Halfway through our stay in Ubud we booked a day excursion to hike Mount Batur in the centre of the island. It cost a pretty unbelievable 250,000 rupiahs each, or £10, for our transport there and back, a complimentary breakfast and a guide for the day. We had been quoted quite a few prices around the town and eventually settled on the cheapest one after reading online that all the tours actually converged anyway.
We were picked up from our hotel in a really comfortable minivan at 2.30am and drove an hour North to a coffee plantation. There, ourselves and another two groups were made banana pancakes and either fresh tea or coffee from the farm. The coffee was unbelievably strong and I didn’t think it would’ve been my best idea to drink it before a two hour hike but it was wonderful to see it made in front of us. From there we got back in our respective vans and drove another half hour or so to the base of the mountain. There were countless vans and even more people. We were assigned two guides to our group of twelve and torches were handed out to a few of us. There were shops, restaurants and street vendors all around the car park area as well as toilets.
I wish so much that I took photographs of and wrote down the names of both of our guides. Both men, one was in his mid to late twenties and the other probably closer to fifty or sixty. I was so intrigued by the younger man, and Paul and I walked alongside him learning about his life and him about ours for the entire flat part of the walk – seeing as we both hadn’t exercised in months at this point we quickly lagged behind when we began to ascend. He told us he walked with the tours every day, and had done for years. He didn’t use a torch and spent most of his time looking backwards and checking on our group. It was so incredible to see how familiar he was with his environment.
The climb itself was not too strenuous, but nonetheless it was at times a climb. My fear of heights started to creep up on me the higher we got, and considering this was the first time I had ever climbed anywhere near this height – 1717 metres – but thanks to my wonderful Paul I got to the top. As we waited our guides boiled eggs for us from the volcano’s heat. The sun was only just starting to rise as we reached the top, and we made ourselves comfortable on a bench with a blanket looking out onto it. Over the next forty five minutes or so the sky painted a thousand pictures; starting with deep purples, yellows and blues which seamlessly transformed to bright pinks and oranges. Through the softer light we could see Mount Rinjani on Lombok in the far distance. After the low clouds began to dissipate, below us was the incredible Lake Batur. Against the black and grey of the mountain we stood on contrasted so wonderfully the blue of the lake and sky. The landscape before us was so green, so lush and so familiar. It reminded me of the Pacific Northwest of America but also slightly of home.
Away from the mountains edge and towards the crater of the volcano, steam rose up from the ground and families of monkeys ran around the tourists snatching food from their hands. Three separate craters merged together to form the now vast gape in the rock and I think I just about pushed poor Paul to the edge when I leaned over the side to take photographs of this incredible sight. The crater itself reminded me so much of the Scottish Highlands with the unevenness of the hills, the exposed grey rock and the forty shades of green that were scattered across them.
The walk down was slightly less terrifying and entirely more breathtaking than the one upwards. The entire way down we had panoramic views of the lake scene which changed so slightly every time I stopped to admire it. The groups were not so much together in the descent and we were free to stop as often or infrequently as we wanted to take photographs or just to look around. Closer to the end of the walk we passed small houses built on farms, outside of them puppies, chickens and toddlers ran around. Our drive home was even more delightful as I got to sit alongside our driver and have unobstructed views of the beautiful Balinese countryside as we rolled through it. We stopped further away from the lake but with a much better vantage point to take yet even more photographs and our driver was very (very) gracious in letting me stick my head and camera out of the window for the large part of our drive home.
If you’re fit and able enough to do this excursion then please (please!!) do. For just £10 and one morning – we were dropped off before 12pm. Not only does it have incredible views, but it gives such a different perspective of the island than I had doing anything else in our entire month there. I had such a sense of gratification after climbing, too. Not just to be driven to the gates of somewhere but to actually have to exert myself and work to be able to have seen what I seen made it all the more gratifying. It was also wonderful to see another part of the island I would never have seen otherwise. We watched the food markets that lined the streets just along from the volcano’s base as we drove past, seen parades and school children celebrating Independence day in the streets.