“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” Mark Twain
Bali is such a diverse island, in one day you can wake up by the beach, take a yoga class, immerse yourself in some culture, climb a mountain and be sitting back in a trendy restaurant drinking a signature cocktail by the evening, sounds amazing but exhausting I hear you say. When we were in the planning stages of this trip, the word ‘TREK’ kept rearing its ugly head and if I’m honest I humoured the conversations and thought it might just go away, after all it was a holiday. Then there were e-mails mentioning options (one said 12 hours which was swiftly dismissed!) needless to say the trek, albeit the alleged ‘easy’ became more of a reality especially when a rucksack, icebreakers and rain jackets were part of the essentials packing list, yikes!
Picked up on our second day in Ubud at 3am (!?!) we were whisked off into the darkness for the Caldera Batur trek! Yes, you read that right a sunrise trek up a mountain in the middle of the night through the bloody jungle with only a head torch and stick to rely on! It’s safe to say that this was not my activity of choice and forced me to embrace several things I furiously dislike (and some I’m petrified of) namely early mornings, jungles, climbing, possible encounters with slithering jungle creatures (luckily I didn’t see any but I know they were there!) and strenuous exercise!
Saying I was out of my comfort zone is the understatement of the year but I did it, there were no escape routes, I checked. We hiked up to the carter rim and along the Batur Caldera edge to the top of the mountain with our trusty guide Manqu, in time to see the incredible sunrise which was more colourful than any sunset I’ve ever witnessed. The horizon was ablaze with red and orange as the mist descended (my hatred towards the other half and his chosen activity was beginning to lift, but only slightly) it brought with it a sharp chill but luckily we had the right gear with us for all weathers (hats, jumpers, jackets, pashmina etc) and sitting above the clouds as the sun rises was breathtaking and probably worth all the angst and sheer panic, it was definitely memorable if nothing else.
A local woman from the mountain village appeared from the trees, spritely almost skipping up the steep trail balancing a tea-tray (made me look pretty bad to be fair) to make us hot drinks while Manqu produced breakfast from his back pack, but as I was still feeling anxious/nauseous I didn’t eat a thing. The mountains and volcanos appeared from the misty darkness and we could see Mount Rinjani in Lombok in front and the beauty of Mount (Gunung) Batur and Mount (Gunung) Agung behind. Now feeling a renewed sense of relief that we were going down (how wrong could I be!!) we set off towards Lake Batur at the base of the mountain.
The whole area known locally as Kintamani houses the Batur Caldera Geopark that received Unesco recognition as a geological worldwide wonder back in 2012. Gunung Batur is an active volcano located at the centre of two concentric calderas north-west of Mount Agung and the substantial lava field from the last eruption in 1968 is still visible today (erupted twenty-four times since 1800). Mount Agung is a stratovolcano (meaning built of up of layers of lava and ash) and the highest point on the island, dominating the surrounding area and influencing its climate, the west is lush and green and the east dry and barren. It last erupted in 1963 and still occasionally emits smoke and ash.
Going down was worse than going up!!! It was treacherous, steep and slippery and we had to keep climbing up to go down on a narrow path with a sheer drop, sometimes on both sides. I fell over twice, could have cried repeatedly ( I didn’t but I was teetering on the edge) and all my dignity was pretty much lost, my only nod to retaining any normality was my Prada bag slung across my body. Eventually we reached the bottom exiting the jungle path through the Bali Aga Trunyan Village to the water’s edge, my shaky legs were just about keeping me upright as a rickety old boat that was leaking water (another fear embraced) arrived to transport us across Bali’s biggest lake to safety, all before 9am!
The boat ride across the incredibly deep and wide crater lake, a sacred site to the locals that provides irrigation to the villages, was serene and gave us a chance to relax (slightly, I was still not convinced we weren’t going to sink) taking in the fresh air and stunning panorama. The lake is blessed with an abundance of fish and we passed many fresh water fish farms at the lakes edge, alighting at Toya Bungkah Hot Spring, a beautiful and unique natural hot spring in Bali which is a favourite spot for backpackers and camping.
This mountainous area of Bali has a much cooler climate than the south, is very poor and inhabited by Bali Aga farmers in many small villages located across the Caldera. They make a meagre living from agriculture as their crops grow well on the volcanic soil, sending their produce across the island to all the markets, hotels and restaurants. Bali Aga people are Bali’s oldest inhabitants who live in a vasty different way to the rest of the Island. Sadly education in this region is limited too with most children working full-time from the age of twelve, it’s a simple almost enviable life not effected by modern-day society or technology but I wouldn’t trade places.
What can we conclude from this expedition? I’m not a natural trekker, I’m a complete wuss and not at home with mother nature, yes all of those and much more. On the positive side my determination shone through to complete the challenge, I got to witness the most amazing sunrise and scenery whilst having an extraordinary experience. I also earned myself the rights to some shopping, a couples luxurious massage and yoga class scheduled on our itinerary for the end of our trip.
We used Bali Hiking to organise our trek and our guide Manqu was my lifesaver. They offer trekking, eco walking and cycling tours in Bali. Click on the link for more information, telephone (+62)819-1614-4390, (+62)813-3755-8998 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Read previous Bali posts In Pictures – A Postcard From Bali, Discover Bali – Jimbaran, Beachside Beauty: Intercontinental Bali Resort Review, Rumah Desa: A Balinese Home and Cooking studio, Discover Bali – Ubud, Boutique Style: Alaya Resort Ubud Review and Rainforest Retreat: Bidadari Private Villas and Retreat Ubud Review. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved.