Climbing Rinjani - Blood, Sweat & Tantrums

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May 7th 2012
Published: May 7th 2012
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After being in Ubud for 10 days, I finally decide enough is enough, it's time to move on. I must admit I've gotten pretty comfortable in Darta's homestay, eating at the local Warung every night with the same bunch of people. I don't know if it's recovery from being ill or the fact that the last few weeks have mainly been spent with family & friends, but I seem to have lost my appetite for exploring right now and it's felt good just to be in one place, particularly one I feel so at home in! But I can't stay here forever, and I had wanted to climb the monstrous Mount Rinjani since day one of getting to Indonesia, in fact it was the main reason I decided to not take my flight to Vietnam last week (another flight wasted!) and even though a big part of me wants to stay put in this artsy town, I half reluctantly book my bus & slow boat over to Lombok for the next day.

Pick up is at 7am and after a swift hour drive to the port, I start the whole rigmarole of getting the slow ferry; waiting at the port for an hour and a half, finally getting on the boat, only to be half pushed down the stairs by an eager Indonesian man who blatantly didn't have 20 seconds to wait for me to get to the top, so decides to squeeze past me & my hefty rucksack, nearly knocking me flying... First tantrum of the day; he gets called a cock along with several other obscenities. I settle in for the 4 hour ride, in the only shady spot I can find, which happens to be right next to the engine room and also void of any breeze from the sea. I persevere, listening to my iPod for comfort and eventually arrive in Lembar where I board yet another shuttle bus to the seaside town of Sengeggi and arrive over 2 hours late after stopping half way for the tour company to try and flog overpriced tickets for here, there & everywhere to the rest of the passengers.

Finally by 5:30pm we arrive in Sengeggi and myself & three French Canadian's wander around with our rucksacks to look for a room. We're not short of offers, but everywhere is charging 100,000 rupiah (about 10 dollars) for rooms that must be worth 25,000. On Bali I was paying 100,000 for the most gorgeous, clean room with hot water & breakfast yet here they want the same amount for a hovel! Sengeggi is like a ghost town - something that looks like perhaps once it was quite a popular seaside resort but now no one visits, and I can see why! Overpriced and underkept, I'm not keen on sticking around. After asking at some of the pricier hotels how much they charge, the three French Canadians decide to stay in some pretty lush bungalows with a pool, for way more than I can afford. But luckily one girl, Nicole is keen to share to make it a bit cheaper and generously offers to pay most of the room if I cough up 100,000...I'm sold! So after cooling of in the large swimming pool, a couple of beers and a way overpriced bowl of soup, I head to bed, ready to plan my Rinjani trek the next day.

I awake with a headache. Something is telling me not to do this. I don't have a good feeling about Lombok or the trek and I just want to be back in the familar surroundings of Ubud. I do a quick reckie of my budget and realise, with the £70 they are charging for the trek, it's actually way beyond what I can afford - what was I thinking coming here anyway? I decide to cut my losses and after a huge four course breakfast, purely for the fact it was included in the price, I head down the hill to book a shuttle bus & boat all the way back to Ubud. Then for some unknown reason, before I know it, I've walked into a trekking centre, handed over the best part of 1 million rupiah to do the 1 night two day trek to the crater rim, and am sat in a car on the way to Senaru, the mountain village where the trek starts. All the way there I'm wishing I wasn't doing this, wishing I was on my way back to Ubud, but it's too late now, the money is spent and I'm on the way.

I pull up at the guesthouse where I'll be spending the night before getting up early for the trek the next morning. It's grim... I mean really grim. As in I don't think I've stayed anywhere this bad since India. There are open holes for windows ready for any old bugs to fly in, the toilet is a scoop & slosh, the shower a bucket and the fleece blanket on the bed patterned in "care bears" looks about 27 years old which ironically is about how long ago I had the exact same cover on my own bed, however it provides little comfort.

I meet the owner Abdul, who seems nice enough even though he clearly fancies himself as a bit of a ladies man. Of course he gets nowhere with me, but his sights soon turn to two Czech girls who rock up in their jeep who seem to enjoy the attention.

It's still early afternoon so Abdul offers to take us all on a walk to some nearby waterfalls. We set out just in flip flops, as suggested, but the terrain is rocky and I find it hard to keep up with the others. I cut my leg on a spiky branch and yell in agony, then out of nowhere comes the rain - like monsoon rain, and Abdul is trying to get us to cross this raging river which comes almost waist deep! I down right refuse - I thought this was meant to be a gentle stroll not a full on jungle adventure course! If I'm going to trek up a 2600m volcano tomorrow I need rest, not this! So there's my second tantrum. I'm not in a good place today and continue to question whether I should be doing this trek tomorrow and indeed whether I'm physically up to the challenge.

The next morning I awake in a better mood - I'M DOING THIS! I have to at least try! I meet the other two people I'll be climbing with, a French couple Hannah & Hanil. Hanil is nice & friendly, but Hannah, his wife, brings another level to the meaning of "Aloof." She doesn't speak English, has a permanent pout/scowl on her face, hiding behind her huge sunglasses, she barely greets me with a hello. Nevermind, I'm on a mission to climb this b*****d of a mountain regardless and to be honest I'll probably be too out of breath for making much conversation!

I also meet Dewa, our guide. A young 24 year old, who's been married two years, he tells me and has recently become the proud father of a baby boy. "I don't get tired from the mountain anymore" he says " because when I return and see my son, all my tiredness disappears"... Bless! Dewa's English is really good and we chat along the way, him telling me about his life & family & vice versa.

The climb starts off gently through the forest, on a muddy path with a slight incline then gets steeper & steeper as we go on, breaking every hour or so for a tea & biscuit break or for lunch of veg & noodles. We also have a porter trekking with us who speeds ahead carrying our food & tents for us in a wooden device balanced on his shoulders that consists of a large pole with a basket on each end. The porter is tiny, must be about 20 years old, wearing nothing but a raggy tshirt, shorts & flip flops but he speeds up the hill in no time!

After lunch the clouds begin to move in and it starts to rain. I start to get slightly nervous about setting off again, as the temperature has dropped dramatically, but Dewa decides to let the storm pass and luckily it only takes 10 minutes until the sun is shining again. We set out once more, climbing through the steep forest until finally we are out in the open, in grassland and can start to enjoy the view! However right now we are well and truly up in the clouds, though for me this is perfect as it obscures just how high up we actually are at this point, since I'm petrified of heights!

About two thirds of the way up, Hannah, the pouty French girl, complains of a leg injury, so we keep stopping for regular breaks. I don't mind so much as it gives me a chance to do some stretches, hopefully reducing the amount of pain I'll be in over the next few days! However, Dewa decides, rather than go all the way to the top tonight, we can camp about an hour below and get up at 5:30am to do the final stretch. It's nice of him to be so considerate to the girl, but I am a little disappointed. At 4:30pm we finish our trek for the day but moreover I still have energy left in me! The clouds are still obscuring the view of the long way down and I'm worried that in the morning, when the skies are clear, my fear will set in and I'll struggle to make it. Nevertheless there's not an awful lot I can do about it, so as I reach the camp first, I help the porter set up the tents and help Dewa cook the dinner. By 7pm it's pitch black, the skies have cleared and there's an araying bewilderment of stars! It's also absolutely freezing and we sit huddled by the fire for warmth, Dewa telling me about his dream to start his own trekking business one day, which I'm full of encouragement for him, and I tell him my dream of having my own cake shop/boutique. We decide to call it a night at the stupidly early time of 8pm and I head to bed exhausted.

The company provide all camping gear, but I also decided to bring my own sleeping bag for extra warmth, due to past experiences on my travels, particularly camping in India and being absolutely freezing! (Cassie you will remember my tantrum from that particular night!). So I ask Dewa for my sleeping bags but he explains that he thought as I had brought my own, I wouldn't need another one....oh dear. I specifically told Abdul I would need two before we left but he had failed to mention this to Dewa, so Dewa, being the sweetest young man, gives me his sleeping bag so that I will be warm and says he can share with the porter. I feel really, really bad... But I need to get some sleep if I've any chance of making it to the top of the crater rim tomorrow and for that I need to be warm. I thank him profusely, and snuggle up, fully clothed in my two sleeping bags. I'm still bloody freezing all night so god knows what I would have been like with just one and god knows how cold poor Dewa was! He did have a thick tracksuit, woolly hat and another person to keep him warm though, where as I did not, and I remind myself this if only to stop me tearing myself apart with guilt!

I awake at 5am and it's just starting to get light. The skies are clear and the air is crisp & cold. We have a strong coffee, a few biscuits and then set out on our final hour's climb up the mountain. The path gets steep, and eventually we're climbing, scrambling up rocks near the top but I keep my cool, expecting the fear to set in at any moment, or for my knees to go like jelly, but the fear never comes. I don't know if it's because I've just spent a whole night camped at 2000m or because the hills & terrain provide a gradual descent down, rather than any cliff edges, but I'm absolutely fine! In fact I'm more than fine - I'm on top of the world! There's something about being at the top of a mountain at 6am that is pretty God damn satisfying!! The view is amazing, you can see right over Lombok to the Gili Isles on one side, and as I climb the last rocky hill, I finally get the view I paid to see - the Crater rim, the lake with the volcano inside still smoking - it's AWESOME! (again, this is not meant in the wanky American sense of the word but I am actually in absolute awe!)

I needed to be wowwed and boy am I wowwed! I'd gotten way too lazy & comfortable back in Ubud, lost my appetite for adventure, but there's nothing like being at the top of a mountain with this AMAZING view to get my spirit back! Oh yes, worth every painful step, every blister, every bead of sweat (I've never actually sweated so much in my entire life!). This was one tough trek but definitely, absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, incredibly & utterly worth it!


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7th May 2012

Oh you must have so much energy and disapline so proud of you. But I half know how you feel, cos I was so pleased when we achieved Snowdonia. Hope you enjoy the rest of your stay in Vietnam.

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