I had already been awake for 15 minutes anxiously anticipating the challenge ahead when my alarm sounded at 1:30am. It was dark outside, and I could hear a nearby nightclub still thumping with bass as party-goers transitioned from Friday night into the wee hours of Saturday morning. Our group groggily got dressed, brushed our teeth, and a few of us shot back a cup of coffee before we staggered through the dark streets of Penestanan to meet our taxi driver.
We had booked our climb of Mount Batur the previous day, and since we were such a large group, we had been given a wicked deal of $25.00USD per person, which included taxi to and from, guided ascent of the volcano, and breakfast once we reached the peak.
Mount Batur is Bali’s 3rd highest peak at 5,633 feet. It is an active volcano whose last eruption occurred in 2000, although the most major eruption on recent record occurred in 1963, which wiped out an entire village, burying everything in its path beneath a thick layer of black lava rock. The haunting remains of the destruction are still visible today.
We began our ascension just after 4am, complete with flashlights, headlamps and four mountain guides. It was the coldest I’d been since leaving Canada the week before, so I was immensely grateful for the hoodie I’d brought with me. The first 30 minutes were an absolute breeze, it felt more like a midnight nature walk than a hike. But I could just make out the subtle silhouette of the massive challenge ahead, and I knew better than to get comfortable with our relaxed pace.
By the time we were 45 minutes in, I was convinced that I was going to die. It was cold outside, yet I was sweating so hard that my hair actually felt like I had just stepped out of the shower. But my spirit was strong, and with the help of my iPod in one ear, I pushed on fiercely through the volcanic terrain.
It took us nearly 2 hours to reach the summit, and I’m not joking when I say that there were blood, sweat, and tears involved. The blood was drawn from hoisting myself up vertical sections of the mountain, gripping sharp volcanic formations for leverage and banging up my knees on things I couldn’t see in the dark. The sweat came from sheer exertion. And the tears, well…during the final half hour of the climb, there was a point during which I wholeheartedly believed that I was going to vomit, pass out, and/or die. I had stopped for a snack before the final push, which was a major mistake. Sean actually had to stop and pep-talk me through the last 10 minutes, as I had become so frustrated and lightheaded that I truly feared for my safety. But when I peered over my shoulder and saw the sky beginning to turn pink and yellow with the sunrise, I forced myself to push on. This, as you may have guessed, is what brought on the tears.
I empowered myself to push forward by thinking about all of the reasons I had come on this trip. I thought of my strengths. I thought of my weaknesses. I thought of the past year, and how terrible it had been to me, but I found strength in remembering all of the ways that I had overcome every last one of life’s cruel curveballs. I remembered that one of the reasons I had come to Southeast Asia was to restore my faith in my own strength, and in myself as a whole. In my mind, I was a kick-ass warrior women as I reached the summit of Mount Batur.
I sat in silent satisfaction beside the love of my life, drank a bitter cup of black coffee, and watched the sun come up over Lombok in the distance. It was one of the happiest and most peaceful moments of my entire life.
There was plenty of time for photos and exploring the crater once the sun came up, and our guides served us a banana sandwich and boiled egg breakfast while we marvelled at the scenery below us.
The hike down was equally as difficult as the hike up, and also just as long. The loose dirt and rolling rocks made for a treacherous descent, and my feet were screaming at me by the time I finally reached the car just after 10am. But there was nothing that could compare to the feeling of accomplishment that came with climbing up and down a massive volcano on my own two feet before lunch time.
If a trip to Bali is in your future, I would say that Mount Batur is an absolute must for anyone who’s up to the challenge. It was one of the major highlights of my time in Bali and I would gladly do it again. However; know what you’re getting yourself into. Ensure that you’re bringing really good footwear (I wore hiking shoes) and a layer of warm clothes, and make sure you’re up for a legitimate challenge. It’s not the most difficult hike I’ve ever done, but it certainly isn’t a walk in the park either. I would also suggest to eat a decent snack before you go, and maybe even bring a little something to add onto your breakfast, as it is very small, and I promise that you will be starving.
Have you ever climbed Mount Batur? Did you find it as challenging as I did?