Wednesday February 26, 2020

A Sunrise Trek of Mount Batur in Bali


I miss mountains. I miss hikes and fresh air and the thrill (and chill) of high places. So when I realised I had a long weekend ahead of me at the beginning of March I decided to do something about it.

Bali is only a 40-minute flight away from Surabaya so I resolved to do a sunrise trek among Bali’s volcanoes in order to sooth my soul.

Gunung Batur is 1717m, one of the several volcanic cones in what seems like a giant dish with water in its bottom. It was formed in an eruption in 1917 and has been active as recently as 1994. There are lots of tours there so once I’d arrived at my lovely hotel in Ubud (The Saren Indah, highly recommended for a relaxing break), I asked them to sign me up (I’m getting lazy in my travel habits out here), and then relaxed for the rest of the day, in preparation for my efforts.

The pick-up was 2 am. I’d indulged in lovely Balinese cuisine and a glass of wine before going to bed early, managing about four hours of sleep before my alarm went off. I rolled out of bed, pulled on my hiking gear and grabbed my new, lightweight rucksack. The car arrived and in I climbed, the first of three pickups around Ubud. Then we drove for about an hour in dozy silence, up towards the start of our trek at Toya Bungkah. But first, we stopped off at a little place that provided us with banana pancakes and coffee, and our ‘second breakfast’ for the summit (ultimately banana sandwiches and a boiled egg). Then we drove a further 15 minutes to meet our guide.

As I said, there are lots of tours, so it was no surprise to draw up to a huge car park filled with tired looking hikers gripping bottles of water and flashlights. We were organised into groups of four, given a flashlight if we didn’t have one (I’d remembered my head torch, naturally!) and sent on our way.

Our guide was, appropriately enough, named Dante, as in Dante’s Peak. The irony did not escape our group. He set a cracking pace, which was fine to begin with, but the route quickly became steep and is, by alternates, rocky or sandy. I was quickly reminded that I am not as young or fit as I was. Two months of battling an ear infection had stopped my gym visits early in January, so I quickly got out of breath compared to my younger, fitter companions. Additionally, although the ear infection was no longer rife, the aftermath of slight deafness continued, and I found myself feeling a bit dizzy the higher we climbed, which was a concern when I repeatedly stumbled. Dante, however, kept us going and made frequent rest stops.

Each rest gave us a wonderful nighttime view across Bali. The silhouette of Gunung Abang opposite us on the other side of the lake dominated the landscape, matched only by banks of cloud that regularly lit up with orange lightning. The sky was clear and the stars were out in abundance, lighting our way.

At one point we had a long rest while our guides prayed at a shrine before the steepest ascent to the summit. Bali is a Hindu country, although Balinese Hinduism is a unique blend of beliefs. They believe that spirits are everywhere and good spirits dwell in mountains and bring prosperity to people. Sadly, some groups were ignorant of local customs and failed to wait quietly while their guide prayed. It always disappoints me when people ignore local customs, as it takes very little to learn about and appreciate other people’s cultures and beliefs.

Mt. Batur is always busy, but especially so at weekends when groups of students are able to complete the walk. One thing that kept me moving against all the odds was the desire to get way from the shouting, music playing hordes and breath in the space and silence of the volcano. I’d positioned myself at the front of our group, knowing the slowest should set the pace, but I could feel the youngsters stepping on my heels behind me, perhaps not as used to walking in groups as I am. Still, I slogged on, determined to outpace them. It was more easily said than done, I can tell you.

We arrived at the summit in good time; it was still dark and clear when we arrived at the already crowded lookout. The sunrise wasn’t far behind us. The sky quickly took on a lighter glow behind Abang and the cloud-banks surrounding it. As the light increased, so did the cloud as heat and cold met. So the sunrise wasn’t a spectacular as I could have hoped. But never mind. I was high up (1717m); I was cold (such a nice feeling after constant heat and humidity – I even got to wear my favourite Rab feather down jacket and enjoy a hot chocolate from the food station near the top!); I had space around me, even though the top was crowded with snap happy student groups. I was happy to be there.

Once the day had well and truly begun and we’d been at the top for nearly an hour, we turned around and made our way back. The steep top was quickly managed, as it was mostly sand and, therefore, quick to descend using the ‘dig your heels in and slide’ method. We stopped briefly at the crater, active in 1994, and gazed at the still blackened landscape below it. We felt steam rising from fissures in the ground and dodged tourist savvy monkeys, greedy for anything they could get their hands on.

About half way down we diverted from the original route and took what could pass for a road to the bottom. It was certainly accessible to traffic as we dodged motorbikes laden with passengers and goods. It was also a good deal easier to walk after the rocky slog we had endured on the way up.

Dante discovered I was an English teacher, and, while teaching me some Indonesian phrases such as ‘kaki ku kaku’ meaning ‘my legs are stiff’, he grilled me in English grammar and the finer definitions between maybe and probably (amongst other things)!

Soon enough we were back at the car park fulfilling the ‘two hours up two hours down’ prophecy everyone had warned me about. Reunited with our driver we were quickly on our way, although the drive home seemed to take forever and I was desperate to get back and take a shower after my exertions. I had sensibly booked a massage for later that afternoon and, I have to say, it helped work out the stiffness really well. Of course, I was still rather sore for a good couple of days afterwards, but it was definitely worth every step. I had got my mountains fix, with added stars and lightning clouds and a tiny bit of sunrise, to make everything well in my world.

This article was first published at Image-

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Tips To Make Your Traveling Easy

Having packed all the right gear for that much-desired holiday, it is important to take precautionary measures

It does not matter which part of the world you are traveling to, all you need is determination to follow your routine. Pixabay

With the holiday season in full swing, traveling can get hectic and staying fit can be quite a challenge. However, do not let this be a hindrance.

Here is how to ensure you maintain an active lifestyle even when on the go, whether you are trekking on mountain slopes or enjoying the sunny beaches.

It does not matter which part of the world you are traveling to, all you need is determination to follow your routine. These few tips, shared by Varun Khanna, Co-founder, Fast&Up will help you be more productive, explore new places and ensure the best adventures.

Early to rise- The importance of the 6 am club cannot be overstated. Jet lags are not easy to manage but pushing out of the slumber zone will go a long way as one can achieve a lot and the feel good factor of accomplishing a day’s worth before noon will make you thankful for the entire day.

Pack those sports shoes- It is a travel essential and something you must promise yourself to carry on travels so that you will use it! Exploring a new place on foot will ensure you stay fit while also seeing the sights around you! A pair of comfortable walking shoes are also a saviour at airports where you have to walk far and wide just to catch those flights!

The importance of Vitamin C- Having packed all the right gear for that much-desired holiday, it is important to take precautionary measures as weather change may affect health and there are chances of catching the flu! Falling sick is the most common travel hindrance. This can easily be avoided by strengthening immunity.

Luggage, Vacations, Travel, Summer, Sea, Sun, Recovery
With the holiday season in full swing, traveling can get hectic and staying fit can be quite a challenge. Pixabay

Hydration- Always remember to keep sipping while on the go! By carrying your own sipper, it is a great way to save the environment by avoiding single use plastic. Staying hydrated means much more than just feeling thirsty, especially when you are traveling. Dehydration affects overall health and puts one at the risk of feeling fatigued and can increase heart rate and one can experience confusion. All of these things can be a recipe for disaster if you are traveling for work and need to be alert or if you are trying to navigate an unfamiliar place on vacation. To avoid the above, a travel hack that is useful is adding electrolytes to your water. They help to replenish all that you lose while sweating and instantly recharges.

ALSO READ: Indian Railways To Generate 1,000 MW Solar Power By The Coming Year: Report

Challenge and Reward- While traveling and exploring a new place, do not forget to experience new activities, cuisines and everything that will add a memory in your adventure book! (IANS)