BALI, INDONESIA – After the successful hike of two volcanoes – Gunung Batur in Bali (Hiking matters #400) and Gunung Rinjani in Lombok (Hiking matters #401-402) – we climbed the mountain that has showed up beautifully in these two hikes: Gunung Agung, the highest mountain in Bali and as such, holy to the Balinese Hindu culture. Unfortunately, the trail coming from Pura Besakih – which would have taken us to the very summit – is closed due to a religious ceremony and so we opted for the alternate, more southern route originating from Pasar Agung temple.
By this time, our group has dwindled in number; others already had to fly back to Manila or elsewhere while the rest wanted to enjoy Bali in other ways. With me were Coby Sarreal, Ed Padua, John Arvin Ramos, Niel Dagondon – and we were joined by Niel’s wife Nicole – a welcome addition to our group. Trevor, from Canada, and Lisa, from France, joined the group as well and we were all guided by a Balinese guy named Roon.
We started trekking at around 0300H. The trail starts from the left of the temple, and we couldn’t help but compare the trail to that of Mt. Maculot: An initial forested ascent, followed by grassland, and rocks throughout. The only difference is that Agung’s grassland-cum-rock is much longer, and it transitions into mostly volcanic rock, reminiscent of Mayon.
Because all you have to do is scramble up the volcanic rocks, there’s plenty of options as to exactly what route to take, which made the ascent fun. Unfortunately, the “trail signs” were vandalisms – mostly of red and white paint. The three rocks, one of top of the other, in Mayon and elsewhere in the Philippines – are more to my liking.
We reached the summit at around 0700H, or after four hours of trekking and scrambling. “You’re late for the sunrise!” one hiker exclaimed, but I explained that we wanted a bit more sleep, having just climbed Rinjani. My mention of Rinjani reminded me to look for the mountain, and surely enough, there it was, to the East, partially eclipsed by a rocky outcrop but still beautiful, made all the more special with our time there.
On the other side, to the West, rose a massive Gunung Raung – at 3332m famous for its challenging trails (the trail to the highest peak is technical). I had already heard about this mountain from the late Malaysian mountaineer Zaidi Bidin and someday I would like to climb this mountain as well. As for Gunung Batur, it is obscured by the summit of Agung. Someday, I’d like to take the Pura Besakih trail, if only for the sight of these mountains.
We took our time at the summit; Roon and his assistant had some breakfast delights for us, including a generous serving of mangoosteen – one of my favorite fruits. Amazingly, there were monkeys at the rim – not so much, it seems, for the love of the views but for the food that hikers bring with them. A tiny shrine on the rim – painted with golden yellow – reminds us of the place Agung has in Balinese cosmogony: as the throne of the gods it is seen as the centre of the word, the ‘navel of the universe’, the earthly replica of the heavenly Mount Meru.
After breakfast – and more philosophical musings from our guide Roon – we started descending. It had become very hot – like Rinjani, Agung had little tree cover – and I went down briskly, wanting to have some time observing the Hindu temples, and hoping to maximise our last full day in Bali. Tomorrow – my 28th birthday – we will return to Manila, the image of a distant Gunung Raung another compelling reason to go back. There are others: Kerinci, Semeru, Arjuna…the list is long, but I am very happy that we were able to hike three volcanoes in this wonderful trip. Terih makasih to everyone who joined me! Jumpa lagi!
BALI AND LOMBOK, INDONESIA: THREE VOLCANOES
Hiking matters #400: Gunung Batur, Bali
Hiking matters #401: Gunung Rinjani, Lombok Day 1
Hiking matters #402: Gunung Rinjani Lombok Day 2
Hiking matters #403: Gunung Agung, Bali