by Peter Nelson

For four days, we stayed up at Penelokan, a tiny village teetering on the rim of a huge volcano in central Bali.  One of the most awesome landscapes imaginable—stretching from horizon to horizon, an immense crater ten miles or more in diameter, with the northern third filled by a placid grey lake, two younger volcanoes jutting up blackly in the center, the most recent lava flow still a charcoal grey blanket smothering the surrounding green.

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The view from our room at a small lodge on the peak of the volcano.

 Evenings sitting on the long veranda of the losmen right on the very edge of the crater wall, the inner face dropping nearly straight down below us.  A hot lemon drink with a splash of coconut wine as the grey clouds deepen and mass together while the air in the valley turns purple and four or five tiny yellow lights in the tiny huts in all the immense darkness wink on like fireflies.

Penelokan, seen from below.  It’s quite a hike to get up there.
Penelokan, seen from below.  It’s quite a hike to get up there.
We scrambled down one morning to check out the inside of the volcano.  Imagine the noise a baby this size must have created when it blew up!
We scrambled down one morning to check out the inside of the volcano.  Imagine the noise a baby this size must have created when it blew up!

 Then, just before darkness, a heavy mist creeps up the sloping cone and spills over the rim into the crater, streaming over and down like a mile-wide foggy waterfall, until the crater rim is painted over, erased by smooth grey light.  The entire valley swims in the mist, and the tiny lights disappear beneath it forever.  The air up where we sit is chill and damp, as the fragile village is surrounded by an ocean of thickening fog.  A breeze blowing up from the crater valley sends us off to our bungalow where we light an oil lamp and retire to our plank beds in a nest of pillows and down.