Mount Agung – Peak

Post dedicated to the peak of Mount Agung

Frankly, I didn’t know it’d had such a lingering effect. It’s been almost a week since I was atop the peak of Mount Agung and every now and then my mind goes back to that scene. The view, the clouds, the cold. The summit. Such an incredible feeling. I can’t, can’t wait to hike up the mountains again; I feel restless flitting through my memory. So thankful I’m all booked for Salkantay. Sigh!!!!!! So excited I want to explode. <- How I miss feeling like this! This, the feeling I keep searching for.

Upon landing in Changi Airport:
This, this was the point I was waiting for. To land in Singapore safely after an amazing trip. Before the trip I always carry all these fears – fears of the flight, walking along the foreign street, the mountain, my body, the flight back, the multitude of things that could happen to me, that wouldn’t have happened if I haven’t stubbornly opted for the trip, the what-ifs (what if the trip was a mistake, what if something happened to me, my life) the dozens of fearful possibilities. And to reach this point of safety with the brilliant weekend that passed, that felt awesome.

Mount Agung

Would like to write these thoughts and feelings down before they escape me, or become overlapped by subsequent events 

So we made it, 3000+ m up – my first ascension of a proper mountain. It’s hard to believe it, I was waiting for this moment since last week, to be frank. 
Mount Agung, the dreaded Mount Agung I’d been fearing for the week. For that one week! After all those reviews I’d read! I was sickened to the stomach by my leaping nerves before the trip. (On hindsight, those reviews… while they did prepare me for the ’45 degrees steepness’ / the going-on-all-4s, the ‘mental preparation’ wasn’t particularly useful i think)

As someone completely inexperienced (until Batur!) it didn’t seem like a good idea. On the car ride I was facing some flutters in my stomach at the thought that I’d soon be confronting that dreaded fear. The two hours did not pass peacefully, dark thoughts flitted through my mind every now and then as I tried to ignore them. I could do Batur, I knew I would finish this, somehow, I just wasn’t sure how much I’d suffer. This was less than 12 hours after our Batur hike.
some favourites:


The night:

We reached Mayan’s house when the skies were still dark, had some hot tea and peanut butter biscuit, and set off to the temple. The night sky was vast and beautiful, and it was clear. Cz tried to take a photo as Mayan went to pray. Then, as the night breeze quietly blew, the stars twinkling from above, we set off, with about 250 steps. 

Up, up, up. End of the stairs. We then went to some sort of a jungle trek. Up, up, up. Over branches, going past some leaves. This was pretty interesting, I thought as I went through scratchy plants. Up, up, up. 

The first half of the trek was the jungle path, and a rocky path after. Rocky and stairs-like. Up, up, up. We stopped maybe about twice to have a sip of water and proceeded (in what I think is, hopefully, short breaks that wouldn’t hinder us!) 

Up, up, up.

Then came the dreaded part, the second half. The traversing was difficult, it was so tough I can’t picture doing it without Wayan. I was petrified, so petrified! I knew I had to go on all 4s at some point, but this! It was something I couldn’t trust myself to do, without getting injured, or straight into nothingness. I remember looking back at one point, panting, exhausted, muscles tense and aching from having to stand at that 45 degrees, the steepness working hand in hand with gravity to make things more difficult for me. Could I really make it? My thighs ached, I did question myself. But with Wayan I felt more assured, I just didn’t know if we’d be there by sunrise. 

Fear, fear. My fear was the most inhibiting of all. I wasn’t physically exhausted, but when I looked back behind me I saw a canvas of darkness, of nothingness that I could very possibly fall into with one loose footing. It was like the reviewers had said! No safety measures, whatever. I was here, clinging onto the mountain rocks, thousands of meters above sea level? That’s insane. The stars winked at me from above, the city lights glimmered hauntingly from below. It was a beautiful sight if I were on flat ground, but with my trembling feet trying its best to step on the right firm rocks (akin to rock climbing) it was petrifying. What if I fell? Gone forever? I thought about the NUS mountaineer who fell when he was taking a photo or something. We often think these things happen to someone else, someone else, but what if, what it this time it was me? I would regret ascending this in that scenario, I really would. It occurred to me then that often, the decisions you make are often the best or the worst. When things turn out well it’s one of the best decisions to have been made. I kind of knew I would get there, I was just thinking about how happy I would be the next day. The next day, this will be done, and I’ll be on the ground, celebrating my successful ascension. The next day, the next few hours, everything is easy on hindsight – wait for hindsight to come. 

Arduous almost never-ending rocks later we were still traversing leftwards, zig-zag manner instead of upwards, which was a little mentally draining. What, another hour?? After so long there’s still another hour of this?? Sigh. My kind was blank, I simply focused on getting there. During our rest stop we ate bananas and bang bang. I wish I took a photo of it- the little chocolate bar, how much I appreciated it at that point. Left, left, up, up, up… 

Finally, it felt like I could see the summit. Felt a surge of thrill coursing through my veins as I climbed up, up… I was there. Wow. I was at a flat plane, at last. Wayan pointed in front – there, the true summit. I walked along the ridge towards the highest point. At this point, I was quiet. It’s hard to explain the emotion – it’s some sort of joy, relief, and a wave of calmness, assurance that I had done it, I knew I would and I have, I have. At last, I thought as I steadily trudged forth, step by step, up, up, up. On my left, the dark sky was cracking open with the golden hues of the sun. Then, I was there. At the summit of Mount Agung, 3142m above seat level. 

I looked around me – we were so high, there were the mountain views to our front, and the crater, and the clouds. My legs were trembling a bit. I sat down and drank hot tea that Wayan prepared (he carried a thermal flask with him) and ate cup noodles. Took photos, until it got very, very cold, and we made our way down.  

Photospam of the process in daylight, because it deserves it, and I want to remember as much as I can:

 why cant i just slide allll the way down….

 Wayan effortlessly takes a selfie. How?!?!1 How does he hop so readily from one rock to another??

 what?? 5 more hours to go????

 spot the human

maybe it’s the bang-bangs

 as usual, me always a step ahead……..

Descending – after 6 long hours of climbing up, I wondered how long it’ll take to get down. The walk down wasn’t any easier than upwards (as with Batur), but at least that inhibiting fear of getting hauled into the darkness forever was slightly negated by my ability to see. My legs hurt with each strong step downwards; it would be easier to sit down my butt and slide. Slide, slide, walked and balance (failing quite a bit), slide, and after what felt like a long time, I took this photo. What, it has only been an hour? Or two? Not even halfway down. 

Slide, slide, walk clumsily, cling onto side rocks, walk, thump, slide, look down and saw this greenery. How do I get there? Why can’t I slide down all the way? Ugh, traversing sideways sucked. Ate some bang bangs, handed Wayan my camera at this point. He chirpily sang Indonesian songs as he hoped from rock after rock effortlessly – damn! How does he do it so easily while I’m struggling with my steps! One camera in hand, one hiking stick the other, and sometimes me. Walk, walk, walk – are we halfway there yet? Can we walk on a normal path already? 

Basically, walking and walking and walking 
Passed the halfway mark – finally!!!! Damn these rocks, I need a normal straight path please. The next part was descending the rocky steps. So this was what I climbed on my way up, it was interesting to see what the night concealed. Down, down, down… 

Repeat this for another 3-4 hours or something 

Finally! A less rocky path. What I was waiting for. The water pipes! The place we first stopped and tried to take photos of the Milky Way! The forest trail, we were nearing. (About an hour +, which, on second thoughts, felt long but so short) Down down down down
The rhythmic clacking of my hiking stick I now declared my best $10 purchase of the year
Wayan showed us some berries that monkeys ate. They were round and red, and burst in my mouth. The berries of the wilderness! I liked it. The sun started to beat down. Sweat beads rolled down. Down, down, down,

Reaching! At the flatter paths, I was so excited I wanted to run. “Last one is a pig!” That side of me emerged, hehe. 5 minutes to the exit. 5 minutes! Wow. Half jogged my way out, and with my last triumphant step I got out of the jungle trail, onto the concrete terrain I stepped foot on 12 hours ago. Wow. 

I was waiting for this moment, the moment where I stepped foot on the concrete terrain and declare that I’ve made it. I looked up – I can’t believe I was there a couple of hours ago. Life is pretty amazing. We are so small in the vastness of the universe. 

The last 200-300 steps. Please, what were these in comparison to all we’ve clambered through the night? I happily hopped down (just kidding, more like clumsily painfully foot-by-foot walked down with my dear hiking stick) and we finally reached the ground. Gave our thanks (MY IMMENSE GRATITUDE- COULDNT HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT HIM!!!) and made our way back to Ubud. Showered, basically collapsed into a deep sleep. Abolished my plans to explore Ubud. 

Mount Batur

Along the hike on Mount Agung, I felt a wave of regret for not jotting down my immediate feelings after the Mount Batur hike. Because the person that I was at that point (Mount Batur), and the person that I would be after the Mount Agung climb, would be different in some sense. The subsequent recollection of this memory would be from the view of someone who had ascended Mount Agung, and that raw fascination of the first hike of my life has escaped, the feelings melded. Still, here’s an attempt.
Mount Batur (250,000idr after some bargaining along the streets)
We set off at 2.30. The driver picked us up at our homestay, and 2 hours later we reached Kintamani, where we would start our hike. We had breakfast at a hut before setting off – tea, banana pancake. ‘So, how much did you pay?’ ‘Ah, the question’ we laughed, the table of backpackers (us, the only Asians). One of them paid 45usd – ouch. 
Got a pack of food – boiled egg, banana and bread and jam, as part of the tour.
3.30am or so – started the hike. I looked up; I could see some bright stars but they were faintly concealed by clouds. It was cold, and it started to rain. Sigh. We walked up along a forest path, the rain didn’t seem like it was stopping anytime soon. 
Walked and walked 
I was focused on my tracks, staring at the ground with my torchlight in hand
Cz said, turn off your flashlight and look to the side. I did, and saw how far we’d walked up now. The starting point seemed pretty tiny, lights from the ground flickered in the distance. Above me some stars glittered. 
I remember standing there and seeing flashlights 
Trail of flashlights bobbing 
Wondering how long more to the summit
But I was reaching, and I would reach before I know it, that I was sure
I kind of realised that it was hard for me to stop and appreciate the surroundings once in a while; the larger part of me didn’t want to stop, I just wanted to walk, walk, walk till I reach 
But I should take it all in, soak in the moment of how high up we are from where we were 
Our group stopped for some time because of some waiting amidst the trail of people and the search(?) for the second guide. We had another walk to the summit and daylight was breaking soon (45minutes); as much as it was nice to rest for a bit I felt a surge of urgency. This was a little harder – higher steps, rocky stairs. The hardest of the trek would have to be the volcanic ashes. Volcanic ashes I was trudging my feet up, feeling thankful for the $10 hiking stick I’d bought that sank firmly into the steep volcanic ash. I slowed down a little there, and I looked to my right and felt the sky brightening for a bit, felt a surge of panic and tried to go a little faster (ugh! The! Steep! Volcanic! Rocks! Kept! Sliding! A bit!) 
Eventually! Made it! Summit! 
Hurray! Joined the people that were already there as I took in my first summit. Ah, the clouds. The crack of dawn. Some soft of calm silence amidst the light chatters from all that reached the summit. Sighed inwardly, relieved that it was just what I’d expected, I suppose. Wasn’t tough, wasn’t particularly strenuous. For a first-time hiker, I would say it was easy. Pictures, the rain pelted on. 
Walked to the crater, saw the sulfur vents, the valleys. I was here! I was here! I had ascended a volcano! I had seen sulfur vents before, but it’s always a little different from hiking one, and reaching it with my own two feet. 
We descended the volcano with the rain gradually coming to a slow halt. The weather was cool and we slowly made our way down. That wasn’t too bad, I thought as we walked. Took pictures along the way. Would Salkantay be like this? I wondered. Probably, and hopefully even more beautiful. 

I love, love love this sight so much, even revisiting its picture takes my breath away. The undulating terrains!!!

Sigh, I can still remember the exact moment I took this. I looked up from my camera and was once again washed over with that feeling of awe. How do I take all these home! I can’t, obviously. I wish the mental image wouldn’t fade. The pictures just can’t capture how it really is, you had said. Well, it’s true, now I look at my dull images and think back to how I felt at that point. Just feeling… wonderful. That familiar heart-singing joy I often find myself seeking. I want to take all these home!

Days after the hike I found myself replaying these memories over and over again.

Ubud, Bali

Hello Bali!
The thing about Bali (Ubud) that surprised me was the juxtaposition of the old and the modern. Historical ruins of sorts were seen along the streets, and every now and then you’d pass by these shops that stood out with their shining glass panels, their quirky fonts or indie-looking products that seemed too new to fit into this landscape. It was interesting, of course, how they stuck themselves and were peppered along the historical-looking architecture of the streets. It seemed to me that this place was catered to tourists, in some ways crafted, enacted, for the influx of international visitors or retirees perhaps. I mean, Pandora?? High-end bags and clothing placed next to a stall selling batik shawls, baskets and mosaic plates. Cafés with shiny glass panels and modern-looking furniture that hinted nothing of the grungy streets outside. Jarring indeed, and very interesting. 
example of hippie, modern cafe
Other quirky bits:

Upon landing in Denpansar Airport, we caught a cab to Ubud and stopped along Cajan street, one of the main areas with homestays lining the streets. 

the path by which we walk (homestay)

homestay granny

I could understand why Bali held the roots of the ‘eat pray love’ phenomena – it was peaceful walking along the streets, you could see shops every now and then showcasing art pieces. The openly embraced art scene made me like the city a little more.

Some of my favourite meals I’d like to remember:


Final meal in Ubud, after the exhausting 2 days. I wrote: ‘Woke up for dinner – finally, some food. It occurred to me that we had been eating about 1 meal a day or something. This is the trip of weight loss, really. I wasn’t particularly hungry either. 

Walked around a little, went back to sleep. Slept till the morning, lunch at a lovely place with a wonderful view of the rice field. The rice field I’ve wanted to see! Hahaha. They waved gently in the wind as we sat there with our avocado milkshakes and duck. It was a lovely meal to end our trip.’
And of course, the hiking – the bulk of the trip and truly, i think the most amazing thing i’ve done to date (other than impending grad trip, which is not yet over)