Trekking to Gunung Rinjani, Lombok
15.05.2013 - 18.05.2013
Now just as a prior warning I didnt meet Valantino Rossi the famous motorcycling champion, but all will be revealed.
As I stirred at 4:30am in the morning I was still unsure as to what to expect when taking on this trek. Sarah and I had heard murmurs of other people having a tough climb and it was a combination of that and other factors that meant that she decided to give it a miss. If I'm honest I wanted to push her a little bit to reconsider knowing that I would love to have another moment with her on top of a mountain. But as it was we both knew to separate was the best idea and I think in some way it gave both us a chance to have some alone time and experience something different as ultimately the dynamics change when you travel solo.
Waiting for the cab to take me from Mataram to Senaru where I would start the trek I was a little edgy as my driver hadn't turned up at 5am. The guy I bought the ticket from was the same person who sold us our ticket to Flores so I trusted him but you never know. The guy showed at quarter past which wasn't bad and we started our two hour journey. We had a few chats and I shared my bananas with him which he was grateful for and I found out he had slept in the car before picking me up as he lived in Senaru. I think because he had parked up in Mataram the mosquitoes had nestled in the car engine and as soon as we drove off they were coming out of the vents and causing a bit of a problem and we had to swat them every so often so it was good that there was no one on the roads. Being pitch black I didn't see any of the scenary on the way until we got to Senaru. We passed my driver's family and I gave them a wave as we went up the hill to the HQ of Senaru Trekkers. It was a nice spot where I believe you could stay if you wanted to and the landscape was pretty amazing even from this level.
Out the back of the HQ you could see paddie fields and the Rinjani Peak.
As I sat down to wait, the other guys who would be trekking with me turned up as they had stayed at the HQ. Antoine and Bertrand were two French guys who were traveling together and Raphael was a Singaporean who had met up with them in Gili Islands. We had some chats about travels and we met our guide Herman as well and it wasn't long before the porters were packing up equipment to get ready to go. I occupied my time in between taking a few photos and found this little guy.
The porters gear was true to many mountain trekking experiences where they used natural resources to carry it all. These guys had a strong length of bamboo with two baskets on either side and as they walked they would swing them from shoulder to shoulder. Bearing in mind these weighed at least 20 kilos it was pretty impressive! But all in days work for them.
We got to the entrance for the park and it was pretty basic but sufficient in terms of comparing it to Kinabalu, but the main difference was they gave each trekker a blessing performed by a local lady. She would murmur a few words in the local dialect and smudge a bit of paste on your forehead and you obliged by giving a few rupiah as a thank you. It might have been a bit of a facade but it was a nice touch.
We left the park entrance having signed into the books and I got my mandatory start photo.
I think I was quite lucky in hindsight because the dynamic we had in our group was quite good. Four guys in pretty similar shape and height so that we could all walk at the same pace. It meant that no-one was really left behind or trying to push people on, so we got to the positions along the trek in good time, possibly beating the guideline timings that is advertised.
There wasn't much to take photos of and so I rarely stopped to be able to portray what the trek was like but for most part in was a open track amongst the jungle and we stopped at post II for lunch. It was a chance to catch a break however we had to huddle all under one roof to get out of the rain, which we would find to be a constant battle as the rolling hills seemed to hug the rain clouds.
As we approached the crater rim we began to feel the burn from all the walking we had done and the altitude was definitely making the air thinner to add to the mix. I was impressed with Antoine as he was coping with Asthma, which I know plenty about having struggled with it as a kid. The rewards we got for scaling the steep hills to our first campsite on the crater rim were pretty good but not spectacular as the clouds had decided to hide the vast crater and its surrounding landscape. But every so often the clouds would move and we would get a glimpse of what was about to come.
We had walked so well that our porters were still gathering wood and had yet to set up camp, we would have been foolish to think that we had beaten them. We then rested and were cooked our dinner and served Nasi Goreng, a dish which we would see frequently on this trek. It was pretty damn good after that first steep hill to the crater I can tell you! As we hung out I noticed that there were chalk engravings on the rock which looked like locals had enscribed.
It was reasonably early bedtime as we told that sunrise would be at 6:00am. The tents we had were sufficient and we had some really warm sleeping bags as the temperature had dropped considerably. Raphael told me in the morning that the night sky was incredible early in the morning having gone outside to use the toilet so I was a bit gutted I didn't take a look.
In the morning I made up for it as we caught the rising sun and basked in the beauty of the crater rim. On a good day you could see the Gili Islands and as far as Bali.
After a hearty breakfast of banana pancakes we bagged up and left for the crater lake. It was during this time that Hermon had joked about Bertrand looking like Valentino Rossi and he was suggesting that he could tell his mates who were guides and they would believe him. It was quite funny as he would continually call Bertrand 'Rossi' and laugh a lot which was we all enjoyed having a laugh about.
The walk down the crater lake was stunning as the sun was out and the clouds cleared so we got to see the volcano that has formed inside the crater. We were told by Herman that this crater had originally been an 8000 odd metre volcano which had exploded and created this lake and the peak that is Mount Rinjani. The volcano within called Gunung Baru meaning 'New Mountain' was named so because it is continually growing so it is continually a new mountain.
It took us about two hours to get to the lake and we decided we would pass on the swim in it as it was pretty cold. Herman told us that the lake was 300m deep!!! The water was very fresh and the locals would fish for all their meals regularly. Walking round to the site where we would have lunch we had to cross a stream and unfortunately for Antoine his balance was a bit off.
Once we dropped our stuff off we got changed into swim gear and walked up stream and round a small hill face down to the hot springs and the reward was a pool of waters that was so refreshing and warm that we basked in the sun and nursed our half sore legs.
I decided to go and have a swim in the crater lake just to say I had done it and it was a lot cooler but still refreshing. After lunch we set off on the next leg and it was then that we hit the worse weather to have whilst trekking.....the sodding rain!! It bucketed it down the whole way and we got drenched. It was another tough climb as the hill face seemed ever so steep once again. When we got to the top I was relieved to say the least.
The porters were not at the site as they were looking for fire wood which wasn't helpful but again understandable considering all the wood would be wet.
Once camp was set up we dried off and decided to play some cards in one of the tents. Raphael introduced us all to Kobo which was a cool game where memory is very important. I won't try to explain the game but it entertained us well enough to pass the time before our Nasi Goreng dinner and then as we watched the clouds part over the crater lake the daylight faded.
It was a cold night again and Herman told us the plan for the next morning would be to wake up a 3am to start walking up to the peak. So we got into bed at sunset around 6:30/7pm and we were off to bed pretty quick having had a tough enough climb.
Waking up for 3am was not too hard, I think maybe my brain knew what was going to happen and woke me up. I had to use Sarah's sleeping bag liner as a scarf as it was so cold and also wear her joggers as my shorts were still wet from the day before.
Getting started we ventured past the other campsites and then some large trees that were on the hill face and even then there were some big steps and it did get harder and harder as we went it further up. As it was pitch black we obviously couldn't see much and every so often you could swing your head round and see far into the distance the street lights of the main cities. Having done Kinabalu I was prepared for a tough ascent but this had elements that were much harder mainly because the volcanic rock would break up easier as you walked on it. We had a good steady pace up to the top before breaking 1 hour from the top. Herman told us the last ascent was the toughest and took 1 hour but to descend would only take 10 mins. Again because of the volcanic rock as soon as you made the wrong step you would go back two which was very frustrating. I did my utmost to stay close behind the guide and walk in his steps which much later we learned was the trick to it.
Getting to the top was such a buzz and the views were so worth it even with a bit of cloud cover. I really enjoy this mountaineering lark, I hope that I can do some other challenges in the future.
Going down we realised why it was so easy because you can literally slalom down the sand like rock, and go quite fast. Descending back to camp was really pleasant and at some points I was on my own just enjoying the view and taking in the fresh mountain air. As the the Welshy's would say, "it was bloody lush!"
The long walk back was pretty uneventful although we headed in a different direction to Sembalun through a beautiful valley. Saying goodbye to the macaque monkeys that prowled the campsite for food we walked for 7-8 hours mainly down hill. I lost my jumper on the way and Bertrand managed to pose with some local Lombok people as they believed our guide who said he was Valentino Rossi's brother. It was a great trek and I would recommend it to anyone.
A big thank you to Antoine, Bertrand, Rafael and Herman for making the trek a good laugh. And of course a big thank you to the porters that made it possible.
Stay tuned for more tales.