NB: This is a long one.
At 3726 meters above sea level Mount Rinjani is the second highest volcano in Indonesia and makes for a challenging 3-4–day trek, according to most online sources.
I hadn’t heard about it until I got to Ubud, but after having climbed Mount Batur I was kind of curious to try it out. I soon realized I wasn’t equipped well enough, so I kind of forgot about it until I met Lauren on Gili T: she was going to do it and was as poorly equipped as myself, so I figured I’ll give it a try.
We got our tickets booked for our three-day trek (Thursday-Saturday) as late as Wednesday afternoon and were supposed to leave at 7 am the following day. Thankfully enough, Lauren had done quite a lot of research on what we should make sure was included in the tour – jackets, torches, food and water, to name a few – so I felt like I was in good hands.
With tickets adding up to a total of 1.300.000 IDR per person (about 85 EUR) we managed to get a fairly good deal. We did our laundry, bought some snacks and packed our stuff. Excitement blended with nervousness was creeping in on us – we were as ready as we could be.
I had no clue what I had gotten myself into, but according to the one and only blog post I had read, it was going to be tough. Apparently quite a few people leave the last one-kilometer ascent unclimbed and only go to the crater rim located at 2700 meters above sea level.
We took the ferry to Lombok where we met up with the rest of our group including three Portuguese, a Chinese and an American. On our way to the registration office we stopped for breakfast. Here’s where the serious intake of banana pancakes starts, I thought, as I had heard that that would be the breakfast during the trek. I was right.
Once our registration was done, we jumped onto the back of a pickup truck that would take us to wherever the trail started. Lauren and I high five’d and started walking in silence, both of us wondering what the following three days would bring.
The first day was supposed to include eight hours of walking. The landscape looked very similar to what I could imagine Ireland or Scotland looks like: green hills surrounded by heavy clouds. One of the Portuguese told us that the weather forecast had shown an 80-100 percent chance of rain for all three days, but luckily it only rained for about half an hour during our lunch break. Our guide was a 19-year-old boy (yes, boy) called Chan, and with him was three porters, whose task it was to carry all the necessities: tents, mats, sleeping bags, food and water, etc. Each of them had 35-40 kg to carry and some did it in just their flip flops, crazy! As much as we were suffering from carrying just our own backpacks their job felt unimaginable to say the least. We quickly came to the conclusion that being a porter is without a doubt one of the worst jobs in the world.
We had three proper breaks and a handful of stops on our way to the crater rim, where we’d stay the night. Our lunch consisted of noodle soup and an egg, and a cup of tea or coffee. We were hungry.
It was supposed to be the toughest of the three. After lunch Chan told us that we’d have three more hills to climb. However, having finally gotten to the top of really tough climb he kindly informed us that that wasn’t even the first one. Seriously?!
I think we had all given up on Chan and his estimates on how many more hours we had left when we finally got to the top of the crater rim at around 6 pm. The sun was just setting and the moon was on the rise, making the view marshmallowy dreamy. There was a long line of tents along the rim, and we could not have been happier when we finally got to ours.
I fell asleep as soon as I got into the tent and was woken up only when Chan was calling ”dinner is ready” outside our tent. The fried rice that was served was full of chili and so spicy that our mouths were on fire.
We got up at 1 am to start our climb to the top. We’d been told that the first day was going to be the worst of the three, but no, hell no. The one-kilometer ascent was done in a deep layer of gravel or was it volcanic ash, I don’t know. Either way, for every step that I took forward I felt like I slid two back. The beginning was easier as the ground was more solid, but once we got to the volcano itself I had no other choice but to take a break every ten steps.
Breath in, breath out.
It was pitch black. The only sound was that of ash and gravel rolling down the slope and panting breaths, panting breaths everywhere.
This is completely insane!
I was the first one of our group to get to the top. I did not want to risk not finding them up at the top, so I figured it’d be better for me to wait for them right where the last 30-meter rise began. I was impossible to tell how far from the top we were, so I spent my time spreading the word about it being only 3 minutes away to everyone who passed me (I had heard it from a guy passing me). Seeing people’s faces light up when they heard that the struggle would be over in just a few minutes was rewarding to say the least.
By the time that all of our group had gotten up the sun was already in the horizon. I was freezing. Chan had gotten a bad stomach on the way up and sent his apologies to us through one of the guys along with a pack of biscuits, so we ended up climbing the volcano all by ourselves.
What if someone got injured up here?
What would we do?
What would they do, or, rather, what could they do?!
Our guide is just a child!
Security did not seem to be a thing for the Indonesians, so it was better not to even think about it.
We made it to the top just in time for sunrise. The view was stunning: the rising sun colored the clouds marshmallowy pink over the crater rim surrounding the lake. Wow!
WE DID IT!!!
(This is where we are the champions starts playing!)
Having enjoyed the view for a while it was time to start our descent. Going down was like running downhill in snow: our feet sank deep down into the sand and got more and more filled for each step we took. There was sand all over the place, and we were feeling dusty, dirty and sweaty. When I finally got to basecamp at 8.30 am I wanted nothing more than to throw off my clothes and take a shower, but unfortunately (or luckily, depending on how you look at it) baby wipes and hand sanitizer was all there was.
What followed was a piece of toast and banana pancakes, and a 45-minute nap in well heated tent. We were completely exhausted and the day was only just getting started. We left basecamp at 10 am to start heading towards the lake, where we’d get to take a swim in the hot springs and set up camp for the following night. (We all agreed on leaving the four-hour climb back to the crater rim for our last day.)
It was a rocky climb down to the lake. Down, down, down, and up again. It felt like we were walking in circles.
Can’t we just be there already? This is not cool!
We got to the lake at around 2 pm and went straight to the hot springs. We were pleased to get (at least some) of the dirt off of our bodies, our feet being absolutely worst. The springs themselves were a bit overrated, but I didn’t really care. What I wanted most was to go to bed, which is exactly what I did as soon as we’d had lunch – mouths-on-fire spicy noodle soup with a fried egg – back at camp.
I slept from 4 to 7 pm, had dinner (guess what…) and fell asleep again, only to wake up again at 5 am, this time with a sore body but feeling lighthearted. One more day, one more day only.
The day was kicked off with an easy peasy cardio workout. Another rocky climb it was, but we were in no hurry. Even Chan, who had let us understand that we were slower than average (which I’m sure we weren’t!), seemed to be tired.
When we finally got to the top of the rim the landscape changed back to the original Irish-like hills, followed by a an extremely dusty downhill slide and eventually a walk in the jungle. I heard someone ask how many more hours we had left, but I didn’t really mind. Much surprisingly I was actually enjoying the walk; after all, it was mostly flat towards the end.
Ten hours later we finally got to the end of the trail. What an accomplishment, what a feeling!
WE DID IT!!
But wait a minute, was that really 3700 meters high…?
Did we really do it?
It felt so surreal, almost like a dream. Maybe it would hit me later.