Climbing an active volcano at 4 in the morning during a lightning storm was a challenge I’ll remember the rest of my life.
I talked some volunteers into climbing Mt. Batur with me, a 5,633 ft. active volcano (it last erupted in 2000, with a larger, destructive eruption in 1968). It’s popular to climb the mountain early in the morning to catch breathtaking sunrises. As a semi-outdoorsy gal (I mean, I live in the Pacific Northwest, it’s almost a requirement to living in Washington to have some sort of inclination for the outdoors), hiking up an active volcano seemed like an adventure! And it was. While there are some ethical aspects to hiking the mountain (a mafia controls the Mt. Batur trekking industry) it seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity.
We hired a guide (I’ve read a couple blogs about what can happen if you don’t hire a guide – like being harassed by this so-called mafia) from Bali Volcano Trekking for $45/person (600,000 rupiah). This was the most expensive thing I paid for in Bali. You can find cheaper tours if you look around. For example, some friends only paid $30 for a guide. However, we got some perks that our friends did not, such as flashlights, hiking poles, a sizable breakfast AND candy bars, and got to visit a coffee plantation after to sample some local coffee and tea.
We were picked up by our driver around 2:30 A.M. He had a difficult time finding our volunteer house, so I asked him to meet us at a coffee shop down the street which worked out well. After an hour of driving on quiet roads in the Bali countryside, we made it to a busy parking lot. Other tourists were being dropped off and met by their guides. We met our two friendly guides and were given a flashlight and climbing pole to assist us in the steep climb up the mountain.
The poles, the flashlights, and our guides came in handy. The hike was fairly challenging, but the added element of not being able to see and the distant lightning storm made the hike seem like a doozy. At one point there was a fork in the trail. A different group in front of us made a left, and we made a right. I asked the guide why we were going in a different direction. He responded, “They went the easy way. We are going the harder way because you are young and strong!” Great.
It took us about two hours to scramble up the mountain. I was so thankful to have the hiking poles to help hoist us up the slippery volcanic rock and prevent us from slipping off the edge of the mountain. We saw a lightning strike about every few minutes or so off in the distance. It was a kind of scary!
But damn, it was worth it once we got to the top.
After we took a million pictures of the sunrise, our guides prepared coffee and breakfast for us supposedly using “volcanic steam” to boil our eggs and bananas. I did see a large pile of propane tanks by the prep kitchen though…hmm…
The hike down the mountain seemed harder than the hike up. The slick rock, the steep trail and exhaustion setting in did not help. But I did see wild monkeys! All my pictures were blurry, so imagine a few monkeys chilling out by some trees, not aggressively stalking tourists for bananas.
After our hike, we went to a coffee plantation. There are coffee plantations everywhere in Bali where you can tour and sample various coffee blends. The caffeine boost was a great way to end what felt like the end of the day.
Our driver was awesome and dropped us off at Ibu Oka, the famous babi guling (suckling pig) restaurant that Anthony Bourdain visited for his former show “No Reservations.” A lot of bloggers say this place is overrated, but I’m a huge fan of Bourdain and I love pork so how could it be bad? They run out of food before noon on some days because it is so popular. Luckily we were able to try this beautifully made pork. I’ll talk more about my meal in a future blog where I’ll talk about all the food I got to try, but here is a picture of my pork-filled feast. I didn’t think it was overrated, however it was a pricier meal I had in Bali (65000 rupiah = around $5)
Next blog I’ll talk about Nusa Penida and my experience working with turtles.