A while back, my old mate Neil visited us in Bali. I’ve known Neil for 36 years. We started school on the same day in 1982. Both of us joined the class late. I was 6 and Neil was 5. Neil had moved to Romford earlier that summer from Canvey Island. I had been living in Belgium and had moved to Romford following my parent’s separation.
We became desk mates in Primary School and went on to sit together in practically every lesson for the next 10 years, all the way through Senior School and 6th Form.
After School was over, our friendship continued and in 1999 Neil talked me into going on my first backpacking trip to Asia.
It was to be a bitter sweet experience. Neil and I fell out in Thailand and he ended up going home early. It took us a while but we patched things up when I returned home and we’ve been friends again ever since.
Neil had a shortlist of activities he was set on doing. Among them was trekking up mount Batur for sunrise. A few days prior to Neil’s arrival Mount Agung had begun rumbling and most of the north part of the island had been evacuated. Finding a tour guide to take us to Batur was difficult but would ultimately work in our favour with far fewer tourists doing the trek than usual.
The Trek to the Top
We were picked up from the south of the island at 3.30am. An hour later we begun the 1700m climb to the top of Batur.
It was an easy climb as treks go. Most of the path was jagged rocks which were very stable and easy to get hand and foot holds. In the last 50 meters the climb turned to volcanic sand and dust which was much more arduous.
We arrived at the summit around 15 minutes before dawn and enjoyed a hot coffee. The food we’d been promised at the top never materialised but the views more than made up for it.
The skies were perfectly clear. We caught glimpses of smoke rising from Agung. We could see the giant peaks of Mount Rinjani on Lombok Island off in the distance. All around was stunning landscape. Soft rolling hills laced by swathes of scorched black earth where recent eruptions had spilled over the vivid greens of the jungle.
An hour after sunrise we made our way down.
It was great to have this experience with Neil. We’d talked about treks like this way back in 1999 but fate had other plans. Now, nearly 18 years after our first trip we were back trekking in South East Asia together. It was awesome.