After dropping mum and dad off at the airport; I headed back to my hostel in Sanur. Undeniably it was an odd feeling having just spent the whole day in a nice hotel and the hotel Spa.
At the hostel it felt like I was starting the beginning of my trip again. All of the wonderful people that I continually bumped into along the way in my trip were now spread out across the globe. Really it was the feeling that I should have had 10 days earlier but my parents softened the blow. But, having spent the time in their company, the feeling was compounded.
Fortunately, I was at a backpacker hostel. When you’re backpacking you can be lonely, but you’re never truly alone. Within an hour I had bumped into a familiar face from Koh Lanta. We all went out for a few beers and to enjoy the live music. With good company, a feeling of ease settled back into me.
Back to Sengigi
The next day I had an early pickup to take me to the ferry terminal and I went straight back to Sengigi, Lombok. Had mum and dad known that I was going to come back to Sengigi straight away they never would have let me left with them to Bali just for one day. But I wanted to see them off right to the airport so kept that one quiet.
This time in Sengigi I had an agenda. I wanted to climb Mount Rinjani. Everyone I had met over the previous 5 months who had been to Indonesia raved about the Rinjani climb. It’s something I had been looking forward to for months.
Mount Rinjani is 2.7km above sea level. The trek is typically completed in 2-3 days depending on how much of the volcano is traversed. Most people reach the summit before sunrise. As the sunrises it burns through the clouds clearing the skies and revealing sweeping landscape vistas and a perfect view of Mount Angung on of the tallest volcanoes in Bali.
I wanted to do the 3 day itinerary, but overtime it was explained to me I couldn’t understand how it takes 3 days. I tried to find a company that would accompany me to do the 3 day itinerary in 2 days. However all flat out refused. Most the times the salesman were saying it was no problem – it was only when they called the guides the guides would plea to them not to make the sale. So without any choice, I signed up to a 3 day trek.
Though everyone else in the hostel went out for a few beers. I took an early night. I would need to wake up at 4am the next day.
There are two routes to climb Mount Rinjani. Either start in the North and finish in the East, or start East and finish North. I did the former:
- Day 1: Start in Senaru, 0.6km above sea level, at 6-7am. Climb through the day – stopping roughly 3 times for a break – to Senaru crater, 2.6km above sea level.
- Day 2: Head east down the other side of the valley wall into the crater (2km above sea level), take lunch at the lake and swim in the nearby hot springs before climbing the opposite valley wall reaching the Sembalun Crater Rim.
- Day 3: Leave camp at 0200 to climb to the summit 3.7km above sea level. Watch the sun rise before descending to Sembalun 1.1km above sea level.
Rinjani is no easy climb and some people don’t make it to the top because its so difficult. However for those who dare the reward is breathtaking.
Day 1 is pretty easy going. It involves walking through and climbing through the rainforest. The break points are every two hours; most of our group managed to power through these in one hour. The first third follows an easy to walk path. The second third involves scrambling up rocks and tree routes but still straight forward hiking. Finally the last stretch to the campsite is a lot trickier. The way alternates between really dry slippery dust and loose gravel that’s equally easy to slide down.
At the camp you can have stunning views of Mount Angung, Bali as the sunsets.
There’s really not a lot to do in the mountain and it gets dark and cold fast after the sun sets, so anything but an early night isn’t on the cards.
It’s a reasonable start on Day 2. We were hiking by about 0630-0700. We had to descend by 0.6km (vertical distance) followed by a 0.6km (vertical distance) ascent. Each takes about 3 hours.
After the descent we had lunch inside the crater before swimming in the hot springs.
Once again we were quite a keen bunch of people so powered through each leg in 2 hours. Our guide literally lay on the floor heaving saying he’s never done the walk in 2 hours. The second day’s camp site was equally scenic for a while but unfortunately the clouds came in destroying our beautiful vista.
At the end of the day we all went into our tents as soon as the sun went down. Though I’m typically good at getting to sleep at will, I really struggled that day. 7pm was just too early. So, I plugged in my headphones, launched the Bhudify app (iOS & Android) and ran through one of the getting to sleep exercises. It did get me to sleep but something or another woke me up an hour later. It went on like that, falling in and out of sleep.
Finally I awoke to the sound of someone saying “Good morning, tea?” outside the tent. I awoke. I was already dressed – during the night the temperature dropped enough that I had to sleep in most of my clothes in the sleeping bag to fend off the cold. I put my shoes on (my trusty Vibram Five Fingers, of course). As I sipped my tea outside the tent, I realised it didn’t actually feel that so I took off a few layers.
Within a few minutes, an Australian chap known to us as Pikey came out. He earned his nickname from a curious habit he had…he didn’t wear shoes. He has never worn shoes. He lived in Glasgow and didn’t wear shoes there. And he spent a few months as a guide to Everest’s Base Camp and didn’t wear shoes there either. Picky insisted that he had a better grip when hiking without shoes, that it prevented him from sliding or slipping; it seemed true from what I saw.
It took us less than three hours to get to the top. The way was difficult. The gravel and rocks kept slipping underneath our feet. For many they would take two steps forward and slide one step back. The darkness meant I couldn’t see the end goal. In some way it helped because it kept me focussed on the next 30 minutes. Climb 30 minutes, 3 minute break, climb 30 minutes etc… As we ascended through the clouds the air became humid and we were hiking through a light drizzle. But we were determined, even competitive so overtook most people. We were the first to the summit.
It was dark and cold when we got to the summit. More and more people started arriving. The morning was cloudy. Very cloudy. As the darkness rescinded in the morning light I was extremely worried that the clouds wouldn’t clear. The sun rose and the sky brightened but the clouds remained unmoved.
But, sure enough, and as promised, after 30 minutes the clouds disappeared under the suns heat revealing a spectacular sunrise.
Edit: some more GoPro footage from the summit.
It’s only on the way down in the light did it dawn on us all how far we had walked that morning. Were it not for the fact that we couldn’t see the challenge in the early morning darkness, I’m sure more people would have given up on their endeavours.
A few recommendations
- For those less comfortable walking I suggest starting in Sembalun (East) and finishing in Senaru (North). You’ll get the difficult bit done on day 1 when you’re full of energy.
- If you’re more comfortable hiking, I suggest the opposite. Though more challenging, seeing the sunrise on Day 3 after 2 days of tuff physical exertion is extremely rewarding.
- Pack warm clothes but pack light and take snacks.
- Girls AND boys, take toilet paper and lose any uptightness about doing your business in nature as mother nature intended (poor choice of words, the squat makes it hard for even the most anxious to be uptight).
- Take some sturdy shoes and socks, it’s cold at the summit