What is the attraction of Mt Agung, a 3,031masl volcano in a country with more than 50 volcanos and 30 mountains above 3,000m? What inspires so many to try? Is it more difficult than Rinjani? Is it steeper than Semeru? Is it more beautiful than Kerinci?
For me, the allure of Mt Agung was steeped in stories of being beaten back by the weather, of the intense long hours of walking through the night and the fearful scrambling to reach the top, of the steepness of the incline, but also, most importantly, of golden sunrises and gorgeous views. This combination of challenge and beauty was a siren I could not resist. For two years, Bali?s highest and holiest peak loomed in my mind each time I visited Lombok, Bali or Nusa Lembongan. With Wildfire Expeditions and five awesome ladies, the adventure finally materialized.
A night in Canggu
Junior and I made our way to Canggu from a couple of days of diving in Lembongan. The villa took our breath away. A big beautiful house with 3 bedrooms, a swimming pool and an army of staff to cater to our every need ? including getting takeout dinner if we are too tired to go out!
8pm – Junior and I peeled ourselves away from the alluring king sized bed and explored the main drag of Canggu, a 7-minute walk from Villa Kumuda. It was busy, with lots of caf?s and boutiques, and aspiring yogis, surfers, bikers, backpackers…wandering souls. An arty, bohemian vibe embodied the night. A french bakery, a Spanish tapas place and where we ended up for dinner – Betelnut Caf?, which provides smoothie bowls, healthy wraps, hummus etc. with a Mediterranean flavour.
The adventure begins…
A beautifully lazy morning, we woke up to the aroma of garlic and butter. Home-cooked (literally) breakfast of scrambled eggs, sunny side up, omelette choice with grilled tomatoes, bacon, hash brown and chicken sausages laid out on six placemats. Served with orange juice, water and a basket of croissants and white bread. Heaven.
12noon ? Pickup from Canggu
Wayan from ID Guides arrived 10 minutes early to take us to Pasar Pura Agung, the temple from which we would start the hike to Bali?s tallest and holiest peak.?
Our lunch stop was lush green and among the most scenic of pitstops!
After a quick dropoff of our big bags at Wayan?s and the last toilet break, we were almost ready to hike.
A?couple of steps up and we were at the entrance of the temple.
Tall beautifully crafted spires that grew longer as we climbed higher.
We took a couple of moments in front of the temple to ask for blessings – safe passage up the mountain and back.
The trek commenced at circa 1,600masl, through forest. The route was up, up, up. Some steps steeper than the others but with poles provided by the helpful Wayan II, it was a nice hike to warm up our legs and get the blood going after hours in a car. Wayan II estimated 2plus hours to the campsite at 2,300 masl. Wayan I had already gone ahead to set up the campsite. Exceptional service!
Midway through I looked back and got a glorious surprise. We had risen above the clouds. In the late afternoon sun and changing colours, what a stunning view!
We reached campsite and stopped for the night. Wayan II had set a good pace. Carrying only what we need for a night and day, we were not laden with heavy packs. Wayan I had already set up 3 tents for us. We peeped in. It was ginormous! We can easily put 3 of us into one (instead of 2). Abit of extra warmth never hurts in the mountains!
As we were photographing the sunset, the guides were already putting out snacks and taking coffee/tea orders.
What beauty Nature holds for those who would explore??
Witnessing the rapidly changing colours of dusk was a breath-taking experience.
The sun has set and it was an almost cloudless night. The temperature dipped quickly. Thank goodness for the campfire!
Minutes later, dinner was served. What a spread! Chicken lalapan with nasi (huge amount of nasi) and vegetables with delicious gravy. Six very happy girls!
We sat under the dome of stars, watching for the southern cross, the milky way – and the odd shooting star or two. And then it is bedtime. Rest up for a 2am wake-up call and the 3-hour summit march!
In a fleece lined sleeping bag with my thermal and yoga top and a bandana to protect the head, I felt a little cold. 10 degrees or so, it was mostly ok. We were woken 30 minutes ahead of time. Some groups were passing through. We would be roused anyway. The guides already got another fire going. The promise of warmth outside the tent got me up and out ? and was duly rewarded with a cup of hot tea, a hard boiled egg, and sweet rolls. Breakfast of mountain champions.
Headlamps on, fleece and jackets donned, trekking pole in hand, we were finally on our way. The night was mercifully light in wind. The summit hike was along exposed terrain consisting of a 15-20 minute hike up to the midway point between the start point and the true summit. We would then traverse across below the crater rim (bypassing the crater rim) and heading straight up for the summit. Wayan gave us short 3-5 minute breaks along the way to keep the group together while making sure our muscles are not cooling down too much. Onward and upward the march goes.
In the darkness of the night, we were blissfully ignorant of the actual terrain. The blinking lights of Bali distracted us from time to time as Wayan would point out Denpasar, then Nusa Lembongan. Just a spectre in the distance where we had been a scant 24hours ago. How surreal.
Just as Wayan has estimated, we reached summit in a little over 3 hours. At 5:45am, perfect timing. We caught the first rays of the awakening sky, too dark for photos but whose image would always be etched in our memories.
The summit was not a big spot and we were lucky to have arrived minutes in front of another group. Finding the prime spot to watch the sun rise, we finally sat on our butts ? and snacked. Wayan pointed out the outlines of a peak silhouetted against the sky.?That is Rinjani. Wow?.. Volcano to volcano.?
As the sun started to rise, the sky gradually turned crimson, then golden and bright. We started making out the ocean between the islands, then the three land masses of different shapes at the foot of Rinjani ? the 3 Gilis, Trawangan, Meno and Air.
And on the other side, a sea of clouds that looked like fluffy pillows. As we gaped and marvelled at the sunrise and the huge variance in the landscape from Agung, time trickled by without us realising?soon, the time came to descend.
7am ? the Descent
Heading down the mountain ? any mountain ? is usually my least favourite part. The agony of steep descents is nothing compared to the fear of slipping down a particularly nasty looking narrow ledge or sliding uncontrollably down slippery gravel and scree.
Gingerly, with much trepidation, we made our way across the ridge and picked our way down.
Down, down, down we wound, eventually, finally, reaching camp where we were treated to the most wonderful nasi goreng and telur goreng in memory.
12 hours after we woke up, we were back at the base of the mountain, Pasar Pura Agung. Just 20 hours and the world already feels different. A little smellier, a little surprised by what we had accomplished, very much astounded by the beauty we were fortunate enough to witness.
Summiting Mt Agung by a well-advised route of medium difficulty was the best decision we made. It was a route that both allows the body precious time to refuel and acclimatise and ensures an adequate challenge with the added benefit of a path less trodden and relatively devoid of trekkers.? The camaradarie of the hike added a special dimension. We were 6 and 1. Laughing up the mountain, marvelling at Nature, laughing (or half crying) down. Joking, teasing, feasting, photographing, wondering what we are doing to ourselves while secretly rejoicing in the challenge and the company. Moments are always better when shared.
The traverse across under the crater rim to the true summit was at times hair-raisingly narrow, at others, steep. But always during the 3 hours, we were accompanied by a full dome of stars. A magical experience when looking up at a random stop for a breath just in time to witness a star streaking across the sky. Screaming thighs forgotten, the chill of the mountain air disappeared. Where else but on a mountain at four in the morning are you privy to such wonders? The forty-five minutes on summit watching the sky slowly awaken, with hues of navy, purple, red, then orange, yellow and bright, was simply breath-taking. Mt Rinjani peeked out above the clouds, then as the sun come up on its left, the ocean between the islands start to form, and the notorious Gilis took shape beneath the clouds. Like a map unfolding, Nature displays its magnificence bit by bit. A glorious experience that literally took my breath away.
Moral of the story, Live Life with Passion! #livelifewithpassion