If it is your aim to get off the beaten trek in Bali and discover a spectacular volcanic wonderland from a different angle, then Gunung Abang has something very special on offer. Every guidebook and tourist office will sell and recommend you a sunrise on the crater rim of Gunung Batur, which is the central cone of the Kintamani Caldera. With a diameter of 10 km, a colorful lake embedded on the south and the ancient Aga village of Trunyan on its shores, the area offers plenty of eruptive history as well as cultural anecdotes making it a must visit destination. However due to the popularity as a tourist destination there is a rather sad downside making a visit not always very pleasant. The healthy tourist trade brought in lots of welcomed tourist dollars, which also spoiled and tarnished the helpfulness and sincerity of the locals. Hiking @ Gunung Abang
There is really one incident that comes to my mind when we recall our journey to Gunung Abang. Please keep in mind that my wife Puji is Balinese and joined me on this adventure. On the way out of Kintamani towards the starting point of the trail one has to follow the main road towards Pura Besakih the mother temple. Within five minutes following the winding road along the caldera we were stopped by a Balinese lady carrying a tray of offerings. It is common practice that such ladies will place an offering on your windscreen, do a little prayer and then ask for a small donation. This was slightly different in this instance, where the lady did not place one but decorated the car with a dozen offerings, spoke a loud prayer for my wife, then come around the car and repeated the same with me, went back to my wife and demanded a little donation of Rp.300’000 which is the equivalent of about US$35 or the disposable income that a Balinese family would have in five days. This really displays the attitude many of the locals in the area have towards foreigners. However once you overcome this hurdle then your adventure into the highland of Bali will become a most memorable and positive discovery. Trekking @ Gunung Abang
On the shore of Lake Batur and on the foot of Gunung Abang lies one of the two remaining ancient Aga Villages of Bali that offer a rather macabre tourist attraction. Think twice before you decide to visit the rather unusual grave yard.There is a small cemetery known as Trunyan, where people from the nearby village of Kuban “bring” their dead to rest on top of the ground. This unusual practice has become something of a macabre tourist attraction. Perhaps it is not really an “attraction” but a place that pricks people’s curiosity. The local people, though, have clearly become used to tourists coming to this site and so haggle constantly for donations, which apparently are then given to the dead.
One can only reach this site by boat, a small fleet of which await visitors at the end of a wooden jetty where the stunning Mount Batur looks on. Crossing the lake to Trunyan takes about 30 minutes and upon arrival a small huddle of men awaits any arriving boats.
The cemetery is small and in desperate need of maintenance. Although this is the final resting place a sense of respect for the dead does seem to be in short supply here. Human skulls are lined up on stonewall shelves and bones are scattered all over the floor, which creates a rather eerie sight. However the elderly will invite you to pick up a skull and pose together with you for a photo, this of course for a generous donation.Trekking @ Gunung Abang
In this final resting place, the bodies of the deceased are just covered in cloth and laid into a bamboo cages on the floor below a huge banyan tree. These cages are flimsy and practically leave the body out in the open to the elements.
This creates an obvious concern; dead bodies left out in the open will of course decompose and the potential for unwelcome odors and even health concerns is real. However here, apparently, the presence of a banyan tree, described as holy, has warded off such concerns.
The huge banyan tree seems to stand as a guarding and protective figure of this cemetery. Its leaves carpet the ground around the gravesite and presumably this is part of the way in which the tree keeps the area free from unwelcome odors and so on. Trekking @ Gunung Abang Bali
Follow the main road from the main tourist area in Kintamani towards the mother temple Pura Besakih. The road follows for the first 4 km right along the rim of the caldera. Then unmistakable the road will turn right descending down the hillside. It is here where a small road leads straight ahead and continues to follow the crater rim. Then after about one kilometer you will reach Pura Munggu in Desa Abang a small temple with a large car park. It is wise to park here and ask the lady in the small Warung to look after your vehicle while you make your way to the summit.
From here it will take about 20 minutes along the slowly deteriorating small road that is used as farm trek by locals to bring their harvest to the markets in the valley. After about two kilometers or 25 minutes hiking the small road will part from the crater rim and make a sharp right turn that marks the beginning of the trail. Here on the left is a small clearing in the forest which makes it possible to park a car or your motor bikes. Hiking @ Gunung Abang Bali
If you depart early in the morning to be on the summit for sunrise, then the first 20 minutes ask for a little extra attention to stay on the right trail. In this lower section the forest is regularly harvested for wood to make charcoal, which results in a criss cross of paths that often end up in the midst of very dense forest.
Worshipers mostly visit Gunung Abang during auspicious days for prayers at the temple on the summit. It looked like during our visit, we must have been the first visitors in a long time to take this route as such large portions of the trail were heavily overgrown and virtually not visible. Despite this fact one seems to be able to work out relatively easily which way to go. Trekking @ Gunung Abang Bali
The 2-½ hour ascent can be divided into three distinctive sections. The first 30-minute leads comfortably steeply up through healthy high altitude forest, where one makes good progress. Yes the path is partially heavily over grown, but offers very little technical challenges. This section will end at a little shrine right on the rim of the crater that offers tremendous views on the way down.
Then just after this little shrine it gets really steep and rather slow going for the next 30 minutes. One must take a little extra care and at times hands are needed for additional protection and safety. There are some rather high steps where one has to scramble over and across. This section ends again in a flatter area where there are four little shrines that are frequently used by worshippers on their way to the summit.
Following a short flat 50 meters the trail leads again steeply up into the forest. This final section will take a good 45 minutes and give your body a terrific physical work out. Yes it is steep, but the track is covered with lots of foliage offering plenty of grips on the way up and down, making it a most memorable section.
What really touched me deeply when I reach the summit was the combination of a completely overgrown temple that glowed up in the early morning sunlight. There was something very mythical and mystic on this summit, which gave me the feeling that you would be in direct contact with the spirits that own and possess this mountain. I was most fortunate and privileged that I was able to spend well over one hour all on my own enjoying the stunning scenery that unveiled in front of me. Gunung Batur and Kintamani to the North. Gunung Rinjani on Lombok in the fare East and through the woods I was able to spot the contour of Gunung Agung to the South. Hiking @ Gunung Abang
Trekking @ Indonesian Volcano Adventures