Magnificent Mount Rinjani – Part 1

As you might have read in my previous blog, this Mount Rinjani trip has been in the 2013 pipeline since November last year. As time drew closer to the trip, I didn’t exactly train like how I did when preparing for Mount Kinabalu. For one thing, I didn’t do as many hikes in a week this time, but I did other types of training. I ran once a week & swam 2-3 times a week. On top of that, I was more physiologically prepared this time around. To avoid my knees hurting in the middle of the trek, I had been taking glucosamine religiously everyday for the past 2 months. Also I visited a physiotherapist who taught me some exercises to strengthen the muscles around my knees, which I had been practicing everyday too. Then I’ve also been building my body’s immune system by taking the Chinese herbs, Pak Chan, 2-3 times a month, to avoid falling sick after the trip. All I can say is, it all paid off. Phew! 🙂

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Mount Rinjani is an active volcano situated in Lombok & the second highest mountain in Indonesia outside the Irian Jaya. The summit may only stand at 3,726 metres (a little short of Mount Kinabalu) but she demands triple the stamina, physical endurance & mental strength to whoever that wishes to conquer her. However if you dare take the challenge, she promises an array of breathtaking sceneries from the start to the end of the journey.

And promise she did.


So together with Sharon & Fairuz, we arrived at Lombok International Airport on 7th June morning on Air Asia’s direct flight from Kuala Lumpur. Our guide, Ady, greeted us at the airport & took us on an hour drive to Senggigi for lunch. We proceeded to Sembalun after lunch, which was another 3 hours drive away. Here, we stayed a night at Lembah Rinjani, a budget hotel at the foothill, before starting our trek the next morning. At Sembalun, we were already at 1,150 metres above sea level. It was raining when we reached, making the night chilly at around 20 degrees Celsius.

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Lembah Rinjani

The next day, it rained again before we started our trek. So much for a dry season in June! Nevertheless, we went ahead as scheduled & started off from Sembalun Lawang at 8.15am. We were well prepared with our raincoats, though little did we expect that we’d need them at such an early stage. The first half of the day was an easy stroll along the open plains. We walked pass a few herds of grazing cows and the view of the volcanic range along the way was most captivating. We stopped for lunch at around 11am. At that time, the rain had also stopped & it was all bright & sunny. Our guide & porters cooked us a hearty meal, much to our delight. In fact, every meal we had throughout the journey was actually quite appetizing & delicious.


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We continued the 2nd half of our trek at around 1pm. Then it rained again. This time, it was much heavier and lasted for about 2 hours. We got our raincoats out again but our shoes were completely soaked, as water gushed down the trails. I’d admit that the rain did break our spirits a little, and to top that, the trails turned much steeper with narrow steps (Wikitravel reported that the uphill gradient was about 50 degrees), marking the final 3 hours a pretty tough cookie. We finally reached the Plawangan Sembalun campsite at about 5pm, which wasn’t too bad. That was probably the average time it’d take a normal hiker too – 7 hours, excluding lunch break.

Lo & behold, the view that greeted us at the campsite completely took our breaths away. It was a spectacular view of the caldera, which is partially filled by the crater lake known as Segara Anak, surrounded by the volcanic range. One word – awesome!

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Our porters had quickly set up the tents for us for the night. The most amusing part was the temporary toilet. Basically they dug a hole in the ground and set up a square-ish tent made of fabric as cover. Initially, as a first time camper, I was quite squeamish about the whole toilet business. After awhile, practice makes perfect, aiming the hole got better & going to the toilet seems less of a task. The eecky part is pooing on top of other people’s poo in the hole. But thank God this temporary toilet was only for our group, i.e. 3 of us. 😉

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The temporary toilet

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Our tents

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The Plawangan Sembalun crater rim, where we camped on the first night, stood at 2,639 metres altitude with the temperature dropping to below 10 degrees Celsius at night. As we laid on our backs gazing at the pitch dark sky painted with gazillion of stars & shivering to the freezing night, we caught glimpses of at least 3 or 4 shooting stars. It was around this time also that our guide, Ady, came to have a little chat with us on our programme for the next day. It seemed that our 3 days/2 nights package will need to cram the summit, lake AND the 2nd crater rim (Plawangan Senaru) into 1 day or 12 hours of trek, which may be quite challenging for average hikers like us.

Basically the trek to the summit starts at around 2.30am. The ascent typically takes 3 hours, in time to catch the sun rise at the peak, and another 1.5 hours to descend. This is the most difficult part of the whole trek that requires a good level of stamina, because the loose volcanic gravel will cause one to slip a step backwards for every 2 steps forward. Descending is another challenge, where most people would slip & fall, and some will have their pants torn during the fall.

He also warned us that there could be a possibility that we might need to forgo the lake & 2nd crater rim if we return from the summit later than 11am. So after a long discussion among ourselves, we decided that we were probably not conditioned enough to do 12 hours of trek in a day, as we had never done anything longer than 8 hours before. What’s more, the climb to the summit may already consume a big chunk of our energy for the rest of the day. Besides, if we don’t make it on time back from the summit, we will also lose out on the lake, hot spring & the view at Senaru crater rim, which was supposedly more stunning than at the summit. Therefore we decided unanimously to skip the summit this time around.

To be continued….

Panoramic view of Plawangan Sembalun crater rim

Panoramic view of Plawangan Sembalun crater rim

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