So, as I explained in our last blog we had a very relaxing week on Gili Air so we booked a trip to climb the second biggest mountain in Indonesia, Mt Rinjani. We had not done any big treks or much exercise to be honest in a very long time so I was a bit concerned about my fitness, but Paul assured me that he didn’t think the trek would be that difficult.
We set off from Gili and took a bus to Sanaru, a small village about 600m above sea level on the side of Mt Rinjani, where we would spend the night and start the 3 day 2 night trek from. There were many different treks to choose from, some easy and some hard. We chose the hard one…
Day 1: Trek in total 8 hours, all uphill from 600m to 2641m. Camp on the crater rim.
Day 2: Climb on a very exposed and steep path down to 1600m to the lake and hot springs. Climb up to 2700m and camp on the other side of the rim crater.
Day 3: Get up at 2.30am to climb the mighty peak of Mt Rinjani. 3 hours up to 3726m. Watch sunrise, walk back down, and then walk another 5 hours down the mountain to the village of Sembalun Lawang.
The day the trek started we met up with 6 others who would be in our trekking group. Thankfully they were all cool people who were around the same age and fitness as us.
Like on the Inka Trail we had a guide and porters who would carry our camping equipment and food. These guys must be superhuman to carry what they do up the mountain, it never ceases amaze me!
The first day was all uphill, we walked for about 3 hours through dense jungle with monkeys swinging from tree to tree above us. It was so humid that we all had sweat dripping into our eyes. We then stopped for some food, the porters made a campfire and cooked us a delicious veg noodle soup. The clouds started to roll through the trees while we were eating, it felt like we were in a fairy tail.
After food we started trekking further into the jungle and up the side of the mountain where the incline got a lot steeper and the cloud a lot thicker. We were all struggling at one point or another but all managed it in one piece to our campsite on the crater rim at 2641m. The view we saw was remarkable, we were on a 6km wide caldera with a crescent shaped cobalt lake, hot springs and smaller volcanic cones. And when we turned around and looked the other way we could see a vast expanse of fluffy while cloud and the mountain from Bali peaking out. Once we sorted our tents out we got given our dinner of fried rice, chicken and a cup of tea, and watched the sun set. As we were so high the temperature dropped quite significantly when the sun went down so we sat by the fire and chatted while in all our warm gear until the cold got too much and we retired to our tents.
The tents were quite good but the floor mats and the sleeping bags were a bit disappointing. The mat had no padding, it was there literally to keep you off the floor only, and the sleeping bags were not quite thick enough so we were all a bit cold during the night and didn’t get much sleep. The wind really picked up throughout the night also, it sounded like there was a tornado going round and round the crater all night, thankfully out tents didn’t shake too much.
The next morning we woke up for our breakfast of banana pancakes, pineapple jam sandwiches and a hot cup of tea! We left our campsite about 8.00am and started the dangerous climb down the crater to the lake and hot springs. The path down was very exposed and thin in parts, and one foot wrong would have meant a drop to your death. Thankfully we were all careful and made it down safely about 2 hours later. Paul and a few others jumped into the lake, I dipped my toe in and decided that I would rather wait until the hot springs.
After the swim and a rest we continued for 30 mins walking around the lake to the hot springs. We bathed in the hot water that is revered by locals for it’s healing properties, I couldn’t believe how warm it was and couldn’t stay in too long. The bad thing about bathing in mineral water is my new light blue bikini is not a dirty copper colour.
We then had our lunch of fried noodles and chicken sat by the lake admiring the beauty around us. We rested and refilled our water bottles with fresh spring water and then set off to climb up to the other side of the crater rim. The trek started off ok, we walked through a path around long grass and then on the side of the cliffs. After this we needed to properly start climbing, We were literally climbing up the side of a cliff, it was so steep in most parts that I had to give my walking stick to Paul and pull myself up with both my hands. It was great fun, if I didn’t look down but actually quite dangerous as we didn’t have ropes or rails.
After the 3 hour climb we arrived at our 2nd camp site, at the base of the peak of Mt Rinjani. As we arrived at our quite early we had time to relax in the sun before food was served and the sun went down. Again it was very windy and we were worried about how windy it would be at 2.30am the next morning when we were supposed to get up to climb to the top of the mountain. We expressed these concerns to our guide, and he just said, “if you want to go up we will go up, if you don’t then we won’t “. I don’t know why we were surprised, we haven’t come across much heath & safety so far in SE Asia.
Throughout the night it was so windy that our tents were blowing around and no one got much sleep, but out of the 8 of us 6 got up at 2.30am to start the 3 hour hike up to the top of the mountain. We were all dressed in our warmest gear with our walking sticks in one hand and torches in the other. We started following our guide up at just gone 3am, the climb at the start was not too bad, but all we were given for breakfast was a few crackers and a cup of tea. After about 30 mins it got really tough, the ground started to turn into gravel, so we were taking two steps up, but moving one step back. It was extremely frustrating and tiring. After about 30 mins again we arrived at the start of the ledge where the path flattened out a bit, we were still walking on gravel but it wasn’t quite as difficult. At this point we were all wondering where our guide was, we weren’t too worried as the path was well defined and we had plenty of other groups we could follow, we just all presumed he was ahead and would wait for us shortly.
When we started walking on the top of the ledge we could really feel the force of the wind, I was guessing that the gusts came to about 70mph as they were definitely making me loose my balance which was a bit scary. We walked for about an hour where in many parts the path was totally exposed and only about half a meter wide before each side dropped off into oblivion, we still hadn’t seen our guide and started to get a bit worried as the wind was getting worse the further up we got and we didn’t have a clue how far it was to go. Not only was the path dangerous as it was thin, but as it was so windy the gravel was flying everywhere and it was getting into our eyes so we couldn’t see.
We arrived at a large boulder and asked another guide how far to go, he replied with “one hour, up a very steep gravel path”, we all felt defeated when he said one hour as we were expecting it to be only about 20 mins. We stopped for a rest and one of the guys said he was staying put, as it was too windy for him. The 5 of us then started walking and about 5 mins later one of the girls decided to go back to the boulder as she felt it was too dangerous due to the wind, another guy and myself agreed. Paul and one of the other guys decided to plod on while we waited in the freezing wind behind the large rock.
We were there for about 10 mins before our guide rocked up. He looked like he had been asleep, we guessed he ran on ahead and hid behind a rock before getting in his sleeping bag and had an hours kip before we got up there. His excuse was that he had breathing problems, I replied with ‘ well you shouldn’t be smoking 40 Marlborough Reds each day then”. I have to say that he was a rubbish guide, you could tell he didn’t like his job, he wasn’t the slightest bit enthusiastic and as we learnt, he didn’t care about the safety of us.
I think we were sat behind the boulder for about 40 mins in total, we were absolutely freezing! I couldn’t feel my feet or hands so as soon as the first bit of light from the sun started to appear we got up and started walking down. I was gutted that I didn’t get to the top, but I was just too scared of being put off balance by the strong wind and plummeting to my death.
Thankfully the way down was a bit easier as the wind was behind my back, the sun was out so we could actually see, and going downhill in thick gravel is a bit like skiing. Seeing everything in the daylight really defined how dangerous the path we just took was, we could actually see how thin the track was, and how far the drop is. I was thankful to be going down anyway.
We were still quite far up the mountain when the sun rose, it was amazing as we were actually looking down on the sun rising. I wondered if Paul made it to the top in time, or if he was alive ☺.
The wind was still really bad and the gravel in our eyes was really starting to hurt, we made it down the mountain for about 7am and had a much-deserved cup of tea and pancake.
We waited for about an hour before Paul and the other guy came into view from running down the mountain, I will leave him explain his experience:
So after I abandoned Leah on the edge of a very windy cliff edge I set off with Neil to attempt the rest of the journey to the summit. As soon as we set off I started to regret it as the ascent was now even more exposed to the elements and the cold wind was constantly knocking us backwards. The climb was quite honestly horrendous, with every two steps forward you would slip back one due to either the wind or the deep gravel under foot. The path was a few metres’ wide at its largest and down to just a metre wide at certain points with a steep drop down either side. Thankfully the darkness made me unaware of this or I’m not sure I would have made it up!
We had no time for breaks as the sun would soon be up and we were told the last bit would take an hour. So we cracked on and slowly made it up to the summit 5 minutes before the sun came up. It was zero degrees at the top and with the wind chill even colder. It was totally worth it though as the view from the top was magnificent. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Looking across to the west and seeing Bali and then to the west seeing the island of Sumbawa. From the sunrise you can also see the shadow of Mt. Rinjani in the distance.
Neil brought a sleeping bag so we got out of the cold for a while and stayed up there for half an hour. There were only 3 people up there when we arrived and just 12 in total made it up from the 70 odd who set out to the summit.
Getting down was a lot more fun as we had the wind behind us and we just had to make sure we didn’t fall off the edge again! We got back to camp just after 8 in the morning to enjoy a well earned banana pancake!
After Paul and Neil had their breakfast we quickly packed up and started on the 5 hour decent to Sembalun Lawang where our trek would end. This part was 2 hours down a steep, dry, dusty, loose path where everyone kept falling over as we were all so tired. The dust was getting into our eyes and I think everyone wished we could have been air lifted to the end. But the track kept on going, we stopped for a quick lunch and from then on the path was a little flatter. We walked over miles of farmland, the view looking up to the mountain was incredible and we couldn’t actually believed we had done it, or for me almost done it. The last hour was like torture, I couldn’t believe that I had actually paid to be in this much pain, my toes felt like they were going to drop off, I had excruciating blisters on the back of my heels and my knees felt like an 80 years olds. But finally we made it, all alive! We got squashed into an uncomfortable truck, picked up our bags from Sanaru and headed over to the beach town of Senggigi all dirty and sweaty.