An Ascent into Darkness – Climbing Mt. Batur

One of the must do activities, or so I’ve heard, in Bali is to climb one of the few volcanoes.  And when you do this climb is quite different than any other hike you have done before. 

You begin your ascent at 4 AM in the morning.  Yes, you are in complete darkness, with no promise of light until you are at the top.  This is no easy feat.

Especially since I haven’t worked out in almost a year (thank you Southeast Asia!).

My friend Stephanie and I began our trip to Mount Batur (there are also a few other volcanoes, but this one seems to be the more popular one, I think its because its an “easier” climb and its shorter than the others) at 2 AM from Kuta Beach.  We attempted to nap on the way up to the volcano, but struggled to gain some extra shut eye before our adventure up the mountain.

We arrived at the base and met our guide, Pon, who ended up being the best guide ever, but more on that later.  For awhile, it was pretty flat.  We had no idea what the terrain looked like around us or ahead of us. 

And then we hit the mountain…

We made it!

I felt like I was going straight up…all the time…with no end.  Holding the extremely small flashlight I was given, I carefully maneuvered the rocks and hoped that I didn’t fall, which I didn’t, but definitely came close once or twice!  It felt so great to be breaking a sweat (well, Southeast Asia makes me sweat all the time, but this sweat wasn’t from heat!), but I had to put the hood up on my sweatshirt because the breeze was making me cold.  I had to take many breaks and after a great deal of huffing and puffing, we made it to the top and we were the first ones there! 

With our awesome guide

We felt extremely accomplished and it had only taken us a little over an hour when it is supposed to take an hour and a half or so.  We soon were freezing because our completely sweat drenched bodies were now feeling the cold of the mountain top and we were eager for the sun to rise.  Our adrenaline must have kicked in as well because we were soon laughing and making jokes and might have been “those girls” at the top, but we didn’t care, we just climbed a volcano!

The beautiful sunrise

Soon enough, the sun peeked out from behind the mountains, and although it was quite cloudy, it was still definitely worth it.  We enjoyed the sunrise and then took a quick walk around the crater, but didn’t get too close because a Swedish man had fallen in only a few days earlier.  I’m not exactly sure how he fell in, he had to have been doing something pretty stupid to lose his balance, but who knows (the Grand Canyon has roughly 10 photography related deaths a year so I’m not entirely surprised)!

The peaceful scenery

On the way down (which sometimes is harder than the way up!), it was really fun to actually see what we missed in the morning!  The mountainside was covered in black lava rocks from previous eruptions, (oh and by the way this volcano is still active, yeah it could have blown at any second) and the views were amazing!

Our guide apparently loved us as well and gave us our very own Mt. Batur Trekking Guide shirts!!  You can’t buy those!  We were ecstatic!!

Climbing Mt. Batur at night has been one of my favorite activities yet on my travels! 

The amazing view!

Riding Giants – Learning How to Surf in Bali

 I’m from California.  Meaning its pretty much implied that I know how to surf.

Well I don’t.

The surfboard looks like its going to knock me over, which it did, multiple times...

I’ve tried to learn multiple times, but my stubbornness and fear of being underwater stood in my way.  Plus the water in California is freezing and the waves are slightly out of my range.

Thus, I made it my mission to finally stand up on a surfboard in Bali.

My friend Stephanie, who was only a little bit more experienced than I, and I rented a board for the day on Kuta Beach.  She set out first because my nerves were getting the best of me and came back twenty minutes later after being ruled by the small waves, which didn’t give me much confidence.

Paddling out only to get rocked moments later

I paddled out, trying to remember what I had been taught six years earlier.  Well, it didn’t work because I completely wiped out over and over and over again.  Discouraged, I waded out of the water only to find that one of the fins had come off!  There is no way that it should have fallen off that fast!

I grabbed the guy that had sold us the board and brought him over to see the damage.  I told him that it should not have fallen off after twenty minutes in the water and he just kept saying, “I see you.  I see you.  You in the water.  You cannot stand up.  You just fall.  You cannot stand up!”  I told him that I was aware I could not stand up, but he still repeated, “You in the water!  You cannot stand up!  You need lessons!  I show you!”

I'm almost standing! I'm pretty sure I got there and then plummetted promptly

I ignored him, he eventually walked away, and we were stuck with a board with only one fin, which didn’t really bother us because we couldn’t stand up anyways.

But we pressed on.

And later that day, after an incident of my shoulder sublexing yet again, I am pleased to say I stood up…for about 2 seconds.  But nonetheless, I stood up and a couple days later when we rented a board again, it became a little bit easier.  And by a little bit, I mean I still wiped out 75% of the time. 

I'm so excited that I stood up for the first time!

Actually, make that 85%, but I was ok with that.

I conquered the waves of Bali!  Now onto the icy waters of the Pacific.

Conquering the Rock in Railay

Krabi was one of my first trips when I arrived in the South. I loved everything about it, especially the opportunities to explore anything and everything under the sun. There are countless day trips available to book at the numerous travel agencies and guesthouses ranging from kayaking around Hong Island to Elephant treking in Khao Sok to day trips exploring the neighboring islands of Krabi.  I, of course, want to do them all, but time permitting I have had to pick and choose the ones that are at the top of my list. 

The first time I was down in Krabi I did the 4 Island tour (Chicken Island, Poda Island, Tup Island, and Phranang Cave, Railay) and the 5 Island tour, which is also known as the Hong Island Tour (and not really 5 islands).  But there were so many more that I wanted to do!

The guide showing me how to tie my knot. By the end of the day, he didn't have to show me anymore!

I had heard so much about rock climbing on Railay Beach and I told myself that I would come back and do that before I left Thailand.  This weekend I had the opportunity to do just that and it was one of the best experiences I have had!

I signed up for the half day trip with King Climbers, which is supposed to be one of the best groups to climb with.  I was advised that the half day was more than enough climbing for someone who doesn’t do it everyday and boy am I glad I only did the half day!  I ended up being completely beat at the end of the day and sore for days after!

This may look like I'm posing, but I can assure you it is "in action"

I also had the option of climbing in the afternoon.  Much much better than the morning session, which required me to wake up at 7 in the morning after a long day/night of traveling!  I immediately took this option and enjoyed my morning of sleeping in and reading by the river.  I was picked up by the King Climbers truck, was taxied over to the Railay Beach peir, and boarded a 15-minute longtail boat ride to Railay.

While getting fitted for my climbing gear, I met a fellow Californian (which NEVER happens.  I not only rarely meet Americans, but I double rarely meet someone from California!), Cat, who had been traveling for a couple months in SE Asia.  She had just gotten engaged in Cambodia and I begged her to tell me the story!  I love hearing engagement stories and hers was a great one!  We instantly became friends and vowed that we would take pictures of each other while we were scaling the rocks.  Our climbing group consisted of two Norwegians, who had never climbed before, two Californians, and a Finnish guy, Peter, who had climbed in the morning session as well. 

I'm pretty sure I'm on the easy part right now, right before I got stuck

We began with one of the easiest climbs and I started out with a bang.  Peter was blaying me and apparently he wasn’t too ready, because I slipped in the first couple seconds (sweaty palms, I was nervous ok!  I haven’t climbed in a long time!) and  plummeted the four feet and came inches from smacking into the ground.

But I got right back up and scaled that rock!  It wasn’t the hardest thing in the world, but it still felt so great to make it up to the top.  I haven’t had a challenge like that in a long time and it felt amazing to be “athletic” again!

The next one was a different story. 

The first part was pretty easy, in the sense that it didn’t take me too long to figure out my next foot or hand hold.  I was using many of the muscles I haven’t used in ages and it felt so great to “feel the burn” for the first time in months! 

But then I reached a sort of “impasse.”  I kept trying to find a foot hold and then a hand hold and then a different foot hold and then a different hand hold, but nothing seemed to be working.  I was only about 6-8 feet away from the top, but I just felt like I couldn’t do it.  My arms started shaking and my legs were barely holding me on the mountain.  I kept slipping and swinging back and forth and finally came to a point where I yelled down indicating that I was finished. 

But they didn’t let me down. 

Thanking everyone after I landed on my "hard" climb

I heard, “JUST RELAX!!” from one of the Norwegians and “YOU CAN DO IT!” from Cat.  “TAKE YOUR TIME” from Peter and “YOU’RE ALMOST THERE!” from the other Norwegian were what I heard right before I decided I was going to make it.  I put all my energy and spirit  into that rock.  I took a deep breath and released all the tension from my shoulders.  I stopped focusing on my quivering arms and just told myself I was going to do it and soon enough I made it to the top.  When I landed on the ground, everyone was cheering and clapping, and through an exhausted inhale I thanked them for getting me to the top.  I couldn’t have done it without the support of four complete strangers. 

And that’s what traveling is all about. 

Making relationships with people from different countries that you’ll probably never see again.  But that doesn’t matter because for those few moments you spend with them, they’re you’re best friend and they’re all you need. 

Rock climbing on Railay Beach was one of the most fun days I have had here.  It truly challenged my mind, my body and my spirit and I have had a huge smile on my face ever since.  I would definitely recommend it and when I make it back to Krabi someday, maybe I’ll do the full day.

Just hanging with my climbing guide (that's Cat in the background)