On my last week in Bali, I decided I needed to break up my serene yoga and coconut water routine with something a bit more… adventurous. So I signed myself up for an early morning trek to Mount Batur, Bali’s most active volcano.

When my alarm jolted me awake at 2 a.m. (the earliest alarm I’ve ever set), I wondered if I really need to incorporate “adventurous” activities into my Bali itinerary.

Nevertheless I piled into the van with my fellow trekkers and drove to a nearby coffee plantation for a tea and coffee tasting and a banana pancake breakfast. After my 2 a.m. wake-up call the coffee was quite welcomed.

In pitch blackness, we started out the trek on flat ground. Rocking out to Grizmatik and SBTRKT, I led the group thinking, “This is easy! Why don’t I do this more often?” My false confidence began to soar as I fantasized about my next climbs: Macchu Picchu, Ciudad Perdida in Colombia, Mount Rinjani on nearby Lombok… if this was so easy, then why not?

As my loaner flashlight started shorting out I wished I had brought a headlight. And as the incline became agonizingly steep I wished I was warm in my bed.

When I removed my headphones I realized how hard I was panting- yoga clearly hadn’t been enough cardio prep for this volcanic excursion. I took a moment to catch my breath and let everyone pass me- I don’t know about you guys but I find it stressful to worry about people behind me getting fed up with my slow-pokiness.

Thankfully, our sweet guide noticed I was struggling and offered to carry my backpack. Relieved of my heavy dSLR and water bottle, I started to feel a little hopeful. But when I asked the guide how long we had left, he cooly responded, “Only 30 more minutes.”

My internal reaction was along the lines of WHAT????? But fortunately we weren’t heading to the summit of Mount Batur, only to Sunrise Point.

As I huffed and puffed my way up the mountain, I asked my guide how often he climbed Mount Batur.

“Almost every day.”

Jesus.

When we reached Sunrise Point I rejoined my fellow trekkers in a  simple concrete shelter. The far-off mountain was still shrouded in a grey haze, so we sat down and relaxed, awaiting the sunrise. Ubud Trekking LR

Watching the fog roll in, I savored a banana sandwich and hard-boiled egg. Though the sharp-toothed macaques who were leaping around and stealing food made me feel a bit… unsettled.

Confession? I don’t like monkeys. They creep me out.

IMG_1323                                                 It’s like a cross between a rat and a human… 

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Once the golden-rayed sun made its appearance, we took a few shots and headed to the crater, where I snapped my best photos of the day- if I do say so myself. IMG_1332

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Macaques eating the offerings, par for the course on Bali.

And once we returned to the summit my hostel roommate and I staged a mini mountainside photo session. When in Bali…

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On the way back down the mountain I found myself slipping on loose, brittle, igneous rock. Even with the slipping, I much preferred descending the mountain as I felt less like dying and could actually hold a conversation.

We then crawled back into the van and drove home and on the way we saw adorable Balinese schoolchildren from the window. In my dog-tired state I realized they weren’t coming home from school, they were going to school. As so much had already happened that day, it was incredible to me that it was only 10 a.m. Normally I’m barely awake at 10 am.

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And while I was sore for the next few days, my hike to Mount Batur was an untraditional Thanksgiving that left me feeling very, very thankful.

Have you ever climbed a volcano?

I was not paid or perked in any way by Pineh Bali Tours. I would highly recommend their tour as they were super professional, punctual and needless to say had the sweetest guides ever. The trek is 400,000 IDR or about $35, including all transport and food.

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Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is an American travel blogger and freelance writer who moved to Paris at 21, traveled the world for a year and now lives in Denver. She's usually in pursuit of skiing, languages and perfectly ripe cheese. Her writing has been featured in National Geographic, Viator and Jetstar Australia.
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