While in Bali, I knew I wanted to hike Mount Batur at sunrise. I have heard about this trek and seen countless photos of the climb on social media, but there simply isn’t anything like the real thing. You just can’t beat witnessing that sunrise slowly coming up over the mountain. The colors are magnificent and standing above the clouds after 2 hours of intense climbing is one of those magical experiences you won’t ever forget.
You are best off trekking Mount Batur with a tour guide. The prices are so cheap (my full day – everything included was 50 USD.)
My alarm set off at 2 o’clock in the morning. I was only asleep for 4 hours, before the twinkling keys of my phone awakened me to the start of my trek. Ugh I do not want to do this…. I used the tiny ounce of strength I had to type a sentence to my boyfriend back home, “I’m so tired, I think I’m going to cancel this hike.”
With his persistent coaxing and encouragement, I struggled out of bed and dragged my feet to the clothes laying out on my backpack.
This was the beginning of the long day ahead.
You can choose to either climb the volcano in the afternoon or for the more popular trek – at sunrise. I have always dreamed of climbing a volcano at sunrise, so when I was in Canggu and saw a sign out on the street advertising Mount Batur trekking services, I signed up immediately to reserve my spot.
The Mount Batur hike is very popular among tourists, and it’s easy to sign up with a tour group and guide – little stands advertising guides are in every touristy Bali village.
Climbing the peak requires stamina. The hike is 2.5 hours at a consistently steep incline all the way, with just a ‘flat relief’ every 20-30 minutes.
You’ll also need to bring layers of clothing, as the top of the 1717m peak gets quite chilly.
The tour driver picked me up in front of my hostel in Ubud at 2:20 in the morning, and I loaded up in the front seat with a packed van of 15 other sleeping adventurers. The roads were dark and empty, except for the occasional homeless pup roaming the streets looking for food. Speeding around corners and across bridges and jungles, I felt like I was in an Indianna Jones flick. The ride was an adventure in itself.
After the driver picked up each hiker, it was time for breakfast!
Our reservation included pickup and drop off from our homestay, banana pancakes and coffee/tea for breakfast, and a mini torch to lead us the way through the dark night. After our breakfast, we were given our flashlights to illuminate the dirt laden pathways that stood before us and listened to our guides’ instructions on our upcoming ascent.
The night was quiet and still. Our small group of 15 hikers and 2 guides began our climb through forest and small hills, our flashlights illuminating the path ahead. After passing some fields, we came across the volcano in front of us. Tiny, white sparkles flickered up the mountain, looking almost like glowing fireflies or diamonds.
Upon closer look, I realized what those were – flashlights. We followed the steep path up, along with the rest of the diamonds. Conversation slowly turned to silence, as we began panting and stopping for new breath. Luckily, there are flat surfaces every 20 to 30 minutes – perfect for a quick break!
The 2-hour climb magically sped by (thank goodness), and I turned the corner to find the most breathtaking sunrise; deep purples and pinks and reds slowly inched their way up into the dark skies above. Blankets of silver stars began fading away as the light poured in, minute by minute. I gasped, a giant smile beaming across my face.
Waking up at 2 AM was totally worth it.
I sat on a tree log and took the whole experience in. This is what living is about: seeing and witnessing magic like this.
20 seconds turned into 20 minutes. After sitting and thinking and breathing in those colors, I turned around…to find 30+ monkeys sitting on the dirt beside me!
These little thieves, with their grasping paws, climbed on top of my head and tried to open my camera backpack! (I completely forgot I had a small bag of nuts in there. My mistake.) Their eyes scoping out each human and backpack and purse, these monkeys grabbed a chocolate bar from one woman and a can of mosquito repellent from another, scurrying and jumping atop trees with their treasures. I was in awe. I spent the entire time getting up close to these monkeys, capturing moments with my Canon 6D.
Time flies by when I’m around animals. Our tour guide let us stay at the top of the volcano for an hour, but that hour felt like one minute when I spent my time capturing and recording moments with these cheeky creatures. Each monkey had their own individual personality – some were timid and quiet, others with silly and gregarious. Baby monkeys were clinging shyly to their mothers and the alpha monkeys leading the others in their troop. Even after researching Mount Batur, these monkeys were an extra perk to the hike.
Of course, one has to bring their camera with a view like this. So, I asked a fellow photographer I befriended to snap a few shots of me with the sunrise. Hot chocolate and snacks are also available for purchase atop the volcano, so make sure to bring some extra cash! There are plenty of benches to rest up whilst locals serve everything from teas, coffees and yummy hot chocolate and snacks such as banana sandwiches and boiled eggs.
Aside from the monkeys, you can explore the grounds near the crater and underneath the caves, where the steam from the volcano sips through the earth, making the air cloudy and mystical.
The hike down Mount Batur was less difficult, but it’s important to be cautious and very slow when climbing down this active volcano.
Several hikers in my group fell multiple times, a few of them going a bit fast, they ended up getting hurt. If you can, definitely invest in a good pair of quality hiking boots with grips. I bought these LOWA boots for around 250.00 at Tents and Trails in NYC, but they have gotten me through intense treks and volcanoes these past 5 years – the price tag is worth the investment if you plan to adventure.
And as we all know, the less you buy, the less you consume, the more you help sustain the planet, right?
After your trek down, you can soak your feet in and relax at the Batur Natural Hot Springs, where you can order food and have a soothing massage (prices are so cheap here in Bali!) My tour guide and I became fast friends. After talking the majority of the way down, her friends sped down in their mopeds and offered us rides the rest of the way – SCORE! I sped down with my new friend, through rice fields and forests, past the rest of our group of hikers and all the way back to the van. What a nice way to end an adventure.
March 27, 2017
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