I give up!
A strong thought flashed in my mind. As if the brain instructed the legs to move no further. I was cursing myself on the very thought of yesterday’s late-night dinner plan. Yesterday was our first marriage anniversary. For our anniversary, I wanted to go to a place full of mystical landscapes. Bali was always in my mind. So with a little thought, I booked the flight. Though I had planned no itinerary, Mount Batur was on top of my list. I was excited as this would be my first hiking experience. Sameer had already done many moderate to a difficult level of hiking. But he too was doing it after a gap of one year.
To get a good rest before the hike, I planned to cut short of our anniversary celebration and sleep early. So we could wake up by 3 A.M, but life does We ended up sleeping just for two hours. I was still in a dreamy state when the alarm rang. In a reflex action, I shut it down. I calculated in my mind that the pickup van arrives at 2.30 A.M. So I can sleep for fifteen more minutes. But then, there was a knock on the door and the phone too rang up. As if the universe was determined to get our lazy bones off the bed.
We were a group of seven including our guide. He was the youngest of all. One couple was from China and the other two girls Alicia and Megan were childhood besties, from Florida. Our guide Nyoman or third born, as they give all Balinese people’s names according to their order of birth. We met him at Serongga around 3 A.M in the night. He told us about the dos and don’ts. It was a cloudy night. Nyoman predicted it might rain. Hence, it’s better to start early. I saw the dimmed street lights reflecting upon his face. He must be in his early 20s. An innocent-looking, hopeful eyes and energetic personality. It gave us a sense of confidence, that we are with the right person. However, the most daunting and mammoth task was ahead of us.
Mount Batur or Gunung Batur
It is an active volcano at the centre of two concentric calderas rising nearly 5633 ft above sea level. It is situated in the northwest side of Mount Agung in Bali. The southeast side boasts the larger caldera. It has the caldera lake known as Lake Batur. Mount Batur caldera along with the lake, hot spring, forest, and unique Balinese culture has made it to the UNESCO Global Geo Park list. The last time Gunung Batur erupted was in 2000.
Balinese people look at the volcanic mountains as the wrath of Gods for human misconduct. Although, they are living in constant unpredictability, yet Balinese people love these mountains. Volcanic ash provides them with fertile agriculture land and an alternative source of income. They pray the mountain gods for prosperity and good health. So, It was no surprise to us why Nyoman prayed to the mountain before setting off on our trek.
The journey begins:
Have you ever been in pitch darkness and can’t even see your own hands? Yes, right we were in that situation. So the first 15 minutes we had to walk through the forest. It was a well-built flat concrete road. So far I was happy to get along with my group mates. We were walking fast. After 15 minutes we reach the base camp. We sipped some water. Nyoman told, we will take the next break after an hour. Hiking up in the volcanic mountain is not a simple task. Even my trekking shoes could not support me enough. It was very slippery. Volcanic stones are light, so you need to be extra cautious where to put your foot next.
By the time we reached our first breakpoint, that is exactly after an hour I was completely exhausted. My calf muscles were burning and my stomach was aching. I almost felt like throwing up. I was feeling sick and dizzy. Sameer tried to help me catch my breath. He boosted my spirit. He said, If you have climbed up so far, you can do the rest of it. My mind was saying to give up But my heart was yearning for the beautiful view. I didn’t want to miss that.
Nearing dawn, it appeared as if someone stroked the sky with inky blue to pink and orange colour. We had not seen anything so beautiful. All our tiredness, aching was gone. The cool breeze was touching our face, caressing through hair, singing a melodious song in our ear. Sameer hugged me and kissed on my forehead. Something was magical about that moment. But the most surreal and breath-taking moment was yet to happen.
We started again after a quick relax session. Gathering all our strength we set foot for the second level of the trail. 20 minutes after we started, suddenly we heard someone fall. It was Alicia. Before I turned around, I was next. Lesson learnt: While you are hiking never look back until you are standing in a safe place. Everyone in our group including us started laughing. Sameer helped me get up and Nyoman helped Alicia. Nyoman started singing to keep us cheerful. He does this hike four times a week. He is in the last year of high school and hiking is his part-time job. After the ice of silence broken between us, he asked; Have you met Shahrukh Khan and how’s Bollywood? We said, no we never met him. We learnt that he is a great fan of Shahrukh and want to visit Mumbai someday. When in distant land you hear something related to your land, it instils some kind of familiarity?
You never know what human mind is capable of until you try.
It is easy to give up and you also miss the chances you never take, said Nyoman. Every word he spoke is true. Until today I was the person who never even climbed a rock before. Yet, here I am halfway through the mountain hike. It’s doable. Although my body has adjusted itself a bit, still every step I took seems even more challenging. Nyoman hurried up the pace. When we saw him running through the trail, we felt so happy. His exuberant disposition became a source of motivation for us.
Sunrise is coming! Sunrise is coming!
Nyoman shouted at us. We hurried up the pace. The last ten steps wiped everything from my mind. All my negativity was washed up. My eyes were just fixed at the top. Sameer was already there. He was standing there looking at me with proud eyes. Shockingly how exhausting each step turned out to be we made it to the summit just in time, minutes before sunrise. Holding each other we were sitting on a stone edge. Our feet were dangling into the air, and the expanse of the valley stretches before us. My phobia of height was definitely gone. I was way up there defeating my mind’s boundary. I was in total disbelief asking myself; Did I climbed all of this in the gloomy night? Yes! you did it, replied Sameer.
We were getting ready to capture the most astounding view of sunrise sewn into the sky. As if clouds were stitched around it. The sun finally appeared above the horizon casting a golden light. But clouds didn’t want to leave the sun. They started playing hide and seek. Just like we used to play in our childhood days. Not aware of who is watching us. Every time the sun was peeking through the clouds, my heart was skipping a beat. I cling to Sameer’s hands. I thought if somewhere we have heaven, it’s here only. There is nothing beautiful and satisfying than this view. We will never trade it up with any other thing.
We charged ourselves with little food and water. Appeased with the gorgeous view, we set out for the downhill journey. We thought the worst part of climbing is over. Now, It would be easy but I was wrong. The muscles already exhausted from the climb; the knee had already given up immensely pressuring limbs and toenails. Adding to the difficulty was the ever slippery volcanic stone. A moment of inattentive, you can slide on the blackish slipping stone. Alicia fell many times throughout the descent. Luckily rest of us survived.
It was a painful descent, particularly annoying was the part it was a never-ending agony. Looking at the endless path, I was losing my hope. Toward the end, there was hardly any joy left when we passed through the misty enchanted forest. My mind was buzzing with one sentence; “When will this end?” Giving up with my tormented self I asked Nyoman, “How much time it will take?”. He said, another 15 minutes. Arriving at the parking lot we all but crumbled.
We said goodbye to Nyoman. We enjoyed his company. At first, he was sigh but towards the end; he was only talking with us. As we sat in our van to ride back to Ubud, we waved at him. This is the saddest part of travel, you bond with people, learn all about their lives. You share all the details knowing the fact you can never see them again. If climbing Batur had taught me anything, it was that people are the same everywhere. All having some dreams, chasing it to make it happen. So always challenge yourself, never give up on your dreams. It was one highlight of our Bali trip. Even more so as I got to share it with Sameer. So what are you waiting for? Go for it. If we did it, you too can.
How to book for Mount Batur Trek?
We have done it through our homestay. Our host has booked for us. However, you can easily find many Batur sunrise trekking booking counters in Ubud. Once you compare the prices with 3 to 4 agencies, go for it. You can also book through TRIPADVISOR.
Tips for trekking Gunung Batur
- Hiking trails in Batur requires a good level of fitness.
- There are no water sources nearby. So carry water with you.
- Make sure you carry Flashlight, wet tissues, antiseptic cream, and bandages.
- Also carry a windbreaker, hat, sunglasses, a raincoat with you.
- Hiking shoes with a good grip are essential.
- Wear long comfortable pants to protect your legs from rocks and wild fauna.
- Dress in light layers as the summit can get windy and cold.
- Be aware of the cheeky monkeys on the descent.
A small group of 10 people will cost around Rs. 3000 – Rs. 4000. This includes a guide, pick up and drop off at the hotel, two light breakfast (one before starting point and one after reaching the summit).
- Do not take a plastic water bottle with you.
- Carry back all wrappers, used tissue in a waste collection back.
- Dump it in the waste bin once you reach the city.
- Respect local culture and value people’s sentiments