Around the world travel, Backpacking, Bucket List, Indonesia, Java, long term travel, Southeast Asia, Travel

My Love/Hate Relationship With Mount Rinjani


From Ubud, I had a few days in Kuta (yes, I actually found myself in this debaucherous city again) and then a few days relaxing in a little bungalow on Gili Air. I had reconnected with the Frenchies, Alex and Flo, again, and we were making our way to Mount Rinjani.

April 1st marked the opening of the trails, so we booked in with a guide and a porter for a 3 day/2 night trek. The day started out really warm and clear and we began our hike to Rest Post 1. About one hour in, the rain began and it wasn’t just a light drizzle, it was monsoon like rain, drenching rain that soaks your clothes within minutes. Of course, what had I forgotten in my small overnight bag? My poncho!!

Our guide Tarid did all he could to help keep us dry. I had a plastic sleeping mat draped over my head and hanging down my back to keep my bag dry. This was tied around my waist with a plastic piece of string. Alex and Flo were hiking while holding a plastic tarp over the two of them. It was a sight.

We reached the rest area at Post 2 around 2:00. We were all soaked, my shoes were gushing water, and the trail had turned into more of a ravine than a trekking path. We headed for cover while Tarid prepared some coffee and lunch. The problem was, we were freezing. We wanted to put on dry clothes, but we also had to conserve what we had, knowing that we would want to be dry and warm at night when the temperatures dropped.

The rain continued for another two hours at least, and we just sat and watched, and tried to stay warm. It finally cleared up around 5:00 and we made our way 2.3 kilometers up to where we would sleep for the night just as it got dark. The trekking for the most part hadn’t been too challenging on the first day, it was just the weather that put a damper on things.

We set up our tent, put on dry (and warmer clothes) and I positioned myself as close to the cooking fire as possible to try and warm up my feet. Tarid prepared a delicious dinner of Nasi Goreng, and I managed to somewhat dry my shoes by the fire. We headed to our tent around 10:00 knowing we had a 4:30 wake up call, but none of us slept that well. I was squashed between Alex and Flo and those sleeping mats mentioned before were better at protecting us from the rain than they were at cushioning our bodies. Each time I turned over I could feel my bones roll over the wooden beams.

The cold air and a cup of coffee was enough to help us get going the following morning, and we packed up our campsite and headed for a 2 hour trek up to the sunrise viewpoint. We hadn’t been afforded many good views up until this point as most of the trekking the first day was through the rainforest, but as the sun rose, we had amazing views of the surrounding landscape, the Gili Islands in the distance and Bali’s Gunung Agung.

We weren’t at the rim for sunrise- the trek had taken longer than expected, but there was no reason to be disappointed because when we did finally make it, what we saw was breathtaking. It’s difficult to sum it up in words. In front of us and just off to the left was Mount Rinjani (at 3,726 meters tall). It looked really steep, and that’s what lay ahead of us on the last day! Directly in front of us was Gunung Baru- smoking away. This actually sits in a crater lake of blue and sulfur yellow waters, the black lava base of the volcano jutting into the water like little black fingers. And to the right were steep, green cascading mountains. I think we all just stood in awe for a few minutes and let the views soak in.

We were in the middle of nowhere, so far away from the rest of civilization. It was nice to just sit and enjoy the silence, interrupted occasionally by the rumble of the volcano below.

Tarid and Jamal (our porter) met us at the rim, and we began our 2 hour hike down to the lake. To be descending instead of ascending was a welcomed change, and the weather was perfect for us- phew! The views were beautiful, and as we climbed further down, we realized just how big Baru was and how high Rinjani was. The volcano continued to gurgle and give off little puffs of smoke and as we got closer, I realized that the gurgling sounds were actually rocks being projected from the mouth of the volcano and rolling down the sides. Then out of nowhere came a noise like thunder, and Tarid started to yell out to us. We looked up to see the volcano erupting in front of our eyes. I couldn’t believe I was witnessing this. You secretly hope you’ll see something like this, but you never think you actually will. Tarid screamed out to us “Super Bloody Mega Bagus (good)!”

Needless to say, this provided some extra adrenaline for the rest of the climb down. We got down to the edge of the lake and rested for lunch for about an hour, and then we watched as heavy clouds rolled in and covered our views of everything. Still, we weren’t too worried as next on the agenda was a trip to the hot springs. This was glorious. The four of us just sat and soaked our tired muscles for about 30 minutes in the bubbling springs.

Feeling re-energized and trying to not pay too much attention to the impending rain, we began the last part of the days trekking- 3 hours up to the campsite. The rain began about 30 minutes in, but wasn’t as drenching as the day before. The first 2 hours were ok, but the last hour was trying. It was raining harder, the path was getting steeper and it was beginning to get dark.

When we got to the campsite, we set everything up as quickly as we could in an effort to keep everything dry. I got into the tent and directly into my sleeping bag in all my clothes minus my wet socks and stayed there. I was wet, cold, tired and cursing Alex and Flo for choosing the 3 day tour and not the 2 day one.

After some soup, we attempted to sleep. The following morning, we knew would be the toughest. We had a 2:30 wake up call, and a 3 hour STEEP climb to the top of Rinjani. I was wondering if we would wake up to clear skies or not, and I’ll admit that a (very) small part of me wouldn’t have been disappointed if we couldn’t make the final climb.

At 2:30 am the following morning, my watch alarm went off, and Flo jumped up and was ready to go instantly. Alex and I sat in the tent not wanting to move. It was damn cold, but it was clear, and I was thankful despite what I had felt the night before! I sat contemplating putting on my wet socks and shoes, but a hot cup of coffee made it all a little easier, and before long we had set out for the final 3 hours up.
The first hour was tough. I don’t’ know what it is about mornings, but I just don’t have that extra oomph and seem to struggle with my balance. Now pair this with the fact that we were climbing a giant black sand dune, and with every step forward that I took, I seemed to slide a half step back. I was asking Alex and Flo if this was really their idea of fun, and they just appeased me with the promise of cold Bintang and a Magnum ice cream as soon as we returned to level ground.

The second hour was a bit easier and we actually got to see red lava flowing down the side of the volcano at one point in time, such an awesome sight. The third hour was the most challenging of all. I literally thought about stopping and sitting down and enjoying the sunrise from where I was. I would have been okay with that, but I plowed on and began counting my steps in sets of 100. Then I tried swearing. With each step, I said “Never” “Again”, “Never” “F*cking” “Again.” I began asking myself what kind of self-inflicted punishment this was, but then I reached the top! Finally! We could literally see everything – Bali to the west, Lombok to the east, not to mention the views down to the lake and the rim of the volcano. It was all worth it in the end.

There was a sense of accomplishment, but I couldn’t help but wonder how difficult the climb down was going to be. Fortunately, due to the fact that most of the climb was sand, we were able to slide our way down, turning it into a sort of race to see who could slide the most, me spending some of the time on my butt, giggling all the way back to the campsite.

Tarid was already back at the site preparing coffee and banana pancakes, and we packed everything up to prepare for the 6 hour hike down. When we started out the weather was fine, but the climbing was steep and slick. And you guessed it, by the second hour, it was raining again. We donned our plastic tarps and did our best to power through. I just kept thinking about a warm shower and dry clothes and didn’t really think about the rain that was getting heavier and heavier. We stopped under a rock for shelter and met 2 women from Jakarta who were on their way up. I couldn’t help but feel grateful that we were on our way back and not our way up. Don’t get me wrong, it was well worth it, but it was intense.

The rain finally let up after 3 hours, and after4 hours we stopped for a light meal. I had to take off my shoes to survey the damage. Because my feet had been wet for so long, I could feel the blisters beginning to grow. I decided to try and wring out my socks and put some bandaids on, but the damage was already done! Then the rain began again. We finished the last 2 hours of the hike in a light drizzle, but we were only having to tackle rolling hills which made things a lot more enjoyable. We finished the hike through a rice paddie. Behind us were rolling hills that disappeared into misty, cloudy skies, and in front of us, the rice paddies looked like they disappeared into the sea.


We finished the hike and jumped into the back of a pickup truck that was taking us to Labuan Lombok, so we could get a boat to Flores the next day. I was so excited to sleep in a real bed and to take a shower (hopefully a hot one). We got to Labuan Lombok after dark and finally found the one guesthouse which had one room left. We surveyed the room- one big bed, then we surveyed the bathroom- no shower, just a bucket and water. We had no choice…I came to the realization that it was going to be a while before I was able to have a “real” shower. However, the thought of having to pour buckets of cold water over myself was so unappealing at this point in time. Still, we took turns getting cleaned up, and went out to scour the town for some cold Bintangs, which was no easy feat. We dined at the local market, while the “DJ” played Beatles tunes and kept coming over to us to see if we liked the music. Pure exhaustion had set in, and when the power went out around 9:30pm, I took it as my cue to retire.

The last couple of days had been filled with adventure, but had been physically draining. The upcoming days looked like they were going to prove to be no different, but at least I would have dry shoes and a mattress- or would I? This is Indonesia afterall!

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