Volcanic sunrise in the heart of Bali

View of active volcano Mount Batur

The rhythmic patter of rain on the tent wakes us before our alarm: 3:30a.m.

Whose idea was this again? We step out into the pitch black and are met by our smiling guide, Made, who hands us torches and ponchos. How can he be so cheerful at this hour? The only other sign of life is the low thrum of frog song.

We have left the beach and banana chairs behind and travelled to the Kintamani region in the North East of Bali to see the sunrise from the summit of Mount Batur. This active volcano, rich in significance for Balinese Hindus, has become a drawcard for locals and tourists alike.

We are staying at the hot-spring resort of Toya Devasaya, perched on the picturesque banks of Lake Batur. Eschewing the opulent lakeside villas, we have opted to camp but this is camping with a difference. Our tent comes equipped with a double bed, far more conducive to the beauty sleep required for what we are about to endeavour.

A dense canopy of pines shields us from the rain as we begin our ascent, winding through terraces of red bean and peanuts. A brightly painted Hindu temple emerges out of the foggy gloom, where the devout are conducting their morning rituals.

When the rain becomes more severe, an elderly woman invites us to take temporary shelter in her thatched warung (Balinese shop). We chat with some fellow climbers while warming ourselves on steaming hot coffee and fried sweet potato.

The rain soon stops to reveal the first strains of dawn. We have been walking for just over an hour and the pines have given way to a stark terrain of craggy red rock. Walking turns to clambering as we draw on all four limbs for the final few hundred metres of the journey.

As if on cue, the sun winks an orange eye through the wispy layers of cloud as we perch at Batur’s summit. I have to concede this is more than worth the uncivilised wake up time and the less than clement weather. We look out across the emerald green of Lake Batur to Mount Abany, Bali’s tallest mountain.

The cloud continues to lift, exposing a fire orange horizon and the silhouette of Lombok, Bali’s closest neighbour. The surrounding landscape looks lunar, its barren beauty testament to frequent eruption activity over the last century.

A makeshift warung is on hand to serve coffee and eggs, freshly boiled in the volcanic earth. When we’ve had our fill of both refreshments and vista, we climb into the largest of the volcano’s many craters where thin plumes of volcanic steam shoot through the surface.

A troup of monkeys dexterously clamber down the vertiginous red walls, circling us, encouraged by the prospect of an easy meal. A fan club of tourists quickly gathers to oblige them.

The sun is in full bloom as we begin our descent, revealing a verdant forest of palms and bamboo. We snake through farms where chickens roam freely and trees bend under the weight of enormous jackfruit.

Back at Toya Devasya we enjoy a continental breakfast with generous helpings of tropical fruit and sweeping views the lake. We round things off with a soak in the hot spring, the warm water massaging weary muscles while we sip on sweet, icy cold Tamarillo juice.

Yes, there’s more to paradise than beaches, banana chairs and cocktails with little umbrellas.

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