Sunrise hike at Batur volcano

There is a reason why I have seen far more sunsets than sunrises, but that makes them even more special. Hearing about the Sunrise hike to Batur volcano, I decided I could sleep when I got back home, and signed up for the tour.

At 02.02 in the morning, just a couple minutes late, I was ready outside the hotel to be picked up. The intense heat I had experienced the day before was definitely not present, and I was almost shivering. It was probably a combination of absence of sun and lack of sleep, giving a coldness from the inside that cannot immediately get warmer by putting on more clothes. As it was pitch black and not much to see outside, I had a power nap in the car. After about an hour drive we stopped for a quick breakfast; banana pancakes and hot drinks. I must admit that the warm tea helped a little bit getting my temperature up.

The drive continued in the dark, and I dozed off several times. Arriving at the parking lot at the foot of the volcano, we teamed up with the guide. After a short briefing we were, in a friendly but firm tone, ordered to visit the bathroom before we got started.

With our headlights on, we strolled through the fields before the ascent. The hike went zigzagging upwards and upwards in the pale lights from the headlights, while hearing encouraging voices from the dark. The gravel made the trail slippery, and it sometimes felt we slipped back two steps for every one we made forward. Still we suddenly arrived at the first stop for some rest.

The cold draft quickly cooled down the sweat, so after a short break and some sips of water, we were back at our feet. About two hours after we started the hike, we arrived at the top of Batur, 1717 meters above sea level. It was about to get lighter, but the sun was still nowhere to be seen.

Sitting down with our second breakfast, we were gazing at the horizon but at the same time constantly keeping an eye out for the monkeys that took every chance they got to steel from the ones that were not paying attention.

The damp weather and the steam from the volcano made our clothes quite moist. Fortunately, I had brought enough clothes to keep warm, but the sarong I lent to one of the others felt wetter than after a day at the beach. Luckily, it did not take long before the sun broke through the clouds, and we could see the outline of the volcanic mountain in the horizon on the orange backdrop.

Sunrise at Batur Volcano. Bali, Indonesia. Watching the sunrise at Batur Volcano. Bali, Indonesia.

While multiple sunrise photos were taken, the guides made us eggs cooked on the steam from the volcano. It is strange how food cooked outdoors always taste a little better. A rain shower creating a rainbow as a cupola over the crater, brought our cameras back out.

Egg cooked by volcano steam. Batur Volcano. Bali, Indonesia. Rainbow over Batur Volcano. Bali, Indonesia.

Making our way back down, we walked around the lush green crater. Even though we could now see the surface better, it was easy to underestimate the cruelty and speed of the sliding pebbles… Controlling the speed on the other hand, was fun.

View from Batur Volcano. Bali, Indonesia. Green crater of Batur Volcano. Bali, Indonesia.

Batur Volcano. You can clearly see the traces of the lava streams along the side of the volcano. The past 200 years, Batur has erupted 26 times. Bali, Indonesia.

You can clearly see the traces of the lava streams along the side of the volcano. The past 200 years, Batur has erupted 26 times; the most devastating was in 1926.

Back at the car we decided to go straight back to Ubud, skipping the visit at the coffee plantation that was included in the tour. The drive went fast through the lush green landscape, and I made it back at the hotel just in time for the third breakfast that morning. Climbing a volcano sure made me hungry…

 

What to bring: A small backpack with more clothes and a bottle of water. Make sure to bring something warm and dry that you can change to at the top. It can also be wise to keep your clothes in a waterproof bag, to avoid the moist.

Gili Meno – a relaxing paradise

Gili Meno instantly gave a completely different impression than the neighboring island Gili Trawangan. Even though I found Gili T less chaotic than expected, Gili Meno was a whole different story. Jumping onto the horse-and-carriage at the pier, slowly trotting our way on the narrow dusty paths towards the northwestern side, I swear I could feel inner peace.

Horse transport at Gili Meno island, Indonesia

Alternative accommodation
As it is more convenient to have a place booked before arrival, we found Balenta Bungalow Gili Meno online. It looked nice on the photos, but what met us did unfortunately not live up to the expectations. The bungalow was nice, but the restaurant and beach area had a dark feel to it, and the staff were a bit unprofessional, making inappropriate comments. Luckily, we had only booked one night, so I went to have a look at Sunset Beach Bungalows right next door. It was a totally different vibe, both with the people and the look of the area. The restaurant at the beach was cozy with bamboo tables and chairs painted white, with a small picket fence and a few lush green bushes towards the beachfront.  For relaxing in the shade, there were “cottages” in the back, half a meter above the ground, providing the little extra breeze.

The nice restaurant and beach area at Sunset Beach Bungalows. Gili Meno island, Indonesia

The nice restaurant and beach area at Sunset Beach Bungalows.

Relaxing beach life. Sunset Beach Bungalows. Gili Meno island, Indonesia

Blackout with a thousand stars
The Gili islands quite frequently experience power outages. One of the advantages when the power goes out, is that the thousands of stars pop out on the sky above. There is something special about sitting down at the beach, looking up at the stars, listening to the waves roll against the shore. A really calming sensation.

Exploring in the mornings
Waking up with the roosters, we decided to go for a walk around the island before it got too hot. In oppose to Gili T, where the accommodations were tightly packed along the beach, they were more scattered here. They come in all shapes and comforts, from fancy boutique hotels to dodgy rundown bungalows (some could barely even be called that). And all in between, of course!

One morning walking around the island, the next exploring the inner parts. Being awake even before the wind, we were rewarded by a mirroring surface at the island lake. And the early-bird mosquitoes found their reward in me, unfortunately resulting in a shorter stay by the peaceful lake than wanted.

Moving on through the silence, I caught myself being surprised how lush green the island is, even though the rainy season just ended. The grazing kettle looked happy, fishermen were repairing their boats, and a cat sleeping in the sun after washing the dishes.

Nice walking paths at Gili Meno island, Indonesia

Boat life at Gili Meno island, Indonesia

Boat repair. Gili Meno island, IndonesiaLush green at Gili Meno island, Indonesia Reflecting lake at Gili Meno island, Indonesia Happy cow at Gili Meno island, Indonesia

Goats who stare at men (or woman in this case). Gili Meno island, Indonesia

Goats who stare at men (or woman in this case).

Nice door. Gili Meno island, Indonesia
Lazy cat in the sun. Gili Meno island, Indonesia

Local fishermen. Gili Meno island, Indonesia
Under the surface
When in Gili, you simply just have to go snorkeling. You can either go on one of the tours, or go by yourself. We went for the latter option, and later also found out that the tours go to three spots that we could easily swim to our self from where we were staying. Sadly, there is a rather thick belt of dead corals just off the beachfront, obviously with not much to see. Time for a little serious talk; do not stand up on the corals, they will break under your weight, leaving even larger areas broken…

Continuing a bit further out, the underwater landscape change, the corals stand out with different shapes, and fishes of all sizes and colours swimming between them. It feels like laying in the surface of a giant aquarium, just observing the life. Which was more or less what we actually were doing, if you skip the aquarium part. After wading in the surface for a while, I was eager to go for the big fish (read: the giant sea turtles)! Several people had pointed out the north of the island to be a good place to spot them, so we got our legs kicking, slowly drifting through the tempered water. We were almost about to give up when my friend got all winded up, frenetic pointing at something. She had done the same with some colorful fishes in the start as well, but the enthusiasm was slightly different this time. There it was; silently sliding along the bottom. A small kick with its feet sent it graciously forward. What a beautiful peacefulness! Heading back, sliding over the large belt of dead corals was yet another reminder of people’s recklessness (and maybe even unawareness) of the consequences, so please be careful.

Gili Meno is the perfect place for total relaxation. Slow walks in the mornings, beach life and water cooling during the day, and beautiful sunsets at the beach in the evening. A true relaxing paradise!

Bali volcano view. Gili Meno island, Indonesia

The perfect ending of the day. Sunset and beer at the beach. Gili Meno island, Indonesia

Gili Trawangan – a complex island

Dozing off to the sound of the waves gently rolling against the beach, occasionally waking up to the sound of the horses with carriage passing by. Even though it sounds like the intro to “Jingle bells”, that is the only resemblance to Christmas. No cold snow here. The only white is the burning sand.

The only way to cool down is either by jumping (or more softly sliding) in the sea, or have a cold drink. I know, it sounds horrible…. 😉

Nice and relaxing view from the sunbed. Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Nice and relaxing view from the sunbed.

Gili Trawangan is known to be the party island of the three Gili islands. Walking along the beach road, I can absolutely see why, but at the same time, it does not rule out the aspect of total relaxation. Yes, there are many places where you can party all night if that is what you are after, but many of the beach bars have a more chill ambiance.

To be honest, I was actually a little surprised that it did not feel more busy. But hey, I don’t complain, that was just perfect!

Staying at Casus Dream Hotel only a (strong) stone throw away from the beach, but yet in a quiet back street, was pleasant. They have a pool as well, but we never used it, so quite frankly, we might as well have stayed at Gili Breeze that was our other alternative. Or one of the many other places around.

Taking a swing while exploring Gili Trawangan. Indonesia

Taking a swing while exploring Gili Trawangan.

All along the beach there are sun beds. Some are for the accommodation guests only, while others allow outside guests. Some charge a daily rent for the sunbed (typically 100′), others let you stay for free as long as you eat and drink there. We found the latter option to be the absolute best, and found our place at Villa Unggul.

You might as well drink nice ice cold beers for the price of the sunbed. Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

You might as well drink nice ice cold beers for the price of the sunbed.

Beach front at Gili Trawangan. Indonesia

Biking for sunset
To get the feel of the island, we rented bikes to explore. Our first goal was the “ring road” around the island, but there is also a network of roads crisscrossing the inner part. Plenty of places offer bikes for rent, and we went for the first (but not the best….), paid 50′ each for 24 hour rental, and got going. Most of the way along the sea is bikeable, except for a part of the north tip where you have to get off. The sun was still strong, so we figured it would be nice to have a beer break, cooling down in the shade at Coral Beach.

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia Easy life at Gili Trawangan. Indonesia

Time to get going again, pedalling onward, passing both fancy resorts and more down-to-earth relaxed places. Horses were passing, and goats were relaxing under the shade of the trees.

Arriving at Gili Sunset Bar, we decided to settle down on one of the platforms overlooking the ocean. They got me already by combining sunset and bar…

The water was calming down, nicely reflecting the still burning hot sun. My eyes found rest on the peaky volcanoes in the dimmed horizon.

Sunset view towards Bali. Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Sunset view towards Bali.

Sunset view towards Bali. Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

As we found our peace there until the sun had set, we did the shortcut across the island on one of the smaller roads to get back before it was completely dark.

Social local dinner
“Central” is the local food market, and a perfect place for dinner. A few stalls were spread out, and made different types of food. After a look around, we decided on the BBQ place, and ordered different skewers to share. Along with that, we got to choose some side dishes. After ordering, we were told to come back after 15 minutes, so we sat down by one of the tables with a cooling beer, and started chatting with some locals. An experience of my taste!

Food stall at Central. Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Food stall at Central. Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

After dinner there are several options, whether you prefer a relaxing massage, hanging around at the beach, time-out with a movie at the outdoor cinema, or step it up with a party. The choice is yours.