July 2018 - My perspective of the Mount Agung eruption - Matthew Walker

Mount Agung eruption Bali - my journey into the exclusion zone

Mount Agung, Bali

It's been a wild last 12 months over in Bali, I had only been living on the island for 5 months when Mount Agung showed it's first signs of volcanic activity. Coincidentally, the first signs of an imminent eruption were only a matter of 8 weeks after I had climbed and summited the volcano with friends, as you can imagine, I was just speechless. 

 You hear about the Ring of Fire in the media quite often,  but you don't actually expect it to erupt while your living in Bali for a photography gap-year. It was incredibly humbling to see the power and respect that this mountain had over the island. Many of the locals were continuously making trips out to the foot of the mountain, hiking a few hundred metres up to place Hindu offerings in hopes of protecting their families and possessions. 


Matt Walker - Photographer

During the heightened volcanic activity, I decided it was a great idea to venture towards the volcano. I was living in the south of Bali, located on the Bukit Peninsula at the time, located around 20km away from Agung itself. I had thought about a shot location and given the fact that the traffic and threat of police (a royal pain in the ass for any tourist driving/riding in Bali) I decided on a quieter location, Amed. Amed was located in the far east of the island, at least a 2-hour drive or near 3 hour motorbike/scooter ride. 


The photo at the top of this page was taken from Amed, a mere 7km from Agung. I had done some research on blast radius's and  and calculated that 5km would be plenty far enough away to avoid any kind of volcanic rock or lava landing on top of us. Oh and I forgot to say, I had dragged my partner along for the ride, which surprisingly, she didn't mind too much, as we both hadn't been to this part of the island yet, winner. The photo below shows our epic 'Go-Jek '(the Balinese version of Uber that Google has significantly invested in), three stage ride, taking us right beside the danger zone of Mount Agung.  


 At least our driver Ketut didn't seem to mind much , although he was a bit surprised when I told him we were going to Amed. Almost everyone else was fleeing from this area as we were driving towards it, many people were taking all the belongings they could carry, spare bikes,  housing appliances and even livestock if they had the transport for it. It was like we were in a scene from that crappy Harrison Ford movie, Dante's peak, I was just laughing the whole time. 


It was challenging to get good pictures of Agung just because of the sheer fact that the volcano was incredibly unpredictable as you can imagine. It was on high alert by this point, the whole island was bracing for an imminent eruption and almost all of the surrounding villages within 3km had been evacuated to nearby refugee camps or shelters. I decided to visit one such refugee camp while I was in Amed, taking basic food, water and non-perishables to the locals there and hoped to get some photos.


I was greeted by a number of children, most of them were just acting like it was a school-holiday, casually playing football and other games in the car park of the shelter. The parents, however, had an obvious feeling of nervousness, they knew something was probably going to happen soon, but the question was when. Almost all of them had to leave behind most of their lifelong possessions, having been told to evacuate a week or so before I took the following photos. 

We decided to go for a paddle out in some canoes we had lying around at our accommodation, luckily it was still a relatively epic view.         

It was an incredible experience from start to finish and one that I will never forget. Seeing the volcano erupt from such a close distance was truly breathtaking and I just wish I could have been there last week to see it erupt again with full force. Thankfully, as far as I am aware there have been no casualties during the multiple eruptions and hopefully, the refugees can return home safely in the weeks to come. 


Did you witness the eruption in Bali? Feel free to comment your story below and if you would like any information regarding accommodation in Amed, be sure to send me a message on Facebook or via email.


  You can read more of my blog posts below! Including a Free Backpackers Guide to Bali

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