Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Bali - Gn Agung (09.12.2005)

Gunung Agung (Mount Agung) is the highest mountain in Bali. Considered the "navel of the world" by the Balinese, Gunung Agung is the holiest mountain in Bali. Even our guides had done numerous of prayers along the way to the top. Many Balinese believe that the gods raised the mountain as a place to view the rich parade of life below. Although a board at the summit indicates its height is at 3,142m, but this active volcano’s last eruption in 1963 had made it stands at 3,014 meters today.

The accent, we started at 12am from Bali's most sacred temple, Pura Besakih which sits on its slope. A sprawling, terraced sea of Pura (temple) silently greeting and blessing every climbers who pays respect to the nature. We were expecting a 6hr climb to reach the summit for the sunrise.

We walked in a deep dark, with the shadows from the temples with the half moon dangling in the dark sky. After the temple walk, we cut into some tricky turns along the vegetable farms aside. Dogs were barking to chase off any strangers who got near into their territory. If I were to do the climb alone, the dogs surely could scare me from proceeding. After that, the path was very straightforward through the typical rainforest. I was surprised as I was expecting a barren trail right from the start. But, it only shows my ‘knowledge deficiency’ about the mountain.

Nemesis. I suppose we had awakened leeches from their ‘bloody sweat dream’. Their movement is more sluggish and easier to get rid off by a one-time finger pinch. Definitely, they are not nocturnal animal. Unlike in Malaysia’s rainforest, here, we could still find their trace at 1,500m!

I pay so much respect to Kmeng’s mum who dares such expedition. The 2 guides too! They were with a guide in a slower pace while Kenny and I were in front with another. Each of them got paid at 750,000rp! It is equivalents to RM285. Not a bad job as a trek guide there. Can you imagine we pay merely RM50 per day in Malaysia?

When I held my head high to the sky, it relieved me so much. A superb clear sky where I could spot each and every star I know of. Simply, it means it was not going to be a rainy day, just yet. The higher we were, the entire South-East night scene of Bali emerged into our sight. The cities lightings drew the coastline as I was looking at a map. If you were to propose to your love ones, there’s no way she could said ‘No’ for such exquisite candle lights around! Simply, it was just a daunting beautiful night.

Along the way, the Hinduism guides stopped at some points and performed some ritual praying. At the last point, Gate of Agung, Kenny and I could glimpse at the peak. It was 5am. We thought we were close and could make it in 30min to catch the sunrise, although a guide told us we would have another 2hr.

We were absolutely wrong about the real peak and timing. For the next 2 hours, we endured steep slopes, graffiti-scarred cliffs, the volcanic moonscape, stony cum slippery trail, chilling wind hence freezing hell cool, hunger... At one point, I thought I had reached the summit, as the path in front of me was a steep, narrow trail, with the slanting cliff aside. That sent a signal to my brain, telling me that was too dangerous and almost impossible trail to proceed. I stayed to wait for Kenny while the chilling wind tortured me cruelly. To demonstrate the strong wind, I actually recorded how the wind blew away the trajectory of my ‘urination’ ;-) Classic! One thing I forgot was to test the direction of the wind. Wisdom to know what was the consequence… ;-)

As Kenny rejoined me, we continued the climb as he has convinced me that actual summit was to get over another 2 peaks in front. The guides didn’t follow us, as they didn’t want to tread the holy mountain. Each step was a careful step to reach the summit. Finally, at 7am, we were up there! Yeah, with a board saying up that is indeed THE SUMMIT!

Agung is a volcano with an enormous (approx 700m) and very deep crater that occasionally vents out smoke and steam. We did not see any that morning. The highest point is on the southwest part of the rim, a barren and rocky hill of fine volcanic rock. The awesome view of the entire island spread out beneath you is extremely tantalising. Gunung Badur and Gunung Abang looked so beautiful from the peak of the Gunung Agung. As a sum, it is a 360 of Bali view. Also, the Lombok island nearby. I started to imagine that on 1963, where I stood was where the hot lava and rocks spat out ferociously from the crater. It was indeed a catastrophe, which caused thousands of life. The tremor, which caused by the eruption also disserted the US Liberty Cargo ship at the East shore, sunk it into the sea forever. We visited the dive site later at Tulamben.

Kmeng joined us at the summit shortly after he ‘abandoned’ his mum and ran up to the peak. Auntie’s condition didn’t encourage her to proceed further. The guides were with her for the descent. We spent about half an hour to take pictures with all kind of poses we could think of. As usual, we continue our tradition to flag out the ‘Jalur Gemilang’ at the top. Say cheese! Posing at the edge of the crater was quite a risk. But, the cameras never stop clicking. Say cheeses!

The cloud started to form and crawling up fast to the summit. We descended in a faster speed but always slowed ourselves for cautions. The trail can be tricky and risky. One wrong step could ends you in… well, I suppose no one will be able to discover your body again.

At one point, the guide had prepared some breakfast for us. Gosh, the replenishment was in time to reenergize myself. Then, we caught up with Kmeng’s mum and brother and Leong who was in an agonising mood if I were him! Due to some miscommunication on the walkie talkie, Leong thought the summit was too far away from him, and he backed off.

Kenny and I reached the starting point at 12pm. While waiting, we hung around the Pura Besakih area and shoot pictures. Kmeng and co reached at 230pm. A group photo put an end to that great expedition.

This climb has recorded so many 1st times in my trekking log. 1st volcano for sure. The night trekking is a whole new experience. Strolling on the volcanic rock on top of an active volcano made my foot putting twice the effort to balance. 1st time ever, I notice that I need a stick for my balancing and ease my stress on my knees. It is indeed one of the most challenging mountain surfaces I have stepped on so far.