Before I start this blog I must inform you that I am in no way, shape or form a hiker but I continually insist on attempting to hike. Not just casual woodland hikes, no no no, I always go for the 3 day mountain hikes or in this case, a hike up an active volcano in the middle of the night! Mount Batur was a trek I couldn’t resist though, the one thing I wanted to do before I even got to Bali, so I wasn’t about to let a little walk scare me off.
As well as not being a hiker I’m not a morning person either. I can count on 1 hand the amount of sun rises I’ve seen, none of them sober, but this was well worth the early morning alarm!
We were picked up at 2.30am at the corner of the street in Ubud. All of us huddling together still very much asleep, none of us really prepared for what was in store. It took around an hour to drive to the base of Batur. It wasn’t until our driver pointed out the view of the volcano in the distance that the reality of what we were about to do sank in.
“Is the climb hard?” I asked innocently.
“No, easy!” The driver replied…
Now when you think of Bali you think hot sunny beaches right? Right! So you can imagine my shock as I stepped out of the car into, what felt like, freezing cold temperatures! A nice brisk hike should warm me up.
One thing that was made very clear to us when we first showed an interest in this trek was the fact that you are not allowed to hike Mount Batur without a guide. Well it’s not illegal and nobody checks but it is extremely unrecommended. 3 people died doing this not long ago…although they were wearing flip flops so not the smartest idea (actually sounds like something I’d do) We had 3 guides in total, 1 to lead, 1 in the middle and 1 to make sure nobody got left behind.
We had the light of the full moon to guide us but because of the tree shade it was still pitch black along the trail so we were given torches. A quick head count and the hike officially began. Aside from not being able to see where I was going it was pretty easy to start with, a small incline and a few rocks but nothing more than a brisk walk. 20 minutes in we stopped for a break and to make sure everyone had kept up and was feeling ok…this was when it all started to go wrong for me. I was talking to a few of the girls and realised I had left my asthma pump on my bed…you know, somewhere where I would remember to pick it up! Even though I didn’t need it at all right then the panic began to set in. I had had an asthma attack not long before I left for Bali and I didn’t really fancy a repeat halfway up a mountain.
“Pssh I’ll be fine” I said as the hike continued. It got a little bit steeper and naturally my breathing got a little bit harder but unfortunately my imagination got wilder. I had to take a break to calm my mind. Our guide saw me and stopped to check I was ok. “Asthma!” More of a statement than a question “take it slow, go at your own pace” He signalled to Yudi, one of the other guides, to stay with me. Amy walked with us too, she claimed that she likes to walk slow on hikes anyway but I think she’s secretly just a really awesome person and wanted to make sure I wasn’t on my own. Between the 2 of them they pretty much saved my life, and my pride, shutting down my doubt and encouraging my stubbornness so I didn’t quit.
I hadn’t read many reviews before I agreed to do the trek but all the Balinese people assured us it was easy and my boyfriend told me the night before that the reviews were good and it wasn’t difficult at all…they all lied to me! This is why I have trust issues!
Let me give you a little bit of factual information. Mount Batur is an active volcano which stands 1717 meters above sea level. To see the sunrise you need to battle a 2 hour vertical hike over rocks covered in very slippery volcanic sand and a sheer drop either side…easy peasy! The eruption that made this a visible volcano above the ocean is one of the most forceful across the earth. Once at the top it overlooks Danau Batur lake which is the largest crater lake on the island of Bali, it’s actually where Bali gets a lot of its drinking water. The last eruption from Mount Batur was in 2000 so I’m pretty sure it’s due another one soon.
*spoiler alert* I made it 😊
Of course to experienced hikers this would just be a bit of fun, even just active individuals wouldn’t find it too difficult. Since breaking my foot last year I haven’t exactly been what you would call active. I’ve seen my fitness levels drop drastically so this turned out to be one of the biggest emotional and physical battles I’ve had in a while. There was more than one occasion where I had to argue with myself to not give up.
The inner dialogue went something like this;
“Why are you doing this? You can’t do this! Look how frikkin high up that still is!”
“Shut up you can do it, why stop now anyways, you’ve started so you may as well finish”
“I’m gonna die up here”
“Don’t be stupid”
“I’m not f***ing doing it! I’m gonna sit here and wait for everyone else, they can show me pictures”
“Stop being a baby and just climb the god damn mountain!”
I use the words “inner dialogue” very loosely by the way, most of it was said out loud…very out loud.
Amy was amazing! So chilled and encouraging, and Yudi bless him deserves a medal. He does this hike every day so waiting for me must have been very tedious. He was so lovely, holding my hand at super steep parts and telling us cute little stories. I really wouldn’t have made it up there if it wasn’t for him.
We made the sunrise point in 2 hours with time to relax, set up our cameras and have a snack before the star of the show arrived. There was another peak we could have climbed but Yudi said “it’s same view” and we already had a good little spot, not too crowded so we happily set up camp.
I honestly have no idea how I made it but I have never been more proud of myself than I was at that moment. Amy and I hugged and congratulated each other, then when the sun began to rise we both just stood in silence taking in the beauty of the moment.
The colours were beyond amazing, like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The silhouette of the neighbouring volcano and the subtle clouds on the horizon were perfect and as the day began to break a stunning glistening lake appeared below us.
I’m sure many of you have seen a sunrise before. I know some of you have been left awed and speechless by it, maybe you’ve even watched it rise from over the ocean? I don’t mean to take the memory of that away from any of you, but until you have watched the sun literally appearing from nowhere over a mountain you will not know true amazement. Like watching a sunset in reverse the array of colours painted the sky breaking the darkness, followed by a giant ball of red and golden fire gently peaking it’s head out of the sky. There were no clouds for it to rise from, no rooftops for it to climb, we were actually viewing the Earths orbit around the sun.
I’ve never seen anything like it and I’m not ashamed to say it made me cry. The beauty, the feeling and the exhausted pride I had in myself combined to form just a single tear. It was the hardest challenge I’ve faced for a while but I did it and the reward was unforgettable.
With the sun very quickly warming us up we took a little walk around the Batur craters. These were just as breathtaking as the view we had just witnessed. There’s something about standing on top of an active volcano, staring down into a seemingly never ending crater that really makes you feel tiny.
Roaming around the craters were families of monkeys, much tamer than the ones at the monkey forest but still dangerous if angry. Amy can vouch for this more than I can as one of them decided that she wasn’t eating her boiled egg quick enough and bit through her arm to get it. This of course was followed by a mutual panic of the risk of rabies and we made the descent pretty rapidly to find someone who could help.
The walk down was nowhere near as tough as the ascent. It’s hard on the leg muscles but the slippery rocks make it quite a fun slide down, as long as you don’t look over the edge of course. Yudi stayed with us all the way and stopped to point out the old village at the bottom of the lake which had been devastated by one of the last volcanic eruptions from Batur, thousands of people killed and the village totally destroyed. Such a sad story which reminded us to never underestimate the force of Mother Nature.
When we got to our original break meeting point (where I discovered the lack of asthma pump) we saw the guide who had asked if I was ok in the beginning. He had waited there with a girl who hadn’t been able to make the climb. He saw me and looked relieved “you made it?” He asked. I nodded and he then went on to tell me the story of an American man who died of an asthma attack a couple of weeks ago at the top of Batur. He had pushed himself too hard and had an attack he could not recover from so now all the guides are extra sensitive to asthma sufferers. Part of me is glad he waited until the end to tell me that! He seemed quite surprised that I wasn’t fat, apparently the asthma stereotype in Bali is a big overweight sweaty American man 🙈
After getting definite assurance that Amy wasn’t going to be a rabid monster by the morning we made our way back to Ubud and had a well deserved 2 course breakfast in our favourite cafe.
Despite its unexpected difficulty this was an amazing experience that I am so glad to have stored in my memory box but I would recommend a bit of preparation beforehand, even if it’s just mentally preparing yourself. Learn from my mistakes guys xx