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.

Yessy Cafe
We had our lunch at a cosy café called Yessy Café, and that was where we got further acquainted with our guide, Stuk and it was also where I had my first Indonesian meal!

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Picture (clockwise from top-left): Nasi Campur, Nasi Ayam Bakar, Mee Goreng, Bakso

The Strong Lombok Coffee
I found the Lombok Coffee to be interesting.  It seems that in Lombok (not sure if this is the same throughout the whole Indonesia) the coffee powder is not filtered.  As in, the coffee powder is placed in the cup and hot water and milk is added into it directly, leaving a very thick layer of indigestible coffee powder at the bottom.  Strange way of making coffee in my opinion, but certainly very strong!
TIPIf 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.

Sembalun Agro Villa
We were put up in the Sembalun Agro Villa, one of the more expensive accommodation around Sembalun.  It is located in a hilly area with a very nice view of the valley below together with the hills surrounding it.  It is also conveniently near to the Rinjani National Park office.
Superior Room @ Sembalun Agro Villa
This was our Superior Room in Sembalun Agro Villa.  According to their official website, the room is priced at 575,000rph (USD44/SGD60/MYR173) per night, a bit on the pricey side, but don’t worry, the room is already inclusive in the 5D4N Rinjani trekking package by our guide.

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.

The Warm Sunlight
As we placed our bags into the back of our truck, the sun started revealed itself from behind the hills, shining its morning rays unto the land.  The fresh aroma of the mountain air, the warm sunlight touching against our still cold skins … luck was on our side, we could feel it was going to be a glorious morning.  We were worried yesterday as our guide mentioned that it has been rainy continuously for the past few days.
Orange Snow
The first sunbeam reaches the tip of Mount Rinjani, creating a very interesting and picturesque effect on the mountain as if it was covered with orange snow.

Fried RiceThe Goose that lays the golden eggs?

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.

FlowersFlowers
FlowersFlowers
FlowersFlowers

Planted around the whole compound of the villa were flowers from every different colour spectrum.

All aboard!
Like sailors boarding the ship, we too climb into our open-air deck, ready to start our adventure.  Behind us lies the great Mount Rinjani, patiently awaiting for our arrival.
The fearless leader
This is our fearless leader and guide, Stuk.  He sits at the edge of the tailgate in intense thought while we continue enjoying our majestic view of Mount Rinjani behind him.
Rinjani National Park Office
The first order of the day was to report to the Rinjani National Park office in Sembalun.  There is another similar office in the Senaru side if you are starting your trek from Senaru.  In there, you are required to register in the log book and pay for the park entrance fees (which your guide will do for you and is already included in the package) and you will be given a tag which you should have on you at all times.
The Entrance Ticket Tag
The entrance ticket tag that was issued at the Rinjani National Park office which should be hanged on your bag at all times.
Sembalun Village
After that, we were brought into the heart of Sembalun village where you see many other hikers who have either just arrived or are already on their way to start their trek.  Sembalun is already 1,156m asl (above sea level).
Off we go!
Off we go! The trek basically starts by walking into the village and into their farms, headed for the direction of Mount Rinjani in the distance.  The weather at that time was sunny and hot.  I had on me my UPF rated North Face hiking hat with snap-on cape and neck guard to protect my ears, neck and shoulders while I had UPF rated arm sleeves to protect my arms.  I’m not a fan of sunblock lotions as I don’t like the feel of lotions on me.  The time was 8:32 am.

Gradual ascendTiny white flowers

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.

Porters
The porters can move in amazing speeds, even going up slopes, wearing only slippers!
The first bridge
Alas, a sight to behold, the first of many other man-made bridges suddenly appearing out of nowhere in this vast grassland.
Rolling hills as far as the eyes can see
The scenery continues on for a few more hours just like this; rolling hills of grassland as far as your eyes can see.
Pos 1: 1300m asl
At 10.00 am, we reached the first post known as ‘Pos 1’ and is 1,300m asl in many Rinjani trekking map.  Just a quick breather here and then we’re off again.
More rolling hills
Yes, more rolling hills of grassland.  When will this ever end!
Pos 2: 1,500m asl and also Lunch!
We finally reached Pos 2 which is to be our lunch break at 10.42 am.  Pos 2 is 1,500m asl and the temperature was starting to get chilly, especially with the clouds blocking most of the sun rays.  When we reached there, some hikers have already set up their mats and rest area on the bridge as there was a big tree there that provided some shade.
Picnic
Stuk’s team quickly and efficiently put up this shade for us, a bit further away from the rest of the crowd where we sought solace.

Cutted vegetablesPineapple
Happily cooking

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.

Coffee, Tea or me?
At the same time, some others gathered fire wood from all around to boil water to make hot coffee and hot chocolate for us!
Lunch
In no time at all, our lunch was ready.  Nasi campur (mixed rice) that had fried chicken, tofu (bean curd), tempe (fermented soy beans, one of the traditional food of Indonesia) and mixed vegetables.  Our reaction?  Wow. Just wow.  All prepared and cooked on the spot.  Immediately we felt like kings and queens.

SaucesA complete lunch

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.

Gets steeper ...... and steeper

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.

When you see it
“When you see it”.  Aha! So there they are.  I’ve been wondering when will I encounter our furry cousins with their round eyes staring at us.
Pos 3: 1,800m asl
We arrived at Pos 3 at 1.42 pm which was 1,800m asl.  This was to be the last pit-stop and then it would be all the way up to the crater rim.
68 and still going strong
I managed to take this picture of one of our team members before he disappeared in front of us.  His name is Tuaq.  He is actually a farmer but works together with Stuk whenever its after harvesting for extra income.  Even at 68 years old, the contour on his muscular body shows that he is extremely fit, doesn’t even need any slippers or shoes!  Incredible.
Up and up
From Pos 3 onwards there were no more gradual climb, it was non-stop going up.
Steep
Most of the way, it was a slow and steep hike up.  We were told that this would continue on for another 2 hours before reaching the top of the crater rim.
Engulfed in clouds
By then it seemed like we were engulfed in clouds the whole time and it was getting quite chilly.  We kept moving the whole time, not wanting to stop because it would have been warmer to just keep moving!
Finally at the crater rim
Finally, we reached the crater rim at 3.24 pm.  The Sembalun crater rim (Plawangan Sembalun) is at an altitude of 2,639 asl!  When reaching there, the first thing you will notice is the nice looking information board.  I use the word ‘nice looking’ because most of the other signage around Rinjani seems to be old and unmaintained.  Then turning left after the signage is someone selling drinks (not shown in the picture).  Very smart considering it will tempt most people including well deserved drinks like Coca-Cola, 100plus, Pocari and the likes.  I was tempted myself but I knew that our guide (was briefed beforehand by Stuk) had brought Diet Coke for us!
Work in progress ...
We followed our guides and proceeded a little further to find a suitable clearing to set up our campsite.  This was another testimony that luck was indeed on our side as we managed to secure a very good location that had a big clearing that had a wonderful overlooks the beautiful lake.  Our team wasted no time in clearing the space making sure there it was free of any particles before putting up the tents to ensure we have a comfortable experience in our tents.

Customized tentsCustomized Sleeping Bags

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!

Tents in front of the summit
Here’s our 3 tents against a marvelous view of the Rinjani summit.  The tents were unlike most tents that I have seen.  Other than the normal sleeping ‘chamber’, the tent had an extra chamber much like how space stations has a ‘decompression chamber’ before going into the actual chamber.  I immediately fell in love with the idea.  Since it was quite cold outside, whenever I wanted to get in or get out the tent, I made sure I ‘zipped up’ the previous chamber first before going to the next chamber to reduce the chance of cold air getting in!  Brilliant!  Also, we were able place our very bulky backpacks in the outer chamber so that it is nice and spacey inside the sleeping area.
A tired porter
Here’s a view of the valley behind our tents.   I managed to capture this photo of a very tired porter who just arrived on the crater rim probably carrying nothing less than 30kg on him.
Boiling water
Our team used the firewood that they have been collecting on the way to boil hot water which they use to serve us hot coffee and hot milo.  Hot coffee/milo has never tasted this delicious before.  (Stuk’s team never failed to serve us hot drinks every time we camp as well as waking up in the morning.)
The Summit up close
I used my 70-200mm lens (photographer’s lingo) to zoom to the summit to take this picture.  The summit seems to be very dry and narrow.  Gulp!

Selfie 1Selfie 2
Selfie 3

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!)

How much is that doggie in the window
Even this doggie came to our area to take a picture!  Ha ha.  According to them, this dog has been living up here, everyday surviving on leftover food from all the campers.
A room with a view
This rainbow structure is none other than our toilet for the duration of our stay.  Our toilet is probably the brightest and most colourful structure up there!  In case your wondering, a hole was dug up and it was deep enough to fit an entire 1.5 litre bottle (just as a comparison, not that I actually tried that! ha ha).  So, there’s no need to worry, the hole could last the 6 of us all the way until the next day without ‘overflowing’!
View of the lake
Time seems to pass to quickly, in no time at all the sun was already setting.  This was the view from our campsite overlooking Lake Segara Anak and in the distance, the other side of the crater rim which was Senaru’s crater rim (Plawangan Senaru) which we have to get to the next day.
Campsite above the clouds
This was the sight of our first campsite at an altitude of 2639m on the very narrow ridge of the volcano’s crater rim. Together with the other hundreds of climbers, our tents were pitched on any available area that has a surface that is flat enough to sleep on.  This was the most memorable stay of the whole 5 days 4 nights adventure on Rinjani; the cool mountain air while enjoying a hot cup of coffee with the clouds moving beneath us while the last sunbeam shinning its glory unto us, oh how I wish I could be teleported back to this place again.
A visual feast
The rays from the setting sun creates a very visual display among the clouds.  Time for some more selfies!
Din din time
Just as the sun has almost disappeared into the horizon, dinner was served!  This was our picnic place, on the edge of the rim with the last of the sunlight, overlooking the lake and the clouds.  It was already quite cold at that time, we were already wearing our thick jackets.

Green curryRed apple

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.

The last sunbeam
I took this last picture of the last sun beams while we were still having our ‘picnic’ dinner.  By this time, it was dark and we had to use our headlamps to finish up our dinner.  After dinner, we all went straight into our tent as it was too dark to do anything else.  We were chattering away in our tents for awhile, but we couldn’t deny our bodies of its long needed rest, and fell asleep within no time.
Camping under the stars
There are many pictures of the milky way available on the internet.  I took an extra effort to determine what time the milky way would be right above our tents and set my alarm to wake myself up at 10 pm to be able to get this perfect shot; the milky way above our tents (and my friends were all snoring away unaware of the heaven that has unfold itself in the night sky.

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.

Starting the summit climb under the stars
When I climbed out from my tent to have a little ‘supper’ which Stuk’s team has prepared, I noticed that the milky way was located exactly behind the path of the summit trail (Yes, I could see the milky way with my own eyes).  I hurriedly went back into the tent to grab my tripod and quickly set up my camera to be able to catch this very rare opportunity; a picture of the milky way some climbers were still in their tents getting prepared and some already making their way up (the long streak of light on the left).

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.

The first hour
The first hour of the summit climb was not as difficult as I imagined.  I was warned of the very steep and loose ground on which we will trek on but at that time, it was still manageable.  I remember thinking to myself, well this is not too bad.  If it goes on like this the whole way I would be up there in no time!

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!

Buried in soil
This picture was actually taken on the way down the summit, but I am pasting it here to show how loose the ground was.  With every step that I take, I will fall back half of the time.  In fact, I don’t even have the option of stopping to take a breath because if I did that, I will start slipping down and end up further down!
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!
From first to last
At the beginning of the summit climb, I was among the few front liners, but that all changed coming to the last few meters of the climb.  Not only did I not have walking sticks to help with, my shoes were not suited for that kind of terrain.  I seem to be slipping more than anyone else around.  The sun was already rising even before I reached the summit.  I could only enjoy the sunrise while I was still cursing and swearing, trying to finish that last few meters of the summit.  At the end, I ended up being one of the slowest and one of the few last ones to arrive on the summit.
The compulsory group picture
It was a good thing I reached the summit in time and not a minute later, as my friends were already starting to make their way down.  I had to actually force them to stay to take a group picture (because some of them was badly shivering from the cold).  I’m so happy we managed to take this group picture together!  This picture was taken at 7:25 am.

Stuk in Raya clothesAgainst the blue yonder

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.

Panorama from the summit
This is a panorama shot I took on the summit.  I must say that Rinjani’s summit doesn’t have the best of summit views, compared to the other mountains that I have climbed before.  In fact, the direction of the sun creates a very bad shadow that falls over the valley below.
One wrong slip ...
After spending more than enough time on the summit, it was time to head down.  This time it was broad daylight and we could see how narrow the section of the peak really was.  One wrong slip and it was all the way down into oblivion.
Moonwalk
With the ground being so loose, it was very easy (and fun) to go down.  I was sliding my way down all the way!  This was a good thing because it means that you won’t need to use your thigh muscles to control your descend.  Your toe would also be safe because by sliding, you don’t hit your toe against the front of your shoe like you would on normal mountain descent.  Best way to describe the descend; it was like skiing!  I really had fun going down!
Living on the edge
Halfway making our way down, Stuk suddenly stopped us to tell ut to take a picture from this angle.  Thanks to his recommendation (which if he didn’t mention, I would have totally miss), each one of us had a very nice and dangerous looking cliffhanger picture!  Impressive?
Enjoying the breeze?
I was amused that our cousins could make it all the way up here too.  Seems like he was just enjoying the wind?

What's in a shoe?Gold dust?

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!

Breakfast for champions
As usual, we were served our hot coffee/milo when we arrived back at the campsite and not long after, our breakfast was served; Instant mee never tasted so good before!

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.

Heading down
We left our campsite at around noon 12 pm.  At that time, clouds had already filled the whole valley and we were amongst clouds the whole way down.  The path was rocky and slippery at some points.  Just be careful of your footing and you should be okay.
Spiderweb
The clouds that filled the valley was so moist that this spider web was glistening with dewy pearls of water droplets.
Careful steps
Some sections are quite steep and narrow, so always be mindful of your footing and also always watch out for what you hold on to.  Sometimes objects which seems solid may not be solid enough to hold your weight.
The clearing
After negotiating the rocky section for about half an hour, more greens started appearing and more well defined paths were visible.  At the same time, the clouds seems to be clearing making the distance more visible.  We could see it was still a long way down.
Don't rely on the railings
Some of the sections are equipped with the green metal railings on the edge, supposedly to assist in making sure no one falls off the edge.  Our guide advised against relying on those railing, in fact, don’t go anywhere near them at all!  These railings are years old and most of them have very poor foundation and will give way at any time.
Easy from here on
Within an hour, we met the first bridge since coming down into the valley.  From this point onwards it’s a walk in the park, mostly navigating around hills to get to the next hill.
Taking a rest
We came upon some shade and our guide signaled to have a rest here.  The clouds had already cleared and the view from inside the valley was quite different.

FlowersFlowers

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.

Turning the corner
As we navigated the hills once again, turning that one last corner, a glimpse of our next campsite revealed itself to us; well hidden in the valley, like a secret pool surrounded by the crater rim of the volcano lurking among the tall trees. The trek passes through many shades of greens while we enjoy the fresh cool clouds that breezes its way through us and finally the appearance of the majestic lake that lies in the belly of the volcano crater at 2,008m asl was all too surreal for me to take in.
Welcoming committee
Finally, at 2.28 pm, we arrived at Lake Segara Anak.  Our welcoming committee by a distance relative was there to welcome us upon arrival at the lake side.
Dropped our bags and go
The lake was so beautiful and inviting that we just dropped our bags and ran to the shore to see it  up close.  So beautiful, crystal clear blue waters that is so calm and moves in synchronization with the wind when the breeze brushes against it.
The 2nd night's camp
This was to be our 2nd night’s campsite, with our tents opening out to the breathtaking view of the lake.
Gunung Barujari
From here, we were the closest to the baby volcano that is located in the middle of the lake.  Gunung Barujari, if translated to English, it would mean Mount New Finger.  This is a highly active young volcano with its most recent eruption just last year (October 2015).  Constant white steam can be seen being emitted from the mouth of the volcano.  Gives me a bit of the chills just by staring at it.
Steaming ground
Even the shore closer to the baby volcano has steam coming out from the ground.

FishingFishing

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!

Aik Kalak, the natural spa
Our second night campsite also has another interesting attraction; a natural spa!  The hot springs of Aik Kalak, which is located just a few steps from the main lake itself. The cold water gushing from the waterfall comes directly from the lake itself, then mixing with the hot sulfur water of the spring. The mix of both water makes the temperature just nice and warm, perfect to spend the evening to soak our tired and soared bodies (not to mention dirty).  Bubbles can be felt rising from the bottom of the pool touching gently against our bodies.
Fish Spa
As an added bonus, we get a free fish spa as well; there are small fishes in the pool which occasionally nibbles on our skin! After almost 2 days of non-bathing and cold weather, this was like a pool of Eden to us!
Dusk
We walked back to the campsite just in time for me to capture this last shot of dusk.  Today the sky had a purple hue compared to yesterday’s orange hue.  It’s interesting to witness how much of a difference each day can make.
Cooking in the dark
Total darkness?  No problem.  Our team is so efficient that even cooking in the dark is not an obstacle for them.  In fact, they use it to group together to keep warm!  That’s killing two birds with one stone.  As usual, they were happily chattering away, the still night filled with their laughter.
Dinner
Our delicious dinner!  Somehow, this seems even better than our 1st night’s dinner, right?  Even took the effort to prepare deep-fry chicken, sausages and even a sunny side-up egg!
Picnic in the dark
Even without any light source, that didn’t stop the team to set up a ‘picnic’ area for us in the middle of the campsite.  Equipped with only our headlights, we enjoyed our extremely delicious dinner together.

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.

Breakfast for royalties
At 6.30 am, the guide woke us up and passed our breakfast to us in our tents, it was still dark at that time.  Today’s breakfast puts all the other breakfast on previous days to shame.  Banana fritters, Sandwich with honey, all sprinkled with a very generous amount of Parmesan Cheese!

Banana Fritters
Sandwich with cheeseJuicy

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!

Ready to go
By 7.28 am, we were all packed and ready to go.  The sun has risen above the horizon and the air was had a bit of warmness providing a comfortable hike.
One last picture
I went down to the lake shore one last time just to have one last glimpse and also to capture this panorama before heading out.  After all, I might not have the chance to come back here again, who knows.
Boom!
Just when we were about to leave our campsite, Mount Barujari decided to give us a good show!  It erupted (don’t worry, it’s only a very small eruption, without lava) spewing a large cloud of thick gray smoke.  Again, luck seems to be really on our side.  According to our guide, this kind of occasion of the mountain erupting with smoke is extremely rare.  Sometimes for years on, there would not be any eruptions at all.
Along the shores
At the start of the trail, we were walking along the shore of the lake.  At some points, the path was so narrow that we had to reach over rocks that are far apart from one another just above the water surface.
Up we go
After around 30 minutes of walking along the shore, we finally reached the spot in which we had to proceed up the slope.  It was a steep ascend but nothing hard like the terrain on the peak.
The Recycler
I managed to capture this picture of Azis, one of our team member.  The empty mineral bottles tied to his back are ours.  It is good to see that this team under the leadership of Stuk are very responsible in keeping the the surrounding free from our own rubbish and liter.
Avalanche
After a short while, by 8.50 am, we reached this open area with a lot of boulders, probably from some avalanche that happened long time ago.
Stay away from the edge
Our guide told us that the climb will get a bit dangerous from here onwards and to remind us to please watch our step, keep away from the edge whenever possible and do not hold on to the metal rails that are provided.

Upper body strength
Just reach itMore rocks

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.

Duck!
Or at times, ducking under a fallen branch.
Never ending steepness
The steepness doesn’t end and it continues for the rest of the hour.  After going through the kind of terrain on the summit the previous day, this kind of hard seems pretty easy by comparison!
The best view on Rinjani
Finally, we arrived at Senaru’s Crater Rim at 10.12 am at an altitude of 2641m asl, just shy of 2 meters compared to Sembalun’s Crater Rim at 2639m asl.  Stuk delivered on his promise that the clouds will not be here yet by the time we got up here.  This spot on Senaru Crater Rim (Plawangan Senaru) located 2,641m asl (above-sea-level) is the best place to view the whole caldera of Mount Rinjani which, in one whole postcard perfect picture, includes the 3,726m summit of Mount Rinjani which can been seen towering majestically in the distance on the left, the 2,639m asl crater rim of Sembalun side which we camped on the 1st night, the highly active baby volcano named Gunung Barujari (a volcano inside a volcano) and finally, the calm Lake Segara Anak that fills the caldera of Mount Rinjani which fades colours from yellow to turquoise to jade as the temperature of the hot sulfur water which emerges from the edge of Gunung Barujari mixes into the cooler water of the lake. Take me back there please!
Down we go
After spending a few more minutes at the top of the crater rim and taking some compulsory group pictures, it was time to descend Senaru Crater Rim, this time from the other side.  The time was 10.43 am, the destination; Senaru village, the end point of our Rinjani adventure.
Meet Azis
Meet Azis, who is currently a guide in-training and he was part of the fantastic team that took care of us throughout our Rinjani journey. I’ve seen him being a porter carrying our bags, swept and cleaned the area where our camp was to be put up making sure its free of any dirt or particles that might affect our comfort, served us our hot coffee and hot milo, collecting our empty mineral water bottles and carrying it on him (as seen in the picture) to be discarded at the end of the journey and accompanying and guiding us when we were separated from the larger group.
Sandy slopes again
Before long, more greens filled the path as we reached lower.  The trail was more or less like this for another hour, just a moderately pace descend as the surface of the ground was a bit slippery.
A star in the morning?
We arrived a Pos 3 of Senaru trail (2,000m asl) near to noon time.  The team took out the mats and place it on a shaded part to prepare our picnic lunch.  This is where I had my first Bintang!  Bintang is the well known beer brand of Indonesia.  One point to note however, the Bintang pictured here is Bintang Zero, this is the non-alcohol version of Bintang Beer.
ala Spaghetti Bolognese
They prepared us a fusion of local and Italian ala Spaghetti Bolognese with Crackers and Ikan Bilis (anchovies) for lunch.  Strange combination but works very well surprisingly!
Just visiting...
Another friend dropped by for a visit.  He seems to be very well versed with the path as he was happily coming up from the trail that we were about to continue on.
The root of all evil
We continued on with our journey at 1.30 pm.  From here on, we were mostly in the tropical forest with many roots and veins on the ground.  I went at a moderate pace being careful not to twist my ankle on the uneven ground.
The forest
By then, the forest started getting thicker and thicker.  It was obvious we were quite far down the Mountain as the humidity of the air started getting thicker.
Pos Extra
We arrived for a short break at Pos Extra at an altitude of 1,165m asl at 3.25 pm (I’m not sure why it is called Pos Extra).  From here, we could read the signage on the tree that says it is only 3.8km from the finishing point (Pintu Senaru / Senaru Gateway).
Just your typical jungle
So onwards, we continued our last part of the journey.  By this time, the trail has become a very normal trekking trail that you would encounter in any hikes in the forest.

Giant treeGiant tree split in half?

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.

Almost at the finishing line ...
The last few kilometers to the finishing line of the Rinjani trek was significantly easy, bringing us through a lust green tropical forest with the sun shining its beam into the thick foliage. This was in stark contrast of our previous 2 days of hiking which saw cold weather and breath-taking views. As the trail became more humid and hot, signaling to us that we were near the end of our journey, I began to slow my pace to enjoy my last few moments in this paradise; as together with the sense of accomplishment there was also a deep sense of sadness, having to say goodbye to this beautiful and remarkable place called Rinjani.

Pintu Senaru
The jump of joy, star versionThe jump of joy, yahoo version

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!

Herding cowsShifting

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.

Pondok Senaru Cottages
We checked into our accommodation at Pondok Senaru Cottages, another high-end accommodation along the Senaru village.
Great view
It was close to sunset at that time and we had a wonderful view of Mount Rinjani from the vantage point here.  Mount Rinjani’s tip at the leftmost of the picture while below on the right we could see the Sendang Gile waterfall which we will be visiting tomorrow.
Our superior room
This was our superior room for the final night.  Looking at the room tariffs at the reception, these room cost 450,000rph per night.  Again, this was all included in the package price so we didn’t have to worry about it.  The hot shower was a delight after spending 3 cold days in the mountains!
Simple dinner
Nasi Goreng Kampung for dinner.  Simple yet satisfying.

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.

Our cottageGood view from our cottage

This is the cottage we stayed in.  It overlooks the valley below as well as Mount Rinjani in the distance.

Mount Rinjani from afar
From here, Mount Rinjani was still visible in the distance (the tip on the left most).  It was hard to imagine that we have travelled this far from the mountain just within a day.
A preview of the waterfall to come
I took another peek at the Sendang Gile waterfall we were about to visit later after breakfast.
A great start for the day
It was another great start for the day as we had the best view from our breakfast table.

Wendy and her warm noodle soupStuk enjoying his morning puff

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.

The land of giants
Wendy stands in a land of giants, in awe of Sendang Gile, a towering 10-storey high waterfall that is just a brief and easy 5-minutes walk from our accommodation in Senaru Village. Although this waterfall does not have a pool to dip or swim in, when standing directly under it, the weight of the water that comes crashing down from 31 meters high makes for a very nice massage for your body! The mist blown up by the avalanche creates a rainbow when sunlight reaches into the valley. According to local legends, there was once a prince who hunted a lion which terrorized the village, and accidentally discovered this marvelous waterfall. Since then, the locals referred to this place as sengang gile (‘crazy lion’ in their local dialect) and eventually until this day … the ‘Sendang Gile’.
Crossing the bridge
From Sendang Gile, it would take another 45 minutes or so (depending on your pace) to reach Tiu Kelep.  You will have to cross this concrete bridge to get to the other side of the valley to continue with the trail to Tiu Kelep.

The TunnelThe cave
A window

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.

The Dam
We arrived at a small dam which looks like it has been constructed for irrigation and flood control.
Crossing streams
After that, there came the stream crossings where we had to get our feet wet.  The water was freaking cold and the currents were strong!  Be extremely careful not to lose your sandals from the currents!
Getting use to the coldness
More stream crossings.  By now our feet has gotten used to the coldness of the water.
Water fight!
Finally the destination is in sight.  Even before seeing it, we could already hear the thunderous sound of the waterfall from the distance.  Stuk celebrates our arrival by … splashing the cold water towards Wendy.  The kid in them took over and they both started a water fight there.
The Majestic Tiu Kelep
Trust me when I say Tiu Kelep is a must-visit waterfall if you are going the Rinjani climb. Even after the very exhausting Rinjani hike that is guaranteed with aching muscles after the climb, upon arrival at Tiu Kelep, all pain will miraculously disappear! Although Tiu Kelep waterfall is not as tall as the Sendang Gile waterfall, it is more majestic in every other way; totally hidden in a corner of the dense jungle, a sheet waterfall with a wide fall-line with multiple plunges of thunderous water crashing down to the pool below. Even standing a distance away from the waterfall, my camera was drenched wet within seconds, my tripod had trouble keeping still from the storming winds from the explosive force of water against rock. Getting this long exposure shot of the waterfall was the most challenging ever!
Taking it all in
Another long exposure shot of the waterfall.  Preferably, I would have liked to be able to get closer for a better angle in which to shoot this marvelous waterfall, but it was just near to impossible unless you don’t mind getting your camera soaked wet!  Even at this distance, my camera was already quite wet, needing to cover the body of the camera with a plastic bag to prevent it from getting wet while I adjust the settings on the camera.

Happy kids
Happy kidsThe crashing waterfall

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!

The magnificient 12
Here I would like to take a moment to dedicate this picture to this fantastic team.  This picture was taken at the Sembalun Crater Rim (Plawangan Sembalun).  Special thanks to this awesome 12; (from left to right) Asyid, Stuk, Tuah, Harry, Sujar (crouching), Johan, Edi, Udi, Abul and Idi (and 2 others not in the picture) who made sure our successful journey up and around Rinjani was remarkable every step of the way. Their dedication to our safety and well-being is second to none. Our Rinjani journey would not been complete without you. Thank you for making this truly a memorable adventure for my friends and I. No words can ever express our gratitude.
Stuk Rinjani Mountain
Lastly, a special mention is in order for this man.  This is the man responsible for guiding us throughout our whole Mount Rinjani climb. He has been a mountain guide for more than 20 years ever since he first climbed and fell in love with Rinjani. He is charismatic, he is energetic, he is responsible, he is a joker and most of all, he was extremely flexible with us during our climb, with 101 requests coming from us, he tried his best to cater for it all. He is Stuk (FB: Stuk Rinjani Mountain).  This man, together with his team gave us their 100% to ensure our safety and well-being from the first till the very last day. They made sure that we were able to had the best time of our lives and showed us their home; Rinjani. From all of us, thank you Stuk and team for such a wonderful time at Rinjani! ‪
My most memorable moment on Rinjani
My most memorable moment on Rinjani

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!

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33 thoughts on “A Really Remarkable Rinjani Experience

  1. Thank you so much for this post. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am now very inspired to make the same trip. Do you have advise on the times of the year to avoid? Thanks again.

    Harish

    1. Hi! Glad that you enjoyed the read as much as I did writing and sharing it. Rinjani is really a beautiful place that many take for granted. I am planning to go again next September!

      1. From what I was told when I was initially arranging for this trip, April to November is safe to go, whereas from December till March it’s rainy season and climbing is not allowed during this time.

      2. Welcome! Add me up in FB (Cyril Steward Teo) if you’d want to keep in contact, who knows you might want to join some of my other travels. 🙂

  2. Thank you very much for sharing your trekking experience and our attraction as such waterfall in our village.I hope lots guest come to rinjani mount and waterfall.

  3. Hi! Thank you for your post, friend of mine who did this trek passed me this website actually. What a lovely read!!! I would like to ask a few more questions ie. the operator used etc Where can I find this information? Thank you

  4. Thanks so much for share your experience about mount rinjani
    And thanks so much for visiting mount rinjani
    Hopely from your share your experience will be more much people will climb mount rinjani

    Im a tour operator our base is at senaru village

  5. Awesome pics and informative guides and sources along your trek…thanks for your sharing ans we booked Stuk too…

    1. Hello, are you able to provide me an email address which I can reach out to Stuk. I’m planning to go in august. Thanks

  6. Wow…that’s a great trekking and complete journey in rinjani mountain..
    Your picture also was very good photografer….
    I feel very lucky was had rinjani mountain in lombok.

    Warna regard from rinjani people.

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