I awoke, much like most other nights due to jet lag, just before 2am. I rolled out of bed and got myself ready. Walking up to the entrance way of my bungalow the gate was closed, but I had no idea whom I was waiting for so I just stood a little like a deer in headlights and waited. I listened to the noises of the early morning, the chirping of the crickets, a cat meowing in the distance, a dog barking, and then suddenly I heard footsteps down the path.
I waited, my heart slowly rising in my throat, just in case this wasn’t what I thought. A man dressed for colder weather than it was turned to look through the gate and said, “Michele?” Oh good, it was my guide.
I got into the large van and in the front seat sat an older lady than myself. Her name was Janet, she was from the United States but was living in Europe, and she too decided to join this early morning undertaking. We stopped at one more bungalow and picked up Clara, Thomas, and Karen, three Austrians.
The sun was still slumbering behind the mountains as we arrived at a make-shift picnic area. The sign said it was a coffee plantation, but I had learned by then that there were so many of these that it really didn’t make a difference if it was. We were served tea or coffee and the traditional breakfast for tourists, a banana “pancake.” It’s more like a think crepe, but fried dough is fried dough in that part of the world. Once we had finished and exchanged a few “get to know yous” we got back in the van and continued our venture.
We arrived in the parking lot and the place was packed full of other tourists. Janet was very disappointed, as she thought this would be a more intimate adventure, but it seems that in Bali no attraction is.
Our driver handed us off to three other guides, whose names unfortunately escape me. The three of them were to take us up along with another van of people. There was a group of five french travellers and Charlotte who was from England.
We began our accent, the ground riddled with dust and loose gravel. Charlotte and I began conversing and soon she was to become my trekking buddy. The path was at a slight incline, but all I could see were my feet and where I was putting them with the small flashlight I was provided. The night wasn’t all together dark, as the moon was to be full the next night.
Soon, the very large hoard of tourists broke off into too groups and the trail began to worsen, the rocks became larger and looser and the dust began to get deeper. As my footing became wobblier I felt bad for Charlotte. The only shoes she had were a pair of Toms, while I was wearing Nike trail climbers and was still having a rough time. I couldn’t imagine how bad the trail was for her. Needless to say, the second half of her climb was spent holding the hand of one of our guides so she wouldn’t plummet down the slope.
Sweat began to accumulate on my back and brow, and I felt that maybe the t-shirt and shorts combo was a little too much clothing. The “easy hike” as was advertised was not the case. I felt that I was pretty fit before this trek, but sadly it made me realize just how out of shape I am. The trail became a literal climb up a rocky, volcanic slope.
The dust that coated everything began to cover all of me and as my short legs had trouble reaching for the next step my hands came into play far more than I thought I would need them on a “hike.” The rocks were porous and uneven, most them of loose. I slipped more than I would care to admit and I heard many people doing the same.
I took a look out over the trail below me and in the dark I could see the little lights of all the flashlights climbing behind me and when I looked up I could see the same lights climbing above me, and as they twisted up into the peak I realized I had quite the way left to go and my heart sank into my stomach a little. But when I looked out over beyond the trail I could see the dim lights of Kitamani the view was enough to lift me back up to my task.
We stopped at a rest area by a shrine where our guides asked us to wait while they prayed. Our group got quiet then Charlotte told me to look up. The amount of stars I was able to see only rivalled that of when I was young and attending a wedding in Merritt, BC. I saw clusters of little stars I had never been able to see. I felt the vastness of it all encircling me and I could have stared up at that sky for hours, Charlotte agreed with me, but we had to keep moving.
The climb began to ware on me and I was slowly losing my pace. When Janet told the guides we didn’t need a second break I was ready to kick her. But, I kept moving, albeit a little further behind the others.
Finally, we made it to the top! Oh, no wait I was wrong. This was the first point, if we so chose we could continue on to the summit. Well, I’d come this far it was only reasonable that I make it to the top. I got a second wind and climbed with vigour, even though the back of my shirt was drenched with sweat and my hands was dusty and raw. We were about ten minutes from the top when the sun began to peak over Mount Agung, the tallest peak in Bali, in the distance. Janet took a second to snap a picture, but I wanted to finish the climb before getting out my camera. The last bit of the way was mostly just deep volcanic dust up a steep incline. It was difficult to lift your feet through it and my shoes were filled with the stuff, it was in my socks and between my toes. I ignored the discomfort and kept my pace steady.
This was it, I had made it. I had summited a volcano! I stood at the top gazing out at the horizon, at the spectacular Mount Agung with Lake Kitamani tucked in underneath it. The sun rose slowly and I watched as the clouds crossed over the view slowly.
Once I had taken this all in Janet suggested to me and Charlotte that we climb up a touch hiker and take a photo with the Mount Batu summit sign. We did just that. But, as we came back down to our little perch the clouds rolled in completely over the view and it was a complete white-out. I was grateful for taking what pictures I did before the view became just a white slate.
As we stood at the top people were bundling up. I was soaked through with my own perspiration and didn’t notice the cold at first, having done ten years of winter season soccer in BC I was used to short sleeves and shorts in cold weather. But as we became stagnant waiting for the clouds to pass the chill hit my wet sink and a deep cold began to come over me. I hadn’t realized when I was getting ready that morning that I was still in essence climbing a volcano, that the air was thin and chilled at the top, despite being in a tropical climate. People were wearing hats and scarves and thick jackets as I stood there in my shorts and t-shirt. I was clearly that crazy Canadian girl. I laughed at my own naivety.
Our guides gave us breakfast, hard boiled eggs cooked in the steam of the mountain and banana sandwiches (literally bananas between white slices of bread). Once we had finished we began our decent down the mountain.
Our “hike” turned more into a skating down a slope in thick volcanic dust. When we reached the rockier portions I looked at what I had climbed up and was so grateful that I couldn’t see further than where I had been putting my feet earlier. I would have been convinced that I wouldn’t have been able to do it had I seen the slope before hand. I would have thrown down my backpack, sat down and said “Forget it, I can’t do that? Who do you think I am?” Charlotte thought the exact same thing.
Our shoes filled to the brim with dust, rocks, and sand we stopped to empty them, which didn’t help much. My legs and feet were greyed from the dirt.
After this our guides took us over to the volcanic crater, showed us the steam rising from inside, brought us to the bat caves, and showed us a hot spot on the mountain. At the hot spot, I got to create a whole bunch of smoke by blowing the smoke from a cigarette into the opening, creating a reaction that made the steam visible. Only me and one other girl dared to try it.
We of course ran into some monkeys and one of our guides gave them the uneaten banana sandwiches from the morning.
As we descended the trail became lighter and I stopped being as careful as I had been. With my bad right ankle and my injured left knee I was super diligent with my steps. Of course, the first sign of asphalt I let down my guard, as did Charlotte. First Charlotte slipped. Having slipped quite a few times in those terrible shoes, she cursed them, then laughed and got up. I also slipped, but I of course aggravated my MLC again and had to limp a while. I still had roughly twenty minutes to walk back to the car though, so I sucked it up, stopped myself from limping, and just went with it.
Fortunately, my knee got the idea and the swelling wasn’t terrible and the pain subsided by the time I had reached the car. Apparently, in my case walking it off was the best remedy.
By the time we returned to the parking lot it was after 10am. I had climbed a volcano and returned from its summit alive all before noon.