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The mountainous region around Kintamani, centering around the spectacular volcanic caldera of Mt. Batur with its deep crater lake and bubbling hot springs, is rugged with high and wild beauty. Clean crisp mountain air and stunning views in all directions are what makes Kintamani one of the most visited tourist stops in Bali. Batur is a truly fabulous volcano, consisting of a ‘double caldera’ – one crater inside another. Nearing Kintamani, the land rises steadily towards an almost featureless horizon – with only Gunung Agung and Gunung Abang in view to the east. The volcano rim has a diameter of over 14 kilometers and down in the crater sits the blackened cone of Gunung Batur, surrounded to the right by the long, blue waters of Lake Batur, and on the left the lava fields created by relatively recent volcanic eruptions, and very fertile vegetable plantations.
The great size of the crater implies that Mt. Batur was once a much bigger mountain – perhaps as big as nearby Gunung Agung – which blew its top thousands of years ago. The volcano is still active – the last serious eruptions occurred in 1965, 1974 and 1994. Erupting from the lower west flank of the mountain and leaving a vast field of black needle sharp lava rock that is now harvested by the tones as building material. As I write this story in January 2010 the western side of the volcano has once again been closed by the Seismological Institute, in fear of further eruptions. Lake Batur, Bali’s largest lake feeds an underground network of springs throughout the southern central flanks of the mountain.
To experience Batur at its best, arrange a dawn hike so that you reach the top for sunrise. To cover the 80 km from Nusa Dua or the roughly 70 km from Kuta will take you a good 2 hours easy driving by car. Simply find your way to the main road to the airport and then follow the signs towards Kintamani. Once you reach the crater rim look for the turn off to Toyabunka where you will find hot springs and some accommodation. Then make your way to Pelayanan Pendakian where you find the Batur guiding association office, as well as a guide – which is compulsory. Unfortunately people in the region around Kintamani have a bit of a reputation of being aggressive and often not so friendly in the way they sell their services.
Several years ago the Gunung Batur guiding association was formed with the aim to escort visitors up the volcano and at the same time to keep the paths clean and well maintained. They actually do a fantastic job but unfortunately there is no chart indicating the charges per person and as such everybody trys to charge you as much as possible. I recommend that you pay Rp. 125,000 per person which is a reasonable price, and offers guides a fair income.
Start your hike around 4.30 am as it will take a good one and a half hours to reach the small warung that is located on the southern lower rim of the volcano. The first 30 minutes of the hike leads through vegetable plantations that are set within recent volcanic lava flows. The rich soil yields a good crop of tomatoes, corn, shallots and cabbages. The going is easy, gradually inclining towards the actual cone. This area offers terrific views in every direction.
This first section ends at a small shrine where your guide will place a small offering asking the Gods for a safe journey. Now the trail gets a lot steeper and occasionally slippery. This next steeper section will take roughly 45 minutes leading crisscross up the flank of the volcano.
By this time, the sun will have risen in the east over the island of Lombok with Gunung Rinjani towering over the island. In the foreground to the south-east is Gunung Abang and Gunung Agung close behind. Most visitors witness the sunrise from the warung and end their venture at this point and slowly descend the same way. However, as the warung is located on the lowest section of the volcano rim, keen hikers continue well beyond this point. Follow the rim eastwards for an easy 300 metres before the path ascends to the upper portion of the rim. This section is a 30 minute test of your stamina, as the trek is steep and in many areas rather slippery. Rewards in this section are countless as every metre seems to unveil better views of the immediate surroundings as well as the scenery in the distance. There is one more small warung located close to the highest point of the rim. Here you can stop for a well deserved breakfast of eggs that are cooked in the steaming hot fumes escaping from the earths interior.
The next 500 metres of the trek is definitely the most exciting section as it follows the edge of the crater rim. At times it is rather narrow and very steep requiring your hands for additional support. As you reach the western end of the rim the path splits in two directions. Either you follow the rim which will lead you back down to the first warung, or you part from the rim and descend sliding through the loose gravel towards the area where the most recent eruptions of Batur took place in 1994. As I write this story in February 2010 this section of the volcano has been closed by the seismological institute of Bandung, as all signs point towards a major eruption in the very near future. However, if this area is open then do ask your guide to take you in. This detour will take an additional hour and a half of comfortable hiking through extinct lava flows of past eruptions.
It will take you only an hour to get back to the starting point. However unlike on the way up in the dark by torch, it is by now between 8.30 to 9.00 am in hopefully bright sun allowing you to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. The first third leads down the cone of the volcano, followed by the second third across and past extinct lava flows, and eventually through the lower section that is covered by pine forest and vegetable plantations. If you are not the fittest and most adventures person, but still wish to experience the magic of a volcanic landscape, then Gunung Batur will reward you with a magnificent experience.
Bagging information provided by Heinz von Holzen