Set amidst the backdrop of Bali, Indonesia lies Mt. Batur, one of Bali’s active volcanoes. During our second day of sight-seeing, Trent and I had lunch at a lovely restaurant overlooking this gorgeous landform. Arrayed in hues of deep green, blue, and black, the volcano stands proudly next to the freshwater lake Batur that lies glistening at its side. Welcome to Kintamani, Bali, a lovely town with a killer view.
It was suggested to us early on, that if we were going to go to Bali, one of the things that we should do is climb this volcano. Neither Trent nor I had ever climbed a volcano before; mountains, yes, volcanoes, no. So we put it on our list of possible expeditions and began to look into it. Since our time in Bali would be short, we decided (as usual) to pack as much activity into our trip as we possibly could.
Our day began with our tour guides picking us up from our hotel. After watching a traditional Balinese dance and visiting all sorts of cool artistic, sacred and natural places (coffee plantations, rice terraces, temples, painters…), we headed out for this epic adventure. Our day tour was long and full- 11 hours of sightseeing and traveling, and to top it all off, I really didn’t feel well. We arrived back at our hotel around 9:00pm and had planned to hit the road right away. We had been told that Kintamani was about 2 hours away from where we were staying in Seminyak. We asked the staff at our hostel to find us a ride, and we discovered that a taxi was going to cost us an arm and a leg (about 60+ USD), so one of our workers called her brother to see if he would be willing to drive us. He was, and he would only charge us 600,000 rupia instead of the 700,000+ that a taxi would cost. The only catch… he lived an hour away. After much debate, we figured we might as well wait for her brother and catch a ride with him.
He arrived with his girlfriend/wife in tow and we hit the road. I tried to sleep while we were in the car knowing that sleep would be scarce and that we would be hiking soon, but the road was very windy and it was nearly impossible to sleep. After about 2 and a half hours, we were in Kintamani… but we had trouble finding our hotel. At this point it was nearly 12:30am… the tour to hike the volcano was going to pick us up at 3:30am. We weren’t going to get much sleep! When we finally found the place, everything was dark and locked up. We rang the bell, called the office, and made as much noise as humanly possible. It was much colder here and we had all of our luggage- sleeping outside under the covered restaurant wasn’t ideal, but it looked to be our only option. We tried to get our ride to leave us so that they could get back home, but in true Balinese form, they had to make sure we were okay and situated before they left. Thankfully they hung around, because I guess we finally made enough noise to rouse the owner and his wife (and at least one cranky neighbor…oops!). He came out and they translated for us that we had already booked and paid for the night at their hotel, could we please get our room? He groggily fished out a key for us and we dragged our tired selves to our beds. The hotel was nice enough, very simple, but efficient. The only problem we had was that after a full day of sightseeing, our phones and my camera were all on their last leg of power. The hotel didn’t have a single converter so we couldn’t plug in any of our electronics. This meant we would have to be frugal with pictures as we climbed the volcano (Noooooooooo….this is something that I am definitely NOT good at!). We climbed into bed just as the clock hit 1:30am and decided to try to sleep for the hour and a half before we’d have to get back up and ready to climb.
BEEP, BEEP, BEEP. Cursed alarm! 3:00am came way too soon. We got dressed and layered up because we had been told that it gets very cold at the top of the volcano in the morning. Then we went outside to meet our ride. We didn’t wait for long before the car came to pick us up. We climbed in alongside an Aussie couple, Laura and Steve, and drove the 10-15 minutes to the foot of Mt. Batur.
It was here that we met our guide, Wayan. This is the third Wayan we had met on our short trip. We learned that Wayan is the name that they give all of the firstborn boys in Bali. He equipped us with flashlights and we hit the road. My stomach was still feeling pretty unsettled but I prayed for grace as we began our ascent. Everything was pitch black except for the starlight above us and the flashes of lightning that momentarily lit up the sky. We began to climb in silence, with only the bobbing flashlights to follow. The trek began through sand and then turned much steeper as we began climbing the actual mountain. As we climbed, we were serenaded by crickets’ songs and peals of thunder. Up ahead and behind us, and all along the volcano, we could see small bobbing orbs of light, illuminating the way to the top. The climb itself was exhausting (maybe more so because I was sick). We took short, frequent breaks to catch our breaths, and then continued our trek. Sunrise was supposed to happen around 6:20am, so we had a little over 2 hours to get up to the viewing platform. Our group powered through it and arrived ahead of schedule. By this point, my stomach was really hurting and I wasn’t feeling so good. While we rested, Wayan went to cook us breakfast- eggs hard boiled in the volcano itself (apparently it makes a good oven), and warm banana sandwiches (different, but not too bad). I ate what I could stomach and tried to drink plenty of water.
There were some young boys at the top, maybe 10 or 11 years old, who also climbed the mountain in the morning, except each with a haversack full of Coke and Sprite to sell. They weren’t the light, plastic bottles either, these were the heavy duty, glass ones. Trent bought me a sprite, hoping it would calm my stomach, and drank a Coke for himself (I know… those are probably the worst things we could drink after climbing and sweating so much). I choked mine down and went off to the bushes to try and take care of some business. I made my way back and as we waited, more people filtered in and we all sat down, hoping for an epic sunrise. Unfortunately for us, it was cloudy and rainy our entire time on Bali. The clouds made for an unimpressive sunrise, but it didn’t matter because the view of the lake and the city from the top was amazing.
It got even better when a bunch of monkeys meandered over. Now we had encountered some monkeys the day before that were unfriendly and aggressive to say the least, so we proceeded with caution with these ones. But it turns out that these monkeys were very gentle and friendly. Apparently the guides feed them often and know that they are pretty safe to be around. First they showed one person how to feed the monkeys, and pretty soon everybody was trying it. So Trent and I jumped on that bandwagon, seeing as monkeys are one of my favorite animals. We fed the monkeys pieces of banana and hard boiled egg and enjoyed watching them frolic around the area.
Eventually, Wayan rounded us up to go see the crater(s). The first one was the largest one. It was made by the volcano’s first eruption and it was HUGE. As we were looking at the craters, more monkeys happened on by. Trent had saved some extra eggs and had more to feed these guys. He ended up having several different monkeys on him (not all at the same time) and I got a turn too. It was pretty awesome.
Then Wayan took us to see the other craters on the volcano. He told us much of the volcano’s history. During the first eruption, the volcano killed 200 people in a town below. All that survived was one lonely temple on the outskirts of the lava flow- they now call this temple the “Lucky Temple.” Other than those people, there have only been a few other fatalities- a German couple who went hiking without a guide ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time because of an eruption, and one stupid lady fell into the crater after going foolishly close. She fell over 200m to her death. Then our small group trekked across the mountain to see a series of other craters left by previous eruptions, the most recent being in 2000. Wayan dug some shallow holes in the ground and we could see the steam and feel the heat rising off of them.
By the time we started back down the mountain, it was well after 8:00am. We had another 2 hour descent ahead of us and my stomach was screaming at me. Unfortunately, it made for a less enjoyable walk. We stopped to dump the sand out of our hiking boots and then started down. Most of the terrain wasn’t too steep, but when we hit the road (which was a different way than we had come up), it was super steep. Wayan started walking backwards and then we all followed, then he started snaking back and forth and again, we all followed. It was a comical parade of crazies descending down the mountain that morning. We all laughed about it.
Finally we made it to the bottom, and to a BATHROOM! Hallelujah! Being stomach sick on vacation is bad enough, but when you are climbing a volcano, it is even worse! We chatted with Laura while we waited for our ride back and found out that she just got engaged… like JUST got engaged. Steve had somehow stolen her away and popped the question on the top of the volcano at sunrise. How romantic, right? So we rejoiced with them and then chatted for the short ride back to our hotel. When we got there we ate a quick breakfast (I just tried to choke down some fruit) and then showered and tried to sleep for another hour or so before we had to check out of our hotel. On to our next adventure… Amed.