Mount Batur, Bali, Indonesia – The Toughest Hike I’ve Ever Done. This was by no means the most strenuous hike I have ever done, but no hike has ever been as challenging as this one was. What made it the toughest hike was that I started the hike feeling “a little off” and then gradually got more and more sick as I climbed up this incredible active volcano. To make matters worst, I was alone for this hike. Justin and Elijah had stayed back at our villa, and I had joined a group of university students who were also staying in Ubud. I therefore had not met anyone I was hiking with before I got into the car which took us to the base of Mount Batur. On our way to the base, I already knew that something wasn’t right but I assumed that this was due to the fact that I had slept only a couple of hours. As we started our climb I felt some relief as we entered the cold morning mist that surrounded the mountain. The first twenty minutes of the hike were strenuous and our guide (all groups going up the volcano have an assigned guide) was not the chatty-type. He barely stopped at all to check that we were behind him, and we often had to ask him to slow down so that we could regroup, or just catch our breath! At first I didn’t feel too bad. Perhaps my mind was just focused on climbing the steep, jagged volcano rocks that lay the path for the ascent to the top. About halfway up the sky started to get lighter and we knew that we were racing against time to reach to viewpoint before sunset. It was about an hour into the hike when I started to feel really nauseous. It was also getting worse the more that I warmed up. I laugh because Justin always says that I am so strong and determined, and that shows when I am hiking. So I continually tried to remind myself that I was in control of this and that I could make it to the top. What I didn’t realized was that, although a bit strenuous, the way up the volcano was not going to be the hardest part of this experience.
At the top of the volcano and we all sat down to view the sunrise. There were points during that time where I kind of felt okay. I managed to smile and take some pictures, and I thought that perhaps the sick-feeling was passing. Little did I know that as soon as the sun rose above the sea of clouds that surrounded the mountain, the nausea was about to really intensify. The group that I was with wanted to take a different route down, and on any other day I would have been just as enthusiastic, but every part of my body screamed “Nooooo!” as they asked if this was okay with me. By this stage, I had successfully hidden that I felt sick, and probably just seemed like a sky/ quiet girl who likes to sit and admire the sunset by herself. My usual self would be staging all sorts of pictures and running off to see everything that volcano had to offer, but I tried to move as little as possible, knowing all too well that I might be coming down with something very awful. Nevertheless, remembering Justin’s words that “I am strong”, I told myself to push on. The guide told us that he knew an alternative route down that was not as steep as the way we had come up, and although longer, it was more scenic. So I agreed!
As we made our way down this alternative route, my stomach started to cramp… then I started to feel undeniably weak… and then the worst, the urge to vomit began. The group that I was with, four Brazilian students, were all lovely and I am sure that they would have shown sympathy if I had told them that I felt ill, but for some reason I did EVERYTHING that I could to hide how I was feeling from them. I didn’t want to ruin their “once in a lifetime” hike, and I could tell that they were having an amazing time so I tried to stay a few feet behind or ahead of them, making sure that they barely ever saw my face (which was probably pale). On the way up the mountain, a 14 year old Balinese boy, Kadek, had been helping me over the steepest parts. In fact, when I started to labor and struggle, he never let go of my hand. He pulled me up, guided me across narrow paths, and made sure that I always had water when I stopped to rest. He was, by all accounts, an absolute angel on the way up. But none of that compared to how incredible he was on the way down the volcano. Although I tried to hide my struggle from the rest, I am sure that he knew and that God must have sent him to help me. The route that we took down the mountain was not as steep, but it consisted mostly of loose volcanic sand. It was a constant slippery slide of black gravel and all too energy-consuming for someone who was just trying to stay conscious. There were countless occasions where I had to focus and remind myself that fainting out here would not be a good idea. It felt like all my energy and might were being used to stay focused on not falling over, so when it came to moving – and wow, we were moving fast! – I had barely anything left to give.
At one point we found ourselves surrounded by a thick mist, and I remember thinking that I was about to start hallucinating. I couldn’t see straight and my body was begging to just shut down. Inside I was beginning to panic. I don’t know how I made it through those moments, but I do know that I was praying my heart out, asking God to just keep giving me a little bit more strength. I tried to remind myself that my mind was stronger than my body, but as I said, my mind was so busy trying to keep me focused on not fainting, that it was hard to also focus on continuously placing one foot in front of another. In the toughest moments I tried to remember what running a marathon felt like, but miraculously that didn’t help. A marathon seemed easy compared to this. Then I though back on the day that I was in labor and about to give birth to Elijah. THAT gave me some strength… If I could get through those contractions, then I could get through this!
Hard to tell, but I was feeling pretty awful in the above picture!
The sunrise was spectacular, and while I sat watching the sun break through the ocean of clouds I did regain some strength.
Above, in some moments of relief I was able to take a few GoPro shots, but sadly I wasn’t able to do much on the top of that volcano. Pity, because there were some really incredible moments to be captured up there. All I could do was sit and stare at the sun rising above the horizon.
On the way down the sun was directly on us, and as we slipped – and many times fell – down the loose volcanic sand, I remember feeling so unbelievably hot! Removing my jacket did nothing to help this. It was as if I was burning up from the inside out, and the heat of the sun was intensifying that.
At one point we all sat down to eat some crackers and drink water. I thought that the crackers would help, but all they did was turn to what felt like sand in my mouth. It was clear that my body was not impressed, and all that I could take in was a tiny bit of water every time we stopped to rest.
As you can see above, the volcano rocks were more like loose gravel and for the entire journey down we slipped and tried to grab onto the bushes and trees round us. Our legs ached and soon so did our arms, from trying to hold onto whatever we could grab.
When we got to this point, above, we were finally through the steepest parts. As you can see, the mist was still covering half of the volcano. From this point onwards the path changed to a gravel road, which although easier, was still very slippery. My legs started to fail me here, and I fell many times. I noticed that my fellow hikers started to talk about me and it was clear that everyone was beginning to wonder if I was okay. It probably looked like I was an incredibly inexperienced hiker, and that I had reached a point of exhaustion. We all sat down to take another break and the kind young Balinese boy, who had been helping me the whole way, ran down the road ahead of us and jumped onto the back of someone’s motorcycle. It looked like he was done for the day, and he had called a friend to pick him up. As they drove away, I sat there thinking, “Well at least he helped me to this point… I hope that I can make it the rest of the way by myself”. I could hear the others around me but this was when things started to get quite blurry. I knew that I was VERY close to passing out, but I didn’t want to cause the others any worry (or see me cry), so I bravely got to my feet and walked away from them. I turned to my guide, who was sitting a few feet away from the others, and told him that I had to keep going. He told me then that there was still about 30 minutes of walking left. I knew that I would have to just keeping going… one foot in front of the other. If I remained focused, I would get back to the car, and soon I would be back in the room with Justin and Elijah. I kept thinking about them and how happy I was going to be to see their sweet faces when I got back.
I felt like the walking dead! As I pushed on, fighting the urge to faint, vomit and cry, up ahead I saw the motorbike coming back. I recall wishing that I could pay whoever was riding it to take me back to the parking lot. As the bike got near me I realized that the driver was Kadek. He had called a friend to come to pick him up. He then had to drive his friend back to the parking lot before he was able to return to pick me up. I had never told him how sick I was, but he knew, and he was back to save me… once again! He motioned for me to get on the back, and I have to say that the flood of relief inside me filled me with a wave of energy and joy. As we rode along this gravel road, through ditches, and between trees, I remember thinking that on a normal day this probably would have made me pretty nervous, but at that moment in time, I couldn’t have been happier that Kadek had come back for me!
Once we got back to the parking lot, Kadek went to get me another bottle of water and told me to wait for the others. I am not sure how long I sat waiting, but I do remember thanking God that I had made it down the volcano in one piece. Here is a short video clip taken while I was on the back of the motorcycle with Kadek…
Below, This was our group. Kadek is the second guy from the left.
That kid honestly saved me from having to be airlifted off Mount Batur!
On the way back to our guesthouses, everyone fell asleep in the car but I was just so relieved to be on my way back to Justin. I love doing and experiencing life with him by my side, and having to go though this alone was not easy. It really reminded me to appreciate him even more than I already do. Even though I was without my trusty other half, God didn’t leave me to struggle all alone. I am so grateful for Kadek and how he took care of me from the beginning to the very end of the hike. I hope that someday I will have another opportunity to hike Mount Batur again, but if I never do I will always look on this experience very fondly. The people I was with, the sights, and the overall experience were amazing – sickness aside. To read more about this hiking up an active volcano – check out this post: Sunrise Volcano Hike.