A BALINESE priest dubbed the "gatekeeper" of an erupting volcano has delivered an astounding prediction using "vision of the inner eye" over the fate of its next explosion.
Spiritual leader Mangku Bon made headlines in October when he trekked to the very top of Bali's Mount Agung volcano amid increasingly frequent tremors and earthquakes from the "pulsating" beast.
He calls himself the "guardian of Mount Agung", and most locals agree.
Mangku Bon ventured towards the volcano at an altitude of 3114m in an attempt to make a holy offering, stopping at a temple halfway up the mountain where he rested and prayed. It is the 33rd time he has made such a climb and the priest lives just 3km from the crater's summit.
At the top, he described what he saw including "gangs of apes" and a giant "hole in the crater".
"I have climbed and have surrendered to the ruler of Mount Agung, I am ready to risk whatever happens, including the face of death," he told NusaBali.com.
"If in the end I die at the peak of Mount Agung, my death is honoured."
Yet he discredited experts who believed an eruption was imminent and said he climbed the volcano "because I'm not sure that Mount Agung will erupt".
Since then, Mount Agung has proven a nuisance for Balinese authorities, who have already evacuated thousands of residents, some by force, from its danger zone. But four months of heightened activity inside and below the volcano is yet to produce a major eruption.
Indonesia's disaster mitigation agency said the volcano remains at its highest alert level but most of Bali is safe for tourists.
It's a far cry from 1963, when Mount Agung last erupted, sending a stream of molten lava, cascading ash, rocks and hot gas down the mountain, flattening homes and killing thousands.
"The earthquakes in 1963 were 100 per cent worse than the earthquakes we have experienced so far," Mangku Bon told Balinese-based Australian author Sharon Karyasa, who trekked to a private location to meet the man who she believes "protects the mountain".
"The revelations he disclosed are astounding," Karyasa told news.com.au.
Drawn to his "passionate beliefs", Ms Karyasa said he "was quite adamant that what he's doing is to protect the mountain - it's a message from God".
"What he believes in his heart is to save the world from this volcano. He's a beautiful soul. I feel blessed beyond words to have the privilege to meet with him."
During their conversation, Mangku Bon predicted Mount Agung would erupt for another nine months, yet urged "it will not be a big explosion. It will continue to be a slow eruption".
The next eruption though, may be a different story.
"The next explosion will be in 45 years (2062). The next explosion will be big like 1963."
"If it is a big explosion, I am praying that it is not huge and that it will not destroy the world. "I am only a human being and I cannot stop the process because it is the cycle of the volcano."
Though in recent days the Balinese authorities have approached Mangku Bon and requested "he not climb Mount Agung again".
The danger for experts lies in what little information can be gleaned from inside the roaring beast. There's nothing that says the next time it erupts it will be a repeat of the last devastating eruption. It could be smaller. It could be larger. But this volcano has a history of very large eruptions.
Emile Jansons, aviation services manager at the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) - a section of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology - told news.com.au: "A general rule in volcanology is that the longer between eruptions, the longer the rest period, the more time the volcano has to accumulate magma, and that energy builds for a longer period.
"Over 50 years there's a lot of material that has been melted and moved into that zone. It is potential of producing large eruptions."
If Mount Agung were to erupt again, Mr Jansons explained, it could be "truly devastating".
Mount Agung, about 70km to the northeast of the Kuta tourist mecca, is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia. Another volcano, Mount Sinabung on Sumatra, has been erupting since 2010. It most recently erupted on Thursday, sending volcanic ash 4km into the sky.
Officials say tourists on Bali, which had nearly five million visitors last year, are not in danger but they have prepared evacuation plans if ash fall from an eruption forces the closure of the island's international airport.
Indonesia, an archipelago of thousands of islands, is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.
- Mangku Bon and Balinese authorities warn against climbing Mount Agung.
- Australian travellers to Bali should visit the Australian Government's Smart Traveller website.
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