Mount Agung The Great – Bali Must Do

Sunrise on top of Mount Agung

No wonder it is called Agung – literally translated as ‘greatest’ in Bahasa Indonesia. And guess what, this is the first activity SOTG did in Bali straight from the airport – a rough start to a weekend on first visit to the magical island. 

So why Mount Agung? The volcano last erupted in 1963 is the highest peak on the island promised stellar view that’s unparalleled to beat.  It is the 5th highest volcano in Indonesia. Plus it is a symbolic of spiritual significance among the local. 

After a quick meet and greet by Nurah Atmaja from tour company which being booked in advance, we departed at 12.30am from Denpasar Airport. Due to tight time-frame to reach destination for sun-rise viewing, Gusti Bawana our driver did not stop for dinner or supper. Instead, food were packed which includes bananas, breads and boiled eggs. Shoveled them quickly while the driver slowly drive into the pitch black. Could not slept much during the 2 hours journey across the island.

It was a bit chilly when arrived at foothill of Mount Agung at Pura Pasar Agung. Off we hiked after being introduced to guide called Ketut. Began with series of stairs at the base of a temple, I smelled  incense burning before heading into thick dense forest with tree roots covering the track. Steep climb of an hour brought to our first stop overlooking a stunning view of the island with lights covering the land below us.

About half way mark, the route became tougher. We came across group of Balinese who finished their prayer on way down causing a bit traffic along the steep volcanic rocky section. It impressed me how they climbed in traditional costume and flip-flip.

The further we climbed the hike turned to be more difficult. I started complaining. Stopping frequently after hiking for 3 hours. The lack of sleep influenced my performance. Plus, my body did not fully recovered from 24 hours race in the last weekend.

After continuous climb of 4 hours and before a very steep near the edge boulder section, I decided to stop since I have some height issue. We sipped warm Bali coffee and munched fried bananas – Ketut served us well. He also advised not to continue because for next 45 minutes the climb at the edge of mountain require scrambling not ideal for people with height issue. I also read in the internet on warning for people with height issue to not attempt at all. But in my case, is more of the fact I was not recovered from the 24 hours. I could still slowly climb that last steep edge. So by a small cave I tucked nicely along the rocky edge while enjoying the splendid view as the sun slowly emerge and cloudy dark sky turned into bright daylight

Sea of clouds Mount Agung
Sea of clouds Mount Agung

My other half continued with Ketut and reached summit 45 minutes after steep climb or crawl rather on certain section. He took video of 360 degrees view – what a great sight of open space unobstructed from highest peak on the island. Go on check out the video below! Noticed how small the top area is. Unfortunately, the morning was cloudy and not magical sunrise view. And no sight of Mount Rinjani otherwise can be seen on clear day.

I felt refreshed after a good rest. Not too long then Ketut arrived from top with my other half. We quickly made our way down after second round of coffee. The cloud quickly covering the area, and seemed like rain might come which at the end only very slight drizzle.

Ordinary breakfast but extraordinary view
Ordinary breakfast but extraordinary view

Coming down was not smooth as it should be. My other half did not wear proper hiking shoes, so he slipped few times. Interesting encounters filled the time while going down including chasing jungle rooster in blue feathers, chatting to an American who was in Bali after work trip in Sulawesi, and tracing pretty prayer materials that Balinese group placed on the course – apparently very common practice for Hindu dwellers on the island.

Don't you love the volcanic rocks of Mount Agung track
Don’t you love the volcanic rocks of Mount Agung track

Ketut, a funny and friendly guide made some jokes and also chanting the sound of gamelan – traditional Javanese music. He was very fit and we were very thankful for him.

Cloudy morning and Ketut waited for us patiently
Cloudy morning and Ketut waited for us patiently

During day time, it was easy to witness the topography changes along the way with dried shrubs among the rocky section at the higher course and lush green fores covering lower ground.

Flora of Mount Agung
Flora of Mount Agung
Forest trail Mount Agung
Forest trail Mount Agung

Lesson Learnt:
Why I love mountain is that it has no mercy and make a person humble even more. One day I conquered the top, another day the mountain beaten me. Mount Agung showed just that. It’s not only about general fitness, but need to come well prepared e.g. with good amount of sleep – just like few days before marathon day. Overall, a satisfying hike despite not reaching the final top (about 45 minutes away), but it’s about the journey and process not about final destination. There will be other mountain top to conquer.

Course: Some technical section. Not clear mark at some section. But no struggle with elevation. The most challenging route leaves from Pura Besakih and leads right to the absolute summit at 3,031 metres while the route from Pura Pasar Agung leads to the crater rim, 2,866 metres above sea level.

Weather: Best to climb during the dry season from April to October.Adverse weather condition develops quickly. A dawn arrival to the top is recommended as the top can be covered with clouds around 9am onwards.

Equipment: Wear sturdy shoes, bring warm clothing as it get a bit chilly at the top, headlamp and recommended trekking poles (though not compulsory, I thanks Ketut for lending his stick).

Guide and tour – Tour company provides transportation to location and a guide for the hike. We hired Tour Bali Driver which was reliable with great hospitality including pick up from Denpasar Airport and drop off to our hotel in Ubud. For other pick-up location, highly recommend Go VoyaGin – Bali Sunrise Trekking and Tours.

Eyeing on the Goat Run Trail Running series which include Mount Agung race, so I may consider returning. Have you been? Was it a strenuous hike for you?

And yes, picture of me on Instagram resting on beautiful Balinese style bed the morning after.

Live to thrive,