Our vans climbed high up into the mountains, encountering rain showers along the way, and crossed the rugged spine of the island. Then, with the weather clearing again, we descended steeply into a huge, ancient crater. We arrived at a bare bones hotel and went to bed early to get as much sleep as possible before a big day. Only Karel kept a normal schedule; his bad knees precluded such a big climb.
At 3 a.m. we were in our van, cramming down a simple, take-away breakfast. It was just a short trip to the trailhead, where we met our two guides, Wayan and Nyoman. We set off in pitch dark, using flashlights.
The first part of our climb up Mt. Batur was easy, basically a rough road rising gradually through terraced farms. It abruptly turned steeper, then rougher, and I fell behind the group. I wasn’t having difficulty, I was just going at a slower pace. Nyoman stayed with me to make sure I didn’t wander off the trail into the treacherous terrain of old lava flows and active steam vents. Mt. Batur is a sacred place and an active volcano, and you must have a guide to take you up and down again.
The rain had cleared the air and cooled things down. The humidity was also lower. The skies were almost perfectly clear, and I enjoyed my best views of the southern stars so far this trip. Nyoman took me down a side path, indicating that there was a temple she wanted to visit. She said a brief prayer at the little stone monument, and then we were off again.
The path became steeper and rougher still. It was strange to be climbing in total darkness. The way was narrow, and there were other groups of climbers going up, too. Many were faster than me, and we’d find a spot where we could wait for them to pass, while I caught my breath. Nyoman, having tired of trying to communicate with her very limited English (and my nonexistent Balinese), took my hand to keep me right behind her, and didn’t release her grip until we arrived at the top, where the rest of my group was waiting. We’d been climbing for three hours, and it was still completely dark.
Our guides led us along a ridgeline and showed us to some benches, then went to fetch hot drinks from the nearby warming hut. That was the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had! I couldn’t believe that someone had hauled the chocolate, milk (yes, canned milk), water, and fuel all the way up there, but I was so grateful for it.
Light crept into the sky, and the few clouds began to take on color. A planet—most likely Venus—shined brilliantly in the east. Other volcanoes and mountains began to take form: Mt. Agun, Bali’s largest volcano at 3,142 m (over 10,200 ft), Rinjani across the Lombok Strait at 3,726 m (12,224 ft). Far below, the waters of Lake Batur begin to glow with the reflected light of the sky. One of the guides tells us we’re very lucky. Yesterday morning, the summit of Batur was buried in clouds, and the view hasn’t been this good for weeks.
The colors increase in brightness and intensity. The sunrise is absolutely gorgeous.
And just like that, it was done. Our guides led us back along the ridge, and we climbed down to have a look at some steam vents and a great cave formed by a fairly recent eruption. Some macaques followed us around, hoping for food.
On the way down (steep!), Nyoman stopped at the little temple again to give a prayer of thanks (and perhaps, express a wish for a good tip). Now that I could see her, I realized she was young and sturdily built. Her sneakers were worn out from many trips up and down the mountain.
The round trip was nearly six hours, and we were hot and weary by the time we reached the final stretch. Karel was there to welcome me. The group pooled money for a tip to both our guides, but I slipped Nyoman a little extra to help her buy a new pair of shoes.This entry was posted in Honeymoon 2013