One of my Balinese highlights is the sunrise hike to the top of mount Batur. At the time this activity was mooted I didn’t like the idea of a 2am hotel departure, yet the idea of climbing Mt. Batur in the dark in time to catch the sunrise from the peak didn’t appal me.
I would never imagine so many people would be interested in climbing a mountain in the dark, to my surprise there were nearly 400 like-minded people at the base car park, that like me, were setting off with a flashlight in hand down a dusty path in a small guided group, ready to hike up a mountain in the darkness that comes before dawn.
I wasn’t sure our group were going to make it to the summit before dawn, we had been lumped with a pair of holiday makers who sorely misunderstood the basic fitness required to walk up a mountain, my alarm bells rang when they started calling for breaks before the ascent even began.
I felt bad for our guide as we left him with these slow unfit fuckers somewhere down the slope while the three of us strove to reach the summit before dawn fully broke. We all understood that he is meant to keep the group together and that our actions put him in a tricky position, but none of us were willing to miss the sunrise. We reached the summit with the sky becoming light, but before the sun made its appearance, we missed out on though the best seats, our guide joining us, a little flustered 20 or so minutes later.
The sunrise was lovely with the sky gradually shifting from an ashen grew, to a light golden yellow eventually melting through pastel hues to a delightful orange, the crater lake within the greater caldera below us was nowhere to be seen. The blue sky soon dominated the dawn light, seemingly chasing the orange glow around the horizon, the peaks of neighbouring dormant volcanoes both on Bali and the neighbouring Lombok Island peeking through the dawn mist beneath us. I enjoyed the view as I ate my frugal breakfast of a warm hard boiled egg, warmed banana sandwich and sweet tea the sky morphing in front of me.
With nearly 400 people perched on a mountain top all looking descend at the conclusion of the sunrise. Descending a scree slope due to the uneven and unstable surface and is an uncomfortable task when alone, as you don’t want to lose your own footing and fall. When a steep, narrow and uneven track like this one is congested any dislodged rocks can seriously injure those descending below. Needless to say the descent was slow, frustratingly so, the congested descent was trickier, slower and certainly more dangerous than it needed to be, the ever present risk of human error above leading to an uneasy experience.
The slow descent did have one benefit, splendid views, and the time to absorb them from the mountain side. With every few metres descent there was a pause, as the line of humanity in front of me slowed to navigate a turn or tricky section. I had time to watch the cool morning breeze blow the mist off the land, revealing the terraces, fields and pockets of forest formally hidden beneath, the mists were not yet blown from the large crater lake by the time by I lost my vantage, but at least the dangerous part of the descent was over.
The gently inclined dusty path we had walked in the pitch black of night was just as dusty during the day, the farmers were up and about tending to their crops planted in and around the light forest cover.
The chillies, tomatoes and onions crops in the terraced volcanic soil looked healthy and robust, occasionally a few chickens could be heard clucking in the undergrowth, the grunt of a pig still secure in its sty guaranteed a few farm houses were nearby. These signs of a hard country life made me smile as my shoes kicked yet more dust along the path, I wondered if these hard working people benefited from the tourists walking past their doors.
Having undertaken this activity early on in my stay made me feel much less guilty about the sand between my toes, the cocktails and ice cold beer, and the lack of alarm clocks that came to symbolise the rest of my time in Bali.