What would you normally think about in the case of hiking a volcano? At the top you there is a giant crater where you can see the steam and the lava with the danger of plummeting into a very painful death? No? Just me then. The one thing Irene and I wanted to do in Bali was to climb and conquer an active Volcano, so I just had to keep my fears inside and climb. Gunung Batur (Gunung = Mountain) is one of the most popular hiking trail in Bali that is both challenging yet rewarding, or so I have heard. Please note that this is an active Volcano and it’s last eruption was not so long ago in the year of 2000, but people said it is safe to go so we took the chance!
I did a little bit of research on the hike trying to prepare myself but I still got a few things wrong. Now most websites and blogs tells me that the area is actually quite cold contrary to what people believe about Indonesia, and I somewhat believed it since the temperature at Kawah Putih in Bandung was rather freezing. So I packed myself a jacket and wore jeans, yes jeans to a hiking trip. Irene was a lot smarter and wore tights, singlet and a very light windbreaker. It seems that the websites were not accurate and even our guide’s version of “cold” is really just hot. It was probably a max of 20 degrees at the very top in the morning and as the sun rises, it quickly went up to about 30 degrees. So among the ridiculous weight of my cameras, water bottles, tripod and Irene’s belongings, I had an added hassle of lugging around a jacket I never used at all.
We started about 2.30 am at the Hotel where our kind driver, Putu, picked us up to make way to the car park over at Mount Batur. We reached the carpark and ticket office around 3.30 where it was a bit of a toilet break and off we go. It is a complete dark trail with no artificial light paving the way whatsoever, all we have is our little torch in hand to watch out for loose rocks. The first half hour or so was a bit of a confidence builder, the path was straight and flat, it was pretty easy. I remember thinking to myself “This is nothing! I can carry my heavy bag around all day if it’s like this!” But then we stopped for a bit of a break, I looked back and suddenly you could almost make it out with your eyes in the dark that we were above the fog/clouds already. Our guide pointed out that in one direction is the lake and Mount Agung then he turned us around and pointed up. What I saw was a zig zag line of torch lights hiking up a steep hill, almost pilgrimage like. He said “This is just the beginning, that’s the actual hike right there”. I just laughed to myself and thought about how heavy this bag will suddenly feel.
The terrain changed from flat dirt to steep rocks with volcanic sand surrounding it. Some of the smaller rocks are loose while the bigger rocks becomes your holding points. Unlike the hiking trails in Sydney, there are no such things as man made stairs or even metal support, this is all natural to what the environment gives us. It was tiring on one hand but an amazing experience on the other. We took a few breaks on the account of my bad knee and also I have to admit I was just plain tired! After an hour or so we reached the first summit called Sunrise Point and this is where we stopped to watch the beautiful sun rising behind Mount Rinjani in Lombok. We found a nice bench to sit on while our guide heat up our boxed breakfast. We also got some hot tea and coffee from the vendors up there, I then set my time-lapse and we just sat and relaxed. It was about 1.5-2 hours hike and we got up there around 5.30am just in time for the sunrise.
The sunrise at Mt Batur was just absolutely spectacular and there were no regrets at all climbing this mountain. We were literally on top of Bali, the sky was ablaze as the sun rose over Lombok and the clouds were below our feet covering the lake down at the town. It was heavenly, and a sight that would be hard to forget for the rest of my life. The hike up was hot and sweaty but sitting for an hour or so waiting in the cool breeze, it took a toll to my camera that was already damaged from the rain the day before. I realised that it started to fog up, so stopped the time-lapse and packed it all up ready to move to the second summit. As the sun start to be quite high, the monkeys starts to come and raid people’s breakfast (scary yet entertaining). The next summit point is the Volcanic Crater view of Batur so I was eager to get on the hike.
It was another 40 minutes to go up to the second summit and the terrain is very similar to the one before but more sand and less rocks to hold on to. Some places will show a hole and the temperature would get quite hot, that is part of the crater and you are able to cook a boiled egg in about 5-10 minutes. Fascinating! As it turns out my vision of lavas and steam out to the sky was a bit false and probably should have read about the mountain a bit more. It is an active volcano but there won’t be any flowing lavas as you walk up the trail, the volcanic steam comes out of the small holes around the crater from deep deep inside the earth. As you get to the top summit, you will see a big rim formation of the crater and multiple points of steam coming out. Just when I thought the walk up was hard, the walk down was even scarier. Less rocks to hold on to going down and just a heap of black sand as you ski down in hope that you don’t fall.
I talked to our guide quite a bit, practicing my ever broken Indonesian and I learnt that he recently joined the association but have been climbing mountains for some time now. He was only 22 years of age and still helps his parents in a chilli farm while he works as a guide. He also told me that most of the experienced guides are able to run up the mountain to sunset point in under 40 minutes! I love the fact that while travelling we are able to bond with the people and share intimate details but somehow knowing you won’t ever see them again.
A few tips for Trekking Batur
- Bring a jacket but not to thick that you won’t be able to use it
- Bring heaps and heaps of water
- Book the trek from the hotel so that you can get a properly good guide. We had our driver negotiate for us for a good deal in a private hike.
- Start as early as possible so there is no pressure to push yourself beyond limits to make it by sunrise