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BALI


hard part. It’s downhill from here. These are the standard consolations of the miserable. At least, these are what I mutter to myself as I climb up Mount Batur, in the northeast of Bali, in the dead of night. I say mutter, but really by this point my speech has become a kind of anguished sweaty gasping, the sound of a fish that has been hauled onto dry land – and then made to walk up Mount Batur. The walk was advertised as suitable for beginners, or those of average fitness. It has been startling to discover where I sit in relation to ‘average’. We woke in our Ubud hotel at 2.30am, dragged ourselves sadly out through the outrageous luxury of the Ritz-Carlton Mandapa Reserve, sat in a car for half an hour, met our guides and set off on foot up the volcano. Along the flatter lower slopes, the mood was surprisingly chipper, but as the incline grew the jokes died off, replaced by sweaty fatigue. In the dim pre-dawn I


T 48 — aspire december 2016


he night is darkest just before the dawn. Put differently, things can only get better. You’ve done the


kept asking myself why was I doing this. I looked at the guides, men who did this every morning and who weren’t remotely short of breath, with resentment. Yet as the blood pumped I felt the endorphins spread slowly around my body, like smoke through a forest. By the time we reached the summit and were handed cups of tea and cake from some unseen backpack, I was grinning. Monkeys clamoured for crumbs. Teenagers warmed their hands on vents of volcanic steam. The guides and I talked about the Premier


Visitors seeking a fuller experience of Bali find themselves drawn to the lush interior


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