Holidays Abroad and Hiking a Volcano

Well I’m writing this post in 2018 as a reflection of what it is like to spend Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years far away from home, family and friends.  As a full disclosure, the holiday I missed being away from home the most was Thanksgiving. I’m more of a Scrooge around Christmas and have not been home to Ohio for more than 10 years.

Thanksgiving has and always will be my favorite holiday because of the culinary deliciousness that consumes my taste buds for several weeks.  There could never be enough Thanksgiving meals for me in a Thanksgiving holiday season between the Friendsgiving parties and 2nd cousin Thanksgiving family gatherings. So being outside of the USA where no one has any particular vested interest in this holiday or its culinary prowess was a major bummer.

Funny notation. Outside of missing my family and the food during this time of year.  I actually craved a day of cold, crisp late fall weather.  Just one day. I don't want anything to do with the below freezing temperatures for a long period of time.

After Thanksgiving passed it was time for the Christmas season to kick in.  This is where it became very different for me to be in Indonesia. I began to see the immediate onset of Christmas season on social media, but it never quite felt the season here in Bali. Even though there are a lot of influences from Western culture here the commercialization of Christmas has not consumed the culture. An even bigger bonus to this was that everywhere I went I did not have to listen to terrible Christmas music! I did however miss my Mom's stocking Christmas present.  Even at 33 years of age my favorite part Christmas is a stocking from my mom.    

The one area I did get a sense of Christmas is the place where I’ve been staying in Bali, The Tehila House. The owner, Anita, put up a decorated Christmas tree in the common area and decided to have a big Christmas lunch for all of her guests, friends and family.  Anita is the best AirBnB host in the history of AirBnb hosts. I’m blessed to live here and admire her ability to build a family style community in her 10-bedroom luxurious and affordable guesthouse. She has created an environment so that when you step into the property you feel at home instantaneously.  If you ever visit Bali you need to stay here.  You can email her (anita@tehilahouse.com) or book a room on the property through the AirBnb.

Christmas morning with Huni!

Christmas morning with Huni!

During our Christmas Day brunch bonanza a couple of us Tehila House residents decided that we should take a little adventure before the new year came rolling in.  We committed to waking up at 2:00 in the morning to go hike to the top of the Mount Batur volcano to watch the sun rise over Bali.  We all know anytime you plan for a 2:00am wake-up call there is almost zero chance of falling asleep early and getting a few good hours of shuteye.  It was inevitable I was going to sleep like crap and wake up feeling unrested.

When our driver came to pick us up at 2:15am I had the brilliant idea of taking my pillow in the car  with the idea I could garner a couple more hours of sleep en route to the volcano.  I chose the back-row seat in our minivan meets Ford Focus vehicle. I curled up in the fetal position with my pillow to go back to sleep.  This turned out to be a terrible idea as the roads in Bali are pretty awful. Between the bumps, curves and our driver’s appetite to drive like Dale Earnhardt I was feeling car sick in less than an hour. We stopped so the driver could get a coffee and I switched to the front seat. This ended up being slightly better as I was worried the driver was falling asleep due to his sporadic driving between extreme fast and slow speeds.  With less than 400m (one lap around a track) to go the uneasy feeling in my head and stomach won out. I told the driver to pull over so I could roll down the window and vomit out the side of the vehicle.

Fun Fact: I've always thrown up out of the right side of cars as a passenger.  This was my first time doing it from the front left seat since they driver seat is on opposite side here! Unfortunately, no one captured this historic moment on camera so I could share it with you.

We arrived to the base of Mount Batur around 4am. My car sick shakes and sleep deprivation were not looking to make this an easy day.  We bought our National Park entrance tickets, paid for a non-optional hiking tour guide and were handed some flashlights before we began our hike in the pitch black.  Much to my surprise the shaky feeling and tiredness wore off pretty quickly once the heart got pumping as we began to ascend the mountain.

The hike itself was not very challenging if you're in decent shape.  We starting hiking around 4:15am, took a couple of 2-minute water breaks along the way and were to the top of Mount Batur around 5:45am. We kept a pretty good pace for most of our climb. In talking to the local guide it takes someone in mediocre shape to get to the top in just over two hours. This hike is not very strenuous in the dark of the night. The daytime hike might be a little tougher with the heat and humidity. There are a couple of stands along the way if you forget to pack snacks/water and need to refuel.

If you’re looking for a quiet, peaceful and tranquil moment at that top this climb is not the right one for you. Once to the top we joined the company of about 100-200 other daytrip adventurers.  There were several little coffee/tea shops serving breakfast, but we packed some sandwiches and other snacks in our backpacks to avoid a potential Bali Belly situation. 

A monkey stole a whole loaf of bread. I tried getting closer to him, but he threatened me.

A monkey stole a whole loaf of bread. I tried getting closer to him, but he threatened me.

We were lucky on the day we climbed. The weather was intermittently cloudy with a stiff wind blowing enough to clear the clouds periodically so we were able to get a clear view of Mount Agung. Mt. Agung is the volcano which erupted 6-8 weeks ago and caused a panic due to the media's ability to blow everything out of proportion.  It has since settled down and decided to behave for the time being. We chose the long route to walk all the way around the mouth of Mt. Batur to get a different perspective on the descent.  Thinking back on it the same way we came up would have been a different perspective because it was pitch black.  The way down took 2 hours and we were back to our driver’s car before 9am with an entire day left to try and hazily take naps.

Mt. Agung in the distance (the tallest peak in the background)

Mt. Agung in the distance (the tallest peak in the background)

One of my favorite shots as we were hiking around the rim of Mt. Batur

One of my favorite shots as we were hiking around the rim of Mt. Batur

There were spots we could feel the heat emitting out of the volcano in the form of steam.

There were spots we could feel the heat emitting out of the volcano in the form of steam.

After climbing the volcano I taught English for a few days before New Year’s Eve rolled around and a couple of us went out to see what the city of Canggu had to offer. New Years is the one holiday celebrated the same universally.  Fireworks, drinks, loud music, dancing, good laughs, and an all-around let loose mentality to begin a new year.

Thank you to all of my family, friends and followers for supporting me while I began to live out  my dream of living abroad in 2017. Happy New Year to all of my readers and best wishes for 2018 to be your happiest year yet. I look forward to bringing you more stories and photos in 2018.  Don't forget to peep my Instagram account: No Regrets Traveler!