I regret this! It’s a thought that came to my mind a few times during this 3 day Rinjani trekking. A lot of people come to Indonesia to find themselves like Elizabeth Gilbert in ‘Eat Pray Love’. But there are other ways to find yourself.
Rinjani is the second highest volcano and one of the most strenuous treks in Indonesia. Hiking it isn’t an eat, pray, love experience. It’s an EAT – because you need the energy, PRAY – it’s almost over, SUFFER – a lot experience. But finding yourself is guaranteed.
Day 1 – Muscle Balm
My girlfriend and I sign up for the 3 days, 2 nights trekking starting in Sembalun and ending in Senaru with John’s Adventure aka the Rinjani Master.
We meet our trekking group and learn that some of them have hiked up Everest basecamp.
I start to worry a teeny tiny bit.
But when we get our packing list and I see the item ‘Muscle Balm’ on it, I start worrying big time.
Have I overestimated this and should I already regret it?
Day 2 – You will regret this (hill)
Off we go! Day 1 starts with a sign up at the Sembalun Trek Center (1158m) and meeting our 17-year-old – yes 17 ! – guide and cook Awan. Awan, who has a pair of calves that look like they are about to explode, leads us through grasslands and rolling hills up to 1500m. There is no shade along the way and the burning sun has the sweat dripping of our backs. But this is just a warm up. Kids play.
It’s after Pos 3 at 1800m that the real work begins. There are five hills, nicknamed You Will Regret this Hill or Torture Hill to ascend. The hills are a nasty pair of buggers who love playing make belief. Each time I think that I have almost reached the ending, another steep ascend unveils itself from behind the clouds. It’s not just a physical torture but also a mental mindfuck.
I see porters on flip-flops with a 40kg bamboo basket on their shoulders walking up the mountain smiling. They make it look so easy and they earn my deepest respect.
After 7 hours we reach Plawangan II, our base camp at 2639 meters on the Crater Rim. The temperatures here are near freezing and after sunset we crawl into our sleeping bags looking for the heat we cursed a few hours ago. Unfortunately, the sleeping bags don’t seem fit for these temperatures and I shiver the whole night through.
Day 3 – Above the clouds
3 AM : ‘ Lady ! Hey Lady ! Get up ! ‘
Awan is standing outside my tent in the darkest of hours with a flashlight and a cheese jaffle. I crawl outside, leaving my girlfriend rolled up in her sleeping bag, ready to face the cold cutting wind and the summit ascend. I’m a little baffled that only 4 others have also got up for an excruciating 3 hour climb to the summit at 3726m. Or no, not really.
I spend the next hours ascending a steep and dusty slope. In these hours I lose all sense of actual time. I start living on body time as I feel the energy slowly running out. My fingers start swelling and my heart starts racing.
But the battle between me and the mountain is fought in the last hour. The last ascend is an extreme steep slope with loose scree. Every step I take, I slide down a little again. I’m hurting. And suddenly the sun rises. Above the clouds.
I have only 50 meters to go but I decide that they don’t matter. The view is equally amazing from up here. I can see the end of the island, the Gilis, the turquoise lake, and a heap of smalls specs from the tents on the green hills of our base camp a 1.000 meters below. I take it all in and decide to descend to base camp and enjoy the morning view with my girlfriend.
Awan and I dig our heels deep into the scree and start sliding down. He takes my arm as we start running, leaving big clouds of dust behind us. One hour later I plump down in the camping chair next to my girlfriend, my clothes and hair grey from the dust. But I’m smiling. There’s breakfast and someone to share the views with.
After breakfast we take a steep rocky path down to the Segara Anak Lake (2000m) and the Hot Springs. The yellow and blue colored water of the Hot Springs is so hot, it relaxes my muscles instantly. I scrub the dirt from my legs and wash the dust from my hair. It’s heaven and the thought of climbing up the Crater Rim to 2641m again is hell.
The rocky ascend through pine forest luckily is one of the easiest ascends yet. The last part is a bit of a monkey climb but the view on Gunung Baru, the volcano amidst the lake becomes more stunning with every rock I conquer.
We reach the campsite around 5pm and are treated with a beautiful sunrise. The clouds dance around the rolling hills and the reflection of the sun on the sea makes the Gili Islands shimmer like discoballs calling out to us: Party over here! Massage over here!
But we get a different kind of party: the campsite, which is one big garbage belt, gets swarmed by mice and I hardly sleep again.
Day 4 – The Law of the Jungle
The last day! The path runs down through a lush jungle with slippery roots. My girlfriends knee gives up on her and swells to the size of a little octopus. We are thought a harsh Darwinist jungle law: survival of the fittest. There is no easy rescue from the jungle.
You have to bite the bullet and drag yourself out. And so that’s what she does. Tears in her eyes, step by step. I try to support her as good as I can, while temperatures rise and the air becomes damp. After hours of suffering we hit the finish line and race for the airport.
Day 5 – The aftermath
I’m walking like a cowboy. The muscles in my legs hurt like hell. I have no energy left and yet despite all the suffering, I appreciate the small things in life intensely: A nice hot shower, a bed with a fluffy mattress and a big hamburger.
All I need to find myself is a mountain. How about you?