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  • Dacoda Maddalone

Climbing up Mount Batur in Bali, Indonesia

It was dark...too dark.

It was just past 1 o’clock in the morning when we left our treehouse. We had our torches lit as we navigated through rice fields and alleyway foot paths to the street corner where our driver was meant to pick us up.

The sunrise hike of Mount Batur was one that I had been researching and marveling over photos of since the moment I booked my flight to Bali. The tour difficulty said “moderate” on multiple sites, which were accompanied by great ratings from people who had thoroughly enjoyed their experience.

I mean...seriously...why would I not wake up in the middle of the night to climb a volcano in the dark?

After the two-hour drive of bumps and bends, we arrived at our destination and met our tour guide. We carried nothing with us but small water bottles and hand-held torches. I had my fanny pack too, of course, which was both trendy and resourceful. I kept my phone for photos and bandages for any “oops” accidents on the trail.

Then began our hike.

It started off fairly easy. We chatted with our guide as he told us of all the vegetable patches we were passing to the left and right of us. Tomatoes, onions; cabbages. He would shine his torch on them to show us. With the small amount of English that he knew, he kept us entertained the entire duration of the climb.

Then, the path changed. It was no longer a wide path of pebbles, but a narrow path hardly justifiable to even be called a path, full of uneven rocks and large tree roots. We were hiking now.

It should have been expected that in order to reach the top of the, now dormant, volcano, we may have needed to do a bit of uphill climbing, yeah? Totally.

Except that we never saw the mountain in the daylight. We had no idea what we were in for.

To add to the hilarity of the scenario, our beloved driver, Naaman, had promised just the day before that the expedition we were about to embark on was “easy” and that he had completed it multiple times.

About 30 minutes in, we began to realize that this trek wasn’t going to get any easier. Rather, it was only going to be harder. We were all silent now, focusing on our breathing and making sure to watch our footing. Groups with walking sticks and shoes made for hiking passed us as we stepped to the side for breaks. We must have looked like an odd bunch. Four girls in their mid 20s, one in combat boots, one in hiking sandals and the other two in tennis shoes that were ill-fitting for the occasion. (Like I said, NOT prepared.)

As the climb continued, we made our way up the mountain and through the clouds. At just about the halfway point, we emerged from the fog and suddenly saw a sky full of bright stars, and the brilliance of them lit our way. They were beautiful and bold and inspired us onward. It was almost as if they were smiling down at us and whispering, “You’ve got this. Keep going, there is even more beauty to be found.”

It wasn’t easy, and we had to continuously remind ourselves and one another that turning back was simply not an option. We’d made it this far; we’ll make it all the way.

After two and a half hours, we reached the top. It was just before sunrise, and the sky had yet to glow with it’s pre-sun shine. We sat on the bench, facing east, almost in disbelief. Our guide disappeared into a small hut that acted as a kitchen and prepared warm banana sandwiches for us. Our sweat began to cool and we shivered in the early morning air.

As we feasted on sandwiches, the sun began to rise. Slowly, then all at once, we realized how worth it this trek really was. It was unlike anything we’d ever seen before. We’d worked for it; we’d earned this.

After chatting with fellow hikers amazed by the beauty of the view, we took a narrow path just a bit further where monkeys played around on ancient Hindu altars and stole bananas from unaware passerby’s backpacks. They roamed freely, climbed on the heads of locals and leapt about from mount to mount.

I don’t know what we expected when agreeing to climb Mount Batur, but I can tell you that journey was nothing that we could have expected. It probably wasn’t what we would’ve asked for as a “hello” from Bali either. But it certainly is a memory to behold. It was quite the spiritual experience for each of us, and we lounged in a hot spring infinity pool afterward and spoke of how the climb unveiled the roughest bits of our character.

It was purifying in a way.

Isn’t it interesting how the most difficult of climbs can often leave the most considerable of impressions?

The experience I had climbing up Mount Batur inspires me to keep going, to never give up and to press us to see beauty revealed. We can all lean into that!

Oh, yeah, and now I tell others that if they ever want to climb Mount Batur, they should probably read this article first. I wish I had… 🤦‍♀️

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