Up and Over Abang

There are two beautiful volcano’s on Bali. The highest one is Agung, the other Batur. Between them is a skinny mountain called Abang. Most people who want to climb a mountain in Bali climb Batur, and a some adventurous hikers make it up Agung. But very few ever find their way up Abang. I’ve spent many years in Bali and only just made it to the top of Abang last week. It was the most beautiful hike I’ve ever done on the island. I took three cousins from Toronto and two Balinese guides with me. We started walking at 6:30 am and followed the main path to the top. It took two and a half hours to get to the peak, it  was easy.

My dad had asked me to find an alternate route up the mountain, so he convinced me to go up to the top and find a different route down. The easy hike up had made us a little cocky and we spent an hour lying around on the top of the mountain, in a little temple, before we started our decent. The temple has a giant gate made of brick that sits in front of some small wooden alters. There are no walls. It looks as if they were planning on making the whole thing out of bricks, but after lugging the material up for the gate they had a change of heart and decided that a little wood would suffice for the alters, and that a wall wasn’t necessary. From the top there are two main ridges that look like possible routes back down the mountain. One ridge goes off to the north-east toward east Bali. The other leads straight north. Pak Made had been down the north ridge a long time ago and said it ended up in Trunian, a funny village on the shore of Lake Batur that puts their dead on the ledges of a steep cliff to rot. None of us knew what the north-east ridge would be like. We decided to go down the north ridge.

The scenery up there is amazing. The trees, mostly cemara (Casuarina junghuhniana), are covered in moss and epiphytes (air plants) including some tiny orchids. All the vegetation was green and lush. The wind made a beautiful swooshing sound as it hit the canopy. On either side of the ridge it quickly dropped off into steep valleys and ravines. There were even some signs of porcupine on the mountain. We ran into a few of their dens as we bushwacked our way through the underbrush, but didn’t see any animals. Then we got lost. Pak Made led us too far down the first ridge, and then realized we needed to turn off onto a side spur. A little backtracking fixed the problem. Luckily the bushes up there are relatively friendly, and bushwhacking was easy enough. There aren’t very many thorns and the grass is soft for the most part. As we dropped in elevation the landscape opened up a bit into large clearings. As we walked we could see Mount Batur and the lake to the west and Agung to the east. The path was steep enough to be exciting but easy enough that you feel safe, and the beauty took my mind off any fears that came up.

After a few more hours it got hairy. We ended up on a steep slope going sideways. Wayan had to take out the rope to get us across some particularly dangerous parts. By this point we were getting hungry and most of us had ran out of water. Graeme had a Coke that we all shared. Then we came across a russling in the bushes that turned out to be a Giant python. Only Wayan saw it, but from the trail it left in the grass I’m glad we missed it. We had all been wading around the the grass all day and had a good deal more of it to do to get to the bottom. To put a bit more of an edge into the situation, the fog moved in. Pak Made, our main guide, lost his sense of direction and we went an hour out of our way. Again we backtracked. This time through a forest of giant ferns that made me feel like I was in Jurassic Park. Thinking about the snake didn’t help. At this point, Graeme and I were slightly delirious and were laughing a lot. Pak Made felt like he had lost a lot of face and was rushing off ahead to find the way. Pak Wayan was losing faith in Pak Made (we all were) and David kept saying “I’m not turning around again, I’m going downhill no matter what.”

By 5:30 we were all in a warung in Trunian. The sun was low in the sky and we all chugged a few bottles of Aqua before getting in the Car. Baluk, our driver, was laughing about how he got a full night’s sleep. We were more than a few hours late. The trip took 11 hours in total. I’m glad the weather was good, though. If it had been any sunnier we would all have cooked, and  if it had rained we would all have frozen. If you want an honest adventure and a good slice of the wild in Bali, climb Abang bushwhacked your way down. It’s far more exciting than Agung or Batur.

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