We head out with our guide. The sky is very clear and full of stars. There is a trail of flashlights leading up the 1700m Gunung Batur. Early on Mika is already laboring. About a third of the way up I have to carry her bag. We let several small groups pass us. The climb starts getting very steep and rocky. I am very tired, but stopping to rest and starting again is worse for me than just chugging on. We finally arrive at the end. Get some congratulatory handshakes from our guide and find our place on the stone bench to watch the sunrise. There is guy who asks if I want to buy a Coca-Cola. After sitting our guide informs us that this is only the first station. We can stop or keep going.
The next part to the peak is more tricky. The ground is thick sand at like a 60 degree angle. Mika’s shoes have no grip, so the guide pulls her hand while I push her butt up the sand. We finally arrive at the real top, where other hikers are already relaxing and enjoying beautiful silhouetted views of the surrounding volcanoes. Our guide shows us the spot where he will make steamed eggs from the volcanic gases. There is a woman, who hikes up the volcano everyday, selling tea and coffee. We get a cup of instant coffee, eat our volcano-steamed egg and banana sandwich and wait for the sunrise.
A Balinese guide praying at the peak of Gunung Batur
Hello Sunrise! Say "cheese"
The return down is around the rim of the crater. We find small pockets of warm steam emitting from the rocks. It is very cloudy now which has entirely killed the panoramic vistas. Our guide is a dud who does not really know anything and who lacks the English skills to have a sense of humor. But we are literally walking through a cloud on the crater of a living volcano that exploded sometime during the last century, so I won’t complain.After breakfast, I decide that I am ready to return to Ubud and want to drive as little as possible. We do have one final destination, Pura Besakih, the largest temple in Bali. Unfortunately, like the volcano trek, this place is full of unscrupulous guides and misinformation. It is a shame that whoever is in charge of this place (that is supposed to be a revered temple) lets it be spoiled by the dishonest pursuit of tourist money - even for non-believers. So after running the guantlet of deception, Mika and I have a walk through the temple area.
On the final leg of our journey, our valiant Suzuki steed is severely tested. There are many dump trucks in this area transporting volcanic rock and sand to other parts of Bali. Getting stuck behind them and attempting to pass them one after the other on these hills is a nightmare. In Gianyar, the last town before Ubud, we see some stalls selling food. Gianyar is famous for Babi Guling, split-roasted pig, a Bali specialty. Mika digs on swine. All of stalls only have pork or chicken, so I get my lunch at a pastry shop.We finally arrive to Ubud, exhausted. As of now, we have no travel plans for the immediate future. We will stay here until we figure out what we are doing.