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Published: July 25th 2006
Sunrise on Mars
A long exposure, slow film and wide aperature made it possible to catch the star and sunlight together.
Glorious morning with a fine blue mist over Danau Batur. Think I must have had nearly 12 hours sleep last night barring the interruptions from the numerous cockerals that seem to be just outside my window.
Yesterday nearly went horribly wrong: I'd set my alarm for 3:30am, thinking that Nyoman was to knock at 3:45, waking me for the morning's treck, however the agreed time seemed to have shunted to 2:45am and so in the rush I missed a much needed warm shower as the night had been chilly under the thin blanket.
I didn't really know what the plan was but we first stopped for water and suggary tea at a little shop in Toya Bunkah where I discovered I was supposed to catch the trecking bus to the foot of Batur.
Half an hour past and Nyoman started looking edgy, pacing up and down outside trying to spot the bus and reassuring me by saying 'Don't worry be happy!' repeatedly which was starting to piss me off. I don't do mornings, least of all mornings that go wrong. It was too early for me to think but I was a tad anxious that
the sunrise, (supposedly seen from the peak), was drawing ever nearer.
After much heated discussion with the shop keeper, in a blatant fob-off Nyoman offered to take me to another caldera nearby but I stood my ground saying I'd paid to climb Batur. He then said I'd have to pay another 50 US dollars for tomorrow's climb instead. The conversation was rapidly turning farcical. It's amazing that when you want to spend money, Indonesians have near-perfect English or at least understanding of what you're saying but when something goes wrong or they think they can pull a fast one, those skills just seem to vanish. I held fast, telling him 'No more money' and he slowly realised I wouldn't budge and so came up with an emergency plan.
Within seconds we were zooming off in the pitch black on Nyoman's bike, dodging early morning trucks with their sand cargo destined for Denpasar and arriving with a skid at the main trecking office in Toya Bunkah. By now it was already 4:35am and I was hurridly introduced to my guide - Nataur - and with only an hour and a half before sunrise, torch in hand, we set off
into the night.
I laughed when Nataur said that if we wanted to see sunrise, we'd have to run - it struck me as funny the thought of running up a volcano in pitch backness with only the yellowing light of a torch - except he wasn't joking and set off at a run.
How I managed to avoid breaking an ankle I'll never know, Krishna must have been watching over us that morning, Nataur, me and a boy of around 11 who was following us in the hope of selling me his cold drinks. If I'd been in a better mood I would have told him at the bottom that I wasn't going to buy anything.
Now, I'm not completely unfit but the race up that steep volcano nearly killed me. Fortunatly as it was dark I couldn't see how far I would have fallen if I misplaced my footing.
When we finally reached the top, (completing the hours' climb in a near-record breaking 40min), we were still shrouded in blackness with only the stars' and the dim light of the cafe, (yes, unbelievably there is small cafe on top serving hot drinks and breccy!),
to see by, but at least we were in time for an unforgettable sunrise.
On the way down Nataur mentioned he was climbing Agung in 2 days and that i could come with him if I wanted. We struck up a good deal and last night I stayed at the losman opposite his house in Toya Bunkah. He'd also mentioned something else that made my ears prick up ... the possibility of watching a cock fight that evening....
I couldn't have stood out more if I'd been wearing a Tu Tu with a large smoked kipper balanced on my head. There were long curious stares from nearly everyone, made worse when the flash went off on my camera in the middle of the cockfight bartering. I didn't realise until afterwards that the 'sport' was illegal, never mind the gambling groups playing dominoes and cards all around, but it didn't seen to stop the 50 or so Balanese throwing thousands of Rupiah at each other; wagers which amazingly the betting co-ordinator seemed to remember - since 20% goes to the cock owner, all money must filter through this middle man.
It was a mad experience. I didn't realise that a 2 inch long blade was bound to each cock's right foot, making some blows instantly fatal. I realise it's a cruel sport, especially from the perspective of the animal-loving English but I justified being there saying that it would have gone ahead regardless of my presence.
Tomorrow I'll conquer Bali's largest mountain volcano - Agung.
Tot: 0.096s; Tpl: 0.017s; cc: 27; qc: 117; dbt: 0.0179s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
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