• Painting Memories • Past & Present • For the Future •
A Really Remarkable Rinjani Experience
Mount Rinjani has been on my bucket list of mountains for a few years and finally I am able to cross it out in my bucket list. The irony of it all is that, I really want to do Rinjani again! What I have learnt from this experience is that the really remarkable thing about Mount Rinjani is not just about the mountain nor its summit, it is the whole experience from the start till the end of the journey.
This is my first time to Lombok, Indonesia. Lombok is an island of almost the same size as Bali and located directly to the east of Bali. We took a 5 days 4 nights package for the Rinjani hike and stayed another 2 nights on Gili Trawangan, one of the 3 satellite islands of Lombok.
Although the package was for 5 days 4 nights, the actual hike itself was only 3 days. The start and end point of the hike is quite far from the airport (around 4 hours, that’s nearly half a day gone), that is why the first and last day of the package is basically the pick-up and send-off from the airport. The price of the package conveniently includes everything, and I literally mean everything including the park fees, guide fees, accommodation in the start and end point, tents, sleeping bags, meals and porters that will carry all those things … everything! The only additional fees that you would need to consider and is option, is for a personal porter, that is if you wanted someone to carry your own personal belongings for you.
DAY 1: Lombok International Airport to Sembalun
What was the first thing that we did upon arrival in Lombok airport? Get an Indonesia data card of course! The mobile operators are conveniently located just outside of the arrival hall at the airport, all the different providers there for your choosing. Our poor guide was anxiously waiting for us outside the airport, wondering if we bailed on him.
We chose the package from XL Axiata as they are known to have the widest coverage and fastest speed in Indonesia, especially in Lombok. We went for the 100,000rph (USD8/SGD10/MYR30) package because the all the other cheaper packages were out of stock. Oh, did I mention that this package is for 12GB and last for 30 days! So it’s basically enough to be shared among the whole group using hotspot or a data sharing device.
After meeting our guide and shoving all our luggage into the cars, we headed for Senggigi, the main tourist strip of Lombok that stretches several kilometers which was around a 1.5 hours from the airport.
Picture (clockwise from top-left): Nasi Campur, Nasi Ayam Bakar, Mee Goreng, Bakso
TIP: If you have no reason to go Senggigi, I suggest you skip going there. This is because Senggigi is north-west of the airport, while at the end of the day, you are suppose to head far east towards the village of Sembalun or Senaru, depending on which village you are starting from. Either way, going out of the way just to go Senggigi will add around 3 hours of travelling time, going in the opposite direction of where you have to go. I suggest that you request your guide to bring you to a genuine Indonesian local coffee shop along the way for your lunch (if you need any).
From Senggigi, it took approximately 5 hours of driving on small narrow roads and eventually very long and winding hilly roads with a lot of twist and turns dotted with many hairpin turns. We were swinging from left to right being thrown around in the car as though we were sitting in a roller coaster. Two of my friends did could not handle ride and was immediately car sick. Please make sure you sit in front or ensure you have a plastic bag ready in case you get nauseous.
DAY 2: Start of Hike (Sembalun to Plawangan Sembalu)
We woke up to a very fine morning, fresh from the very good sleep that we had. The rooms are not equipped with air-conditioning but believe me, it is not hot during the day and quite chilly during the night.
Our Fried Rice breakfast was provided by the villa which was more than enough to keep us from going hungry until lunch. Instead of roosters awaking the villagers up with their crows, this place had … a goose with its gobbles.
Planted around the whole compound of the villa were flowers from every different colour spectrum.
For the next 2 hours, the trek was basically farms and greens all around with fairly easy gradual ascend. As we progressed, I could feel my excitement slowly building up momentum as Mount Rinjani slowly gets nearer.
While we rested under the canopy, Stuk’s mobile kitchen team went to work. Some of them started cutting the vegetables while others were busy preparing the fruits. It was amazing seeing the team in action, all working together like one big happy family, prepping and cooking while entertaining themselves with their jokes and laughter.
If that wasn’t enough, they even offered three sauces (sambal traditional, sweet sauce and ketchup). For dessert (yes, they even served desserts!) we had watermelon, pineapple and apple! Spoiled for choice, really.
We must have spent at least 1.5 hours just resting and enjoying our lunch. We started off again at around 12.30 pm. Stuk had already briefed us earlier that the trek after lunch would get harder and steep as we approach the Mountain’s crater rim.
I was impressed by the tents as each one of them had our guide’s name “Stuk Rinjani” printed on them. Even the sleeping bags had his customized name on them!
While the sun was still up, we took the opportunity to take many pictures of our surrouding including our selfies with the summit. Even Choco (Mandy’s ‘companion’ wanted to be in the selfie!)
This green curry tasted fantastic with our rice in this very cold evening. The red apples was really contrasting being served with the green curry.
DAY 3: Up to the Summit and then down to the Lake
Summit climbs always involves getting up in the middle of the night and making it to the summit in time for the sunrise. The Rinjani summit climb is no different.
By the way, Stuk asked for our permission to have one of the team to sleep in each one of our tents so that our tents were not left unguarded during this time that we are making our way to the summit. Safety and security is always a priority in Stuk’s team.
After that section of the climb, which I am guessing lasted around an hour, came the easier part, which was just a gradual ascend which was a relieve. However, it was cold because of the strong wind and I could many people hiding behind large boulders which provided shelter from the strong cold winds.
Another hour has passed and I was proven wrong. The hard part came and without realizing it, I was cursing and swearing at myself, literally. Indeed this part of the climb was the hardest. In fact, I would testify that this was the hardest summit climb I have ever done throughout my whole life of mountain climbing on the mountains of South East Asia!
The best way for me to describe the conditions there is: it is like you’re on the moon with gravity, trying to get up a very dry hill that when you take 2 steps up, you automatically slip 1 step down because of the loose volcanic soil and rocks. The experience is very frustrating and will put your patience to the maximum test. No matter what, I just kept crawling my way up (at the same time still cursing and swearing just to let it all out!). I used the word ‘crawl’ because I was literally on my 4 limbs, using my two legs and two hands to crawl that very steep section. It must have been at least 60 degrees steep at some points!
TIP: I’m not a person who uses walking sticks for any hikes (only because I carry a DLSR all the time and using walking sticks will mean I don’t have free hands to handle my camera in case of anything), but walking sticks WILL DEFINITELY HELP a whole lot for the summit climb. With walking sticks, it would be easier to maintain your overall grip on the surface and will surely have less time sliding back down!
Picture: (Left) Our guide Stuk actually brought his traditional Malay costume and changed on the summit. using a sarong to change in. He wanted to take this pre Hari Raya Aidil Fitri shot to dedicate to his family and friends as it was just two days before Hari Raya at that time. (Right) Another climber poses against the blue yonder.
What is the first thing we did when we arrived back to our campsite? Clear our shoes of all the volcanic pebbles and sand! One thing I can guarantee you when doing the summit climb, it would be impossible to keep your shoes and even your clothes clean. By the end of the summit climb, all will surely be black! The volcanic sand is so dry and light that it gets into our ears and even nose!
We took our time at the campsite, enjoying whatever time we have left on this beautiful part of the journey, knowing that there was not going to be another repeat of this remarkable memory. I took every sip of my coffee really slowly, just enjoying the view and sharing the laughter with all my friends and our team members!
Our next destination and campsite would inside the crater of the volcano itself, at the shores of Lake Segara Anak. This would involve a 4 hours hike going down into the caldera of Mount Rinjani.
As usual, I always take the chance to photograph anything whenever I have the chance. These are just the different little flowers that can be seen around the valley.
I came to the conclusion that the lake has bountiful fishes because those that are fishing there seemed to be able to get a catch almost every few minutes without any effort!
I couldn’t believe so much has been done in just one day; seen the milky way, reaching the summit for the sunrise, breakfast above the clouds, a walk in this magical land to arrive at this mystical lake, bath in a natural hot spring … all in one day! After the very filling dinner at the end of the day, we went to bed and immediately started snoring! *snore snore snore*
DAY 4: What? Up again? #$@&%*! Up to Senaru Crater Rim and down to Senaru Village
After all the effort in climbing down from Sembalun crater rim into the lake, the only way to get out of the crater is to climb back up to the crater rim. However, we will use the path up to Senaru crater rim instead.
Stuk had already advised us that we should leave our campsite early and aim to make it to the crater rim of Senaru by around 10 am so that we could have a clear view of the valley without the presence of clouds blocking the view. From his observations, the clouds will be blown into the valley in the later part of the morning usually after 10 am.
My friend and I could not finish the breakfast! I am not used to having such a filling breakfast so the rest of the team helped us to finish it all up. But it was definitely a very delicious breakfast. The banana fritters were fried to just the perfect crispiness while maintaining its very juicy insides. The cheese and honey that accompanied it made it taste like heaven!
This is how steep it gets from the climb up to Senaru crater rim. There are sections where we have to cling to the rocks and pull ourselves up.
Gigantic trees that towers the canopy of the jungle are plentiful around here. You will notice that a lot of the trees have labels on them indicating the family and genus of the trees.
The Senaru Gate (Pintu Senaru) gave a very authentic Jurassic Park feel with its gigantic rusty arch and the overgrown crawlers. The feeling of relieve filled all of us as we reached this finishing line of our long long long journey at 4.25 pm. Wendy & Jess were so happy they did jump shots at the entrance!
While we waited for our transport to fetch us, I went around the area looking at the activities that was happening around the village. The area was still bustling with activities of the villagers going about their daily lives.
We spent a long time at the cafeteria’s cottage just chatting the night away, sharing our experiences and what we noticed along the way. At that time, we were free of any agendas, having completed our Rinjani trail and we didn’t have a worry in the world. Stuk was also there to tell us a lot of story, some his own personal experiences on Rinjani, others about stories of some of his team members.
DAY 5: The Waterfalls! (Sendang Gile & Tiu Kelep)
I purposely woke up earlier than the rest because I wanted to walk around the cottage to take pictures. The cottage is actually located on the edge of the hill providing one of the best views of the valleys and the mountain.
This is the cottage we stayed in. It overlooks the valley below as well as Mount Rinjani in the distance.
Wendy’s enjoying the delicious hot Soup Noodle while Stuk sits near us enjoying his morning smoke.
Today was our last day of the package which includes the two waterfalls located in Senaru, Sendang Gile which is around 5 minutes leisure walk down some stairs and Tiu Kelep which is a further 45 minutes from Sendang Gile. Conveniently, the entrance to the waterfalls is located just next to (literally side-by-side) our accommodation so we only needed to walk over. The walk to the first waterfall was very brief, just around 5 minutes walk down a hill with steps. Even if your legs are aching from the Rinjani climb, this path is not a problem.
TIP: Wear slippers / sandals for the trip to the waterfall as you will be some stream crossing to get to Tiu Kelep.
Stuk took us through a ‘short-cut’ which was using the ‘tunnel’ of the drainage. This part was optional, don’t worry you won’t be missing much, it’s just a fun and crazy way to go. Ha ha! In the ‘tunnel’ there were some natural openings on the ceiling creating a ‘window’ to the jungle outside.
Happy kids in the pool!
So that was the end of our really remarkable Rinjani adventure. 5 days and 4 nights, each day worth it, each day offering different sights and experience from the previous days. We actually spent another 2 nights on the island of Gili Trawangan (a satellite island of Lombok island located North). Read about it here!
If you were to ask me which was the most memorable time throughout the whole journey, I would say it would be this; the campsite above Sembalun Crater Rim; 2639 meters above sea level. It was not the summit, nor was it the lake that enticed me. The feeling of camping in the clouds, with the lake below on one side and the valley of Sembalun on the other side, it find it hard not to miss this beautiful moment. Even the campers in this picture found it too amazing and spent quite a bit of time just standing there by the ledge enjoying the beautiful moment that God has bestowed upon each one of us up there on that day. Even the dog knows how to appreciate an amazing view. Give me a time machine and I would teleport to this particular moment in time first!