We are back for another entry of our beloved series, the solo traveler's journal. Today, I would like to illustrate my experience climbing the second highest active volcano in Indonesia, Mt Rinjani.
Let me cut to the chase and say that this was one of the most difficult treks I've been on only second to the Annapurna Base Camp, so your fitness level needs to at least be in moderate level to attempt to climb it. Why was it so hard? Head down and see how my experience went, and I can guarantee you, it was a hell of a crazy adventure.
Trekking with John's Adventure
For this trek, it is best that you do not trek solo. I went with a couple of friends and we decided to go with John's Adventure which was a little more expensive than the others, but since there are so many scams out there, we think it would be best if we went with an already established company.
With John's Adventure, you have a choice of doing the summit for 2 days, the summit and the lake for 3 days or 4 days. We thought we were pretty decent trekkers so we went with the 3 days package. Turned out we weren't that great and the schedule proved to be too tight for us so we only went up the summit and opted out for the lake because we were too slow to come down from the summit. The fact that we were climbing on volcanic ashes meant that whenever we climb 2 steps up, we were going down 1 step as well. It's like climbing up a sand dune.
Overall though, it was a hell of an experience and as difficult as it may be, we did eventually reach the top and got a breathtaking view of the volcano.
This program is designed specially for real trekker (advanced). Participant/s must be fit and have several mountain climbs experiences. Not recommended for beginners.
This trek start from Sembalun, ends in Senaru.
Highlights: Mt. Rinjani's summit (3,726 m), Segara Anak Lake (crater), Hot Springs and Caves.
- The guide will pick you up at hotel lobby at 06.00 AM then transfer to Sembalun. Register the Rinjani Information Center (RIC) in Sembalun Lawang (1,156 m), meet your guide and arrange National Park entry tickets.
- Your guide gives you briefing describes the route details, local cultural traditions and what you might see, and explains rubbish management and safety procedures.
- The trek starts from Sembalun Lawang with the gentle ascent walking through open grassland used as cattle grazing by local people.
- Resting at Pos 1 Pemantauan (1,300), after about three hours from Sembalun we reach Pos 2 Tengengean (1,500 m) enjoying the beautiful views of Mt. Rinjani summit (3,726 m).
- After another hours ascent to Pos 3 Pada Balong (1,800 m), we start the steep climb to the campsite at Plawangan II Sembalun crater rim (2,639 m).
- At 03:00 AM starts is necessary for the hard three-hours climb to the summit (3,726 m) on volcanic screen.
- Once there, enjoy the proud feelings of satisfaction and the amazing sunrise views across the Wallace Line to Bali, Mt. Agung and Sumbawa.
- Return down the ridge to the crater rim camp for a well-deserved breakfast.
- After breakfast, proceed to go down to the lake. It takes two to three hours down the steep trail to the crater lake.
- Enjoy the lake, swimming or exploring the caves and pilgrimage hot springs, believed to have healing powers, while our porters preparing for your lunch.
- After a lunch break, leave the lake and climb for two and half hours up to Plawangan 1 Senaru Crater Rim (2,461 m) for the day 2nd camp.
- Dinner and overnight at crater rim if weather permitted or another hour down to Cemara Lima.
- After breakfast, descend down the long trail to Senaru village (601 m), through thick tropical forests rich in flora, bird life and a variety of butterflies.
- Rest stops are taken along the way, with village stories and local legends related by your guide.
- After seven hours walk from the rim, (or five hours from Pos 3 Mondokon Lolak), the trek ends at Rinjani Trek Center at the road head in Senaru, where the car is waiting to transfer you to the airport or Senggigi
Day 1: Hiking to the Ridge from Sembalun Lawang
As we flew from Malaysia to Lombok, we did get a glimpse of what we would be climbing early the next day.
As we walked out the airport, we were greeted by our drivers and they took us to one of the hotel owned by the same company. Lombok is not a small island. It took us almost 3 hours to get to the hotel and by then it was so late, we went straight to sleep.
We woke up early in the morning, brushed our teeth and had breakfast while the guides briefed us through the tour.
We also got a glimpse of how hight Mt Rinjani is from the sea level. Since we weren't that high from the sea level at that point, I feared that our bodies might not be functioning well with such a tight schedule. I was not wrong..
After a 2 hour drive from the hotel to the national park office, we got our permits and headed to the trail's head. The trail started off with mostly leaned paths and a few small climbs. We were expected to climb for 7 - 8 hours on our first day. Do be ready for the sun since there will be little to no shade during the first few hours.
After a 3 hour walk, we eventually arrived at our first stop. This stop is a common stop for lunch so you will be eating with people from other tours. The lunch was a basic Macaroni and a Prego sauce combination.
After lunch, we continued up another leaned path, through tall grasses. As I walked, I occasionally saw what was left of a wild fire. It was very dry and had barely rained during the time I was there.
It was not until two-thirds of the trek that the trail started to become steeper and steeper. I was starting to feel slowed down by the ground as it gets finer and finer as I approached the volcano.
After 8 hours of walk, we eventually arrived at the ridge where we were to camp that day. This was the view of summit from the ridge. The guide said, it will only be a 3 hour walk. I refused to believe this and I was not wrong.
And here was our camping ground. The guy was digging our toilet for the day. Who would have thought that our lives would depend on this little hole the next day.
No matter where you camp, the view from your tent will never fail to impress you.
Our camping ground had the view of both the lake and the summit, not to mention a perfect spot to watch the sunset! All the pain went away for a moment there.
Since there was a full moon a couple of weeks ago, I thought we wouldn't be able to see the milky way. I was wrong. The milky way presented itself to us while we were eating dinner around a campfire.
I took a stroll up the ridge to find a quiet place and there, I set up my tripod, mounted my camera, took this photo, and stared at the universe in wonder.
Seeing the milky way never gets old, no matter how many time I'd seen them.
Day 2: Mt. Rinjani Summit Day
And there we went, woke up at 2 am and started the climb hoping to arrive at the summit in 3 hours.
I don't know if it was the altitude, the bad food, or simply because of the volcanic ashes, but I was unable to maintain my breathing rhythm like I used to. The trail got even steeper (as you can see from the photo), and the more I climbed, the more I had to stop and took a deep breath. I guess this is what it's like climbing a sand dune as high as a mountain.
Four hours in and I was still an hour away from the summit, and that last bit turned out to be horrendously steep. At this point, one of my friends already gave up and walked back down. I was sitting at one of the rock, watching the sun rise over an ocean.
As I was sitting, trying to keep myself warm, my mind started to wander off and It just went black. I fall asleep right on the spot for god knows how long. The guide who was accompanying my other friend that went down came and woke me up. Since I had already missed the sunrise, I told him that I might give up and he tried to encouraged me to no avail.
After I was discouraged by the climb, 2 of my friends arrived. I told them I would give up but they convinced me to push it. It would be ashamed to come this far and not reach the summit.
It was so close, yet it felt so far my body refused to accept it. I watched as the guides assisted and pulled my friends up the mountain. "Well, it would be ashamed indeed," I told myself and I slowly walked toward the summit with all the energy I got.
Even though, it was like hell climbing that last one hour stretch, but you gotta admit, the view from up here was magnificent.
I really pushed myself to the limit that day. I wasn't even walking. I was simply dragging my legs up a few meters per minute.
And there I was, at the summit! After a 5 freaking hours walk since 2 am, I finally reached the summit.
I did not just look like shit, I also felt like shit up there. My body started to dysfunction as I started to sit and rested. My stomach was aching for some reason, but that did not stop me from enjoying my hard earned time up there.
There were 8 of us in the group and 6 reached the summit. It was a proud moment for us all.
As my stomach got worst by the minute, I decided to walk down before everyone. I also was told that we have another freaking 8 hours hike to the lake before us that day.
I could not have ran faster that morning. Imagine when you are stuck in traffic on a highway and you really need to go number 2, but without the nice comfort of your car and you have to walk down a mountain for 3 hours before you get to the toilet. That was what I went through that day.
I arrived at the tent around 9:30am and I was told that if the group didn't arrive by 10, we won't be able to go to the lake in time. I knew by then that, with the conditions we had, we won't be able to continue anyway.
Everyone was down at the camp by 11 and we all accepted the truth that walking another 8 hours at night is just not wise. In the end, we opted out for the lake and decided to stay on the ridge another night and walk back down the same way.
That night, out of 8 of us, 6 including myself had a really bad stomach. Everyone was at their worst condition. I literally shit 8 times that night and in the morning, the next day, I somehow felt worst than before.
Day 3: Backtracking our way to Sembalun Lawang and Admit Defeat
When I'm trekking, I usually walk fast, but that morning I couldn't walk. It was so bad that I could feel the water rumbling in my stomach for every step I took. I couldn't eat anything for several meals before and now, that my energy had run out, I started to feel the tingling in my fingers.
My mouth was so pale that the guides were extremely concerned about me. The guide was so concerned that they offered me a trekking pole and to carry my backpack. I felt defeated but I had no choice but to try and see if it will make my stomach better.
As it turned out, the backpack was part of the culprit. Since the backpack was strapping to my bag, it forced my body to be in a position that puts a strain on my stomach. I felt the relief right after I got rid of my backpack. I wasn't proud of it but at least I can walk as fast as before without anyone's help.
At our lunch stop, no one had the appetite to eat anything so we decided to opt out for lunch and pushed ourselves to the finish line once and for all. It only took us 4 and a half hours to go down, thanks to our awesome guides. I owed my life to these brave men.
And that's the end of the trek. Me and my friends decided to split here as I headed to Gili Trawangan and my friends to Bali. Along the way to the pier, we saw a bunch of teens celebrating and dancing to a wedding ceremony on the street.
They sure got some killer moves. :)
And that is what the worst scenario would be like when you climb a mountain. As previously promised, I have brought you the most ridiculous, and crazy trekking stories that even topped the one where a super typhoon hit when I was on Mt Fuji.
I hope you guys enjoyed the entry. Next up, we will explore the tropical island of Gili Trawangan, the backpacker's haven so stay tuned. If you are looking to do the Rinjani trek as well, don't hesitate to ask me for advice in the comments below.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.