I got this idea in my head, and when that happens, it tends to get stuck there until I do something about it. I’d heard about Mt. Rinjani, an active volcano on the island of Lombok, east of Bali. Sat one evening in Senggigi warding off the 27 thousandth street seller of bracelets, I suggested to Ruth, Alex and Maïke that we climb to the crater rim for sunrise.
No problem, everyone up for the challenge. Alex stumbled upon a friendly Indonesian guy from Borneo who could help us organise the trip and turned out to be the sole person in Senggigi who didn’t screw us for every penny we own. Hooray.
We bounced our way over potholes, the car sat firmly on the rev limiter and, hoping the engine wouldn’t explode, made it two hours later to the start of the hike at Senaru where we met our guide, a friendly reserved fella which, I’m ashamed to say, I’ve forgotten his name. What I do know is that he likes a cigarette, so from now on we’ll call him Benson. We set off at 10pm in the pitch black, head torches glowing weakly (cleverly I’d forgotten to replace the batteries), and wound our way up the mountain to the first of 4 rest stops. At each stop we ate copious Oreos to try to inject some life into ourselves while Benson watched us with a small smile and a cigarette, obviously.
I won’t bore you with the details of most of the climb but let me tell you, it was tough.About 2000 metres climbed over tough terrain, with each step everyone hated me just a little more for suggesting this crazy idea. Then, at last, with sunrise approaching fast, the end came into view.
In a scene not unlike the final moments of Lord of the Rings, Ruth, like Frodo, literally dragged herself forwards towards the top of the volcano. Seeing her in distress, like Samwise, and the hero that I am, hoisted her up onto my shoulders and sprinted the final few hundred metres to the crater rim where Alex and Meike were waiting with applause and a welcome box of doughnuts… with cheese on them, and some green bread, and some chocolate sauce. Alright, I may be exaggerating back there, I might have stood about 10 metres further up the track saying encouraging things like, “It’s a mental thing Ruth, find that second wind” (what an arse I can be sometimes) but we really did stuff down green bread and cheesy doughnuts. We would have eaten each other though we were that hungry.
We spent a sleepy hour on the crater rim taking photos as the sun rose higher into the sky, secretly dreading the fact that we’d have to do the whole walk again to get back to civilisation. The view was spectacular though. Absolutely top notch. The tiny plume of smoke rising up a reminder that the volcano is still very active, having last erupted in 2005. I didn’t know this at the time but Rinjani was also the subject of the 2010 National Geographic Photography Contest, with smoke billowing out, no such luck for us.
Benson lit another cigarette, nonplussed by the view he’d seen 1500 times (we worked it out, lots of time on our hands you know?), and wandered over to me. One confusing and broken conversation later he told me that he rarely does this hike all in one night, turns out we were pretty mental to try it, and that was probably what he and the other guides and porters were having a right old laugh about.
We eventually plucked up the energy to start the walk back, the only goal in my head – a hot shower. 6 hours later we made it back, exhausted, to the car, after a kilometre extra for fun since he’d parked further away (You can imagine how happy we were about that!) We said our thank yous and goodbyes to Benson who waved a cigarette at us and we shot off back to Senggigi.
So, if Rinjani’s on your list of things to do in Indonesia, and it should be, then learn from our mistakes, do it over a couple of days and sleep up on the crater rim, the view at sunrise is breathtaking.
Click the images to enlarge: