5 thoughts about what it's like to climb Mount Batur
A starting point here: I gym about 2-4 times a week doing a light 20 minute jog on the treadmill, and if whatever food I've been thinking about for that 20 minutes hasn't made me too hungry, I'll fit in about 15 mins of weights. I feel OK about my less than strenuous workout, it keeps my double chin from showing. Once, after the gym I went home and the lift was under maintenance, so I climbed 6 flights of stairs up to my apartment and I WAS READY TO COLLAPSE BY THE TIME I REACHED MY DOOR. So I wasn't THAT fit.
1. It's a semi pleasant hike up
The ascend to Mount Batur, an active volcano with an elevation of 1,717m, starts with 1/3 crunchy forest floor, 1/3 incline on rocks and the last 1/3 is the toughest with the steepest incline and loosest grit. Not unlike a metaphor for the journey of life.
You climb in the dark with a flashlight, and if you're reasonably fit(ish) like me, the climb will still feel fast. The guides who take you up the volcano are VERY fit. This is their literal walk in the park. And they climb this volcano guiding wide eyed tourists up every day so it is a piece of cake for them. It takes 2 hours to get to the top and we were in a group of 12, so there was a sense of rushing to try and keep up with everyone. We reached the summit in about 1.5 hours. It's not a dangerous hike, you can still see and navigate the incline with a flashlight in your hand and I found the dark quite comforting.
2. It's not a pleasant hike down
Coming down is slippery on the loose grit of the volcano. Hiking up was thoroughly enjoyable compared to this. There were folks who had trouble going up but scampered down like squirrels. Not me. I was super conscious of where I had to place my feet and this slowed me down. By this time it's light so you can see your surroundings which was interesting every time I needed a pause, I could go "Oh, look at that" and point at a random something in the distance.
3. In the off-season the crowd isn't annoying
There are 2 summits, the steepest one being the least spacious, but you can always come down to the 2nd highest summit which is where all the monkeys are, the cave (it's closed because of dangerous falling rocks) and the hot spring where they supposedly cooked all the hard boiled eggs they served at breakfast. It's very spacious and it didn't feel crowded at all. You can't take a shot without having someone in your photo but it didn't feel like we were shoulder to shoulder. We visited in March, a low season, where there were about 200 tour groups (each group about 4-12) up the volcano. In the high season it's about 400+ groups daily. Everyone has to ascend at the same schedule in time for the sunrise, and thereafter feed the breakfast you paid for (included in your package anyway, if you don't eat it) to the monkeys who climb up every day for food.
4. Depending on the weather the views can be disappointing
As my first volcano climb I was expecting incredible low hanging clouds, a Care Bear shooting love out of hearts type colouring of the sky. Not so. But the sky got very pink and orange which was a beautiful shot, even on a point and shoot camera and on my phone. On a day with no fog when it brightens considerably you can see the town and the lake beneath you, and that will be pretty impressive at how high up you are. You can look around the summit which is especially thoughtful as to how difficult THAT climb must be around the crater.
5. You'll feel invigorated
Even though we were on the road by 2.30am and the hike started at 4am, we weren't tired at all by the end of it. We had about 5 hours of sleep before waking up at 2am. We wasted no time in getting ourselves over to Seniman's Coffee for a huge breakfast to reward ourselves after. It was a sweaty climb but we cooled down fast in the morning chill, and decided to brave going directly to the café for breakfast before walking back to our hotel. Perhaps it was the fact that psychologically we felt that we really deserved it, but the meal was delicious. For the rest of the day after the hike we enjoyed walking around Ubud, seeing some other attractions and didn't feel exhausted at all.
Is it worth it?
Oh yes. There are those who can hire a car to drive out to a spot near Kintamani to enjoy the sunrise view, but this hike was much needed on a holiday where you're pretty much lying on the beach most of the time. It wasn't enjoyable because of the slipperiness but that's just me. Shawn was bounding down the slope like a mountain bunny, very unfair.
Note that there are 3 routes up: easy, medium and hard. The route we took with Bali Sunrise Trekking Tour (not sponsored, this is my post-trip opinion) was the medium one, and we'd booked online which is a little more expensive. They were very professional and ran their operations smoothly with punctual pick up and friendly, informative guides. You can also book your tours when you're in Ubud itself which will be cheaper at about 300,000IDR (USD22) per person. Most of the tours booked within Ubud take the easy route, which is longer, an easier incline, and of course more crowded during high season.
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