Setting off into the inky blackness, stumbling over the loose stones that scattered across the path, I could make out only the few inches ahead of my feet in the dancing light of my torch. Having blearily slapped my alarm silent at 2am, I was making my way from the base of Mt Batur, an active volcano near Ubud, in a bid to witness sunrise from the top.
Looking back down the path as we rested at the first vantage point, I could make out a procession of twinkling lights, the torch beams of other groups, snaking down the mountain like fireflies. The path rose steeply from where we stood, large boulders and the spectral branches of trees silhouetted black in the darkness, and I batted flying insects away from my torch beam as we hiked on and up.
Becoming increasingly steep and treacherous, the path wound into the darkness ahead. Clambering over boulders and sliding over tumbling stones, I concentrated on the placement of my feet, treading the footsteps of the guide above me as sweat soaked through the back of my t-shirt. The landscape below was just visible, illuminated by stars, as we arrived at the vantage point below the summit and stopped to sip water and catch our breath before heading on up the final, steepest part of the climb.
Scrambling up the last section of the path, loose stones tumbling from beneath my feet, I reached the summit just as the sky began to change to dusty indigo in the rising morning light. The volcanic crater fell away to our right and Lake Batur glittered below us. Our guide placed a steaming mug of hot black tea in my hand and I sipped it gratefully, adjusting my camera around my neck in readiness.
A sliver of crescent moon still hovered in the petroleum sky as the first pink fingers of dawn crept from beyond the horizon, illuminating the tumulous of cloud that hung over neighbouring Mt Agung. As we watched, the sun rose in a mist of orange, setting the sky on fire and pouring from behind the mountain top to bathe our faces in it’s rosy warmth. I snapped pictures frantically, determined to capture the beauty of the morning, then lowered the camera from my face and simply stood, feeling the rising warmth and listening to the stirrings of the day beginning.
Finally the sun broke free of the clouds and rested there, suspended in a sky striped in watercolour strokes of yellow, pink and orange; and we breakfasted on banana sandwiches before heading back down the treacherous path in the early light.