A close look at Mt. Rinjani
Heading to Lombok
When you know, that the deal you made is too good to be true. So, I agreed with Ringoo, that we meet at 11:00 at the Gili Air Harbour, that is at least as organised, as Padangbai. No signs and a hint of chaos. I figured someone will wait for me with a sign with my name of it, or will call my name out loud or will send a message where exactly meet up. Just to be on the safe side, I texted him at 11:01 with the location where I’m waiting for him. He replied in a minute, that his friend was looking for me and could not find me, so I should buy a boat ticket, get to Lombok and we will meet in the harbour. Heh? But as said, it was too good to be true. I bought my ticket, and as it is the public ferry, it costs less than 1 USD. This ticket itself is funny, just a green piece of paper with my name on it: Yuded. I even spelled it for them. The public boat has no schedule, it leaves, when there is enough passenger. In theory they announce the departure via the loudspeaker, but I did not understood anything they announced before. So I checked back in a couple of minutes and turned out, that only 5 more people are needed. However at that point the last ticket issued was No. 32, so actually I have no clue how many passengers are considered to be “enough”. I was watching the local guys with green ticket in their hands not to miss the boat, and this strategy worked well. Soon I was sitting on the boat, and arrived to Lombok in around 10 minutes. Ringoo was waiting for me in the harbour, and greeted me with a loud Juuudith and a hug, and guided me to a scooter. I was wearing flip flops, shorts, had my backpack on my back, and none of us had a helmet on. I guess I managed to ignore my pre-set rules again.
Ringoo is fun, and speaks a really good English, that is not usual here. It turned out, that the price – what I consider a good price – doesn’t cover the 2 days 1 night, but the 3 days 2 nights option. I assume this is the trek where they could collect enough people for. The whole package was about 110 USD, and includes 1 night in a hostel, two nights in tents, the rental of the tent, the mattress and the sleeping bag, all the food and drinks during the 3 days trek and the transfer back to Gili Air. Soon he told me not to mention the price I paid to the others, as they paid more. Though they might paid less, but if we don’t talk about it, nobody will know…
I waited at least 3 hours for others I will trek with and we left for Senaru together, that is one of the starting point of the Rinjani treks. It was about a 1 hour drive. Some parts of the road are recently built, many constructions are ongoing, there are many people on scooters and most of the trucks go in the middle of the road. I was sitting next to the driver and enjoyed some of the maneuvers he made. What I liked a lot, is the many kind of honking they have. There’s the classic “you can’t see me but I’m coming” before the turns; the one when overtaking a scooter; the “go back to your lane”; the “don’t even think about turning into the road in front of me” and the playing with phone & honking by mistake – and of course the many variations of these. The drive itself was really nice, following the shore for a while, sometimes among rice fields or among palm trees. I found it really charming.
We arrived just in time to make it to the waterfalls that are nearby. Sendang Gila and Tia Kelep are nice, but as it was soon getting dark, we had no time to swim in them.
The path to Rinjani
The briefing on the night before the trip was funny and useless. The organisers act like it is a walk in the forest, but it is not. We still talk about a 3726 meter high volcano, the second highest peak of Indonesia.
The group is too big so we are divided into 2 subgroups. I’m in a group of 8 with 2 German guys, 3 Dutch girls and a Czech couple, heading to the summit from Senaru. This is the route considered a bit hardcore, and I don’t argue with it, as we just started day #1 with a nice steep 2000 meter ascent. And slowly on the way I understood the difference between the Rinjani packages offered all around. Some tour operators do the two-days version clockwise. First day to the crater rim campground, second day to the summit and descending on the other route. The company I’m trekking with uses the same trek up and down including summit. Others guide the people just till the crater rim to have the view, than descend back. So, look out to find the option that really fits you.
The three days version uses two different campgrounds, first day up to the crater rim, second day descending to the crater lake and the hot springs then ascend to the second camp, third day summit attempt and descending on the other route.
The advantage of the route from Senaru is, that it is mainly in the forest, so you do not melt on the mountain. The other route, the one starting in Sembalun is not that steep, the first part is pretty mildly ascending, and you climb only 1500 meters on the first day, but it has no shade at all as it is crossing the savanna.
My group is superfit. One of the guides spends a lot of time in the Alps, the other does surfing, the Dutch girls are running the marathon and play soccer and the Czech couple is in good shape as well. And I was not really active in the last two months, just did some canyoning, that is not exactly mountain climbing… so, while the others were running, I wanted to do it in my own tempo, but somehow I did not find it. Anyway, the running did not make any sense, as the porters arrived to our lunch venue and hour after us, and we had to wait for them to come and to cook for us. So I decided not to hurry, as we have the whole day to reach our camp site. Of course Ogi, our guide was just right behind you and I felt a little bit pushed. Later he changed his habit and went a bit ahead looking back time to time to check, if I’m still there.
Ogi is okay, but he doesn’t care much about us. He is happy with the rice wine stacked in his backpack, and prefers singing Bob Marley over guiding us. He gets around 45 USD (600.000 rupees) for the three days trip, while the porters, who are the cooks as well get 37 USD (500.000 rupees). Each of us in the group paid between 1,4 and 1,9 million rupees, so altogether it must be around 14 million rupees, cca. 1040 USD. They don’t earn too much, this is for sure. But where the money goes – besides the brand new car of the boss – it is not clear. Our tents have holes, we don’t get meat (though the food is delicious) and somehow they managed not to carry a toilet tent either. Our tent can’t be closed and has a giant hole on it. But we can’t do anything about it now…
The hot spring and the crater lake
The day would start with watching the sunrise, but our guide has no clue when exactly is that. I decided not to get up at the time we guessed it to happen, it felt so good to sleep a little bit longer, till 6:30 am. At breakfast we got the news, that we just ran out of drinking water. We supposed to have 3 liters per person per day, but we don’t. They say they will pick up some sweet water at the springs on the way. Just great. The path to crater lake looks like proper B level via ferrata in Europe, except it has no cable it it. But there are some broken iron pillars, the majority destroyed and fallen down to the rocks below. The lake is a huge disappointment. It looks marvellous from above, but the closer we get, the more trash is visible on the shore and in the water as well. On our lunch venue it was hard to find a spot to sit down, and not to stare at the huge amount of waste, and I did not really feel like going in the water either.
It made me so angry to see how shortsighted they are destroying this treasure. Not only here, but on the whole mountain area. All the camping grounds are incredibly dirty and full of trash. The kitchen waste is simply thrown away, so that the monkeys and rats (small ones, no worries) are fighting on them after the groups leave. There are a lot of plastic as well, that is carried around by the wind alongside with the colored toilet paper pieces.
The Dutch and the Germans decided to go back to the previous beach and swim there. It was a bit cleaner there, but I still had no intention going into the water. And when I saw after lunch, that our dishes are washed in the lake, it did not make me any happier. The hot springs are a 5 minutes walk from the lake. It is just a small area of superhot, yellow-green water. Some did their laundry there, the sheets were on the nearby rocks and their owners were observing as we tried to change into bathing suits in the cover of our small travel-towels.
In the afternoon we had only a 2,5 hours climb back to the crater rim, that makes a 700 meter descent and ascent for the day. The first hour of the ascent is really nice, a picturesque hilly path, to find a steep wall at the end with broken iron pillars again.
Our dinner is again a combination of cabbage, carrot, green beans, tomato, potato, eggs and rice, as all other dishes. The options are: all fried together, vegetable curry with rice, soup with a little noodle added, ragout. It can’t easy to be a cook, but we are bored a bit as well.
I the evening we asked Ogi what to expect next day, as he was not sharing any information voluntarily. We agreed to wake up and have a quick breakfast at 2 am, and leave camp at 2:15 am. We were at our sleeping bags around 7 pm, to have enough sleep. My body radiated heat, as I managed to get sunburnt. I thoroughly checked the day being Friday, and set my alarm for 1:45, for weekdays (iphone settings). I woke up several times during the night, because our tent was set up next to the porters’, and it seems they had a rough night as well. And somehow my alarm didn’t work. I realised Friday is followed by Saturday in this corner of the world as well, and that is definitely not a weekday. I woke up to have the tea ready in front of the tent. I prepared myself with the speed of the light and was ready to leave within minutes.
It was not cold at all, I took of my thermoball jacket soon. I had a good tempo, but the wind got stronger every minute. The first section is pretty demanding, you ascend in deep sand. This works as a natural selection, as some doesn’t get through. I was not quick either.
Once you are over this, you have still 2 more hours. It was 3:15. After this all was just fine. It was not too steep, not too sandy and first time on this trek I found my own rhythm. Ogi stopped after tge first section to smoke and assured me he will catch up. I had no doubt. The rest of the group was ahead of me. The wind got stronger with every meter gained, so I had to put on my wind protector jacket.
After a while I realized that I see people sitting on the ground in every protected corner, some even laying on the path in sleeping bags. I looked up and saw more headlamps getting closer to me and just a few of them continued towards the summit. Some guides passed by me holding their clients and shouted that the wind is too strong, I should not continue. But I just went on. It was getting too cold, so I’ve put on my thermoball jacket again. I fighted for every step. It can’t be. It can’t be, that I finally found my own rhythm and I have to turn back. But after I was almost blown away from the ridge for the second time, I had to reconsider. I turned back. This was around 4:30. I was on my way back for cca 10 minutes when I met Ogi. He was wearing all clothes he had. He told me to look for shelter behind some larger rocks, where there were already more than 30 people sitting on the ground. I heard the guides to their clients who got till this point, that they can try going on, but if they feel it is not secure, they should turn back. Everybody came back after max 10 minutes. First I was thinking about waiting for 30 minutes and try again to go on, but in this wind I had no chance. Ogi was shaking next to me, but wanted to wait for sunrise. He got his sleeping bag out if his backpack so we could cover ourselves. After sunrise, around 5:30 he got up, and decided to run down as it was too cold for him. I took a couple of pictures and was thinking about the rest of my group.
For the time my group reached the campsite, i knew that only 17 people made it to the summit in this wind. I completed around two third of the climb. After that point there is still a difficult and demanding section, sandy sometimes with small stones, where you fall back if not using the right technique. Like climbing a sand dune.
After the summit you still have to descend, so now the whole group moves like robots. And we are very dirty. This is the kind of dust, that you cannot wash away with one shower. I did my best to get rid of the dirt, as I had no accommodation booked for that night. But this was not a problem at all, as I’m writing these lines in a nice bungalow on the beach. Getting here was a bit more challenging, as we missed that last public boat – that was covered by the price we paid for the trek – , at least they said so in the harbour. Surprisingly there was this other boat with a family heading back to Gili Air, and we could buy a ticket for a friendly price, for 4 USD… Of course there was no family, this was a public boat as well. But you don’t start to argue with the captain who is ready to leave you in the harbour when it is getting dark, do you?