2:30 am came way to fast when sleeping on the cold hard ground. I crawled out of the tent unable to walk yet from my boards stiff muscles. Seized and broken, I did my best to stretch it out and step into a void of temporary painlessness. The stars still shone strong, while the path lay in darkness. Torches along the trail from the people already on their way bobbed in the black like fireflies in the night. My breath hung in the air as I looked up to where my final destination lies. I had to rise to this challenge as sure as the sun would rise over the land once more this day.
It wasn’t long before the searing of my legs overwhelmed my ability to ignore it. The volcanic gravel underfoot gave way underweight with every step giving the feeling of going nowhere. Two steps forward, one back, reminding me of walking in slush towards the end of winter. More difficult, more tiring and a bit discouraging, especially if your eyes drifted up. Never look up if you can avoid it. I made this inevitable mistake more then I wanted to, but it must be human instinct to see what remains ahead.
5:30 am and a fire began to form on the horizon. I looked up one final time when I heard the trekkers who had left earlier. The summit was within sight as I picked up my speed like running toward an oasis. Sitting on the cold ground to catch my breath, the sun began to rise over Sumbawa lighting up the land and sea as the blaze grew. The dark crater behind me came to life, the lake sparkling in the morning sun. The Gili Islands and Bali in the far distance set within a foggy haze. I took this in for a while, but what goes up must come down and breakfast awaited me 1100m below.
A mere gelatinous banana ‘pancake’, if it could be considered one was quickly finished and camp disassembled. Lifting our packs it felt as if a third day was already beginning. Heading down into the caldera along a potentially dangerous rocky mountain way we found ourselves enshrouded by the morning mist until arriving at the foot of the lake and nearby hot springs for lunch. Soaking my feet and legs in the soothing waters before food was prepared, I took in all the rest time offered. After a noodle soup, it was almost as if a joke was being played on us. Climb down the crater wall and now… climb back up the other side. At this point there is no real option, but I found myself a step away from crawling as I ascended to the adjacent rim at times rock climbing more than trekking. Reaching camp, I dropped my bag and myself with it in anticipation for dinner and another restless sleep.
What seemed like a sleep in, 6:00 am still came quick. As I left the tent I nearly collapsed as my knees wanted to buckle from the climb down to the crater lake. If felt like someone beat them with a club in my sleep. Taking it slow I was delivered another gelatinous banana thing (I can’t even call it a pancake anymore). Starting the final decent, I struggled to keep upright with each step as my weight landed on each knee. Refusing myself a break due to the difficulty to begin again, before long the end was in sight. The path levelled out as motorbikes began to appear yet again. I saw the pick-up point and the car to take us back. The pain in my legs faded to a numbness as I laughed maniacally in both triumph and joy.
It was over, one of the most physically challenging three days I’ve made my body face. It felt as if my legs went through a wood chipper and I put them back together very poorly with my knees backward. My head cold no better than when I started it was a mental push as well, but I knew I wouldn’t allow myself to falter. Picking up my luggage before a bus ride to the port to begin my healing on Gili Air I noticed a mushroom cloud in the distance. Mount Barujari, the smoldering volatile volcano set within Rinjani’s caldera had erupted a mere half a dozen hours after I had been resting on its rim. I don’t know if this was good timing or bad as I drove away looking to recuperation.
To sum it up in one unnecessary sentence, Mount Rinjani bent me over the volcano leaving me walking funny with a smile on my face.
Mount Rinjani Trek details:
Tours can be booked from nearly anywhere on Lombok and the Gilis bringing you to Senaru or Sembalun. This depends on the direction chosen to traverse Mount Rinjani and the company booked with. Alternatively these villages can be reached by bus and tours booked there.
A three day/two night trek can cost anywhere from 1,000,000 IDR to 2,000,000 IDR and up depending on group size and amenities.
I went with a company named Lenk Rinjani costing me 1,300,000 IDR after some bartering and I would recommend it without thought. In a group of 10, 2 per tent, the amenities provided were more than sufficient for my basic needs. A thin pad and sleeping bag for sleeping, while they also lent me a jacket for the cold temperatures at the top.
The food more than met my expectations. Lunch and dinner on day 1, 3 meals on day 2 and breakfast and lunch on day 3. While I don’t like Indonesia’s version of a ‘pancake’, many people do so who am I to complain. Moving on… lunch each day consisted of a bowl of noodle soup. Warming and light to continue on the days trek. While it was instant noodle soup, the thought to add extra fresh vegetables and a boiled egg bumped it up to a little something more. Dinner both nights was a Nasi Campur style plate consisting of fried rice with veg and egg, fried tempeh and chicken, prawn crackers with some sliced cucumber and tomato alongside. Although water is provided I would highly recommend bringing some extra yourself along with some snacks.
The porters and friendly and unhuman like as they carried what felt like 50kgs on their shoulders seemingly effortlessly. The lead guide always hung at the back of our group as we slowly separated with different paces to make sure no one was left behind.
Tipping the guide/porters is not mandatory, but in my opinion necessary as they are a part of what makes the trek possible and comfortable, not to mention it benefits them tremendously.
To do this trek a moderate level of fitness would be required.