“Mount Batur – Hike to the summit and watch the first few rays of sunshine slip over the horizon from an Active Volcano” — You don’t have to ask me twice to take part in something like this. In fact, anything that involves a sunrise or sunset, and I guarantee that I will be there. No doubt about it, the sunrises are a lot more work, but any adventure that requires you to make a 2am start is going to be absolutely worth it!
Mount Batur (Gunung Batur) is an active volcano located at the center of two concentric calderas north west of Mount Agung on the island of Bali, Indonesia. The first documented eruption was in 1804 and the most recent was in 2000. Batur is home to the popular “sunrise climb” – an early morning trekking tour bringing you to the volcano’s summit just in time to watch the first few rays of sunshine slip over the horizon. An early start, one third of the trek is a plain path, and the rest is steeps of volcanic stones to reach the first stop. It’s an intermediate-level of hiking, and doesn’t require anything more than some decent stamina and a pair of sturdy hiking boots. That is what we were told, but I’d say it is a little harder than an intermediate hike. My opinion of this might be askew since I was very sick on this hike – but I’ll get to that in another blog post. For now I just want to share the hike, and the breathtaking views of the sunrise and surrounding sea of clouds.
Above, the spectacular view of Mount Batur and the lake (Source of Above Image)
Whenever I need to wake up super early, I can never fall and stay asleep the night before. It’s a curse! I booked this hiking trip the day before and was told to be ready and waiting at the front desk at 2am. YUP, 2am!!! I got up at 1:30 and by 2:25am I was in a van with four strangers and a driver. We made our way along some bumpy winding roads to the base of the volcano. From the moment that I left that guesthouse, I knew that I was going to miss Justin. Elijah had been a bit sick, and we had heard that the hike would be both cold and challenging, so Justin told me that I should still go and that he would stay with Eli. Truthfully, Justin would have only gone on the hike for my sake – this is really more my kind of thing! Feeling adventurous, I went ahead on my own. I soon figured out that my hiking buddies for this morning expedition were four friendly Brazilians who were studying in an Australia University. Along the way we were introduced to a few more groups of climbers, many of them from Australia and South America.
It took about 2.5 hours to reach the summit, and boy oh boy, it was quite a rough climb. In complete darkness with only a small flashlight to guide the way, we climbed – very quickly – up slippery, black volcanic rocks. Our first hour of the hike was done in a thick fog, and I must admit that it was kind of eerie. Our guide was not very chatty and he stopped for very brief breaks. In those moments we tried to catch our breath, but before we were even able to do that we were climbing again. It really was a sweet moment when we reached the sunrise viewpoint because until that moment we had all kept our heads down and concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. Looking out over the sea of clouds that we had just climbed above was an incredible sight! It was there that we got to rest and eat some boiled eggs, bread and fresh fruit. We were all shivering and cold since we were covered in sweat, and also not wearing too many layers.
Behind us we could see the steam rising out of a massive volcanic crater. When we walked further into the crater we found a massive cave and more smaller vents which were also pumping out steam. It was incredible – we were standing on an active volcano! As the sky continued to get lighter, monkeys began to appear. First just one, then three, then ten, and then a massive tribe of them. They ate food from our hands and even tried to climb on a few people. Monkeys are pretty cheeky so we were told to keep our bags on us, and properly closed.
Although I sat with the four Brazilians I had hiked with, I wished that Justin was there with me. By this point I really wasn’t feeling good at all (more on this in another post) so more than anything I really NEEDED Justin there, just to sit with me and comfort me. Instead I tried to keep strong and ignore what I was struggling through. I wandered around for a bit, watched the sun rise above the clouds, and prayed for strength to make it back down the volcano.
Below, There I am with my hiking buddies from that morning. Above our heads and all around us were monkeys. As you can see, the sun was up and shining brightly, and we were already starting to heat up. The Brazilians asked our guide if we could hike down the volcano via a different path, so after some summit explorations we headed down the back of the volcano. Instead of the 2.5 hours it took to come up, we were told that the way down would be about 3 hours.
Along the back of the volcano everything was white. We were above the clouds for almost two hours, and the glare was almost blinding but also incredibly beautiful. It felt like we were on another planet! The sun looked like a white ball glowing in the sky. As we approached the cloud-level we entered into a forest-type area where we had to climb down slippery loose volcanic gravel. It was challenging! Every few minutes one of us would slip and quickly grab onto the surrounding branches to save ourselves.
This really isn’t the full story about my morning spent hiking and exploring a volcano. I didn’t want to include all of the torture that I felt along the way because I feel like my morning was divided into two distinctly different mental parts. I battled to ignore what my body was going through so that I could absorb where I was, and try to fully appreciate this incredible experience. I therefore want to present it in two parts, because that is really how I remember it in my head. On the one hand it was an awesome morning of adventure, and on the other hand it was the most torturous, draining and physical challenge I have ever been through. I am happy that I can separate the two!
This truly was a wonderful experience, and I highly recommend it for anyone spending some time on Bali.