My husband, Ayoub and I love to travel. We enjoy doing bite size holidays to see new places, taste the local foods and just soak up the culture and ambience.

The last destination that we ticked off was Bali. It had been on my to do list since a while now. Days before flying out we did the routine online research about the place – things to do, places to stay, etc. With the itinerary chalked out for our week long trip I began to select the activities I wanted to indulge in. River rafting, spas, Elephant rides and waterfalls did not amuse me. However what really caught my attention was the sunrise trek up Mount Batur. Imagine going up a trail of volcanic gravel stone mountain at 3.00am holding torches and climbing up a height of 1717m to see the sun come up. Interesting, I thought! So we booked ourselves to go for the trek on one of the day that we would be in Bali. The guide explained that the pick up time for the customer is based on which part of Bali you are staying at. If you are closer to the mountain you are collected at 2am from your hotel or else it can be as early as 12.30 even.

Our driver came at 1; we were ready for him. Online reviews of the trek gave me mixed feedback but the one thing they all said was the climb to the top would be worth it. In our bagpack we kept juice, biscuits, a picnic sheet, flip flops, the long distance lens and of course the camera. Yes, we really were ready to go!

The drive to the base took an hour and a half. Once there we freshened – no toilet facilities up for ladies is what the driver said with a smile. He gave us extra bottles of water, some warm clothes and handed us over to our guide. “I will wait in the car for you,” he said as he let us go on the uphill mission.

Less than 30 minutes into the trek and I was panting loudly. Breathe in from your nose, breathe out from your mouth I was told. It was difficult to focus – how far is the peak? The guide smiled. We will go little by little. I took a zillion stops, I lost heart several times, I even almost wanted to give up when I saw those tiny torches almost up in the sky and I was so far from the top. But a tiny voice kept pushing me – this was what you wanted to do, you chose this, if they can do it so can you, be grateful that you are here. At every step I said a prayer going up, suddenly the air felt lighter maybe it was just the altitude. Having crossed the halfway mark I began to feel thrilled like a four year old. I could see the tiny torches and this time they were below me. I had come a long way.

Just few minutes away from the top and it began to drizzle. The guide warned us that since it’s cloudy we could get some rain. Move faster. In that rush of the last lap we reached the peak. We saw many people huddled up in blankets and shawls it was quite nippy. A sense of accomplishment came over us. We were thrilled, so thrilled that for a moment we did not notice the disappointment on the faces of the gathered crowd. We also did not notice that the scene before us was covered in white clouds. The guides roamed around apologetically because there was nothing to view. They gestured where the sun rises from and how we could have seen Mount Ayung ahead of us and the Lake Batur. It was crazy cocktail feeling where I refused to let my spirits go damp. We took some pictures against the baby pink clouds – by now the sun had risen and the canvas of sky was turning from pink to gold to crimson. I prayed hard for a breeze, a miracle and sure enough God heard.

In a moment the clouds brushed away and before us was a magnificent view of the sun rise, Mount Ayung and Lake Batur. Spell bound we stood in awe of nature. Blessed to be there. More pictures and smiles followed. We saw the volcano crater which was rather warm and then began the descend.

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The mountain is made of volcanic gravel and it’s path is at a 70 degrees angle upwards. Coming down the same way is therefore a task for the skilled and trekking shoes with proper grip are essential. There were moments when the earth beneath my feet quite literally moved. I was lucky to have the guide and my husband support me through and through. The path going up was on an average 5 kms and the way down was just about 7. The first half of the climb down was largely gravel stone and then came the levelled pathway which was recently installed due the many accidents that had been with people slipping and hurting themselves.

We walked for what seemed like eternity. By the time I reached the parking lot and the car I could hardly feel my legs. It was as though I had been walking on auto pilot. I wanted to stop, I wanted to rest but my trekking partners knew that to continue to keep going was the only way to conclude the journey. In the car I took off my shoes and smiled at the numb toes. I could feel the blood rushing in my feet. My head was throbbing and my eyes tired from the sun. But I smiled a very happy smile – I had achieved what I set out to and this for me was the real mountain that I wanted to conquer one step at a time…

Words by: Ruqya Khan

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