Friday, February 26, 2010

Kintamani, Batur Mount & Lake

The area of north-eastern Bali at the Mount Batur caldera, and which encompasses Penelokan, Toya Bungkah, Batur and Kintamani villages, is known widely as just Kintamani. Kintamani, Batur and Penelokan villages sit on the rim of the huge Batur caldera about 1,500m above sea level, and offer dramatic views of the active volcano Mount Batur and serene Lake Batur. Toyo Bungkah village is down at the lake edge.

As well as the lake and the volcano, Kintamani is home to Pura Ulun Danu Batur, one of Bali's key nine directional temples. The main attraction for visitors is located around Lake Batur where Penelokan village provides spectacular views of this crater lake and Mount Batur, set in a vast volcanic caldera. Photo opportunities abound, but try to be there as early in the morning as you can manage before the cloud inevitably starts to gather.
Further northwest along the rim of the caldera is Pura Ulun Danau Batur, one of the most important temples in Bali. Entry is by donation here - Rp 15,000 is about right. The temple was rebuilt up on the caldera ridge in 1926 after an eruption of Mount Batur destroyed the old one down in the crater. There are a large number of shrines, but most visitors are drawn to the huge eleven roofed meru in the inner courtyard. This is dedicated to the goddess of the lake, Ida Batara Dewi Ulan Danau who is regarded as the controlling deity of the whole water and irrigation system of Bali. A virgin priestess is resident at the temple to represent the goddess, and she is served by 24 priests who are chosen as young boys and then keep the role for their lifetime. This is a strong example of just how importantly water and irrigation matters are regarded in traditional Balinese culuture.

You can visit the Bali Aga village at Trunyan on the eastern shore of the lake by boat from Kedisan. This is recommended in some guides, but first hand reports are frequently negative and speak of some problems. This is an isolated community and one which is not particularly welcoming to tourists, despite relying on income from visitors. If you really must go, catch a boat at the lakefront in Kedisan (or you can charter a boat from Toyo Bungkah) and make sure the price is clearly understood before departing, and that the entrance donation to the Trunyan villagers is included. When you arrive at Trunyan, the key attraction is the cemetery. Ancient customs retained by the Bali Aga here include the open burial of dead bodies in a pit covered by just some light cloth. If you want to visit a Bali Aga village though, then Tenganan near Candidasa is a far better option.

One of the best things about a visit to Trunyan is the views of Mount Batur from the eastern shore of the lake. This provides a very different perspective from the usual view from the crater rim. You can though get those same views by taking the small road around the southern edge of the lake through the villages of Kedisan (where there are a few simple places to stay and eat), Buahan and on to the tiny settlement of Abang. The road ends at Abang, a four wheel drive vehicle is more appropriate for this skinny and at times very steep road(but you can explore the eastern shore of the lake further on foot, all the way to Trunyan (about 4 km) if you are feeling energetic (you will be stopped by locals along the way asking if you want to go to Trunyan, they may even follow you and tell you that you cannot go there on foot and you must take a boat with them. Take plenty of water for the walk and be prepared for steep hills.

Climbing Mount Batur
A climb to the summit of Mount Batur - 1,700 metres and still an active volcano - to watch the sunrise is a great experience for more energetic travellers. This is an easy climb of about 2 hours, and local guides abound. You do not need to be in peak physical shape to complete this trek. Which parts of the mountain are safely accessible change according to local volcanic activity.

All guides will be members of the Association of Mount Batur Trekking Guides which has an office in Toyo Bungkah village, from where the treks commence. Book at the office or ask to see proof of membership to avoid problems later, and expect to pay Rp 300,000 to 400,000 per person. The association runs a cartel on climbing the mountain, and even if you have successfully scaled Everest, you will be harangued to hire a guide for this fairly low key, simple trek. While it is not compulsory, if you do not hire a guide you may be confronted at the start of the climb and the guides are known to become aggressive and confrontational. If you are climbing at night without a guide you will need a route map as you will cross many paths leading elsewhere and sometimes the correct path is the least obvious.

Use your common sense with the weather, but bear in mind that the paths become very slippery when it is raining, and climbs should be avoided altogether in the depths of the wet season (December to Februay especially).

There are two commonly used ascent routes. Both are about the same length, but by far the best is from Toya Bungkah itself, as more than half of the climb is through pleasant shady forest. See a map of this route which is also available as a GPX file for import into your mapping app. The alternative route from Pura Jati is across ancient lava fields, there is no shade whatsoever, and underfoot conditions can be harsh. Longer treks of up to 10 hours are also available. These get you right off the beaten path, and will appeal more to serious trekkers. One rewarding option is to scale Mount Abang on the south eastern edge of the outer caldera. Ask at the guides association office. To avoid the hassle of constant harassment by touts in the area asking high prices to guide you, book before you arrive in the area. Most hotels in the area do packages including accommodation in the area or book with your hotel and be driven up in the middle of the night.


C.Bali Tours, Front of Segara Hotel, Kedisan Village (Drive down to Lake Batur and turn left), [2] offer reasonably priced trekking tours and even offer the service of 'using their name' to avoid being hassled while approaching the mountain. Just tell the touts that follow you that you already have a booking with C.Bali and then pop into Segara hotel to get a fixed price package (packages include accommodation in their hotel). If you don't stay at Segara Hotel the C.Bali team don't mind, they are a Western company and don't like to see tourists paying inflated prices or being hassled, sometimes bullied.

Pre-dawn climbs timed to reach the peak at sunrise are popular, and also give you the best chance of avoiding the cloud which often envelopes the mountain from mid-morning onwards. From the peak of the mountain the views in all directions are quite splendid. The sun rises over much higher Mount Agung to the east, while the northerly aspect back towards the crater rim road takes in a large volcanic ash slope with several steaming, active cones. A popular little gimmick from the guides during the climb is to cook an egg on lava-heated rock. Fun, but also a stark reminder of just how active this volcano is.

 There are a large number of identikit buffet restaurants sited on the main road in Kintamani and Penelokan. These are aimed at tour buses. These restaurants offer fantastic views across the lake, and serve all-you-can-eat lunch buffets at acceptable prices. You could instead head for local food stands and other outlets close to Kintamani market and smaller restaurants in Penelokan.

Book This Trip, please click here