Sunrise hike in Mount Batur: why you shouldn’t go there.
Sorry about the clickbait title, but I really want you to read about the sunrise hike to Mount Batur. The message I want to convey is the reason why I decided to write this article even before the one about our trip to Bali. Within the last few days, we’ve been shocked multiple times about a lot of customs around here, like tying chooks, goats, dogs or cows to a tiny rope, whether in Bali or Philippines. More than ever I want to act and try to do something about the dreadful conditions of environment and animal.
Therefore, other than publishing bad reviews for the Mount Batur wherever I can, I thought that an article on my blog could also be a way.
In the same subject, if you care about doing small things to help, please do not snorkel with the dolphins since it induces a lot of stress and sometimes even injury since a lot of boats just chase them around. Also, do not ever, ever, ride elephants, no matter the place. They are not shaped to allow human on their back, no matter how cool it seems to ride elephants and how sad it is that we can’t. At the very best, you can try to see the ones where you walk alongside them if your ultimate dream is to see one, but I wouldn’t encourage animal trade in any way. Unless you try to inform yourself a lot beforehand and are sure that the company promotes sustainability and animal welfare (which means very few in Asia), just hold to yourself and keep moving.
I think that we, as customers, are the ones that can change something, like before participating in an activity to inform ourselves as much as we can, especially if it’s about other beings’ lives.
To be more specific, what I want to elaborate in this article is the sick result of the thirst of money and villainy of a population influenced by mass tourism.
So of course I know that developing countries have basic needs to fulfill first, like healthcare or fighting starvation for example before thinking about animal welfare and environment issues. Indeed, who wants to fight for these with an empty stomach or already a lot of health problems?
Still, whoever went to South East Asia have been probably witnessing this: it’s dirty, filthy, plastic waste everywhere and animals status is just a shame. Then, if they have to fulfill their needs first, again aren’t we, the tourists, the best actors to influence the balance?
Mount Batur Hike - The Disaster
Let me tell you about our story so you can finally understand why you shouldn’t hike the Mount Batur.
We are three to start this terrible experience, Aurélie, Dante and I. All of us like hiking and the highest one is Mount Agung but due to recent and frequent eruptions it is impossible to hike there. Therefore, Mount Batur, being the next most popular volcano in Bali, seems perfect, right?
If you read some reviews, you’ll soon discover that you apparently need a guide to hike Mount Batur. We tried to figure out if we could do it without. Who could imagine themselves hike with a mandatory guide in the Pyrénées for example?! Definitely not us. If I do not like them it’s because I like to take my time, I do not want to feel obligated to maintain a conversation when I just want to enjoy. Also, it seems pretty far from the adventure spirit which excites me.
Obviously it is my personal opinion and I don’t want to diminish anyone (Marjolène, I do respect your job haha!), but if I feel really enamored by a place, I will find informations myself later. After some readings, a guide would be needed because the hike is hard and hazardous. Besides, it is apparently required by the government since the site is on the Geoparks of UNESCO (remember this, it is very important).
The reviews we read are not really reassuring, mentioning a local Mafia. This seems pretty extreme yet what we read is that people who tried to hike without a guide have been annoyed, to say the least.
Unfortunately, wishing to avoid the hassle, we ended up booking one and I can say that I completely regret it to participate in this sick business. They dare to ask the outrageous amount of 300k Indonesian rupiah each, or about 30AUD$ (or also 19€ for my fellow Europeans friends) which is supposed to include “pickup” and “drop-off” (by foot, it’s not so much a big deal for them), a breakfast and a hot beverage on top.
The next morning, our descent into hell started from 3:30 am when our guide comes to take us. Two Russians are added to our team.
Off we go all together by foot towards the beginning of the track. Aurélie and I like to have our own pace where we can talk and not be tired too fast. Moreover, the beginning is already pretty steep so in order to keep some strength, we are slower than the rest of the band. For a result, the guide stops every ten minutes to wait for us, which already starts to bother us, to say the least. We don’t want to feel like we are a burden to the other ones, nor feel pressured to go faster and it must be really annoying for the guys to always wait for us (and on a side note, it was useful indeed cause later the Russians were the ones tired…nyahaha)
However, all of a sudden, we’re hearing an engine sound. Puzzled, we have the joy of seeing a scooter coming in our way. I told you already, we read a bit beforehand and some people who went there shared their experience with us, never mentioned any scooter or motorbike. It seems that there are many departures tracks and on some of them, there’s no such thing. Try to picture this: you are climbing a mountain, kind of struggling a little bit as I’d like to remind, it’s not the regular walk alongside the beach on a Sunday afternoon, right? Therefore, your lungs are fully open due to the exercise and with even more luck, you’ve got asthma, and you have the pleasure to smell a cloud of fuel right into your inner self. By the way, I have no idea about the fuel regulations in Indonesia and it wouldn’t sound unfamiliar if they were not as “safe” (if we can say such a thing about this) as in Europe. The smell is really strong.
Then, do you remember the detail I told you to remember ? UNESCO site. Does anything seem wrong? So, what about the need of a guide to comply to the rules of a UNESCO site?
If neither health nor ecology is something you care about, think about safety too. The paths, while clear, are somewhat narrow, which means that we have to step aside to let them pass. On their way, they stop to ask if we need a taxi. WE ARE FREAKING HIKING.
The actual danger of it
Let’s keep going with the story. At one point we stop at the first “station” to rest where we live a scene which opened our eyes for good about the situation. Aurélie and I are starting to be really doubtful about the whole thing, and Dante as he told us later, when we hear weird noises coming from one tourist and locals. From what we understand, the tourist doesn’t have a guide and a motorbike crashed him on the leg. Apparently the driver is also hurt, lying on a bench. Three other Indonesians gather around the tourist and tell him he injured their friend. The latter try to defend himself saying that he was hurt on the leg too and that he was just walking. While showing his leg to prove what he’s saying, one of the local kicked his leg, at least twice. It was extremely shocking. The kicker guy accuse the tourist that he tried to escape through the bushes because he was alone and that’s how he got hurt. They are really intimidating and even though, I admire how the tourist remained calm. In the end, they bring him back downtown, I have no idea why.
Before calling me paranoid, please hear me out. On our way, we meet many groups of locals checking if we have a guide. We also feel like if these bikes drive around, it’s not only to propose a taxi service but also to patrol. Anyway, after reading even more reviews afterwards, some other people said they have been verbally and physically abused, some were even threatened to DEATH (I remember one saying “You will die in the forest, we will KILL you!”) because they didn’t have a guide. I can’t believe how the situation can be that serious.
I understand that we need to support the local economy, but could we have a choice and optionally not being threatened or worse, hurt? I believe there surely are other ways of supporting the economy. I would like to remind that we are talking about a fairly easy hike.
Anyway, we keep going with our now uncomfortable guide. After only two hours, we reach the top intersected with heaps of scooters. We eat our breakfast (two pieces of white bread without any taste, one banana and one boiled egg). Oh and that promised beverage, we ought now pay for it if we want one for the modest price of IDR30k (3AUD$ or 1,8€) which is insane Bali-wise.
Okay, let me be honest here, yes the sunrise is pretty. However, it’s far from being unique and you can enjoy such a beautiful sunrise anywhere else in the world with a much more quiet mindset.
Another impressive thing is the warm magma smoke emanating from here and there of the volcano but is an excuse for the “guides” to say that it’s dangerous : the smoke is nowhere on the path. I would be more afraid of them that the volcano.
Last but not least, a guide is completely useless as there’s no difficulty in this trek. The path is clearly noticeable (like, you cannot even mistaken it with something else and it’s so full of tourists with flashlight anyway that you just have to follow) and if you take your time, it’s far from being hard. Yet, we read on the internet that the hike was extremely hard or such things, still whether Aurélie, Dante or I, we absolutely don’t share this opinion but I would still like to let you know that it was hard indeed for some people. We are not very skilled hikers but it may be hard for someone who never hiked in their life? I don’t know. To keep going on the “guide is useless” paragraph, the ground is not even a crumbly volcanic soil unlike Mount Fuji (article in French /!\) for example. Moreover, at one point on the way back we got separated from our group so it is only me and the guide so anything could happen to the rest of us. Safety, anyone?
To summarize, the hike is not hard, the track is obvious, there’s no danger whatsoever about the smoke and the guide himself give up on some people of the crew, the fact of being on UNESCO site is apparently only a good thing to gather money (but not the plastic waste we can find all around the place) but is not relevant enough to forbid motorbikes. When I ask the question about the bikes to my guide, all he answers is a vague “they take 20 minutes to reach the top”, a beautiful dodge from our young guide who suddenly can’t understand English properly anymore.
A little bonus if it was not enough : as you can guess, the guides don’t have any professional cards or whatever you can expect. Ours was nice but was forcing humor which can be quickly annoying, like “ça glisse Maurice” which literally means “it slides, Maurice” and would be used as… I have honestly no idea as no one I know would ever say that or a “c’est parti mon kiki” translated to “let’s go!” in a “funny” way but closer to a redneck expression. He probably noticed that whenever he had French tourists and said that, they would laugh. I had to tell him that no one was actually saying “ça glisse Maurice”, that it was not funny and four times in 20 minutes is a tad too much.
On one review we read, a group had a guide that requested breaks since he was too exhausted. That’s one funny situation.
While I’m at it, the day before the hike, Aurélie asked for warmer clothes as she had none. The lady at our hotel told her she would be fine as the weather would be nice, even at 5am. You can guess that it is of course wrong, but the reason why is because on our way there, people were selling coats or anything you need to hike. Everything is a business.
To conclude, even though it’s one of the main attraction on Bali, please please, do NOT participate in this dreadful hike. Now you know, so don’t be as dumb as we were and do not go there. That’s the best you can do. They have to realise that what they are doing is wrong and maybe in the long run, something will change.
The sunrise might be pretty on the top, sure, but I really couldn’t enjoy it and as I said you’ll see as pretty sunrise anywhere else. Try to get your sunrise for free somewhere else, you’ll not only do yourself a favour, but also everyone else.