First Time Climbing A Volcano – Mount Batur Sunrise Climb – Ubud – Bali
We woke early in the morning for the drive to Mount Batur. Very early. Setting out at 2 in the morning, we’d been left with a quandary as to whether we should sleep or not. Unwillingly waking up at 6am the previous morning forced the former choice. But after 3 hours sleep, we were up for the Mount Batur sunrise climb.
After getting ready – wearing long trousers and bringing a hoodie for the ascent – whilst it was 26 degrees in Ubud, the elevation of the mountain meant that it was closer to 12! We went and waited at the reception. The tour had been booked through Indraprastha homestay, but we ended up being the only people waiting as 2 different drivers turned up, neither of whom seemed to be entirely certain who they were meant to be picking up. We went for the second driver, leaving the first debating with a long suffering (and tired) after hours receptionist.
A little way into our ride we stopped at a small cafe, festooned with large format prints of coffee beans with abrasive Wordart style text emblazoned upon them. The cafe had a slightly grubby quality to it, but the tea served was pleasant, and well received by the crowd of Europeans and Americans, all starved of sleep. Hot on the tail of the tea, we each received a small, sad looking pancake, with an over-ripe banana in the middle. It certainly wasn’t a breakfast of kings, but was tastier than it looked and provided some energy for the climb ahead of us.
The rest of the journey to Mount Batur took about half an hour. We exited the taxi and were introduced to our guide Darthi, who stood at about 4 feet tall. What she lacked in height, she made up for in cheeriness, and despite looking very young, she was very experienced, climbing the mountain once or twice every day.
We started on the trail to no great celebration – people were already walking up the mountain in droves, despite the fact it was only half 3 in the morning, the time and the altitude meaning that our long sleeved clothing was necessary. At the beginning, the climb was less of a climb, and more of a walk on a sandy path. Things changed after we reached the first rest stop, as the sand gave way to loose rock. The going was somewhat harder here, as the rocks were more likely to slip underfoot as the mountain became steeper. After another 20 minutes or so, the path flattened out for a few metres. At this point Darthi said that she would like to pray, as there was a shrine with a couple of other people doing so.
We watched Darthi pray, taking each item from a small offering, and holding it between her hands. She did this one by one, and then left everything by the shrine as we left. We had seen offerings littering the pavements around Bali, and seeing someone interact with them was new and quite profound. People clearly take this aspect of the religion quite seriously in Bali – as the offerings were put out in the morning, everywhere, almost without fail, and the cumulative time involved must be quite significant. Darthi gave the impression of making an effort with each item that she offered, and I’m not sure that I could sustain the same level of dedication every single day. I’d probably just end up buying cheap, premade offerings in bulk from Amazon. However, I suspect streamlining the whole process isn’t the point.
We continued up the Mount Batur, the path lit up by several hundred head torches, looking like fairy lights stretching up to the summit. As the climb became steeper, it became slower, and it ended up feeling increasingly like we were part of a large queue, rather than a group of people trying to climb a mountain. There felt like there was a general sense of bonhomie – and not just because we were walking with a couple of French people – as whilst the climb wasn’t difficult, it was far from comfortable, with its relentless stopping and starting.
We were still on the side of the mountain as dawn broke – about 10 minutes from the viewing area at the top. Darthi was getting restless, feeling that we were going to miss it. The atmosphere changed as we got nearer the top, some groups broke the line and took alternate routes, pushing past as they did. Despite this, we made it to the top before the sun peeked its way above the distant rim of the caldera.
The view over the next half hour was one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. The sky went from a clear, immensely deep blue, to a light blue, to a yellow to a crimson red. One of our friends at the Jeel Art House had mentioned that there was a possibility of a seven colour sunrise, and I’m pretty sure we were fortunate enough to see one. A bank of clouds sat within the confines of the caldera itself, the fluffy edges providing a nice counter to the sharp inclines of the peaks lining it. The view was stunning, and despite the fact that I brought along my slr, I was unable to truly capture the beauty of the sunrise. But I gave it a good go.
We continued further up the volcano, coming to an area with an abundance of monkeys. After the sacred monkey forest of Ubud only a handful of days before, you may think that we would have had our full of macaques, but we were weren’t quite done yet.
The monkeys at the top of Mt Batur were a little more like the monkeys of the Uluwatu temple – they were a little more inclined to steal food where they could (Laura lost some breakfast biscuits to a monkey that pickpocketed her), and were happy enough to clamber up on people to enable their criminal activities. We spent a while photographing them in the early morning sun, before we began the descent.
Climbing down, we were greeted by some pretty wonderful views, which had been concealed under darkness. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to truly appreciate them in a lot of cases, as the group going downwards was a lot like the ascent. It was again, a little like a queue, only made more difficult by the fact that a lot of rocks were loose from the evening’s climb, it was slippery, and I was very glad to have a decent pair of walking shoes to help me keep my footing.
After a slow descent, we still were back at the car park on Mount Batur before half 10 in the morning. We said our farewells to Darthi, and hopped in the taxi to take us back to our hotel. On the way back, we passed the Tegalalang rice paddies, but everyone in the car was too tired to notice.
On getting back to the hotel, I put together this timelapse. Again, failing to accurately depict how incredible the sunrise was!