Climbing 1717m at 4am for a Cup of Tea; Hiking Mount Batur, Bali

After waking up one too many a morning sweaty, dry mouthed, with heart palpitations, and a piercing headache, I decided it was time to leave the party island of Gili Trawangan and heart for Bali’s cultural hub. Ubud is known for traditional crafts and dance, terraced rice paddies, Hindu temples and shrines, monkeys and yoga retreats. It also offers some incredible restaurants catering for the fussiest of eaters tastebuds – think organic, vegan, fresh deliciousness.

I stayed in Balibbu hostel which I would highly recommend. It’s super social and runs free guided tours to different parts of the island, all you need to do is rent a scooter and roll with your new crew. If you aren’t confident on a scooter you can alway jump on the back of someone else’s.

They also offer (paid) white water rafting, cycling trips, elephant safari and a Mount Batur sunrise trek. Having been recommended the latter by a fellow traveller in Pai (Thailand) who claimed it was the best thing she had done throughout her South East Asian trip, I was intrigued and decided to give it a go.

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Mount Baatur is an active volcano located at the centre of two concentric calderas north west of Mount Agung on the Island of Bali.

HOW DO I GET THERE AND HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

I booked through Balibbu hostel, and most travel agents in Ubud and the surrounding area will be happy to take your money to organise the trip – even if they don’t publicly advertise it. I remember paying about 7 or 9 pounds. (Balibbu’s website says 250,000RP which is around £13 but I’m sure I didn’t pay this much).

Anyway, you will be picked up in a minivan at around 2am and drive 90 minutes to Mt Batur. On arrival you will be given a cup of tea and a banana and a boxed breakfast (another banana, a hard boiled egg and a slice of bread). You will be met by an english speaking guide, given flashlights and guided to the trekking trail.

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Madé – one of our guides. He guides twice a week and transports sulphur from the top to the bottom of the volcano the rest of the week. It is very heavy, tiring work and earns very little money.
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Incredible views over Kintamani
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Our other guide.

WHAT SHOULD I WEAR AND DO I NEED TO PACK ANYTHING?

  • Wear thin layers, you will get hot climbing but be cold once you reach the top
  • Wear something comfortable that you can move in and that dries quickly (I opted for gym leggings, a vest, a cotton shirt and a scarf)
  • Trainers or hiking boots (& socks) are a must!! For the way down more than up. Some of the earth is really loose and you end up skiing through it, sandals won’t cut it.
  • Bring a hoodie or jumper or lightweight jacket
  • Bring enough water & snacks! You WILL get hungry and there is only a tea shop at the top
  • Bring a camera to capture the magic at the top
  • Bring some cash in small denominations to tip your guides
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Sweet tea and a not so impressive view.
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Cieran & Tori
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Anika, chuffed with her finish line treat!

HOW LONG IS THE TREK?

We climbed for around 2.5hours, following a busy trail of fellow hikers flashlights and stumbled to the top as the sky brightened up. We congratulated ourselves for making it, (keeping up an exercise regime hadn’t exactly been top of my list over the previous year, and let’s just say my thighs were beginning to remember what their quadriceps were!) We found a decent watch spot – it can get pretty crowded at the top as photo enthusiasts mount their tripods, essentially obstructing the view for your average sunset enthusiast. They set their time lapses and wait for the clouds to do their break up dance.

We waited and stared at a pinprick of yellow light trying to fight through a dense layer of cloud and smog. Half an hour passed, and as the altitude creeped a chill in our bones we headed for the tea hut and treated ourselves to a cup of  oh-so -delicious hot sweet tea. The moment we turned our backs we heard the crowd ‘Oooh’ and ‘Ahhh’ and we knew we’d missed the closest thing to a sunrise we were going to see that morning!

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Our group from Balibbu.
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Oh misty eye, oh the mountain below…
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My first ever trek up and active volcano.

Our guide showed us some pretty cool spots (where the steaming air was blowing up through the ground) and we played with some monkeys for a bit to let the crowds disperse before heading back down the volcano. The views were incredible and it felt good having done an intense workout before I would normally have even woken up.

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By the time we reached the bottom we were all tired, hungry and pretty filthy. We thanked and tipped our guides and piled back into the minivan eager to get back to the hostel.

HOWEVER much to our objection, the driver dropped us off at a coffee plantation and drove off saying he’d be back soon. We were ushered inside, given 12 different teas and coffees to try and persuaded to buy a cup of Kopi Luwak, or civet coffee to me and you.

Kopi luwak is made from the beans of coffee berries that have been eaten and excreted—yes, you read that right!—by the Asian palm civet. To make this coffee, the civets are typically snatched from their homes and life in the wild to be imprisoned alone in tiny, barren cages. They’re deprived of everything that is natural and important to them, including freedom, exercise, space—even real food. They bite at the cage bars, turn in circles, and go insane from being imprisoned with no escape. Deprived of adequate nutrition, they begin to lose their fur. All of this cruelty is just for a novelty coffee.

Needless to say I did not buy any and being forced to wait there for an hour for our driver added a sour touch to such a wonderful day.

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