It was a difficult decision, I had not expected to have to pay to walk up a mountain, but everyone I spoke to said the same thing if you try and walk up Agung on your own you will be stopped. The only way to climb Agung and Batur is with a guide, prices seem range from $30 to $100 US to climb Batur and then Agung depending on how good your negotiating skills are. We took the plunge and got a good price for me to climb Agung and then both of us to climb Batur the next day.
Having packed some warm clothes and a first aid kit, I was picked up at 11pm, then we drove to Pasar Agung Temple, 1500m one of the starting points for Agung. Agung as far as I understood means big mountain. It is the highest mountain and Volcano in Bali at 3142 meters with its last eruption in 1963. At 2am and we started walking. I was a little nervous, I had no idea as to what height we were starting from (at the time) and I did not think that I was going to be that fit. The last walking we did was in New Zealand in October, nearly 5 months ago. Fortunately the cycling had kept me reasonably fit, despite our time off in Bali. Although the ascent was steep and we had to scramble in sections, I felt happy and strong.
After an hour or so walking on a narrow path cut between the scrub, we stopped for some coffee and food. We had now left the scrub surrounded by rocks, moss and lichen. As I sat looking at the island below me I felt a sense of peace and comfort. I was meant to be here, this was my environment, my home. Some people go to church or the temple to pray, I go to the mountains.
I managed to lose my guide for the last hour allowing me to find my own path up the mountain. I felt like a mountain cat scampering up rocky outcrops and over small gullies of scree. I emerged at the crater rim, energy radiating from within and greeted the people at the top. The guides passed food around, us tourists took photos and made small talk. I handed out some clothes to those that were cold and then sat watching the sunrise above the far side of the crater rim.
Just over half an hour later we all started descending. As we went down we passed a large group of Balinese people that had made a pilgrimage to the temple and the mountain, most walking in flip-flops and some in bare feet but all in traditional dress, sarong, waist and head band.
The decent was steep and slippery but I found my rhythm and started trotting down to the temple surrounded by sarongs, flip-flops and people chatting in Bahasa, with the occasional hello where are you from. I reached the temple in a little over three hours and rested and stretched my legs before heading back to Kedisan for lunch and a sleep.
For those intending to climb Agung there are two starting points, one Pasar Agung where I started from. From here it takes about 4 hours up and down. The other starting point is at Besakih Temple 1000m, this is the mother temple in Bali. From here the walk is about 6 hours and by all accounts is a bit steeper. As far as I could gather, the finishing point when starting at Besakih temple is the other, east, side of the crater. This would give a different sunrise view.
If you are fit and walk regularly, you should have no trouble with Agung. If you have not done much trekking/hiking before then be prepared for a long walk and sore legs after. If you are not sure, then maybe do a shorter walk up Batur instead. With any of these volcanoes and/or mountains in Bali remember that it will be a lot colder the higher you are, so take some warm clothing for the top and rest breaks, and some sun cream for the walk down in the sun. Also check with your guide or tour agent how much food and water is provided - you may want to bring extra. No rivers or burger vans to stock up along the way!
Happy Trekking/Walking/Hiking/Tramping depending where you are from!