Climbing Mount Batur

We made it! Cecilley and I at the top of Mt. Batur!

We made it! Cecilley and I at the top of Mt. Batur!

After being in Bali for almost a full month it was time to embark on a serious fitness adventure. As some of you may know Bali is famous for it’s live volcanoes (Mt. Batur last erupted in 2000, remember that?!) which have created quite the “tourist thing to do” in Bali. I’ve had a few friends mentioned they too went on a mountain trek to see the sunrise while visiting Bali, claiming it to be an amazing experience completely worth the very early wake up call. According to every Bali guide book Cecilley and I have come across each one also mentions it’s an activity not to be missed. Given that Cecilley and I are tourists (as much as we don’t want to say we are, we are) 1) we had to follow the guide books and 2) when would I ever hike a volcano again? But there was no way we were doing this alone. Both the books, and people before us, recommend hiring a guide to take you up the volcano (which ever one you decide to climb). Some are way more treacherous then others, requiring advance climbing skills to complete, but other are far more leisure so pick the hike that best suites your climbing capabilities and interest. Cecilley and I went part way, Mt. Batur is the third highest volcano in Bali. It’s crazy to think there are mountains even the people of Bali do not climb. I’d stay away form those ones.

So right from the comfort of our little home stay, which made it all too convenient, we booked our trek. Wayan (our driver and one of the many guys you can call to organize a mountain trek for you) we discovered later lives nearby and knows the family we’re staying with. How nice! Wayan was super and pretty hilarious. I’d recommend giving him a call if you’re ever in Bali, but before you do, do your research. Given this is a tourist attraction there are tones of companies to choose from offering different treks and a variety of things to do in addition to your climb. That being said there are also companies who may try and charge you a ridiculous price for a tour. Just be aware of that. For our trek, which included a pick up and drop off right at our home stay, a guided hike up the volcano (we had two guides to our group of seven), lunch at the top, water, and a tour of a coffee plantation (with lots of samples to taste!) and a stop to see the rice fields on the way home, all came to a total of 350,000rp each (that’s $35 Canadian). This was a good deal for what we got in return. Anything more is not worth it, unless more things are included. Again, just do your homework before going and don’t be shy when asking around.

At the time I had no idea of Cecilley’s love for hiking. To say I was a bit surprised with how badly she wanted to hike a volcano would’ve been an understatement (sorry, Cecilley, I have to stop doubting you!). Continuously talking up Vancouver and how much she loves the mountains and outdoors, you’d think I’d get it when she added climbing Mt. Batur to her Bali-must-do activities long before I even considered it. I wasn’t thrilled by the idea to be honest. For some reason climbing upward freaks me out. I have a fear of falling backwards then tumbling to my death. This is very dramatic, I know. In my head hiking should not be easy and requires way more preparation then just being able to walk. What about mountain hikers and the equipment required, throwing your body over boulders and around trees and things? And aren’t you supposed to be strapped into something? And carry a pack of some kind?! Not everyone should be able to do this. It’s like running in my early days, I just didn’t get it. But the idea of seeing the sunrise won me over. That, and conveniently I’m reading Wild┬áby Cheryl Strayed right now. I want to be just like Cheryl. And in so many ways I feel like the 26 year-old her.

2:30am Wayan – who was too awake and entertaining given the time, and perhaps was a little to comfortable driving the narrow Bali roads one many Bingtan’s deep for my liking (provided this was after the hike) – picked us and we drove us to the mountain meeting point, after picking up a few other people along the way. We were not alone but standing in the pitch black, a slight chill in the air, I felt so unprepared and completely isolated. I didn’t bring a long sleeve shirt, I didn’t have a flashlight, I was wearing my runners, all of a sudden this wasn’t a good idea. I was going to fall to my death on this mountain. I would tumble down backwards and plunge to my death. I couldn’t help but think this would be the end of me. Cecilley would be on her own from here on out, or I’d take her down with me as I fall. I really do have the wrong idea of what hiking means. But I do know hiking up a mountain is not something to take lightly. But for some reason people didn’t seem to sweat it at all. What gives? Why was I the only one freaking out?

Look at the fog roll in! Just before sunrise.

Look at the fog roll in! Just before sunrise.

Our group began our trek to the top and our guides were kind enough to loan us some flashlights (one for Cecilley and I to share) I made sure to grab it and held onto that sucker with all my might. Hiking in the dark made my heart race. Slowly one step at a time the gravel path began to incline, then steepened out as small boulders in the mountain becoming our handles and stepping blocks. I thought this trek was for beginners! No experience required… not true. Maybe it’s just me, but do not attempt Bali trekking without previous experience of some kind. But if you’re up to the challenge then go for it.

Each stop break along the way, I wanted this whole thing to be over. I wanted to be at the top, see the sun, get the hell off this mountain and be back at the home stay sleeping. But at the same time I wanted to enjoy it, but I honestly couldn’t the entire way up. Poor Cecilley trekking behind me blinded in the darkness because I was too afraid to give up the light or come to a full stop, for that matter, she was a much better trekker than I. Once we reached the first look off I was done. We had the option to go to the highest peek which was another 15-20 minutes to climb. I was quite content staying put, but Cecilley on the other hand was not.

Oh jeeze… fuck it. So I climbed.

Finally, watching the sunrise!

Finally, watching the sunrise!

At the top the view was spectacular, but I couldn’t enjoy it right away. Realizing I still had to climb down, this trek was far from over. As the fog rolled in we were swarmed by misty grey clouds that swallowed us whole and blocked our view from everything. It was a bit chilly at the top, but not for long. As the sky transformed from black, to blueish grey and purple, then bursts of orange and pink and red and yellow pierced though the sky as the giant glowing sun appeared beyond the distant mountain tops. I was silent. All the commotion of the people around me disappeared. My fear melted away and my breath was all I could hear. I was memorized by the beautiful picture before me as it unfolded. It was totally worth the trek. This moment. That moment on that mountain in Bali. I will take that picture with me forever.

Dam monkeys. These little buggers are not cute in the slightest!

Dam monkeys. These little buggers are not cute in the slightest!

And then a monkey jumped on me! Seriously. But this was on the way back down. After eating a lovely little breakfast (banana sandwiches and hard boiled eggs, yummy!) cooked and prepared by the heat and steam of the volcano we were standing on, we began our ascend (which, to my surprise, was not as terrifying as I thought it was going to be). It’s probably because I could actually see! On the way down we stopped at the crater – the gigantic hole in the volcano – and came face to face with monkeys. These critters are not cute by any means and freak the hell out of me. But feeding them was kind of fun. That’s until one jumps on you! Then the fun is over.

Reaching the bottom was like a breath of fresh air. But as I looked back and saw Mt. Batur from the distance gave me the feeling of “Ya, I climbed that.” Right then I was glad we did this. Afterward we thanked our guides, said goodbye to two lovely German couple we met along the way (hi Stefanie, hi Jens!), then made our way home, but only after a making a few pit stops along the way (one to the coffee plantation and the other to see some rice fields). Finally after all of that I was in my bed sleeping once again. That’s all I wanted to do after a day like that. Sleep! Then I would think back and enjoy the experience later.