There are tourist booths selling tickets to “Hike Mt. Batur! See sunrise! Drink coffee!”on every corner in Ubud. It’s the thing to do, especially if you’re into getting up at the crack of dawn, physically pushing yourself, and freezing your ass off on top of an active volcano. All in the name of The Sunrise, of course.
It was Easter and I thought it would be rather poetic to see the sun bring Bali to life from atop a volcano. Or at least it would be kinda LOTR. I also like to celebrate my Grandpa’s passing with a hike around Easter time, so it seemed like the best way to honor him and his love of early mornings.
These reasons were forgotten when I had to be up at 2 am to squish into the backseat of a van with my friends Molly and Anna, and three strange guys. Our tour weirdly took us to a coffee plantation for tea and coffee before the hike. Everyone looked like zombies and no one spoke, as we sipped our choice of caffeine under the bright lights. Truth be told, I can hardly remember this moment because my brain was still slumbering.
I didn’t feel fully human and even though we were given a cardboard box of toast, a banana, and a hard-boiled egg, I still felt strange. I WAS eating food from a cardboard box in the dark with a headlamp on my head.
The tour provided flashlights, but I was very happy to have a headlamp to keep my hands free. All of us hikers got in a circle and met our guide, Soma. He was 2o years old and like a Balinese version of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. His accent was a mix of British and American.
“Ok everyone, you ready? Just follow me! Be very careful where you step.”
We followed him into dark woods.
“Are we even on a volcano? This feels like we are just walking through a forest,” I said to Anna, as she walked in front of me in her slippery, Converse shoes.
“I don’t know and I have no idea where we are! Shouldn’t we be climbing up?” she responded.
We couldn’t see a bit of scenery. The only thing visible was a snake of lights heading up the volcano. Our wooded path opened up into fields and finally, started to climb. I’d been wearing a windbreaker and now I was sweating cold bullets; huffing and puffing my way up jagged rock. I started to doubt the joys that would come with this hike. A German guy muttered to himself, as we rested on an outcrop of rock.
“I don’t know why I signed up for this. I don’t even like hiking.”
I enjoy hiking, but I understood his misery. I was FREEZING and I hate being cold more than almost anything. There were so many people lined up and hiking the mountain that it was hard to stop and catch your breath. Plus, my fear of heights was slightly kicking in. It was still dark out, but I could easily see how steep our climb was.
We’d reached the first lookout and I sat down on a stone wall, feeling glad to not be teetering on rocks anymore. Soma approached us.
“Girls, we’re going up to the summit. You can stay here and watch the sunrise. We will be back this way and get you.”
Molly was in shorts and a tank top, so I thought she might want to stay at the lookout and wooden shelter, but her and Anna decided to go on. I was sad to see them go, but I was cold and too exhausted; mentally and physically.
I huddled in the somewhat warm shelter with others who had stayed behind to drink tea that was being sold for an outrageous 5 bucks a cup.
We all watched the sunrise slowly light the lake below us. It was quite beautiful, but I had a hard time concentrating on it because of my shivering. And then, the monkeys descended.
They were all over the roof of the shelter and scurrying in between legs to grab left-overs from breakfast boxes. Foolish hikers were feeding them and sticking cameras in their faces, which made the monkeys anxious and bold. I saw a monkey jump on a girl’s head and another grabbed a sandwich right out of another girl’s pocket! Animals, I tell you.
Thankfully, the air around me started to warm and I missed my friends. Where the hell was my group? I started thinking I would have to descend the steep volcano by myself and I wasn’t stoked about it. Suddenly, Soma appeared!
“I’m so sorry, ok! I forgot about you and your friend asked me where you were!”
He apologized profusely and took me by the hand down to the hot springs so I could warm my frigid hands in the steam.
So began Soma’s “courting” of me.
Soma made me take photos with the hot springs (“blow on it like a magician!”) and the holy cave (“what if someone asks you if you’ve seen the holy cave and wants proof?”).
“Hannah, how old are you?” he would ask.
“Too old for you, Soma. I’m 29.”
“But, you are like a teenager! You make me so happy!”
“Oh my god, Soma….”
And so it went. He also tried these lines on Anna, which led to us telling him that he was what we call “a player.” He seemed to be happy about this.
I explained to Soma that I was in love with Bali and didn’t want to leave. He had the perfect plan for me to stay.
“You should live here and be a farmer. You will grow cabbage and I will buy the cabbage from you. When you farm, I will fish for catfish and then cook it for you. We will live in a house by the lake.”
I laughed at Soma, as we walked down the rocky hillside towards the bottom of the volcano, but I had to admit….it seemed like a pretty good life.
Even better, I was finally warm again.