Day 216: DRAAAAAGOOOOO!!!!!

Today, much like Rocky in Rocky 4, we climbed a mountain. But unlike Rocky In Rocky 4, we didn’t run to the top and scream the name of his Russian opponent. Also unlike Rocky in Rocky 4, we didn’t do it for training purposes, instead we simply climbed to the top for s**** and gigs. I was mighty impressed with myself and the others with me, because we found it surprisingly easy. None of us were out of breath when we reached the summit. The day started really early. With an alarm set for 1:40am we crawled out of bed and began getting ready.

Sarah and myself stood at the entrance to our resort a little later than 2am, I think it was closer to ten past by the time we got there. At first we thought we’d missed the pick up, as on our receipt it said to be ready between the hours of 2am and 2:15am. When the clock read 2:30am we began to worry. To find out what was going on we had to wake the sleeping receptionist. He was led on the floor behind the counter, as I got close he sprang to life, startling me slightly. He rubbed his sleepy eyes and put on his glasses, then told me I’d have to phone the number because he couldn’t read it. No sooner than I was about to pick up the receiver, a car pulled up. It was our ride.

The driver apologised for being late, and told us he’d made the mistake of going to a different Inata resort first. There was already one other tourist in the car, his name was Tony, and came from Finland. If you want to know what he sounded like, just say this sentence in your best Count Dracula impression:
“My name is Tony, and I come from Finland, mwoa ah ah!”
Ok, he didn’t say “mwoa ah ah”, but you get my point. There were four of us doing the day trip in total after we stopped to grab Matilda from her hotel. Matilda came from Cambridge, and as soon as she got in the car she began chatting. Whereas Tony kept to himself all day, and only spoke when spoken to. It was now close to 3am, and the first thing on the agenda was breakfast. Our driver took us to a coffee plantation on the way to Mount Batur. There we were each served a banana pancake, and had to endure the awkward moment when the plantation owner brought out samples of the many coffees he sold. They never reveal their true intentions until you start sampling their products. There were 5 different coffees in small cups placed in front of us. At first we feared one of them was the Luwak poo coffee, after seeing a poster advertising it behind us. It turned out none of them were, as it was too expensive to give away as samples. As soon as we started drinking, the owner came over and began putting his packaged coffees on the table and said, “if you like, you can buy? I have many different sorts”. None of us wanted to buy any, yet we felt obliged to because of how awkward we felt. Sarah was quick to respond saying we had no money. Then the owner walked away leaving the products on the table staring at us. Eventually our driver came to the rescue and took us away.

The drive to the bottom of the mountain was only 15 minutes from the plantation. When we got there our guide introduced herself to us (although I forgot her name instantly I’m ashamed to say). We each took a quick bathroom break, and were given torches afterwards to light the way. It was pitch black all the way to the top, and because there were no buildings to cause any light pollution it meant the night sky was painted with billions of little white dots. The stars shone so brightly above our heads, but our cameras couldn’t pick them up, and it was a shame we didn’t stop frequently enough to appreciate them. I liked the pace our guide set for us, it was very quick. There were many other groups attempting the same feat as us, but we passed them every time they’d stop. I think we stopped all of two times on the way up. Once to have a drink of water, where we met a cute little girl selling water, named Kirsty, and a second time for our guide to make an offering at a shrine. She thanked us for waiting for her, then marched us up the rest of the way. It was tricky in sections because of the loose rocks. I was surprised, because of how fast we were ascending, that none of us were out of breath. To say the only exercise we get these days involves lugging a holdall between accommodations, we did very well to feel as good as we did. Perhaps all that walking in Singapore had prepared us for this. The higher we climbed the more clear the air was to breath in. I’d forgotten what brisk air felt like, because of our altitude, and the time of day, the air was thinner and less humid. For a second it felt like home, and almost as if someone switched on a giant air conditioning unit in the sky. Just before we reached the halfway point our guide slipped on a wet rock, and cut one of her arms and legs. It wasn’t bad, but she made one hell of a thudding sound as she hit against the rocks. Afterwards she told us she walks to the top of the volcano everyday, and that was the first time she’d slipped. At 5:30am we’d reached the halfway point and the world around us was flat and smooth, no more jagged rocks to watch out for. It was here our tour guide gave us some bad news.

She told us that our trip ended there, something we hadn’t been told at the time of booking. The people we’d booked with also said water would be provided, which it wasn’t, hence why the young girl, Kirsty, was flogging the stuff. Our guide then explained that if we wanted to go to the peak we could, and it was up to us how much we wanted to pay her to take us there. After a team huddle, and brief discussion, the decision was unanimous. Of course we wanted to go all the way to the top, what would be the point in climbing all that way only to stop at the halfway point. Seeing as it was only another 20 minute walk we agreed that 50,000 each would be sufficient enough for her. It’s always difficult when they say “it’s up to you”, as you never know what’s considered fair. The last thing we wanted was to come across as offensive. Even at the halfway point we didn’t stop for a rest, our guide knew that if we wanted to make it in time for sunrise, we’d need to leave ASAP. The sun was already changing the colour of the sky in the distance. So off we marched up the steepest slope yet, overtaking more groups as we went. This section was slightly more dangerous than the last. Instead of loose rocks to worry about, we had to go careful not to slip on the black pumice. If we did, the only thing to grab ahold of was the sharp volcanic rocks. Fortunately we all made it without any injuries, all except for Sarah, who got a slight boo boo on the palm of her hand.

To be at the top of the volcano gave me a great sense of elation. They say “nothing in life is worth having if it comes easy”, and I’d just like to say that the view we got to witness definitely didn’t. It was unlike any other I’d seen on earth. As we sat at the edge of the mountain, overlooking all that lay before us, our guide told us we were very lucky that it was so clear. All this week it had been cloudy and raining. I didn’t envy previous climbers in that moment, it was very cold already, had it been raining as well it would have been close to freezing. We could see for miles around. In the distance was the tallest mountain, Mount Agung. Off to the side of that, a little farther away, we could see Lombok, one of the Gili islands. At first it was fairly dark, the sun was still low in the sky at this point, and all that shone from behind the clouds was a red and orange wave of colour. We could just about make out the silhouette of Agung, and see the sheet of clouds praying at its feet. More and more became illuminated with the suns appearance. At first it took its time to rise, but when it started moving you could practically see it climbing higher and higher. The sky looked as though it was warming up. Colours of red, orange, yellow, pink, green, blue, purple burst through the clouds as if someone had spilled paint pots everywhere. Even with all the photos we took, we couldn’t capture what we saw. It was like heaven’s doors had opened, and out walked an angel. In the very moment the sun peered over the clouds, it was almost as if Mother Nature herself was being revealed. It was a moment that will stay with me forever. Much like the Perhentian islands of Malaysia, it’s something I’ll never truly be able to put into words. I felt something that morning, and suddenly I was more grateful than ever for everything I’d seen and done these past 7 and a half months. This truly was what travelling was all about, and to think that if I hadn’t taken the redundancy at work I’d still be there now, missing all of this.

With the sun above the clouds we could finally see everything transparently clear. The clouds floated gently above the lake below like an inviting bed from the gods. They were so close that we were tempted to see if we could run across the tops of them. All around us was nothing but greenery, the hills, the fields below, the rice paddies. It looked like Eden. Now, years of drawing cartoon volcanos as a child gave me extensive knowledge as to how a volcano should look, and what we were sitting on certainly didn’t coincide with my pictures. Instead of the grey quadrilateral looking shape with a wavy line of red lava, and a cloud of smoke bellowing from the top, the real thing was grassy, grey, and no sign of lava anywhere. There wasn’t even a giant pit with lava at the bottom. This was probably a good thing, because had it looked like my drawings, we’d all be singed to a crisp, and in years to come we’d be a tourist attraction like the poor people of Pompeii. While we were sat admiring the view our guide brought over our second breakfast of the day. It was an unorthodox meal to say the least, banana sandwiches and one hard boiled egg. I ate mine, and ended up eating Sarah’s when she couldn’t stomach it any longer. It wasn’t long after that, that our guide suggested moving on.

It wasn’t that much farther to the highest peak of the volcano, and when we got there we were surprised with what we saw. Monkeys. There were actually monkeys at the top of a volcano, I’ve seen it all now. I think it was probably because food was being cooked there that they stayed, but where they’d come from in the first place was the biggest mystery. Mind you, there were a coupe dogs walking around when we were eating our sandwiches. The people who prepared the food used the heat from the volcano to cook it. There was a cavern which they used as a large oven. The top made for very nice photos, not only because we could see down the volcano (which was a grassy hill with steam coming out) but because from the other side we could see all the open green land. It resembled what I’d like to imagine Canada looks like. After another short stop to take more photos, we continued along the rim of the volcano.

This part of the trek was the most precarious. We had to walk along a thin stony ridge. One wrong move would see us falling to our deaths. Had we been in England this sort of behaviour wouldn’t have been allowed. Health and Safety wouldn’t be able to cope. Although it was dangerous, it didn’t stop Sarah and myself stopping to take photos every 5 minutes. Poor Tony had to stop every time because he was behind us the whole way. Once again the trolls made their appearance. By now they’d travelled farther than my uncle, who in his 40 something years has never left England. I was slightly embarrassed as I tried to take a picture of them, because people who passed me were staring. They only laughed, but when you’re almost 25 and you’re playing with trolls, people tend to judge. The sights only got better as the walk went on, which you’ll be able to see at the bottom of this blog. After we’d circled the entire rim we made the descent back to the bottom. It was even harder to go down, Sarah had to hold on to the tour guide’s hand because she found it so difficult. The black pumice gave out underneath our feet at every step. It was a similar experience to walking down a sand dune, there was nothing we could do about it but move slowly. To compensate for the loose terrain I found it easier if I walked with my legs slightly bent, meaning they were tensed the whole way – something that caused them to feel like jelly later on. Eventually we were back on the path we followed up, and the ground below us was rocks again. This wouldn’t have been so bad had sarah and I been wearing a different pair of shoes, but the dap like material our trainers were made of meant we felt every stone. By the end I was used to it, and treated it like a reflexology treatment, but because Sarah’s shoes were knock offs, it was nothing but agony for her. There was an annoying moment when we were close to the bottom. A group of hikers decked out in full hiking gear (I’m talking sticks, boots, brightly coloured waterproofs. They looked like skiers minutes the skis) were rude enough to push passed us. Well I say a group, the majority were polite enough to say excuse me and thank you where it was due, but there was one smaller older woman who wasn’t. In that moment we all wanted to grab her sticks and smash them with a rock. As we walked a little farther we were greeted by Kirsty again.

On the way up she’d asked us if we wanted some water, at the time we said no, but Sarah said we’d buy one on the way back down. However, she’d changed her mind because Matilda gave us a spare bottle. Not wanting to let the little kid down, I paid the extortionate price of 25,000 rupiah (almost £2) for a bottle of coke. It was her cute husky voice that won me over, and the fact she’d been lugging a backpack filled with glass bottles up and down the hill. She put us to shame, because she made it look easy, even jumping down rocks in places like a mountain goat. When our guide was ready she took us the final 20 minutes to the bottom. It all looked so much different in the light of day, although we’d walked it earlier on, we could only see our surroundings via torchlight. Everything was so colourful, and the lake below was reflecting the mighty Mount Agung perfectly on its mirror like still surface. Along the way she informed us that the volcano erupted back in the early sixties, killing 2000 people in the village below. After that, many of the villagers left to find a safer location, but even to this day there are families still living there who refused to move. When we reached the car park it was hard to believe we’d climbed all the way to the top, as we looked back to see what we’d accomplished. I was thankful it was dark when we’d arrived, as its gargantuan stature was intimidating. The four of us then paid our guide the 200,000 rupiah for taking us to the peak, then she walked us to our driver. We shook her hand and thanked her sincerely, then climbed in the minivan to sit on the soft leather seats, and enjoy some a/c.

We made one stop on the way back on a bridge overlooking both volcanos and the lake below. Mount Batur stood around 5600 and something feet, and we’d scaled it all the way to the top. After taking some more photos we got back in the minivan. Tony was dropped off at his hotel first, followed by Matilda. We got her details for Facebook and said our goodbyes, we were then taken around the corner to Inata Resort. The staff at our resort were so nice to us, even though the time was 11am they still served us breakfast. Their usual hours were between 7 and 10am. I guess it was extenuating circumstances for us, we had just climbed a volcano after all. We sat by the pool while they prepared it, then moved over to the restaurant area when it was ready. I uploaded one of the photos to Facebook during the meal, which annoyed Sarah slightly. She claimed it meant she had to eat alone, “hypocrite” is all I’ll say. After breakfast we spent the majority of the afternoon by the pool.

Ann and Simon were out on a day trip all day, riding push bikes around Ubud. So pretty much all day it was just Sarah and I. I think I may have an addictive personality. I’ve said before that I’m not one to do things by halves. Even though my legs felt like jelly from the volcano trek, I pushed myself to spend the afternoon swimming. I did breast stroke, front crawl, back crawl, butterfly, every type of movement possible. Although the pool wasn’t very big, it was enough to make my body ache afterwards. The whole time I was doing that, Sarah was working in her tan. The sun wasn’t out for long, and for the most part, the weather was overcast with a chance of rain. Yet Sarah still managed to get some colour, perhaps it was the new tanning oils her parents had brought out. When we grew tired of the pool we returned to our room to watch a tv show. By now it was around 3pm, and Sarah’s parents STILL weren’t back. We went back to the pool for a further half hour, to an hour, then called it a day and waited on their return in our room. Somewhere around half past four they showed up.

They appeared to have enjoyed their trip. Ann seemed ecstatic about the whole day. She said it was very educational, as they learned fun facts from their guides. They shared the trip with a German couple. Although, they said they didn’t do all the uphill sections like they did. For which they were glad, because by the end they said the Germans clothes were ringing with sweat. They also happened to enjoy the dance show the previous evening while Sarah and I slept. I think they liked the show more than the bikes though, as Ann isn’t the most confident on the two wheeled vehicles. We all spent some time telling each other about our trips, and Ann and Simon couldn’t rave about the dance show enough. Although Sarah had already seen one on her last visit to Bali, it sounded like something we’d have to do again. We were all tired from our excursions, plus Sarah and I had been up since 1:40am. Instead of going out immediately, instead we stayed in our rooms for a couple hours. I used that time to rest while writing my blog.

At about 6pm Sarah, Simon, and I went out for tea. Ann wasn’t feeling too good after picking up a bug from somewhere. All evidence pointed towards the tap water. They’d been using it to fill their kettle for cups of tea. So Ann stayed in bed, while the three of us went back to Cafe Des Artistes. Now that my cold had gone I’d be able to eat, taste, and enjoy one of their many dishes. Rather than have the steak again, I chose the marinated BBQ chicken for the same price. It was amazing. At the end, when we asked for the bill, we also got them to phone our resort for a pick up in an hour and a halves time (9:15pm). This would give us enough time to look around the shops. This time I didn’t mind shopping as much because we were looking for presents for our friends. We managed to find a couple little things, but nothing worth writing down here (besides, it needs to be a surprise for our friends). One thing I did notice as we walked the streets were the amount of beggars. The most popular being the mother carrying a baby, if it wasn’t her it was young children sat with their hands out. As heartbreaking as it is, and was, to see, we kept walking, ignoring their pleas. I always feel so bad though, if I could afford to I’d give them the world. Plain and simple. We briefly stopped in a convenient store for some water, then walked back to Cafe Des Artistes for our pick up.

Fortunately the drivers arrive ahead of time to get you, as when we got back there were still 15 minutes to spare. I don’t think we were waiting any longer than 5 minutes before he showed up. We had to pick up one more guest from our resort before heading back, the driver apologised for this, then we drove no more than 500 metres to find her waiting on the pavement. With a car full of passengers we returned to Inata. Ann was still sick and looked very uncomfortable in bed. We discussed how she felt, then Sarah remembered we might have some tablets from the time I was sick at the beginning of this trip. We both returned to the room, and she began searching the various medicine bags. She found some form of pill or another, before rushing back to her mother’s aid. I remained in the room getting ready for bed. When Sarah got back we watched some tv shows, and around 11pm she fell asleep. When “Family Guy” ended, I began typing up the rest of the day’s activities. It was 12am by the time I’d finished, meaning I’d nearly stayed up for 24 hours straight. Funnily enough I’m not that tired, although, my eyes do sting, and I am now able to transcend both time and space, but that’s normal right?

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