Sunday, January 02, 2011

When a motorbike points at a Volcano

First we were warned of the dangers of driving motorbikes into the north of Bali with stories of corrupt police officers questioning licenses (solution: pretend to be unable to speak English and shove a 5 dollar note their way) or gas fillers disabling the choke and charging a small fortune to fix it; then we put on our helmets and headed north. We managed to spend at least ten minutes gazing at the very unimpressive Gunung Kawa (some stone statues) which may impress some, but pale in comparison to sights seen elsewhere in Asia, and waited out a rainstorm drinking free coffee (not the Lawak coffee though which is too rare for them to offer for free; reason being it is made of coffee beans that have been eaten and excreted by a local animal which give the coffee a very special taste apparently, and take a long time to find and collect) and tea at local plantations. In mid-afternoon we arrived at Gunung Batur.

At first, there was nothing to see. We were at the edge of a crater, and the spot where we arrived was shrouded in mist and cloud, but as we descended down into the crater we could see a volcano cone in the middle, itself covered in cloud. Finding a hotel, we immediately set off and ended up driving around the central cone on a poor road, but one that took us through the remains of previous lava flows which were truly impressive. There was evidence of off-road tracks that local youth must have great fun playing on up and down the rocks, but I managed to resist driving over them as time was getting on. We just about managed to get back to the top of the crater, where we had been several hours earlier, but now with the mist cleared, to get beautiful dusk views of the crater, the cone in the middle and the lake at one end.

The next day we hit a small path that went up the opposite side of the crater through numerous small villages and up very steep paths that pushed our motorbikes to the limit to get more stunning views. At the top we continued around the outside of the crater; drove back down to the middle and up again and headed back to Ubud, via more tea and coffee samplings. It was a fantastic overnight trip -the freedom of the motorbikes, the countryside roads and the small paths around the volcano were incredible; probably the second highlight of the trip after the smoking volcano of Bromo a few days earlier. To top it all off, as we rolled into Ubud we went down a side-street and ended up watching a cock fight. Both Dad and I were surprised the the fight was over so quickly. Then we noticed each Cock had a knife tied to one of its feet which explained things. Anyway, two fights, a lot of blood and some interesting video footage later, we headed back for a night in another incredible hotel-cum-house-cum-temple.

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