By Jacob Jarvis
Slipping out of a dorm room at 2:00am in Ubud, Bali, feels somewhat like a scene from a retro horror novel. The street lights are out. Nobody is a round. The only sound is the howling of stray dogs. If you want to make it to Mount Batur in time for sunrise, though, this is the eerie scene you have to endure.
I sidled my way into the van we were heading to the peak in, blinked, and I was there – the plus point of early journeys being that sleeping practically makes the travel non-existent. Our tour driver gently woke each of our party, before escorting us to a dimly lit dining area, where we were given an incredibly early breakfast of traditional pancakes and banana, to prepare us for the two-hours of hiking in utter blackness.
Equipped with a torch that looked older than me, I began the ascent, clumsily and slowly, in my sleep deprived state. But, with still hours to come until sunrise, the labour felt justified with one glance at the stars and the crystallised crescent moon, shining more brightly for the hills than they would any modern day city. Then, refocussing my attention earthwards, the strange procession of meagre lights being carried by each wanderer almost reflected the sky itself, painting a star-spangled caricature of the sparkling blanket above on to the mountains.
Upon reaching top, the fog was evidently going to be problematic for those of us with visions of viewing a pure sunrise, and when 6:26am hit, and the sun began to peak over the jagged rocks surrounding us, it first gave off nothing but a slight golden glow. In disappointment, those with little faith in nature’s abilities began to head back down the mountain. I was tempted myself.
As half an hour passed, the temperature seemingly decreased if anything, and the chances looked slim of seeing any of the sky through the stagnant mist. Slowly, but quite definitely, the wind picked up. Then our nearest star mustered all of its power, and split the clouds down the middle. Genuine applause broke out amongst the eclectic mix of pilgrims – such was the feeling of relief the walk wasn’t wasted.
And, apparently, this appreciation didn’t go unnoticed, as the clouds lowered and began to dance around the mountain peaks ahead of us and the feet of everyone at the top. This slowly allowed the landscape to reveal itself, and Lake Batur even joined the festivities eventually, posing for everyone graciously, as the crowds took photographs.
On certain days everything at Mount Batur looks completely untouched and perfect, thanks to the fog, that wasn’t what the view I received. The feeling of community amongst the hikers and the beauty of the surroundings still came to the fore though – proving the true mysticism of Bali’s most famous volcano.