Mount Agung sunrise trekking: hell or heaven?

I don’t use to plan too many things in advance when I travel, what I use to do is to look for information, things that I may like and prepare a list and then decide on the spot if I fancy doing it or not, if the occasion comes up.

However, when I started looking for things to do in Bali, I was fascinated by the idea of trekking Mount Agung at night. It sounded as a great experience, something I haven’t done it before and not easy to do where I live or where I’m from. Hiking a volcano, it sounds cool, right? I was so excited!

The first question that came to my mind was “am I going to be able to do it? am I fit enough?” And the internal answer was “of course! Also I have enough time to train and be on shape”. It’s not that I’m not in shape, I’m not super fit nor a gym super woman, but not bad, in good shape. However, it was going to be a long trekking (12h+). Anyway, I had plenty of time, more than 4 months before the trip, and my Norway trip also helped because I was hiking for one week. So I gain confidence and I thought it was going to be easy peasy.

Well, it wasn’t… Before I start explaining the story, you have to understand that I’m positive, like challenges and sometimes I’m perhaps overconfident and a little bit crazy. I forgot to be realistic and evaluate properly the challenge I was going to face.

There are quite a few options if you are interested on a sunrise trekking in Bali, you can find them below from the easiest to the hardest:

  1. Mount Batur: it is the easiest. It is 1,717m above the sea level and you can reach the summit after 2h. Approximated climbing time 3h.
  2. Mount Agung – starting point Pasar Agung (short path): It is 3,142m above the sea level, the starting point is located at 1,700m altitude and you can reach the summit in 3-4 hours. Approximated climbing time 8h.
  3. Mount Agung – starting point Besakih temple (long path): It is 3,1427m above the sea level, the starting point is located at 1,100m altitude  and you can reach the summit in 6-8 hours. Approximated climbing time 12h.

After assessing the options, I thought why to go for the easiest when you can go for the hardest? I shared this with my female mates (we were 6 Spanish girls) and my male mate (an Hungarian, friend of mine that moved from London to Australia, who was going to join us for one week). All girls said that I was crazy and they were not going to do that. They wanted to chill, relax, enjoy and meditate in Bali. Whilst I was looking for extreme experiences. My male mate though was up for it. He was also as excited by the idea of hiking a volcano at night as I was.

We disregarded Mount Batur straight away as it seemed very straight forward. The decision was then starting the Mount Agung trekking at Pasar Agung or Besakih temple. We both did our own research, looked for information, comments, everything we could find… and decide on the spot. Although we both were more excited about the idea of starting from Besakih temple. The difference between both seemed so minimal at that point that we almost forgot about Pasar Agung.

When we arrived to Ubud, it was the time to ask for prices, as you shouldn’t do this trekking without a guide. That was clear. And you need a guide for a reason, believe me. You can find loads of stands in the streets offering the trekking as well as different activities you can do around. After comparing prices, we also asked to the lady in charge of our guesthouse, Arjuna House 3.

Would you like to get £10?

Click here if you would like to get £10 after you book accommodation through booking.com and stay. I will get £10 too so we both win 😉

 She offered us the best price, 700k IDR for the guide and transport, so we arranged to be picked up there before starting our adventure. She said “oh, it’s quite a hike!” but it didn’t ring any alarm, it only made us think that it was challenging but doable.

Our driver picked us up at 11.30pm at our accommodation and then he also picked up a German couple which also were going to do the hike. We were on our way to Besakih temple! The German couple initiated the conversation, they were so excited about the hike as well. It was then when the alarm rang. They told us that it was a proper hike, that they were used to hiking and they were looking for a challenge as everything was so easy for them. They were extremely fit, like personal trainers. Not sure if they actually were, but they really looked like. My mate and I looked at each other, we felt like two turkeys before Christmas. I began to sweat and think “OMG! what are we going to do!! am I going to make it?”. I didn’t start panicking yet, I was just concerned. The though of knowing that each group of us was going to have their own guide made me feel slightly relieved: if necessary, we could give up whenever we wanted. I’m pretty sure you know what I mean, this feeling when you know that you have options, a back up plan, you are not completely tied. I breathed.

I closed my eyes and napped for a while. Cars, actually all sort of transport in general, have a sedative effect on me, so it was easy to fall asleep.

We arrived to the starting point, Besakih temple, and it was then when our adventure to hell or heaven began. My mate, Adam, and I were happy. The path looked straight forward and the guide fast-paced. It was completely dark, we couldn’t see anything beyond the reach of our headlamps. After around 3 hours we reached what they called the base camp. We stopped there to drink and eat something and rest for a couple of minutes. So far was so good. It was tiring but doable. I couldn’t understand why people said it was challenging. Well, the worst part was yet to come.

From that point, the scenery changed. Not because we could see it but we could feel it. It was hilly, rocky and, to make it even more complicated, it started raining. The weather conditions made things even more difficult. The rocks were slippery and, as I said, we couldn’t properly see where we were putting our feet on. It was windy, I was soaked, it was cold… and I started to feel so tired and a strong back pain. I cried, I couldn’t stop crying. I felt desolate. Adam was really enjoying the hike, and I felt I was ruining the experience. He was very kind and patient. He encouraged me, cheering me up. I breathed, removed the negative thoughts from my mine and carried on. We were close to the summit.

Finally, we made it! We reached the summit. As it was raining, we looked for a hole between the rocks to settle down and had some breakfast before the sunrise.

img_20160804_062356
Our hole between the rocks, cosy isn´t it?

As it was cloudy, I decided to stay inside the hole during the sunrise. Later, Adam told me that I didn’t miss anything as it was too cloudy to see anything. You can find a proof of it below:

We were ready to start our way down. I felt reenergised and began my way down feeling confident again and knowing that it was going to be much easier from then and on. Even Adam was surprised that I had recovered so well. I was even faster that him. It was then when we could see the path we walked through on our way up. I promise you guys, if I would have been able to see it during our way up, I wouldn’t have done it. It was scary, beautiful though, but scary.

After two hours or so, we stopped again for a quick rest. It was then when the worst happened. I was standing up, still, when I fell. We started laughing, it was so funny, how come I managed to fall still? We couldn’t stop laughing. I tried to stand up, but I couldn’t. I thought “What’s going on?” My legs started shaking and, even though they helped me to stand up, I couldn’t bear my weight and kept falling. I looked at Adam’s eyes, and I panicked. When I panic, I have two reactions: laugh or cry. Luckily, it was the first one. Again, I couldn’t stop laughing and we ended up all laughing. It was so weird. It never happened to me before, my body not responding to my demands. We didn’t know what to do. The positive thing was we had plenty of time as it was around 8-9am. Slowly, slowly, as our guide said, we can make it.

We stayed there for a while, till I could stand up and stay still. When I finally could stand up, I didn’t have pain in my legs, it was something different. Imagine when you are aching and multiply it by 10. The feeling was similar to when you want to go up stairs but you are aching. When you flex your knee, you feel pressure on your quadriceps, like an elastic tape when stretched. I surpassed that point, my quadriceps were already like stretched elastic tapes, there wasn’t more room for stretching. So I became a LEGO girl. Yes, a LEGO, the toy. Remembered, when I was a child and I told my parents “mum, dad!! I can’t flex its leg!!! Poor LEGO!!! Why? How is my LEGO going to walk?”. Well, I became one of them, I suffered it in my flesh.

I have to say that it’s very difficult to walk like a LEGO, and every single small step, like a stone or branch in the middle of the way, was a proper challenge. I took every little descent as it was a slide, sliding down, sitting on my bottom.

Adam had an app installed on his mobile which tells you the altitude. He was checking it every hour. It was frustrating to know that after one hour we only made 200m down. And we hadn’t reach the base camp yet. We acted like kids: “how long?” “where is the base camp?” “are we getting closer?” The answers: “closer”, “no worries, slowly, slowly”. Our guide’s English was a little bit poor, but he was so nice and tried to do as much as he could to answer our questions. We actually thought that our only option was going to be sleeping on the base camp, we knew that they could bring us a tent or something to spend the night in there other than rough. And my only thought was “oh man, I stink. I need a shower”.

Our guide was a tiny guy, perhaps around 1,65m tall and no more than 60kg. Why is that important now? I’m telling you, there is a reason. He looked at me, asked permission to Adam to get closer to me (he though that Adam was my partner), and after Adam’s approval he bent and said “jump!”. Yes, guys, he carried me down, in small batches, but he did. Such a tiny guy, and so strong. We couldn’t believe it. And there it was this little guy helping us, well helping me, and carrying me down. As a proof of it, you can watch this short video. Feel free to have fun of me 🙂

He also arranged with one of his friends for me to be picked up and do the last bit on a motorbike. Thank god that I decided to bring some notes with me. Although I have to say that there was not enough money to properly thank the effort of this guy. I gave him all the money I had plus a tip to the motorbike guy and our driver that was waiting for us at the starting point. We reached the starting point 4 hours later than we should and, once we sat down inside of the car, we fell asleep straight away. Even Adam, the guy that never sleeps in a car. I wanted to immortalise the moment, taking a picture of him. Unfortunately I didn’t take my mobile with me, damn it! But I still have the picture stored in my mind.

After that, when we arrived to our guesthouse, we slept for 13h and thank god that we were going to head to Gili Air for a retreat. We also ached for a week, and not only me, also Adam did.

If you ask me if I would have done it if I would’ve known the consequences, my answer is clear, yes I would. Now, if  you ask me if I would do it again, well perhaps I would go for Mount Batur 😉 but who knows. Just in case, I’m going to train harder. What I’m sure is that I don’t regret it and it was one of the best experiences of my life. If it was heaven or hell, I’m going to leave it with you.

Mount Agung sunrise trekking has been one of my misadventures. If you want to know what happened when sea kayaking in Koh Chang, check this out: How I saved my dad’s life and ended up sunburn so badly: kayaking in Koh Chang

Stay around witties!

PS: Special mention to my travel buddy, Adam, for cheering me up when I needed, for his support and his understanding, for offering me his shoulder, for everything. Adam, you are the best travel buddy ever! Miss you.

10 comments

  1. It was so good story to know, I liked it as I was reading more n more…,.
    keep posting your exiting journeys, you’re a good writer too 😉
    (and btw I think you wrote “to” for “two” at the part where you just started to fell and you expressed your emotions by laughing).

    Like

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