I had heard about the feat of trekking up Mount Batur, and having to leave at 1:30 am in order to do so, from another backpacker at the hostel.
Wait a second, 1:30 in the morning? The prospect of having to get up that early put me off just a bit, even if the reward was getting to hike up a volcano to see the sunrise from the summit. But then I thought about it some more, and it didn’t take long to convince myself that doing this trek would be totally worth it.
I was hoping that the 1:30 am start time would mean fewer tourists on the mountain, but I was wrong. Turns out, I’m not the only one who wants that epic photograph of the sunrise from the top of Mount Batur. I even brought my knitting along, just to get a few more good shots. Didn’t meet any knitters up on the mountain unfortunately, just other tourists giving me strange looks as I unravelled my scarf and started knitting.
But back to the start of the hike. I booked it directly through the hostel I was staying at, called Nema Problema, located outside the central area of Ubud. It seemed like they had the best price around, about 250,000 rupiah to hike it, the equivalent of $25 CAD. Not bad considering this includes a breakfast and transport from/to the hostel, about an hour and a half drive away.
Our tour guide, Gedde, also made for an excellent trekking companion. He didn’t rush us, was friendly and joking the whole way, and told us some interesting stories about the mountain.
Before the start of the trek, we stopped at a small hut just outside the base of the mountain. There, each of us (we were about 12 in total) got one fried banana. It didn’t seem like much, but I wasn’t complaining. If you are the hungry type though, may be a good idea to pack an extra fruit bar or two with you in your backpack, just in case.
It took us exactly two hours to reach the summit, and we were going at a moderate pace. The first portion was mainly walking up a slight incline, but the trail quickly steepened and became narrower, making it hard to be more than one person in a single file. There were several spots where I was glad to have brought my headlamp, and not the flashlight that the others had been given, as it helped to have two hands. For someone that doesn’t have much hiking experience, they would probably find the ascent quite challenging. It gets steep, there aren’t many switchbacks, there are loose rocks and sand, and the elevation gain is 700 m.
I was happy to have done the Lantau Trail in Hong Kong just a week earlier, as I felt in much better condition going up to the peak!
We reached the summit with about 10 minutes to spare before the sunrise. It wasn’t that easy to find a great spot, as there were already dozens of tourists taking pictures. Also, the ridge facing the sunrise isn’t that wide. It’s also not that obvious that it drops off quite suddenly on the side opposite the sunrise. Watch your steps. There are no guard rails protecting you from falling over the edge, and it’s a long way down. The last death on the mountain was in 2010 when a Swedish tourist fell in to the crater, which you can read about here.
We had a small boxed lunch that each of us had been given to by our guide at the start of the trek, consisting of a banana, two pieces of white bread, and a hard boiled egg. We handed the banana and egg over to our guide who buried them about a foot in the ground, near a fumarole. We then proceeded to wait for about 15 minutes for a volcanic steam cooked meal!
On the way down, we passed some friendly monkeys who were mostly just interested in any leftover bananas we might have, unlike the ones we saw at the Monkey Forest.
The nice thing about the hike down, is that we finally got a chance to take in the views that we missed from our hike up. At the base of the mountain, I turned around and got a chance to take this shot of Mount Batur.
The last major eruption was in 1963, and the mountain now sits at an elevation of 1,717 m, less high than it was previous to the eruption. Being the geology nerd that I am, I am constantly amazed by something so huge can change so drastically in such a short amount of time.
To wrap it all up, Mount Batur was amazing. Yes, there were way more tourists than I was expecting, along with little luxuries like hot coffee and tea waiting for you at the top (for a price, of course), but the views made it all worth it.
My next challenge will be climbing up Mount Agung. This one is slightly higher than Mount Batur at 3,031 m, but I’m hoping that this at least, will stave away the tourists.
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