Gunung Rinjani 2009


We departed the peaceful and picturesque island on a wooden longboat full to the brim of fellow backpackers seeking new adventure in Lombok. Many we heading back to Bali but a number of us were all on our way to Sengiggi including my Dutch neighbour from the Gili’s. It is advised in the Lonely Planet not to attempt to swim across the straights between the islands and least of all to Lombok which is only a mere 3 or 4 km away not even when you feel brave or inebriated. We understood why as our longboat battled with the waves and lurched from side to side sending a number of people white with fear and slightly seasick. The crossing only took ½ hour but it felt longer as we held on tightly to our seats. After touching down on terra ferma we hoped on a minibus to take us down the West side of Lombok to Sengiggi with Indonesian house music blaring from the speakers! The Indonesian house music movement most only just be starting as the same four songs were played throughout our entire 1 hour journey.

After checking in to our lovely seaside guesthouse with AC included for the same price as the Gili’s we had a quick coffee on the sea front and Trish got straight down to work and her favourite hobby, shopping! She must have missed the thrill of bartering as in less than 10 mins she had bought 6 sarongs at a third of the original price. Next mission was to book our adventure so a quick hop skip and a jump we were in the town centre looking for trekking companies. We were not disappointed as within 10 mins we had conversed with no less than 3 and our favourite turned out to Nurdan Handami and his promise of the best trek ever over 3 days, 2 nights and the princely sum of 60 pounds. He was actually the cheapest! Armed with our new adventure we went home to pack a small rucksack, taking the minimal requirements possible as it was roasting hot. That night we loaded up on carbs in preparation for an early start at 4am the next morning.

We were picked up on time and started the 2 hour bus ride to the start of the trek where we going to be briefed on the next 3 days journey. As the sun rose and we raced along the roads to the foothills the massive volcano started to appear through the red skies of the break of dawn. It towered a mighty 3,100m tall and has a 700m crater where there lies another smaller volcano still active, moody and gently ousing lava at a slow and steady rate. It last erupted in 1963 where it sank around 160 metres and we were hoping that it would keep calm for our ascent. Breakfast was a simple banana pancake and strong Lombok coffee served by our guide for the next 3 days.

The briefing started shortly after 7am and immediately we started to see cracks in the operation! We were supposed to ascend from Sembulan whereas they now were trying to get us to ascend from Senaru a more difficult and boring route. After a standoff he relented and had to re-organise his porters to get to the other side of the mountain. Our tour guides mood turn from being unhelpful and moody to downright stubborn! It was going to be a long day. Due to the change in plans it meant that we didn’t set off till around 10am, a full 2 hours wasted and 5 hours after being picked up. Once we arrived the start point however, attitudes changed to the positive as we looked at awe at the sight of the climb ahead. The first day was a killer, Lonely Planet had suggested that it was a difficult climb in 5 days; we were doing it in 3.

As we were already late it was full steam ahead and no stopping to admire the view of the lush grassland plains on the slopes of the volcano. Soon enough we were breaking into rainforest and then the climb got steadily hard and more vertical!! An hour and half stop for lunch which consisted of vegetable noodle soup and rice and a cup of tea was gladly accepted to increase energy levels. Our group of 4 Brits, 2 Germans, 2 French and 1 Dutch, 1 Indonesian guide and 5 Indonesian porters (each carrying 30kgs of our camping gear and food balanced and strapped onto bamboo trunks) were off once again tackling the even steeper climb up to the crater rim. My pace slowed on this half of journey as the sun beat down and the sweat pored off me in the exposed heat.

The last push up to the rim was very tiring after the fact that I had not done any sport in the last 8months of travel and I was feeling it. Eventually we made the rim, a mere 1800m in around 6 hours, at a 45 degree angle. Out of breath and exhausted we reached our camp site where we were greeted to the spectacular view of the crater below with the sun setting on the other side!! With the wind at the top of the rim blasting over us, cold started to set in so I donned all my available clothes and was given the thinnest sleeping bag ever made! A quick dinner of rice and chicken and a cup of tea and I was ready for bed. For those brave enough you could brave a 2.30am start to reach the summit. I however was going to save my energy and let Gary attempt the climb! Fair play to Gary he was up and back by 9am the next morning after conquering the peak but he looked exhausted and not ready for the climb down into the crater below and the back up the other side.

After a breakfast of toasted egg sandwiches and tea were we off downwards into the crater, this hurt almost as much as going up and some blisters were starting to form. There was no let up in the pace and after a 3 hour walk we had made it down and greeted to an awesome view of the volcano inside the rim and a lake surrounding it. After a well deserved sit down a quick wash we all gladly sunk our feet into the cool water of the lake to give them some well earned relief. After another lunch of noodles and rice it was another epic climb up the other side of the crater taking in some stunning views of the volcano as we marched onwards and upwards at a less than normal enthusiastic pace. Our guide at this point had given up all levels of communication and just kept on saying “Hati Hati” (Careful Careful) as we approached narrow paths but we were giving each other moral support as hearts sank as the climb got steeper. For the second day we reached the summit in time for sunset and this time we were greeted to seeing a beautiful display of orange and reds as it descended down past the volcano of Gunung Agung on Bali with the Gili Island just in view.

The mood in the camp had lifted when we made it to the top for two reasons. Firstly the next day involved downhill all the way  through forests and grasslands secondly Gary and I had brought a beer each up with us for a summit toast. A beer had never tasted so good even though it was slightly warm. Another early night ensued after yet another meal of Nasi Goreng (I was starting to get sick of it now) but it was energy we needed and craved. The next morning bright and early we watched the sun rise over the crater and prepared for the descent down in the rainforest on the other side of the crater we had climbed the other day. The going was hard as backs, blisters and aches and pains flowed through everyone’s bodies, however the goal was in sight and there was only one way to go. Six hours later and finally we reached the end of our walk whereupon we were greeted to another meal of noodles and soup and tea. After a lot of waiting around at base camp due to a mix up on logistics we eventually managed to get a lift back to Sengiggi where the first thing we all did was jump in a shower (obviously not together!) and have a well earned Bintang and eat something apart from rice or noodles! We were all so glad to be back and very pleased with ourselves on the tremendous effort we put in climbing the volcano, if I could do it again I would definitely pay an extra 10 pounds on a better tour guide and climb it in a less frantic pace of 5 days rather than 3. All in all an amazing trek with stunning views and memories. Edmund Hillary I am not, but it gave me a great buzz climbing and scrambling my way to the crater!

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