Mount Batur Trekking in Bali Island Indonesia13 March 2014
According to volcanologists a caldera is formed when the magma chambers of a volcano empty, causing the area that was not blown out to collapse. This happened not only once, but twice, -30,000 and 20,000 years ago. The highest point of the first caldera’s rim is Gunung Abang (2152 m). Inside the double caldera is a new volcano, Gunung Batur, a beautiful and tranquil crater lake at 1000 m.
Scientists may have their theories and hypotheses on volcanoes, the Balinese have their own story on how Mount and Lake Batur were created.
A long, long time ago a giant called Kebo Iwo lived on this island. Nothing is really known about him, who were his parents or from where he came. However, there is consensus among the Balinese that he had the temperament of a volcano-a creator and destroyer in one person. He built spacious palaces, gracious temples and, probably most important in Bali, sophisticated irrigation system. Ask him to do something, and it would be done in no time. He only asked for an enormous amount of food which could easily feed a modern-day battalion of soldiers. But in a wink he could become irascible and in his foul mood would devour dozens of people, just like that.
The Balinese, in their would view trying to balance good and evil, were tolerant and forgiving probably knowing that not all evil could be eradicated-up to a point….
Once there was a famine-the rice barns were empty and no food was available for the perpetually hungry giant, let alone for the people. In his fit of madness he destroyed all houses and palaces. When he continued to demolish the temples, the people were enraged. Just avoiding him was no solution. Pretending to make peace with Kbo Iwo was the start of the plot to defeat him. “We can provide you with food”, they proposed, “again if you help us rebuild our houses and dig a deep well so that we have an abundant supply of water.” As this sounded a good offer, he accepted. As he was finishing his task of rebuilding, the people collected more lime than was really required. Kbo Iwa noticed this and asked why. “Oh, we would like you to build yourself a house plus we need some more lime for a deep wee”, the people responded. Never having lived in a house, he fancied the idea of having one for himself. But first the deep well had to be dug. Using his hands he commenced his task with his bare hands. A month passed and no end of this arduous task was in sight. As climbing out of the well was a bit cumbersome at times, he often slept down in the well. One day when his snoring sounded like a volcano’s outburst, the villagers knew that the moment had arrived. They threw lime and water into the well. When he woke up it was too late….The mix of lime and water hardened. Whatever he tried was to no avail. Being buried alive was his fate. The mound of earth next to the well became known as Mount Batur and when water spilled out of the well, Lake Batur was formed.
Breath-taking views of the sacred Lake Batur and the surrounding region combined with a choice of four craters to visit makes Kbo Iwo’s mound a trekker’s paradise. Early morning is the best time to reach the summit, in time for the sunrise (around 6 a.m.). From the top, there are views of the highest Balinese volcano, Gunung Agung (3142 m), poking out from behind Gunung Abang.
There are a variety of trails which lead to the summit, so trekkers can pick and choose to meet their own needs and abilities. There is never any shortage of people offering their services as trekkers, it’s best to take a local guide. The shortest climb, which leads to Crater I (the highest crater) is from the north. Transportations should be organized to Serongga. There is a clearly marked turn off on the road from Songan to Toya Mampeh. From the parking lot it is around 45 minutes to 1 hour to the summit. There are no guides this starting point.
The most common trails to the summit are from the east. Two options are available. On the first, start from the parking lot in Toya Bungkah and set off in a south-westerly direction. For about an hour fallow a forested trek which leads onto a ridge which will eventually take you to the summit near Crater I. The last 20 minutes of this trail are rather soft sand so progress is slow. Be prepared for “two steps forward and one step back.”
About 30 minutes from the top a new path has been opened up apparently in order to avoid the sandy stretch. It zigzags up the slope until you reach the summit somewhat further to the north. At the ends of the two paths at the summit there are bamboo stalls serving tea, coffee and soft drinks, quite nice on a chilly morning. Roughly one to two hours are required for and ascent and 60 to 90 minutes for the return trip.
An alternative and much easier path starts from the village of Pura Jati, located between Toya Bungkah and Kedisan. It is difficult to miss the starting point as it is clearly indicated by a large billboard. This trails wanders through the 1963 lava flow, which is still conspicuous on account of the lack of vegetation, and leads to Crater II, the middle crater.
From the western part of the middle crater area, there is pleasant view of the active Craters III and IV; the latter recently formed in 1994. The hike from Pura Jati to the middle crater takes over an hour.
A steep path leads from Crater II to the two lower Craters III and IV. Allow around 15 minutes for this walk. There is also a trail from these lower craters to the east, which eventually hits the trail from Crater II to Pura Jati.
From the Crater II area you can hike up the steep southern slope of Crater I and then walk up the rim to the northern side. This part is only for fit trekkers not suffering from vertigo. A stretch of this rim is only 30-40 cm wide, with nothing really to hold on to and 150 m of very steep walls on both sides. Do not attempt this in wet conditions.
From those seeking a longer and more adventurous trek of about 7-8 hours, the east-west approach is recommended. Prior to starting out, it is essential to check that this entire route is open again since it was blocked following the November 1997 eruption. Starting from Toya Bungkah with a knowledgeable guide head towards Crater I as described above. Once at the summit, descend in a westerly direction to Toya Mampeh where there is another lava field, the result of a phreatic (side vent) crater with came into existence in 1964. This pitch black lava field is now mined for the porous pumices. From Toya Mampeh a trail winds upwards to the caldera rim and the mountain village of Kintamani from where you have a tremendous view of what Kbo Iwo had once created.
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