Archive for March, 2010

Climbing Agung, Bali Indonesia

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

It was a difficult decision, I had not expected to have to pay to walk up a mountain but everyone I spoke to said the same thing if you try and walk up Agung on your own you will be stopped.  The only way to climb Agung and Batur is with a guide, prices seem range from $30 to $100 US to climb Batur and then Agung depending on how good your negotiating skills are.  We took the plunge and got a good price to for me to climb Agung and then both of us to climb Batur the next day. 

Having packed some warm clothes and a first aid kit I was picked up at 11pm then we drove to Pasar Agung Temple, 1500m one of the starting points for Agung.  Agung as far as I understood means big mountain.  It is the highest mountain and Volcano in Bali at 3142 meters with its last eruption in 1963. At 2am and we started walking.  I was a little nervous, I had no idea as to what height we were starting from (at the time) and I did not think that i was going to be that fit.  The last walking we did was in New Zealand in October, nearly 5 months ago.  Fortunately the cycling had kept me reasonably fit, despite our time off in Bali.  Although the ascent was steep and we had to scrabble in sections i felt happy and strong. 

After an hour or so walking on a narrow path cut between the scrub we stopped for some coffee and food.  We had now left the scrub surrounded by rocks, moss and lichen.  As I sat looking at the island below me I felt a sense of peace and comfort.  I was meant to be here this was my environment, my home.  Some people go to church or temple to pray I go to the mountains.  I find peace and belonging here it is a place to think, sit, walk and play.  Sometimes the experience is shared and sometimes it is a solo journey that can bring back the balance in my life. 


I managed to lose my guide for the last hour allowing me to find my own path up the mountain.  I felt like a mountain cat scampering up rocky outcrops and over small gullies of scree.  I emerged at the creator rim energy radiating from within and greeted the people at the top.  The guides passed food around, us tourists took photos and made small talk.  I handed out some clothes those that were cold and then sat watching the sun rise above the far side of the creator rim.


Just over half an hour later we all started descending.  As we went down we passed a large group of Balinese people that had made a pilgrimage to the temple and the mountain, most walking in flip-flops and some in bare feet but all in traditional dress, sarong, waist and head band.

The decent was steep and slippery but I found my rhythm and started trotting down to the temple surrounded by sarongs, flip-flops and people chatting in Bahasa with the occasional hello where are you from. I reached the temple in a little over three hours and rested and stretched my legs before heading back to Kedisan for lunch and a sleep 


Practical Info

For those intending to climb Agung there are two starting points, one Pasar Agung where I started from.  From here it takes about 4 hours up and down.  The other starting point is at Besakih Temple 1000m, this is the mother temple in Bali.  From here the walk is about 6 hours and by all account a bit steeper.  As far as i could gather the finish point when starting at Besakih temple is the other, east, side of the creator.  This would give a different sun rise view.

If you are fit and walk regularly you should have no trouble with Agung.  If you have not done much trekking/hiking before then be prepared for a long walk and sore legs after.   If you are not sure then maybe do a shorter walk up Batur instead.  With any of these volcanoes and/or mountains in Bali remember that it will be a lot colder the higher you are so take some warm clothing for the top and breaks and some sun cream for the walk down in the sun.  Also check with your guide or tour agent how much food and water is provided you may want to bring extra.  No rivers or burger vans to stock up.


Happy Trekking/Walking/Hiking/Tramping depending where you are from!

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Friday, March 26th, 2010

We climbed Mt Batur, setting off in the dark at 4am reaching the summit in time for sunrise…IMG_4977



I must be getting fitter cos it’s the first time I’ve walked up a big hill and found that it wasn’t too hard, I could do it and enjoy it. Plus my knees didn’t hurt!


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Mt Batur

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

IMG_4860We decided it was time to get back on the road, we are still waiting to collect our visa extension/passports, but wanted to keep cycling and see more of Bali, so we headed up to Mt Batur. After saying goodbye to our host at Puri Asri Homestay we cycled out of Ubud. It felt nice to be back on the bikes again.

From Ubud we headed north to Tampaksiring, to see the stone carvings and temple at Gunung Kawi. It is all up hill and we went at a steady, slightly slow pace. We stopped along the roadside and children gathered round to ask questions and look at the bikes.

Set in beautiful fields of rice with big palm trees, a river and waterfall, it is a very peaceful place to be and the carvings date back to the 11th Century. It wasn’t too busy and we enjoyed wandering around.



IMG_4890 IMG_4889 IMG_4903



Afterwards we sat with a few local people and amused them by boiling some water and making tea by the curbside. We sat with our tea chatting to them and watching the children play. When we arrived the ladies tried to sell us sarongs and cold drinks, but we said no. Now, sat with them, we watched as they tried time after time to sell something to the smattering of tourists arriving and leaving. They didn’t sell anything. I wondered how they make any money – all the stalls and shops sell the same things and it’s all for tourists. But nobody seems to buy. Their wares are not even expensive, a beautiful sarong for 20,000 Rp ($2 US), but most people already have a sarong or bracelet or necklace or whatever it may be, there is only so much you can buy. We don’t buy anything, but we often chat and have a banter with them, joking that ‘we are very bad customers, we look, but never buy’ they tried hard and we still say no. We explain that we are travelling for 1 year or more and that we cannot buy lots of things to carry. They understand we think but then as we go they say, ‘maybe tomorrow you buy?’. 

I find it quite exhausting, because the goods they sell are beautiful, often hand-made, traditional to Bali, good quality – it’s much easier to tell people to go away when they are selling tat, but it’s all lovely stuff, and someone, somewhere has spent time making, carving or painting each item – I value their craftsmanship. On the other hand I feel that many people here just see us as ‘walking money’ rather than people. Even travelling on a tight budget, they still see us as rich, and in one sense we are – the fact that we can take a year off working and travel to many countries is not something that everyone can do, we are lucky. However that doesn’t mean we have spare cash to buy paintings, sarongs and bracelets in every village we pass through! I’d be interested to know how other people deal with this, do you just get just to it after a while and learn not to feel bad about saying no?

Once it was cooler we set off and continued to climb north. From Ubud to Penelokan we would climb 1000m over about 3okm. It’s gradual most of the way, with a few steep bits towards the end. It became apparent that tourists coming to Tempaksiring and up to Mt Batur always come by bus or car and do not sleep or stop to eat anywhere along the way. We stopped to eat in a village warung and we greeted with looks of surprise, slight weariness and then friendly smiles. We asked if there were places to stay, ‘no’ came the reply, you must stay in Ubud or Kintamani/Batur (19km north). We were losing the light and really just wanted a floor to crash on for the night, but how to explain that? In smaller villages people speak less English – not that we expect everyone to speak English, just that due to the tourism industry here, many Balinese people do speak very good English and it’s easy to be lazy and not make as much effort as we should to speak Bahasa. We asked a  few people and they all said Kintamani. Eventually we stopped by some grass and asked the people nearby if it would be ok for us to put our tent up there.They didn’t understand and after a rather funny 10mins, with various people stopping to see what was going on with the two English people on bicycles, a guy who spoke English arrived and we asked again. In the end Chris drew a picture of a tent and the penny dropped. He said we could stay at his place and use the shower etc. So we followed him a short distance and stayed the night there, not using the tent in the end.

Next morning we got up at sunrise and set off in the cooler air. I pushed my bike up the 2 or 3 steep hills and we stopped to rest along the way. We got to Penelokan around 10am and we’re greeted with a spectacular view of Mt Batur and the lake.



We stopped a for a short while to admire the view, but the numbers of people trying to sell you things and offer to be your tour guide for Mt Batur or place to stay grew increasingly annoying and we left to find a place to stay. Having climbed up we now whizzed down to the lake shore to the village of Kedisan and visited the 3 places to stay there, trying to negotiate the best price. We are now at Astra Dana, with a  simple room and bathroom with a view of the lake, for a good price. It is a lot cooler up here and for the first time in months I put my fleece on! Looking out at the mountains and lake, it reminds me of Scotland.

Tomorrow we will climb Mt Batur, setting of at 4am and arriving at the top (1700m) in time for sunrise. Today Chris climbed Mt Agung the highest mountain volcano in Bali at 3000m, but I will let him write all about that.

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Nyepi – Balinese New Year and the Ogoh-ogoh

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

New years eve or Nyepi in Ubud Bali brings out the Ogoh-ogoh, for the Ngrupuk parade  Each village or communities young people spend hours making these amazing statues that range from 5 –15 ft.  The Ogoh-ogoh are paraded around the town on bamboo platforms that take about 25 people to lift and carry.  Daring and skilfully the people carrying the statues move the platform up and down giving the creature a life like appearance.  They come so close to the people lined on the sides of the streets, but we never saw anyone get hurt.  One of the statues even had people on it as it was being moved up and down side to side.  When we arrived in Bali about 15 days ago we had seen these statues being created and the transformation from white shells to fully painted and decorated is amazing.  The young people that take part in this are immensely proud of their creations. 

The Ogoh-ogoh are representations of mythical beings and demons, at the end of the parade they are burnt in a cemetery as a symbol of self purification.  The next day is an enforced day inside for the whole island.  No one can go outside, it is a day for self reflexion and meditation.




IMG_4854 IMG_4838

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Cost of living – Bali & Lombok

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Indonesia is a cheap place to visit as a westerner, especially if you are just on holiday for a couple of weeks, however for those travelling for longer periods, it isn’t as cheap as the guide books say. This is mostly because the books were printed in 2008/09 and even though they are the most recent editions, prices have gone up.  We are living off £10 per day which is 140,000 Rupiah, this includes all our food, accommodation, drinks, snacks, water, things for the bikes, suncream, internet access, ferry crossings…

How much do things cost…  10,000 Rp = $1 US or 70p

Food & drinks

If you find and eat in local warungs and small restaurants, you can find reasonable, tasty food for these prices:

  • Nasi Goreng (fried rice) 10,000 – 20,000 Rp (70p- £1.40)
  • Nasi campur (fried rice with chicken, tuna, tofu, noodles) 15,000 –20,000 Rp (£1.05- £1.40)
  • Sate Ayam (chicken satay 8 sticks) 12,000 – 20,000 Rp (80p- £1.40)
  • Soto Ayam (chicken soup)  8,000 – 15,000 Rp (60p- £1.05)
  • Fried potatoes 9,000 – 13,000 Rp (65p- 95p)
  • Plain white rice 2,000 – 5,000 Rp (15p- 35p)

However in places like Ubud, if you go to the nicer restaurants, geared up for tourists and holiday makers then you can expect to pay 35,000 Rp for a Nasi Goreng, although the food may be roughly the same. Western food – burgers, pizzas, steak, chicken breast and fresh fish are more expensive and you can expect to pay around 150,000+ Rp for 2 people ( ie 2 main courses) to eat. Most places add 10% government tax and 5% service charge, most warungs don’t – the menu will usually say and owners are keen to tell you when tax is included to encourage you to come in.

Water – 1.5L bottle can cost between 3000 – 6000 Rp, sometimes more if you buy it with your meal

Coca cola – cheapest we’ve found coke is 4000 Rp, but many places charge you as much as 14000 Rp. It often comes in a glass bottle through which is nice.

Beer & Wine – we are not really drinking so we haven’t bought any beer or wine, however a small beer (Bintang) is about 15,000, large 25,000. Wine is expensive and there appears to be very limited choice (but perhaps we haven’t been to the places where they do offer more), starts at around 50,000 Rp for a glass. Spirits and mixers start at around 50,000.


We are usually looking for clean, budget accommodation with a ceiling fan and a cold shower (of somekind) for no more than 80,000 Rp (£5.60) a night. There are Hotels, Losmen ( guesthouses) and Homestays, hotels being most expensive and luxurious. However many of the losmen and homestays offer very good accommodation, with balconies, drying racks, table and chairs, flushing toilets etc.

Bathrooms seem to be the deciding factor and things seems to vary most here. Some places have a squat toilet and a mandy shower – big barrel or trough filled with water and a scoop, like a child’s bucket to use – where you pour water over yourself and down the toilet to flush, with a drain in the floor and no sink. Others have a western toilet, mostly flushing, a sink and a shower, sometimes a hose instead of shower head. Anywhere with hot water is expensive so we always have cold showers, but in the heat here that is most welcome. Some of the bathrooms can be a bit smelly, especially if the toilet doesn’t have a flush and you have to pour buckets of water down instead, but it’s not too bad.

Air con is more expensive and we prefer a fan as you don’t end up cocooned in a freezer that you can’t bear to leave – ever tired stepping out into the everyday temperature after being in an air con room! I think you aclimatise better with a ceiling fan.

Beds seems to range from small collapsing soft mattresses, to firm brand new mattresses on on solid wood bed frames to four poster bamboo beds, so it varies a lot. Many places include breakfast, usually banana pancakes, omlette or egg on toast, with fresh fruit – melon/banana/papaya, with tea or coffee.

Here is our accommodation breakdown:

balisandy cottages, kutaBalisandy Cottages, Kuta – hot water, bath tub, TV, air con, luxury room and balcony, beautiful gardens and swimming pool, massage, included breakfast, peaceful and quiet. Most expensive place we’ve stayed @ 350,000 Rp per night for 3 nights (1050,000 Rp) but it was a treat for us!

Sukawati Homestay – small room, dingy bathroom, comfy bed, air con, no breakfast, only place to stay – 130,000 Rp per night

Raja Bungalows, Sengiggi – basic room, high ceilings, shower, fan, clean, no breakfast, 2 nights for 150,000 Rp

Sonja’s Homestay, Sengiggi – small room, nice bathroom, stand-up fan, mosquito net (with holes so got bitten still), visiting rat, great breakfast and nice people – 140,000 Rp for 2 nights

padangbai Titra Yoga, Pandang bai- beautiful room, with 2 levels, downstairs hall area, with large wetroom style bathroom, bedroom with solid wood bed, very comfortable, fan, balcony, artwork on the wall, bedside tables and great breakfast, pancakes or omlette with fresh fruit. 400,000 Rp for 5 nights

Ubud – ok room, bit dark with smelly bathroom, uncomfortable bed, fan and nice breakfast 80,000 Rp per night

moved to Puri Ani Homestay, Ubud where for 5,000Rp more we have a four poster bed, furniture, big room, nice bathroom, outside area with table and chairs, nice fan in a more central location 100,000 Rp per night, we bartered for 85,000 Rp on the basis that we would stay 5 nights.

Total accommodation cost for 22 days:

2535,000 Rp =  £180 (approx)


Ferries- Lombok – Bali ferry (takes 5hrs) was 44,000 Rp per person, with our bicycles too.

Internet – 6000 Rp for 1 hour, 10,000 in some places. Many restaurants have free Wi fi, although they often prefer you not to Skype.

Suncream Factor 30+  – unknown brand 110ml = 80,000 Rp, Nivea 150ml  = 98,000 Rp

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