My legs were burning, sweat was dripping down my back and down the sides of my face, and I huffed and puffed like a pack-a-day smoker out on a casual stroll. Apparently we were at the 90% point and only had a small section of rock scrambling to go before we reached the summit of Mt Batur. It was dark and cold and I was considering stopping for one last break when I realised that I could see the top. It was only a couple of meters away. I pushed myself onward and pulled myself up the last lot of rocks.
Let’s rewind a little.
My alarm blared its faux gentle wake up call. I groaned because I knew it was 12:30 am and I’d only managed to grab about 3 hours of sleep. “Why are we doing this again?” my travel buddy asked.
“For the experience” I groaned as I dragged myself from the comfort of my bed. ‘For the experience’ had been our motto for the entirety of this trip and so far it had served us well, and this time was going to be no different. We were going to climb Mt Batur in the hopes of witnessing a sick sunrise. Mt Batur is an active Volcano located in the North East area of Bali, just north of Ubud. Mt Batur and Batur Lake are located in an ancient caldera that was formed thousands of years ago when a larger volcano erupted violently.
After we had dressed we double checked our day bags one last time and headed out to the reception to get our breakfast boxes and to be collected by our driver. Once we were in the car we tried to sleep. We’d initially been told that pick up time would be 2 am and that it would take us about 1.5 hours to reach the base of the mountain, so we were a little bit confused as to why our pick-up time had changed to 1 am. When we had asked why we were simply told “so you have enough time to get to the top of the mountain to see the sunrise.” However, soon after we got into our pick up car it became clear that the reason for our earlier pick up was because our driver was collecting another couple located in Seminyak, an hour away from our Sanur location.
The drive to the base of the mountain was uneventful, though I had to put in my headphones and listen to a couple of podcasts to drown out the sound of the car’s worn brake pads rubbing together every time we descended a hill or went around a steep corner. It’s strange the things that trigger your anxiety.
Once we arrived at the base of the mountain we were introduced to our tour leader; our’s was called Lumbuk, who distributed flashlights to the four of us so we could commence our trek. We were located a 1.5kms or so away from the base of the mountain and had to walk through local farms to reach the beginning of the trail, something I didn’t realise we were doing in the dark.
The trek began on relatively flat ground with only a mild assent and we were surrounded by tall trees and volcanic rocks. The assent quickly becomes more sharp as you reach the base of the mountain, but it is certainly tolerable. My travel buddy and I powered ahead until we heard our leader calling out or us to slow down, we were going too fast for the other couple on our tour and we needed to stick together. Once we reached the first check point/rest stop, our guide asked us if we wanted to take the hard way or the easy way, explaining that the hard way was much more slippery and included more rock scrambling, but the easier route was shared with the motor bikes which would ferry you up the mountain for the steep price of 500,000 IDR. While I would have preferred to take the harder route – it was after all, all about the experience – the other couple in our group were already pretty exhausted and wanted to take the easy way, so we did.
We continued walking up the mountain, I tried to reign in my speed, but honestly it was easier for me to go faster and to take fewer breaks since it put less strain on my muscles. And there is genuinely nothing worse than taking a long break during a climb since it just makes it harder to get started again. During our stop over at the second check point we met a local woman who walked up and down the mountain everyday selling drinks and snacks to tourists. She ended up walking with us and practically dragged the slowest member of our group up the mountain when she started to tire. It was from this second check point onwards that the presence of motorbikes became much more frequent. I didn’t like this part about the hike because some parts of the trail were rather narrow and had steep drop offs and the bikes always took the inside of the trail, leaving you to walk precariously on the edges of the trail. And while I couldn’t see the drop off very well on account of it being very dark, I was aware of it.
Once we’d picked up our extra leader (the lady selling drinks), our tour leader actually let me go a lot faster and actually walked with me, leaving the slower members of our group with the lady (I forgot her name! Don’t hate me for continuously calling her ‘the lady’ please!). He told me that most people take about 2 hours to reach the summit, though people have been known to take 3 or more hours. He also explained that the fastest time he’s made it up the mountain with a tour group was 45 minutes! I continued walked relatively quickly but I confess that the mountain was becoming more and more steep and I was becoming tired. It was during the last check point that it really hit me and I think it was because it was just before the steepest part of the mountain and was where I had the longest break waiting for the others to catch up. It was also here that our guide told us that we had reached the 90% point and we only had a little more to go.
Cut back to the beginning of this post.
As I said before, this was the hardest part for me as I was tired, my legs were burning, and there’s just something about knowing that the end is near but not being able to properly gauge exactly where it is. As I negotiated large boulders, scrambled over rocks and felt the light spray of occasional rain as I made my way through the clouds I saw the summit, pulling myself up over the crest…
…and I made it! In 1 hour and 20 minutes to boot.
The rest of my group emerged over the rocks shortly after and our leader guided us towards a bench directly facing where the sun would rise. I felt elated. It honestly wasn’t the hardest hike I’ve ever done, but it certainly had it’s challenges and I’d done it. After our leader set off to prepare us a breakfast of boiled eggs, banana sandwiches and coffee, I became aware of 2 things: 1) I was really sweaty and the wind was really cold, and 2) we were surrounded by a lot of clouds.
I handled the first problem by putting on my light jacket but I soon discovered that it wasn’t enough (honestly, it was just a long sleeved throw on from Kmart) so I wrapped my travel towel around my shoulders and torso and did star jumps and high knees with my travel buddy. The second problem could only be addressed by begging the universe to please make the clouds go away. Long story short: they didn’t, and when 6:10 am rolled by without a sunrise we knew it was over.
Our leader suggested that we start our decent since sometimes, if you can get below the clouds quickly enough, you can still catch a sunrise. Taking his advice we began our decent, ignoring his calls of “run down the hill. It’s easier!”
Once we were below the clouds we did get to see some gorgeous views. In fact, it actually took us around 2 hours to descend even though we did eventually start running because it was easier on our knees because we kept stopping to take amazing photos.
Once we reached the base of the mountain our group split up. The other couple was going white water rafting while we were going to the hot springs and coffee tasting.
Did you know there were hot springs in Bali? I didn’t, though it didn’t surprise me to learn that there were given how geologically active Indonesia is. The springs were located a 5 minute drive away from where the trek began and it was honestly the best decision we could have ever made. It was so nice to spend an hour soaking in the hot water after such strenuous physical activity, and I firmly believe that it is the reason why we could both still walk the next day. The hot springs are beautiful, and given they had just opened we mostly had them to ourselves.
Our driver then took us to a local, family run coffee plantation where we tried a variety of different coffees, teas and chocolates including chili chocolate, avocado coffee, ginseng coffee and mangosteen tea. We also got to try luwak coffee which is made from the coffee beans that have been partially digested by the civit cat. I had wanted to try this coffee in Ubud but had read a lot of reviews that described the cats being kept in cages as these coffee tasting places and being fed only coffee cherries which is actually bad for them. This local farm claimed not to keep them in cages (and I didn’t see any), instead attracting wild civit cats to their farm by planting heaps of fruit trees (which I saw heaps of) which makes up their usual diet.
Over all, even though we didn’t see an epic sunrise from the summit of Mt Batur, the experience is really what counts. The climb was challenging but enjoyable, the hot springs were amazing and the coffee was divine. If you want to do the climb (hopefully with better luck sunrise wise) you can read my guide on doing so here.
Have you ever done something on your bucket list that hasn’t turned out quite like you hoped? Did you still have a great experience or did you do it again? Let me know.