Mount Batur is an active volcano nestled in the highlands of Bali. The peak overlooks a caldera, yet sits inside the rim of a larger, wider caldera. This unusual topography presents some astonishing views, particularly in the early morning, when the lake contained in the larger caldera is enshrouded in mist. Clocking in at 1,717m elevation, it is accessible even for inexperienced climbers. Despite a number of holidays to the Lake District as a child, this was definitely a group that I fell into. Come to think of it, I’m not sure how I’ve made it onto this blog in the first place.
The car wound its way through the highlands towards Mount Batur, carrying us part of the way up. We left the taxi in the car park and met Darthi, our guide for the ascent. Proudly kitted out in a Real Madrid t-shirt, a clean white hat and a pair of bright pink trainers, Darthi was a diminutive local – standing at a shade over 4 feet – she was also surprisingly young to be looking out for 4 clumsy, flatfooted westerners such as ourselves. Despite her age, she was clearly experienced, explaining to us how she climbed the mountain every day. She was also a surprisingly solid extra handhold on some of the steeper sections of the climb, even for the rather larger man who was part of our party.
The 3 hour ascent began with us leaving the car park, following a moderately flat path that was fairly similar to the car park itself. After a few minutes we passed a sign warning against attempting the climb without a guide. It was at this point that the climb began in earnest, as the path became sharper, snaking its way up the mountainside. With the path growing steeper still, the stones covering it giving way to a rockier layer, the abundance of groups ahead of us slowed down, and we became part of a several mile long line, stretching towards the summit.
The effect of this was impressive, as hundreds of head torches illuminated the path ahead of us, lighting it up like fairy lights. We followed the path, feeling it get steeper, until we reached a small plateau containing one of Bali’s myriad of shrines. Darthi stopped to make an offering to the mountain – taking out a small banana-leaf tray containing a number of items, each of which she diligently held above her head in turn before placing it back in the tray.
After a couple of hours of climbing, the deep blues of the night sky slowly began to give way to a dark crimson on the horizon. Dawn was coming, and we were still 20 minutes from the top. Darthi was frustrated by our lack of progress, hindered by the sluggish conga line heading to the summit. She wasn’t alone, impatient guides started pushing past and taking different routes towards the top, attempting to bypass the slower. The camaraderie of only a few minutes before had been replaced by a mad scramble.
Exchanging this one pest for another, we continued on up towards the still active caldera, where there was a large number of macaque monkeys. We’d seen this species of monkey in Bali on a couple of occasions, full of personality, most of which was mischievous. They engaged in a lot of theft, and could commonly be seen climbing on people. These two things often coincided.
The experience was amazing and well worth the early morning rise!
We even managed to get a timelapse of daybreak at the summit:
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