Back when me, Jenny and Jess were in primary school, playing weird games in the playground, we had no idea that in years to come we would be climbing volcanoes together in the middle of the night.
Our last two days in Ubud have been tiring, but two of the most exhilarating days we’ve had so far. Through other friends we heard about a sunrise tour, where you get picked up in the early hours of the morning to go hiking up Mount Batur, an active volcano, to watch the sunrise. None of us had ever done anything like that before, especially at night, so we were keen to give it a shot.
We made our way back through our favourite place in Ubud, the market, feeling like the girls from Sex and the City when they go to the markets Abu Dhabi, but establishing that we were much more like Miranda and friends. There are a lot of stalls and offices offering the sunrise tour, but the prices can range from 400,000- 800,000 Rupiah, so it’s wise to get quotes from a few before putting down a deposit.
I’d chatted to one guy earlier, who was offering the tour for 400,000 Rupiah and it became apparent we weren’t going to get it for any cheaper. To be fair, with pick up, drop off, two lots of food, the tour guides, rice terrace and tea tasting, we got a really good deal.
The rain has been a bit heavy since we arrived. Considering it’s meant to be summer here we’ve been a bit confused as to why we’ve spent most of our time wearing rain coats and ducking under shop shelters. On the day we booked the sunrise tour there was a period of the day where it was extra heavy, so I told Jess and Jen to wait under a shelter whilst I went back to the guy I’d met earlier.
He was nowhere to be seen and I was stood in a puddle using my hand as an umbrella, so I shortly gave up and walked back up the market, only to see him stood bantering with Jenny and Jess. As I appeared he recognised me and said I was his wife and gave me a flower and then the girls didn’t know what was going on because they didn’t realise how I knew him or whether I was just going along with it and it was a very confusing but funny few minutes. Eventually my new husband booked our tour after doing impressions of the English accent and guessing Jess’ name to be Sue.
Anyway, the tour was a mixture of ups and downs and hot and cold flushes and blood, sweat and tears (well, no blood thankfully, but there was a lot of sweat and a couple of tears). At three AM we were picked up in a people carrier, with a driver and two other people in it. Me and Jess sat at the very back and Jenny sat at the front with the driver. I said to Jess that it felt like we were in the Scooby Doo mystery machine, obviously with me and Jess being Scooby and Shaggy and Jenny and the driver being Fred and Daphne.
When we go to the base, everyone got out the cars and buses and we were all separated into groups and given a guide. Climbing up the mountain was amazing. I really, really enjoyed it. There was something about being in pitch black, with nothing but a torch, being in a big group of people making our way up the steep slopes in single file that felt thrilling. Like we were doing something illegal.
Both Jess and Jenny say that I remind them of Mowgli or Gollum when I’m naked (I know, mean right?), and I did actually feel like a combination of both of them with an extra bit of Bear Grylls and Spidergirl whilst spidering up the rocks. Some of them slipped beneath our feet and there were times where we had to use both hands and feet to climb up. At one point I accidentally went the hard way round. It was pitch black and I was doing my little monkey climb up all these big rocks only to hear Jess laugh and when I shined my torch on her she was walking up a much easier path beside me!
Our muscles shook, we tripped, our breath got heavier the thinner the air got and all we could see around us was darkness and thick fog. Turning around and looking below us was terrifying. There was no a single light in sight, just pure blackness. At this point we were crawling through clouds. If you were to fall, it would really do some damage. It was cold, but we were working up such a sweat that we didn’t need our jackets. The rain was actually strangely refreshing.
About two hours later- WE MADE IT! We actually made it without collapsing or crying or giving up and it was one of the biggest feelings of accomplishment I’ve ever experienced. I felt even better about all the exercise and we were saying how pissed off we’d be if we didn’t wake up with a thigh gap and only one chin the next day.
The only really devastating apart about the whole experience, is that the fog was so, so thick, that we couldn’t actually see the sunrise. The whole reason we had gone up there was to see the mountain and volcano with the clouds beneath us and the rising sun turning the sky orange and red and purple. But we could not see a single thing. Even when we later went round to see the volcanos crater we couldn’t see anything but fog and we’d be lying if we said we weren’t gutted.
But to look at things from a positive perspective, I’m really keen to come back to Bali and I feel like the reason we couldn’t get that amazing view this time, is because for some reason fate is meant to bring us back at a later date to do so.
We were given a coffee and banana and banana cake to eat and randomly a hard boiled egg which we fed to the bony stray dogs that had followed us all the way up. Twice I’d been reduced to tears on that tour because of the strays. One had a limp and lay down in the middle of us all just wanting love and attention and others had obviously been so mistreated in the past that they wouldn’t come too close when begging and hesitated when taking food from us. It’s already something I cannot deal with, but after no sleep and climbing 1,717 metres up a volcano, it made me a bit of a mess.
One of the strangest parts about the trip is that there was a large family of monkeys at the top of the mountain?! They seemed much calmer and friendlier than the monkeys from the monkey forest. But I just don’t get how they survive up there?
The most interesting part, is that when we were at the top there were gaps in the ground and rocks that had boiling hot steam coming out of them from the volcano. In fact it was so hot, that people were lighting cigarettes and incense from it!
Getting up to the top wasn’t actually that bad. My body didn’t really ache I just got quite out of breath because the air was so thin. But getting down was awful! I find going down so much harder because it feels like gravity is trying to pull you down, your toes push themselves to the front of your shoes and because you’ve already walked so far, you’re exhausted.
My shoes started to ache and my right foot, which I sprained in the Philippines, started to play up. But I still managed to stop for one last smiley photo close to the bottom, with a lake and dried up black lava in the background. The closer we got to the bottom the louder we heard the soothing sound of morning prayers.
All three of us started to feel the effects of no sleep, caffeine withdrawal and the aftermath of hiking for five hours straight. We ached, we were tired and we started to feel really unreal. Each of our faces looked really zoomed in and HD and we started getting the weird giggles you get when your lethargic and don’t know what’s going on anymore. One minute we felt sick, then we felt like we were going to pass out, then we were drifting off and having those weird half dreams you have when you’re about to fall asleep. But although I couldn’t feel anything I knew I felt really happy, sharing such a different experience with two of my favourite people.
At one point I was tripping so badly on the bus back, that I kept thinking I was drunk, then reminding myself I wasn’t, then thinking I was drunk, then reminding myself I wasn’t, over and over again. Then this weird made-up song kept repeating itself in my head going “I don’t believe myself”, because I kept not believing that I wasn’t drunk. Very weird.
Despite how lethargic I was, I was so excited to get out and get a good view of Ceking rice terrace on the way back. It’s another one of those sights that looks better in real like that what in photos. Just layers and layers of bright green. So beautiful!
When the driver told us we were stopping to try some tea on the way back, we all groaned. Normally that would be one of my favourite things to do, but I felt like I was in a weird, sketchy dream world and just wanted to get back. We sat at a table in a beautiful garden by the rice fields like robots- completely soulless. Eventually we got back and showered and passed out for a short nap.
We briefly went to go and see Ubud Palace later that evening, but it’s going under some sort of construction at the moment, so we couldn’t really see it properly. But the whole grounds were beautiful and had that same intricate Balinese design, with the carved details and orange bricks.
As you can imagine, we’re all feeling pretty shattered now and we have to get up at six AM tomorrow to get the bus and ferry to Gili T. We’re probably going to get an early night tonight. Apparently the weather at the Gili islands is perfect at the moment, so hopefully we can top up our tans and go snorkelling!