Batur

Please be warned this post contains explicit language due to extreme emotions.

At the beginning of this month, I said I wanted to be challenged, I wanted to be uncomfortable, I truly wanted to be unsettled. Well, as the wise people say: be careful what you wish for. This morning I got all that I asked for.

I, Ayrïd Chandler, with an irregular heart beat, the last bits of the flu, a post nasal drip, an osteo-arthritic knee, many pounds over weight, hiked up a fucking volcano at 4 am.

Mount Batur, Bali

Temperature: 18°C

Height: 1,717 meters above sea level

The group of us Unsettlers who hiked up Mount Batur. Monkey also pictured.

And I fucking hated every minute of the two hours it took to get up to the summit (not the peak). I was dizzy, my chest was aching, my nose stuffy, I couldn’t breathe, my calves felt like they were being split open, I felt nauseous, and was on the brink of passing out way too many times. Naturally I was the last person in my group to make it to the top. It was Carnival Monday and Tuesday plus all the fetes for the season, combined in 2 hours. That’s what it felt like. But thank goodness for soca music. Amen for Major Lazer, and Machel Montano, and Olatunji Yearwood, and Bunji Garlin who cheered me on. With every beat, I could climb more, and take a next step and not give up. 3canal and Freetown Collective pushed me further when I took a break that I never wanted to end.

The final leg, I damaged my right leg by falling…twice. And as we sat at the top to watch the sunrise, I truly could not enjoy it with my smearing ankle and knee and frozen hands and runny nose. But then someone said something funny, and we all laughed and it shifted my focus from all the bad I had just experienced to the fact that I did the uncomfortable thing. I achieved a goal. And I was with people who waited with me at every additional stop I took to catch my breath (thanks Tsholo and Nina!), people who cared if I was okay, people who climbed through their own challenges. That laugh cured the past 2 hours of pain and discomfort. That laugh was a healing.

Tsholo Semanya, the person who made me laugh today.

And then I found out there were sulphur steam deposits! Warmth. Natural warmth! My hands defrosted. My bum warm. The laughter continued. The joy became songs. All of a sudden, Baby Shark was my chosen song of choice (I mean, of all the songs in the world!). It was either euphoria or insanity from the thin air, but it was something.

Photo by Matthew Nkala

Before heading down the mount, I had a small altercation with this guy. (That story can be told in person).

Photo by Kelly Sheila

And now as I lay in bed with a swollen ankle and a collection of new bruises on my leg, I regret nothing. I won’t ever do it again, but the journey was necessary. Batur left his mark on me (quite literally) and I look forward to all the pockets of clarity that present themselves this week because of it all.

This was my playlist.

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