Bali: Watching the Sunrise on Mt. Batur
Waking up at 2 AM was rough. Really rough. As we were getting dressed in the dark, I grumbled to Alex, “This had better be worth it!” And guess what? It was absolutely worth it!
We picked up our to-go breakfast boxes from the front desk, and got into the Baliecocycling van. We picked up four more passengers (two from the U.K. and two from Hong Kong) and made our way to the base of Mt. Batur. Mt. Batur measures 1,717 meters above sea level, and is still an active volcano. Since 1804, it has erupted 22 times. Mt. Batur used to be over 3,700 meters above sea level, but one of the eruptions blew off the top of Mt. Batur and formed Lake Batur (now the largest lake in Bali). It’s called Batur because of the Indonesian word for “rock” and for the sound it makes during eruptions “turrrrrrrrrrr.”
At almost four in the morning, it was still pitch black. I have NEVER seen so many stars in my entire life. The sky was so clear that we could even see the Milky Way! Flashlights in hand, we set off through an open field, until we started ascending. It was really cool to see dim beams of light (from other people’s flashlights) going all the way up the mountain.
Alex and I had thought that we were well prepared for this hike because of our hikes in Seoul. We were totally wrong! 1). It was completely dark outside and the flashlight could only cast a little light directly in front of us. 2). We started hiking at 1000 meters, and it took us almost two hours to get to the peak, so it was a very steep hike. 3). We’re used to well-maintained paths (with some stairs and railings). The Mt. Batur path was covered with loose lava rock and sand, so it made the path very slippery. You never knew when your foot would slip with shifting rocks underneath. 4). If it were up to me, I would have gone at a slower pace. We only took a couple of water breaks. 5). Alex and I just weren’t as “fit” as we thought we were!
The only good thing about the darkness was that we couldn’t see how far we had climbed and how close to the edge we were. (We had the pleasure of that knowledge on the way down.) Once in a while, we’d feel hot steam coming from an opening in the rocks! Near the base, our guides lit some incense and knelt down to pray for a safe hike at a little shrine. It’s really interesting to see how spiritual the Balinese are. There were offerings (of flowers and fruit). When we arrived at the peak, the sky was just starting to become light. I saw a shooting star (and of course, made a wish)! We sat and watched the sun slowly make its appearance over the horizon. We had wonderful views of Lake Batur, other volcanoes on Bali island, and we could even see the volcano on neighboring Lombok island!
We had a breakfast of boiled eggs, chocolate bar, banana sandwich, orange juice, and hot coffee/tea. When we first got to the peak, we were really hot (and sweaty) from the hike, but as we sat there, the sweat cooled and it was actually quite cold! There were stray dogs at the peak, looking for food scraps. They make the hike every morning because they know the hikers are up there with breakfast! Our boiled eggs weren’t cooked like this, but apparently you can cook an egg in 10 minutes, just from the steam of the volcano!
After breakfast, we walked around to see the craters and to see the opening in a cave (with bats) that contained a shrine deep within. People from the villages down at the base will climb up Mt. Batur and into the cave on holy days.
On the way down, it was interesting to see the path that we had climbed up. The path really zigzagged and was very steep. Even though it was more strenuous, I preferred the climb up, over the hike down. The hike down was mentally draining because we constantly had to think about where to step.
We arrived at the parking lot around 10 AM, feeling oddly rejuvenated. We had already been awake for eight hours (and in fact we didn’t nap that day at all!)! Alex and I were so glad that we decided to do the sunrise trek. It really is something we will never forget!