Backpacking Indonesia: Trekking Gunung Rinjani on Lombok island
Actually I can not remember when and why exactly I came along that crazy idea to climb up the volcano. But it has been the first and only “must do” for quite a long time after I’ve decided to travel Indonesia. So here we go – back from a hot dance floor, sweat-soaked, dirty, clenched, and completely done.
Everything started pretty relaxed two days ago. We’ve been prepared (means we have pre-booked), got picked up at Bangsal harbor and had a loud and funny ride to our stay in Senaru. Senaru is a small village in the north of the Rinjani national park in the north of Lombok island, located on 600 meters hight at the food of the mountain. We stay with Ari and Mellie at their Rinjani lighthouse, an eco lodge built with lots of passion for detail. Ari and Mellie are young German expats who really have to tell something and who are going to realize their amazing and touching vision. (Wish you much energy and all the best for your future, guys! We are often thinking of you and your garden-fresh peppermint tea! ;))
The Rinjani is veiled in clouds thus does not cause any headaches to us. Not yet.
3.726 meters above sea level making it second in height among Indonesian volcanoes, still active. Currently, since the eruptions in 1995, a small cone (Gunung Baru what means ‘new mountain’) is growing in the 50 m² wide and 230 meters deep crater lake Segara Anak. When asking google about activities in Indonesia, I’ve seen that scenery … very convincing!
There are different tours taking 2 to 5 days to explore the mountain in mainly 3 different trails: The crater rim on 2.641 meters (1 night), rim and the lake on about 2.000 meters (so up the rim and down the lake, taking 2 nights), and for all who want to know it: rim, lake, and up again to the summit on 3.726 meters (3 – 5 nights, 50% success rate, no joke!). All tours start from either Senaru (600 meters) or Sembalun (1.150 meters).
We’ve decided for the 2-days-package to the rim from Senaru. We are 4 leaving at 7:30 in the morning after having breakfast with Dan, our guide.
We first met our four porters, the heroes of today and tomorrow. Why? Those locals will be climbing the mountain with us to carry all of our equipment, what is tents, iso mats, sleeping bags, kitchen stuff, food and drinks. Making 25 to 35 kg each, just roped on a bamboo pole to be balanced on their shoulders. AMAZING! So we only have to carry our own belongings what is a change of clothes, thermo gear for the night, and water for the trail.
And this trail started with something that will not end for the rest of the day: a quite steep ascent. When we reached the entrance to the national park after about 30 minutes I first picked holes in the whole adventure not sure if it’s really a good idea to move on. I confess: I have been totally exhausted! Didn’t know how to manage the next 7 hours what is given as average walking time to the rim. I will only get the answer at the end – so I kept moving. Now, after being back, I realize that I’ve been waiting completely irrational for a tiny little part that is flush. But for sure, ‘flush’ does not bring you uphill and serpentines seem to be an invention from very far away. Here, gentle reader, does only exist ‘upwards’ …
At least, it’s a really beautiful ‚upwards‘. The first two parts of the trail lead trough the jungle, the ground is stable and full of tree roots to scramble along. Vegetation is gorgeous! So it’s recommended to ignore muscular pain and breathlessness from time to time to enjoy the surroundings – a worthwhile consolation amongst all the exertions!!!
After all, we could manage the part to camp 2 what is rated as 3 hours in just two and a half. Our porters conjured terrific things out of their baskets: a car battery for instance, a blender, jet flames. As a consequence, we’ve got an amazingly luxury lunch on 1.500 meters height what was much better than others we had before back in civilization. Fresh squeezed juices included. Respect, guys!
One issue unites us however: We are freezing terribly. Sure, the temperature is okay here with 25 degrees, but our sweat-soaked clothes and the decreasing energy level let us feel pretty cold as soon as we’re having a break. Of course we’ve got told to take a change of clothes with us for the evening, at the end of the trail. But I wish I had two or three T-Shirts more to change at the camps, just to wear something dry (plus to avoid you are stinking like hell! ;)). All of you who plan to do this tour should take this as gentle hint.
After 90 minutes recovering lunch break we have to move on, again through the jungle, again steep uphill, again a physical and mental challenge. The irregular walking style kills any rhythm, I’m aware of every single step – exhausting!
After another hour walking we reach the cloud ceiling and camp 3.
Means we’ve made it up to 2.000 meters, worth to use an unexpected acquaintance with two guys from Jakarta to have another break. Good choice, as the trail is getting worse now and fine scree and sand make it extremely difficult to get ahead. Our speed decreases to not more than 3 meters per minute.
We start swearing. Sorry mountain, you holy one and inhabited by spirits, but we can’t handle that any longer. We are wiped out. And there’s still 90 minutes ahead…
In that mode we finally overcome the last part to the rim over rocky and barren ground. We feel like Frodo and Sam on Mount Doom, this place here would have been an amazingly frustrating set as well. Most probably it was too hard to bring all the equipment up here, hum Mr. Jackson?
16:36 pm – we’ve finally made it. No more ‘upwards’, just tents, more or less living beings, our camp! Dark and heavy clouds hit the crater rim, that’s all we can see. The mountain will wait to revealing its beauty until we are receptive. Our porter-heroes or hero-porters already pitched the camp in the pool position, directly at the rim, so we have the chance to get out of our soaked and stinking clothes and put dry and warm ones on – quite cold up here. After half an hour the clouds clear away and for the first time we can look into the crater. Overwhelmed, speechless, impressed.
The short rest of the day is relaxing, we munch choco cookies, lionize nature, regenerate. Sunset hides behind heavy clouds but by the time we have dinner we experience another magic moment. Exactly in front of the illuminated summit the clouds tear up – just for a short moment. What a message …
Half past 6 it’s pitch-dark, coldness and humidity make us to disappear soon in our tents. Despite of warm bottles and additional fleece sleeping bags we shiver into sleep. Stupidly I have to leave the protecting cave around midnight – not the best idea to have beer for dinner up there ;). The wet cold bites tremendously but the spangled sky was really amazing! Guess I’ve never seen something like this before.
At 6 in the morning night is over, quite before Dan starts his wake-up round. Sunrise is expected for 6:20 and of course, nobody will miss it. That’s the moment to let us forget all the struggles and pain and cold, look here:
It’s almost 8 when we finish breakfast and packing to start our way downhill. Same way back like yesterday by the way. Not really creative but we are happy to not have booked the two or three-nights tour. Just to imagine we would have to go down to the lake to climb up the summit … never!
Anfangs glauben wir, der Abstieg wird etwas kräfteschonender als der Aufstieg des Vortages, doch nach zwei Stunden sind die Beine wie Pudding und die Aufmerksamkeit lässt nach. Als wir zurück im Dschungel die Wurzeltreppen erreichen wird klar, dass wir uns höllisch konzentrieren müssen, um nicht in den Wurzeln hängen zu bleiben und zu stürzen. Aber wir müssen heute keine Helden mehr sein und lassen uns Zeit, labern dummes Zeug und singen (obwohl wir es nicht können) so laut wie falsch. Das Lachen des Wahnsinns macht sich breit. Und immer wieder schauen wir auf den Abhang vor uns und fragen uns, ob wir das WIRKLICH gestern alles hochgelaufen sind …
Wir ziehen durch bis in Camp 1, wo wir mittags gegen halb eins ankommen. Hier ist zum letzten Mal die ganze Gruppe zusammen, gibt es ein letztes gemeinsames Mittagessen. Wir feiern unsere Porter – die bescheidenen Helden im Hintergrund – und nehmen Abschied. Halb 3 ist es dann überstanden, wir kommen in Senaru an. Verschwitzt, verdreckt, verkrampft – und verdammt stolz!
Und wenn Du jetzt fragst ob ich das wieder machen würde: Nö!
:) Aber dieses eine und letzte Mal, das war dann doch irgendwie was ganz Besonderes …