Rising to 3726 metres above sea level and sitting in the northern half of the island of Lombok, Mount Rinjani is one the most magnificent sights I had ever seen and still is, its beauty etched in my mind to this day. A cone shaped active volcano that last erupted in October 2015 I found Rinjani a difficult hike, the fact that I spent the bones of the previous year drinking beer and eating pizza in Australia didn’t help much.
The first time I had my breath taken away while travelling was staring over the rim of Rinjani into the crater below. “Wow,” is all I remember saying as I glimpsed the turquoise lake hundreds of metres away which encircled another smaller cone. So essentially I was standing on the side of a volcano looking at a lake inside the crater which surrounded another volcano.
I was visiting Rinjani on the advice of Cian, a friend from home who I bumped into numerous times on my travels. The most unusual of these include a hostel in Bogota Colombia and walking along a street in Kuta, a beach side town in Bali.
I had just arrived into Bali from Australia and as I walked through the balmy evening air in search of cheap accommodation I saw coming the other way the now familiar curly black hair and lean face of Cian. We shook hands and had a brief conversation, he was on his way to the airport in the direction of Bangkok and needed to keep moving.
“How did you like Indonesia?” I asked.
“Really good, climb Mount Rinjani, it’s the best thing I did in Indonesia, but the hike itself was tough enough. It’s a hike up the side of a volcano and the views are great,” he answered.
“Wow, a volcano I will definitely do that hike,” I replied. I had always been fascinated by volcanoes and one of the things I wanted to see most was an active volcano erupting, which I did in 2015 when I climbed Nyiragongo in DR Congo and peered over its rim to see the bubbling lava lake inside.
With that Cian had to keep going and I pencilled Mount Rinjani into my diary.
Cian’s advice to visit Rinjani was one of the best single tips I have had while travelling.
After a few days taking in the sights and sounds of Bali, including a trip to the central Balinese Hindu temples of Ubud where I was bitten on the head by a monkey, I was on the ferry to Lombok looking forward to my hike.
The trip started from the village of Sembalum Lawang. If there was ever a village with a great view this was it. Situated in a valley at the base of Rinjani you could just spend a few days here taking in the view instead of exerting yourself on the mountain.
Pretty gentle start, this hike might be too bad I thought to myself as our little group trekked out of the village on a gentle upward slope past farmsteads with people busy tending crops and livestock.
Two hours in I realised my initial assessment was wrong as I huffed and puffed up the hill on this well worn trail in the sunshine. Stopping for water and sugar laden biscuits provide by the porters who bounced along in flip flops carrying gear that looked like it weighted a ton I chatted to the others in the group.
“Its tough,” Alfred a slim dark haired man in his thirties from Belgium said to me.
“Definitely harder than I thought,” I replied, as I sat there topping up on sugar dripping sweat.
On we plodded into the afternoon until we finally reached the side of the volcano over a final craggy hump. Most people have heard the term value for money but a new phrase springs to mind when I think back on the initial view I had over the side of Mount Rinjani, value for effort. Although I found it a hard eight hours hiking the reward was a view that stopped me in my tracks. This was the first time this had ever happened to me and I felt as if the others in the group disappeared and I was the only one there, so transfixed by standing on the side of a volcano staring into its crated lake below which in turn surrounded another volcano. In terms of the sugar and energy used to make it from the start of the hike to where I was now standing this was the best value I have ever had.
That’s night wrapped up against the cold above cloud level and away from any unnatural light I got a view of the night sky like I had never seen before. The brightness and intensity of the stars from the dark of my vantage point had me staring for hours appreciating how magnificent a location I was now in.
It was under this night sky that alarms went off and sleepy hikers left their tents at 3am for a hike to the summit to see the sunrise. I had commented to Alfred the previous evening that I thought the hardest of the hiking was over as the summit looked so close.
“I reckon an hour hike tops,” I said, completely mis assessing the situation for the second time in a day.
“Hmmmm,” was all Alfred replied as he looked worringly at the peak.
Into the night we hiked and within half an hour the walking had become tougher than the previous day. It was now steeper than before and the scree which occurred nearer the summit made walking more difficult. You would take a step up but then your foot would slide back down much of the way as you displaced the scree with your weight meaning that each step gained only a little ground. The altitude, the difficulty making progress and my current lack of fitness meant I was finding this hard going. Cian did say it was a tough hike but I didn’t think it would be this tough I thought to myself as I scrambled up the last section on my hands and feet.
We did make the summit for sunrise and took in the sun as it lit up the volcano top and bounced off the fluffy white clouds below. I’ve always been more of a sunset than sunrise type of person liking to appreciate and reflect on a good day but I even had to admit the 3am start was worth it to see a view like this.