Mount Agung – The spiritual “majesty”of Bali
Photo via Phil Hill Travel Photographer
Mount Agung, towering over 3000 metres above sea level, has a huge spiritual significance to the Balinese people and is home to the mother temple of Besakih. According to a Balinese legend, Agung was created when the Hindu God Pasupati split Mount Meru and formed Mount Agung with a fragment.
Who is it for?
Climbing Mount Agung is the “royal” discipline of climbing in Bali and is, in my opinion, not for those who are after a “leisure” climb. Trekking to Mount Agung requires a much higher level of fitness and mental discipline than Mount Batur for example.
You do not need to be one of the greatest mountain climbers in the world, but complete amateurs or those who already get out of breath climbing the stairs up to their flat should think twice before going on this adventure trek.
How the sunrise trek started
Trail 1: You can leave from Puru Pasar Agung in the South and your climb would start directly at Pasar Agung Temple at the altitude of 1.700 metres and brings you up to 3,000 metres. The trail would take between 4-5 hours to reach the summit.
Pura Pasar Agung (Photo via mountain-forecast)
Trail 2: The other starting point is from Besakih, close to the temple. Keep in mind, trekking from this starting point is really demanding and it took us 6 hours (we did not take a lot of breaks, so I would say count between 6-7 hours) throughout the night to reach the summit.
Besakih (Photo via baliaround)
We took this starting point for two reasons:
1. A ceremony taking place at Pura Pasar Agung and the area being closed for that period (always check with your agency when booking the sunrise trek)
2. We had big ambition and thought that all the comments we read by other travellers on forums, TripAdvisor, etc. were a little exaggerated, but most reviews we read before the climb were actually very accurate, it was a tough climb and especially the descent was surely not a walk in the park to say the least.
We were picked up from Sunset Road near Kuta at 10.00 pm (pick up points can be from anywhere, but we arranged it from a spa, we planned to go to straight after the climb the next day. The lovely Balinese spa girls waved us off with a kind of “They are crazy” look in their eyes) and reached the starting point by midnight and were “handed” over by the driver to the guide.
Still smiling and unaware of the strain ahead of us
How to find a good tour guide
Important tip: Get the name of the guide in advance when you book through an agency and ask for his experience.
Because it happened twice (same experience with the Mount Batur trek) that the agency did not personally know the guide, booked him through a third party and at the last minute he was changed. In our case, we were “assigned” one which could be described at best as “I am tired and cannot wait to finish this trip” and at worst “I am careless and I don’t give a heck” kind of guide.
We were not explained anything, absolutely nothing and started walking shortly after midnight.
Our “professional” guide, who excelled in just dropping to the ground on every occasion going for a nap, only waking up once we caught up with his “Speedy Gonzales” sprinting speed
1. Book through a reputable agency (some hotels have tour desks) and be careful with the small street agencies that drag you inside. They come across as very convincing and will surely tell you that their guides have done this trek many times before and that they are their own guides.
From our experience we would say, the small street agents are organized and reliable (drivers were always on time and very polite), but do not necessarily believe if they tell you they know the guides personally, because often they don’t and also hire them through third parties, so be careful.
2. We would recommend you to source info from multiple websites – Facebook groups, TripAdvisor forums and other social media platforms, because nothing works better than word of mouth.
3. Pay attention if an agency does just sell the tour without warning that it depends on weather conditions if the trek will go ahead (a good agency is rather too careful than too careless).
If you would like to book in advance instead of looking endlessly in the town, we recommend you to try eOasia
How it’s like hiking up Mount Agung
It was pitch dark (wear a headlamp so you have your hands free) and very quickly the path became quite narrow, but still manageable. The silence of the night and the dark blue sky were incredibly beautiful. It was surprising how quiet the jungle was.
However, a few hours into the trek our heavy breathing surely woke up a few jungle inhabitants. Very few people crossed our path and a few we saw, already turned back and our “you can do it” motivational cheers and some jokes did not do much to convince them to carry on walking.
Cannot remember what I was looking for here, maybe the guide who kept on escaping from us
In hindsight we were happy that it was dark and we only saw one step at a time, because if we would have seen the “whole picture” in front of us at daylight, I am sure we would have swallowed some anti-depression pills.
I would lie, if I say that after 4 hours and counting, climbing steadily I still admired the silence of the jungle. The truth was, I was counting the time until sunrise and finally reaching our target.
Climbing through the sleepless night, it was about 06.00 am until we nearly reached the summit and the last part of the climb with the cold wind blowing very strongly into our faces, sometimes scared the hell out of us. Where was the guide? Further down the trail saying “I wait here, you go alone”
Better not to look back and down if heights give you a bit of a fright, especially with the cold wind blowing strongly in your face
I would say the last 45 minutes were the ones that were not only tough, but mainly a little dangerous, especially with the strong wind on that day and a guide who left us on our own with no guidance what to watch out for. Partly we had to crawl on all fours to get to the top and keep our balance.
The last few minutes to the summit we literally crawled up on all fours. It was windy, cold and those afraid of heights better do not look down.
Tired, but made it
Just on time for a beautiful sunrise
The changes of colors within minutes were mesmerizing
Since Mount Agung, because of its difficulty, is far less touristy than Mount Batur, you will not find warungs or shops on the top. We were alone with the beauty of the scenery to keep us company and a few other adventurers who were just as happy that they made it to the top.
Overlooking Mount Batur
A medley of gorgeous pink hues
The descent from Mount Agung
After we spent about 45 minutes on the top and fighting the freezing wind, it was time to go all the way down the same trail, back to the valley at daylight. We were often wondering how we actually got up there, because seeing the steepness was quite impressive. Climbing in the dark and just seeing one step on front of you at a time was probably a blessing in disguise.
Although we were of course far more out of breath going up than down, it was the descent that was the far more challenging part of the trek. And the descent punished me badly for not having worn shoes with a good grip (having said this, we have seen some pretty professional looking trekkers who also found it hard to not slip), comfortable was not enough.
I was in the end so frustrated with falling on my butt every few metres, that me and my friend decided to let the playful child inside ourselves revive, by sitting on plastic bags and just sliding down the slopes, pretending it was a new Disneyland roller coaster attraction (you need to keep your humor when you do this trek).
Do you yourself a favor, wear good trekking shoes and pay attention to a good grip!
The descent was literally a pain in the butt, because sometimes it was steep, sandy, slippery and we just glided down on our butts. Do wear gloves, they will serve you well !
In all honesty, at this stage and after hours going down like that, our motivation was close to zero and all we wanted was to reach the valley again, but it took us 8 hours to finally get there.
Did I mention you should wear shoes with a good grip ? If you ignore this advice, you end up coming up with all sorts of not so efficient solutions to make a grip. Do not imitate this creative bandage, it did not work, but at least we had a laugh.
The Mount Agung sunrise trek is not for people wanting to go on a leisure trek with minimal effort. You need to have some motivation to climb up there, regardless of what it is, ticking it off your bucket list, climbing Mount Agung at least once in your lifetime, experiencing for yourself how it is to stand on the summit and saying “I have done it” or challenging your physical and mental strength.
You do not need to be a professional, but do not underestimate this climb and be prepared and here are our tips which we learnt through trials and errors.
7 Tips from us how to prepare for your Mount Agung sunrise trek
1. Wear comfortable shoes with a grip – We cannot stress enough on this point, especially the good grip.
2. A walking stick is helpful – We are not addressing ourselves here to the 70+ generation only. Many will find that a walking stick (if you have a good guide he might carve one for you from the bamboo in the jungle) is a pretty useful tool, especially when climbing up in the dark. It is very helpful when you start getting out of breath and you can lean on it.
3. Gloves – Bring some light gloves to protect your hands, because you will always touch something and notably during the descent you hold on to branches, anything really that gives you some balance. No need for anything fancy or expensive, we got some from Carrefour supermarket a few hours before the trek for IDR 20.000 (about 2 dollars).
4. Clothing – You will go through different temperature changes and we suggest you wear clothes you can wear in layers and which are not too heavy. If you get some sweat absorbent clothes that would be even better, because when you start climbing you will sweat, but as soon as you sit down in the night for a break, it will be cooler and wearing sweaty t-shirts make it difficult to get warm again.
5. Food – Yes, you will be on your feet for many hours, but don’t bring too much food, it will just weigh you down when you have too much stuff in your rucksack. We realized that during the night climb we needed very little food. It is on the way back when you have your breakfast that you start getting hungry, but overall I would say, water, some isotonic drinks and something hot (especially when it is getting colder the higher you climb) are more important. Some energy bars are a good choice too.
6. Sunscreen – Wear some sunscreen, you will need it for the descent when the sun can be strong.
7. Get a good tour guide – Insist on having a knowledgeable guide who cares about your safety. We were rather naïve and there were moments during the trek, which could have been potentially dangerous, because we were more or less left on our own when it came to best techniques to make the ascent and descent easier and what to watch out for.
Paying a higher price for this trek does not necessarily protect you from getting a non-professional guide. There are lots of professional people out there, so our experience is not necessarily representative,but make sure you get a guide who is trained in safety and has done this trek numerous times.
We made it back to the starting point. Left at midnight the night before and got back at 3 pm the next day with no sleep and looking rather unpresentable, but very happy that we made it.. Where did we go from there? To a Spa for a 2 hours massage and a hot shower
If you would like to book in advance instead of looking endlessly in the town, we recommend you to try eOasia
Our verdict in a nutshell
Both of us were rather fit, having run a few half marathons, but running a flat road marathon and climbing a mountain for hours are two different pairs of shoes. Climbing steadily for 6 hours during the night is strenuous. Do not underestimate it, we have seen people going back.
The ascent took us 6 hours and looking back, we were grateful it was dark, so we did not see the whole trail in front of us. The hardest part was the descent which took us 8 hours.
Without good trekking shoes with a grip, the descent was a nightmare for myself (my friend Miriam was much better equipped and would have probably made it in less than 8 hours) and there were moments when I sat down like a stubborn kid wanting a helicopter to pick me up!☺
There were locations during the climb which we both considered a tad dangerous, especially with narrow paths and the wind blowing really strongly when we got to the top.
The guide was our biggest disappointment and his carelessness could have resulted in injuries in the worst case scenario (not to mention that he would probably not even have realized it, because he walked most of the time in front of us, out of our sight). We cannot stress enough on the importance of a guide that makes you feel safe, because as we said, there were stretches during the ascent and descent we would have been more than grateful for some experience by our side.
Please also pack “intelligent” clothes, because you will be going through various temperature changes and you will only partly enjoy the amazing view if you are shivering with cold.
If you like a challenge, are physically fit, love to be the “king or queen of the world” on the summit for the time of a sunrise, enjoy a beautiful scenery and being in touch with nature, the Mount Agung sunrise trek is for you. And let’s face it, to tick climbing mount Agung off your bucket list and hearing the “Really, you climbed Mount Agung?, Wow” comments from your friends, makes you feel just that little bit more like a Mini Hero.
Three words to describe our experience
Tough but worthwhile
So what are you waiting for? Don’t be shy, just try!