Hiking into the Sun

HIKING INTO THE SUN


(deep breath)

 

wiped out!
Shortly after climbing to the top of Gunung Batur, Indonesia (in the background)

 

I’ve always loved the sunrise. The darkness slowly giving way to a dim world. The surreal feeling of being suspended between night & day. The first sliver of fire orange edging over the horizon, captivating blaze of light, & revealing of landscape. Grey tones shifting to a world of color.

Hiking to see the sunrise from a peak is among the most rewarding of treks. Hauling oneself out of bed early to fight the inner “why am I doing this?”. Climbing under a sky of stars, one step at a time, destination only an idea in your head. The sky becomes all; the ground just a small circle of step by step motion to an unseen goal.  

Any seasoned traveller knows the magic of a climb to witness the rising of the sun, as if you are up close, right there in it. We put up with the crowds, the cold, the early rise. All for those few moments. Time evaporates, surroundings disappear, and you feel that simple sense of awe.    (breathe)

It seems wherever you go, there is always a bus & a guide ready to take you on this classic journey. Blaring foreign music, cigarette hanging out the corner of the mouth, superstitious icons surrounding and hanging from the dash; at first glance you wonder if it’s wise to put your life in the driver’s hands. But the warm welcoming smile and hearty greeting dispel any thoughts of abandoning ship...after all, you did make it this far.  And the guide is always calm and reassuring, resting in the confidence of foreknowing the magnificence you are about to experience.  

Although it may seem mundane in it’s commonality, each hike, each sunrise, always offers something different. Small details make each experience unique.  

Satisfaction of having conquered a great climb begins as soon as the sun lifts up into the sky. A feeling of accomplishment settles in, allowing you to give yourself time to relax, chill out, ease your way through the rest of the day; resting in the memory of magic and beauty experienced in the moment of the sunrise itself.

The hike down can initially feel anticlimactic, but more often than not, becomes a surprise & delight as you now see the landscape that was earlier hidden. The wonderful moment when you untie your hiking boots and pull out your feet, letting that relaxing sensation flow up your entire body right to the top of your head. Hot coffee.  

I can easily say that some of my favorite climbs have been those rewarded with the rising of the sun. Here are a few favorites:


Mt. Sinai, Egypt - Romantic in it’s historic context as “Moses Mountain”, the birthplace of the ten commandments, Mt. Sinai rises up out of the desert sands of the Sinai Peninsula. The relatively easy trek is frequented by travelers and pilgrims alike.

 

Surreal mountain-scape sunrise from Moses mountain

 

Grab a cup of tea served from tiny shacks at just those spots where you need a bit of a break. Beware of elevated prices, Egyptians drive a hard bargain! Enjoy the banter of the barter, then take a few minutes to sit inside by the fire and listen to the passing tromp of fellow seekers. Waiting out extra time here is much more comfortable than at the top!

The top of the mountain is freezing!! But wonderful; with a solitary Coptic Church surrounded by a gaggle of tea shacks where you can pay an arm and a leg for a wool blanket to wrap up in. You will need one.

We welcomed the sunrise along with a band Korean tourists, Russian pilgrims, and a hodgepodge mix of fellow backpackers. As the sun peaked over the horizon, the shouts began...we looked below us to our Korean companions flailing their white gloved hands madly in the air while yelling ‘Hosanna’ through their surgical style white masks. The serenity was broken, abruptly replaced by a different kind of awe in the dawn. A sunrise quite unlike any I have experienced before.

The clear morning light revealed an amazing multi coloured mountain scape of textured ridges. Escaping the chill air, the tourists had descended, leaving us to enjoy the landscape in peace and eventually make our way quietly down the mountain to find ourselves back in the contrasting scorch of desert heat.     


Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii
- This is a beautiful volcano with a myriad of hikes to explore, resting in a National Park. The sunrise can be seen without a taxing climb here, but you will have to bundle up as it can be extremely cold and windy! You can drive all the way up to the peak and park in the lot.  

Needless to say there are plenty of tourists here. But once the sun begins to appear all else drops away, leaving only the beauty of the ocean and island view below, making it well worth the early rise and long journey. Descend into the crater for the 13 mile hike and quickly the hordes drop away leaving you to enjoy the epic beauty of this magnificent volcanic area.

 
Silver sword, 'Ahinahina' - unique to the Hawaiian Islands, grows at the top of Haleakala.

 

 Crowds gather to welcome sunrise on top of Haleakala crater

 
Welcoming the sunrise from the top of Haleakala crater

 

Mt Batur, Bali - This night hike is fantastic & full of pleasant surprises. Our young guide, enthusiastic and welcoming, surprised us by clearing trash all along the route. A new movement in Bali is bringing awareness to the negative impacts of plastics and garbage.  

Suddenly we were joined by several friendly (& clean!) dogs. They trailed at our feet, keeping us moving at a good pace up the steep and curving trail. Stopping to catch a breath and rest burning legs, and glancing into the darkness in an effort to see what lay ahead, we were rewarded by the site of a floating string of lights, like fireflies, winding it’s way up towards the stars & marking the path in it’s journey upwards. Fellow trekkers with their flashlights!  Curious, bold monkeys hung about in the treetops looking for spare change or a chance to pilfer a free snack once the day arrived. And, eventually, an expansive view of a broad lake surrounded by the high volcanic peaks, making you feel as if the world rolled out from the bottom of your own feet.

From atop Gunung Batur, the sun rises above the clouds revealing Gunung Abung

For many travellers and tourists, a hike to see the rising sun can be the pinnacle of their trip. Some find it to be spiritual, almost as if you’ve been brought closer to the rest of the universe; perhaps closer to God? Or, at least, closer to the source of life energy.  


In some sense, we all still worship the sun.  

(exhale)


 

by Julie MacDonald
photography by Allan Weston and Julie MacDonald
All Rights Reserved 2015 Kaikuna Clothing



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