In Bali there are three important volcanoes, the greatest of all is Mt. Agung, everything about Balinese culture revolves around the location and power of this volcano. Second to Agung is Mt. Batur, our family favorite. Like most kids under ten, our son loves learning about volcanoes and inventing stories about them. He found out about the hike to the Mt. Batur crater and asked to do it with his dad.
Our son really wanted to do the early morning hike up to the crater to see the sunrise, we weren’t sure if he had the uphill walking stamina for it so his dad started taking him on power walks to get him ready.
They made a checklist with a drawing of Batur. They did 20 power walks before the hike on a full moon dawn. Big Kiddo loved checking off the walks with a green highlighter. A month later they spent a night at the foot of the mountain and hiked up at dawn.
That hike has a special place in our family memory of Bali and it’s made so much more special by the mythological story behind Mt. Batur.
Story of Mt. Batur and its powerful giant
On one of our family weekend getaways we went to stay in a nice hotel in Munduk, a beautiful mountain area in Bali. In the room, along with the amenities and fruit we found a cute rolled up piece of paper that said “Bedtime Story”; the kids and I were intrigued instantly. That night we discovered the story of Kebo Iwo and the legend of Mt Batur and it’s crescent lake.
The Batur double crater is inside a caldera with a rim you can drive around and at the base of the caldera is a crescent shaped lake that gets covered in fog in the early mornings. On the lake shore there are a couple of temples, most importantly Pura Batur; one of the most important on the island. The Balinese pay their respects to the gods in this temple but also to the spirit of Kebo Iwo.
Kebo Iwo was a “Hangry” Giant
A long time ago on the island of Bali, there lived a giant called Kebo Iwo, he was an essential part of the community, building houses and temples, helping with the crops and rice fields. Kebo Iwo was a large and powerful giant but kind of heart, all he ever asked in return for helping the people was food to eat, unfortunately feeding him was not an easy task; in one sitting he could eat as much food that could feed 1000 people. If ever he did not receive enough, he would become angry and violent, destroying everything in sight.
One dry season was particularly rough and the crops were scarce, Kebo Iwo became increasingly Hangry, wreaking havoc in the villages, eating the cows and even the people. The islanders were very scared and did not know what to do to keep the hungry giant fed, there simply was not enough food. After brainstorming, they came up with a solutionThe villagers asked Kebo Iwo to dig a great big well and find a water source to water the fields in the area. They told him that if he rebuilt the houses and temples he had destroyed, and then dug the well, he would have enough to eat for the rest of his days. Kebo Iwo was so glad to hear this that he rebuilt all destroyed constructions and started digging the well straight away.
After many days of digging, Kebo Iwo did not complain of hunger knowing that once the water source was reached, the villagers would give him all the food he wanted. The villagers were a sneaky bunch and were keeping watch on Kebo Iwo, once the hole slowly started to fill with water he fell asleep exhausted from all the digging. The people had prepared large limestone rocks around the hole and proceeded to bury the giant under them.
In his slumber he did not realize what was happening and when he awoke it was too late and he drowned in the water at the bottom of the lake that grew around him. All the earth he had dug up was piled next to the lake and that is what is now knows as Mt. Batur.
Eating Pancakes and Drinking coffee on a Caldera Rim
Some of the weekend outings take us to the Northest part of the island and usually on the way there or on the way back, we take the road via Kintamani and have coffee and a snack at the Lakeview Restaurant. We all love it because the terrace overlooks Mt. Batur and the lake.
The craziest thing about this place is that its usually quite cold and our shorts and t-shirts aren’t enough to keep us warm. The last time we were there, I ended up buying sarongs to wrap ourselves with.
I really liked this little bit of cold mountain weather, only an hour away from our constantly very hot coastal neighborhood. We’ve left Bali now and the stories we accumulated about volcanoes and hangry giants will stay in our memories forever.