May Agung Stay Quiet and Her People be Safe

DSC06176

Agung’s Crater in April 2016

In April last year I climbed Gunung Agung and just a year later it is fated to erupt. God I hope she stays quiet, I hope her people heed the warning and stay safe so that no one looses their lives.

A lot of people who travel to Bali don’t really understand how different it is from the rest of Indonesia culturally and spiritually. As Islam spread across Indonesian archipelago the remains of the hindu culture that precedded Islam concentrated in Bali.

It is why it remains so different and even its Hindu roots have taken their own character on the island. It has 8 directional temples where are meant to protect the island and people from the bad spirits.

In these times I imagine the people are praying to their Gods so that Agung calms. As the tallest point on Bali, it is the Island’s spiritual heart and the home of Pura Besakih, the mother Temple of all the directional temples on the island.

Pura Besakih survived the lava flows and Earthquakes caused by the 63 eruption and I can only hope and pray that she survives again. The spirituality of Bali’s people is woven into their daily lives, with daily offerings being made to the household Gods, at their businesses and the number of locals who pray at the temples that seem as plentiful as the Indomaret and Family Stores that dot every corner of Indonesia.

When I climbed Agung last year, we started at 11pm in darknesses so we could meet the rising sun at her top. I’m certain that were on the former lava flows that were caused by the last eruption in 63.

DSC06329

Gunung Rinjani in the Distance from the top of Agung as the sun ascends.

This is what I saw and why it was worth the 6 or 7 hour climb up and the 5 hour climb down. I think of everyone I met on the Island, the places I saw and hope and pray that that they remain safe, that people remain on guard but that they face the threat together.

Both Gunung Batur and Agung are active volcanoes and the people of Indonesia and Bali all live with the threat of eruption all the time. With more than 4.2 million people on the Island, more than 122 thousand have already been evacuated. The last eruption took over 1100 lives and we can only hope that if Agung erupts again it takes none.

The thing is that it could erupt tomorrow, a few months later or even years from now, there is just no way to know and that becomes the most dangerous thing, the uncertainty. There will come a point when people who have already evacuated go back if it doesn’t erupt because you can only stay on pause so long.

For many this has been their home for generations and they would rather stay than go and trust the Gods to keep them safe. So my thoughts wander to the Volcano, that she go back to sleep and not awaken for many decades to come but if she does erupt she do so without harm to the people who know her not as a mountain but the spiritual heart of the Balinese people.