08.30 Departure from Balam Bali Villa
09.45 Arrival at Kintamani, view of the crater
10.00 Inside the crater near the lake
11.30 Lunch at a local restaurant and Bathing in hot spring waters
13.30 Visit to the temple of Tirtha Empul
14.45 Visit to the temple of Gunung Kawi at the bottom of a canyon
16.00 Return to the Villa
17.00 Arrival at the Villa or drop into Ubud
This excursion should not begin too late, in order to be sure of maximum
visibility on reaching Mount Batur, which rapidly disappears amid
clouds. It is imperative to depart at 08:30. To avoid increasingly misty
conditions with the heat of the day, we take you to this sacred
mountain directly. In volcanic terms this site is indeed impressive.
The Batur is a volcano topped with an immense ‘caldera’, a giant crater caused by an explosion or collapse of the magmatic chamber. The crater is 13 km in diameter! It is edged by a cliff, part of which may be travelled with the car. At a specific point, the lip of the crater culminates at 2151 metres, it is higher than the actual Mount Batur situated inside the caldera. A solid day’s walk is entailed for completing the route on foot. A picturesque if sinuous road descends into the caldera, for the third part occupied by the Lake Batur. You will see the special farming, mostly vegetables from cold latitudes, like onions, cabbages and even strawberries. Slightly towards to the West, a new volcano has invaded this giant crater, the present Mt. Batur, rising to 1412 metres, a volcano within the volcano.
Climbing Mt. Batur might rather be avoided in view of the mafia of somewhat less than pleasant guides. We propose rather a stay at the very nice and relaxing hot spring water, managed by the community of the villagers in Batur Caldera. Please enjoy lunch there: the fish is coming from the fish farm in the lake. A superb pool offers you the possibility to swim close to the lake, and to have an impressive view of the caldera from inside. The circular vertical cliff is almost 40 km long! Several pools give you the possibility to relax in hot water transported by bamboo pipes. The temperature of the water is 38°C. Entrance fees are 10 USD for an adult, and 15 USD if you include the meal.
Lake Batur is one of the sources of sacred or lustral water required for private ceremonies in both the family temples in Balinese homes and the temples of the Island. It is 300 metre-deep. The goddess of the crater waters is the feminine component of a religious duality, the masculine component of which lies with mount Agung discernible in the distance. The water temple was inside the caldera. However, the temple was in threatened during the eruption of 1926. All sacred shrines were dismantled and stored on the cliff of the caldera. Eventually, the remains of the temple were covered by lava, and decision was taken to rebuild the temple where the shrines were stored. Since than, the temple is no more inside the caldera, but on top of it. The high priest of the temple, the “Jero Gede”, is the most important priest in Bali. The goddess Herself designates him to this task. After the death of a Jero Gede, a virgin girl performing a trance dance gives his follower’s name. During the trance, she receives a call from the goddess, with the name of the following priest. The today’s priest has been designated in that way when he was an 11 years old boy.
After the Batur Volcano, you are heading to the temples of Tirtha Empul and Gunung Kawi, in the direction of Ubud.
Although occupation of the site may again be traced back a thousand
years, the present temple is relatively recent. All Bali regularly
converges on Tirtha Empul to bathe fully dressed in the temple’s sacred
waters provided by two ablution pools. Remain prudent in photographic
ambitions and you will be permitted to bathe with the appropriate
measure of sincerity manifested towards the Hindu religion. Bathe rather
in long shorts or sarong than in bathing suit.
These rituals are to a certain extent the Bali version of the Ganges purification rites practised by Indian Hindus. The reflection of the sacred river emulated here scarcely exceeds a few metres in depth. If you should in fact venture to the end of the brick quadrilateral enclosure found just upstream of the baths, you will see the spectacular gushing of the sacred spring, its bubbling stirs up the black sand around an expanse of aquatic grass and algae.
Visitors leave with vessels of sacred water, for their own devotions in household temples, and in order to bless the daily offerings made by the Balinese.
The temple is very active even further upstream. Do not hesitate to pass the gate and observe the highly choreographed and codified gestures of prayer: with the flower, without the flower, with blessed water, then with rice. Pray yourself if you feel like it, you will not shock a soul, and the priest in white will spray you with holy water. You will have no difficulty finding a Balinese to teach you the gestures.
On top of the hill still resides the luxury villa where Suharto would open his windows on the host of beautiful young girls bathing below. Since the dictator’s death, the villa has become a residence for Heads of State.
The temple of Gunung Kawi is splendidly lodged in the depths of a gorge penetrated by the Pakrisan river descending the length of a peaceful village specialising in bone sculpture and engraving. The village shops on the main route (before reaching the parking lot) exhibit fine designs, with “ethnic” jewellery, reasonably priced although of considerable quality. In order to reach the sacred zone, the descent must be completed by 300 steps. A succession of royal monuments, tombs dug out of the cliff-side, may be examined at a first site on the left. They are qualified as tombs but are, in fact, rather altars carved into the shape of ‘candi’ Buddhists. These altars commemorate the legendary king, Anak Wungsu and his wife queen Betari Mandul, who reigned over the whole island. This reign at the beginning of the year 1000 was marked by a very strong link with Java. It was in this period that a part of the Island’s religious system was established, organised around three temples: the temple of origins (Pura Puseh), the temple of the village (Pura Desah) and the temple of Death (Pura Dalem).
The visit continues on the other side of the bridge, with the enclosure of a classical Balinese temple, housing pavilions and pagodas. To the right at the end of the temple, a passage in the rock gives access to a curious collection of niches carved into the mountain face. To this day they continue to be identified as having been the cells of monks attached to some monastic institution.
Beyond the temple, lies a spectacular cliff from which sacred water pours through overflows into an ablution pool. Other ‘candi’ have been sculpted on the wall.
The visit may be pursued beyond this ensemble, as far as the shanty huts of a farmer who will serve you delicious coconuts that he gathers from local trees. Even further on, a promenade in the rice-paddies will lead you to a small but most refreshing waterfall. Return to villa or drop into Ubud.