Climbing Mount Batur – For Beginners

Especially if you don’t want to die on the side on a volcano.

Mount Batur in Bali is an active volcano and the sunrise from the summit was rumoured to be the best in the world. So naturally, hiking in Bali was added to the list when I I found myself on the island for the second time that same year (2018).

We stayed in a cute little villa in Ubud – Duana Sari, and arranged a local guide to take us to Mount Batur.

Wake up at 1am

After a night of nasi goreng and Bintang, our alarms were set for 1am. Half asleep and still feeling the nasi digest, we put on our shoes and got dressed to hike this volcano. By 2am our guide was outside our hotel and ready to take us to Mount Batur. Fortunately, we made a quick stop for breakfast at 2:30am; banana pancakes and kopi. It was the ideal thing to wake us up before we started the climb.

The Base

Once we got to the car park, we realised the guide wouldn’t be accompanying us – instead – a bunch of Batur guides hurriedly flocked around us to escort us through the mountain trails. And so, we began our ascent.

At 3am, it was freezing at the base camp! But once you start your climb, it gets hot so you don’t want to be carrying too many things while you hike. Wear light layers if possible, there’s no need for jackets. My mom rented a thick jacket from a local vendor at the base, but regretted it approximately 15 minutes into the hike as she began to sweat and then had to deal with the weight of carrying that too. Our Batur guide was quite young, early twenties perhaps and had hiked the volcano several times that week itself. During a quick conversation, while we still had enough breath in our lungs to communicate, he mentioned that during his holidays he would work as a guide to Mount Batur and had come to know the trek like the back of his hand! When I asked if he doesn’t get tired of doing the same hike, his response was ‘No, I love it – the sunrise is different every single time.’

If I wasn’t motivated before, you can get bet your Nasi that I sure was motivated then!

The Hike

The terrain leading up to the summit varies quite a bit. The beginning is mostly flat but elevated with rubble, the mid-section is covered in volcanic rocks of different sizes and the last bit is soft volcanic ash that you need to trudge through. Until sunrise, mind you, you can’t see anything.

Our guide gave us tiny torches which helped us navigate through the dark. As dawn approached, we found ourselves closer to the top – or so we thought. Having already climbed a fair distance, we started to get a glimpse of the Lake Batur and the surroundings. The only issue was my family was lagging behind as my mom found it difficult to keep up with the pace of our guide. And where may you ask was this young guide that was full of energy and life? Escorting the foreign couple (who were much fitter than us) who were also part of our group. I decided to try to keep up with the fit couple and our guide as I knew there was NO way I’d miss that sunrise. Sorry Fam! But, half way to the top, my guide + the couple scurried along and left me. I was in the middle of the volcano, or rather the edge, completely alone with jello for legs.

I considered stopping and possibly dying by the side of the volcano but knew I had to keep going further up! In between, deep, hurried breaths and cuss words, I found myself at the top – and also that bastard of a guide. By then of course, I was covered in volcanic ash; from my knees below, my hands and my shoes were ash!

The Peak of Mount Batur

Alas, the view was nothing short of magnificent! Just before 6am, the golden rays of the sun start to illuminate the silhouettes of the mountains around me, and gave me a great perspective on how high we actually had climbed! A little after 6am, and the sun peaked. My heart fell and my breath quickened. I had never felt so great yet so insignificant at the same time. That feeling lasted about 3 minutes, before my view was completely blanketed by thick fog – or clouds – at which point it started to get SUPER cold. Minutes later, it cleared up and the sun had now comfortably started to rise above, clearly depicting the lake, mountains and the sleepy town below.

Breakfast on Mount Batur

Yep, that’s right. One of the fun parts of hiking in Bali was getting served a boiled egg and a jam sandwich on an active volcano.

It was almost 7am and my family still hadn’t made it to the top; fearing something might have happened – I decided to trek back down, only to find them ascending the last leg of the trail! Happily reunited, we took some pictures and started our descent back to the base with our jello legs. The rest of the walk back was on flat land; and there was an option to hop on a rather expensive moped ride back to the car park too. But our van tour guide met us halfway and took us back to the hotel. Thank god.

By 10am, we had showered and changed and enjoying a lovely, relaxing breakfast of Mie Goreng back at the villa. By midday, mom and I walked around the art market, our energy levels completely back to normal – especially after the giant king coconut!

*written in 2018

Yours truly,

Imperfect Traveller

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