I was in Bali for a workshop (a tough assignment, but I was up to the task) and since it finished at 1 pm on a Saturday I thought I would avoid slobbing on the beach and go and climb Bali’s sacred Gunung Agung. I escaped from the dreadfully dull Nusa Dua and hired a driver to drop me at the village of Selat, where I had booked my accommodation and guide. The hike is actually through the night to get to the summit for sunrise, so the main reason to have a room is to grab a little sleep before leaving for the hike at around midnight, and to have somewhere for a shower afterwords.
The appropriately named Pak Agung organised my trip, and insisted on telling me how hard the hike it is to hike the summit, and how most people take an easier route that only takes them to the crater rim. He warned me that I might not make it, because the last part is very sleep. I stoically promised him I would give it my best shot. Of course, his estimate of 5 to 6 hours to the summit was woeful and way too long. He woke me up even earlier than planned and I was hiking at 11:30 pm. The hike starts from the Hindu temples at Bersakih (around 1,500 m), which are very peaceful in the light of the full moon. After completing a prayer with my guide at the upper-most temple, we set off through some upland agriculture and into the forest. We got to the edge of the treeline in 3 hours, which is less than an hour from summit. It was only 4 am (a long time from sunrise) and it was freezing cold and blowing a gale. We did our best to shelter from the wind and my guide was more prepared with warmer clothes and groundsheet to wrap himself up in so he could sleep for an hour; I froze my ass in my thin fleece and waterproof, and cursed Pak Agung for making me sit for an hour on the mountain, too cold to sleep.
Finally we set off for the summit and it was worth the effort. The sun rises adjacent to Gunung Rinjani on Lombok (the second highest volcano in Indonesia). A few broken clouds where the sun was rising turned the sky deep red, and the strong wind and our position on the exposed summit really gave a fantastic feeling of isolation. To the west, it was possible to see the Balinese volcano Batukau and East Java (probably Gunung Ruang and Gunung Merapi). Alas, you will have to take my word for it because the camera I borrowed from my office was ‘rusak’ (broken). Gill has our camera for her trip to Maluku, so after cursing her almost as much as Pak Agung, I took a last mental snapshot and we started to descend. Of course, 5 Pak Agung hours for the descent really meant 3 hours, and so I was back at the hotel by 11:00 am. The descent is quite hard going, since the gravel trail means a lot of sliding and more than a few times we fell over or clutched on to vegetation to prevent a fall. This is at least the 3rd hike were I have made a mental note to buy some gloves, since there are too many things with thorns that seem like a good thing to grab onto when sliding.
I managed to get my (cold) shower and some a short sleep before heading off to sit in the wonderful Kafe in Ubud for the afternoon, enjoying the great food, juices and coffee. I then decided that the weary legs had earned a traditional massage at one of the spas. Finally, hardly able to keep my eyes open I took my evening flight back to Jakarta, and was very glad to see Pak Maming waiting to take me back to Bogor.