Mount Agung – Hike Up The Holy Mountain
Hiking up Mount Agung had been on my to do list for a long time, it was something I wanted to do in honor of my dad. The last time I hiked up a real mountain was together with him, back in 2011 when we were in Borneo together and walked up the trails of Mount Kinabalu together. Through Panca of Bali Customized Tours I managed to get a reservation for a trip up the holy mountain, Mount Agung, on the island of Bali.
Preparing for Mount Agung
The months prior to my trip I had kicked myself in the ass to start working out again. Compared to years back when I was still cycling and spend about 10 hours a week in the gym, I was completely out of shape… Attempting to go up to the summit without any preparation would just be stupid! The top of the holy mountain is at 3031 meters above sea level, this is in contradiction with a lot of sources that say the peak is at 3142 meters.
I worked out 2 or 3 times a week, mainly focusing on cardio and strengthening my legs, I felt that I was ready for the challenge. I had sorted out all the gear I needed, most importantly was the footwear. Make sure you have proper shoes on hikes like this, it makes so much difference. Besides the shoes I had several pieces of clothing I would take: hiking pants, dry-fit shirts, fleece sweater, rainproof and windstopper jacket, a comfy hat, gloves and a walking stick.
Oh especially don’t forget something like a Camelbak for your water supply, you need to stay hydrated. The only source of water on the mountain is a small spring, but as it’s a holy mountain you are not allowed not consume this water.
Last but not least, take your camera(s)! You wouldn’t want to make it all the way to the top and then realise that you forget your camera or GoPro to capture this unforgettable moment.
Panca had arranged for a driver to come pick me up at the hotel in Kuta at around 10.30pm but when walking to the reception area I noticed a car with the logo of “Mudi Goes To The Mountain”. I remember seeing that name before when I was doing my research on Mount Agung, Mudi is of the best guides around with over 20 years of experience. I couldn’t be in better hands and shortly after the driver introduced himself as Kuman.
Kuman spoke very little English and when asking him how long it would take for us to reach the place where we needed to be, he replied: “Just over 2 hours mister, you better sleep now”. Now how was I supposed to sleep in the car while he was driving over bending, twisting and kidney stone bouncing back roads? I tried to close my eyes, but as soon as I did that I got me uncomfy so I stayed awake most of the time.
If I thought that the first part of the drive was bad, well I had no clue what was coming up once we got in the area of Mount Agung and started on the road that led to the temple of Pasar Agung. These roads were twisting up
the mountain, in some place the road was so narrow and it was pitch black so you could absolutely not see what was coming up. I noticed by Kuman his driving style that it wasn’t the first time he drove up here as he floored the gas pedal on some stretches of the road like a well seasoned rally driver. I was thinking to myself: “Is he sure he can drive that fast here? Oh we’re not gonna make this corner at this speed!”
In the end he got me up Pasar Agung and first thing he tells me: “Sleep! Mudi will come…”. He signed me to put my seat flat and get some shut-eye. There were a couple of other guides there, as well as another parked car with a couple from Sydney.
Start Your Engine
Around 1.30am I got so restless that I decided to get out of the car and get myself ready. Kuman immediately came up to me said that it wasn’t time to go yet, but I explained him I just couldn’t sleep. Just before 2am you could hear the sound of a high revving engine coming up the mountain, it was Mudi in his trusty old Landrover.
He was quite a character, full of laughter and good spirits. He started preparing everything and told me to come sit in the front with him, while a couple from Marseille (France) was dropped into the back together with Ayan, the 22 year old guide.
Before I was fully aware of where we would be going, Mudi was shifting the Landrover into low gears and speeding up some mountain path which was barely wide enough for the car to get through. I was holding on to the dashboard in order not to bounce out my seat and after a couple of minutes of driving off camber in between trees, he parked the car in reverse just before a big drop off.
Mudi started backing his backpack, so did Ayan and they were stuffing all the things they required to make breakfast at the summit as well as a load of water. I had 2 liters in my backpack, but took on an extra 2 bottles and soon after we started out walk. The angle of ascent was quite steep at first and just after we set off, the couple from Sydney were already on their way down. It was too tough for them they said, oh dear what did I get myself into?
To Give Up Or Not
Mudi set a good pace for the 3 of us and Ayan was watching our backs, every 15 to 20 minutes he took a small break to catch our breath, drink a bit of water and eat a piece of chocolate or something with sugar and high energy. For the first 2 hours I was feeling ok, but slowly but surely I was feeling my legs to go empty…
I had to let the French couple go and set my own pace, it came to a point where I could only take a couple of steps and then head to rest. It was around 4am when my legs were screaming to stop, I just couldn’t lift them up any more! I told Ayan that I couldn’t anymore and was seriously thinking about giving up.
During that 5 minute break all kinds of things went through my mind as my body was begging my mind to stop and return down to the temple. But a small voice inside my head told me to go on, do it for him, do it for your dad, make him proud! Ayan all of a sudden came back into view and started to talk into me, he said it was only 10 more minutes of uphill before the next resting place.
I started talking to myself and making all kinds of noises with every step that I took and managed to get to the little plateau. The view from up here was stunning as you could look out into the valley under the moonlight. The French couple had already set off again and I asked Ayan how much longer it was till we reached the summit. “Oh just over 2 more hours to go…”
“WHAT?!” After the break Mudi joined me and guided me up for the next 2 hours while Ayan went up front with the French couple. Mudi told me where to put my feet and to take little steps to take the strain off my legs. It still hurt with every step of the way, but screw this I’m gonna make it!
The sky was turning red and Mudi told me to speed up if I wanted to make it up the plateau to see the sunrise. I have to thank him so much for getting me up there in time. I shot a couple of pictures just before sunrise and got my act together to make it further up the mountain so we would have a good view of the sunrise itself.
About 20 minutes later we finally reached that spot, not on the summit yet, but a nice place to sit down. As I watched the sun come up, I took out my dad’s picture which I had carried with me. I burst out in tears and started crying while looking at his picture and taking pictures of a beautiful sunrise…
I explained to Mudi what had happened at the beginning of this year and we just sat there together, talking about things in life. It’s moments like this that make you forget the effort and pain you went through to get up there and what makes travel so priceless.
After this unique moment with Mudi, we continued our trek up to the summit, now I thought it would only be a short hike, but oh boy was I wrong… Every time I saw Ayan and the French couple in the distance and thought I had almost reached them, they continued further up. I really had to push myself to and over my limits. Mudi kept motivating by saying: “If you don’t make it to the summit, you don’t get your breakfast.” and then breakfast was the much-needed energy I was after.
I made it through the last bit while Ayan and Mudi cheered for me, hooray! All I had to do was pick a rock to sit on and wait for Mudi to get my breakfast ready, what a feast that was. Local fruit, tea with plenty of sugar, boiled eggs, sandwiches with jam, energy bars and juice.
After about an hour of being on the summit and giving my legs a rest, Mudi signalled me it was time to make our way down the mountain again. I took off both my fleece sweater and windstopper jacket as by now the sun was giving plenty of warmth.
The first part of the descent I was well motivated and my legs felt good again, it was only after about an hour and a half that the pain returned. Going down put such a strain on your upper legs and feet. We took regular breaks and even had time for a short photo session which made me look like I was on top of the world.
As much as I needed the breaks going up, the breaks were kind of killing my rhythm going downhill. I struggled to keep my legs moving after we sat down for a couple of minutes. So with about 90 minutes to go I asked Mudi if we could just head straight down to the car without stopping. The French couple also agreed on this strategy and so we continued our way…
The last kilometer was a real struggle as cramps started kicking in, my feet were telling me to stop this torture but I made it down in one piece. Completely soaked in sweat, it was like someone had opened a tap on my skin as it just kept pouring out!
This was a great experience, even though it took a toll on my body in the shape of numerous blisters on my feet and sore muscles the days after. But I was so glad I did it, I just had to do it for him…
Usually the guide only take couples or groups of multiple people with them, but as I was by myself, Mudi made an exception and the total cost of this hike was 180 USD. Okay, maybe not cheap but it was well-organized, all transportation was included and Mudi is a great guy to hang out with. He has so much respect for the Mount Agung and he showed this by making several offerings and praying on the way up to the top of this holy mountain.
If you think that Mount Agung is too much of a challenge for you, you can also take the sunrise tour of Mount Batur. This mountain is about half the height of Agung and the trails are easier to walk on. For more details make sure to check out Mudi’s website and if you want to make a booking, don’t hesitate to do this through Panca of Bali Customized Tours as he’s a long time friend of Mudi.