Playing Tourist On Mount Batur Bali Indonesia

  • Updated: July 08, 2019
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

June 29th, 2019
Mount Batur (5,633')
6.2 miles, 2,200'

This hike was done during our 11 day dive-centric vacation to Indonesia. While most of the trip was spent on a liveaboard diving our butts off but we did have a day or two on either side to play tourist and since I've done very little international traveling I was eager to get a peak.

Normally I would go for the country or island high point but in Bali that would be Mount Agung which was off limits due to the minor issue that it's been actively erupting since 2017. So we ended up settling for Batur.

This is also one of those areas like Kilimanjaro where you're basically required to have a guide despite the basic nature of the hike. (Read here what someone went through trying to do it solo and you can read reviews on TripAdvisor of people claiming to have been assaulted.)

We didn't care enough to mess with any of that and found a guide outfit that would pick us up at 2 am, get us up the peak, and promised to return us to Denpasar early enough to pick up our dive luggage and catch our boat which was leaving around 1 pm. And they threw in a trip to a local coffee plantation.

And the price for all of this? $55 a person for a total of 1.5 million Rupiah via Bali Trekking Tour. Ouch.
An advantage of having your internal clock 15 hours off local time thanks to just coming off an international flight is that a 2 am wakeup call doesn't really feel like the middle of the night.

The AirBNB we had stayed at the night before was located at the end of a slightly dark alley in Denpasar and when we emerged promptly at 2 am we found a driver waiting for us.

We climbed in and started a rollicking adventure shooting down little two lane roads and rapidly passing scooters and vehicles whenever we caught up with them.

After about an hour and one official ish looking checkpoint later we pulled into a dirt parking lot where our driver introduced us to another person who said his name was Putu and that he would be taking us up the mountain.

He really liked being in selfies and making sure we were happy.

Everything was dark but we could make out a few other tourist types off in the distance huddled around a small fire looking a bit on the cold side. We were offered flashlights and water bottles and told that Putu had food for us once we arrived up top and so off we went at about 3:20 am.

Initially we were walking along a rough path through what looked like farms and then we started to climb.

The entire hike was about 6 miles and 2,200' round-trip from where we started. This can be shortened quite a bit by parking at a higher trailhead or by just hiring a dirtbike to take you to the top if you're not so much into hiking. For our part we were in decent shape after some early season Sierra backpacks and Jen had to keep scolding me to slow down since sunrise wasn't until 6 am.

Sometime later we passed a dimly lit hut where people asked where we came from and tried to sell us snacks and sodas. At this point our little trio gained a dog and a small child who the guide explained was out of school and headed up to sell sodas and snacks to the tourists.

After this the climb started in earnest with a steep dirt trail with volcanic rock sticking up here and there. We had a view of the lights of the city off to the east and flashlights from other hikers up above but mostly we were just staring down at the trail as we climbed. We could also see clouds blowing across the upper reaches and Putu warned us that we might not get much of a view up top.

We passed a few other groups all with their own guides but at least our route didn't feel that busy. At least not until the sun came up. But more on that later.

I find that night hikes have a tendency to distort your awareness of time passing and this hike certainly did that. We eventually popped up on a section of trail with rough benches made of local trees and we were given a blanket to sit on and told sunrise would be in about an hour and a half.

The wind had picked up significantly for the last 30 minutes or so and it was now chilly even with fleece jackets and wind shells. We also had clouds blowing in off and on which made the already humid conditions even more wet.

Putu soon had us move nearby to an outside seating area of a small hut nearby saying it would be warmer. We had our usual hiking fleeces along and we were a bit chilled. (The hut interior was apparently off limited for tourists but the guides kept heading in there to get warm)

They did offer us a complimentary hot drink of our choice (further drinks were 30,000 of the local currency aka about 2 dollars) along with egg and banana sandwiches. Not combined, they were literally white bread and a hard boiled egg and then others with white bread and banana. And there were a few other misc snacks like cookies and the ubiquitous Bali bang bang wafers which we would become very well acquainted with on the dive boat.

We made small talk with two other slightly chilly looking couples who had arrived after us and made ironic comments about sunrise photos amidst heavy cloud coverage.

Fortunately the wind had kept up and we had a few intermittent opportunities to enjoy the view.

Once the sun was up and we’d started to thaw out a bit Putu came out of the hut and said it was time to go the rest of the way up.

And this is where we saw the crowds. Apparently Batur sees a good 400-500 people a day during the busy season.

We saw a few other similar huts and Putu pointed out some volcanic vents which were choked with people attempting to use the steam to stay warm. I felt kind of sorry for some of the people who had apparently hiked up in little more than yoga shorts and a sports bra and were huddling under hotel towels trying to stay warm. (Moral of the story, bring jackets)

Since we hadn't been phased by the hike Putu offered to take us around the rim of the volcano and down a slightly different way vs just turning around which we both readily agreed to.

This actually made the hike for us as the hike around the crater rim was far more scenic and impressive than anything we'd seen so far.

The best view of the crater was from the lower side looking up since you can really appreciate the scale.

On the lower side we came up to another mass of humanity in a flat area that included a number of beat up looking tents.

There were also monkeys here which seemed well fed by the bananas the tourists kept handing them.

The hike down went fairly quickly and we finally had clear ish views letting us see the area. There was a huge lake below where we could see fish farms along one shore and two other large mountains in the distance including the island high point that we couldn’t climb due to eruptions.

We were also able to get a better look at the farms we'd passed in the dark.

Our same driver was waiting for us at the bottom and we said goodbye to Putu.

We did get this epic view of Batur along the road on the way out.

Since we had a little extra time we decided to do the optional coffee plantation tour which ends with a tasting flight of various flavored coffees and teas including the infamous luwak poop coffee. My favorite part was just the lush vegetation of the area.

They brought out a full of flight of coffees and teas. I liked what they said was the luwak coffee since it was the strongest tasting while Jen tended towards the ones that added flavor and a bunch of sugar.

We also made the mistake of buying some coffee and tea from their gift shop which ended up not even being close to what we'd tried.

The entire tour and tasting took us about 40 minutes and our driver had us back to Denpasar in plenty of time to grab lunch and meet our boat.

Next up: 8 days on the Mermaid II diving around Komodo!

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