“The sunrise trek up Mount Agung is probably one of the most spectacular outdoor experiences I have ever had. Breathtaking, both physically and metaphorically, battling this great, active volcano through night and day is a rewarding challenge for any nature lover out there.”
We began our trip by driving in the direction of the little seaside town, Candidasa, towards Alila Manggis Hotel, our hosts. The illusion of a long and tedious drive to the east coast often puts people off, but it was much shorter than imagined. During the drive, I looked out of the car window and watched as the Bali I am so accustomed to in the south completely transformed into a lush, jade landscape.
We reached Alila Manggis and were welcomed into the open, alfresco lobby by their friendly staff. After checking in and signing up to their Mount Agung Trek, we were told to rest early, as the car to Agung would be leaving at 1am. After a nap to bank some energy, we were drawn to Alila’s restaurant at 7pm. What was supposed to be a quick feed before sleeping again, became a long dinner consisting of a soft, fried duck-leg, served alongside 3 different sauces and a bottle of red wine. Perhaps not the wisest move before an 8-hour trek!
At 1am we were picked up by our driver Pak Made at the lobby and were taken halfway up Agung to a parking lot, roughly 1400m above sea level. There we met Wayan Botak (Wayan ‘The Bald’), our friendly guide who gave us all a walking stick, a jacket and a headlamp.
In the darkness, we began our ascent up 350 steps that brought us to the bottom of a temple called Pasar Agung – all we saw from the lights of our torches were the outlines of two, large, majestic gates towering in front of us.
From a path found behind the temple, the real trek began. The air was cool, the path was steep and all we could see was the earth at our feet and the first layer of surrounding trees. Carefully, we made our way up the mountain, warming up our bodies and getting to know Wayan a bit better. His positive support and chattiness helped us power through the terrain.
My first awe-inspiring moment of Mt. Agung was when we reached a flat and open area. No trees blocked our view down to the sea, where we could see the whole outline of the southern peninsula. The view of the bright lights of the distant civilization below was coupled with the bright night-sky above. It was filled with a multitude of glistening stars and even a clear view of Venus’ yellow glow. Only half way up and Agung had already impressed us.
At around 3.30am, at 2400m above sea level, the wooded area ended and the soft earth turned to hard, volcanic rock. Mt. Agung’s last eruption in 1963 had left behind the dark, hardened lava on which we were now walking. From here, the trek became more of a scramble.
Up we walked, climbed and scrambled. Crouched forward towards the summit in order to keep our balance, fear of falling into the unknown darkness around us. Our guide giving us clear instructions and warnings along the way.
640m after the tree line ended and we were just below the crater. After a vertical climb up a small rock face, there we were on Agung’s crater rim. The opposite edges just a silhouette against the now bluish sky and below us the crater itself, just a dark and deep abyss.
With a crater to our left and a 3042m fall to our right, we walked around the crater to a nest of rocks that became our waiting area. There we settled down and revelled in our massive achievement. We had made it to the top and were about to be rewarded.
It was almost 6am and finally it began, what we all had come to see. To the east, behind a clear view of Mt. Rinjani on Lombok, were the first signs of light – a warm glow of orange and red surrounded by the dark azure of the surrounding sky.
As the sun rose, light filled the land to the west and we could finally see and feel the height of the great Mt. Agung. The expanse of green at Agung’s feet extended to the coast. All of Nusa Penida could be seen too. As the sun continued to rise, the colours of the land changed. From the cool blue of first light, to warm amber and finally the brilliant green shining from the sun’s strong strike.
During this performance by Mother Nature herself, Wayan prepared coffee and tea for us and gave us fruit, bread and sandwiches. We sat and ate in awe.
Wayan and other guides took out incense sticks and prayed at a small, homemade-looking altar of Hindu fetishes. The drifting incense aroma and the guides’ chanting was the perfect Balinese touch to an already surreal morning.
After such an amazing time sat atop Agung, we almost forgot we had the 4-hour walk down again. Photos taken, bags packed and rubbish collected we began our descent. For many other treks this part is very dull, but having walked up in the dark, the walk down was a completely new experience with totally new sights.
We were amazed to see the terrain we had climbed that morning; steep, craggy rock that forms and moulds the top half of Agung, with sharp ridges and drops to both sides and a long stretch of trees as far as the eye can see. Grey monkeys were spotted too, often found roaming when the sun comes up to find food left behind by pilgrimages or trekking groups.
The walk down was difficult and by the time we reached the bottom we were begging to rest our feet. Relieved, we reached the parking lot by 11am and were back in Alila by around midday.
Alila’s poolside was the perfect post-Agung recovery spot. As we lounged there, exhausted, a roaming kiosk offered freshly made coffee or herbal tea, with a special side of Indonesian cakes and snacks from a kaki-lima. By 5.30pm the sun began to set and I reflected on the day. From sunrise to sunset, east Bali had given us a truly wholesome experience of nature and in its very best light.!
Trekking up Mt. Agung is challenging. You must be confident, fit and cannot be afraid of heights. You should be well prepared and well informed. Make sure to use a professional guide like those from www.mudigoestothemountain.com or book with Alila Manggis, Karangasem.
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