We had made it! We had climbed to the top of Mount Batur. Our legs ached and it was a bit chilly but we were basking in the glow you get from accomplishing something that challenges you and pushes your boundaries. We had made it to the peak of Mount Batur and we were starving. Apparently, there is a tradition here that says at the top your guide must prepare you a meal of steamed eggs and bananas in one of the volcano’s steam vents and he did. Okay, it wasn’t exactly gourmet fare but given how hungry we were it was certainly welcomed and we gobbled down about three eggs and three banana sandwiches each. Even the instant coffee and tea tasted pretty good under the circumstances. We were enjoying the panoramic views of Bali and other far away islands and enjoying the company of our fellow hikers, but eventually, we had to leave.
You always hear stories about the challenges of climbing up mountains but rarely do you hear about the decent. As we started southwest from the summit we quickly became aware that the decent might not be as physically demanding but would require a different kind of strength. Leaving from this point necessitated that we walk a trail, sometimes less than a foot wide, along the spine of the crater with 100-meter drop-offs on both sides. There was nothing to hold onto and the wind was starting to pick up and trying to blow us off balance. I was grateful for the morning light that I needed to see the trail but it did make graphically visible what would happen if I made a misstep.
There were a few people who opted to turn around and retrace their steps back to the bottom. Honestly, I admired the bravery it took for them to admit this wasn’t for them and turn around. This was no place for acrophobics. We had opted to take the longest route but didn’t realize that it involved this sort of terrain. It was truly beautiful and I never really felt too scared but I did use a lot of caution. I did manage to make a few images along the way but on the narrower and steeper parts, I was too afraid to raise the camera for fear of losing my footing when I took the shot. We could smell sulfur from the earth and see the steam from even more numerous vents now. It was almost otherworldly.
Eventually, we descended — sometimes climbing down hand over hand on the bare rock face, sometimes trudging and sliding along paths covered in fine black ash, other times along wide, well-groomed trails — into a rough lava field that was formed only a decade ago. The hardest part was over and soon we found ourselves at a developed rest area filled with monkeys.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to be stumbling across monkeys in Asia but it does seem sometimes that they are as common here as squirrels are in the United States. Squirrels are pretty cunning and mischievous but just imagine if you gave them bigger brains and opposable thumbs. I was tired and I was thirsty but one of these pesky primates thought they needed my bottle of water more than I did, stole it from my bag and then posed for the camera while he drank it. It was a funny way to end another great day of this retirement adventure!