THE SACRED MOUNTAIN OF BALI
Twelfth Highest Volcano in Indonesia
Kuta was still busy with strollers when we left it at 21:00. The Suzuki APV was a little too small for the 6 of us and the driver. Klungkung was already silent by 22:15. It was quick through the new south-east coast highway. The highway goes on to Karangasem in the east.
Besakih was already really sleeping by 23:00. We located the Dewi Sri homestay quickly and checked-in after waking up the owner. The dogs howled for some moments and then silent. My night in the homestay was sleepless like in Kuta.
BESAKIH – PURA PENGUBENGAN
The morning sky over Besakih was clear and the air was warm when started at 8:30, Feb. 26, 2010. The banana, nasi-campur and soto ayam breakfasts were nice. The banana was particularly sweet because it was ripe and rich.
Once again, before entering the holy temple gate, we were reminded to check and left anything of leather. Strictly no leather shoes, wallet, watch band, camera bag, or anything. None of them can go to Mount Agung else you get into trouble.
Crossing the great Pura Besakih, we walked slowly and came across early prayers. The ascending steps were good for warming-up. At the end of the Pura there were some warungs and some two hundred meters of semi-paved road towards the Mount Agung gate. After the gate the trek was paved with con-blocks amidst the villager’s farmlands. The 1 km con-block trek led us to the Pura Pengubengan. It was frequented by some pilgrims as far away as Jakarta. Some were friends of my good friends ………..
We took the holy water from the temple and then quickly marched uphill. A little while after Pura Pengubengan the trek became steeper and steeper and the forest started to materialize. Came across some hikers coming down and one going up.
PURA PENGUBENGAN – PURA GIRI KUSUMA
The soil was sandy but not fine enough to make it stable. Slippery although quite dry, it was quite tricky to step-on. By 10:00 the steep ascent made us stop once every a while. The thick bushes and the canopy from the large trees cooled the morning air. Difficult to sit comfortably since the path was narrow, steep and bushes all over. Almost no place wide enough to stop nicely. Then the little black leeches quickly located our legs, arms and necks. Like coming from no where they were just on our open body members sucking our bloods. Snatch one from your skin and the bleeding would be difficult to stop.
The steep ascent actually was ok for all of us but the un-stabile ground slowed us somehow. Had to be careful not to slide back all the times. Some places we had to crawl up using the tree roots for handling. Stones were not many and if any, they were loose and useless to hold on.
Around 11:00 at one curve of not so steep ground, with a sudden vertical 1 meter climb. All of a sudden I lost my shoes grip and fell like a wooden log. My claws tried to hold the ground but I slipped belly down a few meters down. My right thigh and right arm were scratched a lot so painfully.
Then a lot of steep parts almost non-stop on the narrow trek. Some parts of the trek were scary because of the deep ravines right and left. We had to crawl up holding on horizontal, vertical or slanting tree roots. Sometimes the bushes made good holding points. Until a tall step-like entry to the pine woods area. Just like a gate to enter a pine tree garden. Afterwards there was a small hut on the right side of the trek, then some 15’ minutes later the Pura Giri Kusuma sign on the tree. It was 13:00 or so and we took an hour rest with a light lunch of sweet breads. The ground was by no mean levelled but ok for a comfortable sitting. The porters went down the valley taking some water from the spring over there. That is the only place where water flows at Mount Agung height. For sure, a camping place is rare or non existence along the trek.
PURA GIRI KUSUMA – KORI AGUNG
It was already 14:00 when we started again slowly catching up with the ascent. The weather was good, the sun shone brightly so when we left the pine woods forest for the more open trek we could dry our t-shirts while walking slowly. The trek became nicer, not very steep like the leeches forest and the pine woods parts.
The trees were lower and sparse, at the far distance the summit-like shape materialized. It looked rocky and an hour later at 16:00 or so the tall solid rock cliff was clearly visible. The last part of the trek to the cliff was steep and bushes everywhere. The cliff bottom has a miniature shrine named Kori Agung (Great Gate), and we camped over there.
Kori Agung was a strip of narrow ground of a few meters. Further left and right the ground already mounts here and there you can not lay your whole body. Backing-up the narrow ground, was the solid rock wall of 5 meters high. It spans some 10 meter it was visible from a distance.
The soil was very unstable, the sands and pebbles slid each time you step on. Only 1 tent for the team, so the 3 of us were in the tent and the rest slept under the open-air. One shallow niche in the rock wall made a perfect nesting for the open-air sleepers. Fortunately the night was beautiful with a clear sky. The night was sleepless because of the slanted sleep base. Every once a while, when the eyes close, the feet must search in blind something to stop the sliding. The night was bright, we were blessed with the full moon over Bali. So clear we could see the grass swaying with the chilling wind.
KORI AGUNG – SUMMIT
Four o’clock in the morning, after a very light breakfast of hot noodle and coffee, we marched to the summit through a zig-zag path of steep climbs. The bushes vanished some minutes later and we were in the open area of Mount Agung final slope. It was not very dark with the full moon but the cold bit our necks. The wind was chilly and fast enough to make us grabbed our outer jackets.
Simply steep and slippery, that was the description of the final slope. The ground was rock, so the pebbles and the sand made it perfect for stumbling for them who are not cautious. Not to mention the 60° or so slope that really stretched our legs. We took 2 rests on the slope with almost no sitting because we slid down immediately. Could not stop too long for the wind was so fierce and so freezing. All of us put our balaclavas on plus our jacket hoods on too.
The 45’ ascent was really not easy, until we arrived at the Puncak-1. It was a badminton court size plain with deep ravines left and right. The GPS showed 2900 M or so. Five minutes break and then we continued to Puncak-2 through another difficult trek of slippery path. Not so narrow at 1 meter wide but the ravines left and right were scary. The soil must be sandy shale it was so slippery. Reminded me of Mount Argapura where we fell on straight leveled trek because of the slippery ground.
The ascent to the Puncak-2 was not so steep and it took some 20’ to it. The Puncak-2 was a strip of narrow ……… actually. Of some 30’ long, it was only 2 meters wide. Again, with deep ravines left and right that were ready to bring the one who was not cautious to oblivion. Once you fall, sayonara ………
It was 3020 M or so and we did not continue to Puncak-3 (the highest) because the narrow trek to it was dangerous to walk on. The soil was unstable due to the rains. The risk of becoming a memory or oblivion was too high, so we decided to enjoy the breathtaking Puncak-2. Maybe some other time …………
To the east is the Puncak-3 silhouette with a peculiar shape. You can tell that the real peak must be only a few square meters. As the background was the magnificent Mount Rinjani, the queen of Lombok Island. From the distance it greeted us who had been on its peak. It also asked us to persuade them who had not to hike its green and beautiful slopes until its very peak …………
At the Puncak-2 you do not like wind for a strong one could send you to the deep ravine. Just name it, left or right. To the north, the ravine was so deep and distant. I reckon the drop-off must be 1.5 or even 2 kilometers high. And the slope must be 60°. You do not want to stand or sit close to the edge, for sure.
The northern view was breathtaking. All the bluish eastern Buleleng coast was there, like a giant carpet of different blue tones. The eastern Bali coast curve has white spots which must be the Tulamben diving port. Amed village was also spotted, then further west the Kubutambahan and Yeh Sanih. Then I raised my left hand to point the western part of the Buleleng coast, where the view to the sea was covered by the furious Mount Batur. Occasionally it spews darkish volcanic fumes and the beautiful Batur Lake was only seen one third or so, covered by Mount Abang.
When we looked further west, the perfect conic shadow of Mount Agung overwhelmed the whole scenery in the west. Off course the central Bali plains were obvious in the distance, backed-up by the mountains range of the western Bali.
Now the southern coast, where the Kusamba, Candidasa and spots were clear and waving, southern more, the proud P Nusa Penida lies lazily protecting the beautiful beaches of south Bali coast from the ferocious Indian Ocean.
Then we looked closer to the Mount Agung foot to locate Pura Besakih for we were pretty sure it must be visible from the summit because the summit is visible from its gate. Vaguely mounting over a plain plot, brownish and grayish among the green spread of woods and plantations, there lies the Pura Besakih under the watch of Mount Agung. No wonder it was destroyed almost totally in 1963 when Mount Agung erupted. The Eka Dasa Rudra that was due to take place at that time after previous 100 years last ceremony had to be delayed years after into the eighties. All kind of animals were sacrificed in the once every 100 years ceremony, from a small bird to a tiger. Yes, a tiger.
And finally the other trek to Mount Agung crater rim summit, Pura Pasar Agung shape was somewhat obvious from the height and the ascent from it looked pretty straight (and must be extremely steep). All the 360° views from the height of the Mount Agung were only just magnificent and gave us the serenity feeling. Frankly we did not feel the sacredness of the peak but a little scared, yes. It was because of the extreme drops of the summit area.
SUMMIT – KORI AGUNG
Then came the time for descending. At 6:30 we left Puncak-2 and very soon my knees and thighs suffered from the steep descent. The way back to Kori Agung was much more difficult for us than the ascent. I had to step carefully and stop once every a few minutes to make return my legs strength. The braking force I had to enforce hurt my toes and made my legs trembling. Once you slide down, it is difficult to stop quickly for there was hardly anything to grab and brake on. After almost an hour of sliding and trembling I got to Kori Agung later than the others. Very light breakfast and re-packing, then we descended back to Besakih.
KORI AGUNG – BESAKIH
The trek back to Besakih was quite exhausting for the steep parts still demanded high braking power that weakened our thighs. Not to count the slippery sandy pebbles ground that deceived us once every while. At one turn I took a wrong path and stooped at a bush ended trek. The climbing back to the main trek was difficult for the unstable soil slid again and again.
I had to take some frequent rests of 5’ to 10’ due to hunger and thirst. Sitting and sleeping for a while were nice but the leeches quickly attacked. So I was busy each time I sat checking my legs, arms and necks. Then picking the leeches from my skin, usually the point of bite became bloody. I particularly watched the turn where I fell and got the bleeding scratches. Once I passed the turn, my speed unconsciously became faster and by 14:30 I got to the Pura Pengubengan. Quickly I rushed in and apologize to the pilgrims for possibly disturbing them. I asked for water and then I drank like mad.
Just a little more minutes after, I found my self marching freshly to Besakih along the con-blocked path. In less than an hour I crossed the souvenir shops under the rain, then entered the great Pura Besakih from its back gate. Still careful with the slippery stairway to the lower square. I stopped over at the small shop just after the temple gate to get the sweet large bananas I had imagined since 3 hours back.
Safely arrived at home, I urged to the bathroom for a hot water shower I deserved and longed. When stripping all my clothes I spotted a wide blood spread on my brief. Rubbing in between my thighs I felt something sticking on it. A plump leech from Mount Agung.
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