Friday, February 20, 2015

Lord of the Rings (of sweat)

Thursday was to be our toughest day in Bali. Together, we would climb grim Mount Doom Batur, and the day before my wedding anniversary I would toss the hideous gold ring I had been carrying for nearly 5 years into the oblivion of the pit. I would be free from the tyranny of the elder magicians (In this case John Fike) of our world!

Yvonne in the coffee shack
Because we wanted to take the 'Sunrise Tour' we had to get up at 1:40 AM and catch a small vehicle to to the eco-park which contains the volcano. On the way, we met our party, 4 savage warriors from the East (Ok, Chinese Singaporeans) and one pipe-smoking Hobbit (a Canadian, but I think I'm being accurate with the first description. We had to rather pile in to the van, since originally there had only been two Chinese Singaporeans expected but they had, as they do, multiplied over the night. As we got in to the van the driver whispered to us, conspiratorially, "don't talk price, they paid more," a notion I'm sure he passed along to the other two groups as well.

The trip up was dark and on a road that was largely unpopulated except for an amazing number of unconcerned dogs, who lollygagged, slept, fought, and ambled, always in the dead center of the road. At about 3 we stopped off for a quick breakfast of coffee and Balinesian pancakes. For some reason we were the first tour group to the spot, but also the last to leave. This gave us, I suppose, a chance to get to know each other.

Then it was up and over, to the base of the volcano, and for some a trip to one of the most odoriferous toilets in South East Asia. Nicely done, Bali!

Sun breaks free
Then, mustering and  a handing out of flashlights, one of which Yvonne touched, so it instantly went dead. She got to walk about half the way up the volcano without a light. I tried to walk behind her and illuminate for both of us, which kind of worked. The walk started out flattish, but quickly picked up angle as it went and the oldest of our group, a Chinese grandfather, quit early on when he spotted a bench near the side of the trail. His wife, who was probably a few years younger than he was, was surprisingly spry, and clambered up the trail like a spider, particularly rocking out on the way down. By the end of the trip up, on of our guides was practically carrying Yvonne, whose legs wore out and whose height was a problem on some of the bigger steps/steeper pitches. The volcanic rock was sharp, so you had to be careful using it for handholds, and by the time we got down we saw a lot of people with bloody finger and knuckles, among which Yvonne was one.

Still, the view of the top (at a hair under 6,000 feet) was pretty spectacular (and I'm glad I brought as sweatshirt as I was soaked in sweat and it was pretty windy). You can look out for about 270 degrees with the top of the volcano behind you, and as you are above the clouds, you get to watch the sun ascend from them. You are also looking down to the lake, which is an amazing view even before the sun rises as it reflects the lights on the shore all the way up to the top of them mountain.  Many of the tours prepare a small breakfast for their customers, and enterprising children are at the peak selling Cokes to weary trekkers - in fact, two of the guides were quite young, one probably barely 12 years old. Once the breakfasts start being prepared our old friends the monkeys show up, and they are well behaved to humans, but fight with each other and are quite intimidated by the free-range dogs that also live on peak and beg for scraps. They are
also fearless, quite content to take food directly out of your hands.

Indonesian rural
The trip down was quicker, though no less fraught, and again the tour guide was aces helping Yvonne - actually holding her hand most of the way down. The middle of the walk out is through various fields of crops, insolent chickens, random dogs, and trees.  Then a long, flat walk out to the parking lot, and a trip back leapfrogging scores of sand-trucks which are attending to the massive construction (alas) taking place in the area.

When all is said and done, you are back at your hotel by about 10 in the morning, feeling you have accomplished about two days of things, so we spent the rest of the day wandering about town, coffee, lunch, beer, and a relatively early sleep after splitting up to shop for anniversary gifts.

The volcano trek was certainly worth every Rupiah we paid, though I think it is one of those, "They told me it was fun, but I think I'd only do it once" events.^^

Having survived that trial by fire? Tomorrow is my 5-year wedding anniversary...

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