Avoiding the Mountain Mafia: Climbing Mount Batur without a guide! – Bali, Indonesia

Mount Batur is one of Bali’s two active volcanos. Sunrise trekking is very popular and every day many people hike up the mountain in the dark to witness the sunrise. The volcano is active and steaming. You can use the steam to boil eggs and steam bananas, which is a very unique way of cooking! It’s an absolutely gorgeous place, the views are breathtaking and the mountain is gorgeous.


After our amazing pitstop at kumulilir (read: “The most expensive coffee in the world: Luwak coffee“) it is time to continue our journey to Mount Batur. We both have a scooter and want to climb the mountain for sunrise tomorrow morning. But we will be doing it a bit differently. We are not taking the tourguide! We don’t like guided tours where they pack you with random people. I don’t want my trip to be dependent on the vibe of a random tour group. It can be a big group, a small group, first time hikers or experienced hikers, we don’t know.

The mafia

The problem is that all the locals will tell you it’s impossible to hike up without a guide. They will tell you it’s illegal (spoiler-alert: it is not illegal!). There are locals who will pester you and even follow you by scooter trying to sell you an expensive tour package. It’s a whole mafia, they control the mountain. Their only goal is to get money out of you and keep up-selling you in return for kindness. Don’t let them pester you. Every time a scooter stopped and asked “Where are you going?” We just didn’t respond, we minded our own business.

We got followed a lot. First they see us driving by, they look at us, put on a fake smile and hop on their bikes and follow us. Immediately after we stop to look for directions on our phone or just take a pitstop, they come to us. The annoying questions “where are you going?”, “what are you looking for” and “where are you from”. It’s all just for judgement to see if they can scam money out of you.

Getting to our accommodation

The drive to our accommodation for the most part is easy. We both got cheap a scooter in Ubud. We paid 50,000 idr per day for the scooter, which is only €3.10. I think we spent a total of 40,000 idr on gas for going there, driving around in the area and coming back. Resulting in a total of €5.65.

We decided to go camping at the bottom of the Volcano. We found the accommodation on Agoda and it is called “Jerro Under Mt Batur Camp”. It is a very expensive place. We knew it was expensive, but we wanted to have the experience of camping and hiking. Therefore we convinced ourselves to do it.

There are a few amazing viewpoints on the way to Mount Batur. One of the best viewpoints is at Kintamani. This is also the last spot you will be able to get money out of the ATM. Any other ATM further than this will not accept any foreigner card.

Arriving at our accommodation

The final stretch to our accommodation is absolutely crazy. We have to drive through small broken roads with mud, rocks and deep potholes. It’s very local and there are even chicken fights going on. We got followed a few times by guys on bikes, which was really annoying.

Upon arrival we get greeted by Jerro, the owner of the campsite and the “official tour guide of Mount Batur” or so he claims to be. I do have to say that Jerro looks legit. His first impression was good. He looks like a hiker and nothing like the scam artists on the way here.

But now the problems start. Jerro keeps trying to up-sell us. He wants us to buy his expensive tour package to climb Mt. Batur. But we want to do it without a guide. He wants 350,000 idr (€22) per person for the hike. That is the same price you can get in Ubud and that includes transportation to the mountain.

We declined everything. We came to do it without a guide. The accommodation is pay on arrival. We haven’t paid anything yet and I am about to leave. The accommodation cost is 550,000 idr (€35) for 2 persons, dinner is 100,000 idr (€6.20) per person and then the expensive guide. We told him that there is really good and cheap accommodation by the lake for 200,000 idr (€12.60) and we can probably hike up the mountain without a guide ourselves. That’s when he gave in and let us do the hike ourselves without a guide, but still having to pay 131,000 idr entry ticket for the National Park (we got a paper ticket).

Dinner and overpriced Bintang

We paid an extra 100,000 idr per person to have the dinner. We brought food ourselves, but that is for breakfast tomorrow morning. The dinner was nasi goreng with chicken, hot tea and veggies soup. We asked for extra veggies and steamed rice. At the bottom Jerro told us that the dinner is including drinks and everything.

They kept asking us how many Bintang we want. They were very friendly, we didn’t notice they were just scamming and up-selling us. We thought it was included and only wanted one, but eventually we got 5 Bintang! We drank one each and gave the other Bintang away to the staff. Eventually they charged a stupid 50,000 idr per Bintang! We declined this price, but we did end up paying 100,000 idr extra.

A bad sleep

Here is a picture of us with our tent. It’s a very basic tent, but we really wanted the experience. And boy, an experience is what we got! We are both pretty tall, so fitting in this tent was a bit of a struggle. The ground was really hard too. It’s really funny, we knew this from the start. We knew that it was going to be a bad night, we wanted to experience this and it resulted in this amazing story.

During the night it started storming. There was a lot of wind, rain and thunder! We were asleep for maybe only 30 minutes when it all started. It kept us up a lot. At a certain point it was raining so hard that there was water splashing at our face inside the tent! We still don’t know how the water came inside.

It rained all night. It rained so hard we started worrying if we were even able to do the hike. Our alarm went off at 3.30 am and it was still raining. Damn, we cannot go do the hike like this! We were planning to get ready at 3.30 am, eat something, get a shower and drink a hot tea. But no, we stayed in our tent. The hike is impossible.

We are doing the hike

Very close to 4 am, the rain stopped. We looked outside our tent and people started doing the hike. Okay, Let’s go! Let’s go too, if they are going, we can go too. We got dressed and hopped out of our tent. No breakfast, we have food with us and we are bringing it to the top of the mountain and have our breakfast there. We also have a big bottle of water each, so let’s go.

It is still really really dark out. Luckily we both have flashlights. I bought a really good one on the market for €3.00 when I was in Thailand. There are a lot of tours doing the hike. There is no way to get lost. You can just follow them.

Both of us are fit. I have climbed mountains before and we can go this. We pass so many groups and tours on the way up. The average time to go to the top is between 1.5 and 2 hours. We did the hike in 1 hour and 10 minutes! But that doesn’t make the hike easy. It was a really hard climb. It was just a matter of taking very few breaks.

The top and sunrise

There where a lot of people at the top waiting for the sunrise! We where a bit unfortunate, because it was cloudy. It is just a matter of luck. Some people are very lucky and get an amazing sunrise. But it just isn’t the season for that. It is rain season at the moment and you will have to come back during summer to have a high chance of an amazing sunrise.

But there was a little opening in the sky, between the clouds. There is a bright red/orange light coming through. It looked like the sky was on fire! Absolutely stunning, but really hard to capture. I made a timelapse of the sunrise.

We stayed a long time at the top after sunrise. The views were just breathtaking! The Volcano is active and there is a lot of steam coming out. The locals use the steam to cook eggs and steam bananas. They also hang nets over the steam, which will collect water droplets. The water will drip down the net into a bucket. This water is very clean!

Here are some shots of the top!

Monkeys and steamed bananas

There are a lot of Monkeys on the top! They only first appear after sunrise. They are very shy of human and will not pester you. We saw some monkeys before and they were very aware to not come close. Every movement was enough to make them step back.

We stayed a long time at the top and almost everyone was gone. There were no more tour guides, just us and a few locals who sell food and drinks here. The locals are cleaning up. We used this time to steam bananas.

I ate my steamed banana first. It wasn’t fully cooked yet. This is the first time I steam bananas. I threw the banana peal down in the bushes. I know that Monkeys love banana peals, so they will most likely eat it. A few moments later monkeys came out of nowhere! They went straight for the peal and ate it. The monkeys smelled the other banana steaming. So they hung around and waited, but they didn’t come close. They stayed at a safe distance.

Don’t feed the monkeys!

Most of us already heard this. Do not feed the monkeys! If you feed them, they will associate human with food. They will no longer be scared and climb your back to get food.

I learned the hard way. I had a bag of dried fruits and I wanted to eat it. “Why not give a little bit to the monkeys?”, I thought, “If I throw it far enough they not come to me”. Well… I was wrong. As soon as I threw the first dried fruit, a monkey jumped on my back. A second monkey came in, snatched the bag out of my hand and made a run for it! Dang it.

By this time, the last banana is ready to eat. The monkeys come a bit close. But I made movements to not let them any closer again. The steamed banana was absolutely delicious! It is my first time, but it is so good! After finishing it, we threw the peal in nature like we would’ve done without monkeys and they went for it.

Triangle house

We decided to stay 2 nights in the Mount Batur area. There is a really great place near lake Batur. It is called Trangle House and it is absolutely amazing and cheap! Total price was only 200,000 idr (€12.60) for 2 person including breakfast. This is such an amazing deal!

The owner is absolutely friendly and the place is relaxing and just great. The owner served us hot tea in our room a few times for free!

The Triangle house also offers tours to climb mt. Batur for 300,000 idr (€18.90). We met the group who did it. We saw them at the top and also at the hotel. It was a really small group and they all were into photography. I would totally do a tour with them and such a small group. They seem to have the same interests. Unlike the unknown big group we would’ve been in with Jerro.

Total cost

Our total cost was absolutely ridiculous. We knew it from the start. We wanted the experience and the story. It’s way more interesting and fun. But here is a rundown of our costs per person.

  • Accomodation at Jerro: 225,000
  • Accomodation at Triangle house: 100,000
  • Dinner at Jerro: 100,000
  • Bintang: 50,000
  • Entry ticket Mt. Batur: 131,000
  • Grocery store breakfast: 50,000
  • Motorbike: 50,000
  • Gas: 40,000

Total: 756,000 idr (€46.85)

How much it would’ve cost with a tour from the hostel in Ubud

  • Accommodation backpacker’s hostel (2 nights): 180,000
  • Dinner in Ubud: 70,000
  • Tour incl. breakfast: 350,000

Total: 600,000 idr (€37.70)

The way we did it was really expensive. We knew it from the start and it was our own choice. We knew the tents are expensive. If I would do it again I would do it better. I would not take the tour and I would stay in the Triangle House for 2 nights and go do the hike from there without the guide.

  • Accomodation at Triangle house (2 nights): 200,000
  • Local dinner: 70,000
  • Entry ticket Mt. Batur: 31,000
  • Grocery store breakfast: 50,000
  • Motorbike: 50,000
  • Gas: 40,000

Total: 441,000 idr (€27.70)

Conclusion

We can say that this was a very expensive trip. But it turned into this great story. The mountain seems to be owned by a mafia, trying to scam every tourist. The mountain is free to visit and you only have to pay 31,000 idr to enter the area. There is a checkpoint on the road that sells the ticket. Everything else is a scam.

The tours from Ubud are a pretty good deal if you don’t want to go though the hassle like us. Even tho it is allowed to climb the Mountain without a guide, they make it really really hard for you to do so. It is uncertain that you will manage to get away with it. Also, the guides are experienced and will check for your safety. They do the hike every day. It is a good thing to have someone who knows the mountain with you.

If you love adventure, a good story and a possibility to save €10 per person then you absolutely can! It is possible and you have to stay persistent. I have done many mountain trekking before without any guides. In 2016 I spent a full week trekking in the mountains in Norway, sleeping in a tent and mountain cabins. If you know yourself a bit, you will know if you need a guide or not.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.