not, it was a calcium deficiency - and she has much better vision now.  The couple also reintroduced schooling, and refurbished it, she tells me this year, they have every child in the village enrolled, which is a first.  I can see they have put quite a bit of money into the village and to make it better - not that they mentioned money or what changes they want to make, but I could tell, there was more to it then them just being members of the community.Next when puberty is reached - everyone knows about it! - they hold a ceremony - and they get their teeth filed!  As it is thought that fangs represent a dog and demons - so they have to go! This is all followed by a big party! So we were told to look at the teeth of the people we were meeting to check if they are Balinese - as many Javanese come over for the tourism faining to be Balinese!
When death occurs it just means another life cycle - A man from another village cycles past and she tells us she is having problems with this man as he wants to take tourist to the place where they rest the bodies before cremation (which can sometimes be years due to costs) the only strange thing is, they leave the face uncovered - rotting - he thinks it would be a great tourist attraction! We cycle into the next village which takes us less then 5 minutes, the village is completely different, alot bigger and houses more spread out - a thought then comes to me - why did this village not help out those that were dying of starvation - the reply -  because they did not know what was happening, they had enough food, and thought everyone else did - no one ventured out to check.  We get back for a late lunch and get served up a fresh fish from the lake we just kayaked, people all over Bali come to eat this fish as it is thought to give you strength, she makes a point of telling us to remember that this fish in not a vegetarian (due to the animals being thrown in the lake) so are almost Piranha like fish! I wonder if the fish will give us any extra strength...  We get taken back to Ubud and we begin birthday celebrations!! First thing is first massage!! I get a pedicure and a head and neck massage... As Floor leaves to go back to Australia tomorrow, we celebrate mine and Sabine's birthday tonight we all get dressed up - I put on my maxi dress I brought in Melbourne, Sabine wears her brand new dress she brought the day before and Floor wears a sexy little number and Alice is foxy in red - we spot a nice little restaurant all lit up with fairy lights, and dine in there - wow the food was great - and not really all that expensive - the best bit is the chocolate desert - hmmmmm! We have only a couple of drinks, as we are all still so tired of the constant getting up early and doing all the activities, and we go to bed relatively early!Floor wakes me with a happy birthday sing song! After we have a little lie in - but its hard with the rooster squawking at UN-godly hours - sometimes at 4am..... actually I make friends with little guy - he always sits in the same spot on the wall, every evening he is there, and we have a chat...   We decide to go to the monkey Forrest, stopping along the way in almost every jewelery shop, much to Aly's disappointment, she is not a shopping kind of girl! I spot a lovely multi-colored precious gem stoned bracelet, I continue looking, just in case I find something better, I don't and go back to get it, as a birthday treat! I try and get the price down, but they were not budging, but really I would be paying 3 times as much back home, so I'm not too stressed, I love a good bargain though!  We enter the monkey Forrest, and see lots running around creating havoc everywhere they go! - we pluck up to courage to sit near them, and as soon as they get close, we jump up, not really keen on them climbing on us!  But we soon let our guard down and they soon start jumping on us, on our heads, one even puts his hands down my top! and one decides he likes my necklace and pulls it - luckily its on elastic! - there are very funny photos of all these caught on camera moments!  Sabine draws attention as a monkey gets her big water bottle from her bag and unscrews the lid and starts biting at it - then several monkeys want something from her, and wont leave her alone - she realizes she has sweets at the bottom of her bag - as soon as they are in her hands the monkeys are almost jumping on her - so she drops them and they fight it out between themselves!  they can be quite aggressive!We do a bit more shopping and then its time to say good bye to Floor :( I had such a great time travel ling with her - and will be off to visit her in Holland at some point.  To cheer me up, and also as its my birthday , I go and have hand and foot reflexology, ahhhhh bliss... hard work all this travelling!  We also have another nice dinner and a crappy tiramisu - Aly gives me the look of - "your not in Italy, don't eat Italian food" ha ha - this pops up quite frequently - she will not pay for an Italian meal outside Italy - she said she will just find faults in it all the time - so the suggestion of eating pizza somewhere disgusts her - I laugh at her so much!!! I have learnt so much about Italian culture in my travels! Sabine goes off to a meditation class, and we go off for a beer! When she joins us, we makes jokes about how she paid someone just to fall asleep, and think of nothing - she gets a little offended but quickly learns we are just having a bit of a giggle - we tell her next time, pay us, and we will sort it all out for her!! ha ha  We retire early again for the night, still being so tired!Sabine is energetic in the morning, she goes off for a yoga class early, while me and Aly sleep! I have now moved in downstairs with those two now Floor has gone.  We then plan to go and see a couple more temples - Sabine bends down to take a photo of some inscriptions on a pavement which is actually a road - I hear a scream, I turn around to see a car on her leg - after he finally manages to get off her leg, her ankle doesn't look good.  She is screaming in pain, and a crowd gathers, an Aussie doctor happens to be there, a doctor of what we didn't find out, but I don't think she was emergency medicine! she still gave us a hand though, and told me to get tetracycline rather than a penicillin as its not very good over here, we have a look at her leg, there is a large graze covering most of her calf, a few scrapes on her knee, but her ankle is the worse off, with only a minor wound, but the swelling and bruising is appearing before our eyes - she obviously feels sick and faint, so we wait a bit before getting her up - we establish no broken bones - I think - I mean I don't have x ray eyes!  When she feels able to get up, we load in the back of the car of the guy who hit her! and he drives to a clinic - we learn the international clinic is in Denpansar - a 3 hour drive - I ask to go to the nearest good clinic - She was clearly in a lot of pain - where is the god-dammed entonox when you need it hey? - I didn't evern have any basic meds in my bag to take a little edge off - after 20 mins of traffic we get to the clinic - to be told, the doctor will be an hour - fuck! - well, we out her on the bed, and I start to rummage through the supplies! - there is a little English on the packaging, I manage to find Saline, gauze, Betadine, chloraphenicol ointment, and some dressing, I find sterile gloves and tell her  - this is going to fucking hurt! - telling her I have to get all the dirt out - actually the wound was pretty clean luckily, the road surface was paved, and bot gravel - otherwise it would have been hell!  Just at that moment the doctor strolls in - I guess someone phoned her, as we arrived 10 minutes ago - she spoke good English and seemed to know what she was doing - she also ruled out a fracture with her x ray eyes! I let her carry on with the clean up - she done a good job, she gets to the ankle and wants to put a stitch in it - I say I don't thinks its needed - she says "better for me to put stitch in" - and I say "better for her, I don't think so" - Sabine cottons on to what we are discussing, and freaks a little at the thought - I explain her options - and say I would not bother doing it if I was back at work in the UK - it didn't need it - I ask her to steri-strip it and cover it.  Sabine tells me how grateful she is that I was there knowing what to do - I wonder if I can put this on my CV... or use it to prove to the NMC my practice over the past year!!  We get her back to our guest house and load her with painkillers and antibiotics.  Good thing we got all the activities out of they way first! - I think back to the fish we ate from the lake - helps with strength? - maybe it bloody did! - and possibly that she was stretching at yoga that morning so her muscles were all warmed up - anyway - she was lucky, so lucky! We bring her meals on wheels in bed - where the swelling is increasing - and set her up with my laptop and facebook to relieve boredom. The next day I just milled around in the markets, the day after we decide to head to Padaingbai - leaping point to the Gili Islands - Sabine is not overly keen, understandably, but this is also Aly's only time to see the Gili Islands, with only a few days left before going back to Australia.  Padaingbai is a shit hole - one night was enough - we had constant hassle as soon as we stepped out of the taxi - we set Sabine up in a bar while we go and look for a hotel, we eventually find an OK one.  Then we head out to find a boat to get us to the Gili Islands - there are so many - we want a safe one -I read in the lonely planet or the bible as Aly refers to it - about the sinking of a boat last year on the crossing we are going to do, with inadequate safety features on board, 3 people died and the other were luckily rescued by the luck of a near by boat.  Hmmmm - We go down to the beach to personally inspect the boats! - I see one with inflatable life rafts on the top - that is the one we will take I exclaim!! at only $30 return its cheap! and safe we hope...  we have bad luck with the shower that gives no water - so no shower tonight!
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