Climbing Mount Rinjani: Day 1

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The heat was as heavy as an anchor, weighing me down and making every move a massive effort. It was only 6:45 in the morning, and beads of sweat were forming a necklace around my forehead.

Where the hell is my money? I am going to miss my boat. I need to not hide stuff so damn well, I thought to myself. I unpacked my bag and pulled together the rupiah from various stashes throughout it – only to re-pack my bag and then ran to pay for my room.

I will be back on Thursday night, ya? Please keep these safe. I lose these, I die. Terima Kashi! 

I handed over my passport, my MacBook, my money and a couple of other valuables to be held back for my return.

Taylor came running up the pathway. It was just after 7 a.m. Despite my early start I was running late, which takes a lot of effort in Indonesia since the entire country runs on island time.

“I came by to see if you slept through your alarm!” he said.

No, it just took me an unnecessary long time to get my stuff together and find my money and – are we late?

The boat was waiting for me, and so we dashed our way over to the port and hopped on amid all the locals.

I had been on Gili Trawangan for a little less than a week, and each morning as I watched the sunrise over the island of Lombok, I saw the strong and powerful Gunung (Mount) Rinjani emerge in the distance just across the flat, morning sea. Rinjani was terrifyingly huge in the most beautiful of ways.


There it stood, beckoning climbers and hikers to take the challenge, revealing itself to early morning revellers who were just coming down from a long’s night festivities.

In my time on the island, Rinjani would only come out to play for a short time, because as the morning yawned on it disappeared behind dense clouds that swirled around it like paint.

But even when I couldn’t see it, as I willed away my afternoon with boat rides to dive sites around the island or napping away on white sand beaches, I could feel Rinjani’s presence. I knew it was there, I knew it was waiting for me to see whether I would struggle or come out on top.

Everyone who returns from Rinjani returns as if they have just come back from fighting on the front lines. “It is a tough climb,” they would say. “Two steps up and one step down,” they would add, talking about the rubble and thick sand volcanic path up to the summit.

At 3,726 meters (12,224 feet), Gunung Rinjani is Indonesia’s second highest peak and is located on the island of Lombok – just east of Bali. Additionally, it is one of the three most sacred mountains in Indonesia – the others being Gunung Agung on Bali and Gunung Bromo on the island of Java.

Roberto had stayed back in Bali to do some diving, so I was left to find my own friends to conquer Rinjani with, which was not as difficult as I thought it would be.

Though so many people go to and get trapped on Gili T for the party and backpacker lifestyle, there are a fair amount of people who do want to climb Rinjani. Some – like myself – set out to Indonesia with the intention of climbing it at some point during their trip; others do not even know it exists but want the challenge once they learn about it.

Taylor fell into the latter category, and it was not difficult to convince this ex-Marine from Michigan to join me. Yet at first, Taylor was all about roughing it ourselves: just some sleeping bags, a couple of days of food and water and figuring out how to get to the summit on our own while carrying all of our supplies.


I politely objected, partly because it is mandatory to climb with a guide and partly because I am not an ex-Marine. As I have talked about plenty of times before, I am not a hiker, so there is very little chance you will ever see me going out on a multi-day excursion lugging my whole house and home on my back. Sorry, but I know myself well enough, and I complain way too much for that.

Over breakfast one morning (or maybe it was pre-drinks one night) we met Natalie and Jordan, two girls from Colorado who were also planning to do Rinjani. The four of us agreed that we would look into it and see what kind of deals we could get for a group of four people, but it took us a couple of days to actually get moving and do the legwork.*

I spent an afternoon walking around and asking for a couple of prices. Having read travel blogs about the climb, I knew that it should be somewhere around $1.2 million for a three day, two night trek. Many of the local agents were starting somewhere in the $1.8 million Rp range, and I found myself haggling with one after the other to get the price down. One agent told me the price was so high because the porters carried a toilet with them, and I was very close to paying the price just to see exactly what this toilet non-sense was all about.

Then I met Eddie, who soon not only became my most favorite agent in any country but also became my most favorite local in any country and my life saver on Gili T, so you will hear a tremendous amount about him.

Right off the bat, Eddie was no games, no gimics in the kindest of ways. He quoted me at $1.2 million, and there was just something about him that I greatly trusted. He spoke English really well, his smile never left his face and he reminded me of Santa Clause when he laughed – he just laughed with the whole of his little body.

It was not long before the four of us booked our tickets with Eddie. Jordan and Natalie decided to leave a day prior to me and Taylor (the price stayed the same), and spend a day in a town called Sengigi on Lombok to visit some waterfalls. I got in a couple of more sleep-deprived dives, and Taylor nursed his boat-party hangover.

The night before the climb, Taylor and I made our rounds to the small supermarkets to gather some supplies. I should not have left our decision-making to Taylor, who told me that he does not need that much and we would be fine sharing a box of museli bars (there were five in the box) and nothing more.

Though I tried politely hinting that we might need more since I can get really greedy with my food (“Are you sure? I don’t know…it seems like such a little amount to split…), I did not want to seem like the world’s hungriest woman, so I sheepishly followed his advice. We bought some baby wipes (there are no showers, people) and I bought some Tiger Balm, and that was that.

It was early Tuesday morning when Taylor and I boarded the boat  - you know, the kind of wooden boat where people are allowed to smoke cigarettes and you sit next to chickens (ayam) – and headed over to Lombok. I was a big fan of the leather cowboy-meets-motorcycle boots that someone was carrying and wearing in the 30 plus degree heat.




There are two starting points for the Rinjani trek: the town of Senaru and the town of Sembalu. I actually was completely unaware the the latter was an option, because I think it quite uncommon, but you can start in one town and finish in the other.

Even though we left at 7 a.m., we did not start our hike for a couple of hours. We had a quick breakfast at a local cafe after getting off the boat, which was included in our ticket price, and then were off to start our trek from Senaru.

photo 1-5Horse and carriage to breakfast




There is an option to rent some gear when in Senaru, and for a couple of moments I contemplated renting a pair of hiking boots and leaving my trainers behind. Yet this was three days of hiking, and my trainers were comfortable, still had a good grip and I knew would not cause me blisters, so I decided against it. Turned out to be the best decision I made.

We signed into the trekking book, entered the national park and followed a temporary guide up the path for the first hour or so until we got to Pos 1, or the marker for the first rest stop where we would have lunch.



Along the way, the guide stopped to make a walking stick for me. Naturally, he pulled out his machete from his bag, wnadered into the forest and started chopping away at either end of the stick. A walking stick is something I would HIGHLY suggest to anyone making the Rinjani climb. That walking stick was like my best friend.



We also had a special guest along the way, a little puppy that joined us for 25 minutes or so and that made me giggle with happiness each time he pranced around the steep terrain of the jungle that grew denser the further we moved in.


I found myself winded right from the start, and I was cursing myself for having fallen so terribly out of shape in such a short amount of time. If there is anything I dislike about traveling, it is the toll it takes on my level of fitness.

Regardless, I can be a bit of a powerhouse when it comes to going uphill. I just keep trudging forward and do not stop, but I was growing upset with each ascending step I took. All I could think was, What the hell am I getting myself into? Going up only means one thing: Coming back down. 

I HATE downhill, like have an actual fear of it that I have talked about plenty of times before, but nonetheless – up I went.

Eventually we made it to the lunch stop, where we had some incredibly salty noodle soup, delicious tea and some biscuits amid a sudden downpour that lasted the whole of the afternoon.

At lunch we met up with Natalie, Jordan and two other girls who would be in our group for the next couple of days. We also met our guide, a local named Efin who could have done the hike walking on his hands, blindfolded, carrying a backpack and smoking a cigarette – basically, he made the trek look like a stroll in the park.

After lunch we continued to climb upwards for nearly four hours in the cold, damp rain. I was amazed at the porters as they walked the trail with ease – all in thongs (re: flip flops). They were carrying our supplies – everything from our tents to our food to our water bottles to all the cooking equipment in these baskets that they balanced across the backs of their necks.

Some parts of this trail are so impossibly steep that you wonder how in the hell they can do what they are doing while carrying all the weight they are carrying – all while smoking cigarettes (you will notice a cigarette theme here). At other points we were basically rock climbing – especially at the end right before we arrived at camp for the night. I was scaling a wall, grabbing onto rocks with my hands and using my legs to push myself upward and keep going.


The rain had stopped just as we arrived at camp, yet I arrived freezing and soaked to my core, ready to dash into the tent as soon as it was set up so that I could escape the chill that was creeping in as night fell on the hillside.




The clouds were bullies and lingered on, taking over much of the scene that lie just outside of our tent and making for a really uneventful arrival after a wet, slippery hike.


Taylor unfortunately suffered drastically on our climb up, and at the end of the first day he had gaping, open blisters on both of his heels from his hiking boots – and no, they were not new boots. We had two more full day of intense hiking, and I think everyone felt his pain because there was not much we could do to help him. Help would come when we finished the hike and were back on safe ground, where he could take care of his sores and let them be free.


Quite soon after we arrived to camp, Taylor and I retreated to the warmth (warmth is used loosely here) of our tent, hoarding a stash of biscuits our guide had given us. In the first day alone, Taylor and I almost depleted our food stash of museli bars. Poor decision making.

As the sun went down – depriving us of a beautiful sunset – so came the rain once again.


Our tent filled up with water, so much so that it was pooling around us and left me feeling like we were shipwrecked on a boat that was slowly sinking. Everything got drenched, we basically froze to death all night and Taylor yelled at me for taking up the entire tent. It is a bad habit that I take other people’s sides of the bed (or tent) and leave mine to be a gaping hole.

By the way, did I mention this was my first night of proper camping? Sure I camped in Australia where I slept in the back of a van or have done jungle treks where we have stayed in local villages, but this was my first experience complete with sleeping in a tent (unless I count that time I slept Michelle and I slept on her back deck in a tent).

So, my first night of camping - ever – will be remembered as one where I went to sleep feeling like I was on board the Titanic as it went down.

Day 1 of climbing Mount Rinjani was obviously an epic success.

Category: Asia, Indonesia

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