It's midnight, and we are beginning our climb up Gunung Agung, the tallest mountain on the island of Bali. Our guide, Ketut, made an offering here at Pasar Agung's temple before we began our journey. It's high enough in altitude that I am already chilly.
Ok, so I had this crazy idea: that we would climb Gunung Agung starting in the middle of the night, and catch a brilliant sunrise overlooking all of Bali, Lombok in the distance, even Java to the West. They said it would be a 4 hour hike to the peak, where we could rest a little and watch the whole sunrise unfold. There were only a few problems. First off, it was still the wet season (late March), so the ridiculously steep, uneven, trail was precariously wet to boot. And by four hours they meant four hours.* (*if you're in shape enough to do what basically amounts to stairclimbing on a slippery slope using your hands to stop from falling at a breakneck pace.) There are two trails to the summit of Mt. Agung, and the one we took was supposed to be significantly easier. It was easily the hardest hiking I have ever done.
So while I'd like to pretend that we made it to the summit, I have to concede to the rugged tropical king. But we did have an incredible experience - with spectacular nighttime views, like this one:
My camera doesn't do it justice, I swear. We could see Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida and Sanur beach and even Kuta - basically the whole island of Bali stretching out on the horizon. And even the lights of Lombok twinkled through the branches to our east. When we finally decided to call it a night, freaking out at the thought of how difficult a descent might be on little to no sleep and massive fatigue, we were mostly above the forest and closing in on the sheer rock face. Ketut, who had been trying to get us to stop for kopi bali for some time, finally got his wish. He quickly prepared the grainy, black cups. For once, the customary Indonesian 1 part sugar for every 1 part coffee mix was delicious.
After making sure that this was in fact the place where we would stop until sunrise, Ketut snuggled down on the bare rock and fell asleep in minutes. If that doesn't sound like a feat, let me tell you, I'm pretty good at sleeping and I only got 20 minutes for 4 hours of trying. It was freezing cold, especially when the wind whipped through. The view of the stars was heavenly, though. I don't remember ever experiencing such a clear night. The milky way was like a spotlighted stain on the deep quilted night-pattern. Shooting stars kept our spirits high in spite of the abominable conditions.
At last the sun came up.
The climb down wasn't nearly as difficult as we were dreading, and the views certainly helped. Here are the Nusas to the south:
The view over the temple:
This screamed 'default desktop background!'
The daily offering discard pile. "Just throw it over there."
Looking up past the temple at the peak of Agung:
The windy staircase back to the car:
Bananas! And a weird flower thing:
With Ketut, our guide: