Extra week in Bali

With lots of horriber stuff going on with Mount Merapi near where we were due to fly from and FCO advice saying not to go, we are doing a change in plan and staying in Bali an extra week and flying straight from here to Singapore even though travel insurance believes we should go to within 15 miles of a volcano exploding (more on this in the next post).

Currently in a lovely homestay called Tuwana in the north coast beach village of Pemutaren and will be moving closer to airport down towards the south in a couple of days. More posts when Internet connection gets quicker than a very slow snail…

Chloe vs the Volcano

We are keeping a close eye on Mount Merapi (a Volcano in the centre of Java) as this could cause a change in plans for our trip. Allan says it could be a fantastic photo opportunity but Chloe says (more sensibly) “I ain’t going near any damn volcano”.

Who will win. Guess.


Should have guessed from the green nature of Bali that it rains a lot. It does, fortunately only late afternoons normally. But when it does, get the banana leaves out, or more sensibly, as our Bali friend shows, a massive umbrella.

Allan versus the volcano

Having met a French Canadian/Swiss couple staying at our bungalows also wanting to do the trek up Gunung Batur, a total price of 400,000IDR (around £30) was hastily agreed with our landlady to organise a guide who would pick the three of us and take us to the summit at sunrise. Chloe, for some unknown reason, decided it would be better to not get up at 4am to climb a 1700m volcano. The smile should have given it away…

Sunrise from the volcano

First came the trek through the village of Toya Bungkah for 15 minutes, then trek through the thick woods for another half hour to get above the clouds, then the light grass for 15 minutes, then the pumice/volcanic solidified lava for the last hour and a bit to reach the rim of the volcano. All this on what must have been 1:4 gradient at the very least. There were a few stops along the way due to temporary exhaustion… The downward journey was a bit easier once getting under the clouds but still took around an hour and a half with a couple more stops.

After such exertion, I had to sit down for some breakfast – a boiled egg cooked in the steam of one of the hot vents. It took about 15 minutes to cook it it to perfection and it may have been the most welcome boiled egg in history.

In true Project Management style, my lessons learnt are as follows.

  1. When agreeing to share a trek with other people, just do a quick check to see if they are around the same level. For example, trekking with someone who was the first woman to climb a number of mountains in Switzerland can be fairly challenging.
  2. Check both guidebooks. According to the guidebook I didn’t read, it is possible to get to the summit by doing a half hour easier walk from a car park instead of over 2 hours trekking on 1:4 gradients.
  3. For all the aching muscles, it was so worth it. Amazing views, friendly and very encouraging/patient company. A sense of total achievement on many different occasions.

3 days in Toya Bungkah

Onwards from Ubud. After just over 2 hours drive, through the fruit farms of Bali we arrived at the small village of Toya Bungkah, situated on Lake Batur, the biggest lake in Bali and apparently is home to Dewi Danu the Crater Lake Goddess.

We stayed at a small set of bungalows – Under the Volcano III – very near the lake’s edge run by a family who grew their own vegetables and had a fish farm on the lake. Food therefore was probably the freshest around and was suitably delicious and cheap at 30,000IDR (just over £2).

Toya Bungkah used to be starting point for all trekkers up to Gunung Batur, but now seems to be a little struggling as better roads can get people to the designated 4am start from all over Bali and not have to stay in the village. Added to the fact that October is past peak season, it was very quiet (apart from very loud cockerels and dogs).

Apart from Chloe’s fear that the Volcano would blow its top during the night, the place had its charm, but is not really helping itself. A transport link up to the main town would help bring people in for the night and avoiding charging silly money to bath in some hot springs in the village would help to get the people in I’m sure.

The curious incident of the thing in the night time

Allan had to get up at 4am to climb one of Mt Batur’s craters, so we had an early night and, miraculously managed to sleep. At 2.30am, I awoke convinced there was something in my hair. Some fuss ensued as I shook my head and pulled my fingers through my hair to rid myself of the fiend. But I was mistaken and, feeling very foolish, we tried for more sleep. At 3am, Allan whispered in my ear, ‘Don’t move!’ and, by the light of the ipod, with my brain imagining all sorts of horrors, removed ‘the thing’. It was a couple of inches long and looked like nothing so much as a shiny, brown woodlouse (it wasn’t a cockroach) and it barely moved. I can only imagine that it was either on the verge of death or completely out of its normal environment, as everything else round here scuttles very fast!

Balinese Dawn Chorus 2

In an earlier post, I observed that some mysterious creature made a kind of snorting sound at dawn. I now realise that snorting is the hawking and spitting of people clearing their nasal passages in preparation for the new day. Kind of adds to the beauty, doesn’t it?

Hey hey he’s a monkey

Peter Reid

Baby monkey

To the Monkey Forest in Ubud this morning, to be alternately charmed and mugged by cynical, spoiled monkey troupe.

Paid a quid for some bananas which were ripped from our fingers within about 30 seconds of entering. Is this what tourists in Trafalgar Square used to feel like with the pigeons? Allan commented that the monkeys were cheeky, cute and well-fed in equal proportions, and that many bore a striking resemblance to ex-Sunderland manager, Peter Reid. Make your own mind up from his excellent photo.

Dreadlock(*) Diver

Well, after much patience from Jaka the dive instructor from BIDP Diving over the last 4 days, the Cow is now PADI Open Water qualified. Took theory, swimming pool and other tests on how to do emergency stuff, sign language and getting my natural buoyancy. The 2 dives I took earlier definitely helped but the four dives I took without being guided was freedom at last.

Two of them were in the shallow water of Sanur with a few fish and a lot of different types of eel, but yesterday’s trip to the wreck of the USAT Liberty was something else. Lost count of the types of fish, amazing coloured ones, whole shoals and forests of eels. Will bore everyone with a photo gallery at some point soon but no sharks yet, so Geordie Dave’s challenge is still on.

Can’t wait for the next dive, although more than likely it will be Thailand. Just now need to persuade Chloe to try it again!!

* As I have corrected a few people, I don’t have dreadlocks, they are Trinidadan locks care of those great people at Morris Roots, but the title scanned a bit better..

Old friends in new places

Just returned from visiting a friend from high school who I don’t think I’ve seen in 20 years. Allison (aka Alli, aka Allisya) from Drayton Manor! She has a beautiful son, Dylan, who has grown up in what seems like the best place in the world to be kid. He’s totally loved, totally open and totally secure – what a dream childhood it seems. It was very strange to think we’re both 38, and we compared notes on which bits of us are starting to give up and fall off (we both have some loss of hearing) and shared our last two decades as much we could in an hour and a half. I was very aware that though I’m on holiday time, it was still a working day for Alli, so I was really glad she was able to spare me a long lunchtime. So good to see her.