Saturday, May 28, 2011

Climbing Mt. Agung

My whole trip to Bali was pretty damned awesome, but the highlight was the hike that myself and 3 of the others on the trip decided to make up Mt. Agung. Mt. Agung is a 10,000 ft. high volcano, and is the highest peak in Bali. It's not currently active - it last erupted in the 1960s - and there are a few standard hikes that people make to climb it, the main one starts at Besakih, which is the largest temple complex in Bali, and climbs up almost 7000 feet to the very, very peak. In case this wasn't difficult enough, the standard "thing" that people do is make the climb such that they can watch the sunrise from the very peak - which is to say, that one has to start the climb at around 2 am.

So. On 5/14 at midnight, the four of us set off for our climb! We had two drivers, and upon our arrival at around two we met up with our two guides, put on our head lamps, and started up the climb! We were promptly greeted by a priest, who warned us that it was a festival day and that we would be visited by divine retribution if we continued (literally. no exaggeration. It was kinda awesome.). We all agreed that if we had known it was a festival day, we'd not have gone, but having gotten there, we weren't going to stop (I later found out that there are festival days roughly once a week, so I didn't feel that bad).

Anyway, on the hike up there wasn't much to photograph even though it was truly spectacular. The sky was so, so clear, and we could see the webs of light all over the island south of us. I made some attempts at taking very long exposures of the night sky, and they were somewhat successful...

We could see the whole Milky Way. :) I also made a stab at getting a shot at the lights of the island.

Pretty blury, I know; the red light in the foreground was two members of our exploratory party. :) We were nearly to the very top when one of our numbers' phobia of heights prompted us to stop about 200 m shy of the tip top. In all, it took us about four hours to get to that point. So, we settled down to eat a little breakfast and watch the promised sunrise. It was still very dark, but we could finally make out the silhouette of the very peak.

We were well above the tree line by this point, hence why the phobia was triggered - but in truth, there was no disappointment, we were pretty satisfied with how awesome we were. :) As it got more light, we began to make out some of the details of what surrounded us. It was pretty mind blowing. And so we all took lots and lots of pictures of the volcanic landscape, the sunrise, the view, and...ourselves. :)

(terrible picture, I know, but it's what I've got...)

(this is about all that lived that high up)

(we could make out peaks that were on the island of least, that's what our guide told us they were...)

(I noticed this strange line across the sky and could not for the life of me figure out what it was, when one of the others said - a few minutes later - "look, it's the shadow of the volcano!")

(fairly typical view of what we were hiking through as we went back down)

For me, the hike down was considerably more difficult than the hike up had been. For the boys, it was the opposite. I theorize that this is the difference between mostly training cardio (me) and mostly doing muscle building (them) - the part that required more leg strength (down) was much easier for them. I feel a few times, twisted my knee, skinned my hand, and gave myself some very impressive bruises on my leg that I didn't see until later that day - but I was over all fine, just physically beat (it took me three days to recover!). But finally, finally, we were back to Besakih. It was about a 7 hour hike when all was said and done.

This was the point that we turned around, and saw where we had been.

Oh, and there were monkeys!!

I wish we could have actually gone in to the temple. But - festival.

All in all, it was pretty awesome. That little point sticking up right near the middle? Yeah, that's where we were.

One of the highlights of my life, the hardest physical thing I've ever done, and totally worth it in every way.

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