Every once in awhile, I find myself in situations where I think, "Tausha, what are you doing? Seriously, how did you end up here???"
I asked myself these very questions a few days ago while walking through a pitch black forest at 4 a.m. with a flashlight and my guide, Komang.
Why was I walking through a dark forest at 4 a.m. and why had I woken up at 1 a.m. to do that? Well, because I had this grand idea to spend my first morning in Bali hiking up Mount Batur, one of the country's volcanos and a supposed perfect spot to watch the sunrise.
To backtrack: when I knew I was traveling to Bali, one of the first activities I read about was the sunrise trek up Mount Batur, and I knew I had to do it. I researched different companies and ultimately ended up booking the trek two months in advance with a company I shall not name (you'll understand why soon). Fast forward to the night before my trek as I excitedly packed my stuff together for my very early 1:30 a.m. pick up.
At 1 a.m., my alarm went off and I got ready and went downstairs to my hotel lobby to wait for my pick up. At 1:40 a.m. with no pick up van in sight, I checked my email and saw a message that had come in at 12:40 a.m. from the guide - he had a headache and was canceling the trek.
I reread the email a few times, certain I had misunderstood. The guide was canceling the trek less than an hour before he was supposed to pick me up and in the middle of the night? Well, at the risk of sounding callous, I wasn't going to let that happen, headache or no headache. I immediately wrote him back saying that I was sorry he had a headache but to cancel 50 minutes before when I had booked this trek two months in advance was disappointing and unprofessional. Since this was the only morning I had available to do the trek, I asked if there was anyone else he could send in his place and then followed my email response with a direct phone call to him.
Long story short, he ended up sending his nephew to pick me up around 2:45 a.m. and then he arranged for another guide from a different company, Komang, to meet me at Mount Batur to take me up the volcano.
I understand people sometimes don't feel well or get sick, but I did not understand canceling on such short notice something that isn't easy to reschedule - you typically get picked up at 1:30 in the morning and don't return until 11 a.m. or noon. Needless to say, I was determined to make this happen and used whatever resources I could to make it work.
What started off rocky ended up being an incredible experience. Komang, who hikes Mount Batur every day like it's nothing, met me at the starting point and set a pace that was just challenging enough for me to handle. Though we began the trek almost an hour after the other tour groups, we ended up catching up with people fairly quickly and reached the first stop in an hour (Komang said it typically takes 1.5 hours to reach the first stop). Komang then gave me the option to watch the sunrise from the first stop, which was still very high, or to keep going up to the summit. I chose the latter and off we went again, scrambling up the rocks, with Komang helping me up the more difficult parts.
When we reached the summit, we saw just how crowded it was, so Komang told me to follow him and we went past the crowds to a spot that was less populated with the same viewpoint. The sunrise ended up being truly magical and worth every minute leading up to it.
While we watched the sun lift above the volcano and into the sky, I drank Balinese tea and nibbled on a breakfast of banana sandwiches and hard boiled eggs. Komang also patiently took photos of me and even had some great photo op ideas of his own (see below!).
After sunrise, Komang suggested we go back down a way that was slightly more challenging, but he felt I could do it. To help me, he gave me a walking stick he made out of a branch and off we went, first trekking around the edge of the volcano's crater, where we could feel the hot air puffing out, then down the opposite side of where we climbed up and eventually circling back to the first stop and down into the volcano's forest.
I am so glad I was able to do the sunrise hike on such a gorgeous morning and am grateful to Komang for guiding me, challenging me and helping me to push myself. I would say this is a trek for intermediate to advanced hikers but sometimes you don't know what you're capable of until you try, so if you really want to do this, I say go for it (and hire Komang!).
Check out some of the photos from my trek below and visit Komang's site at MeetTheRealBali.com.