Hiking matters #18: Hiking in Bali

After completing my two years as an undergraduate in UP Manila under the INTARMED program, my dad and I headed to Bali, Indonesia for two mountains, Gunung Agung (3,142 MASL) and Gunung Batur (1,717 MASL). Both are active volcanoes, and Gunung Agung has the distinction of being the 10th highest mountain in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, Gunung Batur is a sacred volcano in the Balinese Hindu tradition.

Unfortunately, Gunung Agung was active at the time so we were only able to reach the Pura Besakih temple complex along its slopes. We could not go beyond the temple in what would have been an exciting nighttrek to go beyond Mt. Apo’s 2,956 meters. Still, the elevation was quite high at over 1000 MASL, and the Pura Besakih as a cultural experience was quite momentous: it is after all the largest Hindu temple east of India and a very important monument in Bali.

The climb up Gunung Batur pushed through, however, and it was very unforgettable, bearing parallels with my Mt. Fuji climb. We started at around 0100 H, in a bid to reach the summit before sunrise. From our hotel in Denpasar, we were taken by car to the northeast part of Bali, and the roads gently ascended to about 900 MASL at the jumpoff. Then, we started the night trek.
Our guide, Tutut (with blogger on photo), explained the history of Bali and Indonesia in vivid detail, in spite of his less-than-fluent English. Suddenly the Hindu traditions of Ramayana came alive, as did the kingdoms of Sri Vijaya and Majapahit. We passed by some volcanic vents with steam and the familiar smell of sulfur.

We made it on top of Gunung Batur just in time for sunrise. The sun rose in the southern seas of Indonesia, illuminating the waters where the Indian and Pacific oceans meet. Behind and around us, steam silently effuses out of the volcanic rocks.

The descent was fun because all we did was slide down the volcanic sand. What made it quite exhilarating was the fact everything was covered with mist, so we didn’t know where we were descending into. Halfway down, we encountered some monkeys hanging out near the mountain hut.

By 1000 H we were back at the jumpoff. An Indonesian lunch had been reserved for us, and we had it on a restaurant that overlooked Batur – both the lake and the mountain. The dark mountain stood proud; and evidence of its volcanic wrath lay all over the place with magma littering the landscape; and of course Lake Batur was the product of more ancient carnage.

Gunung Batur’s peak may have been covered with clouds, but then, as now, it is very clear in my memories.

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