Everyday life

Mount Batur

According to wiki, Mount Batur is an active volcano located at the center of two concentric calderas north west of Mount Agung, Bali, Indonesia. It stands at 1717m tall and is a popular tourist destination.

About a month ago, we debated on whether we should set our sights on Mount Agung, or be more conservative and tackle the easier mountain. The pictures and experience shared by a friend of mine convinced me that I will not do Mount Agung. So we settled on Mount Batur, which, according to sources on the internet, was manageable, even for inexperienced hikers.

We booked our tour at Ubud. It cost us 350k to join a “group” which we thought would have up to 15 people. The price quoted to us for a private tour was 600k. We decided on the “group” and paid 700k for the two of us. Later in the day, we found a sign saying that hikers were wanted to join the Mount Batur tour for the next day, and the going price was only 300k.

We slept early that night although the coffee from Seniman coffee studio kept me tossing and turning. I was afraid that we would miss the van. At 2.00am in the morning, we stood outside our hotel, waiting for the transport that would pick us up to the mountain.

The car arrived just a minute or two after two. We were the first passengers he picked up. He made rounds around Ubud and soon the 7 seater car was filled. Apart from us, there was a solo female traveller, two young female friends, and a middle aged couple from Estonia. We went along for about an hour in the dark before we pulled up by the road next to a hut. There, we met up with two German boys who had arrived by another car. After some tea, we set off again. Not wanting to squeeze in the full car that we came by, we hopped onto the German boys’ car (which only had the two of them) for a more comfortable ride.

The car rundled along for about 15 more minutes before we reached what must be the bottom of the hill and entrance to the hike. There were hordes of people there. Many of them must be local villages who would be guiding people up the mountain. A young Balinese greeted us and the 5 of us set off shortly.

It was about 4am when we set off and we proceeded at a quick pace. The ground was rather flat and although it was pretty dark, there were enough people on the trail that I could have kept my head torch off. The different guided groups split off and regrouped with the short breaks taken along the trail. It must have been about 30 minutes to an hour before the gentle slope began to give way to a steeper terrain. I kept my head torch firmly turned on although when it was off, I could see the beautiful lights of other trekkers in the distance, shining out from the dark.

Although the terrain became steeper, the pace set was pretty comfortable and I was pretty pleased at myself for having been able to cope so well. The pile up of people slowing down in front helped to ease the pace as well. What really annoyed me was how noisy the entire trek was. There was a British boy that kept making such a din, shouting “England” wherever he went and running ahead of his guide, trying to get ahead of everyone. Extremely obnoxious and what I thought was completely un-English like. And then another guy kept shouting for his wife who was several meters below him. While I wouldn’t say I’ve done much trekking before, I’ve never had the experience of hiking with so much noise.

This was what the sky looked like when we reached the first summit at around 5.30am.

IMG_2558

Beautiful as it was, I had to share it with what must be a hundred people, which took a lot of the pleasure out of it.

There was still a summit 2 though, and we carried along up a steep ash covered path.

And that was my first encounter with ash. I’ve heard bad stuff about it, how it was 2 steps forward and 1 step back, but experiencing it for yourself is another story. It is pretty frustrating how slow the process is. It is such a delicate process of balancing and trying not to fall back–extremely draining. I struggled up on this one and thought the summit would never be attained. But of course, with sufficient patience and perseverance, one does get to the top.

It was definitely less crowded, but still alot more people than I would have liked. Some did venture on to a summit 3, but summit 2 was where we stopped. There was a little hut up each of summits 1 and 2 where the locals would sell cold drinks and breakfast with coffee/tea for a premium. IMG_2579

Going down was alot quieter, as people took their time to depart. Sliding down the ash was something like 10 times easier than walking up it, although there was still a section of rocks to navigate further down, which played havoc with my knees. Thankfully they behaved themselves pretty well. Our guide Eddy, was really nice and patient, looking out for each and everyone of us, especially when the German in slippers had difficulty going downhill on the way back. According to our guide Eddy, we walked about 10km today (there and back).

While the view was lovely and the hike itself was really pleasant, I’m not sure the view of the sunrise over the mountain is worth the experience of waking up at 2am in the morning and sharing the trail with so many people. I miss the peace and tranquility experienced on other hikes I’ve done, sharing that experience only with a few good friends.

Maybe when I’m more fit, I’ll look to do Agung when I’m in Bali. I’m sure that Volcano will have a lot less people.

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