We were so excited by the prospect of seeing the mighty Mount Agung up close and personal, after glimpsing it from afar on our boat trip off the north coast.
On our journey from Bondalem village we passed Amed (one of the closest areas to Agung on the coast), where we saw the resulting lava fields from 1963’s eruption, as well as the planned channels for any future lava flows to ensure it flows to the sea.
As we climbed higher into the mountains, we passed old hazard signs, showing where the exclusion zones where in September (up to 6-7km from the volcano).
Arriving at our homestay, Pondok Bali, in Selat Duda, we were made to feel so welcome by Nyoman and his extended family. Our rooms were in the family ‘compound’, where 3 generations of the family lived. The beautiful carvings on the building were crafted by Nyoman’s father, by hand; they are so intricate and detailed, absolutely stunning. Here we learnt about how families name their children in order of when they were born, for example ‘Putu’ or ‘Wayan’ for the first born, ‘Madi’ for the second born, and ‘Nyoman’ for the third born.
Also working at the Great Mountain Views Resort (GMV), up a track from his house, Nyoman invited us to use the swimming pool and eat in the restaurant. The first day we went there, we felt the presence of the great mountain and its energy, even though it hid behind cloud cover 12km away.
The next day, we trekked through jungle and rice paddy fields (mostly in the pouring rain with leeches getting all of us!), to admire the beautiful surroundings.
Later, the rain stopped, the clouds dispersed and the sun appeared. Awe-struck, we finally viewed Agung. And what a view!
Nyoman told us that his village, and the surrounding area, has had little trade since the first eruption scare in September. It was so sad to hear how their livelihoods have been severely affected. At GMV, the place was empty, and had been for months, but the staff remained upbeat, happy and smiley. We can’t stress enough how blown away we were with attitude of Nyoman, the staff and the local people; they are such positive and warm-hearted people.
With one of the best imaginable views of the mountain, it’s incredulous that no one is visiting here! So it was that we decided to stay there a couple of nights, and watch the majestic mountain from our balcony like it was a television set, and keep the staff company for a while, whilst giving them some well-earned money.
Whilst we were there, Agung had its first ‘emission’, so we were lucky to witness the ash cloud start to spew from the crater.
At 3am in the morning, an immense thunderstorm woke us up, and we watched incredible lightening backlight the volcano, silhoetting the ash cloud in the night sky. Stunning!
Knowing that one of Albie’s topics in Year 4 back at school (“Hello!” to all his friends and teachers at Hove Juniors!) will be on volcanoes, his learning in context, at the heart of a community local to a volcano feels more powerful than it might in the classroom!
Lola and Albie shared their online research with the locals knowledge and experience…
We took daily walks around the village. The local people were so pleased to see us and greeted us so warmly, inviting us into their family compounds and onto their land to see basket making and the harvesting of rice.
When we left we felt heartbroken that the international media’s hype around Agung is affecting the whole of Bali, when in reality the locals feel the risks are confined to areas within a certain radius of the volcano. We have felt so safe the entire time we’ve been here, and we know that the locals will look after us whatever happens. Please visit Bali, and the areas away from the touristic south of the island – here lies the real Bali.