Hiking over the Volcano… Mount Batur Sunrise Trek

In this time of COVID-19, we should be careful and try to stay home to avoid the spread of the virus. However, we reminisce back to the day when we were free to travel.

By Pallabi Sengupta

The secret behind the best ‘good morning’ is to stare at the sun flushing golden streaks of light from the East and then staining the scrapes of clouds with dazzling colors. My sunrise trek to Mount Batur was one of such unforgettable journeys. Mount Batur is one of the active volcanoes in Bali–around 5,600 feet higher from the sea level and dwarfed by Mount Agung standing taller on the next. It is located in Northern Bali in the Kintamani District–around a one-hour drive from Ubud.

The midnight road trip to the base camp:

In December 2019, my husband and I booked a two weeks itinerary in Bali. Whilst the honeymoon couples lust after the visions of white sand beaches with the sips of margarita, we were on a spree to experience the adventures of Mount Batur sunrise trekon the second day in Bali.  We booked a shared tour to Mount Batur from our villa in Ubud for IDR 4,000,000/person. ($270 USD) We started the road trip at 2 am night from the villa. While we were perspiring in the sultry climate and the cacophony of city traffic, the drive to the base camp was chilling cold giving me goose bumps with every twist and turn. The breakfast point was 30 minutes away, where we had the complimentary Balinese tea/coffee and banana pancake. After breakfast, we drove up to the base camp at 3 am, where we met our English-speaking guide. He gave a quick briefing before we set off and provided us the flashlights.

How difficult is the trek?

The first half-an-hour was innocuously enough with a gentle slope. We found small vegetable farms across the road side. This part was quite deceiving as we ascended the paved roadside hill. The trail became steeper and filled with the remnants of lava stones, making it slippery. We strongly recommend watching out for the weather forecast and avoid rainy seasons before you plan for the Mount Batur trek. As soon as we gained the altitude, the trail narrowed and became steeper offering more vertical switchbacks. My calves were aching with each stride and I was gasping for breath like an asthma patient. The trail was also crowded with many tourists. We leapfrogged past each other multiple times– either they stopped for rest and we passed them by or we halted to relax our breathing and they climbed past us.

The Half-point:

After 1 hour, we reached the half-point, where the local people sell fruits and beverages.  Here, they provide motorbike facility to reach the summit for IDR 3,000,000/person. ($200 USD) We relaxed our muscles there for a while and then struggled to power through the rest of the hiking before the sunrise but the trail was more indomitable, much steeper. It was utterly frustrating to keep walking over the volcanic ash as we took one-step forward and fell half-way down. Finally, after a series of shortness of breath and frequent questions of ‘are we there yet’, we made the final ascent towards the summit in 2 hours.

The Spectacular Sunrise over the volcano:

Meanwhile the sky started to show red colour like blood seeping up suddenly reaches flaring plane wise. Thankfully, we made it just in time to witness the beginning of the sunrise. My husband set up the camera to capture this paradisiacal top-view. All our fatigue evaporated as the sunbeams drained up into the sky at the edge of the volcano like until it cleared the last trace of darkness. Underneath us, the swirling clouds were floating like some gigantic flamingo while the sun with molten red rim pushed itself over Mount Batur. The gentle whispering wind peaked out from its hiding-place, wandered in the rustling trees, waking our tiredness to the fresh dawn.

Lots of monkeys hanging around the summit distracted us. Our guide alerted us to keep a watchful eye over our belongings. While my husband was too careful to set aside his camera from their mischievous vigilance, one of these miscreants took off two packets of tissue papers from his bag.

Climbing down the volcano:

The most difficult part was climbing down the volcanic rock. We followed a crumbly ridge around the edge sliding our way down. We skidded and slithered many times over the loose ground stones. The narrow ridge, loose ground stones, and slippery trail soon crumbled our romanticism. Add to the struggle, we were sweating profusely as the sun was up. Our guide led us to the places, where we witnessed how hot smoke is still creeping out of the volcano. After around 1–1.5 hours, we came back to the half-point, and had a clear and beautiful view of the idyllic Balinese temple in the lap of volcano, which was shadowed in the dark while hiking up. I sat transfixed while the majestic nature was complementing its spirituality that seemed to exude a sense of serenity everywhere.

Satiated, we looked back and up at the volcano, which greeted us the most beautiful ‘good morning’ and tempted us to return for more. In short, we still relive that day with tokens of memories, shared breakfast and new friendships while admiring the spectacular sunrise.

Pallabi Sengupta is a researcher in Biophysics from India. Get in touch at http://thevagabondsscrapbook.wordpress.com