Hiking Mount Batur (1,717m) – The Appetizer to Trekking in Bali
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Mount Batur is an active volcano at 1,717 metres. Most visitors do the sunrise trek or hike, which means doing a night climb and watching the sunrise from the summit (if you make it in time).
The climb is extremely suited for beginners, with a great view at the summit, a variety of scenery and trail which makes it slightly fun as well. The only downer is that it is usually misty/rainy but that adds to the feel of it most of the time. It is a good warm-up to Mount Agung.
It is an easy climb of about 1.5h up, ending with 15-20 mins of volcanic ash which makes it slightly strenuous. There are many people on the trek and many local guides abound. You do not need to be in peak physical shape to complete this trek.
The only thing is to wear suitable shoes, basically not sneakers/slippers to make your trek more comfortable as it can be muddy at times. For equipment, they will provide torch lights and ponchos most likely. Please also do bring along a jacket as it might get really cold, especially if you are waiting at the summit. The temperature should be around 5-10 degrees Celsius at the top.
For fear of an eruption, don’t worry, the local guides are regularly updated on volcanic activity. The last eruption was in the year 2000 apparently.
How to Start :
You will first and foremost need a guide. Although it is an easy hike and obvious trail, Indonesia or Bali doesn’t work like the European or American mountains where you can DIY by yourself. In fact, from reading online via various sources as well as my own personal experience, the guides all seem to come from the village. People will try to stop you or rough you up or extort money from you if you try to do it by yourself. Of course, even though I didn’t attempt, I believe that it is possible to actually try to do it yourself without guides, but it is honestly not worth the trouble.
“All guides will be members of the Association of Mount Batur Trekking Guides which has an office in Toya Bungkah village (tel: +62 366 52362, 3AM-1PM), from where the treks commence. Book at the office or ask to see proof of membership to avoid problems later, and expect to pay Rp 300,000 to 400,000 per guide (max 4 people). The association runs a cartel on climbing the mountain, and even if you have successfully scaled Everest, you will be harangued to hire a guide for this fairly low key, simple trek. While it is not compulsory, if you do not hire a guide you may be confronted at the start of the climb and the guides are known to become aggressive and confrontational (that’s why there is an online petition against this organization). “ From Wikitravel.
Based on my experience, simply just get a guide, the question is where and how much.
How to get a guide :
The best is to simply get it at the place you are staying at. If you are staying in one of the tourist areas, like Kuta, Ubud etc, there will definitely be agents arranging it there. It is about spending some time to get a good price. If you are staying at a resort or a further away place, your hostel/hotel should be able to arrange it for you.
Why? If I am not wrong, everybody is basically only arranging the transportation to the starting point, the village. The guides all come from that village anyway, so whoever you are in contact with, is most likely just an agent calling a driver to arrange it. So, just walk around, talk to the different agencies to get the cheapest price. They will most likely put you together with like 10 other people in a mini-van journey. These other people most likely either did the same things as you, or organized through their accommodation, or hotel (where most of the foreign tourists stay). The best part, everyone is actually on the same journey but charged a different price ha!
So the trick is to just go for the cheapest price. I believe the benchmark price @Ubud is 350,000 IDR. You have to negotiate downwards, and half the benchmark number at the start in order to get a grasp of how low everyone can go, before settling for a certain price. I settled at 250,000 IDR, which is around 25 SGD. The people in the same van as me paid 50 USD for the same trip. Go figure!
The downside is that the timing for transport/hike is based on the others too. Your transport will also spend some time picking up the rest as well as dropping off the rest. This means that if you are unlucky like if there are people who are slower/wake up late or your accommodation is the last in line, you might reach Mount Batur slightly late as well as reach back your accommodation late too.
*Money-saving tip: DO NOT PRE-BOOK ONLINE! The standard price for pre-booking online is around 50-60USD. You will end up in the same vehicle as everybody else unless you request for a private vehicle.
**This is not applicable if you are looking for a private trip. The cost is basically hiring a vehicle. Alternative you can find your own transport there and get a guide (not sure if it is cheaper) but I did not want to try as I read that if you get a guide on the spot there, they will overcharge you too (more than 250,000 IDR). Therefore, I rather let the agent the transport and just charge me 250,000 IDR all in for convenience.
So somebody please does try and let me know!
Update : Apparently you can get guides @ 100,000 IDR per person. However, you still need to arrange transport there and back.
The Trek :
First, you will get picked up at your location. Always try to get the earlier timings so you have more time to hike, get a nice spot at the summit and wait for sunrise!
Estimated pick up timings :
Kuta/Nusa Dua/Legian/Seminyak/Lovina : 01:30 AM – 02:00Am.
Sanur : 02:00 AM – 0.2:30AM
Ubud : 02:30 AM – 03.30AM
After which, you will be in a vehicle picking up other people. Depending on where you are, most transport takes around 2h to reach Toya Bungkah village, which is the starting point.
Most of the combined trips will stop for breakfast which is included in the package, before starting the trek. It is most likely eggs, tea/coffee and pancake, hopefully banana pancake. Some of them will have this gimmick where your breakfast, especially eggs are cooked at the summit using the steam of the active volcano.
Starting Point :
You reach the base around 4am – 5am.
At the carpark, the guides will arrive and address you. It might be quite crowded and messy, as there will be many different groups of people.
*At this point, if you had booked your own transport, you might get away with sneaking and pretending to be part of the group so nobody will catch you going up by yourself.
From the starting point is a standard 2h hike in the dark. The first part is a gentle uphill through the forest, so it might be slightly muddy or slippery at times. After awhile, it gets slightly steeper.
There was a lady with a kid without proper shoes and the guide had to help carry the kid reluctantly, it was obviously an issue of up-sell and mismanagement of expectations. I bet the agent/hotel gave them a spiel on how it will be an “easy hike, can be arranged, guides will help you”. Although it is an easy hike, it is not simply walking up a nice path of stairs. This is usually what happens because the people arranging the hike are not the guides themselves.
If your group is too slow (as they follow the speed of the slowest person), it might be a good idea to just go in front and tell the guide that you will go on ahead. The route is pretty simple, and everyone catches up anyway as it is a single route up. Just make sure you remember who the guide is, and vice verse, as you have to go back down to the same vehicle later anyway!
After walking around an hour and a half, you will reach this portion of volcanic scree or ash. This will be very similar in feel to other volcanic hikes in Indonesia, like Merapi and Rinjani. You can read on the other hikes! In fact, to get used to this kind of terrain, Batur is the easiest starting point!
At this point, you will know you are close to the summit. It is slightly steep and quite annoying to walk as you will keep sliding down. Keep persevering. Another 15-20 mins of scrambling and you will reach the top!
If you reach early, you can find a nice spot and enjoy the sunrise. The beauty of the scenery lies in the morning clouds that hover just below you. Most people stop here, but you should walk further on along the ridgeline. You will get a nicer view of the surroundings, the crater and more peace from the crowds. There will be many spots along the way to take some nice pictures.
One of the nice parts of the hike is going down. As it was a night hike, you get to see the view in the morning and it will be amazing! When you descent, you can immerse yourself in the full view of the surroundings with morning clouds lazily floating alongside.
You will be gathered and made to do some survey forms. (not sure if they still have it now). After that, just find your guides and hop back to the same vehicle to go back to your accommodation!
Time to hunt for good food while resting for Agung!
* Tip: If you do not want to rush with the crowd, you can always skip the sunrise hike and do it during the day.
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