Why did I decide to hike Mount Batur alone, fully knowing that there was a mafia who demanded money to climb the mountain, and that I would most likely encounter them? The honest answer is twofold. One: I’ve found myself in dozens of sticky situations from Kenya to Kathmandu, so I wasn’t really afraid of them. And two: I was curious as to what would actually happen if and when I did encounter them.

Curious enough to disregard all the online reviews I read—reviews that read like short horror stories. “One dude kept yelling at me and slapping his dirty, crooked finger on the top of my nose,” one hiker wrote. “I couldn’t believe it. It got to the point where the skinniest, little punk of a fake mafia member actually spit in Rhys’s face. It was something out of a movie.”

Another review: “They pushed my fiancé back as we wanted to walk the track. We explained that we know that it is possible to go without a guide. There would be no difficult passages. We would not need a guide… But then it all went pretty fast. The man stood up and slammed his fist on the chest of my fiancé.”

I seemed to have forgotten that curiosity killed the cat.

Was it stupid and foolhardy to hike Mount Batur alone? Sure. Possibly the type of test that only an inordinate (or imbalanced) amount of testosterone would cause someone to subject themselves to? Maybe so. Regardless, I was determined.

From when I first set foot in Bali, Indonesia, hiking Mount Batur alone was at the top of my list. And if you’re familiar with the sunk-cost theory, which states that people are less likely to decide not to do something if they’ve already invested time and money into it, I felt as though I had invested a good amount of thought and emotion into hiking the mountain alone, irrespective of how irrational that may have been. So, I went.

Getting to Mount Batur was straightforward. After an hour of following signs and stopping to speak with locals, the mountain came into view. It seemed to have two or three peaks, and there were both locals and tourists snapping photos from a viewpoint near the dusty town I entered.

I stopped my scooter and took a breath of almost-fresh air. I looked toward the mountain and imagined myself at the top; I was there in my mind before I ever started my ascent. It was a good day.

mount batur solo climb

The picturesque foothills of Mount Batur.

A policeman saw that I was standing in the middle of the intersection, wondering which way to go, and approached me. “Where are you going?” he asked. “To hike the mountain,” I replied with a tone of blind enthusiasm. Blind to the real danger I was about to encounter.

With a smile, he pointed me down the direction of a hill, and I took off. This familiar generosity and openness towards travellers is what led me to believe that the mafia wasn’t as bad as people said it was. That there were “just a few bad eggs,” and that I would be able to avoid them. But this overconfidence has proven, time and again, to be a double-edged sword, sharp enough to cut down obstacles in my way and, at the same time, leave me with wounds of my own.

I wondered if I’d have any wounds, physical or otherwise, by the end of this day.

I would.

As I headed in the direction where the policeman pointed me, I briefly closed my eyes and felt the breeze racing past my face; it felt amazing, and the air became warmer as I descended into the valley surrounding Danau Batur, the largest lake in Bali. The lake contained a handful of boats, and reflected the clouds above like a liquid mirror. If it suddenly turned to ice, I wondered if the image of the clouds would crystallize in it like a photograph. This caused me to pause, just for a moment, and marvel at all that I saw. A picturesque lake with Mount Batur for a backdrop. What could go wrong?

An elderly local man pulled over next to me and asked where I was from. For the last few days, before I went to Batur, I avoided telling locals I was from the United States. So as the elderly man stared at me with eager eyes, “Switzerland” is how I replied.

“Oh, great,” he replied. “You need guide?” Even though he would likely be cheaper than a guide closer to the mountain, I declined. The objective was to climb the mountain alone—something I’d never done before with any mountain. I bid him farewell, and noticed a look of concern on his face as I rode away.

mount batur scam

They’re very serious about needing a guide.

All my previous hikes began with a starting point, of course, but I had no idea where this mountain’s starting point was. So I just kept driving closer toward the mountain itself, hoping I’d see some sort of obvious path. I found myself on a relentlessly bumpy road, where my butt was flying off my scooter’s seat every few seconds. But I was having a blast.

As I neared the mountain, the road became worse and I was surrounded by grass made dry and stiff from the sun. I ended up in a little town and saw a tourist information office, bearing the stamp of a local tour-guide association. “That must be the mafia,” I figured. Not wanting to make myself known, I sped past the building and found myself in another, smaller village.

But because so few locals spoke English, and I couldn’t find the path entrance, I circled back to the office to ask for advice. The whole place emanated this Wild West vibe, where a saloon was going to appear out of nowhere and a bandit would push himself through a set of creaky wooden double-doors with a holstered pistol.

Of course, no saloon appeared. But I did see a bandit.

“What you doing here?” a skinny man with long black hair seated on a scooter asked in a high-pitched voice.

“I want to hike the mountain,” I said.

“You need guide.”

“I don’t have any money.”

“No money? This is a trick, I know it. You don’t have money for petrol? For hotel?”

I don’t know why, but it seemed this man had it out for me from the get go. “No, look at me. I drove here by myself. I came from Ubud,” I innocently replied. Now, I shouldn’t have told the man I had no money; I should have said I had little money. No money isn’t realistic. If heading to hike Mount Batur alone was my first mistake, lying to this man was my second.

“You know, you look like terrorist to me,” the man said in an accusing tone as he stroked his chin. I had watched some Indonesian television earlier on my journey, and knew that terrorism was a real and palpable fear in the country. “Yes,” he went on, “you look like terrorist. You know what we do with terrorists?” With that, I turned my scooter on and drove away.

If I did really need a guide, it wouldn’t be that guy. There was something desolate about this town; something nightmarish. My hands began to sweat a bit, but I wouldn’t be deterred. “Lesser people would turn back,” a voice inside me said. “You’re supposed to be an adventurer, right?”

It’s sometimes difficult to discern between intuition and ego.


I drove around a while more looking for the beginning of a trail. I saw a sign imploring tourists to respect the holiness of the mountain, and that a guide was required. I read it as, “The holiness of this mountain is preserved by you paying us to guide you, even though it’s unnecessary.” There was a man in a building next to the sign, and I asked him where the trail to the mountain was. He said, “You need guide. This is an association. You need a guide.” I thanked him and headed back, once again, through the field of straw. The nightmare I was finding myself in began to take on a repetitive Groundhog Day texture. It was unnerving.

I began slowly accepting the idea that I may actually need a guide, if only to find out where the starting point of the trail was. So I eventually found some people who pointed me in the direction of the “main tourist office,” which I hadn’t visited yet.

The main tourist office was a cross between a United States post office and a ticket counter at Six Flags, except there were no people behind the windows. Instead, a large man donning a checkered sarong and a shirt with the sleeves cut off approached me. He was tall, and had beautifully tattooed arms from his shoulder to his wrists.

“How can I help you?” he asked.

“I want to hike the mountain,” I began, knowing where the conversation was going.

“Yes, you need guide. This is sacred mountain. UNESCO site. You need guide.”

mount batur bali indonesia

The mighty Mount Batur.

Thinking that it would be better to negotiate with a guide, I asked him where I could find one. He pumped his shoulders and looked around. “This is my guide,” he said as he pointed to a teenager in a burgundy polo fetching him tea. “This is my guide,” he said as he pointed to another young boy. “This is my guide,” he said, again, as he pointed to another. I tentatively asked him how much it would cost. “500,000 rupiah,” he said—about US$37. “We have three trips. One simple hike to the top. Another around some of the craters. And another where you return down the other side of the mountain. You have a bike, so you can drive half of it. It will be easy.”

“Five hundred thousand is too much for me, man,” I replied. “I don’t have that type of money. I planned to hike this alone.”

He began to rub the full lengths of his arms as if he were brandishing barrels of two shotguns. Another bandit, but not so much in disguise. “Well, it’s very rare that anyone wants to hike this alone. I didn’t set this price. The government and UNESCO set it. So, if you want to hike, you have to pay 500,000. You can’t hike without a guide. Simple as that.”

Something told me this was the boss of the operation. His confidence, his measured speech, how casual his whole demeanor was, as well as the way he subtly rubbed his biceps, of course, all pointed to that. I wished I had never made myself known, but I had. I thanked him, shook hands and sped off.

After a while longer of driving, I eventually noticed a large yellow sign that said, “UNESCO SITE! DO NOT ENTER WITHOUT GUIDE!” A large grin formed on my face—the sign that was supposed to keep people out was the only one that would get me in.


I crept past the sign and down a narrow road, which must have been the road that the Bald Boss told me about. As I drove, I remembered reading that the mafia was known to slash tires, so I parked my scooter a few metres away from a nearby house, disguising it as belonged to the homeowner instead of a sneaky traveller.

The paved path quickly turned into dirt, and I walked past a tomato garden. A few metres later, I saw a broken-down house with a zinc roof. Young children with dirt on their faces were sitting on some steps and laughing to one another. They waved, and I waved back. Little did I know I was sounding the alarm.

Their mother came out and said, “Hello! Where you from?”

I didn’t want to dally, so I said, “Just hiking the mountain.” She smiled at me, then screamed toward a few homes up the path. “No, no,” I insisted, putting my finger over my mouth. “No guide, please.” She smiled and nodded her head—but it was too late.

mount batur warning sign

The strictest warning signs are the most helpful for solo trekkers.

Two men emerged on the dirt path, eyeing me with suspicion. “Where’s your guide?” the older one asked. “No guide,” I said without stopping to talk. He then hopped on his scooter and headed in the opposite direction I came from, possibly to tell the “association” about the solo traveller trekking without a guide.

“Not the largest. Black-skinned. Black hat with white lettering, blue shorts, tan shirt and brown boots,” was how I imagined the man describing me to the boss. I laughed and continued on, despite a hunger rising in my belly. I’d packed some apples, water, an electrolyte drink and some tempeh chips (sort of delicious), and had only eaten an apple that morning. But I couldn’t stop—I firmly believed that if I stopped, I was more likely to be caught. So I pressed on.

The zinc-roofed homes and fields of tomatoes receded, and I found myself in a quiet forest. Tall trees, with bark stripped bare, lined my path. I looked around in amazement of all the deciduous flora, marvelling at how much the landscape suddenly resembled North America.

The path narrowed, and I saw many turns up ahead when I noticed a man heading in my direction on a scooter. He saw me and stopped. If I had to pinpoint the look he gave me, I’d imagine it’s the same look a wolf has when it happens upon a rabbit.

The man stepped off his bike and blocked my path. He wasn’t larger than me, but I resolved to never engage anyone physically. “Where’s your guide?” he asked.

“I don’t have one—want to be mine?” I asked with a smile. I was looking to show him that I wasn’t a threat, and that, if anything, I could be an ally.

“How much do you have?” he asked.

“Just 100,000. I don’t have much. But let’s go,” I casually said with another smile.

“Just 100,000? That’s nothing. You can pay me 100,000 to pass. If not, you have to go back down. For two people, it’s usually 700,000. If not, we can go down and talk to the boss.”

“No, no need to talk to the boss. Let’s just go up. 100,000, come on.” His frustration was beginning to show, and he hopped on the bike. “We’re a very big organization, you know. I go down, talk to my boss, more people come up here and”—he stopped speaking and drew his hand across his throat, then mimicked a boxer, jabbing at the air.

That was when I realized this was not a drill. The theoretical trip I had in my mind, the second-hand experiences I read in those reviews of the Mountain Mafia, suddenly became real.

Something important happens when a thought crosses the threshold of abstract to real. The moment you print out a set of words you’ve written and hold them in your hands. When a baby is born and stares at you with more life than you could have ever imagined an idea would possess. The last breath a loved one takes when they, even if for only a second, take hold of the ephemeral presence of death. That was what I felt in that moment—the visceral authenticity of life.

“Okay, 100,000 to pass?” I asked, no longer with a smile.

“No, now 150,000.”

“You’re getting 100,000,” I said, feeling around in my pocket for just one of my bills; I didn’t want him knowing I had more on me.

With my money in his hand, he hopped back on the bike. “Slowly, slowly, yeah?” he said, driving away. I immediately took out my wallet, put a few bills in my backpack, a few in my pocket and then stowed the rest, with my wallet, in a hidden compartment at the bottom of my bag. I almost put a few bills in my socks, but I knew they’d get wet from sweat. I took a big breath, wiped my brow and pressed on. The hike was just beginning.


As I walked farther, a few temples came into view. But I didn’t stop. I just wanted to make it to the top. The path split off in certain locations, but I continued to follow the large “UNESCO! STOP! DON’T GO WITHOUT A GUIDE” signs.

Thirty minutes passed and I noticed a house. Shit—another toll. Children were playing outside, and I noticed a few women. Then, a man. “Excuse me, sir, can we talk please for a moment?”

Despite his tone being friendlier than the first man, I didn’t want to stop. “Yes, we can. But walk with me.” I kept moving but eventually an older, elderly man blocked my path.

“Do you have a ticket?” the friendly man asked.

“No, but I just paid a guy down there,” I said.

“Oh, okay. So, if I call the boss and ask him about you, he’ll say you paid?” I nodded. “Okay, sir. Have a good trip.” With that, the elderly man moved out of the way.

mount batur solo trek

All smiles on the author as he’s on the actual path.

The steepness of the mountain began to make itself felt. And as I crawled over rocks large and small, smooth and jagged, my boots were being put to the test. I could almost see the top. “I’m going to make it,” I said to myself. I made a quick stop for water and looked behind me to see the lake in all its splendor. It was a bit cloudy out, but I appreciated its beauty more from the where I stood than when I was down below. The reality of making it to the top, which I had envisioned before, was coming into view. That was when one of the boss’s burgundy-shirted guides appeared. Upon seeing me, his eyes widened and he almost tripped over a rock.

“Where’s your guide?” he asked.

“I don’t have one, but I paid a man already; he let me through.”

“I’m sorry, but it’s better for you to go down.”

“How far is it to the top?”

“Only 20 minutes,” he replied. He looked as if he were going to get in trouble just from allowing me to speak to him without a guide.

“Okay, so come with me. Be my guide. Let’s go,” I said in a tone of weary desperation.

“No, I need to watch this path.”

I felt like this mafia member was different—not as angry, a little more human. So I grabbed his hand and asked him his name, and he told me: Uduyianyar. “Uduyianyar,” I repeated. “I’m Mateo. Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you,” he said without a smile.

“I’m so close, brother. I already paid a guy. Can you just please let me up?”

“I’m sorry, I can’t. If you paid a guy who wasn’t a guide, that was illegal. I’m sorry.”

I continued to plead, and eventually convinced him to let me go up, but with one stipulation. “You pay 100,000 and I’ll give you a ticket, so no one will bother you,” he said.

“Okay,” I agreed, “but on the way back down.”

“No, I’m sorry. People always say that, and then just exit on the other side of the mountain.”

“Look into my eyes, man,” I said. “You can trust me.”

He stared down and reluctantly agreed. The score was beginning to show in my favor. Mafia: one, Mateo: two.

mount batur crater

The crater near the top of Mount Batur.

Something told me he was the last line of defence before the peak. I hiked until I encountered a ton of slippery volcanic dirt. There was no path, just pure mountain. And I noticed that if I fell or broke my leg, it would be less than ideal. Something told me to turn back, but I couldn’t. I saw footprints in the dirt, and figured if someone else climbed here, I could, too.

I climbed higher, and eventually noticed no more footprints. There was a group of people, no doubt other travellers, around a crater below the peak where I stood, and I looked at them for a bit. I was almost at the top—I’d made it nearly as far as I could have expected to go. But something told me to stop. I thought of the movie, Into the Wild, where the main character dies an otherwise avoidable death because he thinks he’s trapped in an isolated part of Alaska, when there was actually a bridge a few hundred metres away.

I didn’t want to fall off this mountain and die an otherwise avoidable death. I was alone. Intuition began to win the war against my ego. “I’d like to live until I’m old,” I said aloud. So I began my descent.

But not before stopping at that crater. Steam rose from the volcanic crater beyond the official sign bearing the mountain’s name. The guide I’d spotted with the group of travellers, of course, asked where my guide was.

“Oh, Uduyianyar?” I asked. “He’s behind.” The guide nodded.


I followed my footprints back to where I came from, and found Uduyianyar sleeping a little farther down, where I met the second of three gatekeepers. Uduyianyar sprang awake when I walked by and asked for the 100,000. I gave it to him and kept on.

An hour later, a pack of dogs steered me down an unfamiliar path. I realized I was heading away from my scooter—it was the most lost I’d been all day, and, ironically, a moment when a guide would have been genuinely helpful.

But instead I asked for help from some locals, and eventually found the main road. I found my scooter where I’d left it, all in one piece and with the tires thankfully full of air. “Thank you, universe,” I said aloud as I mounted it.

With volcanic dirt on my boots, sweat soaking my shirt, shorts and socks, and a weariness borne more from a test of my emotions and mind than of my body, I turned on my scooter and drove far away from the mountain and the mafia that “protects” it. I had done what I came to do, and it was this knowledge that buoyed me all the way home.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.

39 Responses

  1. roman

    bravo! thumbs up for standing up to the mafia “protecting the sacred grounds”, which is bollocks. i also disagree with some of the westerners claiming it’s about respecting the locals traditions and contributing to the community.

    i have a couple of actual local native Balinese friends who i visited that showed me the otherwise beautiful island and local culture; and they could support the statement that mount Batur is a place that operates on very questionable moral and legal grounds.

    the exorbitant prices for a tour compared to the local GDP and payroll are very unjustified and only set to abuse the tourists. even the locals who come visit here from other parts of the island get mad, as even the “discounted” mafia price that get (200k rupia) is unacceptable. also, the unesco does not “restrict” anything, those are just threatening made up signs they made so they could scare the tourists away

    the local gang has set up headquarters that even abuses the locals that have no other choice but to join it, even if they wanted to operate legally and for a fair price/without mafia practice of threatening tourists and following/assaulting them. do you know why there are no actual official guards and they have to resort to violence? because they operate illegaly (and immorally).

    on our quest to find a honest local who we wanted to pay and respectfully walk the sacred mountain we wound one man who at first also offered us the exorbitant prices for a hike and when we negotiated with him he explained that he has no other choice. that the he has to ask for these high prices and deduct the major amount of income to the mafia heads, otherwise, if they found out that he had taken the tourists to the mountain without deducing the income to their gang they would have beaten him up and/or do something sinister ot his family

    they are literally pimping the innocent people and abuse tourists/locals from other regions for unjustified prices to walk a public world heritage illegaly. and then you get these westerners standing up to this black labor, unbelievable.

    Mount Batur is a place with a very bad karma and i wish that the universe once pays the local mafia back its toll

  2. Sagar Sahay

    Mateo! Your article was like an adventure movie, full of twist and turns.Mt.batur is on my bucket list but because of mafia scare, I never got the courage. Kudos to you. Maybe I should try it too

  3. San

    I live in Bali, I am a westerner and I climb and train for ultra marathons on Batur often.

    I am sorry for your experience because I am aware of these issues but I also feel you have greatly contributed to your own problems through sheer arrogance.

    Batur is a UNESCO site and rightly there should be an entrance charged to visit it because there is an upkeep of trails, temples, roads. I doubt very much you would challenge the entrance fees into other national parks in the US and Europe (some of which require registration and fee payment).

    The guides are painful, sure but in reality 500 000 Rp does not really exceed fees you would pay in the west, yet it is implied that people in developing countries should not expect this. I am sure you would have noticed that this area in particular is extremely poor (as you have described it aptly; shacks with tin roofs, children with dirty faces…). A lot of these people are literally trying to put some food on the table for the next couple of days.

    Now that I have got that out of the way, do I think you should just hand over 500 000 Rp? No. But a discussion about what the actual entrance fee is reasonable should have been had respectfully instead of insisting to show it to the ‘mafia’ (they are not really mafia). You could have done this with a little bit of research. 150 000 Rp is reasonable and that is what is charged across the lake for climbing Abang. Kintamani people are hard working and proud. They (like anyone else) want to be respected. A bit of cultural sensitivity as opposed to your individualistic pursuit could have made the experience a lot more pleasant and rewarding for all.

    The sign you have posted is now gone and another has been put up a lot higher (at least on the trail around the back from the hot springs and through the forested area where that gorgeous temple is nestled). And people should pay. The trails are eroded and with increasingly egotistical means to conquer the mountain (dirt biking is all the rage now) the maintenance of access to the top needs to come from somewhere (it is also for safety of climbers and bikers).

    Also, Batur is not just another mountain but it has an incredible history. To know that you are actually climbing a parasitic cone from the crater of the original volcano is not only fascinating but it also fires up the imagination. I think it is worth some fee.

    • Julie A Hockensmith

      Thank you for pointing this out. I was waiting for the lesson in this and was eye rolling at the end when I realized there wouldn’t be one. I find this so incredibly rude and disrespectful as someone who has traveled to 49 countries and gladly follows the customs and ways of another culture. This level of arrogance is disgusting to me. The price is steep but it costs a lot of money to maintain trails. And $40 is nothing to a Westerner. If you’re going to travel, respect the place you are going. I can’t believe this was allowed to be published.

      • Julie A Hockensmith

        Oh and yes, I paid a guide to hike Mt Batur a few years ago. 🙂 I went up for sunset, camped, and came down at sunrise. However, around 4am I started throwing up and became horribly ill. I could barely move my way down. The guides were unbelievably lovely and helpful and took care of me. Once I reached a point where a motorbike could reach, they had one waiting for me. I barely hung off the back and when I got to the hostel where I booked the guide, I was met with remedies and even an intense acupressure of the foot. A horrible day was made better by the beautiful humanity I experienced. I was so grateful to have this support. Food poisoning on the top of Mt Batur. Don’t recommend it.

    • mira

      hi , im leaving in nusa lembongan and want to go over to bali to also train ultra marathon ,it will be great to chat with you if you have time ,thank you .

  4. Cierra

    This story gave me chills and almost made me cry! Good on you for not giving up. I think I would be more willing to pay for a guide if a) they didn’t charge an arm and a leg and b) Weren’t always so lame. I have gotten lost on a trek once before so that makes me scared to do it alone, but maybe I will..just to test fate once again hahaha

    • Mateo

      Hey Cierra,

      Thank you for reading, and your reason b) for not getting a guide made me laugh out loud. However, I wholeheartedly recommend paying for one and having a stress-free hike!

      Feel free to reach out if you’d like to chat more about it, or traveling in general: mateo [at] mateowrites.com


  5. Mike

    So if you don’t pay the blackmail ransom to hike batur or anywhere else, do they hold you, beat your or rob you? Or back down? And would the police support you or the criminals? Why didn’t you insist on continuing without paying? If you were with a group who all didn’t pay what would happen?

    • Mateo

      Hey Mike,

      I think we may have spoken via IG, but if you don’t pay the fee, then it’s up in the air as to what can happen. If you Google Mt. Batur hiking mafia and related keywords, you’ll find stories that others have experienced.

      I didn’t insist in continuing without paying because I was a foreigner in a land where I don’t speak the tongue and figured that it would be better to pay something and gain entry than nothing and risk harm. In hindsight, I would have just paid the fee for a guide and enjoyed a stress-free hike.

      Cheers, and I hope you had a good hike, if you went.


  6. Dee Gorra

    It’s really good to read about your story. I am a Balinese so I try to see this trough my Balinese perspective, as I found many and more foreigner avoid the rule, not just because they don’t want to pay or about the ego climb mountain without local guide.
    Have to admit back in the days yes lotsa local mafia play rule to take tourist to climb mt.Batur or even others moutain ( Mt.Agung) in Bali, but today since the government and villagers take action their number are less, and thats because a lot of tourist and travel agency bring their complaint into government table. One action we’ve done as travel agent back than is by black list Kintamani area include Mt.Batur to be visited due to mafia practice in area. But actually it’s a very simple reason why climb Mountain in Bali need local guide. Even me myself as I do climb few mountain in Bali, Java and Lombok it’s about culture and respect. First for Balinese and most Indonesian, mountain is believed as a holy place, home of their Gods. Spreading blood or even any accident in mountain will consider as an decry action or local called as ‘Cemer’ or dirt, to cleansing they need to procession and ceremony. If lost or missing or the worst dead…its highest procession and ceremony will held by local or even Balinese in island to ask forgiveness from gods or cleansing the bad karma, and thats really expensive procession, and mostly if its happened the local will pay all expenses for ceremony. It’s hard to understand but thats the realistic. Back in the days…when many mountain in Java recorded climbed by many Dutch or foreigner during colonials era, but there are not much record about foreigner climb Mountain in Bali? Why because even for Balinese only a priest and high priest during required holy water from the mountain or need to do any procession ceremony will allow or have only right to climb. Why ? Again for us…Mountain is a home of Gods, and deep ocean is home for evil. But with tourism thats such rule been forgotten,also by local Balinese. What can happened ?, as Balinese believe in others world, or the tangible and intangible world ( Sekala Niskala) its might fine in tangible world but it’s might not fine intangible world, so if you check few news, some tourist or even local can get lost during their do trekking in some Bali mountain or forest, due to lack of respect of the local believe and culture. But I believe so as you experience climb few summit, its always best to respect the nature…and also culture. Not for UNESCO not for tourism and dollars but it’s to preserve the holy of the mountain and our forest. Thank you… #respect

    • Mateo

      Hi Dee,

      Thank you so much for your comment, which I wholeheartedly agree with. These sites are sacred, and I wished I was a more mature person and traveler back in 2017 to recognize this.

      Much respect to you, your country, and the beautiful culture that I was able to experience while there. Thank you again for your insight 🙂 If you’d ever like to speak more, shoot me an email: mateo [at] mateowrites.com


    • Genghis the Renegade

      Good to know that the mountain is a holy place for you.

      So then no traveler should ever be intimidated into hiring a guide because the mafia wouldn’t dare disrespect the mountain by making trouble and bringing “bad karma” right ? :)) In fact you “honest villagers” should work to throw the mafia completely off your sacred grounds if you are trying to inflict violence against people… 😉

      If you are truly concerned about the safety of the travelers and the negative energies that might arise out of your accidents, then you should offer the guidance for free, or at a minimal charge, and seek to be compensated by your government if you feel your sacred duties are too laborious…

  7. Natasha

    Was researching hiking mount batur alone and came across this. Very engaging read, would be interested to hear more of your stories. Unfortunately, you’ve also convinced me that hiring a guide is better. Maybe I’ll go to mount batukaru instead and brave the leeches instead of the mafia 🤣

  8. Sanjay Hathiramani

    Good one mate.I just turned away.Couldnt be bothered with the hassle.
    Lovely article.

    • Mateo

      Hopefully the rest of your trip was great, brother. Thank you for reading! Stay in touch mateo [at] mateowrites.com

  9. Roberta Maxwell

    Thanks SO much for sharing this experience! You and my husband would be chums, I’m sure. We are headed to Kintamani today and hiking Batur tomorrow! Hoping reading this article to my husband as he peels a pomelo will influence our decision tomorrow! 😁

    • Mateo


      I hope you and your husband had a wonderful time. Feel free to give me a shout and let me know how it went 🙂 mateo [at] mateowrites.com


  10. Johan Lim

    Interesting encounter but felt it wasn’t necessary at all. I myself have hiked Batur 4 times in the last decade and it is an amazing trek, met zero mafias along the way as I always made the trips through a company. The villagers living in rural areas depend on their surrounding environment for a living and that tourism plays a big part in the economy in Bali. Some of the official guides, who’s homes are usually nearby Batur, earn very little per day as they can only take limited people per trip and they don’t always customers every day.

    I usually tip them afterwards even, as an appreciation of their time and service.

    • Mateo

      Hey Johan,

      I agree, certainly wasn’t necessary.

      As you know, tourism has its pros and cons. But, as a more mature traveler, if I ever visit somewhere that requires a fee, even an inflated guide fee, I’ll now pay it so as to help the local economy. The haggling and such isn’t worth it when you take the cost of tourists walking all over sacred sites/monuments and everything else that comes with it.


  11. Zavierre

    Mateo! What a great story and inspiration! I stumbled across this article and found it extremely difficult to keep my eyes off the screen. You have written this in such a vivid way that I almost felt like I was with you on parts of your journey. I now want to climb this mountain alone.
    Thank you for such a fascinating read.

    • Mateo

      Hey Zavierre,

      I guess that means we hiked it together, ha! However, I wouldn’t recommend hiking alone 🙂 Wasn’t worth it.

      I’d love to hear about your own hike, or time in Bali. Shoot me an email: mateo [at] mateowrites.com


  12. Charlotte Rowenna

    Stumbled upon this article whilst researching if I could also climb this on my own ~ it doesn’t seem to unrealistic . But you’ve made it all seem so sketchy I’ll have to fork out for a guide after all .. and plus I would not want to get lost or stumble upon a group of angry local men or crazed dog pack hah. Was wondering , What time of day did you climb , is it better to ascend in the morning ? Thanks for this article was a really funny / interesting read

    • Mateo

      Hi Charlotte,

      Thanks for reading! Did you end up going?

      I hiked in the morning/afternoon, and I think it’s always better to hike in the morning, or early evening, to avoid the sun. But I’m sure it just depends on what people enjoy most.

      Shoot me an email so I can hear more about your own hike: [email protected]tes.com

    • Mateo

      Hey Charlotte,

      I don’t think my original comment made it through Outpost’s spam blocker, but just wanted to thank you for reading, and to say, yes, it’s worth paying for a guide to avoid everything I subjected myself to.

      Stay in touch! mateo [at] mateowrites.com


  13. Anya

    Matteo! You are an inspiration!
    At the same time we realize more and more that we made right decision not to hike this mountain. There was so much disappointment around Bali, and trekking to Mt. Batur was one of them.
    Thanks for sharing your story, I was reading with my mouth being open!

    • Mateo

      Hi Anya,

      I’m sorry to hear about your disappointments, but I agree that you made the right decision to not hike it alone. Hopefully the rest of your stay was enjoyable, and thank you for reading 🙂

      Feel free to keep in touch: [email protected]

    • Mateo

      Hey Anya,

      Agreed! Not worth the hassle, unless you want to pay. However, I hope your whole trip wasn’t a disappointment 🙂

      Best of luck to you on your journey, and keep in touch! mateo [at] mateowrites.com

  14. Bochere Rand

    Matteo! You sir sound amazing!
    I wish I could have some adventures with you.
    I want to hike Batur alone also.. I’m a 5’2 red headed female… do you think it would be a bed idea?.. I want to do it in two days time.

    • Mateo

      Hey Bochere,

      Thank you for reading! Perhaps our paths will cross in the future.

      I know this may be too late, since you left the comment last March, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone hiking Batur alone––it just wasn’t worth it.

      Shoot me an email and let me know what you ended up doing! [email protected]

    • Mateo

      Hey Bochere,

      Thank you for reading! Perhaps our paths will cross in the future.

      I know this may be too late, since you left the comment last March, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone hiking Batur alone––it just wasn’t worth it.

      Shoot me an email and let me know what you ended up doing! Mateo [at] mateowrites.com

  15. Matan Dubnikov

    Hey Mateo,
    I found your stories incredible! I wish I could travel the world like you, but I’m still in high school so I have a little. How did you get away from a job in NYC and end up around the globe? What career paths could take me to places like the ones you visited? Let me know and keep sharing your stories!

    • Mateo

      Hey Matan,

      Thanks for reading 🙂

      With the job I had (director of a portion of a sales team at a tech startup), quitting was more of a mental obstacle than a financial one. Once I made the decision to quit, I had some savings, and made use of that while traveling. I didn’t spend wildly, and even though I returned to New York in need of money, it was worth the life I experienced, people I met, and lessons learned.

      In terms of finding a career that funds travel, there are tons that allow people to travel and make money, such as freelance writing, coding, and more.

      If you’d like to chat more, or just keep in touch, shoot me an email: [email protected]


    • Mateo

      Hey Matan,

      I left a comment a few minutes ago, but I think it got caught in Outpost’s spam mailbox.

      Either way, shoot me an email to chat more! mateo [at] mateowrites.com

  16. Azizi

    what a story bro! I’m thinking to hike mt batue alone too, but likely to be from Kuta -> Mt Batur by renting a bike. from what you had experienced from avoiding “the mafia” and getting conned. would still urge those solo traveller hike alone without a guide or able to find a guide cheaper than 500k rupiah within 100k-200k range? but overall what a tough guy to stand up and upfront eith those kind of bandit you’ve encounted.

    • Mateo

      Hey Azizi – sorry for the delayed response, man!

      Oh wow, Kuta to Mt. Batur is a bit far. I’d suggest you find a guide cheaper than 500k, for sure. What I went through was a nice adventure, but not worth the hassle. Let me know if you have any other questions


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