We were staying in the small town of Ubud in central Bali, at a lovely little guest house down a back alley. The car picked us up at 2, so we had to wake up about 1:30 to get ready. 1:30AM! I only got a couple of hours sleep. We got in, and drove to pick up the rest of the hikers, who turned out to be a Finnish musician and his two teenage children, and a rather grumpy Dutch girl who insisted she just needed coffee. Our driver spoke no English.
We set off into the night, and after about an hour of driving on increasingly steep and treacherous roads we arrived at base-camp, where we had pancakes for breakfast. We then met with the Balinese woman who would be our guide. It was 4AM, time to start the ascent.
Pin it for later
Mount Batur is an active volcano about a mile high. It was once triple that size, but about 30 millennia ago the whole mountain exploded, leaving a vast crater with the smaller volcano growing in the centre. The path we walked was made up of rough, sharp volcanic basalt, and around the path prickly bushes grew. On one particularly steep climb I looked back and saw all the other groups dotted out along the winding path below us, the only lights in the night.
The climb was gradual at first, but the gradient increased seemingly exponentially as we walked, until after about 2 hours, we were nearing the top. The sky was beginning to lighten as we reached the area where we would wait for sunrise, and our guide went off to boil us some eggs in a hot spring. The eggs weren’t very good so we fed them to the feral dogs that live atop the mountains. As the sky got brighter we got increasingly worried because, after all this, the famous view was hidden behind a stubbornly grey sky. We sat there half-joking about how it would all have been a waste of time if the sky didn’t clear. All the while I kept an eye on the time counting down to sunrise.
Finally, the moment of sunrise arrived, and just as we were about to despair, the wind picked up and blew away the clouds, allowing us to see the sunrise, and the incredible view below.
The route down was more fun. The steep basalt had become a soft gravel that required a lot of delicacy and effort to walk down slowly. Janine fell behind with her slow careful steps. I discovered, however, that jumping down the mountain was very easy, with the basalt providing a perfect cushion under each leap. Not far from the top we found a family of monkeys eating bananas. They, like the people of the nearby villages and the mountaintop dogs, survive and thrive from tourism.