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BALI / INDONESIA
CLIMBING VOLCANO BATUR
SCRAMBLING UP FIELDS OF KNIFE-SHARP BASALT, FOR HOURS, AT NIGHT WAS ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE... THEN THE SUN CAME UP!


PHOTOS COME AND GO IN A HEARTBEAT
... DON'T GET CAUGHT NAPPING!
 
VOLCANO BATUR / JUST OVER THE GIRL'S HEAD, IN THE FAR DISTANCE, IS VOLCANO RINJANI ON LOMBOK ISLAND. VOLCANO AGUNG, JUST TO THE RIGHT, FULL-SCALE ERUPTED SHORTLY AFTER MY VISIT. "RING OF FIRE"? YOU GOT THAT RIGHT!


VOLCANO BATUR / BALI / INDONESIA I THINK THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE BRAIN THAT DISCOUNTS PAIN. INTELLECTUALLY I KNEW THAT CRAWLING UP A VOLCANO(!) IN PITCH BLACK DARKNESS FOR FOUR AND A HALF HOURS COULDN'T BE FUN, BUT ALL I COULD FANTASIZE ABOUT WAS THE SUNRISE AT THE SUMMIT. OH DEAR GOD, WHAT A MISCALCULATION!

THERE ISN'T REALLY A TRAIL UP VOLCANO BATUR. YOU JUST SORT OF FOLLOW THE FLASHLIGHT BEAMS OF CRAZIES LIKE YOURSELF AHEAD OF YOU - AND LISTEN FOR THE CRIES OF PAIN ISSUING UP FROM BELOW. AND YOU KEEP MOVING, BASALT-CUT HANDS NOT WITHSTANDING. THERE'S A SHARED ABSURDITY WITH THE FORTY OR SO IDIOTS, LIKE ME, WHO THOUGHT CLIMBING A VOLCANO AT NIGHT WOULD PUT HAIR ON THEIR CHESTS - OR WHATEVER WOMEN SEE AS THEIR PHYSICAL REWARD FOR COURAGE. WE PERSERVERED. HOUR AFTER HOUR.

FINALLY, WHEN ALL HOPE WAS LOST, MY SWEET YOUNG BALINESE GUIDE, ANNIE, SHINED HER FLASHLIGHT ONTO HER FACE AND EXCLAINED, "YOU DID IT! WE'RE MOMENTS FROM THE TOP. AND IT WAS TRUE...

MINUTES LATER, AN EXPLOSION OCCURRED ON THE EASTERN SKYLINE. HOLY SHIT! IT WASN'T A THERMO-NUCLEAR EVENT - IT WAS THE SUNRISE! I GRABBED MY CAMERA AS THE BATUR CRATER LAKE EMERGED FROM THE DARKNESS. VAGUE CLOUD FORMATIONS PLAYED TRICKS WITH THE THROBBING HEART OF OUR SOLAR SYSTREM - THE SUN. IT WAS MAGIC!

I'VE WRITTEN MANY TIMES THAT ADDING A HUMAN TO PHOTOS CHANGES EVERYTHING. NOT ALWAYS, BUT OFTEN. I SAW THIS ASIAN WOMAN HOLDING THE SUNRISE IN THE PALM OF HER HAND FOR A FRIEND'S PHOTO AND GRABBED IT. CLICK! BINGO.

OF COURSE, AFTER I'D MADE MY VOLCANO DESCENT AND BRAGGED TO OTHER BACKPACKERS ABOUT MY CONQUEST, I QUICKLY REALIZED WHAT A GENIUS I WAS FOR RISKING MY LIFE AND SANITY FOR A FEW PHOTOS! HEY, I CLIMBED THE SUCKER! HAVE YOU?






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