Saturday, October 25, 2014

I think I can, I think I can...

This week our little clan took a much needed break to Bali. We have been through a pretty intense year with our start up to the Foreign Service life style. 

If you count moving T to D.C. for training and our son F into his dorm room I have moved four times this year and still have one to go as we wait for our permanent housing.
T has been through training, moving, learning a new job and now lots of travel for said job. 
Z has been working on adjusting to a new school and just finished soccer season.
So, yeah, a week at the beach sounded pretty good.

Mostly we hung out at the beach, T and Z learned to surf. One was a little better than the other but I'll never tell who. We shopped at the cool boutiques, ate, napped.

Wednesday night however, at the suggestion of my friend J, who was in Bali with her kids, we made up for our slothful ways and decided to hike Mt. Batur. 

Now here are a few things you need to know about me before I tell you about our trip:

1) I cannot sleep in a car
2) I am not currently in the best shape I have ever been in. We will just leave it at that.

In order to hike this volcano and see sunrise, the point of the whole trip, we were to be picked up at 1 am on Wednesday night, or Thursday morning, you pick. So we ate an early dinner on Wednesday and tried to catch a few hours sleep before we had to meet the driver. I think I managed two hours.

Once our group was all together we were off into the darkness across the island. At this point only the driver and I were awake.

Our first stop was the meeting point for the tour company. A small coffee and fruit plantation. At 3 am they plied us with coffee, tea and banana pancakes while we waited for other groups to show up. Then they piled us into more cars for another 15 minute drive to the base of the mountain. 

It is still pitch black, about 3:30 in the morning and there were about 200 fellow crazy people wandering around in the parking lot. This was the time to use the toilet one more time, get a flashlight and rent your warm jacket or sweatshirt. The rental is a brilliant idea on the locals part since most people don't show up in Bali with warm weather gear and they keep telling you how cold it is on top of the mountain. I will say this though, if you do this and you are recently from northern climes, it's not that cold. The local guides are completely bundled up though and that's enough for you to shell out your $5 for the rental. I still think if they were really smart they would be selling sweatshirts that said "I climbed Mt. Batur"

Off we set off, in our individual groups and guides, into the darkness with only our flashlights and water. Our lead guide I believe is a natural long distance runner because the pace is set was very brisk to say the least. Also everyone in our little group is a reasonably conditioned athlete, except me, and we are headed up 5,633' at a nice little clip. I will also point out that I haven't slept except for the short little nap I had that evening. 

This is not my finest moment. My heart is quickly racing, and because they convinced me I needed a sweatshirt, I am over heating. God bless T who is willing to hang back with me while the rest of our group kept up their brisk pace but especially Komong, our 18 year old guide, who gently and patiently urged me up the mountain letting me take frequent rest breaks.

My critical moment came when we hit the half way point. Up to this point we had definitely been going up but as I looked ahead and saw the lights streaming in a decidedly vertical way I felt I just couldn't do it. My heart was already pounding so hard and I was finding it increasingly difficult to catch my breath, also I am exhausted since I didn't get any sleep in the car, so I promised them all I would be O.K. at the halfway stop and sent them on their way while I enjoyed the sunrise from a lower altitude. 

Streams of people passed me after that but eventually I felt like I was the only one one the mountain. I listened to the birds sing up the sun as well as the chants from the area Hindu temples. And then I watched the sunrise from my little perch.

This gave me plenty of time to think and I realized two things.

1) I shouldn't give up on myself.
2) If I was going to ever push my daughter in the future to work harder, I had to keep going up this mountain.

Since it was now daylight and I could see where I was going myself. Up I went. I took lots of breaks but I kept going and pretty soon I met up with some locals who make their business selling Cokes to climbers. They assured me I was only 10 minutes away from the top and this lovely, wizened man led me the rest of the way, all the time giving me encouragement and frequently trying to drag me till at last I put both feet over the top ledge and found both T and Komong who celebrated for me.

At the top I was able to see the volcanic crater, peer into the sacred cave where they still have Hindu ceremonies and enjoy an egg cooked in the volcano and a banana sandwich.

The hike down was much easier but I will say I was humbled watching locals as they worked their way up for the aforementioned Hindu ceremony, most in flip flops, at least one barefoot and all with large baskets of goods on their heads.

 Later on, back in Seminyak where we were staying, Z and I rewarded ourselves with Balinese foot baths/ massages/ pedicures, pretty amazing. But the best part of the day is when I put two feet on top of that mountain.

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