Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunday May 15 – Climb Gunung Batur – Relaxation

This morning the four of us (Ray, Laura, Catherine, and I) were up at 1:30 a.m. to meet transportation up to Gunung Batur. We had booked a sunrise trek with a company called Tunjung Suci Trekking. 

To explain a bit about Gunung Batur: It is an active volcano growing in the centre of two concentric calderas. The caldera was caused by a major volanic eruption which happened about 30,000 years ago followed by the collapse of the volcanic pipe walls that form the volcano’s cone. About 10,000 years ago, after the caldera forming eruption, a second eruption formed Gunung Batur, the secondary volcano growing in the caldera. Eruptions of ash, cinder, and rock fragments alternate or combine with lava flows, building a cone. Multiple cones may form a large volcano that could one day experience a third large caldera forming eruption.  The caldera contains a number of little villages including an original Balinese village called Trunyan, only accessible by boat, and a beautiful volcanic lake, Danau Batur. The land is very fertile and therefore yields good crops of flowers for the offerings and vegetables. The first recorded eruption was in 1804 and there have been eruptions recorded regularly since then and most recently in 2000. The lava field you see today was caused by the 1968 eruption.

We had a moonlight drive through the sleeping villages surrounding Ubud and then slowly started to climb up the lushly vegetated mountain. When we reached Kintamani, we made a switch back turn and followed a windy, narrow road downhill to the side of Lake Batur. We had time to go to the smelly, dirty, loo and then we and countless others holding torches or wearing headlights, were off! The trek was totally disorganized: about 345 people heading into the sunrise – no thought of preserving the mountain there. The views of the mountains, the sun and the clouds were awe inspiring. For once, I think the photos reflect the beauty and mysticism of the mountain, lake, and caldera. The reality was a crowded traffic jam up and down the trail, with tons of pushy loud and cigarette adorned tourists, a climb up a lava boulder slope, over a series of craters some with hot steam puffing out of small holes, and harassed guides with poor English and no training in “guiding” but shining hearts!!!

We all managed to trudge our way up to the top and arrived in good time for sunrise. I think it took us about 2 hours, a little slower than the younger set. Unfortunately, I did not think to take our walking poles which would have been a great asset for Laura who did have a rougher time on the climb than the rest of us. I heard after that this was the first time she had tackled anything like this!! So good for her!! The footing was somewhat like the Chief in Squamish but instead of big granite boulders we had this black ground lava sand studded with chunks of solidified molten rock from the volcano.

At the top, we watched the rise of the sun, the changing patterns of the large, puffy, clouds, and the kaleidoscope of constantly changing colours. It was magnificent. About an hour later we went in search of our guide who showed us the spiritual cave and one of the holes in the side of the crater which was spewing clouds of white smoke into the air.

The trail down was easy enough but for the loose scree, I guess from the 1968 lava, was hazardously slippy. All 345 people were trying to get down the mountain at the same time. Numerous people slipped and almost fell, and there were at least 4 or 5 people  immediately behind us who did fall. A ridiculously dangerous situation!!

 Laura fell…I watched her go down in slow motion a few people ahead of me. She hit her head reasonably hard on the rock, and landed like a solid block with her legs twisted out underneath her to the side of her body, hitting first one side and arm, then the next side, then the twisting of the body, and the bump of her head. We were stunned. Ray was closer to her, and I caught a glimpse of his face which was horror stricken. He was imagining a head injury. This happened in a column of “tourists” scrambling down the mountain. As I tried to get to her, I took in the situation, and as I arrived, thank goodness one of the guide’s, I guess, took charge. He was obviously somewhat knowledgeable about first aid, but we are in Bali and all the Balinese wanted to help. Get her up….NO he said….LEAVE HER (yes)….STOP PEOPLE PASSING (the path was narrow); GIVE HER SPACE AND QUIET. People above didn’t realize what was happening and continued to chatter and yell, and crowd around or hurry past causing loose rocks to tumble down towards her. I let this chap lead the event making sure I agreed with all he said, then quietly stepped in and went through a head to toe check for injury and concussion. Goodness knows what we would have done if anything had been broken. When we ascertained that everything seemed intact, brain and body, we assessed that she had probably pulled a muscle/ligament in her lower back and that although sore, would survive. So we continued our downward journey, slowly, and carefully, but I know she was hurting.

We got to the bottom of the mountain with no further incidents and walked through a charming part of the caldera planted with chile peppers, tomatoes, onions, and other vegetables, fields of which were separated by palm trees. 

When we arrived back to the start, we discovered that our mini coach was leaving and we had been assigned to an SUV – 7 of us (2 missing when we arrived) in a 5 person SUV!! Hmmmm, Ray and Catherine were indignant about it….but we are in Bali…..anyway, finally the other two passengers showed up….maybe 30-45 minutes later and we squeezed, two of us beltless, into the vehicle. Their story was that they were supposed to be picked up like we were early in the morning….but they were missed!!! So, the “owner” of the company drove them up! See what I mean about organization.

We arrived home around 11:00 a.m. Laura had a swim to cool off, a couple of Ibuprofen, and a well earned sleep. Later on, when we were all relaxed by the pool drinking our Bintang, I said “Why are we concentrating on the negative? Let’s concentrate on the positive! Laura, you climbed the volcano…you did it….and you made it up, and down. Be proud of that!”

So, that was our day. Amazing to have experienced summitting another mountain (1717 meters) and a bit of a downer with Laura’s fall.

We had an early dinner, and night. Laura and Catherine are off to a cooking class this morning. I wasn’t up when they left, but I am assuming all is well since they are not here!! 

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