For some strange reason, Kintamani has remained pretty much a secret, and the reason why is a total mystery.
But Kintamani and Mt Batur are truly some of Bali’s most magnificent spectacles. The edge of the huge caldera was once the mountain itself, before an ancient explosion erupted the whole mountain away. In fact when you stand on the beach in Amed, you can see the blown off jagged mountain clearly and most distinctly. Sitting at the top of the world, Kintamani and the volcanic Mt Batur and its surrounding lake, is one of Bali’s most iconic destinations. Clear air and amazing views, make it a great place to visit, whether for a day or a week.
“Kintamani Batur Mountain”
Many visitors do come but they are bussed up to do the pre dawn Batur climb – to witness the spectacular sunrise from the peak while others come up, to bicycle down. Others stop for lunch on their way to other destinations, but none of these trips show much of what there is to see.
I like to start my Kintamani stints at the Lakeview Hotel which sits atop the caldera with views across to the lake and the sometimes smoking mountain – yes even mountains smoke in Indonesia! After a panoramic breakfast, which can last way too long, it’s nice to plan a few jaunts for the day.
Last time we joined a group to go to Trunyan – a Bali Aga village across the lake. After donning bright orange life vests and popping into little boats in the soft misty rain, we putted across the lake to the Bali Aga village of Trunyan – home to some of Bali’s original people. After a visit to the ancient temple, photo stops and a coffee break, we headed back to the boats and making our way to the piece de resistance – the burial ground.
The first thing that greets us at the entrance is a human skull with coins tossed respectfully around it. Inside the soft and shaded area we see a line up of skulls which got everyone’s camera’s snapping with great enthusiasm. The burial rites of the Trunyan folk don’t actually include burials at all, but rather the bodies are left under simple rattan frames to weather away – it is a real example of “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” in a literal sense. Shaded by huge trees in a steep valley, the grounds are kept from bad odours by the breezes that waft in off the lake, and the peculiar properties of one of the trees that is said to exude a faint perfume.
“Human Skull With Coin”
The place is not at all scary although it could probably be described as eerie. Basically, it is a benign and gentle kind of place, I would not want to be sleeping there in the night, when I am quite sure it is filled with the ghosts of earlier inhabitants- phew!
Back in the boats we headed across the lake to the Hot Springs where, after a big lake fish lunch, we washed away the detritus of the morning, in the soothing waters of the springs, relaxing with the view of the lake before us.
Batur is a giant crater that can be seen from as far away as Amed, where it appears as a truncated mountain. While it is not the biggest volcano complex in Indonesia – Krakatau, Tombora and Lake Toba were all bigger explosions in their time – it is certainly big enough and dramatic enough to warrant a visit. A new Geopark located close to the Lakeview Hotel, can give all kinds of insightful details into the country’s various volcanic explosions. It also lays out the park and the volcano to give a better understanding of the volcanic nature. Layers of black basalt, remnants from the last explosion about twenty years ago, can be seen running down one side of the crater complex and a back road gives viewing platforms to better see the volcanic activity, where lava flows frozen into fantastical forms can really give you an idea of the force of the volcanic eruptions. It is easy to imagine the scenario of flowing lava, and general mayhem that come with a major eruption.
Every three days there is a huge market in Kintamani town where all the mountain folk come in with their produce to sell and to meet up with old and new friends. It is rough and tough and very colourful. Here and there white Kintamani dogs can be seen belligerently making their way to who knows where. It is believed that the breed descended from some Chow-like breeds that probably accompanied some early Chinese settlers. The puppies are irresistibly cute and the dogs are hardheaded, independent and intelligent – but don’t try to train them! They have their own ways.
Kinamani is also known for its delicious award winning coffee and it is good to keep an eye out for some while wandering the mountains.
Another pleasure is a walk in the cool mountain air through one of the pine forests that surround the lake. With the drop in humidity that accompanies a rise in elevation, energy levels increase and a walk seems like the best thing you could possibly do. But for the unmotivated, a cool cocktail overlooking the mountains is already pleasure enough. It is otherworldly and is one of Bali’s best kept secrets.
Text & Photos By Ayu Sekar
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