When Bali is mentioned, what comes to your mind? Sacred temples? The distinct cultures that are a fusion of Hinduism and timeless traditions? Beaches and waves and surfing? Nightlife and Bintang and mushroom? The little flowers called Plumeria often used in offerings? Or the dark side of Bali bombings? For our recent trip to Bali, my sister and I decided to experience a less-talked-about side of the island: its adventure; more specifically, trekking Mount Agung for sunrise.
Standing at a height of slightly over 3000 meters, it is the highest volcano on the island, and the fifth highest in the entire country. It took about 2-hour drive to reach the starting point of the trek (Besakih Temple) from our hotel. We were told that it would take approximately 7 hours to the summit, and another 7 hours back to the base. We started our ascent around 11PM. The first part of the journey was relatively easy, but the way up was only getting tougher and tougher. The mountain had very rugged terrains that made the climb very challenging for us. The path was very steep with sand and many loose stones, rendering footing uncertain and unsafe. One slip and we could be thrown down into the void. There were no handrails or little steps built into the mountain to help with the trek. The only things that helped us up and down were ‘ropes’ made up of pieces of cloth tied together and protruding tree roots. Carrying 2.6L of water and other necessities in our backpacks just added to the challenge. We took little breaks every now and then. They were truly needed and appreciated! When we were close to the top, we could see the city lights way down there. Pretty awesome! By the time we reached the summit around 6.30AM, the sun had already risen. The views from the top were just picturesque. Beautiful clouds. Ash clouds from Mount Rinjani’s eruption. Mount Abang and Mount Batur in the distance. They seemed close, but we knew mountains had a way of distorting one’s sense of distance. The wind was howling too. It just felt so good to be way up there with silence and peace all around us!
After a light breakfast on top of Bali, we started our descent. It was a lot tougher than the ascent. It felt like it was a never-ending pursuit. My knees felt like they were broken. I could barely feel my toes anymore. One of my toenails was actually crushed. I banged my knees against the boulders twice, and landed straight on my bum a few times. The last few hours of the descent felt like forever. Every step I took was great pain in my knees.
When we finally saw the starting point, the feeling was like coming home after so many years of being gone! LOL! We ended up taking about 16 hours to finish the entire trek. Yes, it was a lot of pain for us. Yes, we did not get to the summit before sunrise. Yes, we did curse when we could no longer bear the pain. BUT did we regret it? NOT THE SLIGHTEST BIT! The entire experience was like once-in-a-lifetime thing. The pain did not last long (especially after a good Balinese massage), but the memories (both good and bad) stayed with us. Whenever I think about Bali now, I remember our journey to the top of this Balinese sacred mountain. I feel like a part of me stays with it for a long, long time. Also, I learned something that I had not seen anywhere else before: the mountain guides made offerings every now and then, a gesture intended to elicit deep respect for the sacredness of Mount Agung! Just beautiful, yes?