A view above the clouds-Scaling Mount Agung, Bali’s most sacred volcano

If you haven’t noticed by my previous posts, we are not seasoned hikers. Sure, I’ve done the 4 day Lares Trek high in the Peruvian Andes, and yea, I spent a few months living in the Amazon doing hikes that were up to 9-10 hours a day. But lately, I’ve been really non-active and all we’ve done is eat and eat the last 2 months in Asia. So when I suggested to Mike that we hike to the rim of an active volcano, he laughed.

Climbing Mount Agung Volcano in Bali

“You can’t be serious,” he said. “We are so out of shape right now! We’ll probably die trying!” was his response every time I tried to convince him it was an awesome idea. I had read about Bali’s Mount Agung, it’s most sacred volcano-and the one place I was dying to hike before we left. All the reports suggesting that you had to be halfway in shape to hike up were not going to deter me, we were going up that mountain even if I had to drag Mike behind me.

We were staying at Ari Homestay in Candidasa, and it’s owner, Gary, organized our hike for us. We had a guide meet us at our place outlining the plan, the cost, and what to bring. We had to be ready and waiting at 1:00am. From Candidasa, they’d pick us up and take us to the starting point of the hike, Pura Besakih temple. Everything I had read had told us that this was the difficult hike, but we didn’t understand much besides, “be ready and we’ll get you to the top of the volcano.” Ok, sounded good.

We were picked up and driven almost 2 hours over the bumpiest roads, full of gigantic potholes, winding our way higher up the mountain till my ears started to pop, and I saw the sign for Selat, the nearest town, so I knew we were close. In the pitch dark, we get out of the car and notice a couple of other vans nearby. Others had already started the hike up. We were introduced to our guide, a young guy named Wayan, and I felt good. He was strong and looked confident.

He told us that his mom and his sister were also guides and were currently guiding others along, so we proceeded towards the first obstacle-hundreds of steps. A nice warm up for what was to come. The hike going up went smooth-we developed a slow, but steady pace, and took only 1 break for water and to eat a banana. We had been given head lamps, and as we went up higher it got a little colder so we put our jackets on. The uphill was tiring, but we kept going trying to stop as little as possible so we would keep our muscles warm.

When we started to get pretty high up if we turned around we could see the whole valley below. The twinkling lights looked amazing, but as much as I wanted to stop and take a picture I wanted to keep going more. The higher we got, the more difficult the hike became. And then the hard part started.

We were at a steep angle, in the dark, on an unfamiliar path. I was a bit freaked out, but when we got to the point when we had to start crawling on all fours I got REALLY scared. I gave Mike our backpack to better steady myself, and I’m afraid not of heights but not being able to see much was scary. Our guide Wayan was encouraging, he told us how well we were doing, pointing up at the lights at the top. “You’re almost there, only a little longer,” he said. Then came the part where we were rock climbing on tiny slivers of ledges, rocks ripping off and falling into the darkness below, and we were forced to hike at a 45 degree angle.

This is when I lost it.

I completely freaked out because I was worried about Mike. While Wayan was busy helping me find my footing, who would look after him? What if he fell while Wayan was helping me? I thought maybe we’d made a mistake. Maybe this was out of our league. I started crying and Wayan apologized, as if he’d done something wrong. “You can do it babe. We are so close, c’mon get up there! Keep going!” Mike was saying, and he was right. We had not come all this way, (we were about 20 minutes from the top) to quit now. I wiped my tears, which had only made my nose runnier that it already was (it was quite cold) and we kept going.

We made it to the top with perfect timing. We were going to catch the sunrise. Wayan’s mother gave us some tea and coffee, and we celebrated. We made it. And then came the most glorious sunrise I’d ever seen in my whole life.

We were above the clouds, with a handful of other hikers that had also made it up. A couple of groups were still on the way, having started out too late. A few people had given up and gone back down. One woman quit at the steps. We were so proud of ourselves. It was freezing, and Wayan gave us both the spare jackets he had. I felt like we were dreaming. Let me tell the rest of the story in pictures.

I had so much respect for our amazing guides, who risk their lives to bring people up here-Wayan’s uncle was also a guide, and he came up in sandals. SANDALS.

Wayan, his sister, and his mother

A shadow of the volcano

The best moment

Offerings to the gods

Try not to move around too much, you might fall off the edge

Inside the crater

Hiking down was a whole other story. Now that it was daylight, I was no longer afraid of the ledges and steep edges that had me paralyzed with fear earlier. I was able to laugh it all off and enjoy the views. It was a beautiful sunny day.

Watching hikers descent from Mount Agung, we were not even halfway down(iphone pic)

Now I can smile cause its all downhill- and daylight!

We spotted a lone monkey waiting to get fed, passed other hikers, and then towards the end I twisted my ankle a bit. Our knees were killing us, and when we finally reached the staircase we’d hiked up all those hours earlier, of course I didn’t recognize it. It felt like I spent a lifetime at the top of that mountain.

Hungry Monkey

When we got to the temple at Pura Besakih, although I had read about it and really wanted to go inside and photograph it, all I could do was collapse on the grass drinking bottles of water and eating a boiled egg and some nuts and raisins. We were exhausted. So, I photographed the outside of the temple. Up in the distance is Mount Agung and seeing it from below- I was so amazed that we’d made it up.

Pura Besakih

When we decided to hike this volcano, I had nothing but confidence that we’d make it up. However, at my darkest moment, when I was most afraid, my guide help my hand-literally-and helped me up the rest of the way. He never gave up on us, even though we looked so out of shape and he thought it was hilarious when I would not let go of his hand. Our knees were on fire, my ankle was throbbing, but we did it. I faced my fear and with a little help I saw something I never thought I would see.

Us with my hiking stick

I never let anyone or anything stop me from doing what I want to do with my life. However, sometimes the right people are put in your path and they help give you a little push. We are so grateful to our awesome guide who helped us achieve a dream.

Wayan and Me- the best guide a girl could ever ask for

Mike, Wayan, and I- with the steps behind us

We tipped him very well not because he told us that he’d recently had a little baby, but because I genuinely felt that he wanted us to feel that happiness that gets to feel when he climbs up that mountain-that energy. I’d felt it, and for that I was forever grateful.

13 Comments

  • wow! great sunrise photo!!! well, i’m not a mountaineer myself, though my friends and i have been to several mountains. too bad i only saw this mountain from afar when we went to Bali.

  • Jim says:

    That is an awesome adventure. How high is the volcano?

  • Mark Wiens says:

    Being on top of a mountain or volcano for sunrise is one of the most glorious things to see. Glad you had a great guide too!

    • Mica says:

      Mark, he was the best guide I could have ever hoped for. Not sure if anyone else would have put up with me, he had such patience!

  • Stuart says:

    Enjoyed the writeup and that is some great pics you have there – the second one in particular is excellent!

  • Some guides are just amazingly awesome and they have a really tough job sometimes. Not only do they have to show people the way they also have to be a psychologist too and really need to take care of their clients mentally and physically.

    That is awesome you had such a caring guide to help you conquer a tough moment. That is the great thing about travel. You meet wonderful people like Wayan that you will never forget. Great post.

    • Mica says:

      Ted this is so true. I have not had much experience with guides in hiking besides the hike I did for 4 days in Peru. And that was another amazing guide. The other guides there seemed to be just as wonderful, granted they were all related- but Wayan’s uncle looked a bit quiet and I was thinking about how lucky I was to have gotten Wayan. I don’t know if his uncle would have held my hand and led the way as Wayan did. I felt like maybe because he spoke better English he was able to understand what I was feeling. We had a great connection. Glad you liked the post.

  • What an excellent read and that first photo of the sunrise is spectacular!

  • flipnomad says:

    amazing pictures… seeing the sunrise up above the mountain is really an experience… thanks for sharing!!!

  • Rachael G says:

    Great story, any idea how to contact your guide Wayan? We’re heading there in a couple of weeks and will try Agung if it’s not too wet

    • Mica says:

      Not too sure. The only link I have is that I booked my guide through my homestay in Candidasa. I booked through Ari Homestay in Candidasa with the owner, Gary (which is in front of the police station) and I sort of know where he lives…but there are so many people in Bali named Wayan. I wish I had gotten his number, but we just took an idea of where he lived and said we would remember. We should have gotten his number.

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