<<  Gunung Rinjani, 4-Sep-2013  >>

Rim, bottom and top of Gunung Rinjani volcano

Under the clouds, in the clouds and above the clouds, daytime and nighttime trekking and sunrise over Lombok from 3726m

I became so lazy and traveling-tired, that I almost did not do it. I almost gave it up. But finally I told myself not to be a pussy and overcome my own laziness and “finish Nusa Tenggara”, complete the checklist of big to-dos between Bali and Papua New Guinea. So I did it: 3 days 2 nights trek to and across Gunung Rinjani, Indonesia’s second highest mountain, volcano summiting 3726m above sea level, which dominates Lombok, and which actually created Lombok. It’s also the seat of Gods in Lombok.
You cannot do the trek on your own, you have to have a guide and as I am alone here, the cheapest option was to join some group. So for the first and only time in Indonesia I bought an organized trip.

While it was not an easy hike, it wasn’t as exhausting or radical as everybody tried to persuade me, but the shift of start of trekking time over those 3 days was surely tricky. First day I started at 11:15 (I first had to transfer from Gili Air to Lombok and then to Senaru, the starting point), climbed 2000m in 6 hours including the lunch break and slept at the rim of the crater of the volcano at 2600m. Second day I started at 7:20, climbed 600m down to the bottom of the crater filled with an enormous volcanic lake, a tiny “secondary volcano” and hot springs, climbed up 600m again, arrived to the “base camp, again approximately at 2600m) at 14:30 and slept there. And the third day I started to trek at 2:45 (yes, that’s 2:45 in the morning), climbed 1100m up to altitude 3726m in 2,5 hours, reached the summit at 5:14, 20 minutes before sunrise, watched the majestic sunrise, then the light filling in the scenery around – Lombok, Gilis, Sumbawa and Bali – and then trekked down 3000m to Sembalun where I finished shortly before 15:00. This was the second time in my life when I was trekking before 3:00am in complete darkness at elevation near 3000m (first time was with Samo in Colorado in 2008 when we hiked to Broad Peak), and I wouldn’t mind if it was the last one :-) No, actually it’s kind of cool to hike in the middle of the night with thousands of starts above. If it only wasn’t so cold and so fucking windy! I’m not sure if you can imagine the strength of wind above 3000m at the edge of volcano at 3:00am. I didn’t bring any winter gear from Australia, and so I put socks on my hands as alternative to gloves and was cursing the wind all the way up. The trickiest part of the trek was the last few hundred meters, because the trail was leading right on the edge of the top of the volcano and as you might expect, the path was just volcanic ash and gravel, so each by step you took you took half step back, sinking into the ash and sliding down. Luckily for me I had my hiking poles with me, which made it much easier for me than for the others.

As said, it was an organized trek. My group had 3 members, me and 2 French men, one maybe 4 years younger than me, one maybe 7 years older than me. The younger one was even more autistic than me, and that’s quite an achievement, so despite the fact that we slept in one tent we exchanged maybe 10 sentences during those 3 days, and the older one was complete idiot. He came completely unprepared, only with tank top and shorts and so the third day when we had to climb up the volcano he walked wrapped in a sleeping bag. I still don’t understand how we survived it. Among the things he carried in his backpack to the summit was Lonely Planet Myanmar (WTF!?!?!, he didn’t even leave it on the base camp, he carried something this useless and heavy all the way to the top) but not jacket or at least a pullover. Maybe he was magic, because he looked EXACTLY like Leprechaun :-)
Our Indonesian “guide” was really stupid, he didn’t speak any English at all (unlike all the other guides; proper-English-speaking-guide is exactly what they promise you when you buy the tour in an agency), he was also walking in shorts and so he was freezing so much that he didn’t even made it to the summit and stopped half-way there, and anyway he was just pissing all of us off all the time. His services as a guide were completely unnecessary anyway, because there was nowhere to get lost, the path was clear. The only valuable part of the “package” were the porters, who carried food for 3 days, cooked, carried 2 tents, sleeping bags (provided by the company) and the thinnest sleeping mats in the world (I hate them for this, it is no extra weight at all to take proper sleeping mats, due to those slices of nothing my back almost broke in two during night and anyway I hardly slept because of the rocks massaging by body through the layer of nothing). The food was really good, that was the good part.

So despite being it an organized your, 95% of the time I was trekking alone, because the two Frenchies were anyway much slower than me, so I always just left them and our not-so-smart guide behind and trekked on my own. On my own is not quite correct, there were approximately 30 people, divided into few groups who were going up Gunung Rinjani on the same days, so I was usually meeting them all the way. Actually I had much more interaction with the English people from one of these groups and with 2 Polish students (who are travelling across Malaysia and Indonesia on budget less than 7 EUR/day, sleeping in tent all the time; WOW, now that’s a proper budget backpacking!) than with my 2 strange Frenchmen.

It was a beautiful, beautiful trek! The “secondary volcano” in the middle of the huuuuuge crater of Gunung Rinjani looked splendid and sinister, the gradual change from jungle to savannah to volcanic badlands, the view over Lombok, Sumbawa and Bali – just beautiful. One of best hikes of my life, that’s for sure.

It was also the last solo adventure on my journey, at least for some time… (you will see why shortly).

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     MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak