While Rowan and I were on holiday in Bali, we decided to get out and do something we love doing back home – hiking!
There is a day tour operated by Buffalo Tours that I sell at work, so we decided to give it a go and see what we thought.
Here is my review of the day tour, of buffalo tours, and of visiting Mt Batur in general.
The day tour starts with a VERY early start. We were picked up from our hotel at 3am. We get offered a bottle of water each, and before they suggest we go back to sleep – it’s about a 2 hour drive to Mt Batur. We take their advice and catch up on some sleep (after spending most of the day before at Potato Head beach club, its a welcome rest).
We wake up just as they park the car at a small village at the base of My Batur. It’s about 4:40am. This is where we meet up with G’Day, our guide, who will take us up Mt Batur. He gives us each a torch, and we set off.
The trail is single file, but there are hundreds of other tourists all trying to make their way up to the summit of Mt Batur before sunrise, which is expected sometime between 5:50am and 6:15am (its Bali, so you can’t really expect anything more specific than that!). G’Day thinks we might not make it by sunrise, so we hotfoot it, and try to overtake the slower walkers wherever the track is wide enough for us to pass them.
If I had planned this hike at home, I’d be wearing a headtorch, not carrying one, which would make the small amount of scrambling required much easier. After the first twenty minutes or so I didn’t even have it switched on most of the time, as most of the other walkers had theirs on, and that provided enough light to see where we were going. It was only once the real ascent started and the groups started to thin out that I needed to switch my torch back on.
We continue climbing steadily, and try to pass the slower hikers where we can – we don’t want to miss the sunrise! G’Day assures us we will be there with more than enough time – we are moving much quicker than many of the others (and I think he underestimated how quick we would be at the start!)
The single track is steep and rocky, and in the dark it is a challenge to not fall face first onto the ground at my feet, or worst still, into the climber ahead of me. There really are a lot of people here.
We reach the summit of Gunung Batur with about twenty minutes to spare. G’Day sets down a piece of cardboard on top of a damp timbre bench, and sneaks off to make us a cup of tea and a toasted banana sandwich.
Just as the ascent was starting to burn, we had arrived, and it was nice to sit for a few minutes with a hot cup of tea. Within a few minutes, we are cold. I didn’t bring a jacket, so Rowan offers his up, and braves the morning chill alone.
It’s November, which is the start of the wet season, which will run through to March for the island of Bali. There hasn’t been any rain in the week I’ve been here, but it does mean there is a lot more moisture in the atmosphere, and a lot of cloud cover this morning, adding a mysterious element to the anticipation of catching a glimpse of the beautiful sunrise.
The sun peaks up and over Mt Agung, and the clouds clear just long enough for us to take a few photos before the cloud is back.
After we take a few snaps, we eat our banana sandwiches, then G’Day takes us to the central crater, where we can see remnants of previous eruptions. Mt Batur is an active volcano, but last erupted in 2000. He tells us about the four main villages that are not far from Mt Batur. One village was significantly damaged during a major eruption in 1968, and you can still see the black lava field all down one side of the volcano today.
G’Day told us to save any of our banana sandwiches that we don’t want, to feed to the monkeys near the lava field. I don’t want to go near them – it was only two months ago that I got bitten by two monkeys while I was in Thailand. I still have the bruises! I’m not going near these ones.
He feeds the monkeys our scraps, and we take a few photos of the other tourists and guides who are much braver than us – the most confident of the monkeys are climbing on people’s heads and helping themselves to whatever snacks they can find. I’m not interested!
We make our way down Mt Batur along the old lava flow. I think there are a few different ways to go back down, because there are far fewer people going the way we are. (I think G’Day said something about an easier way and a more difficult one, which we took). The landscape changed quite a few times, considering Mt Batur only has an elevation of 5,633. I guess it has a lot to do with the destruction the lava flow has caused.
Overall, my recommendation for this trip is to do it! If you are a novice hiker, have never hiked or climbed a mountain before, or have only a moderate fitness level, you can do this! It only takes two hours to walk up, and yes, its steep, but if you have good footwear on you will be fine.
What to bring: A headlamp to keep your hands free. A small backpack with your camera, some water, and a light jacket or raincoat. Shorts or leggings, and a T-shirt or singlet is all you will need to wear, but its cold once you are up the top! Sturdy footwear is a must – runners or hiking boots.
If you are an experienced hiker, and want to be challenged, then Mt Agung is probably a better choice for you. It is 3,033 meters (9,944 feet) high, and will take you 6 – 7 hours. I haven’t done this one yet, but I will if I find myself in Bali again!
Buffalo Tours: Buffalo tours are one of the many tour agencies operating in Bali, that will offer you a guided climb of Mt Batur. The difference between Buffalo and many of the other operators is the quality and comfort of the car, communication, and the rest of the tour (there are several options to do Mt Batur and white water rafting, Mt Batur and Ubud city tour etc). This will all be done by a knowledgeable and friendly guide who works for buffalo tours. I can’t comment on the experience you get with other companies, but I would go with buffalo again next time.
Private or group tour: We didn’t even realise we had booked a private tour, and I don’t think there was a significant price difference. Obviously the trek part of the tour is with hundreds of other people, but each small group or private group will have their own guide, regardless of if you book a private or a group tour. The difference is the time you get picked up from your hotel (we got picked up at 2:50am as we were going directly to Batur. If you are on a tour with 8 other people, you might have an extra hour or two on the bus while you drive around each hotel picking people up). We slept the whole way there in comfort, and the tour to the rice terraces, and a few other sights in Ubud were all able to be tailored to our interests, because we were the only ones there. That was really the only benefit, and I was happy with it, but would probably have been just as happy on the group tour version.
When to go: Best time to go is when the weather is at its best, which is April to September. As Bali is a popular holiday spot for so many, you will probably encounter greater crowds than we did when we went, so I’d suggest the private tour option.
We did this hike in November, when cloud cover is to be expected almost every day. The weather was fine on the day we did it, but it is more humid from October to March, so keep that in mind if you don’t love that type of weather. December to February gets the most rainfall, and I imagine they either close the track all together on wet days, at it would be a major hazard for falls, especially among the inexperienced.
My last words of advise: 1. Tip your guide directly! G’Day, and his colleagues all live in the small villages near the mountains. This is their only source of income, and tips make all the difference to their families. If you tip the main company, or the tour operator who picks you up from your hotel, only a small portion (if any) of your tip will make it back to your mountain guide.
2. Take your rubbish with you. If you have ever been to Indonesia, you will have seen rubbish, from plastics especially is a major issue. Anyone who enjoys the great outdoors should be well versed on the motto, take only memories, leave only footprints.
Until next time,