It’s 2am and my alarm is going off. The guys in the room next to us came home, drunk (I assume), and decided to talk with their outside voices and listen to music. I maybe got 2 hours of sleep.
So why is our alarm going off at 2am? Well we are being picked up at 2:30am up the street so we can hike an active volcano, Mount Batur, and see the sunrise. Also, the volcano is too hot to hike in the daytime. Minimal shade and we were told the heat from inside the volcano can melt our shoes, though I don’t know how true that is.
So it’s 2:20am and we’re walking down our dark street towards the main street so our driver can find us and I’m thinking: If a tour guide asked me to walk down a dark alley at 2am anywhere else in the world, I would have likely told him to go to hell. Yet here I am in Bali and feeling safer than I would at home.
We find the Jazz Cafe and sit down on the sidewalk to wait. We can hear voices inside, obviously from some people who have been up all night and not gone to bed yet. I feel old since I can barely keep my eyes open. A few minutes go by along with a few street bikes, and then the guys who were inside the Jazz Cafe came out. One guy looks very confused and asks if we are okay. We tell him we are waiting for our driver. He apologizes for being drunk. We laugh and tell him it’s fine. He offers us a drink. We politely decline. He asks if we are hungry and says he is going to get rice and can get us some too. People are so friendly here. Where else do you meet someone on a quiet street at 2:30am and have them invite you in for drinks and food? He apologizes for being drunk again, then gets on his street bike and drives off to go get food… I hope he made it okay. I don’t know how frowned upon or illegal drinking and driving is here so I won’t judge.
Our driver arrived and there is another Canadian couple in the car from Alberta. We don’t say much to start, everyone just wants to sleep on the way there since it’s about an hour. The only thing I remember on the way up is opening my eyes and seeing 5-6 dogs in the middle of the road and our driver saying out loud, “They are having meeting”
We arrive at our first stop about 40 minutes later where we have a quick breakfast of tea or coffee and a banana pancake. Then back on the road to Mount Batur.
We arrive and meet our guide who will lead us to the top, Ketut. He tells us to use the bathroom now if we can. I’m too sleepy to understand.
Mount Batur is the middle of a 3-volcano complex known as the Batur complex. Mount Batur stands 1717m above sea level. Mount Batur was last know to erupt in 1804 but Agung which is south east of Batur erupted in early 2000. The volcanoes don’t always flow lava when they erupt and are considered mild. The latest lava flow can be seen from the village at the south west base of the volcano, Kintamani.
So you’re probably think, 1717 vertical meters, shit that’s a big hike. You would be right… if we started a sea level. The hike for us was actually only 686 vertical meters. Which is still a good climb. Our guide told me that the hike to the top and back down is about 9.5km.
Having read reviews on trip advisor, and having hiked a few volcanoes in the past, we prepared ourselves quite well. We packed a day bag with 1.5L of water, our rain jackets, sunglasses, camera and an extra long sleeve for Kristi because she’s soft. Unfortunately for our new friends from Alberta, they didn’t bring much other than water.
I have no idea what time we actually left or how long it took us to get to the top because I was still in zombie mode when we started hiking. I think our pace was a bit slower than normal as the girl who was with us had a sore foot from a previous injury. I have to say, she pushed through the pain and kept a good pace. All that really mattered was that we reached the summit before the sunrise.
The hike was flat for the first 30-45 minutes before we had to start climbing. There were a lot of people there. Our group was only 4 people but between all of the groups, I would say there were probably 200 people hiking up. For the most part, everyone was spread out but you would often pass people taking a break on the side and people would pass us when we were on break. The hard part was when someone would pass us while we were breaking then struggle on the climb and we basically climb slowly until they move over or the path gets wide enough to pass them.
The hike was good physical exercise and I felt myself winded a couple times but I think that was more to do with being on the tail end of this cough than the difficulty of the hike. There is nothing to see on the way up. I had a crappy flashlight that was good enough to see what was on the floor in front of me so I could choose my steps carefully but I could barely light Kristi up who was 5 feet in front of me. There are lots of people being nice to you and asking how you’re doing, then letting you know that sell drinks. Very overpriced drinks. I doubt they were cold since everyone just had backpacks. They probably wanted to sell them because their packs were heavy. This is why we brought our own water. At least some of them were funny as the call out, “transport” to get your attention. One guy said “helicopter” which we asked where it was and he replied, “oh… not here”.
We reached a lookout point near the summit where a lot of people decide to give up and set up camp for the sunrise. It was only another 20 minutes to the summit, I’m going to conquer this bitch. The girl from Alberta was considering staying there and her husband suggested that we go to the summit and they would wait for us to return on our way back. I told her she came way too far to not see the summit, she agreed. Kristi and I reached the summit about 5 minutes before them because I always get excited when I see the top and haul ass up there. I wish someone had “Eye of the Tiger” pumping when I got there because any time you complete something like that, you feel like a champion.
As soon as we hit the top, we put our jackets on. It was cold and the wind was not very nice. It was beautiful at the top. You could see the other volcanoes, a huge crater lake and if you looked far east, you could see Mount Rinjani on Lombok which is the 2nd tallest volcano in Indonesia standing 3 726 vertical meters. Then the morning clouds rolled below us and it looked like we were on top of the world. We hiked around the crater to a 2nd summit where our guide said he would cook us breakfast. He took our eggs and steamed them right in a crevice in the crater and made us banana sandwiches with the crusts cut off.
There were maybe 30-40 people at the top of that part of the summit with us, and I noticed everyone’s sandwiches had their crusts cut off. I found out why. Something we never expected to see at the Summit on an active volcano is monkeys. Yes, Monkeys! They come up in the morning for breakfast.
Of course we have always been taught not to feed the wild animals… those rules don’t apply here. The guides give the monkeys all of the crusts from the sandwiches. That seems to be their morning diet. Of course the monkeys are smarter than most of the tourists there so they manage to get ahold of a few banana sandwiches and eggs when people let their guard down. No monkeys were getting shit from me.
The sunrise was spectacular (pictured at the top) and though the sun was up, it was still cold in the wind. However, once we started hiking again, the jackets came off and we started sweating again. The hike down was nice and easy. We stopped to go into the crater a little bit and check out a cave. Shortly on the way down, we stop to stretch a bit. The guy with us started talking about how he’s had back problems and yesterday he had his calves massaged and now his back feels better. Having a kinesiology background (9 years ago) I start talking to him about how your calves and abs are posture muscles and properly building those muscles while wearing good shoes or orthotics will help any back issues he has because depending on how you stand can shift all of your weight onto your lumbar spine and cause pain. He went kind of quiet and didn’t say much. Half an hour later we were chatting and I learned that he is a personal trainer back home and here I was lecturing him like some know-it-all asshole as if he didn’t already know it. He’s also likely way more up to date on this stuff since I haven’t set foot in a gym since 2012 when I canceled my membership. Good job, Miles.
Our pace was slowed down because a girl in the group in front of us thought it would be a good idea to do the hike in her Toms… sigh… Luckily the slower pace benefited us because we actually got to see all the scenery we missed hiking up in the dark which included stunning views and local farms growing vegetables. At the bottom we got to take a look and see how far we had hiked. This picture should give you an idea:
I think the hike with our break at the top took us around 5 or 6 hours to complete. I asked Ketut how fast he could do it, he told me 45 minutes up and 25 minutes down. He said during the slow season, he sometimes only leads hikes twice a week but once it gets to busy season from July to September he do hikes daily. He’s been doing this for 4 years now and says he really enjoys it. When he’s not hiking, he is with his grandmother helping her out on her farm growing onions and chili peppers. I don’t know how old he is but he has a really good head on his shoulders.
At the bottom, I bought Kristi and I a couple cold drinks that seemed to have a 400% markup… I didn’t bother haggling, I just wanted that ice cold water. When we arrived back at our hotel, it was 11am and the owner, Ibu Putu, offered to make us breakfast (it’s included with our room) so we said yes, ate, then Kristi went to nap until 2ish. I forced myself to stay up so I could sleep at night… I made it to 8pm and was out until 6:30am. I’m definitely getting old. We went for massages the next day, though I’m not sore at all. With only a couple days left, we are going white water rafting next. Apparently the rapids are weak but the scenery is fantastic. Thanks again for reading. I wrote another blog about the monkey forest that doesn’t seem to be uploading, hopefully that one is up before this one.