Following personal adversity, we do great (though not necessarily good) and sometimes funny things. In Wild, Cheryl Strayed set out to rebuild herself by walking 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (goals AF). Elizabeth Gilbert ate, prayed, and loved her way through three countries. Frances Mayes traveled reluctantly to Italy and bought a Tuscan villa on a whim. Alexander Supertramp gave away all his belongings and made his way to Alaska, surviving over 100 days before he died (maybe the happiest ending of all, depending on the current state of your mental health).
When we think we have nothing more to lose, we either spiral further into self-destruction (I drank my way through December) or pick ourselves up off the ground AND MAKE SHIT BETTER.
Sometimes, getting better doesn’t mean having to do something huge like walking yourself back to the woman your mom expected you to be (I really loved Wild), giving up your worldly possessions and shedding your identity, or putting your life on pause to take a break (frankly, no regular person has that kind of luxury).
So sometimes, you just have to climb a mountain.
I am not a hiker, I do not climb anything unless it’s the ladder of success (I’m sorry) but a Mt Batur sunrise hike is pretty much on every list of things to do in Bali. A four-hour hike might seem like nothing but it’s a big deal to me and my potsticker of a body. A week before leaving for Bali, I revisited my bookmarks and booked a solo Mt Batur Sunrise Trek. Solo only really means you have to pay more but you still join a rather large group.
My day started at 1AM (this is the time I usually crawl into bed) and I woke up in a panic because I was supposed to get picked up in half an hour and I needed time to freshen up, do my make-up (don’t judge me), get dressed, pack my bag, and eat something. Fortunately, the driver was running half an hour late.
The drive to the starting point from Sanur was about an hour and a half. With nothing but potato chips and weak coffee in my body, we started hiking at 4AM. It’s a two-hour hike and our guides assured us we’d reach the summit in time for the sunrise.
The first part of the hike was an uphill climb through the forest which was still pretty easy, though my legs and lungs were already on fire. Things got harder about an hour into it, as we started making our way up through rocks. The terrain was also much steeper.
The pretty Singaporean girl in my group legit threw up.
“Why am I doing this?” she wailed.
“For Instagram, of course,” I half-joked.
Soon, the rocks turned into sand.
“Are we climbing… is Mount Batur a volcano?” I asked our tour guide.
“Oh. So this is volcanic sand…”
Mt Batur is an active volcano with its most recent eruption in 2000. The most major eruption was back in 1963 and it wiped out an entire village. In the dim light of our flashlights, I could see his judgy smile. I slowed my pace and took frequent breaks.
Fifteen minutes from the summit, we paused and watched as the sky turned light. With so many breaks, we didn’t make it to the top in time but it was all right. The view was still great. I couldn’t wait to get to the top and enjoy my first cigarette of the day.
At the summit. I was pretty much drenched in my own sweat BUT LOOK: STILL HAVE EYEBROWS. This was taken minutes before I realised I had left my cigarettes at home.
There are two trails (and two peaks, I guess) to the top. We took the easier, less sandy one. We also had the less crowded peak!
Breakfast with a view: two hard-boiled eggs cooked in volcanic steam, toast, and fruit.
- Wear a tank top for hiking but bring an extra sweater or cardigan because it can get chilly at the summit.
- My tour guide provided us water (I got two bottles) and flashlights but clarify ahead of time because it may not be the same for other tour companies.
- You don’t need hiking boots. Before leaving for Bali, I checked the Mount Batur hashtag on Instagram and noticed a girl who made it to the summit in her Stan Smiths (!!!). I didn’t want to spend extra on hiking gear I’d probably use only a handful of times so I figured I could just wear my Roshe Runs. It got really dirty but it did the job.
- Get a guide or join a tour group because you’ll be walking in the dark in the beginning. Also: safety.
- Bring a camera (obviously) and money. They sell coffee and tea at the summit and some drinks sellers make the hike with you, carrying overpriced soda (I paid 40K IDR lol for a 350ml bottle of Coke because the seller helped me during the trek lol).
- It’s 1717m to the peak. A burly American in his 50s huffed and puffed his way up and down the volcano, and so did a fashionable French grandfather (in jeans, a khaki jacket, and loafers). YOU CAN DO IT.
We started our descent before 8AM and it was just as hard as the climb up. Sand filled my sneakers and I had to take extra care not to trip over loose rocks and possibly twist my ankle. Buscalan was a scarier hike but Mt Batur was more physically challenging.
Since it was daylight, the tour guides were more lax and didn’t constantly try to keep us together. I broke away from the group a bit and went on my own pace so I’d have time to be alone in nature. Walking through the forest part without another person in sight was especially enchanting.
~Two hours later and with a bladder that badly needed emptying, I was back at the starting point sticky and exhausted. I splashed cold water on my face and sat on the toilet, thinking “hey, I conquered Mt Batur!” and “I am never climbing another mountain until 2020.” It was a tough five hours but I felt better. I guess sometimes, you just have to do something hard, something that will remind you that maybe there are worse things than heartbreak.
There aren’t. Everyone survives it, though.