21 Days in Indonesia – Day 5 – 7:Hiking Mount Rinjani

Day 5: Boat ride from Gili Meno to Bangsal Harbor, Lombok and Hotel pick up from Bangsal Harbor to Senaru Village.

7am: Knowing the public boat would leave at 8:20am sharp. We woke up, grabbed our backpacks and walked to the harbor.

The daily public boat carries mainly local passengers along with fresh produces, empty water tanks and big boxes; we were one of a few tourists on the boat. The ride took about 20 minutes to reach the Harbor, upon reaching, we soon recognized our driver with the big name tag “Markus”. Senaru Village, here we go.

At 600 meters above the sea level, the quiet village locates in the North of Lombok, not only being well-known for its main access to Gunung Rinjani National Park but also its mighty yet nonchalant waterfalls – Sedang Gila and Tiu Kelep. For which explains the  robust ecotourism and hospitality services in recent years .

11pm: Searching for a Trekking company and we thought we got the best. 

After 1.5hours of driving, we reached the village. Our hotel manager – Anak Rinjani Guest House – quickly introduced himself as well as his current attractive package for hiking to mount Rinjani 2D1N Summit. Eventhough we were tempting to accept his offer, our lack of knowledge about the market price questioned if this were a fair deal. Having a list of companies we wanted to inquire in person, we told our hotel manager we would get back to him after lunch.

But why did we have to spend so much time to walk around to inquire so much information when we could have done it entirely through online channel? 

We could have. In fact, we had spending weeks discussing and taking turn to read many different articles, blog posts about this trek. Most of them is outdated, for marketing purposes; thus, not relevant and transparent enough for us to make final decision.  After all, since we both had flown thousands miles just to make this trip together, we would want to make it a memorable experience with a company that makes us feel fair (price), reliable (product quality), and happy (excellent customer service).

Here are a few companies that we have inquired:

  • Green Rinjani – rated 4.5/5.0 on Tripadvisors: definitely the most expensive one (charging by USD currency) among all the tours we have asked – the price was 250 USD per person for Private Tour 2D1N summit and 190 USD per person for Group Tour (not more than 4) with porters and trekking guide.
  • Hajar Trekking – rated 5.0/5.0 on Tripadvisors: cheaper than Green Rinjani offer price, charging at USD currency – the price was 195 USD per person for Private Tour 2D1N summit and 165 USD per person for Group Tour (not more than 4) with porters and trekking guide.

Being picked up by our hotel manager upon returning back, he was very excited to talk to us about his trekking services with all the “goodies” tagged along. He also gave us a very details explanation of the route we would be guided the following day.

Our route: Sembalun Village – Pos 1 – Pos 2- Pos 3- Crater Rim – Night Stay at the Crater Rim – Next day Summit Rinjani. 

Photo taken from RinjaniSalamas.com 

Here was what we got for the price of 2,500,00 IDR/person ~ 190 USD from Rinjani Horizon Trekking – our hotel manager’s tour company.

  • Private 2 porters, 1 trekking guide (Sudiya).
  • Foods and drinks including snacks, coffee, tea, soft drinks. –
  • Free guide to Sedang Gila and Tiu Kelep waterfalls.
  • Free transportation from hotel to Senggigi upon return from mount Rinjani.

Since we both were very conscious about Rinjani current environment situation, we specifically clarified if all the trashes to be collected and brought back to the village. And yes, we got their promises.

3pm: Sedang Gila and Tiu Kelep waterfalls. 

In sports shoes ready mode, we were picked up to meet our guide at the entrance of trek. He was a young boy around 15-17 years old, speaking conversational English, he introduced himself and we then started to walk.

The trek – or rather a nice stroll – in the scenic nature reminded us of how we both love being in the woods, the smell of grasses, the fresh air, the sound of undisturbed birds singing and occasionally, “gecko, gecko…”.

First stop – Sedang Gila – Tiny Kelin vs the giant waterfall

Unlike other waterfalls we had been where we could jump in and take a dip, this one was shallow with very strong water flow, I was the only girl climbed down to get close to the waterfall. Because, you know, I’m Kelin.

Moving on to the next waterfall which was about 30 minutes further into the forest, we spotted the second one which was bigger and absolutely marvelous.

Did we dip in?

Yes. Absolutely we did.

6pm: Dinner at Rinjani Lodge, packing for the D-day.

Rinjani Lodge is a boutique hotel with an infinity pool facing mount Rinjani with a panoramic view over the greenery rice fields at the foot of the mountain. The restaurant serves mostly local dishes and wide range selection of cocktails and wines.

Comparing to all the foods we had had from the first day arrived in Indonesia, Rinjani Lodge definitely was a must-try. Service, food quality, location and ambiance, were worth the price we paid for.


Day 6: D-day. 

Being picked up at 6:30am, we started our route at Sembalun Village where we registered our name inside a book. I – Kelin – had a quick look for the nationalities of all the trekkers, mostly are from Singapore, Europe countries. And as predicted, I was the only Vietnamese for the last 6 months. 😉

Our trek started with a green corn field, followed by a rainforest and then savannah grassland. It felt like a walk for us rather than a trek since we had done more challenging trek than this. The only difficulty we met was the thirst due to humid condition and high temperature as the sunlight was so much stronger gradually.  The walk from the gate to POS 1 took about 1.5hours. At POS 1 we had a short break with chocolate and off we went.

From POS 1 to POS 2 – 1.4km – with rolling hills and gentle slopes, we continue to contemplate the beauty of mount Rinjani from afar.

“Good luck, guys!” said the two guys covered in volcanic ashed walking towards us. “Don’t  do it guys, go back! Just kidding, do it, it’s worth it.” said another with a smile on his face hinting us “Yeah, soon you two are gonna experience it.”

From POS 2 to POS 3 – 1.7km – We were eager to skip POS 2 to continue our way to the next stop so we took only 5 minutes resting and stock up our water supply. We needed to keep hydrated. 1.5hours more to POS 3 – where we would have our lunch and a longer break.

It was a nostalgic yet amazed feeling passing bridges over dry riverbeds imaging how abrasive one eruption could wipe out the entire fauna and floral on its surrounding surface. “Is there water flow into these rivers during the wet season?” I asked Sudiya. “Yes, during November and December.”

“Your bag heavy Kelin? It seems like it’s heavier than mine!” asked Markus. “Uhm, a little” – Me answered, panting and sweating. “Let’s exchange for awhile okay.” He continued. “Okay”.

POS 3: Lunch break.

At POS 3, I finally had more time to take photos of the area since this break would be about 1 hour. Two porters were already at POS 3 since half an hour ago and cooking lunch. 25 kg is the weight they each have to carry with all the equipment, cookery, water, tents; yet they walked in slippers, in speed of sounds, and still cracked jokes to each other.

“I will carry my own bag later. It’s only 5kg and I already complained.”- Me talking to Markus.

View from POS 3, still far away from the Crater Rim. 

“Here is your lunch, enjoy!” – said the guide.

“Wow, like a fine dining worthy dishes” – said the couple sitting next to us.

We could not believe in our own eyes how this was possible to cook something looked really delicious and so presentable, in the middle of the trek, to mount Rinjani. “We probably couldn’t even cook and arrange them nicely like they did if we were at home.”- said Markus.

12:00pm: As it got more crowded with trekkers reaching and resting, we quickly grabbed our stuff and left the area to leave space for others. Having sit down for too long we felt the tightness across our bodies. “From here to the Crater Rim will be 3.5hours, this route is also known as 7 hills, one hill follows the other.” Sudiya explained. “What is the most difficult hill?”. “4th and 7th, they are long and very steep.”

1st and 2nd hill, they both were short- about 40 minutes hiking up.

3rd hill, at this height, it got more cloudy and cooler, the path got steeper and my backpack seemed like it weighted 2 times heavier than it was. It was challenging.

At the foot of 4th hill, knowing this would be the long one, we sat down for a short break. As we resumed, we tried to push hard on this one and the next so that we could make it earlier than schedule. This is what we both have in common – when it comes to sports, we are very competitive.

5th, 6th hills were  like nothing compared to the 4th. Eventhough we were panting our way to the 6th, we were more conscious about saving our last bit of energy for the last one – which is the hardest one to climb of them all.

At the top of 6th hill. 

Hiking up to the 7th was the battle between my head and my legs. I felt like I could grab anything along the way, even a leaf to make it feel easier to climb up. Markus on the other hand, felt like he could race up to the Crater Rim, “let’s run to the top.” – said Markus who immediately flapped to the top like nothing. “Norwegians are like that.” I commented. Me and Sudiya both reached the top about 5 minutes later. It was 2:30pm.

It was an amazing feeling to reach the Crater Rim, and it was even better to realize we were among the first few to be there since we spent only 3 hours walking.

Camping with the view of Rinjani Summit and the Crater Rim

This is where all the money in your bank doesn’t matter. 

And this is the kind of sunset you would probably remember for the rest of your life. 

Watching the dawn reach its peak, a sense of extreme bliss sparkled and danced in front of my eyes. It was like a giant Popsicle slowly melted, water-colored the blue sky; and all of sudden, this picturesque of nature beauty  froze everything around it, even us – trying to figure out whether we were dreaming or awake.

7pm: As it got darker, the weather got colder. We layered ourselves up and headed inside the tent, soon we fell asleep.


Day 7: Summit day, descent and back to the city.

1:15am: My alarm clock went off. Following the schedule, we had got to go at 2am to make it at sunrise. Our porter brought us cheese sandwiches and coffee while we were packing warm clothes, gloves and winter hats.

“Wear this on!” – Said Markus who was throwing to me his wool blue shirt.

“Are you gonna wear that thin legging?” – “Ya” – Said me while putting my legging on.

“No way I’m gonna let you go up there with that. You know you don’t have fat and you would be easily frozen up there in no time” – Another pair of wool legging was flying over me. (Inside my head I was picturing the same conversation we had on that Thursday morning in Rondane nasjonalpark, Norway when it was -10 Celcius degrees outside).

When it comes to hiking, safety and coping up with weather conditions, I never try to argue with Markus. Because I know, I know nothing and he knows best. I’d rather sit down and listen.

Coming outside of the tent, the impossible sky full of stars left me speechless. Watching the night sky, to me, has always been a “soul-satisfying”activity since I was able to walk. I remember when my family still lived in Di Linh, Lam Dong, Vietnam, me and my sister – Kelly, we used to spend hours at night gazing, jaw-dropping, dreaming about being astronaut (for Kelly), and me, meeting the Aliens.

“Ready? Let’s go” – Sudiya’s voice cut my chain of thoughts, off we went to the summit.

Hiking up two hills with gentle slopes, we passed by two more campsites. It was cold, dark and windy. After 30 minutes we reached the first stretch – 45 minutes hiking on steeply slope with igneous rocky track. Although it was dark, I could see we were walking through a snake-like path in between a giant boulder. At this point I was so thankful to have my hiking shoes, without all the grip underneath, I would probably slide my way in the opposite direction.

A few trekkers passing by, a group of European nationality with their walking sticks were extremely fast, slowly dis-emerge in the blackish path in front of my eyes. “It’s like walking in snow, we are used to that. There is no snow in South East Asia, so you’re doing good, Kelin” – Markus was trying to comfort me.

“I need to be smart here, I need to step on Sudiya footprints.” – Me thinking in my head before my first slip-and-fall moment. My 100% determination subsided drastically thereafter.

After the first stretch, we walked through a 50-70 meters flat surface then there came the second stretch – 1 hour.

“Let sit down and take a break.” – Sudiya signaled us. I felt good after the short beaten track, my determination level piked up again.

Less than 5 minutes, we resumed to the next stretch. Wearing two layers of clothes caused me burning inside as the hike got more challenging, even though it was only 8-10 degrees. As a result, upon reaching the final part of the second stretch, I only wore one layer of shirt and my pants, I rolled half of it up. In fact, knowing when to add more and deduct during hiking is one of the most important lessons I have acquired during hiking mount Rinjani. Without careful regulation of body temperature, I would have dehydrated when hiking in the sun, or died freezing upon reaching the summit (spoiler ahead!!) when it was only -1 degree.

But how different is the second part in comparison to the first?
Personally I think the second one was more difficult since the path was more narrow, especially when it was not an “in-between” igneous rocky wall but an open space where a steep slope was facing one side and a sheer-and-sharp cliff on the other. In addition, without knowing the route well – or no trekking guide, we could have stepped on a rang of boulders that were extremely fragile; as a result, not only slip-and-fall is unavoidable but also rocks rolling down behind, causing accidents to other trekkers.

Lesson: Please, have the guide. it’s for your own safety. 

300m to the summit: I thought I couldn’t make it. 

This is the part that people called it “two steps forwards – one step back”. With pure loose volcanic ashes, extremely steep, cold wind flashing left and right,  it was like walking on sand vertically while trying to stay firm so I wouldn’t fly off the cliff. While dragging my heavy feet, I stopped to breathe every 4-5 steps up, I saw other trekkers ahead of me were as well, struggling, panting.

10 minutes into it, I sat down at the side of the route and felt numb in my whole body. “This is too tough, I want to cry so badly.” – me thinking in my head. Markus was standing in front of me, asking me to look at the flashlight to test my pupils responses whether my brain still properly functioned. I knew I was at the verge of breaking down and ready to turn back. But looking up, I saw flashlights at the summit, someone had already made it.

“Why they could do it and I couldn’t? If they could do it, I could do it. I travelled so far just to turn back now? Hell no!”

I did not know that look to the summit had given me the strength I thought impossible. From where we rested, I never stopped walking up until the summit. I passed the European group earlier, passed Markus, the pain in my feet disappeared as well as the heaviness in my hamstrings.  I only had one goal in my head: the summit.

We reached the summit at 5:25am. Temperature check at the summit: -1 Celcius Degree with strong wind.

Upon reaching the summit, Sudiya hugged me. “Congratulation, you are a very strong girl.” – I bet I would never forget that feeling for the rest of my life.

There are a few pleasures in life you should experience, this is definitely one of them. 

Last year in September, we did mount Batur, Bali. This year, we conquered mount Rinjani, Lombok. We could not feel any more lucky sharing this amazing experience together. Here to many more summits to go!!!

Thumbs up to Sudiya, our three-in-one (experienced-friendly-caring) trekking guide. 

Stunning view from the summit over the Crater Rim, Gilis, Bali islands. 

At 6:30am: We started to descent. Along the way, we saw a few trekkers were reaching the summit. I have had so much respect for these people, sometimes it’s so easy to give up, but they chose not to.

Comparing to ascending, descending from the summit was not a problem to me at all. I just ran down from the summit, occasionally walking for taking pictures and when the road was narrow and dangerous.

Warrior pose because…I’m a warrior!!!!

Found some companions while running down to the campsite. 

Beautiful creation of mother nature. 

9am: We reached the campsite, had our breakfast, took a short break and started our descend at 9:30am. From here, the descend in total took 6 hours; the steep terrain is signified by firm volcanic light orange soil.

Descend – After the glory here comes the sorry.

Going down the 7th hill was a very “sorry” experience for me; I wanted to give my deepest apology to my butt since I slipped and fell countless time. (I lost my toe nail from these falls too) Sudiya held my hand and tried to stabilize my balance but still, it didn’t give me the confidence to go down any further.

“Why did I always fall? What’s wrong with me Markus?” – asked me sitting down at a foot of a tree sipping water.

“Do you remember how I teach you to run on the coast line? You need to land your front foot first then your heels. Probably you land the middle area first, that was why you lost the balance. Try!”

WORKED LIKE A CHARM!

Gained back my confidence, we kept our steady rate to POS 3 where we met a guy who covered in dust (just looked about the same as us) asking about biking service to go to the entrance at POS 2. I was so tempted with the idea since I wanted to go toilet so badly. (For your info, there are no toilet at all from POS 1 – Crater Rim), so unless you could crawl over behind a rock, you would probably need to hold it for a longgg time.

Skipped POS 2 we headed toward POS 1 in less than 1 hour. Along the way we saw some trekkers were going the opposite direction. Me and Markus wished them “good luck” with that “hell yeah, you are gonna suffer it like us!” thoughts on our minds. Probably they could read our minds too. L-O-L!

Soon we reached the entrance, it was an emotional feeling when we finally saw the civilization again. Looking back to mount Rinjani hiding behind the clouds, eventhough we had walked a total of 26.5km in 13 hours, exhausted and dirty, we both could not help but feel bittersweet at departure.

Mount Rinjani, thank you for the great experience!

Until then, stay tune for Part 4: The only guide you ever need for Hiking Mount Rinjani.

Kelin & Markus.

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