Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bali revisited: Day 2

This sunrise view wasn't easy to acquire, especially for the likes of yours truly. Mt Batur was a challenging climb, moreso than we initially thought. After all, we survived the climb up Diamond Head, didn't we? Batur was no Diamond Head. No smooth paths; regular steps with handrails. It was wild, the path was narrow; strewn with rocks; and in parts the gradient was so steep, neither looking up nor down was in the least helpful. Besides all through the climb, it was raining, it was dark, the way lighted only by flashlight.

It turned out that we were ill prepared for the weather. We both had to rent waterproof hooded jackets from the trek guides at IDR50,000 each, having no idea who had worn them and sweated in them before us. We were just grateful to have them. We were also ill-prepared physically for the ascent. Before long,we both were huffing and puffing from the walk... and that was even before the terrain got steep and difficult. I was convinced that at some point, one of us would throw in the towel and collapse and die from exhaustion. Outside, the rain was soaking my rented jacket, inside my t-shirt was soaking with sweat. That bad. 

In the end, it was a game of mind over matter. Of concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other and quashing all thoughts of how far more we still had to struggle. The journey had to become more important than the destination. To think of reaching the summit, looking up and seeing the distance and steepness of the path ahead of us was very daunting. Thinking of having to climb back down after reaching the top was a total OMG moment. But if we had our minds on our fluffy, comfy bed back at the Kamandalu, that would have killed us for sure. So step by painful step, up we went. We also took frequent breaks and let others pass us along the path. No deadlines, no hurry. Our guide waited patiently with us and kept encouraging us by accounting how far we've come already and ticking down the distance we had left to cover.

The view (top) was spectacular, but brekkie being all of a couple of slices of plain bread, a hard-boiled egg and a banana... well, this fellow (above) and his mates looked like they needed a meal more than we did. I kept the banana for the potassium I needed to stave off cramps in my sore legs.

The altitude and rain combined to make it feel cold up top, but the crater comprised many small holes emitting natural steam that warmed us up sufficiently as long as we stood close to one.

Needless to say, we survived our ordeal. Climbing down the volcano was way easier than climbing up as we didn't have to fight gravity any more. Still, we had to be careful of our footing on the slippery rocks covering the path but other than that, it was a breeze. But having given our brekkie to the local inhabitants and returning to the hotel too late for the morning buffet, we opted to sleep until lunchtime. We followed a recommendation from one of our travelling companions and tried the speciality roast suckling pig dish at Ibu Oka. Above is a mixed dish of roast meat, deep-fried meat, vegetables and on the left, a slab of crackling skin. The flavours were so amazingly rich, we realised we should have shared one order instead of having one each. The crackling skin was the best I've tasted, crispy pork fat at its finest, though the second piece nearly did me in with the sudden onset of the law of diminishing marginal utility.

Back at the Kamandalu, we indulged ourselves with a sore muscles massage and flower bath at the spa. The skilful papmpering from the professional and friendly staff made a great end to a tough but eventually satisfying morning.

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