We arrived on Bali and made our way to the bus station at Gilimanuk. We were prepared for hassle, but actually the bus drivers were friendly, laughing and enjoying making up numbers as prices for their buses. It was good that we had found the real price online so we knew what was right. The first leg of our journey took us by bus from Gillimanuk to Singaraja on the North East coast. This bus is pretty official and semi-regular. We should have stopped there for the night since we found out that the bus up to Kintamani had already left for the day and there wouldn’t be another until the morning. With our next hostel already booked, we couldn’t give up quite so easily though. Instead we searched for a way to Kintamani and after a lot of ridiculous offers, settled on chartering a bemo to take us to our hotel. It was supposed to be a simple 55km journey, but upon reaching Kintamani everything started to go pear-shaped. Our bemo driver decided he wouldnt go any further than Kintamani unless we paid anothrer 100000 rupiah on top of the 200000 rupiah we had agreed. We shouldn’t have gone to Kintamani anyway because your accommodation was about 16km away. We argued that we had shown him a map of where our hotel was and he had agreed the price (to the hotel, not the village) so we weren’t paying him anything until he took us to our hotel. After a bit of back and forth to a translator we parted ways and gave him money to cover petrol. We hoped that all of Bali was not going to be the same.
Stuck in Kintamani on Sunday evening we could not find any form of transport despite the help of some lovely staff in the local convenience store. They called our hotel for us and after about 15 attempts we managed to arrange a pick up. The driver took us all the way to our hotel where the owner shepherded us into our room and told us to pay the driver 100000 rupiah for fuel. Bearing in mind that fuel in Bali is cheap (8-9000 in a petrol station), we doubted the fuel consumption over the 16km journey was that high and were a little shocked, but we still paid. We told the owner it would have been nice to know how much the taxi cost before we took it. His reply was that when you travel, you need to think and he became very unfriendly. After the day we had had, being implicitly called stupid and not welcomed as much as to be shown where the showers and toilets were, was too much. Zoë asked for an apology but the owners wife was adament that her husband would never say things like that as he was a very humble person and always showed his guests around. We made it clear that we were not happy to be treated this way and would leave in the morning despite the offers of driving us to a different hostel. The owners were aware that their place is 3km from the nearest village and 9km from any transportation but would not help us in any way and would not let us pay for the night we were staying. We went to bed with the alarm set early to get out of the trap.
The next morning we left and walked down the road towards the village thinking it was over and that we just had the challenge to get out. Sadly it wasn’t. The hotel owner followed us on his motorbike and began saying how he was laughing at us and that wherever we go we will get the bad karma that he is praying for us to get. We tried to tell him that the room we stayed in had a leak in the roof but he insisted he would knock the place down because we had stayed there. We gave up and walked away, at which point he got nasty. He drove his scooter into Zoë, grabbed her hair and tried to pull her over. We both turned and pushed him and his motorbike off the road and into a ditch. He jumped out of the ditch and tried to grab a stick to fight with while his driver, who had just witnessd the whole thing (he came to pick up some other tourists), picked up his motorbike. He told us it was his road so he could do what he wanted, but was obviously scared and not good at fighting. We walked away for the second time shaken by what had just happened and in need of some help. We still can’t understand why a man who was laughing at us and was so happy for us to leave would feel the need to follow us and try to run Zoë over.
We were in need of some help and kindness but unfortunately the area is very traditional and not many people speak English. We walked for a while asking for help repeatedly, but the only offer we got was one costing 500,000 rupiah for a 2km ride. Finally a man called Arsana stopped and asked us what was wrong in English. He offered to drive us anywhere but it was tough going up hills for his motorbike with 3 people and two backpacks. We stopped off when he saw one of his friends and called Dinda. He offered to drive us our next destination for a reasonable price. From that moment onwards Dinda was our friend. He took us to his home where he welcomed us as family with coffee and snacks. He introduced us to his family and only wanted to make us happier. He offered for us to stay the night for free before he drove us to Tulamben the next day. His generosity and his friendship amazed us and helped us get over our bad experience and most importantly we felt safe.
Dinda’s family were in need of a rest as Dinda, his wife and daughter all work on Mount Batur. They get up around 3am to climb the mountain with tourists and to set up a shop selling drinks. When they return around 9am they are in need of a rest. On the day we turned up they were going to a hindu ceremony to celebrate that a child turned 3 months old. We decided to go for a walk to clear our heads and let them enjoy their ceremony. We walked along the lake and admired the views of Mount Batur and Batur lake inside its caldera. Until then we hadn’t had the chance to appreciate how unique Mount Batur is. All around us were steep crater edges forming the caldera and a small lake and then Mount Natur rises up from the crater floor. Later Dinda told us that it will shortly be a UNESCO Geopark. We walked into the protected zone and across some lava fields. Technically, you need a guide to climb Mount Batur, but we were able to convince the guys at the entrance that we just wanted to walk a loop to a nearby hostel and not climb the mountain. When we returned Rene (Dinda’s wife) made us a tasty lunch and we relaxed for the afternoon while the family rested. That evening they lent us their scooter to drive up to the crater rim and see the sunset. The roads were a little windy but not too bad if you weren’t in a hurry. The sunrise was not spectacular, but the views were great and we bought some yummy fruit to enjoy. It was good for the day to be ending and our problems become part of the past.
That evening, Dinda had an important meeting with the mountain association so we went for dinner with Rene at the local fried chicken shop. She is a very interesting women to talk to and helps everyone. She told us stories of the people who get left behind by their guides on the mountain and how she keeps them warm with her blankets and coat. While we were eating a man came to the window and she ordered him food as he had been abandoned by his family due to mental health problems. Her selflessness and generosity were truly inspiring. She works incredibly hard everyday to save money and give her children the opportunity of a good education. When we went to sleep that night we felt incaredibly lucky to have found such kind people.
The next morning after their work Dinda and his wife took us all the way to Tulamben. The road was steep and the views breathtaking. We shared a hot and spicy balinese meal together at a roadside stall and all too soon it was time to say our goodbyes. We couldn’t thank them enough for what they did and we were sad to part. We can only hope that we have the opportunity to help them in the future and would love for them to visit us.
Maybe we didn’t really do Mount Batur but we overcame our own mountains of dealing with dreadful people and accepting kindness. We can’t recommend a trek to Mount Batur but we would say the area is beautiful and there are hidden gems like Dindas family and Arsana waiting to be discovered.