Danau Batur.

During my travels in Bali I was staying at my friend’s villa in Denpasar, so my exploration of the island meant daily trips back and forth from there. Jumping on my scooter early in the morning and arriving at my destination by noon became a standard daily routine.

Volcano swimming in clouds and surrounded by scattered trees growing through the burned rocky soil.

During February, in Southern Bali the weather smiled upon me everyday, whereas in Northern Bali I was greeted with heavy showers. Have you ever driven in conditions where you’re forced to slow your speed down to 10 km/h due to the torrential rain driving into your face and eyes and the chance that every passing car will cover you with the entire contents of the road? Calling it rain makes it sound as innocent as some tiny bunny peeing. It was actually more akin to being in the midst of Poseidon’s holy wrath, or an ice bucket challenge featuring infinite buckets. My jacket — which I had thought was waterproof — turned into a mop within minutes. Nevertheless, after bypassing a scarf selling scammer and paying my entrance fee (for visitors, not locals) I was standing in front of Mount Batur.

Mount Batur in all its beauty.

Mt. Batur is an active volcano, sitting like a pimple, just waiting to be squeezed. The last time this particular pimple erupted was 16 years ago and before that not for 200 years. Some people come here to hike the volcano, others come here to take in the view whilst eating in a restaurant. I wonder what happened to people who were at the volcano’s summit when it started to erupt and if the rescue teams looked for their bodies buried in the lava?

The flats and restaurants being built overlooking the volcano will provide stunning views across the landscape. Watching the volcano erupt at night would be a particularly magnificent spectacle.

Man on building site, working on a house with a panoramic view of the volcano.
Dump outside a restaurant and viewing platform which extends all the way down the hill.

One of the standard practices on Bali, which I found annoying, was garbage disposal (or lack of) around tourist areas in particular. It seemed like feeding tourists in restaurants and supplying them with plastic packaged products was the main priority, dealing with the cleanup could wait.

After visiting the viewing platform I made my way down to see the lake. Bali Danau Batur is the largest lake on Bali, it sits in the caldera of Batur volcano, formed 30,000 years ago in Kintamani. This highland area consists of several villages such as Batur, Penelokan, Bungkah, Toya and Kintamani itself. However, the huge mountain caldera of Batur has only three villages on its rim — Kintamani, Batur and Penelokan, sitting at 1500 meters above sea level and offering good views of Mount Batur.

The local inhabitants are quite traditional Balinese. The main occupations here are in agriculture and fishing. Fish are caught with handmade nets, fishing rods, harpoons and even by hand.

Boat and water pump on Lake Batur.
Local housing where people live and sell snacks and gasoline in old Absolut bottles.

The volcano’s surroundings look like a slowly dying landscape, with patchy grass creeping through amongst the charred black rocks.

Black and green landscape with a woman holding a colourful umbrella.

Danau Beratan.

The first thing I saw when I stopped to take a picture of the seemingly endless landscape from the Batunya hilltop was Bedugul Taman Rekreasi Hotel. The incredible dystopian look of the place grabs your attention, making it impossible to leave without checking it out first. The main gates to the complex were closed and a security guy was posted there, but I managed to get in by the back fence. This involved me climbing over a 2 metre fence next to the veranda and ending up in some tall grass next to a durian tree (which may have been full of snakes, who knows). The place reminded me of Tomb Raider jungle missions, in which civilisations have abandoned their habitats, leaving them to be consumed by the surrounding green forest.

The Ghost Palace Hotel
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However people don’t come here to visit the hotel, people come here to see the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan temple complex, which is located on the shores of Lake Bratan. I came here purely to see the lake itself.

Small colourful plastic pedalos.
Wooden jetty.