Friday, 29 March 2019

Indonesian Adventures: Bali's Tegenungan Waterfall


When Pete and I spent a couple of weeks travelling in Indonesia, we stayed just outside Ubud in a tiny little village with almost nothing there. However, we turned out to be within walking distance of Tegenungan waterfall which seemed to crop up on a lot of tourist tours and lists of 'Things to do in Bali'. We decided we may as well pay it a visit, and today I'm sharing a few of our pictures and stories of our visit. You can find more posts about Indonesia linked here: Indonesian Adventures.

***


We got up a bit earlier - woah! Instead of lying abed for half the morning, we had ordered brekkie for 9:00am and so we had to get up and get sorted to be ready.

Munching on our usual - omelettes - we heard a familiar mewing at the window and our little cat popped back to say hello. She had somehow got up to the first floor ledge which wraps around the living room and so we let her in the window. She mewed constantly without let-up, purring and talking to us, before jumping into the kitchen counter and up again into the roof rafters.

We watched her do a circuit of the whole ceiling as we finished our breakfast, while I pondered how long it would be before she realised she couldn’t get down again and we had to perform a cat rescue mission. Although I needn’t have worried; she managed a hair raising slither and jump back down onto the kitchen cupboards and the floor without assistance. She seemed to have had a nice time hunting curiosities in the rafters; she had certainly been busy swiping her paws into the corners - after prey real or imagined we don’t know.

Fortunately she didn’t spot Terry who was skulking about the sink.


After breakfast, we kitted up and set off to walk to Tegenungan waterfall. It was another sweltering day and even the ten minute stroll to the falls was enough to make us hot and sticky. 

The falls were surprisingly busy; the village we had been staying in had always seemed quiet and out of the way, but just down the road, the attraction of the waterfall drew stalls and traders, cafes and knick-knacks and lots of people. We paid our 300000 IDR entry fee (75p each, spendy) and started down the steps to the river.

Tacky signs were plastered everywhere, telling us not to worry and be sexy, telling us to stay cool and keep calm, telling us to roll with it and to love. However, when we caught our first view of the falls, they were really impressive. We stopped on a little platform jutting out over the valley and we could see the water splashing down: much taller and bigger than I had expected, fringed and framed with palms.

We continued to head down, passing a small temple and photo spots with props and frames, wings and hearts to get that must-have Bali insta shot.


Getting down to the base of the falls, we picked our way across stones and the odd bamboo bridge over the water, and approached the pool. Spray hung in the air, misting from the force of the water. It was busy with lots of people enjoying the river, but despite that, the waterfall was impressive.

I snapped away with my camera, enjoying trying to make the water look smooth with long exposures, or trying to catch the sunlight filtering through the misty spray.

We tried to climb up to the top of the waterfall but it turned out you had to buy another ticket which seemed fairly ridiculous. So we headed back down again, slightly mystified, and took one last long look at Tegenungan.


And then it was time to climb back up all the steps out of the valley (very sweaty work) and walk through the sun baked streets to our villa.

I was definitely in need of a shower.

With that accomplished, I went to order us a light lunch and managed to bring back our cat. Not only had she learned to show up for meals, she knew when we ordered food and just liked to come and chat to us in hopeful anticipation. It never worked (except sometimes on Pete because he’s a softie).

She did another circuit of the ceiling but when our food arrived, we had to put her outside. She doesn’t have very good manners at mealtimes. It took the two of us several attempts to get her to leave, but we managed it. So heartless.

Kisses xxx

P.S. You can read more about out exploits in Indonesia here where all the posts are linked: Indonesian Adventures

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Indonesian Adventures: Exploring Ubud's Saraswati Temple


On our trip to Indonesia in October, Pete and I spent a few days staying near Ubud, a town which is often thought of as the cultural hub of Bali. Bali is home to innumerable temples, and we spent an afternoon in the town visiting the Saraswati temple, which was the one I wanted to see the most. This is my journal entry for the afternoon we spent looking around.  And if you want to read more about our Indonesian Adventures you can find them all linked here.

*****


We strolled through Ubud looking for lunch. The traffic was intense and paid no heed whatsoever to trifles such as pedestrians or the law. But we managed to turn into a quieter road - only mopeds to dodge - and choose a little restaurant to lunch in. It was cooler than outside, with the sun screened behind hanging vines and ferns and we sat in the window, watching the world go by.


We ordered some fresh juices (proper ones, no syrup) and I had a herbal tea, which was packed with cinnamon and lemongrass and had a very fiery hit of fresh ginger. We split a plate of sweet corn fritters which were amazing and as the sun dappled the table, we tucked into a couple of new Indonesian dishes. I had tofu and peanut noodles which was fine, but I think Indonesia has already nailed it with the mie goreng. Hard to beat!


After lunch, we set out to explore a little further, looking for the Saraswati temple. There are apparently about 4000 temples in Bali which is a truly staggering number, and every other building in Ubud seemed to be a temple as well. Many had strict entry codes out of respect to the Hindu culture: shoulders and knees needed to be covered for instance. Visitors are prohibited from entering some full stop, and there seems to be a blanket ban on menstruating women.



To be completely honest, this is where I run out of patience for respecting the practises and traditions of another culture. First: how would they know? And second, when in history did this rule come about? Periods are historically used to oppress and embarrass and shame women and I feel like everyone needs to just get over this already. And if that’s intolerant, then that’s unfortunately what I am.

The saraswati temple turned out to be free to visit (the outside anyway, few are allowed to actually enter the temple unless conducting a ritual or praying) and as I have a coil jammed into my uterus, I rarely if ever menstruate. So we went in.



Spread out before us was the reason I wanted to visit: the temple is flanked on either side by giant ponds overflowing with waterlillies. And they were in every stage of growth: leaves of all sizes, some huge and green, other small and brown. Blousy pink flowers dotted here and there, some tightly in bud, some open to the sunshine. And seed pods: the most alien and fantastic looking heads bobbing on stalks far beyond the water’s surface.


The whole scene made a beautiful foreground to the temple, which was intricately carved and ornate. The surrounding plants as well as the waterlillies added a riot of colour to the whole scene and all was very peaceful.


After the temple, we dove into the marketplace, which was full of stall upon stall selling Bali paraphernalia: dream catchers, coasters, little round handbags, wall hangings and a strangely large number of penis-shaped bottle openers, in a variety of sizes or available as a 5-pack. Just weird. Pete picked out a painting that he liked and we sauntered on slowly, taking it all in.


We grabbed a taxi back to the villa after that; being out in the sweltering heat all day had certainly made us ready for a bit of pool time, a sit down and some air con. So that’s exactly what we did. And I followed up with some travel journal time in my poolside lounger, watching the sun sink behind the ferms and smiling as the frogs began their nightly conversation. They can’t ever seem to agree on anything.


Eventually the persistence of the bitey things drove me inside and I made myself a cuppa. And spied a tiny lizard hanging out on the drying rack. I had spotted him briefly a couple of days before but it was quite nice to see him back. He was barely as big as one of the joints on my little finger. I named him Terry and introduced him to Pete.

We decided to fall back on pizza for the evening, ordering a couple in to try with fries. Pizza is something that doesn’t always translate well to other countries (worst pizza I’ve ever had was in Sri Lanka; fair play) and I don’t really mind; in the main I reckon sticking to local flavours is the best way to get nice food. But we enjoyed the pizza, finishing off our Netflix series Atypical while we ate.

And so to bed.

Kisses xxx

P.S. You can find other stories from our exploits in Indonesia here: Indonesian Adventures

Monday, 25 March 2019

Indonesian Adventures: Ubud Monkey Forest


During our time in Indonesia, Pete and I spent a few days just outside Ubud, which is a something of a cultural and tourist hub in Bali. There were lots of things to do an see, and so today's entry from the travel journal is all about the famous (or perhaps infamous?) Monkey Forest, and our encounters with its most sought-after residents. And if you are enjoying following along with our Indonesian Adventures, you can find more of them linked here.

***** 

Our morning started with a much needed lie-in and we lounged in bed for a little while, dozing as the sun sun started it’s daily job of heating the air. Breakfast arrived and we tucked into fruit and omelettes merrily.


Our plan for the day was to visit Ubud, and we set out at 11:00am for our first stop: the Monkey Forest. It turned out to be much more of a thing than I thought. The internet had seemed to imply that you take your belongings and your life into your hands somewhat as you mooch through the jungle trying to avoid being attacked by rabid monkeys, and that you can then expect to spend the subsequent several hours trying to find a reputable medical centre to boost your rabies immunisation.

However, the reality was lovely: wide paved paths through the shady trees, a series of temples and structures looming out of the forest, spectacularly tangled vines and, of course, monkeys. They were everywhere and provided plentiful entertainment for the onlookers.


As is often the case, if you respect the wildlife and don’t behave like an idiot, the monkeys pretty much leave you alone. Signs advise not getting out any food or rustling packets at them, you are told not to touch them and to avoid eye contact as this is viewed as a sign of aggression.

This of course doesn’t stop morons from trying to feed them, bait them and get an insta selfie. 


So we wandered about, admired the temples and giggled at the monkeys antics. There are 6 different troupes that live in the forest and they have split the territory up between them. Although they by no means stick to the forest if they don’t want to: cars parked nearby are fair game, for instance. They’re clearly smart and have a hierarchy:larger, stronger ones baring their teeth and ousting the upstart juveniles; tiny babies clinging to their mothers’ tummies; slightly more confident infants attempting to gain their independence before being yanked back unceremoniously by the tail. The mums maintained a firm grip on the baby reins. 


We watched them play in and around a couple of trees over the pool, sometimes flinging themselves gleefully into the water while a friend or competitor dives after them with a screeching racket. They would hop out again undaunted but bedraggled, charging back into the trees.


Watching them climb and navigate the trees was wonderful. They could cling onto and swagger along the most slender of branches, making all but impossible leaps to land with a crash amongst the foliage of the next tree. But it was never a crash landing and within seconds they would have attained new and loftier heights. They could practically run up tree trunks but more entertaining still was watching them slide down, fireman style, cackling away.


We stopped by a feeding point and perched on a stone wall. There were sweet potatoes scattered over the floor and the odd monkey here and there was snacking. It was swelteringly warm and humid and even though we were in the shade, the weather was a bit energy-sapping at times.


Moments later, a large male sauntered down the bank behind us and came to sit down. I got up and put a little distance between us but Pete refused to budge as the monkey approached. 

However, the monkey was not to be denied and instead of being halted, simply climbed onto Pete; he was amused but then the monkey very deliberately started to unzip our bag. I squeaked, Pete got up and managed to shake his passenger off but not without getting a face full of barred teeth and an angry rebuttal. 

These dudes are smart; he knew exactly where to go and how to do the zips. Very dexterous!



We continued through the monkey forest, arriving at another feeding station just as the warden did to dole out food. The response was immediate: monkeys descended from all directions, gathering round to divide up and squabble over the offering.


They hoovered up corn on the cob, nibbling the kernels from the stalk and discarding the rest in disgust. They went even more nuts for the bananas. So cliched, darling.


But they were funny, prancing round the trees, snatching food from the floor and each other, carrying away as many of the spoils as they could. Mothers fed babies, adults swatted at teenagers and everyone had a good old feed. Happy days!


We wandered through the rest of the forest, coming across an old temple, crossing a stone bridge which arched over a gully through a tangle of vines, and marvelled at some of the most beautifully intricate and twisted trees I’ve ever seen. It was like a forest from another world; Pete commented that it reminded him of Peter Pan.


Leaving the forest, we had a quick juice and a banana smoothie to replace the sugar we had sweated out. The Indonesians will insist on adding syrup to their juice which is weird to me on two levels: first it makes it taste less like real juice and more like squash, and second, fruit is already sweet and full of sugar. So just: NO. Stop it already!

Fruit juice wasn't going to cut it, and clearly lunch was in order, so we headed into Ubud to explore.  But that's a post for another day.

Kisses xxx

P.S. You can find other posts about our time in Indonesia linked here: Indonesian Adventures

Friday, 22 March 2019

Indonesian Adventures: Our Villa in Ubud


Back in October 2018, my partner Pete and I spent a couple of weeks exploring Indonesia. We had a pretty adventurous time, fitting in hiking, diving, jungle trekking and camping, but in and amongst all that we also wanted to treat ourselves to a little bit of luxury and take some time to relax. We decided to book ourselves a villa for a few days just outside Ubud on the island of Bali. We spent a great time there enjoying some quiet time and getting to know Ubud, and so today I'm going to be sharing a little bit about that experience.  If you want to read more about some of our more active moments, you can find all our Indonesian Adventures linked here.

*****
Our driver drove us cheerily along through a series of villages and on through more mountainous country. Lots of the space between the villages was carpeted with the lush green of rice fields, making the land appear very verdant. We also spotted regular shrines and temples and while we weren’t sure of the significance of them, many were decorated with fresh flowers and woven vine leaves.

Apart from a brief stop to pick up and fit a new headlight for the car, we made pretty good time it seemed. Our driver wasn’t sure where the villa was exactly but he said he would drive up and down the roads until he found it. Promising! Fortunately though, we passed a sign and soon pulled into the right place.

Our villa was one of six in a row under the same Airbnb listing and we were given the keys to number five. A very friendly lady checked us in, took our order for breakfast the next morning (not to be delivered until ten, hurrah!) and gave us a welcome drink in a coconut. As always with coconut, it looks great and tastes gross but I drank most of it anyway, trying to enjoy the novelty of slurping straight out of the husk.

Then we were shown to our villa and it really didn’t disappoint!

The lady showed us round but once she had left, we really got to explore. And it was brilliant! 

In the planning stages, we had decided to treat ourselves to a bit of the villa lifestyle. Mainly because when I was knocking together a budget, I estimated about £60 a night for Bali, imagining it would be expensive due to tourism. But when we put that price bracket into Airbnb and saw what we could get, we decided to go full villa, rather than reduce our spending. Winning!

Upstairs was a huge open plan living room with a little kitchen. There were views all around over lush, green vegetation, rice fields in the distance and even a picturesque cow grazing off to one side.

Our lovely pool speaks for itself, with a little pagoda at one end with a small table and cushions, and a couple of sun loungers next to it. Downstairs was our bedroom with a massive bed bedecked with flowers and towels folded into the shape of bunnies.

Actually, come to think of it, everything was bedecked with flowers.

Finally the bathroom - which was once again outside - was gorgeous with a rainfall shower at one end and a massive 2-person bath at the other. 

It was hard to know where to hang out first!

But of course the pool won. It was so lovely to have a swim and have the place to ourselves; a total luxury.


I was pretty keen to test out the giant bath which was under cover but open to the air. I ran myself a warm bath and sat for over an hour reading and indulging in lovely bubbles. It was incredibly relaxing.

Pete eventually came to seek me out; he was hungry so we tracked down the take out menu we had been given and chose pasta (me) and chicken katsu (him). The food was delivered after about 30 minutes and we took it outside to sit under our little pagoda and dine outside. With the delivery chap also arrived a very persistent cat; a slender little creature who looked underfed but had an enormous meow. We managed to shut her outside our garden but within minutes she appeared inside anyway, clearly fully aware that we had just taken delivery of our food.

Pete’s a soft touch so he shared his chicken with her which she eventually agreed to eat. I did not share my pasta as I am cold and hard-hearted.

After dinner, I sipped on a banana daiquiri which I had ordered with dinner. It arrived amusingly in a plastic cup with the lid taped down, but I poured it into a wine glass and it made a very satisfying dessert, as noisy frogs chirruped and croaked in the bushes.


It wasn’t particularly late but we were both tired from our early start - we'd been up since 4:30am to go diving. We just about limped through half an hour of Netflix before turning in at 9:30, firm in the knowledge that we finally had a good night’s sleep ahead and that we wouldn’t be disturbed for anything until breakfast. 

Which we had ensured wouldn’t be delivered until 10:00am. 

*****

We very much decided to give the next day over to relaxing and make the most of our villa. With that in mind, we slept in until 9:30 and then I threw on swimwear and a sundress before heading upstairs to our living room.

Breakfast was delivered in good time and was very tasty. I slurped down a fresh pineapple juice, a fruit platter, an omelette and some toast and was pretty satisfied.

Then it was on to some hard core sofa time: I spent the morning combining reading, writing my journal and browsing the internet for Bali-based inspiration, enjoying a couple of cups of tea along the way, while Pete similarly amused himself.

After a couple of hours, I needed a change of pace, so moved to one of the sun loungers in the sun-dappled shade as leafy ferns waved around me and the pool fountain trickled prettily. I had a quick swim after that and then went back to reading as the villa staff came to clean and primp our little home.


So it was a challenging morning all told, and therefore lunch was well earned. We had it delivered and I munched on some tasty gyoza and some fries which hit the spot and I also ordered a cheeky Mai Tai to go in the fridge for the afternoon.

The afternoon followed a similar pattern: I did some more travel journal, read a little more of my book by the pool and then joined Pete in the pool for a swim and a natter.

We had planned to go into Ubud for the evening so we showered and changed and finally left our little slice of paradise at 6:00pm, taking a car into the centre of Ubud which was about 30 minutes away.

It was getting dusky, and was virtually dark by the time we arrived. But Ubud proved to be a lovely little town full of curiosities and a large enough tourist trade for lots of things to be open for the evening. We strolled through the warm evening air admiring the shops and restaurants. There’s an Indonesian air about the place as mopeds speed about in all directions, and the little stores and restaurants tend to be leafy, vine-covered and open to the air.

But it is also noticeably western, with plenty of tourists about and a lot of English signage, and most of the restaurants seemed to be offering up that stereotypical Ubud fare of vegan food that will cleanse your soul.

If it sounds like I was turned off by that, I wasn’t. I mention it simply to note the contrast.

So we ambled down a few streets and opted for a restaurant called Kismet as it hit my two preferred criteria of having a good number of diners and an open air place to sit.

It turned out to be entirely vegetarian too, and easily the most expensive meal we’d had so far, but it was also incredibly lovely. The table was laid beautifully and we were given little dry tablets which we dropped into water only to find that they absorbed it and turned into little lemon scented towels. This novelty amused me no end.

We split a portion of samosas with mint sauce, which were OK and I ordered a mango margarita which was extremely tasty and refreshing, full of pulped mango and with a tasty salted rim.

I opted for a spicy pulled jackfruit burger for my main, which came in a black, charcoal bread bun - no idea what that means but it tasted good - and it was absolutely delicious. Pete had never had jackfruit before and it is weirdly meaty. Meaty for a fruit anyway, and it took on the spiced flavoured in the way that pulled chicken might. The burger was also full of salad and came with a side salad and fries. Happy days. Given the lack of meat, Pete opted for a ‘No Fricken Chicken’ wrap which contained pretend chicken which he really enjoyed, while being mystified by what it actually was. 

Well done Ubud and your hilarious peace, love and wellness tendencies.

We treated ourselves to a dessert too, and I enjoyed a tasty chocolate dome filled with mousse. Yum. 

After that we wandered back through Ubud, hunting down a taxi to take us home.

Kisses xxx

P.S. You can find some of our other stories from Indonesia linked here: Indonesian Adventures.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Indonesian Adventures: Tegallalang Rice Terrace


At the end of last year, I visited Indonesia with my partner, Pete, and we had a wonderful fortnight exploring some of the different islands. I had read about the rice terraces in Bali before our trip, and never having been to one before, I was keen to go and drink in the view. Today's blog post is all about our visit to the Tegallalang Rive Terraces. You can read about some of our other experiences in Indonesia here: Indonesian Adventures.

*****

Our next stop was the Tegallalang Rice Terrace; at almost an hour’s drive away I found it very hard to stay awake and my eyelids kept drooping. But as we got close, the landscape was such a vivid green and the sun was shining so brightly that I started to pay more attention to the surroundings.

We arrived at the famous terraced fields, made a voluntary compulsory donation towards the upkeep and wandered inside, our driver showing us the way. It was incredibly quiet; I had thought there would be loads of people but there were only one or two other tourists besides us. 



And it was spectacular. The terraces are cut into the sides of a valley and every inch of space is flooded with lush, vivid, green stems of rice. Each terrace was dotted with red plants with big, waxy leaves, providing a pop of contrast to the landscape. It was undeniably peaceful, with a faint trickle of water sounding as the irrigation system worked its magic.


We climbed down the terraces, finding our footing on rough stairs and stepping stones, right into the bottom of the valley. Layer upon layer of crops rolled up and away back into the hillside and all was calm and quiet. 



We climbed back up the other side to see the view the other way, meeting the occasional worker carrying baskets over the shoulders. But mostly it was hushed and empty, almost sleepy.


I loved being able to visit Tegallalang; it was a view I had been pretty keen to see and it really was a lovely vista. The land really seemed to be working in harmony with the agriculture and it’s almost strange to think of something so practical being so beautiful.

With my fill of photos finally shot, it was time to head back to our villa. It had been a long day, naturally, and the clock had progressed to the somewhat advanced our of ten. In the morning.
Pete noted how much we could get done if we only got up very early every morning. I have not finished mocking him for this sentiment yet. 


We were pretty sweaty and gross from our hike so we showered and then lay down just for two minutes to relax in the perfectly air conditioned bedroom. It was sooooo relaxing and comfy. And two minutes soon became a couple of hours.


Time for lunch! We ordered some food and sure enough, our cat reappeared with its arrival, meowing continuously. She invited herself not only into our garden but into our living room. Which wasn’t a problem until she started jumping on the table and refusing to understand that no means no, no matter how adorable you think you are. 

I put her outside. Or, more accurately, it took me and Pete working together to get her to go outside long enough to shut the door. She sat outside the glass meowing at her in protest. But she did eat the prawn cracker Pete gave her.

We passed a pretty quiet afternoon very pleasantly with some reading, some journaling, the odd video and podcast and a spot of swimming.


Once the evening got a little cooler, we sat outside on our loungers by the pool and the sun sank lower as dusk gathered. Our frog chorus started up which was pretty comical; they made the most fantastically ridiculous sounds. Pete swore he could hear one in the tree to his right and, hunting around with the light from my phone, he did indeed spot the little chap sitting at eye level on one of the plant’s leaves. He didn’t seem to mind an audience, periodically inflating his throat to croak at another frog, hiding in the foliage somewhere near the pool.


We ordered another round of food for dinner, watching a couple of episodes of Atypical and then rounded off the evening with a bit of a night swim. Purely to keep the frogs company. It felt chillier as the air was cooler and I had a quick, warming shower afterwards.

An early, lazy bedtime followed, with a bit of telly as we lounged and relaxed gradually into sleep, safe in the knowledge that the next day held a lie in.

Bed!

Kisses xxx

P.S. You can find other stories of our time in Indonesia linked here: Indonesian Adventures

Monday, 18 March 2019

Indonesian Adventures: Hiking Bali's Mount Batur


When my partner and I visited Indonesia in October, one of my favourite things we did on the whole trip was hike up Mount Batur, a volcano on Bali.  I had read about this before we departed, as it seems to crop up on every "must-do" list for Bali. But to be fair, it was absolutely incredible. We booked a guide the afternoon before we wanted to go, and tried to have an early night. As the trek was timed to reach the peak at sunrise...

Today's post is the story of our hike, and if you want to read more about our Indonesian Adventures, you can find them linked here.

*****

For some reason, we once again found ourselves getting up at stupid past two in the morning, aka 2:15am. Again, self-inflicted as it was volcano day.

We slithered out of bed, donned the long trousers we had been advised to wear, grabbed our bags stuffed with water, head torches and my camera and stepped out of our lovely air conditioned bedroom into the night. 

I refuse to call it morning. It was pitch black, hours away from dawn and the warm, almost damp air made the extra layer we had been instructed to pack seem like foolishness. I didn’t want to haul it up a mountain if I didn’t have to.

Our driver for the day (ie the night) was a surprisingly-cheery-for-the-hour chap who helped us into the car, confirmed our itinerary and then said we could nap while he drove if we wanted to. Winning!

The plan was this: drive to the bottom of Mount Batur, an active volcano, meet our guide and hike to the summit in the dark. Watch the sunrise and eat breakfast, climb back down again, visit the Tegallalang Rice Terraces and go home. Simple.

And with an hour to doze and compute all this, my eyelids closed and while I didn’t sleep, it was better than propping my eyes open.


After an hour or so, we pulled into a dark parking lot where one or two other vehicles had already arrived. We were introduced to our guide - also surprisingly cheery - handed a torch each to light the way, and off we went. Simple.

The sunrise trek up Mount Batur was popular and there were other groups behind and ahead of us - often quite large groups! It was nice to be just me, Pete and the guide as we could walk along at our own pace. While the odd super-fit couple overtook us, we actually walked past quite a number of groups which is quite pleasantly motivating. It was also unexpectedly chilly and I shrugged into my cardi, glad of the extra layer. It seemed funny that the idea of wearing more clothing had been laughable only an hour earlier.

Our Guide gave us some info as we started the trek; he said it was about 8km as a round trip up and down the 1717m high peak and that it would take about 2 hours to reach the top. The first half was all uphill through the forest and the second half was harder and steep. It was 3:45am when we set off which should get us to the summit just in time for sunrise at around sixish. There’s nothing like a deadline to make you hike and so we eschewed his first offer of a break, ploughing on uphill.

It was strange hiking in the dark. The forest did indeed creep about half way up the slopes of the volcano and it rose tall and shadowy around us, tree bark plunging into the sky in numerous shades of grey. I flashed my torch around watching the beam jump from branch to branch. It felt very atmospheric.

Every so often, the atmosphere was shattered by a moped ploughing to the top; I think mainly locals transporting things to the top to sell in the tourist trade. But occasionally one would offer transport to weary travellers.

Cheating.

We reached the first more obvious resting point and the guide parked us on a bench for a few minutes to catch our breath. We had been marching pretty quickly up until this point on no breakfast so I wolfed down a chunk of cereal bar from within my bag.


Our guide explained that we had two options from this point: the hard way, which was a bit shorter but steeper, or the slightly easier way. We opted for the latter in the end as we had time and didn’t see much point in pushing ourselves for a different hike in the dark. It’s not like the scenery made much difference on the way!

So we set off again, continuing to refuse breaks, overtaking a couple of larger groups and inching further up the mountain. Our progress had slowed to more of a trudge at this point. The footing wasn’t always easy as we were walking on black, dusty, volcanic rubble, almost like gravelly sand which would shift beneath our feet. We carried on dodging motorcycles and there was often the odd flicker of a bobbing head torch up ahead, showing where the next section of climb would take us.

Eventually, we emerged from the forest line and slogged up to the next resting stop. I slurped up some water and another hefty chunk of cereal bar for energy. We were both sweating and my cardie had long-since been relegated to my backpack. We perched on a bench outside a little shack selling drinks and snacks and regrouped. It was nice to feel the cool air on our hot faces and take a little pause. We scanned the dark view below, trying to make it out; all we could see were one or two pinpricks of light in the distance, marking sleepy villages. Our Guide explained that below us was Lake Batur, the largest lake in Bali. That explained the huge expanse with no little dots of streetlights. And looming above us was the volcano: a darker shadow against a dark night sky and it still seemed an awfully long way up.

And yet we trekked on, undaunted. After a little while, our guide told us there was only another 45 minutes to go, and not long after that we arrived at the next rest stop. The slope had definitely got even steeper in the last section, and I remember reading that the last 30 minutes were the hardest. Could it really get much steeper?

After a quick rest and the end of my cereal bar, it turned out that yes it could. The path turned rocky and there was a real sense of clamber and scramble as we made our way ever higher. Once again, we were offered another break but we pressed on.

Which turned out to be the right decision as only a couple of minutes after that, we reached the top! In the dark, I hadn’t realised we were close; with my phone in my bag I no idea of the time or how we were getting on, and it was quite something to totter up onto the summit and grab ourselves a spot on one of the benches. It was surprisingly crowded with lots of people having made the trek to see this spectacle.


There was nothing to see yet; just a pale swirl of cloud against a dark grey sky. When I checked my phone, I found it was only 5:20. Somehow we had done the trek in an hour and a half instead of 2 hours. So much for all those breaks then! But it gave us time to settle into our spot on our bench, get my camera ready and enjoy a bit of breakfast.


Breakfast turned out to be quite entertaining: we were given a banana each, a passionfruit each and another type of fruit each that we couldn’t identify. So we peeled one, a bit like an orange, and shared it, finding it had pulpy seeds inside like a passionfruit, but a little sweeter, and a very soft, pillowy pith all round the inside. 


There was also a packet of Tim Tams. Sweet! 

It was indeed surprisingly chilly at the summit and I was glad of my cardi. The clouds swirled around us and lightened slightly, but still gave away nothing. We could see the misty tendrils rushing up over the ridge behind us and cascading over the assembled sun seekers, and the air was damp, leaving little dewy beads of water over us. 


Which meant I was also incredibly glad of the hot cup of tea our guide produced, clutching my little fingers gleefully round it.


Suddenly a small gap opened in the clouds rushing past and we could see a pinkish glow on the horizon. Sunrise was about to begin.



It was indescribably beautiful, watching the first rays of the morning start to illuminate the breathtaking view. This is what we had climbed for, and we would finally get to see the panorama of planet earth spread out beneath us.



The sun lit the sky gradually, highlighting mountains both real and imagined; both volcanic craters and peaks and lofty castles built of clouds, revealing layer upon layer of detail and starting to shade in each with its own hue.



The light eventually reached the caldera floor, sparkling off the edge of the lake, picking out the shine of a rooftop and mapping out the life below. It was glorious; I took picture after picture and drank it all in, each shift in cloud or degree of sunrise showing off a new and different and beautiful vista. I think it may have been the best view I have ever seen. It was a very powerful moment and I loved every second.


With the sun climbing a little higher in the sky and escaping its cloudy trail, our guide reappeared with second breakfast. Sweet! This turned out to be an egg sandwich each and a banana sandwich each - we couldn’t remember the last time either of us had had a banana sandwich, but we enjoyed it all and despite getting my egg sandwich a bit grubby by accidentally coating it in volcanic dust, I hoovered it up anyway. It was probably good clean volcanic dust. Possibly there are even health benefits.




And then it was back to more pictures of the landscape from any and every angle, switching out to my wide angle lens to absorb even more of the view. Our guide also kindly snapped a few of Pete and me together.



As we were getting a couple of pics in, monkeys started to appear at the summit; just a couple at first but before long a whole troupe had arrived to join the party. And they were definitely looking for breakfast. 

This caused much surprise and delight among those assembled, and pretty soon they were being handed breakfast leftovers, skipping along benches and generally having a marvellous time. They would take food pretty politely from outstretched hands, and our guide in particular seemed to enjoy the commotion, grinning away, chuckling to himself and passing choice morsels over. 


Monkeys and hikers alike became more confident, with several people tempting monkeys to sit on their shoulders. Pete decided he wanted a pet monkey too and our guide persuaded one of the little chaps to climb up his back with a hunk of banana. I think it made Pete’s day as his monkey perched quite happily, balancing nimbly over his shoulders and munching on his fruit.



We walked along the ridge at the top of Mount Batur, spying more and more monkeys on the way. There was a little shrine as we reached the end and again monkeys gambolled over it, scrapping with each other and demanding food. They’ve clearly got it made up there with the daily hoards arriving at dawn to feed them.


With no more summit to explore, it was time to descend Mount Batur; a significantly quicker process than going up. We didn’t stop for much in the way of breaks, having only a quick pause at a temple we had completely missed in the dark, but the steep terrain made it quite rough on the knees.

It didn’t seem long before we were back down in the car park, climbing into the car and waving our guide farewell. Ready for the next adventure!

Kisses xxx

P.S. You can find more posts about our time in Indonesia linked here: Indonesian Adventures.