High up very early
Trip Start Sep 11, 2007
41Trip End Ongoing
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After an evening of trying-to-sleep-with-no-success, my language teacher and friend, Gunawan had picked me up at 11.30pm. His teenage son Aga was with him too. It was raining heavily, and the petrol tank was low - a great start to the evening! Eventually we found a 24-hour petrol station that was still open, and we picked up Gunawan's friend Agus on the way, arriving near the bottom of the volcano at about 2am.
Gunawan is a Catholic, but Agus is a Hindu, and he had brought offerings with him, as people do so often in Bali. We stopped at a temple on the way, and Agus lit the incense and said prayers for a safe climb. He repeated this at Pura Batur (Batur Temple) which is the 'post' at the bottom of the volcano at that side.
I was rather startled to learn that I had to ask Agus should I need to go to the toilet while on the volcano, as he had to select a suitable spot for this activity - this is all part of the respect that is accorded to mountains as holy places. We could not take a photograph with three people in them, as that does not bode well in Bali. I was also warned several days before the climb not to take a beef sandwich with me on the climb. While Hindus in Bali do eat beef, taking beef up a mountain is not appropriate.
We set off at 3am, with our torches, walking boots and plenty of water.
The path started to branch off, and it was getting difficult to see where we should be going. After a while, we climbed out of the woods, but the path had more or less disappeared. We were now climbing up paths of reddish-brown solidified lava, and I was surprised that it was so red - other lava that I have seen has always been black or dark brown.
There was a smudgy half moon, and the view behind us started to become very impressive, with snatches of a large volcano visible behind the clouds, on the horizon.
Then it got tougher. For the next twenty minutes we were climbing a slope with a gradient of about two in three, pulling ourselves up through a seemingly endless dense thicket, and the clouds had set in, so it started to feel a bit claustrophobic. We stopped for a rest, as there was no path in sight.
After another twenty minutes of scrambling up slopes with lots of loose grey sand, we reached the summit! This was most unexpected, for some reason, and it felt great to have made it.
The summit was surrounded by clouds, so we couldn't see anything. Then after about five minutes, all of a sudden, the pink and orange streaks of dawn started to emerge on the horizon.
The clouds continued to clear, revealing more of the landscape as the light on the horizon got stronger. It was incredible, really breath-taking, and such a wonderful surprise - I couldn't believe it, and I kept laughing.
A few minutes later, the crater of the volcano was visible, and as the sun rose we could see a few clouds of sulphur puthering out of vents that were hidden from view. All the while, people continued to arrive on the top, until there were about twenty.
Agus and Gunawan had brought a small stove - what better time to have a nice cup of tea? Some brilliant thinking going on there. I don't often have views like that for breakfast!
An hour or so later, the clouds started to gather again, so it was time to descend. This time it was a lot easier, as we could see where we were going, and the views continued to impress on the way.
We got back to the bottom at about 10am, and it was strange to see places in daylight that we had passed in the darkness earlier that morning. The temples now felt quite small and commonplace, where before they had been so very mysterious and exciting. As we reached the car, we were approached by two men, one of whom was shouting at us.
This man mistook Agus for an official guide, and he was chiding Agus for not registering with them before we went up.
Anyway, we drove back down to Denpasar, stopping off at a warung for some food en route.
We got back to Denpasar for about 1pm on Sunday, and I had a nice afternoon nap!
(More photos in the album; there are also photos of Gunung Batur from a distance in the entry entitled 'Wild Beauty').