I looked at the clock and it was 11.30pm. I had my alarm set on my phone for 1.30am with our driver picking us up at 2.00am. We were setting off from our Hotel on the North East Coast of Bali to climb Mount Batur. The alarm went off and after what seemed like a very a brief power nap. Sam and I gathered our things, locked up our room and took a short walk to collect our pre made breakfast box and water from the hotel reception.
Our driver pulled up just before our scheduled 2.00am pickup. Still half asleep I asked the driver to find me an ATM machine en route. Sam and I dived in the back and off we went. The roads were deserted at that time of the morning, we began to weave and climb up through the narrow streets. The driver pushing the small Suzuki vehicle to its maximum effort. Some of the roads were very steep with hairpin bends, it was not for the nervous passenger. After driving for a short time the driver pulled up next to an ATM where I used my trusty Starling Bank card to withdraw the 800,000 IDR (£1= approx 18,000 IDR) which I needed to pay the guide for their services and entrance fee onto the mountain. Cash in my wallet I jumped back in the Suzuki and the driver continued. We arrived at what I could only be described as a checkpoint in the road where officials/guides from the mountain were flashing torches directing our vehicle to someone where we would pay the entrance fee. I gave my money to our driver who in turn took care of the payment. Waved through the checkpoint we soon arrived at a carpark which would act as the RVP and the place where tourists would meet there designated guide.
The carpark area was bustling with people. I used the toilet facilities before we were introduced to out guide, a very fit and slim looking 24 year old who didn’t waste any time on introductions. I put my backpack on my back, slung my smaller bag with camera and GroPro round my front, off we went. Setting a brisk pace the guide gave Sam and I a torch each as we headed up a narrow tarmac road. The road was lined by farmers fields growing onions and various other vegetables. I was worried about the pace that was being set as Sam was a novice to mountains. I could see that she was beginning to worry and the look of panic on her face was evident. It was pitch black and the guide was beginning to shine his torch up at the mountain. I hadn’t done too much research prior to booking the excursion and the hotel reception described it as a fun walk…. The silhouette of the mountain up ahead of us looked like a challenging climb, it was at this point Sam to her credit said to the guide that it was beyond her capabilities. I could see that Sam was upset but knowing what I know now it was definitely the right decision. The guide and Sam headed back, so that Sam could wait with the driver and maybe catch up on some sleep. The guide and I agreed that I would tag on to the back of the next group of people I caught up with and that I would meet him at the half way point, which he stated would be very obvious.
Head down I started to set a good pace myself and soon caught up with a group in front. They were a French family and I could read their faces… Their faces were saying “who is this random guy tagging on to the back of our group?” I explained my situation and luckily they spoke and understood English which helped. The climb itself was becoming steeper and the ground underfoot was becoming challenging. It was definitely starting to give the leg muscles and my lungs a good workout. I could see that we had reached the very obvious halfway point. It had a concreted flattened area where a lady and her children were beginning to set up their stall. They were selling drinks, chocolate bars, energy gels and other confectionary perfect for climbers burning through the calories. I explained to the French family and their guide that I would be waiting for my guide to catch me up. I waited for about five minutes and my guide suddenly appeared from nowhere… “That was quick I thought to myself” I asked him if Sam was okay, he said yes she is okay, she is going to sleep. I was worrying a little as I was in a foreign country, Sam was with the driver who we only just met and I was continuing up this 5,000ft mountain. I said to the guide I have completed mountain races in the past, as well as running ultra marathons so I wanted to challenge myself and push on up the mountain, “Okay no problem” he said as he set off.
Setting a lung busting pace and hardly breaking sweat we soon passed the French family, which shouts of “Go..Newcastle” as we powered past them. The ground was becoming steeper and more gruelling. The guide was beginning to make me work hard and was starting to pull away up ahead. Passing more climbers with every stride he would occasionally look round to see if I was still in contact. I always had him in sight and would give him a thumbs up to indicate that I was okay and to keep going. It was still dark, I looked back down the mountain and could see a long snaking line of torches from the hundreds of other people who were now attempting the climb below. The wind was also picking up as we gained altitude. The guide turned to me with a smile on his face and said “only 20 minutes to the top, maybe even less…” The gradient was steep and the consistency of the ground underfoot was of a powder like dust which made it a challenge for my white Saucony running shoes, which were now a dirty shade of grey. After a short while we reached the summit, the guide turning to me and give me a high five and a big hug. I looked at my Garmin watch and it displayed 1hr 20mins as I hit the stop button. I showed the guide and he appeared very happy. He said normally it takes the average person 2 hours + maybe more. I was happy with that.
The wind at the summit was strong and it was blowing up the dust from the tracks and was difficult to keep out of my eyes. I tried to use my sunglasses to block the dust but it didn’t appear to work. I also began to feel at bit of a chill as I was cooling down and the sweat was beginning to dry. I only had a thin long sleeve fleece top on with my shorts. We were the first handful of people to reach the top of the mountain so we could find a seat inside the small shelter. I sat next to two french girls who again spoke very good English. We chatted about Bali and other places we had visited in the world as well as Sam’s travel blog. They made a note of Sam’s Instagram and Twitter handles. The guide ordered me a coffee with two sugars in. The black coffee came in a long glass and was delicious, just what I needed to warm up. As I gazed out towards the horizon and sea the sky was just beginning to change colour, an orange hint intensifying with every minute.
06.27 was estimated sunrise time according to google. We had nearly two hours to wait. I was thinking to myself ‘I wish I had brought another jacket…’ I looked out from the small shelter and more people were beginning to arrive at the top. There was a lot of younger people who looked like students who were travelling the world. There was also group of Indonesian teenagers who were on a school expedition. They were buzzing with their effort at reaching the top. They held up their national flag to toast their achievement. I love that, I thought to myself.
Time was ticking closer to sunrise and the sky was beginning to get to a very noteworthy orange, enough to justify getting the camera and GoPro ready. I captured some great pictures and videos. I spent a lot of time people watching. I also thought to myself how many people maybe didn’t make it to the top of this challenging 1700m climb. I have done many races in Snowdonia in Wales. The race was over a 22 mile course where you climb seven 3,000ft peaks it was challenging. Batur was over 5,000ft and was definitely more difficult in terms of gradient and I wouldn’t say ‘Fun’ is how you would describe it.
The guide took my obligatory mountain top photos. The sun now fully up I scanned the mountain top and would estimate 300/400 people were now observing the sunrise.
I didn’t want to be at the back of the long line heading back down the mountain, so I turned to the guide and said lets go, using my arms to indicate to run back down… He smiled and off we went. We reached the half way point in 20 minutes. When the guide said he needed to take his moped back to the RVP. We clambered over some rocks to discover a small parking area of mopeds lined up. I then discovered that there was a ‘guides’ track that led from the half way point back to the RVP carpark… No wonder he managed to meet me at half way so quickly…. We both hopped on the moped and he blasted us down the track. GoPro in hand as we manoeuvred down the track. It was now daylight and was noticeably warmer. The beauty of the foothills were amazing, as I looked back the mountain was standing in all it’s glory. I definitely felt a sense of achievement. As I stepped of the moped my legs definitely knew that they had just climbed a mountain.
Back at the Suzuki I knocked on the window and was relieved that Sam hadn’t been kidnapped. She was looking a lot fresher than me after a sleep. I discovered that the driver and Sam had been for breakfast in one of the local cafes, Sam said that it was delicious. The driver was impressed at the speed of our climb and descent. I used the facilities once more before making our journey back to the hotel. The scenery on the way back was something else. I will remember Batur and I am glad I took on the challenge. My advice to others would be to pack a jacket and maybe some warmer clothing for the time you are at the summit. Take it from me that it is challenging and isn’t for the faint hearted, I would question anyone who thinks it is easy. You have to have quite a good level of fitness as it does test the legs and lungs. We even made it back to the hotel in time for breakfast.
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