Should you close your eyes for a fleeting moment and cast your wandering gaze upon the small idyllic island of Bali, the conjured image might be this: a light tropical breeze caressing your suntanned skin while you lounge on the white sand, sipping cocktails by the beach.
It is this very vision that attracts thousands to the island every year, but just in case you get bored drinking your holiday away, and want to do something a little more vigorous, perhaps volcano climbing might just be the thing for you.
Conquering a volcano
Few know that Bali is home to several active volcanoes. However, there are two that dominate the island: Mount Batur (1771m) or, if you are feeling more adventurous, Mount Agung (3142m). For first-timers (like me), it’s a good idea to start with the smaller Mount Batur, as hiking up a volcano is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
Even you brave explorers should never attempt to scale it on your own, as the volcanoes are active and there have been the occasional case of reckless tourists perishing on these hikes. Instead, ask your hotel concierge for recommended drivers and guides who will pick you up from your hotel to Mount Batur and bring you back for a very reasonable fee.
Preparing to goAlong with an alert mind, you should ideally have a relatively good fitness level, as the paths are steep and volcanic rock hard on the feet. Other useful items to bring with you:
- Warm clothes to combat the early morning chill.
- Good hiking shoes, which will make a big difference to your speed and agility during the trek (as I discovered the hard way!).
- A torch.
- Small pack with plenty of water and some snacks/soft drinks to boost energy levels during the trek. You will be able to buy them at halfway points along the way but be warned: they are extremely expensive.
During the climb
From first-hand experience: don’t expect an easy stroll through the woods. The climb begins at the fresh hour of 3am in order to make the 3-4 hour trek to the peak for sunrise. Flick on your torch, and, armed with your very own friendly Balinese guide, you?re ready to go.
During the trek, you will come to realize that the local guides are very experienced, helpful and patient. They all speak English, are extremely sociable, and are strong and nimble despite their size. Should you fall behind for any reason, they are always ready to give you a helping hand and to reassure you with a motivating phrase every now and then: ten more minutes! Almost there! The climb itself is just that: a climb, but obviously it is what you will find at the summit which makes it all worthwhile.
At the top
Along the way the darkness begins to dissipate and dawn breaks. Stop a while, take a look back at how far you have come, and revel in the magnificence of the entire island. Upon reaching the summit, the silhouettes of several makeshift huts begin to take shape. Rest your weary limbs at one of these huts which serve warm breakfasts and hot drinks. Even better, reward yourself with a sizzling breakfast of eggs cooked by the heat of the smoldering volcano and feel triumphant as you bask in the luminous glow of the Bali sunrise. Walk around and marvel at the hissing sulphur rising from the craters and pits of the magnificent peak. Even the sun shines extra shiny from up there.
Going down and back
The descent is equally enjoyable as there are a few attractions off the beaten track. In our case our wonderful guide decided to take us through a small community of monkeys who live in the vicinity of the volcano and the lake. Equip yourself with some breadcrumbs and watch the monkeys? entertaining antics as they attempt to outdo each other to get your attention. Some bold ones might even come up and take food from your hands, or, if you stand still enough, venture onto your shoulders.
Once you have had enough, your driver will be waiting patiently for you at the foot of the volcano. By then, pat yourself on the back, savour the last few tendrils of adrenalin, feel alive, and look forward to a well-deserved rest back on the beach.
Author Stephanie Lee has written a book on solo women travel — check it out.