It’s 3:30am when the Balinese driver picks Anastasia and me up at our villa in Canggu but somehow we are awake and feeling the energy of the day to come. It’s the first time I’ve seen Bali so quiet, so peaceful, with not a soul in the streets. We exit Canggu, drive through Seminyak and Ubud, and start our ascent through the twisty mountain roads of Northeast Bali. It’s dark but I’m instantly reminded of Evergreen, Colorado, and for the first time in the six months since I’ve moved to Southeast Asia, I’m a bit chilly and thankful that I brought a hoodie. We arrive at the base of Mount Batur where a huge group of tourists awaits. Luckily as soon as we get out of the van, our young Balinese guide hands us flashlights and water bottles and we get straight to hiking, beating the crowds. I don’t think we realized that we were going to be hiking in pitch black, and the hike wasn’t exactly easy. Luckily we’re Colorado girls so we’re hardcore like that, hiking is in our DNA. 🙂 The heat, on the other hand, is not, and it doesn’t take long before we are peeling off all our layers and sweating up a storm. A few hours later we arrive at the summit, still in the pitch black, and now all there is left to do is wait for the sunrise.

More and more tourists start to trickle in as the sun peaks its head over Mount Agung, the highest point in all of Bali. Our guide unpacks our breakfast, and a Balinese woman who lives near the summit shows up to pour us hot coffee. Unfortunately it is a foggy morning, and we cannot see much as the sun continues to rise. Our guide looks disappointed as he attempts to point everything out to us, unobservable through the thick fog. He keeps saying we will wait just a bit longer, but does not appear very hopeful. We make the best of it, but for a moment I am wondering if this was worth the excruciating hike we just put ourselves through. Just as we are about to give up, the fog magically clears up and we are greeted with the most spiritual views of the mountains, Mount Agung, and Lake Batur, the largest crater lake in Bali surrounded by the caldera wall of Mount Batur.

Suddenly it strikes me that my friendship with Anastasia began exactly six years ago this very month when we happened to be sitting next to each other at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Looking back, we never could have imagined that we would be here together, but it seems like a fitting evolution of our friendship that we find ourselves at another place of sublime natural beauty not unlike Red Rocks, on the other side of the equator and the other side of the world.

After taking it all in, we begin our descent down the caldera, hiking through thick jungle adjacent to breathtaking views of Lake Batur. We pass by a traditional village where small children are wandering around, and I find myself humbled that people actually live here. We end up at the banks of Lake Batur, where a boat is waiting for us, and we proceed to embark on an epic, goosebumps-evoking journey across the lake, with majestic Mount Batur in the background. As we arrive on the other side of the lake, our guide excitedly welcomes us to “his village”, and I am awestruck that a place like this exists- I have never seen anything like it, even in Bali.

We end the journey relaxing in a natural hot springs right next to the lake. All in a morning’s work.