Mount Rinjani....time to do some work! (11.09.12 - 13.09.12)

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September 17th 2012
Published: October 2nd 2012
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Finally...we bring you the Rinjani story....better late than never (its very time consuming you know and we have been far to busy having fun!)

While we were on the Gili islands we seen lots of agents offering the chance to climb a volcano called Gunung Rinjani on Lombok, and after a little while we sort of started to think that it might be something good to do. It’s not often you get the chance to climb a volcano and later in the trip we’re doing the Inca Trail trek and maybe this could provide us with a bit of practice, and much needed exercise!

We jumped on the internet and did a bit of research, you know the simple, sensible stuff. How high, how far and how difficult is it? Well it turns out that its actually pretty high, a smidge above 3700m. The climb starts at 600m and knowing that we’d spent the better part of a month on or around beaches, and being a bit short of time, we were fairly sure that we wouldn’t manage it.

After a bit more research we found out that the crater itself was about 1000m below the summit and you could do a two day trek to the crater rim and back. There’s no lava in the crater only a lake and another much smaller more active volcano. The two day trek sounded a bit more like it, after all the websites said that a fit ten year old could manage it! A few emails were sent off to a couple of the companies that were highly rated and after a little bit of back and forth we decided to go for it.

We were to be picked up from Senggigi at 9.00 by a taxi who would take us to a village called Senaru, where most of the treks start. We would have one night in Senaru before setting off the next morning to climb 2000m to the crater rim.

When booking this trip, one of the perks was that we might get to meet some new people! On the Gili's people kept themselves to themselves mostly and we thought, great, sign up for a group trek and we would meet some new people, when we arrive and ask how big is the group? Oh your very lucky, its just the two of you! Typical!

It almost didn’t start at all; we were sat at breakfast thinking that the taxi driver would be obvious, he wasn’t and he ended up being sat in the restaurant for about 15 minutes before we realized he was there. The journey to Senaru was a typically entertaining taxi journey and we both felt pretty ill by the time we’d arrived. We were introduced to the company owner Mr Rudy and our guide for the trek, Antonio, and were told that because we were early we had the afternoon to ourselves and Antonio would take us to see two local waterfalls if we liked. We thought that it sounded like a good idea so we said yes. The taxi driver took us down the hill to our hotel and we had just enough time to get settled before Antonio turned up to take us to the waterfall.

We were all set to go when Antonio announced that we would go back up the hill on the back of a scooter because it was too much effort the day before our walk. We’d spent all of our time in South East Asia deliberately avoiding the back of a bike and now it didn’t look like we had much say in the matter. So as it was our first motorbike/scooter journey in South East Asia (and Rachel’s first time on the back of a bike ever) was half a mile up the (very steep!) hill to where the path to the waterfall went off.

The walk to the first waterfall was straight forward, a nice easy path down the side of a hill. The first waterfall wasn’t exactly a small waterfall, it probably fell nearly 20m and appeared to come straight out of the trees. A pretty impressive waterfall really.

The journey to the second waterfall wasn’t so simple. Most of the journey was through the jungle apart from one decidedly dodgy bit crossing over the river using an irrigation aqueduct. The concrete steps up to the waterfall had a bit of a left to right lean on them and the hand rails had mostly crumbled. The aqueduct itself was crossed in a kind of stepping stone fashion, as there were big regular gaps in the concrete, handrail on the left only and we were probably 20 feet up. Not hairy at all, especially not when Antonio told us to stop so he could take a couple of photos of us in the middle.

The second waterfall was bigger than the first and had quite a large pool at the bottom. Antonio encouraged me to go for a dip in the pool (just James I'm not so daft!) and forgot to tell me that near to the middle of the pool there was quite a large undercurrent. It wasn’t as deep as I thought it would be and I stopped somewhere I thought would be comfortable with my feet on the ground when I felt myself getting pulled backwards by the water, a couple of seconds later and a few steps backwards and I decided I had to swim my way out. It took a fair bit of effort (and a few minutes of fear for Rach!) and Antonio was quite apologetic afterwards. Nice one.

After the dip we made our way back and spent the rest of the day relaxing and reading in preparation for the walk.

We were up at six and after breakfast and a bit of waiting for our guide, we signed in and were given our ticket for the Gunung Rinjani National Park and set off walking at about 8. Antonio had turned up at our hotel wearing a pair of cheap green flip flops and a woolly hat and we'd assumed that he would change into some sort of boots before setting off. Not so, he ended up doing the entire up and down in the same pair of flip flops. Makes you feel a bit of a lemon when the guide walks it in flip flops and makes it look like it's a stroll down the street. As if the guide walking in flip flops wasn't enough, some of the porters walked up and down in bare feet whilst being heavily laden with food, tents, sleeping bags and just about anything else you might need up a volcano.

You set off at about 600m up and the first half of the climb to where we stopped for lunch was fairly steady up through jungle growing on the slopes of Rinjani. The one thing we noticed pretty quickly was that the path never really flattened out, it was all up all the way. It turned out that the three of us were the second group onto the mountain that morning and it was clear that Antonio wanted to keep it that way.
By 9.30 we'd climbed up 500m ish to 1100m or so, and by 10.30 we were stopping for lunch at a height of 1500m. We'd already done more climbing by half ten than either of us had ever done before. In hindsight the long stop for lunch didn't really help, my legs stiffened right up and the second half of the walk was a struggle.
We were surprised when Antonio asked us what we wanted for an appetiser, so we asked "well, what have you got?", "Oh I can do Greek salad or spring rolls if you like?". Yep, you guessed it he was going to make us a three course lunch halfway up the mountainside, and it was great. We had greek salad and sweet and sour veg / chicken followed by a fruit salad.

Now, there's nothing more I like to do after stuffing myself in the sunshine than climb another 1000m up a mountain, but for some reason I just didn't quite enjoy the climb. The first 3/4 of the climb is pretty steady through the jungle, but once you move out into the open it gets much steeper and a lot more tricky underfoot. Climbing the last 500m was pretty hellish and our pace dropped right off. So much so, that Antonio dashed off about 50m from the top to secure a prime camping spot. Space on the crater rim is, perhaps unsurprisingly, at a premium.

We were both pretty shattered by the time we'd reached the top, but the intial glimpse at the view from the top made it all worthwhile. It really was something else. The crater of Rinjani is 6km wide and as I mentioned above there's another smaller volcano in it surrounded by water. It seemed so bizarre to be on the rim of one volcano looking down on another.
Antonio did indeed secure us a great camping spot, a turn to our left saw us looking down into the crater and a turn to our right and we were looking over the island and out to sea. Not a bad camp set up, our own little tent, toilet tent, cooking area, and 3 guys there to set it all up, put it down and cook for us!

We were pretty fortunate to have a completely clear night and the sunset was ace. Once the sun disappeared, the stars quickly came out; you read things where people say "I have never seen so many stars" and well, we have never seen so many stars. I just wish my camera could've got a decent picture.
That night, we had a pretty interesting and disturbed night of sleep. We were so tired that we were in bed by nine, we were being woken up at six for the sunrise, and not long after we heard the sound of animals running up the hill towards our tent. At first we thought it was dogs because we'd heard a few on the way up, but it quickly turned out to be monkeys. Quite a few of them too by the sound of it. They ate and sniffed around the tent, right behind our heads before clambering all over it, nearly collapsing the tent. Eventually they left us alone and in the morning when we asked whether anybody else had been disturbed it turned out to be just us, typical.

We woke up in time for the sunrise over the volcano and while it was nice, I'd have rather have had a couple more hours sleep. We were given banana pancakes for breakfast, and were happily halfway through wolfing them down when Antonio came over and presented Rachel with a fried egg barm and chips and me with a burger and chips. Yep, at 6 am on top of a volcano I was presented with a burger and chips (freshly cut and fried at 2600. Mental.

We eventually got going downt the mountain at 8 ish and we were pretty much the last people to set off. I found the journey much harder than the way up and was suffering from more than a little bit of jelly legs by the time we got down, and the combination of steps made of tree roots and loose gravelly slopes made it all the more fun. Rach fared much better and found the way down much easier than the day before. We got back down to the park exit at about midday and we stopped again for more food. This time we managed to convince Antonio to just give us a bit of salad, we were still stuffed from breakfast. The last thing we were expecting from a trek up a volcano was to be fed so much food we had to keep turning it down, Antonio constantly had 3 meal options and a bag full of biscuits in his backpack! He was very proud of never serving us noodles. We were all done, dusted and back where we'd started from by about half 1, relieved we were finished. Then we headed back in the taxi to Sengiggi for a much needed shower.

Just in case anyone is reading this looking for info about treking Rinjani, we would recommend Rudy Trekkers anytime! (Unless you hate being looked after and fed great food!)

It was really hard work but really worth it. It took about four or five days before my legs stopped hurting, even dips in the pavement and kerbs were a daunting sight the day after.

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