Before the cocks had started crowing early in the morning, dozens of tourists were already trekking up a path from Toya Bungah in Kintamani, Bangli regency.
All of them were headed to the top of Mount Batur, including our group.
Guided by Kadek Sarjana, 28, at the front and Wayan Julita, 27, at the back, our group walked slowly from the hotel where we had stayed overnight.
Because it was still too early in the morning, we were reluctant to move our legs. But Sarjana, who has been a tourist guide for decades, told us to get a wriggle on or we would miss the sunrise.
He said the eight-kilometer journey to the crater would take about two hours. This means that to catch a glimpse of the sunrise, visitors have to start trekking at 4 a.m. “Tourists usually want to see the sunrise from the top of the mountain. The sunrise in the area is very beautiful,” Sarjana said.
After walking for several hundred meters, the shining pathway suddenly turned into a dark gravel path. There were no longer lines of tourist huts with bright lights. We just caught light from the houses of locals here and there. It was fortunate that we were equipped with small flashlights.
The more we walked the darker it got. Our sight was limited. Several times Sarjana reminded us to be aware of the ravines on the left and right sides of the path.
He is very familiar with the route having climbed the mountain for the first time at the age of 10. “I came here every morning to sell beverages,” he said.
People living on the slopes of the mountain are accustomed to dealing with tourists. Sarjana, for example, has relied heavily on trekking tourism since his childhood. Every day, the small Sarjana climbed the mountain to offer beverages and snacks to the tourists.
He would return home before 8 a.m. “Sometimes I would have to run so I wouldn’t be late for school. But I realized that earning money was useless if I didn’t go to school,” he said.
Sarjana’s feelings were shared by Wayan Julita. The money he had made selling snacks and drinks not only covered his school fees but could also be used to buy essential items for his younger brothers and sisters. His mother, a farm worker, could not provide much on her low income.
“My father died when I was small. Since then I have been selling things to tourists. If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be able to survive,” Julita said.
Sarjana and Julita also practiced speaking English with the tourists. The two decided to become tour guides after graduating from junior high school. Nearly every day, the two guided tourists to the top of Mount Batur. “Sometimes, I was forced to climb the mountain twice in one day,” Julita said.
“Careful, there are a lot of loose rocks. Watch your step,” Sarjana cried. The path was steep and full of potholes. Fortunately Julita had packed drinks and cookies for energy. “It’s my job to help everyone in the group make it to the top,” he said.
After walking for nearly one-and-a-half hours, we reached a stony area where clusters of wildflowers grew. In the distance, we spotted a small hut at the top of the mountain. “Not far to go,” Julita said. But we were unable to witness the beauty of the sunrise. “There are too many clouds, so it’s difficult to see a thing,” Julita said.
Despite missing out on seeing the sunrise, we did not regret doing the walk. At 1,717 meters above sea level, we were also able to see Mount Agung, Bali’s highest mountain. On the other side, Mount Abang was also clearly visible. “Everything looks so beautiful from up here,” said Mita, a student at a private university in Denpasar, who was climbing Mount Batur for the first time.
By the time we had reached the top of the mountain, the small hut we had earlier seen in the distance was full of tourists. Some of them sang, others ate instant noodles and drank tea, and there were others who just sat and relaxed.
The owner of the hut, Komang Budiasa, 57, was busy serving her guests. She has been earning a living on Mount Batur for the past 20 years. “Initially I started selling food and drinks up here because my husband was sick and we were very poor. After about 10 years I built a hut to protect me from the elements,” Budiasa said.
She climbs the mountain very early in the morning before the tourists arrive and returns home in the evening.
“If I’m very tired I don’t go home. I sleep here,” Budiasa said.
Besides Budiasa’s hut, there are also three other huts where walkers can go to get warm after their long climb. A plate of instant noodles costs Rp 10,000 for local visitors and Rp 20,000 for foreign tourists. “The food is expensive because we have to bring it all the way up here. It is very heavy,” Budiasa said.
Mount Batur is one of two active mountains on Bali. It erupted in 1917 and 1926. In 1917 its eruption killed more than 1,000 villagers and destroyed part of Batur village. But many people insisted on staying on in the area. The next eruption in 1926 destroyed the whole village.
There is also a big cave in the area, known as the crystal cave, and two smaller caves from where sulfuric clouds appear.
In the two caves, which are similar to two small holes, visitors can cook eggs. In five minutes, the eggs are ready to consume. “This place is truly astonishing. I hope I can come back,” said Sherlin, a tourist from France.
The situation at the top of the mountain got even merrier with the arrival of long-tailed monkeys. Sarjana said the monkeys were used to tourists.
We stayed at the top of Mount Batur for several hours before returning. Our exhaustion melted away when we took a bath in naturally warm water in Toya Bungkah village. [Ni Komang Erviani/The Jakarta Post November 01,2007)