Mount Agung doesn’t seem to let us forget about it being a dangerous volcano. Although silent and peaceful most of the time, now and then, Agung reminds us of Earth’s incredible powers. Hearing and reading so much about the restlessness in the volcano’s proximity, I can’t help but reminiscence the time when I climbed Mount Agung with a group of friends.
Mount Agung – the Volcano
Standing 3,031 meters above the sea level, Mount Agung is a stratovolcano and the highest point in the island of Bali. Its peak is above the clouds, and the massive volcano dominates the surrounding area influencing the climate.
The Balinese people believe that Mount Agung is a fragment of the sacred cosmological Mount Meru, which was brought to Bali by the first Hindus, and as such, it is in the centre of the world. The island’s life is organised with the mountain’s location in mind. For example, Balinese in every household sleep with their heads directed toward Mount Agung and their feet toward the ocean.
The joy of adventure
As climbing Agung is a difficult adventure, tourists make a point of avoiding the volcano. Instead, the mountain is busy with pilgrims, focused and thoughtful during their spiritual journey to the dwelling of the Hindu gods.
We started our adventure from Pura Pasar Agung, which is located halfway up, and you will often read that it’s the more dangerous trek. We arrived at night as we wanted to start our climb at 3 AM to catch the sunrise. The temple was full of praying people, and we were never alone. After a short prayer and a blessing, we were ready to face the volcano.
The way up can be divided into three segments. The trek starts through the jungle, which gives way to lone trees and a sandy path leading up. As you near the third part of the hike, you enter a steep and rocky area, which you have to climb on all fours sometimes.
Although it was a strenuous walk during which I was cursing my inappropriate footwear, I saw many Balinese people walking in flip-flops with big smiles on their faces, and that warmed my heart every time. The broken and abandoned flip-flops lying along the way were proof that although climbing Mount Agung is possible even barefoot, it’s a bit different experience when you’re on a pilgrimage. Pain and suffering are particularly welcomed then.
The world at the top
When we reached the top of the volcano, I was completely amazed. The vista, which unfolded before my eyes, took my breath away. Bali was far below my feet, shrouded in the early mist of a new day. I could only imagine the noisy streets bustling with life. From the top, everything seemed peaceful and locked in another dimension.
There was an altar right on the ridge of the volcano leading to its fiery crater. The boys pulled milk and other offerings for the gods, and my companions started praying in gratitude. These simple gestures immediately raised the importance of what we had just achieved, and we respected the volcano’s magnificent presence with silence and awe.
The way down was hell. Climbing down the rocks was fun but then the mid-stage of the volcano got me. As much as I could bear the uphill walk with Converse shoes on my feet, walking downhill was a nightmare. The pain was calling for ending this trip immediately, but my friends walked too slowly for that. I told them I’d meet them at the temple and I hurried downwards.
I was sliding a lot, losing my balance on sand that was covering everything in sight. My knees and thighs were sore and shaky from all the effort I was putting into reducing the speed of my stride, and when I got to the jungle, I could barely walk at all.
Then, I saw the temple. I summoned my remaining energy. Step by step, I got closer to my salvation, hurried by the shrieks of monkeys cheering on from the top of the trees. As I felt their cries closer and closer to the back of my head, the temple’s walls were getting bigger, and just before the spirit of the mountain could catch my plait, I jumped onto the temple’s wall and back to safety.
Waiting for my friends to join me, I would reminisce the whole adventure, reliving every detail of it, and let me tell you: if you ever get a chance, go to Mount Agung. It’s one of the most challenging and gratifying climbs that I’ve done.
Which volcano to climb next? I’m still dreaming of Mount Rinjani…
We don’t know how Mount Agung will look when this eruption period is over and climbing it might not even be possible. However, if it is, here are some necessary things to remember:
- Make sure you’ve got warm clothes. The volcano is more than 3000 meters above the sea level, which means it’s really cold on the top. You’ll appreciate a warm jacket, hat and gloves.
- Wear appropriate shoes. I climbed the volcano in Converse trainers, as I had no other shoes in Bali at the time. Not a good idea.
- Take water and snacks. The whole adventure is rather long, and you’ll get hungry without a doubt.