it’s four o’clock in the morning and we’re shrouded in darkness. my skin aches with sweat; my laboured lungs are wet with the damp dewy air. every muscle in my body is ablaze.
i struggle to breathe.
i’m scaling one of bali’s most volatile active volcanoes, and every step on its sacred surface screams out with severe punishment.
my hiking shoes spill over with sharp rubble and soot, each stride sending me spiralling, spent, to the ground; each step sinking into a pit of volcanic ash, ready to swallow me up like quicksand.
every inch of land simmers with its own secret threat.
and under the cover of night, it’s impossible to gauge what sinister things await you. our guides kindly fill in the gaps. mountain monkeys, ready to rip your face right off. venomous spiders, of every colour, hanging in the trees in their hundreds, hungry eyes glinting in the moonlight.
i gulp, but the burning in my throat is a good distraction. we push on, limbs burning bitterly, pulsing with lactic acid as we tackle the torturous terrain.
impossibly high inclines; concealed craters, poised to spit scalding heat at our bare skin; purple haze basking in the hills’ hollow eyes, ready to glaze our vision.
dawn breaks as we finally reach the summit, sensual slices of pink sunrise embracing us, engaging us in a celebratory dance. we trace patterns in the morning mist with our bruised fingertips; stroke the watercolour wind as the faintest smudge of a rainbow creeps up one side of the cliff.
and even as the alluring, dusky skylines are displaced with milky, mocha storm clouds, even as the punishing pellets of rain ricochet off of our shoulders and bare shins – we forget all traces of pain, and fear, and weariness.
instead, we cloak ourselves in the thick, icy mist as we run the mountain ridges, laughing hard as the path before and behind us disappears into dust.
we run and we run and we run and we laugh and we laugh and we laugh.
for standing here, we feel on top of the world, as though we are perched at the edge of the earth, the last of our kind left. as if this beauty was created in our name, just for us – to devour and gorge on.
and in the silence, i can almost hear her – batur – booming out her battle cry from her great height; feel her deep violet hum, the vibrations of her voice reverberate through my body –
as she calls me home.
b a l i // t r a v e l d i a r i e s
p h o t o g r a p h y // t a h l i a . m c k i n n o n
© w o r d s b y t a h l i a