I'm early up, have all my panniers packed, and am sitting in the restaurant by 7am, feasting on a fruit salad and pastry buffet, waiting for my very tasty strawberry crepes to arrive. I'm in trouble with Juliet. For most of three weeks in Australia, we slept in a tent, behind bushes, at the side of the road. Here in Bali, I'm luxuriating in 4 star accommodation. Last night I slept in the largest double bed I've ever seen, (and I'd been offered a "very cheap price" on some Viagra), and Ju is at work in Chch..... I can see how she feels a little hard done by. (Brendon had been offered the Viagra first.....but not at the special price.)
Last evening we had meet Isabelle, and had a lovely meal at a beach restaurant. This morning we met the rest of our guides, and had a short briefing re cultural considerations while on tour. We are also joined by Tim from Adventure South. Then it was off in vehicles, climbing the 50km to the foot of the volcanoes. The traffic was pretty heavy, and the population thickly settled, but you have to remember that Bali is a very small island, 50km by 150km, and has a population of 5 million, so the drive took about 90 minutes. I was very watchful, aware that in just over a week I will be cycling along a similar route, with all my gear, heading towards Java. There are still loadsa big red and white flags of all shapes flying from yesterday's Independence Day celebrations, so it is very colourful.
After a long slow climb, we suddenly drop over the ancient crater rim, down a very steep windy road, and stop on the edge of a giant lava flow. I am convinced that I should perhaps leave Princess Fiona on the truck for the morning, and ride a mtb with nobbly tires over the rough lava and sand trail the crosses the lava flow. I think Fiona is happy with that decision, and it proves to be a good choice, as the sand is very soft in spots, and the lava extremely sharp and rough in others. A fun, but at times technical ride, justifying this trip being graded "beginner to medium skills".
The view across the lava to the volcano is impressive, as is the view over the lake, when it appears. Eventually we reach a small village, Kedisan on the lake shore, and are directed to a floating restaurant, where we partake in an interesting Balanese meal of fish, spicy green veg, nuts and several spicy chillies. They're a little hot for Lyn and I, but Ryan, Tim and Brendan, do a pretty good job cleaning up their plates.
Then I get to take Fiona for a spin. We are heading further around the lake to a small village called Trunyan, to see a temple, and visit a cemetery, where the locals are interned in bamboo cages under a special tree, that stops the bodies becoming smelly as they decompose. To get to the cemetery, we climb into a boat, and are paddled along the lake for 500m. The whole experience was a little uncomfortable for me. The bodies are surrounded by cooking pots and money, gifts for the deceased to tske with them, and the bones and skulls get piled to either sides of the cages, to allow room for new internment ......all a little creepy.
The road towards Trunyan is fun. Initially pretty flat, it soon starts to rise and fall as it skirts the hills on the Eastern side of the lake. And then suddenly there are two or three enormously steep climbs, and equally steep drops, reminding me of Bluff Hill, not as high, but possibly a little steeper. I am very pleased not to have my panniers or trailer.
We are offered the option to ride back around the lake, but are all happy to end the day with a ride in the vehicles, realizing that our hotel, Lake View, is in fact the building we can see high on the skyline, over looking the lake and volcano. Perhaps Fiona and I will attempt the climb tomorrow while the others walk up the volcano, Gunang Batur.