I'm here in Sunnyvale writing this and I look out the window. Ernie's Technical Automotive. Discover, Visa, Mastercard signs stick out. Gosh, in America, even a simple little auto mechanic place takes charge cards. Nobody in Indonesia takes charge cards. I remember an auto mechanic in Indonesia...
It was my second time in Bali. I sortof thought it would be one week but it ended up being two weeks. I was driving to the Mount Batur area. Big crater rim, you drive up to the rim, drive around the rim and take in the sights, then drive down into the crater and there's more stuff.
Well as usual I am surprised at how easy it is to drive to a completely different part of Bali. About an hour in the car and one close call with a tourbus, and I'm at the top of the rim. I ran into some kids just before the top, kids on motorcycles. They directed me to this hotel on the crater floor. I almost never have to search for a hotel, there's never a tourist bureau locating empty rooms, the informal system seems to work well enough. At least if you can afford the overpriced hotels, the 70,000 rupe hotels. (that's like 25 bucks.)
So I get up to the rim and I'm driving along the rim, past the tourbus restaurants. It struck me that I'd been here before.
big picture (two stiched together) showing mt Batur and mt Abang, and the lake. It's a wide view, too wide to capture with a cheap camera. Abang is part of the crater rim, which you can see the inside of along the center. Picture is taken from the top of the opposite rim.
I had one day left in Bali (the first time) and I wasn't sure if I was going to come back. And I had seen almost none of it. So I did what every desperate traveler does: I took a tourbus.
It was billed as "Temples and Volcanos". We had seen so many Hindu temples they were all starting to blur together. Little did I know at the time that there's like 10,000 Hindu temples in Bali. They're like churches in America. Not a big deal.
Anyway, they take us around all morning and past without lunch. They waited until the early afternoon, when we were really hungry. Then they took us to this place. You're on a ridge, overlooking two huge mountains, volcanos, supposedly.
Then they take you to this restaurant for lunch. The tourbus operator explains that there's two places you could go for lunch: the expensive place and the cheap place. Or something like that. The message is kindof garbled in broken english and the PA system in the bus. But he wants to make sure we go to the "right" restaurant.
You get out of the bus and you're beseiged by an army of souvenir sellers. The view is really spectacular, these two mountains miles below, and this one indonesian guy insists that I buy a chess set for twenty bucks. And he doesn't take no for an answer. The best thing to do is ignore him and walk across the highway to the restaurant.
We get there and the deal is this: Lunch, all you can eat, is 17,000 rupiah. That's pretty expensive. In a nice restaurant an entree costs between 2,000 and 7,000 rupes. From a street cart, a bowl of soup costs 1,000 rupes, and ten satay skewers, with rice, costs 2,000. But there seems to be no alternative, except starvation. We're trapped.
It's not that much in american money, but it's more of a principle. The indonesians serving the food aren't even getting rich off of this; it's probably some Chinese investor in Singapore.
We talk amongst ourselves as to what to do. This guy, he'll bite the bullet, but his wife will just not eat. I decide to protest, taking advantage of one of my unique strengths: my appetite. OK, seventeen thousand rupes, gimme lunch. I eat the equivalent of maybe 10,000 rupes, if bought from street carts. The food really isn't that good. I avoid the sweet and sour whatever, what the hell is this, this is indonesia, not china, where's the Gado-gado? Look, just have more of that noodle stuff, mie goring, the indonesians seem to be able to do that right.
A german couple leaves to try to go down the street and find some place cheaper. I resolve to never get a tourbus again.
Bad memory. OK now I had a renta car and I could drive to whatever restaurant I wanted and here I was, and I had a map and I understood the geography. I could see what was going on.
The "ridge" we were driving along was a crater rim, just the southwest side of the rim. The mountain on the left was Batur, a new volcanic cone growing up in the middle of the old crater. The mountain on the right was Abang, sortof a thickening of the crater rim along the south point. (On this map it's the brown thing behind the town of abang.) The crater rim itself is seven kilometers wide, so wide that you usually can't see the back of it from the front, so if you can't see it all the way around you never figure out that it's a huge crater.
Batur, in the center, has new lavaflows. You can tell because of the brand new black rock flows. Fresh lava is black, jet black. When it gets to sit around for a few decades or centuries, then it starts shredding into sand and soil and grass starts growing on it and it's not jet black any more. This new lava flow was only a quarter century old. Other eruptions this century smothered villages and stuff.
Well, when I got there I got into some mechanical trouble with my car, and I met this strange mechanic. Click here to read that story..
When I got to the bottom, all sorts of guides were trying to sell their services. But I found a better place to see the sunrise. Click here to read that story..
Later on I actually climbed up the volcanically active Batur. Dodging fireballs of lava I courageously made it to the top. Not really..
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