When my alarm went off at a startling 1am I instantly regretted my decision to see Bali for all it’s glory. I had, what seemed like in the moment, stupidly signed up to climb a live volcano in the dead of the night, arriving at the peak in time for a beautiful sunset. I booked the Mt Batur climb through Bali Trekking tour http://www.balitrekkingtour.com/ and was greeted with the familiar Balinese smile in my hotel reception at 1:30am. It took 2 hours to get to the the base of the mountain and accompanied by a guide from the tour company and a local guide we set off on our exciting adventure. We started in the natural forest on the Balinese mountain, surrounded by houses, farms and temples. This was the easiest and most calming part of the climb. We left the blanket of the forest and started our ascent on the natural rock formation of the mountain.
Mt Batur is an active volcano which had its last eruption in 2000, wiping out an entire village and its residents. At the peak the enormous crater created by this eruption is visible and one becomes aware at just how powerful mother nature is. When you climb Mt Batur you are climbing a powerful formation that both creates and destroys life in an instant. Locals know that they are living on a ticking time bomb but the incredibly fertile soil is worth the risk. You become very in touch with nature with each grueling step and struggle that you overcome. The climb is not the easiest. You will need to have a reasonable level of fitness. I have hiked many mountains, volcanoes and canyons in my life and I can honestly say this was the hardest. That being said, when you finally make it to the top and are able to take in the breathtaking panoramic views of Lombok island, Mt Agung (the tallest mountain in Bali), Lake Batur, the destructive crater and Bali Sea, the 1am wake up doesn’t seem so bad anymore. It is in that moment that you realise just how small we really are.
We made it to the peak in an hour and a half, however, we waited around in the cold for roughly an hour before the sun even began to rise so you have the luxury to take your time if need be. Because the mountain is active the local guide digs into the dirt and cooks a breakfast of steamed eggs and banana, and the steam is a welcome relief from the freezing wind rolling in from the Sea. When you are ready you start your descent, for me this was just as difficult as the climb, if not more. From the peak until you reach the forest it is a steep decline, part volcanic ash which makes you almost ski down the side of the mountain, the other part steep rock that is coupled with gravel. The guides are there to help, so don’t be afraid to reach out for a helping hand. They are happy to oblige.
To say that you are exhausted when you finally make it to the bottom is an understatement. There is not a single word to describe the tiredness your body feels, and nothing can prepare your legs for the soreness that follows for days afterwards. Although, every step that I successfully made put a smile on my face, an experience not undertaken every day that is truly a once in a lifetime adventure that needs to be high on your list of things to do when you visit Bali. The plus side is you have 2 hours to nap in the car ride back (depending on where you stay) and you return to your hotel around lunchtime which gives you the whole day to do nothing but relax, which is the greatest thing to do in Bali after all.
- Eat some breakfast and have some coffee to keep yourself awake it is a long drive to the mountain and an equally long climb to the top. It was roughly 4-5 hours before we even got our breakfast so I am glad that I packed my backpack with a lots of snacks.
- No need to weigh your bags down with water. The company provided a bottle on arrival at the base of the mountain and the opportunity to buy drinks is available at the top. In fact, someone hikes all the way up with you just in the hopes that you will buy a drink from them, you feel so compelled to do so. Besides you don’t want to drink too much that you need to go to the bathroom, there is absolutely no toilets anywhere.
- Take money to buy the drink from the companion, they quickly trek back down in the hopes to catch another group to follow up to the top. You will also want to tip the guides and driver. We tipped them 100,000 rupiah (roughly $10AUD) each.
- Take a jacket, believe me take a jacket! Take a very warm jacket. At the summit before the sun rose it was the coldest I had ever been in my life.
- If you feel a bit unsure about making this trek then investing in hiking boots and poles will definitely put you at ease. There were times both in the climb and descent that I struggled. It was steep and and very raw in the formation of the path. At times is was unsteady and slippery but every time I needed help the guide reached out his hand to help me. Every time.