Simply having the sensible intention of going to bed early in preparation for an early rise doesn’t mean it will have the desired result. A solid night’s sleep eluded all of us intending to climb a mountain in the dark, ready for sunrise on top of the world. Maybe it was simply old-fashioned excitement due to the anticipation…?
We were picked up at our resort, Bhanuswari, about 15 minutes out of the centre of Ubud, by members of the team from Bali Eco Cycling. We drove through the dark at about 3am, surprised by the number of dogs out and about, packs roaming the street. The dogs weren’t the only ones awake – groups of men were gathered in squat positions around communal food for breakfast. Their huddled shoulders suggested that they were ‘up to no good’, until we got closer – just having brekkie!
Once we had made our hour journey to the base of Mt Batur we clambered out of the car and lined up for what would be our last chance to visit a toilet until we descended over 4 hours later. Not the most flash facilities, but they did the trick! The tour company provided torches, snacks, water and breakfast at the top of the mountain, but we decided to kit ourselves out with our trusty head torches brought from home. Very happy with this decision, as it allowed complete freedom with hands to grapple with some trickier rock manoeuvres. And since the first couple of hours are in complete darkness, you need to see where you are placing your feet.
About half way into the walk when one of our party was starting to drop behind, it hit home that the ‘medium level fitness’ requirement specified on the website may have lost something in translation. We had focused on the term ‘medium’ (and we all considered ourselves fairly average) rather than ‘fitness’ – this trek was not a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park. Luckily for our friend, we chose Bali Eco Cycling tour company, who ensured that one of the guides stayed with our mate every step of the way, and got her to the very top…just a little later than the rest of us, but still in time for the sunrise!
Once we had all pushed ourselves through the last 20minutes of ‘straight up’, all rock and heaving and grunting, we flopped on the ground and gathered our composure and our breath and waited. The waiting was a necessary and welcome part of the process – not just for recovery, but the waiting was the perfect tension builder. The pre-show entertainment was the dotted lights from the village in the crater below. And then it started. There was a soft general wash of faint, faint light – no rays, just a slight brightening, providing clearer outlines of people and the crater. And with the heating of the atmosphere came the fog, sweeping in and masking the village lights from below. As the light intensified, we realised that no rays meant cloud, it meant a sunrise of a different sort, one that we may not have played out in our minds in our anticipation. We were afraid that the thick cloud was going to rob us of the most awaited part of the experience, but we kept waiting, staring into the east, willing the cloud to lift and the most perfect sunrise in the history of the universe to appear before us.
Instead, someone called, “hey, look this way,” and we all turned to the west and saw an exquisite beamed light display reflected on those clumps of grey and white – the perfect projection screen for the sun. And we just stared. It may not have been the classic sunrise of cinema, but it is nature, and she is glorious no matter what side of the bed she gets out of in the morning.
It was not long before guides began feeding their charges, and that brought out the large community of macaques that live at the top of the mountain. These charming and cheeky creatures kept us entertained for quite some time – managing to cleverly pilfer as much food as they could carry. One even managed to ‘pick pocket’ a partially open backpack, pinching a packet of biscuits, ripping them open and scampering across the roof of the hut on his hind legs clutching as many of these biscuits as he could carry (pursued by his mates, of course!)
Our makeshift breakfast of warm banana sandwiches with hardboiled eggs on the side, energy bars, juice and salted peanuts (which went surprisingly well on the sandwiches), was wolfed down before we made our descent. This trek was far less arduous on the heart, but was definitely felt on the knees. We had to pause and stand aside to let the occasional breakneck-hard-core-hiker speed past us, armed with alpenstocks, flitting agilely across the tops of rocks.
We all arrived back at our transport unscathed, exhausted, and so very chuffed that we had climbed a volcano. Next visit to Bali, we intend to use Bali Eco Cycling for one of their down hill bike tours – starting at Mt Batur and riding back to Ubud through villages and rice paddies…sounds blissful!
Tour company used: Bali Eco Cycling