Ligaya in Indonesia

Mount Agung - Bali

Mount Agung is a pretty serious volcano by any standard. It dominates the north eastern part of Bali. It is 3,142 meters - 10,308 feet high. Whilst not high enough to cause altitude sickness, it is certainly high enough to make you catch your breath.

It is classed as an active volcano and it last erupted in 1963/4 when some 1,500 people were killed.

Most people, ourselves included, start the climb from the Besakih temple, which is located at about 1,100 meters on the southern slope of the mountain. This is the so-called "Mother Temple" of Bali, and all temples on Bali, and indeed many houses, are built to face this temple.

Even starting from the temple rather than sealevel, it is still a tough climb to the top. We nearly made it, but turned back a couple of hundred meters short of the crater.

Here is our GPS track up the mountain, from the Temple. One reason why the climb is so tough is that the track goes pretty much straight up the mountain, with barely a zig or a zag.

The drive up to Besakih was a bit fraught in itself. We had booked a guide through a tour operator, and the operator came to collect us from the boat in a rather tired old Jeep Cherokee. The usual way to tackle the climb is to go up overnight, this not only avoids climbing in the heat of the day, but gives you the best chance of clear skies at dawn, not to mention the sunrise.

We left the boat at 11pm and drove across the island. The road up to Besakih is narrow and steep. We were still a few kilometers short of the Temple, when the road got very steep, and the clutch on the Cherokee began to protest. The car went slower, the engine reved harder and the smell of burning clutch plates got stronger. The driver tried zig-zagging across the road to make the gradient less, but eventually the car ground to a halt.

It was a bit disconcerting when the driver started to laugh, almost hysterically, and let the car roll back down the hill. He rolled back down for a kilometer or two, until we reached a fairly level spot. From there he had another go, giving the engine full revs. Despite an ever increasing smell of clutch plates, we did get over that hill and eventually arrived at the temple.

Right from the car the climb began. We had to go up three hundred and, I believe, twenty eight steps to reach the temple. That was quite hard without any warm-up, but we made it. Behind the temple we plunged into thick jungle. We were wearing head lamps to leave our hand free, and I found it quite surreal to be walking up this very steep path, hemmed in by jungle on all sides, just in my own little ball of light.

After an hour or so of quite tough walking, the trees began to thin a little, and laid out below us was much of the island. We could see the airport, the entrance to Benoa port and many of the towns and villages that had visited before. With the street lights shining it was laid out like a map before us.

Once clear of the trees, it was quite tough going. Most of the surface was lava, but some areas were dried mud, which even though it was dry, was quite slippery.

There were a few areas where we had to actually climb, rather than scramble up the rocks - I have never professed to be a climber. Two pitches were rather exposed and would have been dangerous if either of us had fallen there. It would have been much safer if we had had ropes, or if the guides were to secure ropes or cables there to give a more secure handhold.

The final couple of hundred meters to the crater looked pretty steep, and also somewhat exposed, so we decided to call a halt.

We were waiting for the sun to come up over the flank of the mountain, but it was bitterly cold. We decided to begin our descent in the pre-dawn light.

Even though it was not fully light, we had good views across most of the island. There was a layer of low clouds, but we were well above them, so they did not obscure the views.
As it got lighter, we could look back up at the rim of the crater.
After a couple of hours we got down to the beginning of the tree line. Although the track was still steep, the going was easier.
Looking down on the Besakih Temple, it seemed an awful long way below us, hiding among the trees.
We took a break on the way down and were soon joined by a couple of very inquisitive monkeys. This one seemed to have been up all night too, as he was yawning even more that we were!

Eventually, the Temple appeared through the trees. We were glad to see it; we had been walking for some eleven hours at this stage.

Now all that remained were the steps, all three hundred and, I believe, 28 of them to get back to the car.

Luckily for the us and the Cherokee's clutch, it was downhill almost all the way home.

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