At 1:50am the alarm sounded. Prepared and packed five hours earlier Grace, Liz and I grabbed our bags and went to the road out side of our quaint Airbnb area to wait for a taxi service. Our companions of sort in wait were three dogs. Not ours but locals that take over the streets at night in Ubud. They are very keen. If you belong, they leave you alone, but if you wander where you shouldn't they will bite. Seeming to sleep with one eye open I knew they watched us. One was so tired it was trying to sleep, stand and protect us from moving. Quite comical to see it lean then fall again and again. The taxi arrived at 2:20. I was initially surprised to see three others in the tiny van. "I thought we had our own guide?", were my first thoughts. My second were more concerning, "Dang Liz will be sick!" She is very sensitive to motion sickness so if you know her, shotgun is the normal position in a car if not driving. I was definitiely more than a bit worried for her to get in the back. Fortunately the gentleman from Scotland would give up his seat for 'the lady who was afraid of cars', I believe he said in a fun tone. I like that phrase, Ha!
The van smelled of smoke, the windows were up, it was muggy and fog covered the glass. "This was going to be a one hour trip from hell," I murmured. I was reaffirmed at each curve, progressively becomin sicker. "Just close your eyes and go to sleep," I thought. Not a chance as the perpetual bouncing and curves were killing only me apparenty, and did I mention the smell? After 40 minutes we arrived, whew. We were taken to a large gathering area of covered tables filled with diverse group of people. It’s a bit awkward at first not knowing anyone nor knowing what to do. The taxi driver / guide directed this vanhalen group, who are now apparently going to be hiking together, to our table with a very big smile. Pleasantries were exchanged. Gerry, an attorney from Scotland, and newly weds, Artie and Irene from Istanbul. (All names are fictitious) We became aquatinted with one another as we were served coffee and a banana crepe. It was yummy! I was ready to go. Our taxi / guide soon gathered us again and lead the group back to the vehicle, which I thought was meant to grab stuff. He instructed us to get back in it. No! Apparently we were not there yet. So back in the van and off we went. They can't drive 55 :)
A line of red lights pierced through the night up and down hills and around each bend in the road. All vans like ours headed to the same starting point. The real cause of the delay was an eventual stopped made at a check point of sorts. I can’t say for sure but when we met our officer, I think some money was exchanged and we were allowed to pass through. I couldnt tell for sure.
We finally arrived and meet our for real guide, Kupto, (Sounded like Koop too) around 3:45 am. He was a slender, maybe in his mid to late twenty's, Balinesian who took small groups up Mt. Batur 6-7 days a week. I learned he was married and had two children. A very positive guy who would be paraomount in the trip.
The hike would be two hours and a climb about 4500 feet in elevation. The terrain consisted of sand, gravel, rocks and lava rock. It was pretty steep, and I would estimate 500 or more filled the trail with each separated by 1-2 meters at most. Occasionally there would be rest stops, even a place where the guides prayed at a small shrine.
About half way up, I noticed my heart starting to elevate. I am in descent shape, more so than my family. When we stopped to rest Liz became extremely dizzy. The increase in altitude had effected her this way a few other times. It is a hit or miss with her on that. This morning it hit her like if you were a child laying backwards on a merry go round and someone spun you until you either fell off, or you walked off and fell. :)
The group was amazing, and kind. Offering her water, coke and a snickers. I had to ask the attorney what clientele he represented offering her coke. "Some Columbains", he said, and we laughed! After a bit of deep breathing and a snickers, we were off again. I greatly appreciated the mentality of Kupto, "We all go up together and down together", he repeated early on. At this point others in the group repeated the mantra. It meant a lot.
As we traversed the mountain of no switch backs, which means it’s pretty much a grind straight up. Kupto put his arm back for Liz to grab. He would assist her up the hill during the tough parts and maybe a little more than she needed. It was dark, but I even saw him helping her and Irene at the same time. No language barrier could confuse this mans genuine affection for those he traveled with. Like I said, he was paramount.
We walked, and slipped and tripped our way up with hundreds of others. A line of flashlights pointed the way up the path like a line of lights one might put on a Christmas tree. In the distance, one could see Mount Agung in the dark, and as light began to fill the sky, Mount Ranjani in the east. At that point, thoughts of tired legs were replaced with a little excitement. Web began stoping briefly for premature pictures that never look the best due to the low visibility. With about ten minutes left to spare, we made it to the top on pure adrenaline to see the sun rise. It was a very clear morning with light clouds below that slowly rolled between the mountains toward the ocean. There was also a beautiful body of water called Danau (Lake) Batur, the largest of Bali.
I have seen hundreds of amazing sunrises, but this was the best of all. I suppose I have said that before and probably will again. Grace is over using the term ‘epic’ for our trip. A term not really used much anymore, but it is a fitting description of the morning. Pictures and videos can never capture life as the eye sees it from my experience. I am using the iPhone Xs which is pretty good.
The breeze was cool and many began to cover up in layers. Being from the midwest and currently living in the north west of the United states, cold is my friend, my tank top sufficed. They offered us coffee (we would buy) and our breakfast. It consisted of one hard boiled egg and two pieces of white bread. After that hike, anything would do and was appreciated.
When it was time to go from basking in the mid morning splendor we were lead up the mountain 100 feet higher to the edge of the crater located on the other side of where we stood. The crater of the volcano in which Mount Batur sits is claimed to have one of the most impressive views in the world. With a diameter of 13Km, 8 miles, we could see steam coming from certain parts, it had no hot lava bubbling out of the ground or anything like that. It was amazing. Part of the valley consisted of a large dark in color cooled lava rock formation from past eruptions. We were quickly greeted by unexpected guests. There was a fairly large family of monkeys that jumped from limb to limb, on a small tree growing up from the other side of the ridge. Occasionally a few would mingle with us, or observe from a small buildings roof. If you were not careful, they would take items from open back packs. I’ve seen enough bad youtube videos to know not to mess with wild life. They were cute though.
From there we began our descent on the dirt filled trail. Stomping feet and motorcycles maintained a large cloud of dust which followed our descent. On the way I met a PHD student who was in Singapore a week earlier at a conference. I inquired to its nature. He said the conference was on the flu. “Excuse me? The Flu?”. “Yes”, he replied with a laugh. So I had to ask, with a smirk of course, “Is there any sign of a cure?” He laughed and let me know not yet and not in any foreseeable time. Bummer! Ninety minutes later, after a lot of sharing and getting to know others, we arrived at our staring point.
Overall I give the total trip a 4.5 of 5 stars. Mainly because of the van ride. The hike itself was great 5* and I would do it again.
Thanks again to my new friends from across the globe who were so kind and courteous to Liz.
People can be amazing! Also thanks to https://coconuts.co/bali/lifestyle/5-things-they-dont-tell-you-about-mt-batur-sunrise-hike/ for their advice about Mt. Batur.
Next Stop? The Double 6 Beach, Seminyak and the Blue lagoon before we leave Ubud to Nusa Penida, and Gili Trawangan.
Tony Liz Grace
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