In front of me, hidden behind the clouds, is the summit of a volcano. It has a sharp, conical shape. I don’t yet know that in a week’s time I’ll be walking around it. I look down. The huge lake is surrounded by mountains and the dense development of local villages. Floating on the lake is a temple, the Pura Segara Ulun Danu Batur. Directly translated, its name means ‘Water Temple on Lake Batur’.
I have the feeling that there are no other travellers here. There are no European restaurants, no noisy bars and no sandy beaches. But there are warungs serving delicious nasi goreng fried rice dishes. There are small cafes serving Balinese ground coffee. There are two grocery stores and one ATM, which generally doesn’t work. There is a rice paddy next to almost every house. After all, volcanic areas are good for agriculture. And every morning you awake to the crowing of roosters.
A family in Bali
Unlike other places I have stayed in Bali, my room does not have air conditioning, just a small fan on the wall. I chose to stay at the Batur Pyramid Guesthouse. It is a small place with only four rooms – mine is 16 square metres. The furniture is typical for Bali. There is a wooden double bed in the middle, with small bedside tables on either side. There is also a large table with a chair and the room has its own bathroom.
The guesthouse is run by Putu, the owners’ eldest son. Until recently he lived in Denpasar where he studied economics but returned to his hometown to start his business. His uncle is the driver and takes guests on trips. His cousins are responsible for keeping the house clean and cooking and Putu’s mother also helps in the kitchen. The construction of two more rooms is nearing completion and will include a large terrace overlooking the volcano and the lake. Next, Putu plans to build a glass restaurant for guests. The area is swarming with flies and there is currently nowhere to eat or spend time without being bothered by flies.
Daily life here is a sum of rituals. Every day Putu’s mother places offerings, called canang sari, in front of her house.These are small, woven baskets filled with flowers, snacks and burning incense and are how the Balinese people show their gratitude to the gods.
In the evening we gather on the terrace. It is located between the guest rooms, the kitchen and the hosts’ house. I sit here with Putu and his family almost every day. They teach me how to say ‘good morning’, ‘thank you’ and ‘have a nice day’ in Balinese. Other guests join us. An elderly couple from Singapore are sad that the weather is not good and they have only seen grey clouds at the top of the volcano. A young Greek woman urges us to visit Nusa Penida. A Frenchman who travels and works remotely is seriously considering moving to Bali.
The hospitality of Putu and his family goes beyond my expectations. “If you are thirsty, tell me or my staff and we will make tea or coffee,” he says. “If you’re hungry, we’ll cook whatever you want. If something in the room doesn’t work, tell me. We will fix it. You are my guest, you are in my house”.
Dozens of terraces, one view
Batur. Everything in Kintamani revolves around this word. It is the name of the area’s active volcano. At its foot lies Lake Batur, the largest lake on the island. Hundreds of people come to Kintamani every day, but they don’t stay long – one or two nights at most. They climb to the top of the volcano and move on. Those who do not want to exhaust themselves can enjoy the view from the terraces of the cafes on Raya Penelokan Street. There’s even a Starbucks!
One day in Kintamani is enough. I heard this from a friend on my first day in Bali. Don’t stop! Leave Ubud after midnight, climb the volcano before sunrise and be back in Ubud before lunch. There’s nothing to do there apart from the volcano, another adviser said. A good thing I didn’t listen to any of them.
Getting around the village is a problem for me. I don’t have a driving licence, so I haven’t hired a scooter. There are no services like Gojek or Grab, which are similar to Uber, in the area. Putu’s uncle, Wayan, comes to the rescue. He becomes my guide. It seems to me that everyone I meet in Bali is called Wayan. Later I learn that the Balinese name their children in the order of their birth. First child – Wayan, second child – Made, third child – Nyoman, fourth child – Ketut. What if a fifth child is born? The queue starts again and his name is Wayan too!
This Wayan has been leading expeditions to the volcano for years. He knows where the most interesting trails run and where the best viewpoints are. One morning we get up at 4am to get to one of them and watch the sunrise. At the top we find a group of girls practising yoga in the light of the red rays. As their efforts increase, so does the intensity of the colours in the sky. As the sun emerges from the clouds, an elderly man also climbed the mountain. Just like that, in the middle of nowhere, he put out thermoses of hot water and colourful cups and beganto sell tea and Balinese style coffee, complete with the grounds.
I also try one of the most expensive coffees in the world. I visit a local plantation where I watch the brewing of the famous kopi luwak. This is a type of coffee made from beans collected from the excrement of the civet. And to think that 100 grams of this coffee costs over €65… I don’t like kopi luwak. It’s too sour. I prefer sweeter coffee with avocado.
Be amazed by Bali
We arrived at Pura Ulun Danu Batur and Wayan puts grains of rice on my forehead, between my eyes. The Balinese believe this brings good luck and prosperity. Before entering the temple, I put on a sarong as covering the hips and legs is compulsory for both men and women. Pura Ulun Danu Batur is the second most important temple in Bali. It was originally destroyed by the eruption of the Batur volcano in 1926, however such was its importance that just a few days after the eruption, the locals decided to rebuild it.