At 3,726-metres-high, Mount Rinjani on the island of Lombok is the highest mountain in Indonesia, not including Irian Jaya. The trek to Mount Rijnani’s summit is not considered an easy walk-in-the-park.
Sprawling across most of Lombok and visible from almost anywhere on the island, the last time the infamous Mount Rinjani erupted was in 1994 – only 4 years ago. Let’s hope that this volcano remains a sleeping giant for a little while longer.
Only established last year in 1997, the Gunung Rinjani National Park protects the volcano, caldera, and mountainous areas expanse of over 41,000 hectares. This natural beauty is stunning and untouched – let’s hope it stays this way – but time will tell.
A promise of only four people on the trek is conveyed but this is Indonesia. If more money can be made then sadly, promises are quickly forgotten.
Incredible three-day trek to Mount Rinjani
Finally, after several days of extended tough travelling from Java across Bali and Lombok, we decide on another arduous trek, which is the objective of arriving on the island of Lombok.
This time, the trek is for three days and two nights to Indonesia’s second-highest active volcano, Mount Rinjani on Lombok.
The rickety Bemo drives around winding narrow roads until reaching the tiny village of Sembalun Lawang on day one for the start of the ascent of Mount Rinjani.
With heightened nerves of the unknown, we slowly ascend into the thick lush tropical rainforest. Clambering over fallen decayed logs and ascending across gnarly tree roots, often creating difficult but natural stairs, this trek is difficult.
With only a quick stop to catch our breath, Yan (guide) pushes our group of four to continue the ascent and only stopping for lunch, some four and a half hours later. We need to cover a certain amount of ground before nightfall to set up camp on the side of the mountain.
The delicious lunch made against Rinjani’s side is a welcomed relief for our sore bodies and hunger pangs.
Following a brief lunch stop, we continue the difficult trek under the blaring sun while the vegetation becomes sparser and the air thinner, the higher we climb. I am okay with the altitude but others are not as lucky, on this slow climb. The gentle path that once existed, transforms into a mere rough mountain-goat track the higher we climb. Some take several steps before stopping then try again. Yan and Patricia (professional climber) are patient with the rest of the group’s slow progress.
The inevitable happens…I pull a muscle in my groin, which not only is excruciating but slows down our group even more. Climbing every step increases the pain, on this extremely rigorous and difficult ascent to our evening’s campsite.
Blustery Pelawangan II around 2,900 metres above sea level, is the first campsite and home for the night. Although, extremely disappointed at reaching the site after the strenuous climb as rubbish is strewn everywhere.
Yan isn’t bothered about the filth and does not think twice about discarding more – adding to the growing pile.
Several tents belonging to locals and tourists dot Rinjani’s side amongst the rubbish.
The porters carried a live chicken on top of the camping gear on the climb and at night, tie a string to its leg so it is free to roam and scratch around – its fate is doomed – although treated almost like a pet.
At this altitude, the temperature plummets to around 5°C and the 20-knot icy wind’s teeth gnaw into our aching bodies.
Before long, an incredibly spectacular sunset befalls the volcano. Only a few distant gasps break this silent freezing serenity – memorable.
Sleeping on the hard surface of the volcano’s side with only the tent’s groundsheet between you and volcanic rock is not conducive to sleep.
During the early hours of the morning, Yan collects the climbers for the climb to the summit.
With the aching pain in my groin not subsiding and with still two days left on this trek, I forfeit the temptation. I know my limitations and have nothing to prove to anyone. Also, there is no way down the volcano but to walk.
Only professional climbers venture out to finish the 500-metre climb to the summit. Many turn back before reaching the summit as the strong winds hinder the already difficult climb, making the ascent even more dangerous.
After only an hour’s uncomfortable frozen slumber, with visions of the tent plummetting off the side of the volcano together with its slumbering occupants, the stunning sunrise beckons everyone on the mountain.
Regardless of the country, the incredible beauty of nature never ceases to amaze as also does humanity’s complete disregard for caring for our earth.
The ethereal sunrise brings welcomed warmth, beauty, and calmness of wind to Mount Rinjani.
The trek starts again with a difficult and strenuous descent taking three hours to reach the crater lake, Segara Anak – “child of the sea” – next to Mount Rinjani. At around 2,004 metres above sea level, this lake formed as a result of the catastrophic 1257 volcanic explosion of Mount Samalas.
Along the way we pass locals from the villages at the base of the volcano, trekking to the lake to fish for the day. A strange concept as these locals live by the sea.
Arriving at the beautiful lake, garbage and people greet us following the tough descent, which spoils the surrounding area.
Four natural therapeutic (supposedly) hot springs grace this lake and are renowned to hold magical healing powers, especially for skin disorders. Seeking out one to soak my burning muscles and to hopefully help with this hellish rash of mine from the anti-malaria Doxycycline tablets, but disappointed with the find…
The site is disgusting. Locals sleeping at the springs overnight leave garbage everywhere and exposed human faeces over the rocks.
Weaving our way through and around the filth along the non-existent path to avoid stepping in anything, try to find a clean area at the springs for a soak. The springs uninviting cloudy yellow and milky appearance greet us…apprehension to wade in.
The trek, which is now more like rock climbing and difficult, continues after lunch around the gorgeous lake before ascending briefly again lasts over three hours with the ache in my groin persisting.
Passing a massive landslide that Yan explains happened only last week, we continue gingerly on until reaching our campsite for the second evening of the trek. At 2,300 metres, Pelanggan III is lower than last night’s campsite and deeper into the rainforest. This campsite is lovely and peaceful. Regardless of the ground’s hardness, a perfect evening is enjoyed around candlelight and a cosy fire.
The last day of the Rinjani trek starts with a sultry morning for the vigorous trek through dense rainforest with relentless mosquitoes feasting on our minimally exposed flesh, on the descent back to Senaru.
Down the mountain, we scramble once more, over thick tree roots and fallen jagged logs reaching the base of Mount Rinjani. With aching legs and a burning pulled groin muscle, I am ecstatic to finally reach Senaru – barely able to walk, but thrilled to complete this demanding trek!
No time to rest yet as still need to make it to Cakranegara and find accommodation for the night…