LOOK MA! I climbed an active volcano!
My first time on an extended hiking trip. It was one that was planned 6 months prior, so we had time for lots of stairclimbing training. But no one can ever be truly prepared for what’s coming… the element of surprise! And that is what makes a trip so much more enjoyable.
My friends and I (hereafter known as The Fantastic 7, just saying) went with a trekking company called Rudy Trekker, for USD325/pax on a 4D3N package. We were pleasantly greeted by Pak Hassan on arrival at Lombok airport, squeezed into a 8-seater van and took a 4-hour drive to Senaru village. It was quite a scenic drive along the mountainous roads passing by wild monkeys and paddy fields.
Pak Hassan is an incredible storyteller. It was during this drive that we got to find out more about the Lombok culture and how most 25-year-olds here would have already had families of their own. It was a Saturday when we arrived, so we also got a chance to drive by a few wedding processions that were ongoing. Thank god for me speaking Bahasa Indonesia! Although in the later part of the trip, I realised that the elder spoke mostly in the local tongue of Sasak. Absolutely clueless there.
The compound of Rudy Trekkers was quite lovely. After the day’s briefings and dinner with Pak Rudy (pictured with us), we were ushered to our chalet accommodation for the night hoping to get a good sleep. I didn’t most definitely, anxiously awake at the thought of starting a trek the next day.
DAY 1: Senaru Village – Sembalun Village (1150m) – Sembalun Crater Rim (2639m)
So here we were all bright-eyed and ready to start the day! Waking up at 5am was a torture, and after an hour’s worth of drive we arrived at the Rinjani Information Centre for registration. The trek started out flat, amongst forest and the savannah but already I could feel the effect of being on high grounds.
I was amazed at the porters who accompanied us (we had 8 of them). They were fit and fast, strong with heavy loads of camp supplies carried in rattan baskets on their shoulders. I was just excited to look out and see a pos (resting hut) up ahead, so determined to get my 5-minutes worth of break. We hiked for about 4 hours with 2 rest breaks before the afternoon came.
Lunchtime… such a relief! Compliments to the porters for such hospitality! Oh my goodness, the effort of cooking meals and serving them up on plates with garnishing along with fruits. Can you imagine having such in the mountains? Truthfully, I would be okay with just a simple-cooked instant noodles by that point.
So I later found out the reason why the porters are always ahead of us by foot, is so that they have time to rest and start preparing food. Impressive.
What was to come after lunch was a sneak peek at how tough the trek was going to be. 3 hours of prolonged steep climb, in loose soil and gravel at some parts, grabbing onto tree roots and tree trunks and human hands. I was panting, never have I felt so breathless even at running marathons! Our guides Dani and Udin were partially dragging me up the hills. I FELT SO UNFIT FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE.
Kept asking Udin what degree of incline were we experiencing, the hills were so steep!
Thinking back, by this time it was clear who would be up for the morning-after summit climb. Haha!
That’s my ecstatic face at having made it to our first campsite.
And you can see the summit of Mt Rinjani sneakily peeking at us in the background. Take a protractor out, and it should say 60° incline. I’m guessing (they say it is close to 45-60°).
It was so nice being above the clouds, enjoying a mug of hot tea overlooking the sunset. One of the porters was casually mentioning that up here it was seperti hotel seribu bintang translated “like lodging in a one-thousand star hotel”.
Well said, my friend.
But my camera was too sucky to capture the beautiful starry-filled night sky.
The night was cold and strong winds somehow got into the vent of our 2-person tent. So I woke and piled up clothes and backpacks against it. Not long later, it was our wakeup call at 1am. Challenge accepted.
Day 2: Sembalun Crater Rim (2639m) – Summit/Top
(3726m) (3200m) – Segara Anak Lake and Hotsprings (2008m)
Notice the pun there.
I DIDN’T MAKE IT TO THE SUMMIT. Sobs.
The morning climb was tough. It was pitch black and occasionally I got blinded by someone else’s headlamp. The terrain was steep. Sandy and rocky, with a lot of climbing and stumbling. Once in awhile I would find a rock to lean by and catch my breath. All the while our guide Dani was with me. The others were far ahead making good progress in front of me.
I decided to hold off continuing any longer at the 3200m mark, I was so breathless and lightheaded. I felt my childhood asthma was returning, though it probably was from the altitude. I wished I had longer legs and less-crappy lungs.
Not fair, I was already taking Diamox to combat altitude sickness.
So I spent the last 1-hour huddled in a sleeping bag with Dani talking about life. I was freezing my fingers and toes off. Watched the gorgeous sunrise at 6am – a mix of disappointment and yet amazement.
Later I found out that my 4 other friends were not too far ahead. And the only ones from the bunch who made it to the summit… were the lanky ones haha! It was sweet of Petrina and Yuan Ling to snap this shot for us at the summit. So damn proud of these girls and their achievement!
After breakfast (I still feel I didn’t deserve breakfast for not completing the climb), we continued our trek. This time it was downhill – slippery rocks and steep cliffs. It was relatively easier for me as it felt like bouldering most times. But any misstep and that would be the end.
Occasionally, we had to give way to the passing porters (rule of the road). “Porter coming! Porter coming!”. And a chance to take a short break as you side-step into the bushes for them to pass.
Our second campsite was an absolute beauty facing Lake Segara Anak. The lake is the remnant of a volcanic mountain that erupted thousand of years ago. A pity though that the place was strewn with litter.
Highlight of the day = Hot springs! Especially after not showering for 2 days. After dinner of satay and fried rice, I slept like a baby that night – a first in 2 nights.
Day 3: Segara Anak Lake and Hot springs (2008m) – Senaru Crater Rim (2641m) – Pos 3 (2000m)
We started Day 3 a little later than usual at 9am. But being early birds, we woke to catch the sunrise in the valleys near the hot springs from the day before.
After trekking round the beautiful perimeter of the lake, we started the ascend up to the crater rim. The sun was up soon, and it was comfortable enough to hike in just a single layer.
The terrain was rocky mostly. And we had to get on our hands and feet to climb and to manoeuvre round tight edges, making hiking poles quite redundant sometimes. We were told stories that a deathly accident had occurred most recently involving a Thai tourist. No chances taken there.
The later part after lunch was a downhill dusty trail. It was slippery, and if you are not careful could send you sliding off on your butts (half the fun).
Once in awhile when I got to a safe spot, it was breathtaking to look back at the scenery beyond. You could marvel at the beauty for ages! The blueness of the lake, the volcano and summit – and how we had spent the past days hiking what it has to offer.
We decided to hike further up ahead instead of camping at Senaru crater rim, and spent the night at Pos 3 in the rainforest. It was still cold at night, sleeping under the rainforest trees at about 2000m above sea level. The team had a bonfire going on for us, it was where we spent the early night chatting, exchanging stories and joking around amidst language translation. The porters were ultimate pranksters – swinging across bonfires, doing pull ups from tree branches and entertaining our pretend attempt at “carrying” logs. Such a fun bunch to be with!
All huddled up under a makeshift tent, these gentlemen also lent some insight into the makings of their spicy sambal… with 30 chilli padis as base. No wonder I get the runs each time I eat sambal! Probably the best shared secret in Lombok.
What a wonderful night.
Day 4: Pos 3 (2000m) – Senaru Village (601m) – Rinjani National Park Waterfalls
Running down rainforest was how we made good progress in the final day. It was humid but bearable. Focus on not tripping over tree roots and it was a relatively easy hike. On hindsight it was easier to have started from Sembalun instead of Senaru, as the latter would have involved hiking up the rainforest.
A van took us back to Rudy Trekkers about a 10-minute ride from the Rinjani national park. So exhausted and never have I accumulated so much dust and dirt on me. Had a sleepy lunch, then said our final goodbyes to the team of porters there.
We headed to the Rinjani National Park Waterfalls after lunch for a final feel of what mainland Lombok has to offer. It was nice of Dani and Udin to accompany us, this was definitely not part of the package we paid for.
The water was freezing cold but it was so good! Had great fun fumbling in the drain tunnel for a shortcut.
There are a few waterfalls here, though we went directly to the famed one. For more information, you can check out this link.
It was surreal to look out the plane window on the way home and see Mt Rinjani peeking at us from above the clouds – realising how high up we actually were.
This trip wouldn’t be what it is if not for the awesome team of guides, porters and friends. What an amazing experience it has been… trekking savannahs, running down rainforests, climbing rocks, chasing sunrises, experiencing waterfalls and hotsprings, shitting in bushes, nights by the campfire, sleeping in the cold at 3200m. It was a disappointment at not having reached the summit, but mum has agreed to let me on another possible trip in future.
Perhaps, we will meet again. Thank you Rinjani.
Photos courtesy of Hermi Hamidon, Petrina Liew and Quan Yuan Ling.
Rudy Trekker http://www.rudytrekker.com
Jl. Pariwisata Senaru – Bayan. Kec. Bayan Lombok Utara, NTB – Indonesia, Post code : 83354
Visited August 2015, 4D3N package for USD325/pax
The testing part of the trek is its various terrains – from savannah to rain forests, climbing steep cliffs and rocks, loose gravel and slippery dusty trails. Tiring for me from the acclimatisation, but rewarding in so many ways… breathtaking views of the lake and crater, catching sunrises, experiencing hot springs. Best to go with trusted guides, as we heard stories that deathly accidents have occurred in the past. My friends and I chose the 4D3N trek with Rudy Trekker, very amazed at the hospitality by the team of guides and porters.
Tip: Pack layers, put on good hiking socks, bring along a small bag for the AM summit climb -My TripAdvisor review (NaniSG)